Monday, July 14th

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Happy Monday, Front Porchers, and happy Bastille Day. To celebrate the breaking open, both literally and figuratively, of an oppressive French regime, we’ve schedule a very appropriate Parable. Come by Opal Divine’s Penn Field to hear Evan Smith, journalist extraordinaire and founder of the non-partisan Texas Tribune, interviewed by NPR’s incomparable John Burnett. Our own Rev. Dr. Steve Kinney will celebrate the non-denominational service, and Dave Madden will curate the live music.

It’s also the two hundred and twenty-fourth anniversary of the Priestley Riots, in which a mob burned Joseph Priestley’s Birmingham home to the ground. Priestley was one of England’s great polymaths: he discovered oxygen (which he called “dephlogistated air”); his grapplings with various metaphysical quandaries, notably the unification of science and religion, greatly influenced utilitarianism; he wrote over a hundred and fifty works, including a seminal book on English grammar; he was a Dissenting (or non-Church of England) clergyman; and he was a supporter of toleration of religious and political dissent. As an outspoken supporter of the French revolution, he was targeted by a mob, whipped up by political opponents, which burned down his house and forced him to flee to London. His persecution didn’t end, and he eventually emigrated to Pennsylvania. As one of the true spiritual forbears to the Front Porch, he attempted to synthesize science, spirituality, and everyday life with a spirit of toleration and open communication. While we generally remember July 14th as Bastille Day, a day for freedom and celebration, let’s not forget that just a year later, it led to paranoia, arson, and terror for one of England’s most distinguished thinkers.

Monday, May 5th

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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

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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?

Monday, April 14th

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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

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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.

Monday, March 31st

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Happy Monday, Front Porchers, and happy birthdays to Renée Descartes, JS Bach, Joseph Haydn, Nikolai Gogol, Octavio Paz, Cesar Chavez, and Al Gore. We’d like to give a big “thank you” to Jesse Sublett for sharing his story last Friday, and to everyone who came to listen. This week, we’ve got the Rev. Bill Wigmore, who is a priest and addiction expert, speaking at Autobiographies of Redemption. If you liked Jesse, you should definitely check out Bill.

In lieu of any writing, here’s a video of Selena, who was killed on this day in 1995. Go ahead and dance along. We’re not here to judge.

 

Monday, March 3rd

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Amplify Austin_UFCU_LogoHappy Monday, Front Porchers, and Happy Texas Independence Day. We’ve got quite a month lined up for you. On Thursday the 13th, we’re hosting a special SXSW edition of Actually Unplugged. On Friday the 14th, we’ll begin our weekly Lenten series Stories of Redemption, in which a prominent community member will tell a true story about losing and finding important things. Our first storyteller will be Jared Dunten. Then, Parable picks back up on Sunday the 16th; we’ve got a surprise guest lined up, and maybe, if you keep an eye on this space, we’ll even let you know who. On Thursday the 20th, Actually Unplugged will resume its normal course, this time with the almost unfairly talented Darden Smith. Stories of Redemption picks back up on Friday the 21st with Paul Reed, then again on Friday the 28th with Jesse Sublett, and on into April with Bill Wigmore on Friday the 4th before concluding on Friday the 11th with Angie Cross. We’ve also got a major fundraising drive at the end of the month through Amplify Austin, so stay posted for more information on that as well.

It seems fitting, on this one hundred and seventy-eighth anniversary of Texas’ declaration of independence from Mexico, to remember that a conflict of independence doesn’t lead to freedom for everyone. After all, Texas (and the United States) maintained sizable slave populations. Rebellions and petty wars continued well into nationhood, and it was people at the bottom and on the edges who bore the brunt of the suffering. Even now, Syria is undergoing the largest displacement of people since the Holocaust. Ukraine has exploded in violence, and Venezuela simmers, ripe to follow suit. While the focus will be on the leaders of the various factions in those states, take a moment to think not just of the fighters, the commanders and the ideologues, but also the people trapped in their homes by the fighting. Think of the confused, the unsure, the unbrave, who live under death’s wings,  meaningful life and work out of reach until forces beyond their control allow. Regardless of political persuasion, these are the casualties of independence.

Monday, February 17th

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Happy Monday, Front Porchers. Last week was a good week for us; on Thursday, Sam Baker, his band, and more than a hundred of our closest friends joined us for Actually Unplugged, and then Ray Benson preached at Parable on Sunday. But the action isn’t slowing down; the Southwest Showdown begins at 11:00 this Saturday. Come out to the Seminary of the Southwest’s annual family-friendly barbeque cook-off. Proceeds go Episcopal Relief and Development, and the inordinately talented Tessy Lou and the Shotgun Stars will accompany the Texas barbeque with Texas country music.

As the two or three of you who regularly read my posts know, I usually take this space to write about some notable figure or event linked to the day’s date. Today, as I scanned my top-secret historical calendar, I found some good stuff: in 1600, philosopher Giordano Bruno was executed; in 1819, the Missouri Compromise passed; in 1863, the Red Cross was founded; in 1929, Chaim Potok was born. But what about the billions of lives that don’t find their way into the annals of Wikipedia? We don’t read about, or even really think about, their experiences, their accomplishments, their fears and desires, but they existed, from the first sentient hominid to the aged farmer in third century BC Chile to the child just born into poverty in Mumbai. They are sparrows, just as we are, and their lives are as immediate to them as ours are to us, and every bit as important and dear. Once those lives are gone, those accomplishments and experiences stay with us, invisible and inaccessible but present nonetheless. That’s as good a reason as any to be kind, to pour out our souls, to give recklessly and fully, to love as hard and as much as we possibly can; we can leave something behind, an undetectable legacy of goodness that is better than an article in an online database.