Tuesday, March 29, 2011

In the News: NBC Bay Area

Urban Farming About to Sprout in the City

Tuesday, Mar 29, 2011 | Updated 10:30 AM PDT

Joe Rosato Jr.

Pastor Megan Rohrer helps plant vegetables in the Urban Farming community garden near San Francisco Civic Center. "Gardens are some of the most self-care devices that we have," Rohrer said. "It gets you kind of rooted to the environment."

By Sajid Farooq

Farms in San Francisco? It's about to happen.

Technically it has been happening for a long time but the San Francisco Board of Supervisors is about to take the next step in urban farming.

Mayor Ed Lee and board President David Chiu are pushing a a measure that would update zoning regulations in the City allowing residents to apply for permits to grow gardens anywhere.

The measure would allow residents to not only grow fruits and veggies across the City with a permit but also sell the food.

The City is hoping the measure will promote residents' access to healthy, locally grown food.

Reposted from: http://www.nbcbayarea.com/the-scene/food-drink/Urban-Farming-About-to-Sprout-in-the-City-118851314.html

Monday, March 28, 2011

In the News: SF Examiner

San Francisco urban farms closer to legitimacy
Linked by Michael Levenston

Pastor Megan Rohrer helps plant vegetables in the Urban Farming community garden near San Francisco Civic Center. “Gardens are some of the most self-care devices that we have,” Rohrer said. “It gets you kind of rooted to the environment.” Photo by Joe Rosato Jr.

“Our legislation would place San Francisco at the forefront of urban agriculture policies nationwide.”

By: Brent Begin
Sf Examiner Staff Writer
Mar 28, 2011.

Reposted from: http://www.cityfarmer.info/2011/04/03/san-francisco-urban-farms-closer-to-legitimacy/

The Board of Supervisors is one step closer to turning the phrase “down on the farm” on its ear.

“Urban agriculture” legislation sponsored by Mayor Ed Lee and Board of Supervisors President David Chiu would update zoning regulations to explicitly permit gardens in all areas of The City and allow for the sale of produce from those gardens.

The legislation breezed through the board’s Land Use and Economic Development Committee on Monday.

“Urban agriculture not only increases people’s access to locally grown, healthy and sustainable food, but it also converts unused land to productive green spaces, revitalizing neighborhoods and creating green jobs,” Lee said in a statement.

“Our legislation would place San Francisco at the forefront of urban agriculture policies nationwide,” Chiu said in a statement. “My hope is that this is the first of many changes The City makes to increase the viability and scale of urban agriculture in San Francisco.”

The proposal allows for gardens of less than one acre, while gardens one acre or larger would require a special Planning Commission exemption.

The full board will vote on the legislation April 5.

Story here.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

In the News: Indie Stories

Sunday, March 20, 2011


In San Francisco, the "Vanguard Revisited" project is doing some of the most exciting work in community history that I've seen in quite some time. Initiated by oral historian and radio producer Joey Plaster, and activist minister Rev. Megan Rohrer, the project "resuscitates the history of the 1960s queer youth organization Vanguard and explores the ways in which its history is embodied in the present," according to the new project magazine. Programs in oral history, youth development, and other areas may have a lot to learn from the model of "Vanguard Revisited." Besides, the project's magazine, blog, audio program, and walking tours are just plain fun, vital, and provocative.

Let's step into the way-back machine for a moment. As far back as the 1960s, San Francisco's Tenderloin district has been a hangout spot for runaways and street youth, many of them LGBT or queer. Queer youth had flocked to San Francisco because of its growing reputation as a haven for outcasts. And the Tenderloin district was where many of them would gather; not coincidentally, it was also home to the "Meat Rack" area for young sex workers, the offices of the early "homophile" organization the Mattachine Society, an urban ministry in Glide Church, led by the Rev. Cecil Williams, and more. It was here in the Tenderloin in 1966 that queer street youth formed "Vanguard," a group for fun, socializing, and mutual support. They held street protests, put on weekly dances, and produced a magazine that covered sex, drugs, theology, loneliness. A 1966 statement protested police harassment, economic exploitation by adults, and drug problems to which adults seemed willfully blind. A hostile letter to the magazine (with the oddly affectionate salutation of "Darlings") said that the writer had "bought your filthy magazine from a street seller much to my dismay. I find it is nothing more than a rag for low-grade perverts, dope addicts and pacifists." At least he was in agreement with Vanguard youth. An underground 'zine that same year, 1966, ran a story headlined "Young Rejects Form Own Organization." The kids were doin' it for themselves!

Until fairly recently, this group -- which disbanded in name within a year or two -- was just a memory for surviving members to recount, and some faded papers in the archives of the GLBT Historical Society in San Francisco. But that organization's oral history program coordinator, Joey Plaster, learned of the group, and saw a special resonance with today's youth. He joined forces with local minister Megan Rohrer to put the past in conversation with the present.

It would be a perfectly nifty little project to, say, republish one of the old "Vanguard" magazines. But what distinguishes "Vanguard Revisited" is that the history duo teamed up Larkin Street Youth Services and other local organizations to assemble a group of today's queer youth, who then submitted their own stories, poetry, and art in response to the contents of the original magazine. In "Vanguard Revisted" magazine, content from the 1960s "Vanguard" is paired with writings and art from today, often on similar themes. There's also a project blog, a series of oral histories, walking tours that feature clips of oral histories from original Vanguard members, and an upcoming tour to other cities.

Instead of simply delivering history to queer youth, "Vanguard Revisited" actually enlists today's queer youth to quite literally make history -- to document history, and become a part of it. Youth draw a historical (or, in a sense, genealogical) line from themselves to homeless youth of the 1960s and before, perhaps even to the outcasts in the Bible. And in time, today's queer youth may become the ancestor's of tomorrow's fighters, writers, poets, and preachers.

Intrigued? Go visit the project website, where you can listen to an audio documentary with clips from oral history interviews of original "Vanguard" members, and download the "Vanguard Revisited" magazine. Also be sure to check out the project blog, with video clips of Tenderloin walking tours, and more.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Reclaiming the 'e' Word

I confess that when I was asked to write for LivingLutheran.com, I expected to simply have a virtual pulpit where I could share thoughts that might not fit into the lectionary or community I was sharing a Sunday morning with.

I’m glad to say that it has become more than that to me. Recently, I’ve been logging onto the website regularly to read tips about how to minister to diverse populations or in difficult settings and to read the thoughts of Lutherans across the country.

What is new and exciting about this site, is not that Lutherans are living out their faith in creative and justice-centered ways, but that we are beginning to learn how to talk about it.

The members of the ELCA are very good at doing. I’ve been proud of my church’s response to natural disasters, poverty, human suffering and all the seen and unseen ways we are fulfilling the gospel call to “go and do likewise” (Luke 10:37).

We are truly an active church, but sometimes we are like a family that shows kindness and supports each other but never says the words “I love you” out loud.

Read the rest here.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Evangelism and Scabby Crosses

Last night, I taught an intersexed youth how to properly bandage her arm. She had cross shaped scabs on her arms that were not nearly as deep as the pain they were trying to make visible.

Across the country, congregations, groups and even our presiding Bishop have made videos as a part of the "It Get's Better" campaign. The message is important: life is precious, all should be loved and GLBT individuals sometimes grow up to be healthy productive members of society - sometimes even to become famous.

But, when we fail in our evangelism, this is not always the case. When the Lutheran church was slow to respond to the AIDS crisis, arguing about the sexuality of the individuals rather than sharing the deep gutted gospel message that proclaims baptismal love, thousands of gay men died before it got better.

Later when the Lutheran church was slow to evangelize to GLBT individuals and got caught up in arguing about the sexuality of pastors, dozens (possibly hundreds) of pastors and would be pastors killed themselves. Countless youth and young adults fled the homes and the churches they grew up with, in search of families that could love them without hesitation.

You may be like many Lutherans who wonder why they have to extend a special welcome or evangelize to GLBT individuals. Shouldn't they know that the phrase all are welcome includes them?

Perhaps if there wasn't a 31 year delay from when Lutheran college students began demanding the church evangelize to GLBT individuals and our ability to fully do so, a need to evangelize in a special way would not be needed.

Having worked with the chronically homeless in San Francisco for that last nine years, I am convinced that we will never be able to deal with homelessness in San Francisco until congregations like yours begin evangelizing loudly to GLBT individuals.

Nearly all of the homeless folk I work with left their homes and families (predominantly from the midwest) because they experienced or thought they would experience homophobia from their communities. Even if their church never said anything about GLBT individuals, the voices of media and television personalities became so loud that they were confused with the voice of all Christians.

Or maybe you did try, but it didn't seem big enough to counteract the feelings of the rest of the community or the GLBT folk missed that Sunday.

If only to save the life of one youth, our evangelism voices must raise to the same volume and frequency as those who have negative things to say.

Evangelize like the prophet Isaiah. Speak from the longing for and demand God's justice now. Assume that more is possible and be people ready to act boldly.

Someday your evangelism will pay off and your welcome to all will be heard by all. Until then, your congregation is much better prepared to hear "It gets better" than a youth considering suicide.

If your congregation is worried about bullies who may get angry or upset if you evangelize to GLBT individuals, imagine how hard it must be for youth who lives with this experience daily and who feels they must face it alone.

Thankfully, I was able to be a pastor to the intersexed youth who needed someone to remind them that we celebrate lent as a community so that we can voice the pain and suffering of the world. And thankfully, our beloved Lutheran church is big enough so that there are pastors and congregations across the country willing to evangelize to GLBT individuals.

But, let us all work together during this Lenten season to let the whole world know that we have old rituals to embody the same feelings that may be new to the young adult who carved into her arm. We're not afraid of pain or suffering and we march towards the cross because we know Easter is waiting just around the corner.

As it is said in the echoing refrain of taize: darkness is never darkness in your sight, the deepest night is clear as the daylight.

We know the light and we must share it though loud rainbow proclaiming evangelism. It will be.