Monday, August 23, 2010

Are you a mushy Christian?

This recent poll about young adults and their faith was really strange to me. This silly little paragraph that stood out the most:
"Among the 65% [of young adults] who call themselves Christian, 'many are either mushy Christians or Christians in name only,' Rainer says. 'Most are just indifferent. The more precisely you try to measure their Christianity, the fewer you find committed to the faith.'"

I don't know what a mushy Christian is. I imagine from the context of the article that it's people who use avoid words like "Jesus is my Lord and Savior" or who do yoga. The author of the article concludes that because old school notions of Christianity don't work for young folk that they are in fact not very solid in their belief(s).

As a 30 year old pastor, I must confess that I am often the youngest person at most church services I preach at or lead. I often feel like I'm not actually an adult at these meetings and gatherings because of the marked age difference. Yet, I often hear that the church wants to engage young folk (read those 30 and below) and become more welcoming and diverse.

Yet, when we young folk with our full diversity of sexuality, gender expression, body art, piercings, ADHD, physical abilities and yearning to mash up some of the spiritual practices and experiences from other faith traditions that help us understand our Christian stories and rituals better show up in their pews, very few churches are willing to let us be fully who we are. Or if they do, they stare, make comments or smoother you.

In the early 60's the National Council of Churches faced a very similar reality. Young folk were not interested in church and worship that did not speak to their experiences. As a result, churches adapted, experimented and were transformed by the contributions of young folk. The sixties also brought a lot of experimentation and over-indulgence that the church still seems to be recovering from. Perhaps the boundaries got pushed too far in the 60's, but I hope that the baby boomers who got this freedom when they were young will be gracious enough to trust a new generation with the future of the church.

Like it or not, we are the future (and present) of the church.

I invite anyone interested in exploring ways we can claim the moving and meaningful parts of the ancient Christian tradition while making it fresh and relevant to our daily lives, to join me and the fabulous Tommy Dillon as a part of the Community of Travelers (starting September 12th at 5pm).

You can participate in person at St. Aidan's Episcopal or join us online via live stream. Mushy or not, all are welcome to worship with us!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Gardens, Mental Health and City wide solutions.

Those who have been following my activities may have noticed that in addition to my work at Welcome, I'm in my 9th year of working with the chronically homeless in San Francisco, I have started to work part-time for Project Homeless Connect (PHC). I initially began working at Project Homeless Connect during a time when foundation support of Welcome wavered and I needed a bit of job security. Of course, the idea of working with an organization that had such a city wide impact to their work was appealing to me as someone who has been advocating for the homeless for so many years.

Thankfully due to a major gift from St. Paulus Lutheran Church, Welcome's funding for this year is back on track and I continue to do the one-on-one work with our homeless guests, to preach and teach about hunger issues and to help organize volunteers and groups to feed hungry people through dinners and community garden at Welcome.

But, I'm also delighted to continue my work at PHC to create opportunities for free mental health care in community gardens throughout San Francisco, enabling people to share skills and improve their quality of life and to help individuals learn employment skills.

At Welcome I'm able to work with people individually over the long term, to be their pastor and work with congregations. At PHC, I'm able to work to find solutions to some of the root causes of homelessness on a city wide level.
Below, I've included information about the Seeding Resilience program that I created and am leading at PHC's Growing Home Community Garden. I hope you'll be as excited about it as I am!

Seeding Resilience
is the Growing Home Community Garden's (GHCG) new project to increase access to mental health services and increase employment opportunities and skills. A two year innovation project with major support provided by the Mental Health Services Act (MHSA), the Seeding Resilience project is 75% focused on the GHCG (Octavia & Lily) and 25% on Urban Agricultural leaders in San Francisco to build a citywide network of support for mental health consumers.

Outcomes of the project include:
  • 3 weekly skill share opportunities for individuals to learn about: 1) cooking & nutrition; 2) garden skills; and 3) health skills and stress reduction [click on the links for notes and photos from these skill shares]
  • 4 educational opportunities for urban agriculture leaders to increase their awareness, create collaboration opportunities and employment opportunities for mental health consumers
  • regular support groups, workshops and events on topics recommended by garden members and skill share participants
  • information about the learnings of the project that will be made available so that the successful parts of the project can be reproduced in other locations