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Take A Virtual Tour Guide To Turley/McLain Area History, Current Issues, Seeding Future Renewal

Turley and McLain Area Far North Tulsa Tour GuideBook 2014
Sponsored by A Third Place Community Foundation
This tour covers much of our two mile service area and is part of old Turley area, now both city of Tulsa and unincorporated areas. We call it McLain/Turley area or as the planners do, Far North.
1.   Turley/Cherokee School Begin Tour

Note: Some of the oldest places connected to Turley won’t be on this tour due to their relative remoteness: some of the early business and residences by Bird Creek and Bird Creek Falls, which was a kind of park and resort and camping area, on 86th St. west before you come to Highway 75. Tornadoes on that road also known as Cyclone Road shifted the focus of the town to the new area near the train tracks. On 76th St. west of Peoria in areas of trees now at the flat land at bottom of Turley Hill was an early trading post site after the Cherokee Removal in the 1830s. Also along Delaware Creek east of Victor Ave. in late 1800s was another trading post. And on the south side of Turley Hill is the Turley Runestone markings.

Much has been left out we know; we trust that the “Turley elders” will fill in gaps, bring their own stories of what used to be where.

Turley School district from around the time of statehood; boundaries went south up to Apache toward downtown; Turley Schools closed and the area merged with Tulsa Schools in mid-1930s; at that time the high school closed and students went to Central; junior high and below stayed at Cherokee which was the name picked by students in a vote between Cherokee and Wiley Post (Post later became the name of the nearest other elementary school, on 54th St. west of Peoria). The junior high remained until 1966 and it closed and students went to Monroe or Gilcrease Junior Highs. At that time Morse Elementary School in Turley north of Cherokee on Victor Ave. also was closed and students came to Cherokee. At some point after that the sixth grade was shifted to Gilcrease and Cherokee became PK-5 until it was closed in 2011.
Since it closed we have been working to attract other nonprofits to come in and help us provide a center for healthy living as the school system has indicated a willingness to sell it to us way below market value, but we have been unable to attract others. Right now The Lighthouse Academy, a Tulsa Public School charter school in the former Greeley Elementary School at 63rd St. N. and MLK Jr. Blvd is considering expanding as it grows and might use Cherokee for its mid-high and high school grades and has begun talks with TPS on that. When we held community forums after the closing of Cherokee, residents said bringing in a charter school would be their top preference other than reopening Cherokee. We have talked with Lighthouse about re-installing the local historical display in the school building if they get to use it; this might also make it much easier to resume the Cherokee School Reunions.
In meantime, we still have some landscape beautifying the grounds, a remnant of our landscape project for Cherokee; we decorate the Memorial Arch and the Evergreen Tree by it for Christmas or Other Holiday Seasons.

2.    Old Downtown Area
Immediately adjacent on all sides of the School property were located a mixture of homes and businesses. Appliance and general stores, gas station and domino parlor, pharmacies, doctors offices, and the Grotto Movie Theater, and more. Along 60th St. (old Commerical Street) from Peoria/Highway 11 to the Midland Valley train tracks (where depot was located) was the old downtown; stores, hotel, lumber yard, the post office, churches, grocery stores, and residences and more. The train was passenger then freight and then was changed to the current Osage Prairie Trail connecting downtown Tulsa north out to Avant. We are currently working with Tulsa cyclist organizations and area transportation planners to have a Trail Appreciation and Awareness Day to provide hospitality to those who use it and to raise up the issues of security and safety along it. We also hope to get a grant or county funds to allow us to create community kiosks at Trail intersections to provide “Where You Are” type information on the surrounding areas, sites, and businesses. The vacant land where the old downtown buildings were would make a good “pop-up” street event site to show potential investors. Beautification efforts along the Trail could be reinstituted by our “guerilla gardeners.”

3.   Drive North Peoria from Cherokee to the Daylight Donuts Store at 74th by the north Welcome to Turley Sign then turn and drive south to 46th St. to Generation of Destiny Parking Lot.

The Stretch between 46th and 66th St. along North Peoria (where the city bus service ends) has been envisioned by us as a Far North Main Street Project since it is almost entirely commercial and educational now. Imagine a Sign at Both Ends signaling Far North Main Street, with redbuds and planters and sidewalks and street lights providing beauty and safe transportation and incentives for private and public investment, and with it monies for current businesses to be a part of the beautification and promotion.  Notice the current lack of sidewalks in many places that especially in wet weather forces some people especially in motorized scooters into Peoria Ave. You just have to come back at night to see the effects of few street lights.

To the north from Cherokee: Highlights on the east side include the old Britton Feed Store and where Dutch’s Pawn Shop is now the former Turley Volunteer Fire Dept. building erected in 1949. The old Cullison’s grocery store now used for storage; the current Cullison’s Hardware Store, our oldest continually operating business, family owned independent hardware store where John Miller’s Truck Equipment used to be; the Assembly of God church site; a vacant building just north of it was the Wynn’s Grocery Store and was our first site for The Welcome Table church which began the A Third Place Community Foundation and projects; the 24 hour Maverick gas station which used to be Gibble Gas; the former Smokey’s Hondas buildings, current Shorty’s Restaurant; where the Freedom Bank (formerly the First National Bank of Turley) is located was the site of a sawmill and had been the flower sanctuary planted by local gardener Claud Cox. The intersection of 66th and Peoria on the east where the meridians are used to have a large billboard advertising Coors Beer. On north on the east side were residences, and a few businesses such as where Butler’s BBQ is now located where the original Lions Club building was (lions still on the roof; and the flag pole is dedicated to Lions leader Ray Perkins who was a Turley business owner) and the Star Café where you can still see the Star sign saying Eat (we would love to get it and the old funeral home sign for a Turley Historical Section at our GardenPark and Orchard) and where the donut store is was also a bar, and then convenience store. Just off Peoria on 71st is the First Baptist of Turley (formerly Golden Hills Baptist).

Going back south on Peoria on the west side: where the auto salvages now are located was the former Rainbow Skating Rink, and a large Tomato farm and residence. Nearer to 66th St. is where the old drive in joint was located, Blackburn’s, Red’s, Sonic, Shorty’s, then King Taco Palace. On the northwest corner was the Smith’s Grocery Store and original bank site, then a bookbinder, and then the building burned and later was demolished. Going on south across from current bank area was a laundramat (an older one in a building now torn down), in the strip mall now abandoned was a western wear store, and video store, and then church, and after several years empty was the site of our first Third Place Community Center and OU Health Clinic; it was a funeral home and flower shop after us before they left; also it is where the Post Office was located before it was closed. Near it was a Chiropractic Center and Church. We are still interested in applying to bring in a Village Post Office, a partnership between a local business and organization and the USPS; drop boxes remain at the postal site but no services otherwise…The abandoned Turley Restaurant is site of long time restaurants and gathering place; there were mobile homes located behind it that had been abandoned but they have been removed…The current fire department building is next. We are working with the Fire Dept. to create a public Fire District Board to allow property taxes to fund the department instead of the unpredictability of membership dues, especially as the community becomes more mobile; the election for that would be the first official Turley only election of any kind since perhaps the election of the old school board. To the south of it is an old body shop that has deteriorated and until recently was open for several years with dangerous glass shards; it is one of the main sites we have been pushing to get cleaned up as part of the Health Dept. Environmental Quality division’s Turley Project on property nuisances….Warehouse Market and area was a pasture for many years; across the creek where the used appliance outside store is now used to be Sawyer’s Pharmacy; we have been pushing for its cleanup; when the appliances are removed each night and on Sunday the area in front is full of junk. To the south before you reach the Turley Water Dept. is the hair salon and also used by Nation of Islam study group on Sundays and some evenings. The Turley Water Dept. is one of our oldest organizations; a private nonprofit that buys water from City of Tulsa and administers the lines in this area; all sewer line service is with the City of Tulsa even in the county areas; other areas use septic systems.
South of the old downtown going up the hill on Peoria: Ruby D’s wonderful consignment shop, the turley tag agency, other shops, automotive repair places you will see dominating now all up and down Peoria along this two mile stretch (reflects poverty areas, and the effect of poor public transportation). Near the top of the hill on the west was the site of the old Ninde Funeral Home; the clock sign from it is still located next to old firework stands; we would love to get the sign for a Turley Historical Section at the park, along with the Eat Sign at the old Star Café. On the east side of the hill was Bussman’s Corner, and residences. It is where the renovation is going on for the Welcome To Turley Sign and our planting bed for it thanks to grant from Keep Oklahoma Beautiful.

Off of Peoria not on the tour: two blocks east on Quincy is the Turley Odd Fellows Lodge, our remaining civic lodge.

Crossing over  to city side of Peoria: on the east where old pawn shop was the site of an early department store, Suttle’s Variety. The Kingdom church building was originally Northside Christian (disciples of Christ). The Plaza Center is the former McLain Village Shopping Center that was full of many department stores and specialty shops; finally under new ownership after years of abandonment it is being fixed up and put into more use and has much potential; it is the site also of one of the weekly Mobile Grocery stops; Sweet Lisa’s has a carryout restaurant; it is the site of our only liquor store. To the north and west of it is the former Wiley Post School which was then the YWCA and Tulsa Health Dept. building and now is the site of a youth activities and educational outreach center EduRec sponsored by World Won Church on 36th St. near N. Peoria….In the residential area to the east, on 53rd St. before you get to Utica is the site of one of our partners, Sarah’s Residential Living Center, a small intimate group home for seniors; they are hoping to repurpose some of the many abandoned houses on that street (I believe 13 just from Peoria to Utica on the one street alone) for group home support. To the north of McLain is the Northridge Shopping Center that once was full and had a twin cinema. Across from McLain are several businesses; there used to be a series of cafes often frequented by students, and the McLain Music Shop, and a recently torn down abandoned Wilshire Bar that was open for years. There was also for a while a place where trampolines were stretched over holes dug in the ground and kids paid to jump….To the south of McLain on the east side was the longtime Meeks Furniture Store and at the corner on 46th St. there was a grocery store where the abandoned Generation of Destiny building is now located. Just around on 46th St. to the east was the site of St. Jude’s Catholic Church where the radical priest Father Dan Allen began Neighbor For Neighbor northside renewal organization, one of our role models, currently located on 36th Street in the old Northland Shopping Center.

McLain High School was opened in 1959 serving far north Tulsa. For a while in the late 90s early 2000s it was called Tulsa School of Science and Technology. The mascot was changed from Scots to Titans. About 10 years ago or so it was renamed McLain but the mascot remained Titans. At homecoming you will see many wearing both Scots and Titans. We are on and helped start the McLain Alumni and Community Foundation a few years ago. We help with a variety of connections and support areas, helped get uniforms, helped get the McLain Greenhouse, work on homecoming which will be Friday Oct. 10 this year, and the Annual Taste of North Tulsa major free dinner from local restaurants and community fair this year Thurs. Oct. 16, and have helped send students on flights with American Airlines partners to learn about aviation careers, and help out in many briefer ways and are a conduit for people seeking to support the school financially; McLain was the last high school in the district to begin a community and alumni foundation. It began as a 9th grade to 12th grade,then went to 7th grade to 12th grade for one year and then the 7th grade got its own building (see next tour section) and it is now 8th to 12th grade. East of McLain is Northridge Addition and Berry Park and Pool; Berry used to have ball diamond; across from it was a YMCA; on 48th east of Berry Park is Monroe School. It was originally 7th to 9th grade then closed; then used as both site for Margaret Hudson School for pregnant unwed girls and women and the Tulsa Schools Adult Education Program with classes for the GED test (all now moved away or shut down); now it is the site of two programs: a PK up adding a grade each year Spanish and English dual immersion school where all classes are taught in both languages, and a 6th to 8th grade Demonstration school using different teaching methods and space arrangements. East of Monroe is Penn Elementary School, one of the two remaining traditional public elementary schools serving our area (where there used to be eight Cherokee, Morse, Greeley, Houston, Alcott, Penn, Post, Lindsey).At the corner of 46th and Lewis is a major spot in our area, the 24 hour Quick Trip store.

4.   west on 46th St. to MLK Blvd.
On the south side before the Trail was where the Bud’s A&W Stand was; also on the south side is the Zion Plaza that used to be Suburban Acres Shopping Center full of department and variety stores. On the north is the Suburban Acres Library. West of it is the former Alcott Elementary School closed in 2011 and reopened later as McLain 7th Grade Center. To the north is the Valley View subdivision, and Chamberlain Recreation Center (recently threatened with loss of staff; site of many old Teen Dances and basketball leagues) and pool and Dickinson Park; Valley View also had its own private neighborhood swimming pool that for many years was fenced and overgrown. At the corner of 46th or Dan Allen Blvd. and MLK Jr. Blvd is one of the remaining old burger stands The Freeze, used to be Tastee Freeze.

5.   north to 56th St. Stop at new Health Dept.  
To the west between MLK Blvd. (old Cincinnati Ave.; still Cincinnati Ave. south of Archer) and the Osage County Drive/Line is Carriage Hills addition. The former Houston Elementary School is now Bunche Early Childhood Development Center, early and PK and Kindegarden. Gilcrease School is now First Grade to Sixth Grade and is the traditional school that receives all the students from the former Cherokee, Morse, Greeley, Post school areas….The  new Health Dept North Regional Wellness Center diagonal from Gilcrease and across from the abandoned for several years now half built church building is a multi million dollar public investment on the unincorporated side in the county serving all of northside. It is one of our major partners. For the community it has a community play area, and community garden, and walking trail that was built back as it existed on its own on the site before the building. Inside it has many programs for health needs and a Community Multi Purpose Rooms for meetings and events. It also houses the OSU Physicians Clinic. On Sat. Oct. 11 from 12 to 3 pm there will be the major annual community event, FoodGloriousFood with booths and fun events and this year art cars and more stressing healthy food and living resources. We are a part of the Community Advisory Board for the Health Dept. and Rev. Ron was privileged to be asked to give the benediction at the opening of the building in 2012, a year after our OU Health Clinic closed…If we were to go back east on 56th Street you would see the City of Tulsa Fire Dept. and the entrance to Suburban Hills addition, inside the city limits north to 61st St.; and the convenience store called Turley Food Mart on the south side of the street. By the intersection of 56th and the Osage Prairie Trail there is a fishing lake created by flood management of the creek that runs from Delaware Creek past Cherokee School and our community center and to the lake.
6.   Drive to 66th St.
Note on your right at 61st St. the Turley Residential Center which used to be called the Turley Correctional Center; it is a private correctional facility contracted to the state dept. of corrections as a women’s only pre-release center. It has facilities the community can book to use such as meeting space. Its creation back in the 1980s sparked the creation of the Turley Community Association opposing its opening and the drive that never materialized for Turley incorporation. Across from it is a run down abandoned off and on small commercial area where convenience store was. On the west is the entrance to the Northgate Addition and city of Tulsa property, and on the corner is the former Greeley School now The Lighthouse Academy Charter School, a public charter school sponsored by TPS; when it opened when Greeley was closed, 75 percent of the students at Greeley remained in it. It currently has 377 students from PK to sixth grade, and is adding a grade each year; it has 344 students on a waiting list; it has an arts-focused curriculum, and receives private corporation support as well as it is part of a national organization. North of Lighthouse is the City’s Vining Park.

In Northgate Addition, in the Suburban Hills addition east of MLK Jr. Blvd and north of 56th St, also in the city, and in a few other housing additions in our service area there are 34 scattered housing sites owned by the Community Action Program in Tulsa (14 being rented; 20 sitting vacant); we are hoping this year to buy those from them to be able to manage and put back into use in a variety of ways, and are awaiting IRS rulings on the possibilities. It would become one of our next major community renewal projects for the Foundation.

7.   east to Lewis Ave. with a detour on North Victor to roundup club and old community center
We go up into Turley Hill on the south side (this is both a scenic area and popular illegal dumping site at times). On top of the hill has become a concrete and construction dump site; to the west are acreages and several nice homes on OakCliff Drive. Up on the hill near where the runestone is located (in an area you have to walk through woods to get to) was once a bar that is now in ruins. There is no water utility service to the hill. East of Peoria on the south side are businesses churches and residences and where the former Steve’s Burgers and gas station were located in the rundown burned out building there for years now.
On Victor north of 66th St. we come to the Turley Round Up Club Rodeo Grounds where rodeos are held several times during the year. Next to it is a dilapidated building that used to be the Turley Community Center. Up to about ten years ago it was still used off and on for dances then was condemned and closed. The Roundup Club has announced it is hoping to raise funds to tear down and build a new community center on the site. Just north of it on vacant land where an oil pumper now operates were little league ball fields…back on 66th St. on the north side east of Victor is the Chapel Hill Funeral Home where the former private church school and church Cornerstone was located; another prerelease center was trying to come into that space but after resident protests was denied; the funeral home also owns the Chapel Hill cemetery, predominantly African American historical cemetery on 66th St. just east of Highway 75 and across from the site of the former Tulsa Speedway….On Highway 75 itself at both the 66th and 56th St. exits we had a matching grant (cost us $500) to put in Roadside Wildflowers to beautify the entrances to our community from the highway, but the state highway department messed up the planting and then stopped the program called Color Oklahoma right after that, and though the signs remain and though we have tried to continue to “seed bomb” the area, the mowing practices work against the roadside beauty.
We turn, however, at the corner of 66th and N. Lewis is an intersection with a lot of traffic coming in and out of the community, and two large medians that for years were neglected, overgrown, trash strewn and then mowed and poisoned; we have taken them over unofficially and have maintained and begun planting and have the vision working toward of a beautiful low maintenance native plant wildflower plots and a nice low welcome to turley sign. There used to also be a bus stop at the location but it has been eliminated.
8.    South to O’Brien Park.
Formerly Northside Park, a county governmental agency, it is now split between activities used by local area residents such as few remaining shelters, the recreation center and community pool and outside walking tour and fitness facility. Most of the Turley Community Association meetings are held in the Center. We partner with the park to promote activities such as the recent well attended Puppy Palooza to help promote animal welfare, and the Easter Egg events and fall festivities and summer day camp. The Center is home to a local wheelchair basketball team. Many of its ball field facilities are used by groups from outside the area but there has been a local youth baseball and softball and current basketball league formed as there used to be. Also a golf course used by McLain golfers as well as others. A current political effort is underway to look at options of combining city and county park departments. A Third Place received both state and regional awards from the Parks and Recreation Societies for our Welcome Table GardenPark creation.
9.   West on 61st St. to stop at Welcome Table GardenPark.
Across from O’Brien on the west is the mobile home park in our area; we have been working with residents on safety concerns during tornadic weather since there is no storm shelter in our area and often those ill or disabled or without transportation don’t have same options living in a mobile home and not often being able to go elsewhere…South side is the Vann Industrial Park area, now called GreenPark to encourage businesses to promote ecological construction and resources; it purchases land and then gives free to companies to build on if they will commit to hiring a certain number of employees (though often those employees don’t live in this immediate area). The presence of the companies there was very beneficial during the August 2011 wildfires when they used their equipment to create a fire break to stop the spread of the fire from destroying even more homes and businesses…Just west of the Industrial Park on land the park now owns at Utica Ave. used to be the site of the Turley Veterans of Foreign Wars building and grounds where turkey shoots were held even after the building was torn down after the VFW closed and merged about five years ago. We would also like to get that sign to include in our Turley historical sign section at the gardenpark…If we were to go up the hill, Boyer Hill, on Utica toward 56th St. we would see another scenic drive and spot and also a frequent spot for illegal dumping.
We go back to 60th and up from Cherokee west to the curve at the top of the hill and arrive at our own Welcome Table GardenPark and Orchard where we will get out for a tour and more information on its history and current projects, site of the former Leo Beeler property. To the east you will see still more of the overgrown and burned out property; to the west there is the unofficial trail made by residents pushing shopping carts back and forth from the Suburban Hills addition to Warehouse Market and other stores on Peoria. We are pushing for county funds to clear out the fire hazard growth of red cedar trees along the trail and across from our park, and we are working toward getting a better trail with better security on this county right of way property, and the land that the Methodist church owns next to it we want to use as a restful native plant preserve for those walking by with or without their shopping carts loaded down. This is the land across from the current park where we started our demonstration gardens that helped lead to the vision for the gardenpark and orchard. At the park you will hear about our current partnership with an Eagle Scout project to work on a new Welcome Sign and Welcome Area where we will honor donors and create a hospitable and accessible space for those with physical disabilities as well; about our new Kitchen Greenhouse we raised funds for and will be building; still hoping for funds for an additional hoop house so we can grow year round and teach cooking and preserving; about our beds, our children’s playhouses of gardening, the park as site for community parties and food giveaways; our need for another deck and also a stage and larger chicken coop.
Across you will see the Turley United Methodist Church, one of our major partners, and the oldest church in the Turley Area having been founded in 1909 and built the oldest current building, our own Welcome Table Center site, in 1925.
10.                     Finish at Welcome Table Community Center, 5920 N. Owasso Ave.   

Our building was begun as a community church in a brush arbor on the site in 1909; then in 1910 as a Methodist Episcopal church there was a wooden frame steepled building; it was moved later to Sperry to be used as a church and then part of the funeral home; in 1925 the church finished construction of the brick building. In 1940 it added the office wing to the north; in 1952 it added the fellowship hall building. In the early 1960s the church moved to the top of the hill, worshipped in Cherokee School during construction, and Witt Memorial Indian Methodist Church owned the building until the mid 1980s, being noticeable for their community wild onion dinners. Then they moved and merged to become part of Tulsa Indian Methodist Church and Zion Baptist Fellowship bought the building, using it as church and as child care center until its pastor was murdered in the early 2000s; they then put efforts into the Zion Plaza on 46th St. where Suburban Acres had been; on again off again ministry was in the building then was vacant and used by people trespassing until we purchased it at the beginning of 2011 after much had been vandalized. The downstairs Indian art painted on the walls themselves by the Indian Methodists remained untouched, however. We have expanded our free food store program in it now partnering with the Food Bank and others, our clothing and items store, our art room, our free books library and meeting space, and we rent to the national religious organization housed here, the Unitarian Universalist Christian Fellowship and to The Welcome Table Church which is the church which formed A Third Place Community Foundation in the first place but as a non faith-based nonprofit now with leaders of many faiths. 


All About Us Links

Welcome OU Tulsa Graduate Social Work students and also the students from Phillips Theological Seminary who will be working with us or studying us this semester, and welcome all as we start several important community development projects this year. A pivotal year for us about to start thanks to received donations for two major projects, one at the gardenpark and one at the community center, plus we are waiting word on a big low income housing initiative we are hoping to take lead on, and we will be increasing our engagement with area schools during this upcoming year. Only with your support of our all volunteer grassroots neighbors helping the neighborhood projects.

Learn more about us and share please with others these links below:

  1. 1. The workshop at General Assembly which includes the slideshow and video on our MIracle Among the Ruins area and projects, along with our history and our approach to missional church.

    Text that went along with the workshop this summer. And A quick look at our area link

    3. More background into our response and where it comes from and how it manifests:

    4. Why we are here and needed revealed in Fall study by OU at A Third Place

    5. the link of links that go into depth on our demographics and our projects and our vision and includes my lecture to the Graduate Social Work Convention at OU in Norman.
    This is a post that accumulates various other basic introduction posts about our area of the 74126 and 74130 and about our renewal efforts and partnerships and plans and visions within it. The starting point for those who would like to work with us; getting to know us. Caveat: the observations and analysis is mine; obviously others in our area have their own experiences and analysis and visions.
    We always like to begin showing our area and immersing in it in order to understand why we do what we do and how we do it as a response to the world around us; the focus is on building up and growing the neighborhoods primarily, and only building up and growing the organization in order to accomplish the first.

    Our latest breakdown of demographic and ethnographic studies and the OU Turley nutrition survey of residents in our two mile radius:

    An overview of the renewal vision: called The Four Directions in our area:

    A post on health responses to the life time expectancy disparity in our zipcode:

    Based on a presentation given at OU Tulsa by members of a team from there after study time at Dartmouth.

    A post on educational justice and community abandonment and the proposal to focus program changes at McLain School and its feeder schools:

    The comprehensive lecture given at OU on our history, our responses, our vision:

    6. Some recent sermons that update our work The Spirituality of Missional Messiness, how to stay centered and hopeful in places of despair. The missional call to move beyond our own concerns of institutional survival; why church is changing. The look at why progressives need to become missional, and the missional church needs progressives.

SOS (summer of service) for your urgent support: The Welcome Table Report: 4 days left to support our Northside Miracle Among the Ruins Faithify projects

The Welcome Table August 2014 Report
What a SOS, Summer of Service, it has been so far here at The Welcome Table on the northside of Tulsa. You can experience it in the links below, and particularly help respond to our SOS this week by supporting with a pledge our two all or nothing Miracle Among The Ruins projects for here, crowdsourcing on Faithify for a Kitchen Greenhouse at our community gardenpark and orchard here in the 74126, more important than ever now that the Gateway Grocery has closed adding more abandonment to our healthy food desert, and also the remodeling of a Community Room for both local groups here and for those visiting and serving with us. We have a donor who will match all new or increased pledges but we need to act soon. Details below.  Also see at the very bottom for what the real miracle is here.
Start by going to the new Slideshow below, then at the links for the Faithify projects you can also see the new video about our work and ministry here. Then see our plans for the building that burned down on our site and how to support the new garden plans by the free food store. Speaking of the corner store, we just finished distributing six tons of food in one hour here this past Friday thanks to some 40 neighbors who showed up to help hand out the food to other neighbors. The next day we gave out more during one of our regular food community days. We also had meals at the Center or the Park on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Just in one weekend we fed 160 families, representing some 750 individuals. We haven't done it alone; we have been hosting two youth groups both from the Kansas City area, for example, one from a United Methodist church and one from a Unitarian Universalist church; we have had a guest minister staying with us and more planned, and we have a project underway with Eagle Scouts, and we have partnered twice this summer with the Cherry Street Farmers Market and Restore Hope Ministries to bring fresh vegetables to our folks.  
1. View our Miracle Among The Ruins Slideshow; see the statistics on hunger and food insecurity, images of decay, and images of resistance and growing community spirit and strength and support where others walk away and pretend we don’t exist.
2. See our new video and Donate and Share and help us as we only have four days left to raise our total needed of $6,000 to build a GreenHouse Kitchen in our community gardenpark and orchard where the row of abandoned houses and property damage and illegal dumping once stood out in our community, where we now have community events and help people eat healthy food, but where we need a Greenhouse Kitchen in order to grow food year round and help people learn to cook it; they won’t learn to grow it if they don’t know how, on limited budgets and with little kitchen equipment, how to cook healthy. That is only 60 people donating an average $100 to make this happen; 60 people from around the world; if you can donate more than $100 please do so because many people will only be able to pledge less than that. You can pledge often. Your pledges will not come out of your bank account unless we raise the full amount.
3. Community Room. This includes our new video too. Donate and Share and help us as we only have four days left to raise $7,500 to remodel, renovate and put into year round use our biggest south building of our abandoned church building we bought and put into use for the community center and free food store. We need to make it accessible and usable not only for our neighborhoods but also for those who come in to learn and serve with us, whether they are local students we work with or groups from around the country and world. That is only 75 people giving an average $100; see above.
Surely, we can reach up to 135 people, or fewer if as we hope people will give to both our needed projects, who will give an average of $100; but it will take all of your help to help us reach those people. So little goes such a long way in impoverished areas like ours. That is the way, though, that amazing things happen. It is why we call what we do Miracle Among the Ruins. Even though we are all volunteer, with all the ups and downs of life here, all the setbacks, still we have a good track record and history of transforming the spirit of despair to hope, from isolated lives to community engagement.
4. Here is the final major project this summer: we were hoping enough people would vote for us that we would make the finals for one of the grants in order to clear out the rubble of our burned building by the community center, and to build a wheelchair accessible community garden and social space with deck right there by our free cornerstore food pantry to connect with the 1000 people we help feed monthly; another blight to beauty and “third place” space. We didn’t make the cut, but we are still committed to doing the project, even if it takes longer to do it. Your special donation, or connections of construction people willing to donate some work for us would make this miracle and dream come true too. You can donate Or sending a check to A Third Place at 5920 N. Owasso Ave. Turley, OK 74126.

This Thursday with a free lunch at noon we will hold an important community organizing meeting to get updates on all the projects underway in our area and how to support them and our neighbors. Here at The Welcome Table, 5920 N. Owasso Ave. From fire dept to local schools to upcoming events at the county park to the Heritage Day lunch in September to getting updates from county and state officials about the needs of our area and several other ongoing blight to beauty areas here come and connect. See our coming events below for more information.
Also we are selling special missional t-shirts here for the Unitarian Universalist Christian Fellowship: Love The Hell Out Of This World, God Is Love, and from a slogan from some of the early supporters of universal salvation we have Death and Glory tshirts with that motto, a skull, and the off centered cross on it. You can see all three and how to order from us by going to

Here is a link to recent talks and sermons I have given about various aspects of our work here: The Spirituality of Missional Messiness, how to stay centered and hopeful in places of despair. The missional call to move beyond our own concerns of institutional survival; why church is changing. The look at why progressives need to become missional, and the missional church needs progressives.
The notes on the workshop I led along with three other ministers who have been here to our ministry on the northside during the General Assembly of the UUA in Providence, RI this summer.

Coming Events, including our upcoming worship gatherings:
Come Join Us…..
Free Meals on Saturdayweather permitting, Welcome Table Community GardenPark and Orchard, 6005 N. Johnstown Ave. Help The Garden and Eat Together. 9 am Breakfast Aug. 9, 16, 23, 30. Call918-346-3475 for Bonnie Ashing, M.D. for more information.  
Food & Community Daysat 10 am to Noon, Wed. Aug. 13Sat. Aug. 16,Wed. Aug. 20Sat. Aug. 23Wed. Aug. 27. Or by appt. once a month visits. Welcome Table Center, 5920 N. Owasso Ave. serving the 74126, 74130, 74073. Call Rev. Ron Robinson, 918-691-3223 for more information.
Neighborhood PlanningThurs. Aug. 7, Noon Free Lunch Meeting at the Welcome Table Center. Find out what issues we are working on to improve the quality of life here in the McLain/Turley area, or bring your ideas.
Puppy PaloozaSat. Aug. 9, 11 am to 3 pm, O’Brien Park, 6147 N. Birmingham. Food. Dog Training. Pet Adoption. Rescue Agencies. Pooch/Human Swim. Agility Control. On-Site Vet. 
Community BreakfastSat. Aug. 9, 7 to 10 am, $5 with Kids 10 and under free, Odd Fellows Lodge, 6227 N. Quincy Ave.
Turley/McLain Area Seniors for those 55 and over and their families in 74126 and 74130: Meet Second Wednesdays (Aug. 1310:30 amBingo and Noon Lunch, Turley United Methodist Church, 6050 N. Johnstown Ave. and On Third Wednesdays (Aug. 20), 12:30 pm Lunch and Field Trip Planning at The Welcome Table Center. 
Legislative Forum/Community IssuesSat. Aug. 16, 10 am Rudisill Library, Pine & Hartford Ave.
Turley Area Community Association meeting and Town Hall, Tues. Aug. 26, 7 pm. The Welcome Table Center.
12 Step Recovery Group, each Saturday 6 pm at the Welcome Table Center.
Turley Fire and Rescue Dept meetings, eachThursday 7 pm 6404 N. Peoria.
Turley Water Dept.meetings, last working day of each month, Aug. 29, 8:30 am6108 N. Peoria Ave.
Welcome Table Communityworship: Sunday Aug. 10, 5 pm at Trinity Episcopal Church for Taize service, 5th and S. Cincinnati Ave. (leave the Welcome Table carpool at 4:30 pm) with meal following; note different time for this week: Saturday, Aug. 16 5 pm at The Welcome Table Center (we are exploring going to a special monthly missional Ancient Worship For Contemporary Times event); Sunday, Aug. 24 5 pm at The Welcome Table Center and meal gatherings: see or call Rev. Ron Robinson at918-691-3223
Growing Healthy Lives and Neighborhoods on the Northside Through Small Acts of Justice Done With Great Love.
A Third Place Foundation 918-691-3223 or 918-794-4637

Looking ahead: Special Turley and NorthSide Heritage Day Lunch at Noon at The Wecome Table Center on Sat. Sept. 20 following a tour and talk on the area past, present, and future that will begin at the Center at 9 am.
Plan Now for a conference here on Spiritual Practices in a Missional Setting, Friday to SundayMay 29-31 at The Welcome Table.

And finally this is still just a brief report of this summer's work here. We have projects small and large cooking in the community so stay tuned, or better yet, come and see. And please share. There are still many people right around us, in the Tulsa area, and across the nation who are still finding out about this amazing work done by people who are just getting to know one another, by people who are just getting out of prison and being trusted again, by people with illness and sickness of many kinds, and yet all moving forward and beginning again in love. 
Blessings, thanks for all you all have done with us, and more coming soon.

Rev. Ron Robinson
The Welcome Table Missional Community,,
A Third Place Community Foundation
5920 N. Owasso Ave. Turley OK 74126
Executive Director
Unitarian Universalist Christian Fellowship
Executive Director
Phillips Theological Seminary
director of ministerial formation for uu students and adjunct faculty in practical theology


Our Property Fire, Our Missional Transformation Space Plans in Its Wake

Three years ago our ministry was featured in the cover story of the Unitarian Universalist World Magazine; the artwork was a photograph taken inside the "old parsonage" of the abandoned church we were hoping to buy at the time in order to move our community center, clinic, food store, clothing room, etc. to the much bigger space; we had dreams of using the old parsonage, fixing it up drastically, and letting people stay in it who came to work in our area with us, or maybe using it as a garden center, showing how such houses in our area could be beautified for the neighborhood. We were able to buy the property even though before we closed on the property ownership itself the main building was greatly vandalized for the first time in its 90 year history even though it had been used by squatters for some time. The old parsonage began to be used as a storage area. We had a decision to make right away: work on fixing up the buildings, repairing the damage from the vandalism, and then open to the public, or clean up and get right to serving others in and through our damaged buildings. We, of course, chose the latter approach.

The other night some squatters during the night who were using the old parsonage caught it on fire, intentionally or unintentionally could not be determined though there had been fires off and on in abandoned buildings in our area recently. It burned quickly and thoroughly. Thanks to the effort of our partners, the volunteer fire dept. and the Tulsa Fire Dept and our neighbors the fire did not spread much to our main community center building, the old brick church, though one door was damaged by heat and the fire dept effort.

Now we are in the midst of trying to raise funds to remove the rubble from the old parsonage fire; and we are dreaming of what might come from this event that can help us continue to transform our zipcode which is the lowest life expectancy zipcode and one of the poorest in our Tulsa area. We are envisioning an expanded "third place" outdoors area that would be a free public place of and for community even when our building is closed; we have boosted wifi so it reaches there; we have and will expand outside electrical outlets so people can charge their cell phones if their electricity is turned off; we have an outside hydrant that people can use to fill up jugs with our water to help at their homes without running water. We plan to create a wonderful outdoors garden deck area. We have already begun on that side of the building with a permaculture project that will help with flooding and create rain gardens and more outdoor spaces to become more hospitable even when we are open and overflowing indoors.

We need your help to be able to pay to get the remains cleared off and to replace it with the new deck and other amenities. $5,000 is our goal for this particular project.

That photograph of me inside the old parsonage even before we owned it captured the essence of our deep mission to bring a peaceful presence to lives filled with scarcity and anxiety.


A Quick Look at Our Area

Quick Look at the 74126 McLain/Turley Area
46th to 76th St. North
Thank you to all who are living, or have businesses, or who come to work here who are showing the strengths we have and are keeping the community spirit alive despite the statistics and the stories and the struggles listed below.

1.     We die 14 years sooner than in 74114 6 miles away

2.     Rated Second Worse Zipcode in Tulsa for health outcomes: 1 best 5 worst scale, the 74126 is 4.320 and our neighbor 74106 is worst at 4.570. 74130 we serve is 3.950 fifth worst. 74114 is 2.150. Worst health care access rates.

3.     2009 OU and Third Place Foundation nutrition study: 60 percent can’t afford healthy food; 55 percent worry about amount of food they have; 55 percent worry about the amount of food they have; 6 percent use spoiled food; 29 percent adults skip meals.

4.     2013 OU and Third Place Foundation study at our Food Pantry: 52.6 percent high food insecurity; 42.1 percent very high food insecurity, experiencing hunger symptoms when surveyed; 68.4 percent of households have at least one member with nutrition-related chronic disease; 53 percent depression; 47 percent anxiety; 53 percent high blood pressure; 32 percent high cholesterol; 47 percent obese and 21 percent overweight. Sample demographic at food pantry: 68 percent women, 42 percent black, 36 percent white, 63 percent under $10,000 annual household income; 5 percent employed, 47.4 percent disabled, 42 percent less than high school education and 16 percent high school education.

5.     Historical Abandonment: current 40 percent of vacant homes are abandoned, not for sale or rent; McLain Shopping Center, Northridge Shopping Center, Suburban Acres Shopping Center once thriving now virtually abandoned; in 2011, three elementary schools in the zipcode closed (one more in 2012 when a public charter school was started); the post office was closed. One community pool threatened with closure this year. Lack of public transportation options available elsewhere. Gap has grown between neighborhood residents and their elected officials who now serve area some five or more times larger than before.

6.     Roughly 50 percent soon will be under 18 and more than 60 years old. Projection for 2015: 12,590 residents, 73.4 percent African-American, 15.6 percent white, 7.3 percent American Indian and other; 3.5 percent Hispanic. In our service area split between incorporated far north Tulsa and unincorporated Turley, white population in Turley will remain slight majority in 2015 but down to 52 percent. College graduates: 7.6 percent.

7.     Cultural Change, 1967 to 1987: white working class (with professional and business owners living in area as well) changed to predominantly black working class and then to rising underclass. Racism of segregation led to racism of “white flight” (and flight of business owners, professionals, service providers who worked in area but lived elsewhere), and drop in job availability for those who lived here who often have to leave area to get work, and drop of services private and public, and switch from home ownership to rental.

8.     Renewal efforts: A Third Place Community Foundation community center food store and community gardenpark and orchard by The Welcome Table missional community, The Dream Center by Victory Christian Church, Tulsa Health Department North Regional Wellness Center, EduRec by World Won Ministries, Newsome Community Farms, Real Good Food Truck Mobile Grocery, Sarah’s Residential Living, McLain School Foundation, OU Tisdale Clinic (just outside of our area but serves our area), new efforts underway also close by through Crossover Impact and Crossover Bible Church, and ongoing work by remaining schools, parks, churches, Turley Community Association, Turley Fire and Rescue Volunteer Dept, and one civic group, the Turley Odd Fellows Lodge. 


Join the Community at one of these Highlights of Coming Events

Current full list of upcoming events, more to come, hope to see you at one or more of the events:
Please Share.
Sat. April 19 10 am our area legislative forum with public officials and community representatives at Rudisill Library, Pine and Hartford Ave. every third saturday same location same time.
Saturday April 19 Planting Party and Free Breakfast 9 to 11 am, 6005 N. Johnstown Ave. community gardenpark and orchard.
Saturday April 19 10 am to Noon. Free Corner Store Pantry and clothing thrift store, Welcome Table community center, 5920 N. Owasso Ave.
[Easter Sunrise Service of Prayer and Meditation and Music held at the gardenpark and orchard 6:30 to 7:15 am followed by breakfast.]
Tuesday, April 22 1:30 pm arrival for 2 pm monthly food handlers permit class at our North Regional Wellness Center, 56th and MLK Blvd (old Cincinnati Ave.) This new facility in Turley has a basketball court, walking trail, playground facilities and more open to the public on its grounds.
Tuesday, April 22 5 pm Turley Area Litter Cleanup part one, and free supper for volunteers; meet at the Welcome Table community center, get trash bags gloves and bottles of water. Celebrating Earth Day with Keep Oklahoma Beautiful and the Great American Clean-up Event.
Wed. April 23 10 am to Noon at the Free Corner Store Pantry and Clothing Room.
Wed. April 23 1:30 to 4 pm. GardenWork Party at the community garden, hosting volunteers from around Tulsa; and neighborhood cleanup event part two, meet at the park.
Thursday, April 24 6 to 8 pm free cooking demonstration class for healthy eating, our northside regional wellness center on 56th St.
Friday, April 25, 4 pm McLain School Community and Alumni Foundation meeting, 4929 N. Peoria Ave.
Friday, April 25 7 pm Art Gallery Exhibition Opening at northside wellness center by local young people on teen pregnancy prevention, "Flash Focus Event and Reception" $15. support our youth who took these photos reflecting their life.
Saturday, April 26 10 am to Noon Free Corner Store Pantry and Clothing Room.
Saturday, April 26 4 pm free supper and Planting Party at the gardenpark and orchard.
Tuesday, April 29, 7 pm Turley Community Association meeting O'Brien Park Center, 6147 N. Birmingham Ave. monthly every last tuesday.
Wed. April 30, 10 am to Noon Free Corner Store Pantry and Clothing Room.
Thursday, May 1 Free Lunch Noon Public and Partners Planning Meeting for McLain/Turley area, at the community center. come hear about improvement plans, meet partners, bring issues and concerns for planning. this is the planning and working meeting connected to the last tuesday or the month public town hall conversation and meeting.
Saturday, May 3 10 am to Noon Free Corner Store Pantry, and Turley Area litter pickup event part three, Great American Cleanup, and 4 to 6 pm planting party at the gardenpark and orchard, free supper for volunteers.
Monday, May 5 11 am to 1 pm free Cooking For Diabetes class at our northside regional wellness center health department.
Wed. May 7 10 am to Noon Free Corner Store Pantry Day.
Saturday, May 10 7 am to 10 am Community Breakfast at Odd Fellows Lodge, 6227 N. Quincy Ave. $5 for adults and kids under 10 free.
Sat. May 10 9 am free breakfast and planting party at the gardenpark and orchard. Also Turley Area Litter Clean-Up Event, part four. Start at the Park to get bags, water, gloves. meal for volunteers.
Sat. May 10 and Wed. May 14, 10 am to Noon Free Corner Store Pantry and more Day.
Friday, May 16, 10 am to Noon, Mobile Food Pantry visit to the Welcome Table from the Food Bank. giving out five tons of food in one hour. Volunteers report at 10 am. Food Delivery begins at 11 am. You must have ticket with you to receive food. Get tickets during the Corner Store Food Pantry days while tickets last. We do this every few months.
Thursday, May 22, 6 to 8 pm free cooking class for children and youth ages 6 and up with parent or guardian present, "cooking healthy breakfast" at our northside regional wellness center on 56th St.
more to come 


The Three Americas: Events, News, Message

Palm Sunday: Occupying The Abandoned Temples of the American Dream Empire

First, before getting to the Palm Sunday message, it has been an exciting past month or so here in the 74126 area; we have become a center for service learning and missional trips lately. We are gradually becoming a center where people can “come and see” the effects of racism on many ethnic groups, economic injustice and classism, and the evil and suffering that happens when the marketplace is not tempered with the moral imperative, when government and other groups focus on numbers and not on need, on individuals and not on neighborhoods.

Already this year we have hosted groups working with us on Tulsa’s northside from Fayetteville, AR and Oklahoma City and Dallas area and from around the country during the Life On Fire event here, and from many places and schools around the Tulsa area who have not been familiar with our part of town. We just finished hosting three classes of graduate social work students from OU who have been working on research projects with us as well as doing direct help for us. We met a lot of people and made connection at the Tulsa Eco-Fest held near our area at the Tulsa Community College Northeast Campus. This past Sunday I made a presentation on our area and our work to the Adult Forum at Hope Unitarian Church in Tulsa. We were scheduled to host a big contingent from Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity during their conference recently but their schedule had to be changed, and we hope to connect in the future.

Coming up, On Wednesday afternoon, April 23, we will have a big group of volunteers from a Tulsa company coming to work at our gardenpark and orchard on N. Johnstown Ave. And just this weekend at the Global Society for Arts in Health convention held in Houston, a presentation on our area and our work was given and well received and more connections made. On Saturday, August 26, we will host a lunch for the Commission on Appraisal of the Unitarian Universalist Association as they “come to see” and learn about missional church manifestations in a progressive theological spirit.

And still so much to be done; figuring out ways to pay and staff and continue to reach out with our neighbors on projects even as we continue to go deep and grow our relationships and presence; funding the big projects we are nurturing (the closed Cherokee School reopening and repurposing; abandoned and neglected properties and low-rent “relocation” housing possibilities; organizing for justice with the Industrial Areas Foundation) are getting seeds planted but need a boost in effort and partners and money. And we still struggle to stay open month after month, still trying to build up the foundation of supporters who will give at least a nickel or dime a day to help us with the basics of utilities and mortgage which, because we put it all into mission and have not yet started any salaries, means every contribution is going to direct missional work of feeding and clothing people and growing their overall health and community.

We are also trying to get the word out about us better to more people and potential partners this year. If anyone is able to help us produce videos about what we do and why and with whom, please let me know. And we are hoping this year to begin the long delayed work of fixing up our community center and creating social events at the gardenpark and orchard. The more volunteers the more we are able to do. We would love for this year to be the year we get great signs up at the park, and great art at the park and outside the community center, as well as the new outside deck and benches at the community center, the new deck and stage at the gardenpark, and the big 20 foot table at the park.
And, before I print the message below, Here is the list of coming events planned so far for the next few weeks; your chance to connect with us:

Free Breakfast Second, Third, Fourth and any Fifth Saturdays 9 am, weather permitting, Welcome Table Community GardenPark and Orchard, 6005 N. Johnstown Ave. Free Supper, First Saturday 4 pm. Growing your own food is like printing your own money. Get a Free Garden Bed. Just come eat with us and enjoy the gardenpark.
Every Wednesday and Saturday, 10 am to Noon, Free Food and Clothing and More On Community Days, Welcome Table Center, 5920 N. Owasso Ave. serving the 74126, 74130, 74073 zips. Also free books, computer center, art studio.
Community Breakfast Second Saturdays, 7 to 10 am, $5 with Kids 10 and under free, Odd Fellows Lodge, 6227 N. Quincy Ave. 
We just finished our wonderful Community Easter Kids Celebration on Saturday with the local United Methodist Church, 6050 N. Johnstown Ave. including kid gardening at our gardenpark and orchard. It was so good to see the children enjoying an actual hunt for easter eggs and surprises instead of what happens at so many institutional egg hunts which are more like race and grabs as the eggs are just laid out in an open field.
Palm Sunday Worship with communion was held this morning at Turley United Methodist Church, 6050 N. Johnstown Ave. at 10:30 am followed by free lunch afterwards. One of our “rules of life” for our missional community is to eat together as often as possible, at least three times a week.
Wednesday, April 16, 12:30 pm lunch for seniors (55 plus) at our Welcome Table Center followed by trip to Aquarium in Jenks. 
Thursday, April 17, 6:30 pm free dinner and Maundy Thursday communion worship at The Welcome Table Center
Friday, April 18, Good Friday worship at noon with us at All Souls Church, 2952 S. Peoria Ave. and/or Good Friday service 6 pm at Turley United Methodist.
Sat. April 19, 10 am Our Area Public Forum, Rudisill Library, Pine & Hartford Ave.
Easter Sunday, April 20, Sunrise Prayer and Meditation Event, 6:30 to 7 am or so, on top of the hill at The Welcome Table GardenPark and Orchard; come feel the spirit of resurrection and renewal at our miracle among the ruins space,  followed by breakfast at The Welcome Table Center. Worship at 10:30 am at Turley United Methodist Church. Come for any or all. 
Earth Day Tuesday, April 22, Turley Litter Pick-Up and Free Dinner for volunteers who help, 5 pm meet at The Welcome Table Center. 
Turley Community Association, Tuesday April 29, 7 pm O'Brien Park Center, 6147 N. Birmingham Ave.
McLain/Turley Area Planning and Partner Meeting, Thursday, May 1, Noon with Free Lunch, The Welcome Table Center.
Mobile Food Pantry Day, Friday, May 16, volunteers begin at 10 am, food pickup at 11 am, The Welcome Table Center. Get vouchers at Wed. and Sat. community days. We eat lunch together with volunteers once the event is over.  
Community Picnic on the Cherokee School playground, Sunday May 18, 11 am to 1 pm. See below for more.
Every Saturday 6 pm 12 Step Recovery Group, at the Welcome Table Center.
Last Thursday at 6:30 pm, Turley Area Alliance Against Crime, at the Center.
Each Thursday, 7 pm, Turley Fire and Rescue Dept meetings, 6404 N. Peoria.
Our diabetes management class and free healthy lunch just finished up on Saturday its important six week presence at The Welcome Table Center and we have been glad to co-host that with the AreaWideAging Agency.

Palm Sunday Message: The Three Americas, or Occupying The Empire’s Abandoned Places To Remind The World That God Lives Here

This Sunday’s meal message was about how Jesus “occupied” the Empire’s Temple and mocked the false values of Caeser’s Empire when and how he rode into Jerusalem for Passover, with some street theater in the midst of a dangerous time and place to show both people and the powerful that another world was possible, not only possible but could begin right now, right here, with these people. Many of the most vulnerable had been left behind both by the occupying Roman forces and by their own leaders. Jesus was sending a signal to both the haves and the have-nots that the God of the most vulnerable was still with them and was full of hope love and justice.

In that spirit, I talked about how our tradition in our community was to spend Palm Sunday “occupying” one of our abandoned places. In the past we have done it at places we eventually came to own and renew, such as the block of abandoned houses where the park is, and the vandalized church building where our community center is now, and we have done it at the old closed Cherokee School and one of the first was when we put pots of flowers along North Peoria Ave. and at our on-going gardening and beautification project occupying 66th and N. Lewis intersection. We talked about the Palm Sunday that we finished worship by going to an abandoned building and sign out front, where a civic club had been that shut down and several restaurants had been in and shut down; we “occupied” the sign and put up messages of welcome that God is Love and that God Lives in our area, even in such places as ours that others fear to come to, or run down, or just neglect.

And though the weather kept us indoors this Palm Sunday, we decided to throw a picnic for our community and any who want to join us on the playground at Cherokee School, 6001 N. Peoria Ave. Sunday, May 18, 11 am to 1 pm. Bring potluck (no alcoholic beverages) and sports equipment, and for former students bring yearbooks photos; the playgrounds and basketball courts and tetherball and grounds are still there waiting to be used. It will be our delayed Palm Sunday event.

On a deeper level, with such events and with all our work in our four directions initiative of far north Tulsa, we are fighting against the division of what I call the burgeoning polarization into the Three Americas; what we see happening in our metropolitan area seems to be found elsewhere as well. There is a dominant (always with minority strains fighting against it) “big box store” culture in the surburban areas of individualism, libertarianism, consumerism, and uniformity of “red-state” politics and theology and culture. There is a growing dominant “urban cool” “blue-state”culture in the denser populated areas of downtown and various entertainment and restaurant and artistic districts with consumerism still strong but modified as consuming creativity, and with a stronger “tribal” than libertarian vibe. Both of these Americas are places where different forms of the American Dream might attract you, but they are places where people go to, in various ways, “make it.” They are places with growing numbers of people (but not “peoples”) and therefore they are the places where government and businesses--both run with marketplace mentalities--invest in with infrastructure, entrepreneuriship, and resources.

And then there are the third districts, the abandoned places, the boarded up places, the no sidewalks and streetlights places, the places where post offices are closed and health clinics are closed (with kudos to those who are fighting against this in our area with health clinics beginning to open to reverse this trend) and schools are closed and with community centers and community pools closed or threatened to be closed and with shopping centers closed—even though there are the areas of highest need for these. This is a form of America that both of the other two zones turn away from. The Third America. While those who remain intentionally and would not live elsewhere, or those who can’t afford to live elsewhere and move here but are always hoping to “make it” by leaving, wrestle with growing lack of connection with one another and with those in power. And the land itself becomes disconnected with the people as its ownership transfers increasingly to those who live in the other Americas and as a result of the weakening of the power and voice of those who live here the land itself can be repurposed away from communal needs to the needs of corporations and businesses (where environmental injustice comes in to mirror economic and educational injustice, with landfills and salvages dominating the landscape) owned by those who live elsewhere, and the local businesses and nonprofits that do remain are often struggling against the tide, or are also in some cases adding to the blight.

On Palm Sunday, and as we move into Holy Week, with the simple meal fellowship of Maundy Thursday and the mandate to love one another, with the all too familiar abandonment and destruction of Good Friday, with the despair and sitting with grief of Holy Saturday and with its story of unseen forces still at work getting ready for renewal, with its story of Jesus relocating to Hell itself to turn it into a place not even abandoned by the love of God, and with the story of the unexpected life and the miracles of hope that Easter celebrates, through it all we seek to love the hell out of this world of the Third America, to connect the disconnected on a grassroots level and also to connect the other two Americas with the Third America, the Third Place so to speak. Like the disciples of old, we don’t do it well. But we too remain, or we return, or we relocate our lives because we have been the recipients of a grace that abounds that reminds us that Love overcomes death, injustice, neglect, helplessness, shame, failures. We do not know what the future holds; every month brings new challenges and the same old struggles, but Palm Sunday teaches us that the future of new life is already started.