Learning, Changing, and Developing on the Porch

november picNovember taught us many things about life on the Front Porch. We learned all over again that, given the chance, people love connecting vulnerably with other people across their various divides. Our old adage, “The Front Porch is a safe place in which to be uncomfortable,” was proven more than once this past month!

Sufi musician Amir Vahab taught us that sacred Persian music can help folks communicate with each other across different cultural and religious languages. We learned from our panel discussion with Contemplative Life’s Tom Spencer, Rabbi Neil Blumofe, Dialogue Institute director Guner Arslan, and All Saints’ Mike Adams that individuals from different perspectives have uncanny capacity to share what many call mystical kinship.

Our Sunday evening gatherings at Scholz’ Garten confirmed our best intuition about our mission: hosting conversations with luminous people, hearing the musical voices of some of Austin’s finest troubadours, and welcoming everybody to share communion in the public square makes a better Austin on multiple levels. This gathering, called PARABLE, was featured in the quarterly magazine, the diocese of Texas’s Dialog, and you can read it here.

We listened to persons who are homeless through the eyes of photographer Michael O’Brien. Poet, Jungian analyst, and priest Pittman McGehee got us thinking about hypocrisy, pretending, and whole-heartedness.  The author of “The Art of God”, Jimi Calhoun, spoke tenderly of communion with others who may look different racially or physically.  NPR’s John Burnett led a conversation with City Councilwoman Ora Houston, who opened our eyes to the people in her newly constituted District One that remain invisible to many. Throughout these intimate evenings, we listened and learned from seasoned musicians Paul Finley, John Pointer, Sara and Matt Wiley, and Chris and Elizabeth Knudson.

November’s Unplugged on the Front Porch concert with Carrie Elkin and Danny Schmidt reminded us, with Dostoyevsky, that indeed, “beauty will save the world.” The music, the people, and the space conspired to transform that Thursday evening into something sublime.

One of our most powerful learnings came through our collaboration with All Saints’ Episcopal Church to produce the annual Bailey lectures. This year’s lecturer Micky ScottBey Jones–writer, community organizer, theologian, and activist–challenged us to go much, much deeper to better understand our country’s recent upheavals over race. Micky was joined by HipHopGrewUp founder, local teacher, and musician Bavu Blakes.  

Micky stressed that while major strides were taken by the Civil Rights activists of the 50’s and 60’s, the work toward a better world is never over for the true “extremist for love,” a phrase used by Martin Luther King, Jr. in his Letter From Birmingham Jail. We learned all over again and in new ways that we can’t afford to live in shame and fear of the other–we must instead, and more than ever, partner with our friends against deeply entrenched, even systemic racial and political divides to pursue a more worthwhile future for all.   

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