Monday, June 2nd

Happy Monday, Front Porchers, and happy two hundred and seventy-third birthday to Martha Washington. To commemorate such a momentous occasion (or really, because it’s a serendipitous occurrence), Kirk Watson is going to be our guest preacher at Parable this Sunday. This is a pretty cool thing, since we’ll get to hear about how he’s maintained his faith through a battle with cancer, various political offices, and family life.

It’s also Freddy Adu’s birthday today. Some of you–specifically, those who are hopeless sports trivia nerds, which is me–might remember him. He sprang fully-formed from the head of the American soccer consciousness, it seemed, rather than being born and raised by humans. He signed a contract with the professional team DC United when he was fourteen. Destined to be the US’s greatest ever player, he was dubbed “the next Pelé” and feted as the man to lead the stars and stripes to World Cup glory. Over the next several years, he bounced around teams in the US, Portugal, Greece, Turkey, Brazil, and England.

There is a lot of despair in the story of Freddy Adu: the early promise unrealized, the failure of the anointed messiah, the apathy towards his slide into irrelevance. He’s not contracted to a team now, and seems likely to fade away to whatever hidden realm our deities enter when they’ve been ground down and used up. He’s too old, washed up, a has-been. Today, he turns twenty-five.

I don’t know if this story is about the burden we placed on a kid that he ultimately couldn’t bear. I don’t know if it’s about some kind of twisted American dream. I do know that it’s about treating people as if they are something not human. I do know that this story is about us, which is bad, because a person’s story should be about that person.

Why I Front Porch: Lucy Nazro

Ever wonder why Front Porch board member and Austin educator/legend Lucy Nazro does the Front Porch? Well, here’s your answer.

‘I am on The Front Porch board because I believe its mission is consistent with what the Church should be doing on our 21st century world. The Front Porch is moving from the walls of the sanctuary into the world, meeting people where they are through music, conversation, and dialog. The Front Porch is welcoming to all, open to new ideas, and ready to take risks. In a time when churches are shrinking rather than growing, I believe it is imperative to try new ways to engage people who are seeking a spiritual dimension in their lives through non-conventional means. Diana Butler Bass describes these seekers: “They wanted a different kind of Christianity than that of their childhoods, but they still wanted to connect with the Christian tradition. They wanted the Bible, prayer, and worship. They wanted open, non-judgmental, and intellectually generous community. They wanted to serve and change the world.  And they wanted it all to make sense in a way that transformed their lives.” I believe these are some of the people that the Front Porch ministry would attract.  I truly hope so.’

So there you go. Why do you Front Porch?

Monday, May 26th

Happy Memorial Day, Front Porchers. Hope yall are enjoying the day off if you have it off, although the weather in Austin may preclude some traditional Memorial Day activities. Our first order of business on this Monday is to thank everyone, particularly Becca Stevens, who made Elephant in the Room possible this past Thursday. If you’re interested in keeping the conversation going, give us a holler.

We’re not really taking our foot off the gas, though: in a couple of weeks, on June 8, we’ll host Parable at Opal Divine’s Penn Field at 5:30. By now, many of you know what to expect: Steve’s earnest and open officiating, John Burnett‘s insightful questions, and Dave Madden‘s wonderful music. Our guest preacher this week is Kirk Watson, state senator of the 14th district. As a father, cancer survivor, former Austin mayor, and–according to the Texas Monthly–one of the state’s best legislators, Kirk’s thoughts on a life of service are not something you want to miss.

Monday, May 19th

Happy Monday, Front Porchers. We’ve got a big week coming up: Becca Stevens, an expert on human trafficking and general superstar, is going to speak on Thursday at St. David’s to cap off our all-day Elephant in the Room event. This is a pretty big deal, so please help us make this happen by going here and donating. If you give $200 or more, you can even join us on Wednesday evening for dinner with Becca and some of our team members.

letterfrombirminghamjailIt was fifty-one years ago today that the New York Post Sunday Magazine published Martin Luther King’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail.” As we gear up for Elephant in the Room and a close look at the horrors of sex trafficking, one of the lines in that letter jumped out at me: “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”

The Civil Rights movement in this country, while past its heyday, is still ongoing. Indeed, it’s bigger than it ever has been. In the past, racial desegregation was a central, unifying goal. Its import has not declined, but now, we know that we don’t just face a single evil, but a whole array of evil: racism has been joined by sexism, homophobia, classism, and a great host of others. But the leader of this collection of specters is apathy. It’s so easy to see evil and ignore it, or just say to yourself, “That’s terrible,” and then put it from your mind. With this event, we’re going to shine a light on something foul and wrong and attack it until it’s gone. Don’t do the easy thing, which is to click like or nod to yourself, then let it fade from your thoughts as you go about your day. Acknowledge your place in this network of mutuality. Accept the responsibility you hold, by virtue of being a person, to your fellow people. Remember that injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.

Monday, May 12th

elephant in room logo

Donate here

Happy Monday, Front Porchers. We hope you’re ready for a pretty sweet couple of weeks. First, Terri Hendrix will close down this season of Unplugged on the Front Porch with Lloyd Maines this Thursday (the 15th), at 7:30 in All Saints’ Episcopal Church. Then, on Thursday the 22nd, we’re going to roll out our revamped series Elephant in the Room with the help of Becca Stevens, one of the brightest and best in her field. This all-day event at St. David’s will culminate with Becca’s keynote address “Giving Voice to Hope: Looking at the universal issues of sexual violence and how we can be a part of a movement for women’s freedom.” Help us make this happen by donating. We’ll cap our May with Parable at Opal Divine’s Penn Field. Join Steve, John Burnett, and Tom Spencer–Executive Director of I Live Here, I Give Here and host of KRLU’s Central Texas Gardener–at 5:30 on Sunday the 25th for sacrament and fellowship.

Today is the eighty-eighth anniversary of a combined Norwegian-Italian-American expedition making the first verified trip to the North Pole. The nine-day zeppelin cruise resulted in significant tensions among the 16-man, one-dog expedition, but was still humanity’s first look at the northernmost point on the planet. Previous expeditions, notably those led by Frederick Cook, Robert Peary, and Richard Byrd, had claimed to reach the Pole, but are now dismissed as incorrect, if not fraudulent. The first expedition on the ground to reach the North Pole was led by Wally Herbert in 1969. That such great journeys and discoveries occurred so recently is a strong reminder of just how huge and mysterious our world really is.

Monday, May 5th

Happy Monday, Front Porchers. Buckle up, because we’ve got a pretty crazy May planned out for you. Unplugged on the Front Porch’s final iteration of the season is Thursday the 15th, starring Terri Hendrix with Lloyd Maines. Then, Parable returns on Sunday the 25th with Tom Spencer, who is both the director of I Live Here, I Give Here and a gardener extraordinaire.

But our biggest news is that we’re bringing back our Elephant in the Room series, which is dedicated to inspiring ongoing conversation about underreported or taboo topics. To address the horrific problem of human trafficking and sex slavery, we’ve enlisted the help of Becca Stevens, an internationally recognized expert in the field and founder of Thistle Farms. Help us bring her to Austin by donating here, and join our team by using the social media hashtag #eitr.

We’d also like to wish two hundred and second happy birthday to Søren Kierkegaard. The Dane is an obvious influence on the Front Porch’s ethos. As one of the nineteenth century’s preeminent humanist philosophers, he helped inform our beliefs about the importance of the individual and how that individual related to God on a personal level. His writing style, in which he often created various personas and had them engage each other in conversation, is also near and dear to our dialogical hearts. So, in the spirit of old philosopher’s daily exercise, we’d suggest that everyone take a walk around town today, interacting with whomever appears in an echo of Søren’s efforts to “lead a completely human life.”

Monday, April 21st

Happy Monday, Front Porchers, and happy one hundred and seventy-eighth anniversary of the Battle of San Jacinto. In celebration of such a landmark in the history of Texas, we’re featuring one of the landmarks of the Texas music scene this week at Unplugged on the Front Porch: Jimmie Dale Gilmore and Colin Gilmore will play Thursday at All Saints’ Episcopal Church.

It’s also the traditional date of the founding of Rome by Romulus and Remus. Of course, it was calculated by counting backwards through various mythological histories and is probably rather unreliable, considering that there is evidence of a walled human settlement on the site in the ninth century BC, but hey, it’s still pretty cool to think about tracing a civilization that dominated its world for three thousand years to a specific day. No? No one else thinks that’s really really cool? Dang. Well, it’s Patriot Day, too. Or the anniversary of the discovery of exoplanets. Or John Muir’s birthday. Or another day that the earth didn’t spin off its axis into the frigid void of space. Odds are you can find a good reason for this day to be pretty special one for you; want to share it?

Matthew Dow: Why I Front Porch

Here’s Front Porch Board member Matthew Dow on why he does the Front Porch:

The Front Porch is about listening to others.  It’s about dialogue.  It’s about having a conversation, even with different folks from different backgrounds.  It’s about learning from one another.  It’s about community.  Without being religious, it’s about gathering with a group of people and searching and being surprised.  That’s why I am committed to the Front Porch.

Monday, April 14th

Happy Monday, Front Porchers, and happy birthday to David G. Burnet, the first (albeit interim) president of the Republic of Texas. Speaking of Burnet(t)s, we’d like to thank John for once again MCing Parable with Austin jazz heavyweights Rabbi Neil Blumofe and Michael Mordecai. We’d like to thank all of you who came out, too. Also a big shout-out to Angie Cross for wrapping up our Lenten series Autobiographies of Redemption on Friday; if you didn’t hear her, you should check out her book The Butterfly Knight, which is alternately heartbreaking and uplifting. Looking ahead, Unplugged on the Front Porch is next Thursday, starring Jimmie Dale Gilmore and Colin Gilmore. It’s not like they need an introduction, but holy cow are they talented.

On a more sober note, our Executive Director/fearless leader Rev. Dr. Steve Kinney’s father is in ill health, so Steve will be in Houston for the next couple of days. If you could keep the Kinneys in your thoughts and/or prayers, we’d sure appreciate it.

Monday, April 7th

Happy Monday, Front Porchers, and happy feast day of the Blessed Notker the Stammerer. (Sorry, but how often am I going to get a chance to type “the Blessed Notker the Stammerer” into my computer?) Thanks to everyone who came out to hear Bill Wigmore’s powerful story this past Friday. Next, consider this your official invitation to the last of our Autobiographies of Redemption. Our final speaker is Angie Cross, who is the author of The Butterfly Knight, a chronicle of her journey with her son, who has Goldenhar syndrome. Don’t miss her account of joy, despair, and love. Then, the brilliant jazz historian, singer, and scholar Rabbi Neil Blumofe will join us for Parable to discuss sacred music, the Pesach, and jazz. He’s not the only guest of note, though; trombonist Michael Mordecai, a founding member of Beto and the Fairlanes, will  share some of his talent with us as well.

On this day ninety-two years ago, US Secretary of the Interior Albert Fall illegally leased federal oil lands near Teapot Dome, Wyoming, to private companies. Besides making him wealthier to the tune of $500,000 (or roughly $6.6 million in today), the deal allowed Pan American Oil and Sinclair Oil to access to the untouched oil reserves for almost nothing and without any competitive bidding. The subsequent investigation lasted for seven years and finished with the oil companies evicted from the lands and Fall imprisoned for a year. The heads of the two oil companies served a combined six months in prison. Fortunately, such high-dollar white-collar crime has since been stamped out in this country and around the world.