Pub Church — Black Elk’s Story with Glenn Smith

OnApril 14th, we’ll host legendary Texas journalist and political consultant, Glenn W. Smith at Scholz Garten, 5:30-7pm. The luminous and multi-talented Dave Madden brings the music. We’ll have the chance to explore and converse with Glenn about his quest and latest project. Here’s how he describes it:

I began this quest because of a mystery in my own life, but it became a labor of love, an attempt to save a life.

        Vandana Singh, “Somadeva: A Sky River Sutra”

The project’s working title is Exiles in Paradise: An American Story A blend of fiction and non-fiction, we’ll follow the life of John Francis McKearney, born in Ireland, educated in a Paris where he encountered the young Black Elk and other Lakota traveling with Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show. Black Elk and McKearney shared more than an encounter in Paris. Their families were exiled by the same cause:  McKearney’s family lost their tenant farm in Ireland in an agriculture depression fueled my an enormous increase in food imports from America. That was made possible by the taking of Native American land and western expansion.

While Black Elk became a respected holy man, McKearney’s life was filled with turmoil. He died young — ministering to the Lakota people on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota, people he hadn’t seen since his schoolboy days. The book is a look at the lives of exiles at a time when the globe is filled again with tens of millions of refugees. Seen through the eyes of two spiritual men, Black Elk and Father McKearney, it is revealed as much as a spiritual journey as a physical one.

What are the spiritual consequences of being exiled in paradise, which is one way of terming life in America? And, did Father McKearney find spiritual peace along his American journey?

Read Glenn’s full bio below!

Music will be performed by pub church regular Dave Madden. Madden is usually on the Chronicle’s “best of” lists for his skills behind the keys, but this award-winning multi-instrumentalist will blow you away with his versatility as a songwriter, guitarist and vocalist as well. Check him out here!

Full Bio: Glenn W. Smith

Glenn W. Smith has spent the past 40 years in journalism and politics, where he’s made a name for himself as a writer, campaign manager, activist, think tank analyst and, as Daily Kos founder Markos Moulitsas says, a “legendary political consultant and all-around good guy.” CNN commentator Paul Begala says, “He has unmatched experience, a graceful pen (or pixel nowadays) and deep insight into the best and worst of us.” Novelist Sarah Bird speaks of his “lucid and lyrical” prose. And, she says, “He’s fun.” Huffington Post founder Arianna Huffington says Glenn writes with “grace and abundant humor” and “uses his colorful experiences in Texas to enlighten us all.”

Smith helped lead Ann Richards’ successful 1990 campaign for Governor of Texas. He worked for former Texas Lt. Gov. Bill Hobby and U.S. Senator Lloyd Bentsen. Earlier, Smith was a political reporter for the Houston Chronicle and the Houston Post. A former managing director of the prestigious public affairs firm, Public Strategies, he coordinated national campaigns for groups such as In 2004, he authored the highly acclaimed book, The Politics of Deceit: Saving Freedom and Democracy from Extinction. He also wrote Unfit Commander, a book that detailed George W. Bush’s mysterious disappearance from military service.

As a senior fellow at George Lakoff’s prestigious Rockridge Institute in Berkeley he studied, wrote and taught on the power of metaphor and narrative in political communications. He also lectured on religion and politics at the Starr King School for Ministry in Berkeley. As a sponsor and organizer, he has pulled together numerous national events with progressive religious leaders. He also organized a celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King at Riverside Church in New York City as well as “Freedom and Faith” bus tours, which was a nationwide campaign for social justice and progressive values.

Smith is currently senior strategist for Progress Texas. He writes a bi-weekly column for the Austin American-Statesman and a weekly column for the Quorum Report, Texas’ leading political newsletter.



The Front Porch is proud to help sponsor this innovative gathering at Huston-Tillotson.

WGF Main Stage crowd.jpg

Believing that “the best criticism of the bad is the practice of the better,” the New Story Festival seeks to lead us into a better story – one that encourages growth and liberation, healing and harmony; a story where the downtrodden are uplifted and everyone is included. We will gather artists, activists, teachers, practitioners for spiritual/emotional health & wholeness, along with numerous other social innovators to share their creativity, practices, and stories at a three-day (Friday afternoon to Sunday evening), outdoor festival on the campus of Huston-Tillotson University, right in the heart of historic east Austin and just blocks from downtown. There will be music, art and stories, speakers and workshops, conversations both formal and spontaneous, helping us step into a better story – one with the potential to transform both Austin and the world.

The festival is nurtured into being by artists, activists, and leaders with experience in international peace-building, local activism and community organizing, health, wholeness, spirituality and personal growth – friends and guides who want to share their wisdom and enthusiasm with you. Many of us are energized by the progressive Christian tradition, which means that the festival is spiritually inclusive, inviting all who share these values to join in shaping a better world. Those from historically marginalized groups – women, persons of color, indigenous peoples, immigrants, LGBTQ+ individuals, and those with disabilities – are an especially integral part of both the leadership and programming. 


There will be words and ideas, sound and vision, laughter and dancing, intimate conversations and moments of silence – a temporary embodiment of a story whose energy will last the whole year round. Join us!

Our program will include nationally-known headline speakers as well as influential local leaders. Likewise, each evening will feature high-profile music acts while the day times will be filled with inspiring sounds from local up-and-comers. We will post details to our Lineup page as they become available, so be sure to check back! 

We are also taking program submissions from you! If you have an idea you’d like to contribute to the program, or a speaker or performer you’d like to help us bring to the festival, go to our Program Proposal page for more details for how to submit your ideas. NOTE: Our submission process is now closed, but get on our email list to find out as soon as submissions open again for New Story 2020!

We also need help organizing, running, and promoting the festival. Click here to find out about other ways to help bring the New Story Festival to life.GET YOUR TICKETS NOW!

Pub Church: a Professional Muslim woman, a Filmmaker, and an NPR Reporter walk into the Pub to talk

Join us at Scholz Garten on April 7, 2019, 5:30-7pm for a special edition of the Front Porch’s Pub Church. We will focus on how we can be better neighbors. [NOTE: There will be NO pub churches until this April 7th event, i.e., no pub church on March 17, 24, and 31 (due to Scholz’ schedule during SxSW and spring break and New Story Festival).

NPR’s John Burnett will moderate our conversation with local activist Muna Hussaini and filmmaker Paul Raila (following the 6 minute documentary, Muna).   

Muna Hussaini is a Muslim woman, mother, techie, and community activist.  Wearing hijab post 9-11 made Muna a target of hate crimes. She suffered through many hate incidents and now uses these experiences to speak out against bigotry while redefining the Muslim American narrative. Currently, Muna serves on the City of Austin/Travis County Hate Crimes Task force, is President of the Board for Muslim Space, and has been featured on KLRU’s Civic Summit on Creating a Community of Respect. She also serves on the Board of Interfaith Action of Central Texas. Currently, Muna is a Sr Manager at PayPal with over 17 years of tech experience having worked at IBM, eBay,, and Magento.  Muna is married, has a 10 year old daughter, 3 year old son, and a very large Hyderabadi family. In her personal time she enjoys hiking, playing volleyball, and eating an entire bowl of Kerby Queso by herself. Muna was born in Pittsburgh and has lived all over the US, in Saudi Arabia, and Qatar. Muna is also a proud Longhorn, hook ‘em!  

Muna Hussaini

Paul Raila has been a freelance Director/Cinematographer for over ten years. A former Chief Photographer for an ABC News affiliate, his background in journalism has helped craft his style as an efficient storyteller through his work in documentaries, commercials and TV shows. Pauls latest documentary, (Un)Divided, screened at the Vox showcase at this years SXSW Film Festival.

As NPR’s Southwest correspondent based in Austin, Texas, John Burnett covers immigration, border affairs, Texas news and other national assignments. In 2018, he won an Edward R. Murrow Award from the Radio-Television News Directors Association for continuing coverage of the immigration beat, and he was invited to participate in a workshop on Refugees, Immigration and Border Security in Western Europe, sponsored by the RIAS Berlin Commission.

Pub Church: a Rabbi and a Priest walk into the Pub to Talk

Join us for Pub Church this Sunday with Rabbi Neil Blumofe. We will meet at Scholz Garten from 5:30-7pm. Rabbi Neil is the Senior Rabbi at Agudas Achim, but you also probably know him for his work with Liner Notes and Views and Brews, his expertise on jazz music, his incredible renditions of Psalms, as a professor/author/academic, or as the former President of the Interfaith Action of Central Texas (IACT). A man who has seen and felt compassion across difference in personal experiences that span the globe, Blumofe, a Chicago native, claims “formative years in New Orleans, New York, Jerusalem, and Poznan, Poland;” and, of course, Austin.

We’ll meet in Scholz’ north dining room. Come early to get a seat and order food and drink. There is always plenty of free parking in the adjacent state parking garages, or on the street. As always, we close the evening with the chance to share communion through our unique invitation: “Before Jesus got turned into a religion, he wandered around, an itinerant rabbi, eating and drinking with sinners and outcasts.” All sinners and outcasts are welcome at the table…it’s great fun to be one!


If you participate in Amplify Austin, please consider us! Here’s the LINK.

Thank you!


Pub Church resumes on Sunday, February 10th at Scholz Garten! How lucky we are to have beloved trickster and bodhisattva SAM BAKER as our February guide for our signature series. Don’t miss it!

We will talk about Sam’s journey from death to life. We’ll explore the magic and mystery of music and why we sing. We’ll open up ideas of faith, courage, and creativity, and so much more.

This interview with Terry Gross on Fresh Air will introduce you to Sam, if you’ve never met him:

Just as before their spiffy new renovation, we’ll meet in Scholz’ north dining room, located at the corner of 17th and San Jacinto. Come early to get a seat and order food and drink. As always, we close the evening with the chance to share communion through our unique invitation: “Before Jesus got turned into a religion, he wandered around, an itinerant rabbi, eating and drinking with sinners and outcasts.”

All sinners and outcasts are welcome at the table…it’s great fun to be one!

Hands on the Plow

Dear Friends of the Front Porch,

This awkward selfie of our former program director, Riley Webb and me, was taken in front of Abe Lincoln’s home in Springfield, Illinois during a road trip we made to Columbus, Ohio, back in June. We had a blast on this trip, enjoying the chance to work on a book for the Front Porch, to find Riley a new home, and to debrief our last four years on the porch. We miss Riley terribly, but I’m happy to report that he is thriving and misses us too.

As I return from my sabbatical and now try to wrap my head around our next steps for The Front Porch, I find myself strangely energized and ready to put my hands back on the plow that so many of you have helped me to push.

During my rest time over the past four months, I’ve been lucky enough to take my son Tyler to Belfast to meet with peacemakers from all over, to work on that book just mentioned, to read much from French mystic Simone Weil and others, and to play and pray and rest as hard as I can.

There are some very interesting vocational possibilities with respect to the Front Porch that are winking at me right now, and some new things are fast emerging. While we didn’t achieve immediate success in last year’s effort to partner with the Episcopal church to upgrade and repurpose the mid-century modern building off Burnet Road, we’re not giving up on the vision!

In all my years of doing the Front Porch, I have learned that courage and confidence comes from hitting barriers that turn out to be new opportunities in disguise! I will have more to report on this in the near future, but for now, please know we’re exploring new ways for finding our home and for doing pub church and other singular events we hope to schedule this spring.

Gratefully yours,


The Front Porch: At a Fork in the Road

Dear Friends,

What a fantastic journey we’ve been on! I’m excited about both where we are and the future of The Front Porch. We’ve built relationships all over Austin and have a platform for connecting that begs to continue in one form or another. I’m utterly grateful for each one of you who have been such an essential part of this adventure.

Still, we are at a fork in the road. Since 2011, we’ve been able to fund our salaries and programs, thanks to many of you reading this newsletter and many others. We’ve achieved all that brings us to this point, all that has impacted so many. Yet, without a central space for doing what we do–a café/tavern/venue that provides earned revenue on a regular basis–it has become difficult to sustain the work at the level we’ve all come to expect. The time to blow on the dandelion, so to speak, and let the Spirit carry the seeds to new places where they can germinate and grow, has come. That being said, over the next few months, I will be taking time to reflect and explore where and how the Front Porch goes from here.

Already, an array of possibilities are winking at me. And the good news is, some seeds have already sprouted. As you’ll see below, thanks to Mike Adams, Billy Tweedie, Riley Webb and so many others volunteering their time, we’ll host a new series of Pub Church this Sunday (4/15) and a pop-up Yoga Mass on April 21st. The series theme for pub church will be “Money Talks,” and we’ll feature the usual caliber of brilliant guests and artists, including Dr. Steven Tomlinson (SSW prof and Wall Street advisor) and Austin legend, Eliza Gilkyson.

Watching friends pick up the baton at this crucial juncture has already sparked a vision in my mind’s eye of The Front Porch growing beyond me: an image that will continue to evolve in its own joyful way, I am certain. Indeed, as people step up to lead programs and support financially, we’ll continue producing these pop-up events, Pub Churches, Unplugged concerts, and, of course, the annual Easter Vigil. All the while, we’ll be keen-eyed and open-hearted as we wait for other seeds to find the churned and fertile soil so necessary for germination and new life.

Gratefully and Joyfully yours,
Stephen Kinney, Executive Director

Unplugged on the Front Porch with The Peterson Brothers (outdoor edition)

#Blues #Funk & #Soul with The Peterson Brothers Band at Unplugged on The Front Porch 12:00pm at All Saints’ Episcopal Church November 4th in Austin, TX.

This will be an Unplugged on the Front Porch like no other. We’re teaming up with All Saints’ Episcopal Church to host the Peterson Brothers Band for an early afternoon outside gig, on the church grounds. Suggested donation is $20.

Come early for the Bar-B-Q Cook-Off ($10 plates), which is from 11am-2pm, accompanied by Billy Tweedie and his Bluegrass Band. The Peterson’s start playing at 12:30pm. This will be an epic afternoon in Austin for all those lucky enough to attend.

The amazing Peterson Brothers are rising stars in Austin, Texas. Their self-titled debut album won the Living Blues Critics Award for Best Debut Blues Album of 2015.

In addition to holding a standing room only weekly residency at Austin’s famed music hall The Continental Club, Glenn and Alex are honing their chops daily, and are dazzling audiences playing gigs throughout the United States. The Peterson Brothers have appeared at the Chicago Blues Festival, Minnesota State Fair, Riverbend Festival, Austin City Limits Festival, Ogden Roots and Blues, and many more.

They have opened for the likes of Gary Clark Jr., Buddy Guy, the late B.B. King, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, Willie Nelson, and Los Lonely Boys, and gained the attention of the one and only Bootsy Collins, who has become a true mentor.
For More info:

Finding Loro: a simple story about the contagious nature of love & service

by Riley Webb

above: female students at the Loro Primary School celebrate the delivery of their sanitary pads in early June, 2017, the first gift offered from Love for Loro. 

In November of 2016, Front Porch volunteer, Betsy Sammon, sat in on a youth Sunday School class at All Saints’ Episcopal Church. As the class pondered various topics that day, somehow the conversation turned to focus on one of the class’ leaders, a young man from northern Uganda named Edward Abili. The kids began asking Edward questions about life back home in his village: what kids over there did for fun and what their lives were like. But when Edward began to describe a life devoid of the luxuries that we know here in Austin, the kids’ gentle curiosity turned to concern. Eventually, one of them asked the question Betsy had been quietly hoping for: “What can we do to help these kids? Can we do something with The Window?”

Edward Abili grew up in Northern Uganda before coming to the US just a few years ago.

As the lead volunteer of our youth service corps, Betsy had been pondering what The Window could do all along. But she was overjoyed to hear that the kids themselves would lead the way on this quest. Immediately, she called me and invited me to sit in on the next class. It was this simple chain of events that sparked the journey of Love for Loro.

When I discussed potential plans of action with the Edward, Betsy, and the youth the following Sunday, the whole affair seemed rather ordinary at first. Edward explained that the options were wide open concerning what we might do to help—that the people of his village need everything from school desks to buildings to food to medicine. But, when we asked ourselves more intentionally about what we could do, somehow, we landed on shoes. Edward had told the class that most of the kids at the school in his village had to trek the African countryside barefoot to class and back every day. Soon, it was decided: we would by raise funds to purchase a pair of hard-rubber shoes for each student who attended the school in Edward’s home village of Loro, Uganda.

The pin represents Loro.

Mindz of a Different Kind help launch the program.

As we moved into December, the idea really began to crystalize. Betsy, Edward, and I held planning meetings all throughout that month, and then, in January, All Saints’ hosted a launch party for the first-ever Front Porch led fundraising drive, Love for Loro. The event featured hip-hop music from local outfit, Mindz of a Different Kind, and framed the event in the Epiphany spirit of spreading the good news far and wide, but with the Front Porch twist of getting outside of ourselves and learning from those of a different culture. We announced that, following the fundraising drive, we’d be implementing a pen-pal program to deepen the dialogical aspect of the program. 

When Edward explained the need for the shoes—that many of the kids who attend Loro Primary School must often walk upward of 10 miles a day, barefoot, just to get to class, through rural territory infested with worms and parasites—you could see the empathy spread around the room. Betsy also added caveat to the fundraising plan: we’d raise an extra $5,000 or so to purchase menstrual kits for the female students as well, so that they would no longer miss vital class-time or suffer public shame. By the time the presentation was over, positive energy and good vibes flooded the room, and 13 people signed up as individual fundraisers. In that moment, we began to see this as something that could actually happen—a real, viable adventure to embark on. We also began to see how it would work itself out—from person to person, one step at a time, as an emerging, co-creative, multi-faceted endeavor. 

Throughout the months that followed, we have seen so many different communities come together around All Saints’ and The Window to make this happen. From small groups like bible studies and office drives, to school clubs around Austin, to driven individuals who’ve held private fundraisers, we’ve seen so many do so much to raise this dough. Truthfully, this has been, perhaps, the chief beauty of Love for Loro: it’s provided hundreds of chances for friends and strangers alike to meet face-to-face and serve hand-in-hand toward a common goal. So far, we’ve raised over $17,000 toward our goal of $33,000, and we’re well on our way to earning the rest!

If you had asked Betsy and I how this project was going to happen in January, we wouldn’t have been able to tell you. We just trusted the people around us, and it paid off. This jigsaw puzzle of small fundraisers and bigger checks and Edward’s parents and friends on the ground in Uganda and store discounts from our partners there and folks of all ages coming up with unique plans to raise dough has been nothing short of Spirit inspired. Love for Loro has served as a reminder to so many of us that all it takes to make something incredible and good happen is a little initiative and openness to the people around us, and a willingness to work towards co-creating something new and beautiful as partners. To put it more simply: we just have to do it, and do it together.

The Window team relaxes after a day of hard work at the Love for Loro Garage Sale in early May.

As you may have seen in the video at the top of the page, we were so grateful to be able to deliver the menstrual kits and complete Phase One of the Loro program just few days ago. Now, we look forward to a few more weeks of fundraising as we attempt to raise another $15,000 toward the shoes. Many thanks to the following groups of folks—these people are the true heroes of this project! If you’re interested in fundraising individually or doing something with a group to help us meet our goal, please email me at And don’t forget to join us at the Love for Loro benefit concert with Walt Wilkins at All Saints’ on August 24th at 7:30 PM!

Big Thanks to:

Betsy Sammon, for doing nearly everything that happens behind the scenes to keep this going.

Edward Abili & family for doing everything related to the delivery of our goods in Loro, and for being open to that vital initial connection across the world.

The All Saints’ Episcopal Church Youth Group, for all the hard work at the garage sales, bake sales, flower sales, and more, and for continuing to help us plan and implement the project.

Kelly Barnhill, for all of your ideas, encouragement, research, resources, and gifts.

Wini Wood, The Cornelius Family, and Mary Wright for being the backbone of the Love for Loro garage sale.

Carol Moczygemba, Karen Mountain, and Migrant Clinicians Network for hosting the amazing “Wine and Cheese” evening.

The Greendyk family, for hosting your incredible lemonade stand fundraiser.

Gullett Elementary School’s “No Place for Hate” program and “Camp Be The Change” for the garage sale help and lemonade stands.

St. Andrew’s Lower School for your “Change for Change” program.

Lone Star Family Market for donating goods and your space during the garage sale and much more.

Mike and Mary Hemby, Lucy Nazro, The Sammon Family, Austin Community Foundation, Cynthia Caruso, Beverly Pond, Mike Adams, Joanne Bruce, and many others, for your continuing and generous support.