Becoming A Public House Church: How Sustaining Dialogue Helps Everyone Grow

Hey, folks! Here’s little update.

As many of you know, the Front Porch team decided to undertake a deliberate shift this summer when we began calling ourselves a public house church, rather than an events-driven, nonprofit mission. We took away duplicitous names for our programming tracks, simplified a bit, and ended up in much clearer place: everywhere we gathered would be “Pub Church.” In making this theoretical adaptation, we retained both our freedom to be spontaneous through “Special Events” and our pledged support for our city’s finest songwriters through a quarterly approach to Unplugged on the Front Porch. We would also further articulate the conversational nature of our events, which always strive to generate a true dialogue.  And, most importantly, this change would insist that we spotlight most what we do best: the dialogue based, live-music infused eucharist service that we now call Pub Church on Sunday evenings at 5:30 (currently at Scholz Garten and formerly called Parable). 

steve-preachThe longer we thought about this change, the more we realized what an amazing window we had opened up for ourselves and our congregation. The new intentionality of it all urged us to commit even harder and think even deeper. So, we did. We decided to organize the pub church happenings across central themes, and divide these by our traditional seasons, which usually run September to December and January to June. Next spring, we’re thoroughly pumped to tackle beauty. At the moment, though, we’re smack dab in the middle of a four-month dialogue about compassion with some of Austin’s most brilliant thinkers and doers, using Karen Armstrong’s powerhouse book, 12 Steps to a Compassionate Life, as our guiding text.

In the weeks that followed, what we saw unfold was pure magic. Whether it was Lynn Goodman-Strauss–founder and purveyor of Mary House Catholic Worker in Austin– telling us an anecdote about finding humanity in Austin’s img_0947homeless through her common table, or Biointegrity founder, Chris Searles, gently warning us that our lack-of-compassion toward our forests and indigenous peoples may leave us in a weather nightmare and without oxygen, or Meredith Walker, co-founder of Amy Poehler’s Smart Girls, explaining the difference between self-esteem and self-compassion when it comes to our world’s young women, each of our guests achieved our mission in engaging and new ways by simply opening their mouths and adding their two-cents to our running dialogue.  While this was very similar to what we had done in years past with Parable, the sustained nature of the dialogue made it radically different. The conversation was continuing: we were still learning more about the same thing the next week, and that felt like tangible progress. Plus, the unique resources of top-notch Austin brains interacting together was opening doors each and every Sunday, allowing new ideas to emerge and flourish.


Talk about what feels like a home run for us as we consider our mission to get Austin folks talking and coming to their own, new and personal understandings of Christ’s continuing work in our world: this invitation to all of us to partner together and connect in celebration of each person’s perspective, despite a 2016 reality that feels increasingly divided. To us, this coming together of minds is the purest form of church out there–especially when it’s coupled with Front Porch director, Steve Kinney’s, take on a radically open communion to sum it all up, and mini-concert from some of Austin’s finest troubadours sandwiched in the middle.

Thanks to this new approach, we feel like we’re all co-creators of a new, Front Porchy model for compassionate living that we’re building in dialogue with Karen Armstrong’s model. Starting with my boss and partner, Steve Kinney– who reminded us all at the start that compassion, more than anything, is based in offering the perspective of another human being “provisional authority“– and finishing with our final guests this season, Tifini Jones Blakes and Bavu Blakes–who will be tackling “loving your enemies” in the wake of this election, increasing racial disparity in the United States, and more– and including all of our hearty co-questers in the congregation who pass our roving mic and join in the dialogue as we go, this new model is and will remain uniquely informed by the people of The Front Porch in Austin, Texas, to be examined by the people of the world.  And that feels pretty cool, too.

flyerNow that we’re channeling this approach on Sundays, learning about compassion has overflowed into our other events as well. Steve couldn’t help but touch on compassion during his interview with Matt the Electrician during our Unplugged on The Front Porch concert in October, and our Post-Election Detox– now less than a week away– is defined by compassionate thinkers and liturgy. In short, clarifying through this over-the-weeks approach deepens all of our programming–not just Pub Church.

We hope you’ll join us in upcoming weeks as we welcome international bestseller, Corban Addison, Police Chief Art Acevedo, legendary Texas architect, Larry Speck, and others in November and December. We’re also so happy to welcome some AMAZING Native American spiritual leaders to the Porch later this month for our annual Bailey Lectureswhich will focus this year on restoration and healing across that particular divide, and we hope you’ll attend that happening as well. So much is happening on the Porch, and none of it could happen without all of you. In the meantime, if this dialogue has caught your interest, go check out our SoundCloud. All of our Pub Church conversations up until now are currently posted there, and we’d love for you to hear what’s happening, even if you can’t be here with us in Austin physically.

I look forward to seeing you all on The Porch, when you can make it! If you want to get involved on a volunteer level, please email me! I’d love to hear from you.

Riley Webb

Program Coordinator, The Front Porch

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