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, X.com, 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!

AMPLIFY THE FRONT PORCH

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

Thank you!

PUB CHURCH IS BACK!

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: https://www.npr.org/2018/01/26/580781202/sam-baker-finding-grace-in-the-wake-of-destruction

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,

Stephen

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: http://frontporchaustin.org/unplugged/

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 rileyjacksonwebb@gmail.com. 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.

 

The Easter Vigil: Doing Good Together

Trent Tate’s Fireflies out of the Bottle

Under the burden, the cynicism, and the pace of modern life, Passover and Holy Week interrupt us with timely “signals of transcendence” that call us to stand together, across our various political, cultural, and religious divides. We are beautiful, if broken and vulnerable beings with a profound need for liberation and resurrection—and each other.

The women who arrived looking for the dead body of Jesus on that first Sunday morning were told he was not there, that he had been raised, that he was alive and had gone on ahead of them to Galilee; there they would see him, just as he had said. Amazed and terrified, they fled from the tomb and told no one what had happened. In the original version of Mark’s Gospel, the story simply ends right there. It leaves the story open-ended, inviting the reader to wonder about and puzzle over its meaning. “He is not here, he has been raised,” we hear. He is not here; he is not where we think he is.

This is a story that tells us at the very least that God, the really real, cannot be captured by anything: not by death, not by a tomb, not by religion, not by technology, not by any philosophy of truth. God cannot be packaged and marketed for popular tastes and consumption, no matter how user-friendly and entertaining the purveyor of religion tries to make it. But because we live in a free-market world that has been constructed to satisfy our personal preferences, we begin to imagine that even God exists to satisfy our personal needs. In a world where we can customize our ring tones, our faces, our spouses, our children, and our religion, we come to expect that even God can be customized for our own purposes.

Whatever else it may be, however, this story of Jesus’ resurrection is not about maintaining our control and living with a positive attitude despite the stresses and strains of modern life. The women who encountered the empty tomb didn’t go home and take on a new attitude that things would turn out okay in the end for those who believe; they didn’t just decide to start looking on the bright side of things. No, they fled in terror and amazement and didn’t tell anyone about what they had seen. This is a story that interrupts our usual notions and expectations of the way things are supposed to be. We don’t have any control over this story, and the ending is left open.

The phrase “resurrection from the dead” literally means, “coming alive from out of dead things”. It’s the picture of one who “stands up from the midst of corpses”. It’s a coming alive, a waking up from sleep, a standing up to walk in compassion with others who are different and vulnerable. The story of the resurrection is a very particular gift to each and every one of us. It’s a gift we need. Without it, our lives can be dominated by fear of others, or intimidated by death, and this fear isolates and divides—it locks us up in our own notions and tribes, stifling our capacity to love and appreciate the uniqueness and beauty of each and every other.

This season of the resurrection is a powerful time to come together. The Front Porch offers a distinctive public celebration of the Christian tradition’s “coming alive” for all in the Austin community on Saturday evening, April 15th at 8pm, at Scholz Garten. HERE IS THE RSVP LINK. And here are just some of the artists: Sam Baker, Rabbi Neil Blumofe, Meesha Akbar, Shinyribs, Body Rock ATX with Riders Against the Storm, Jimi Calhoun, Sherry Gingras and the Djembabes, Gregory Eaton, Brant Pope, Chucky Black. There will drums, improv, slam poetry, singer-songwriters, dance, a 2nd Line jazz band, and more. Come celebrate with us and dance until midnight Easter Eve!

Can Beauty Save the World? Come and See

beauty-save-imageThe upcoming winter/spring edition of the Front Porch’s “Public House Church” (aka, Pub Church) explores Dostoevsky’s compelling, though enigmatic assertion that “beauty will save the world.” Beauty that takes our breath away opens our hearts. And once our hearts open — in that very instant! — we see the world and everything in it as beautiful. This is the beauty that will save the world, and we will talk about all this from multiple perspectives through the eyes of distinguished guests and artists over the next five months at Scholz Garten on Sunday evenings.

The kind of beauty we’re interested in “unlocks the yearning of the human heart, the profound desire to know, to love, to go towards the Other, to reach for the Beyond” (Benedict 16, 2009). In our distracted world, where there can be much banality, boredom, and ugliness, we need beauty. To be cut off from beauty is to fall into egoism, desiccation, and cowardice. By transfiguring our own vision through the power of co-creative attention giving, we can begin to see as God sees. And God sees the world and each of us in it as beautiful. In the Genesis story of creation, the Hebrew word for good may also be translated as beautiful—“And God saw that it was beautiful.”

We’re thus creating the space for epiphanies of beauty to happen on Sunday evenings. We’re hoping to offer those of us feeling hemmed in by our overly instrumental and fragmented culture the chance to expand our horizons, to connect with others, and to transform our vision of the world. When Mother Teresa saw the mutilated bodies and souls of the dying poor in Calcutta as beautiful, she wasn’t being irrational or sentimental—her vision had been transfigured and she saw clearly, as God sees.

What is beauty? Well…it’s particular, dialogical, vulnerable, surprising, insightful, simple, complex, gracious, generous, alive, organic, transcendent, agile and nimble. Beauty connects, wounds, disrupts, overpowers, delights, terrifies, and heals. Can beauty save the world? I guess that depends on how we see. Come and see with us beginning January 15th!