OPEN LETTER TO ALL FRONT PORCH SUPPORTERS

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FP PageDear Friends,

In the mid 1990’s I served one summer as the interim Vicar of a small parish church in the village of Great Horkesley in Essex County, UK. 10-15 people at most attended the church service on Sunday mornings.

Most of my time as a minister there was spent in the local village pub. The Anchor Inn was the public house—the gathering place to meet friends after work, to cheer the occasional victory of the local cricket team, to listen to area leaders address topics of interest. Families met there to celebrate birthdays and there was always lots of singing and music. I was invited to lead discussions and teach an “ethics class” two times per week. I became part of that public family.

I’ve thought a lot about this over the summer. It’s time for us on the porch to become more intentional about who we are and what we do. This fall, the Front Porch is thus becoming a do-it-yourself public house; in fact, we’re declaring ourselves to be Austin’s Pub Church that meets Sunday evenings at Scholz Garten.

So what we used to call PARABLE is now, simply, “The Front Porch’s Pub Church.” Each week we’ll be exploring Karen Armstrong’s very fine work on compassion–12 Steps to a Compassionate Life–as a curricula of sorts. We’ve invited different guests to help lead our more extended conversation. We will continue to host some of Austin’s great singer-songwriters and offer a very focused act of communion to pull us all together.

Join us some Sunday and bring a friend. I hope to see you soon in our public house!

Stephen

(Executive Director)

Monday, November 25

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Happy Thanksgiving week, everybody. We’ve got a lot to be thankful for here on the Front Porch. We’re very thankful that Actually Unplugged, starring a falcon-like “Truck Month,” was so successful. We’re glad that everyone made it out for such an amazing concert by such a unique and mysterious band.

In my family, Thanksgiving is the Front Porchiest time of the year. We all come together from various sides of the geographic, political, and cultural spectrum, and sit around several tables to talk, laugh, and eat (sometimes to the point of being wheelbarrowed away from the table). We can talk about these differences in a way that we frequently can’t for the rest of the year. This open, safe, and trusting dialogue is, to me, what the Front Porch is all about. It’s what I’m most thankful for.

Monday, October 14th

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ruby jane as girlGreetings, Front Porchers. While preparing for Ruby Jane to play Actually Unplugged–Thursday at 8:00 in the All Saints’ sanctuary–we’ve been thinking a lot about talent. Ruby Jane’s incredible ability was recognized when she was only four years old, which is obviously exceptional compared to most of us (at that age, I had difficulty in selecting outfits for myself which didn’t involve capes), but  even for those of us who aren’t prodigies, to what do we attribute talent?

Malcolm Gladwell has popularized the idea of the ten thousand hours required for expertise in any field, but that seems unlikely when applied to a four-year-old. Savants, young and old, can be found throughout history, from the toddler virtuoso Mozart to septuagenarian painting master Grandma Moses. How do we explain these phenomenal individuals, who possess abilities incommensurate with their experience? Are they granted their mastery by some divine agency? Are they born with a unique combination of genes that allows them to pick up a skill faster than seems possible?  Are they shaped by minute pressures, too small to measure, from their environments? Are they just lucky? Is it some combination of these things or something else?

We don’t have the answer here on the Front Porch. All we can do is talk about it with each other, maybe inching closer to a truth, and be thankful that these marvelous and unlikely people are around.ruby jane older

Weekly update: September 19

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Hello, Front Porchers, and happy seventy-third birthday to Otis Redding. It’s busy over here on the Porch. Actually Unplugged is next Thursday, featuring Guy Forsyth. The Wednesday after that, we kick off the newest incarnation of our Elephant in the Room series; the opener will star Dr. Jane Patterson and focus on the Book of Revelation. We just had a very productive board meeting, which helped us settle a few questions we’ve been mulling over. We’ve got a lot of other things in the works, so keep checking back.

 

If you’ve read or seen High Fidelity, you’re familiar with the protagonist’s obsession with Top Five lists as a way to organize the chaos of his life. My father, while nowhere near as neurotic, is locally infamous for collecting and archiving his family’s and friends’ Top Tens. For example, I can email him and find out what my favorite albums were twelve years ago, which is an excellent exercise in humility. On that note, and considering the importance of music to the Front Porch’s mission, I’m interested in hearing what everyone’s top five favorite albums are. For the record, mine are Fox Confessor Brings the Flood by Neko Case, Kiko by Los Lobos, Black Eyes by the Black Eyes, Cold Roses by Ryan Adams, and Wiretap Scars by Sparta. Share your top five, or just mock mine.