PUB CHURCH IS BACK!

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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!

The Front Porch: At a Fork in the Road

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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

Can Beauty Save the World? Come and See

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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!

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)

What We Do at Parable: pub church through Alisa’s eyes

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We are so grateful to Alisa Carr for sharing below her experience of this past Sunday’s Parable, the Front Porch’s pub church that meets at Scholz’ Garten each Sunday evening. Alisa works as a spiritual director, licensed counselor, and Reiki practitioner in south Austin.  

alisa picI was really looking forward to participating in Parable this Sunday, and was relieved when timing allowed me to be present! I have learned to arrive a little early, so as to avoid a long line to order a beverage or a bite to eat, and to have a conversation or two before the “service” begins. We are here to worship and pray, yes, but not in the traditional sense…we are at Scholz’ beer garden in Austin, after all. We are gathering over bratwurst and beer. We are gathered at rectangular tables that invite us to look at each other and talk.   This is a space of gathering to dialogue and connect with others—with intention and with the purpose of listening to, holding, and honoring both our differences and our similarities.

Austin singer-songwriter Stephen Smith is sharing his music with us this evening. He has a beautiful voice and sings us a prayer with a hint of the blues. It is a heart song with beautiful energy in which to enter some silence and then pray together Steve Kinney’s translated version of the Lord’s Prayer – words and phrases that also grab the heart, such as “that we may see as you see,” “interrupt us with grace,” “release us from the burden,” and so on. These phrases open up my heart and mind to receive what is to come. I am moved. Since today our topic is Marriage, we get to sing together The Wedding Song by Peter, Paul and Mary. I don’t know about everyone else, but tears well up in my eyes!

Yes, the topic for the evening is Marriage. We are led in that discussion by the teachings of Jungian analyst and Episcopal priest, J. Pittman McGehee. We talk about becoming whole, about becoming who we are created to be, and about relationship as the “crucible” for this inner journey. The hard work of embracing the shadow – within ourselves and in those whom we love – is the Way. This is the content that itself becomes a vessel for vulnerable and heartfelt sharing of personal struggle. How do I love and accept myself? How do I move beyond shame and guilt to allow myself the freedom to be and express who I am in my core? How do I accept the messiness that is within me? Where we wind up in this discussion is where we started in the opening of silent prayer…an invitation to compassion, the freedom to be, radical acceptance, and love. I experience compassion drawing us together – the openness of a few taking the whole group, or at least those of us willing to go, to greater depths.

I like to come to Parable as often as I can, and I am grateful that it is now a weekly gathering. The more I come, the more I witness and participate in the community that is emerging. It seems that every week there are people willing to express deeply felt experiences, opinions, feelings, challenges, and hopes. In an atmosphere that is, on the surface, more conducive to cheering for a favorite sports team, we are increasingly exposing ourselves with courage and vulnerability. I have found myself wanting to reach out in support, encouragement, and gratitude.

With that level of heart opening, we move into Parable’s unique celebration of Communion – what has drawn me here in the first place. Every week, Steve leads us in the most earthy, intimate, and descriptive telling of the Eucharistic story that I have ever heard. Amidst the clamor of the kitchen, the music of the guitar, bass or other instruments, conversations erupting, and between bites of bratwurst or burgers and sips of beer, wine or tea, we approach the “common table.” Surrounded by all the sounds and would-be distractions, we receive those familiar words of blessing, “The Body of Christ, The Bread of Life…The Blood of Christ, The Cup of Salvation…” as we share table fellowship for all. For this life-long, liturgical, contemplative Episcopalian this is both profane and sacred! It turns out that the line between those two realities is quite murky, if present at all. Being among others who are willing to hold that tension is what keeps me coming back to Parable on The Front Porch!

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.