The Christmas Message 2012: Many Kinds of Lights On The Far Northside
Hi all. You haven't received an email from us lately because of the busyness of the season here at A Third Place Community Foundation and the The Welcome Table missional community in the Turley and Far Northside area. But we have been grateful for your support, your partnerships, your connections, your helping to spread the word about our service and social justice actions here. We hope your own Christmas and holiday seasons have been as blessed, and if you like many have been struggling during these particular days we hope that simple gifts of peace and hope will come your way. Know that you are in our prayers.
I have been thinking of lights amid the darkness lately, and not just because that is a cliche of the seasons. Here in our area there are big swaths of North Peoria, as I have written about often, with no streetlights, no sidewalks, and no holiday decorations lighting up the businesses or public buildings along our busiest street. In fact, several months ago I attached photos of various abandoned unhealthy dangerous rundown and burned out buildings on North Peoria Ave when I sent out a letter from us, and those buildings remain as they are and have been, untouched, still eyesores right across from Cherokee School even as we try to attract groups to come relocate and repurpose the closed school with us. Whether it is utilities, banks, grocery stores, restaurants, salons, car salvages, I know of only one that has put up lights to show a little Christmas spirit to the community. It is part of what happens when people who run our businesses, etc. don't live here anymore, and that we don't have a group along this corridor to support and encourage one another, and the community association of residents, like so many of our barely getting by neighborhood associations in our area, are low on money and energy.
And yet, you know I am going to write "and yet..." I think of how our group has, in good Charlie Brown Christmas Tree style, put up decorations by the welcome sign to our area on North Peoria, including a tree this year; and how we have put up solar lights (so as not to have to use school electricity) on the community Christmas tree that is still by the memorial arch at Cherokee School even now two winters since the school is closed, lights that flash on and off and that cover just half of the tree, a sign of the barely hanging on life, but that still shines and reminds of its existence, and perhaps to some unknown child going down to the grocery store in the dark without sidewalks, or waiting for the bus nearby, it will at least bring some cheer; and how up on the hill just west of the Cherokee School we have started lighting up one corner of our Community KitchenGardenPark and Orchard, there where so much trash and burned out homes once stood amid the grass higher than the roof, like too many of our homes still in this area just out of sight and out of mind of most people in the Tulsa area. Just one little corner lighted this season, but it has inspired us to begin plans for next year when we will have a Garden of Lights for all in our area there, and weather permitting hold community events there during the season as people walk through the orchard and around the gardens and the new shed and enjoy the views and the lights. (if you would like to donate light decorations or can buy them at after Christmas sales, please do as we start our planning for this new venture of lights next year). And how we have put up our own few but meaningful lights at the community center for people passing by to enjoy, a reminder that we do have enough even though we don't have enough that we can still share a little generosity of spirit, of beauty.
Of course, these lights are just signs of the many other kinds of ways we have recently been illuminated ourselves by our neighbors, and how we help bring light into lives and neighborhoods. Here are a few below:
---Our food justice pantry continues to expand; we had a great mobile van food day at the center and gave out 5 tons of food; we continue to increase by 30 percent our outreach to those hungry in just our own three zipcodes we serve; we will have given out some 75 turkeys alone. We had great 125 or so people at our Christmas community meal and carols and gift giving when the kids were able to get about 5 gifts apiece. And our garden has been producing herbs and peppers almost right up to Christmas. In the new year we are going to be concentrating our Mobile Van Food Days to connecting with new residents of our area and those whom are in need but haven't been able to learn about or get to our pantry; we are going to target school families in our areas to receive our vouchers for the food on those special days when the Mobile Van comes, as a way to connect them with our ongoing resources. We will also be offering meals on those special days too. Our next one will be Friday, Jan. 25 from 10 am to noon followed by the meal.
--In fact at the same time for those whom we already serve with food and meals we are expanding the food pantry to add being open on the first Saturdays of each month, beginning Jan. 5, from 11 am to 1 pm besides our weekly hours. And we will couple the food days with the new Community Art Days, which is another way this season we have been bringing light of art into people's lives as well as helping them to make inexpensive and meaningful gifts to give.
---And we are working on service learning projects with both OU Graduate Social Work classes to give them experience understanding poverty and healthy responses to it, and will be working in the new year with McLain School on a new Smart Choices=Healthy Living grant to expose the students in our area to how they can help create healthier communities and set good patterns for their own lives for giving back and growing healthy.
---We continue to be involved in the kind of light-giving that doesn't show up as much, but that is cultivating the soil of the spirit and hope here in the 74126. We are working to help the volunteer fire department grow by becoming a Fire Board independent district; we are working still on abandoned buildings (see above) and on a Disaster Response Network; we are still trying to recruit and show groups the vision of what Cherokee School could become rather than just another large abandoned building attracting criminals in our area, or arsonists; we are after the first of the year beginning a steering committee to bring back a Turley Area Senior Citizens Center, one that had been abandoned years before when funds were cut; now there is no senior nutrition site available for miles and miles and they are often already full; on the other end of our hunger spectrum (and remember that in our area half of our population will soon be either over 60 or under 18, the most vulnerable population groups) we will be planning the return of our daily summer meal for all under 18, a program that we had no home for this past summer due to another school closure in our area. And we are still researching and hoping we can attract in the new year people who want to help us build relationships and affect lives through taking on low-income low rent homes in our area in the subdivisions where so many abandoned homes seem to dominate. And we want to help recruit volunteers to our partners for their projects, especially the inspiring ground breaking work being done at Sarah's Residential Living as they try to take more of these abandoned homes and transform them into intimate group living spaces for those in need here; and for the North Tulsa Farmers Market. We also want to continue enriching our partnership with the new Health Dept. wellness center nearby, using our experience and contacts to connect residents with the emerging care available there through the OSU Physicians clinic and the health dept programs.
---We are hopeful in the new year of getting grants to make the gardenpark into a community art space, but whether we get the grants or not, we will continue creating it as such, tapping into the gifts and lights of the people who live nearby and who are still finding out about the garden, and that it is for them, and that they can use it. There will be much growth at the park which was just dedicated this past summer, and we hope the Garden of Lights at the end of next year will be the culmination of how the park is a beacon of hope in the area throughout the year. Planting will be resuming in February by the way so plan now to bring teams to help.
---Some of our signature events have been the summer festival, the Halloween and Christmas meals and parties, where we connect with hundreds of our neighbors in a fun way and provide information and resources. We want to expand those community parties and find ways to take people on excursions around town or even as we recently helped to do to take a hike up on Turley Hill to find the legendary Runestone Rock. We will want to help expand and spread the word about our ongoing resources we have such as the clothing room, the computer center, and now with the closure of our community laundramat we need to hook up and make available at times our own washer and dryer; we are going to be getting more organized with a new Crafts Co-op and hope to have booths set up at farmers markets where our folks can have their items sold; we have our Auction items remaining to bring in needed money for our projects, and so if you can help sell them on craigslist or help us get them to a consignment auction somewhere let us know; And we have begun to improve some of the grounds around our Center and want to do more in the coming year to create a deck, and welcoming places where people can use our wifi and our space even when the building itself might not be open, and to help transform the neighborhood, so we have many building and construction projects on tap right on our own properties, even as we look to other properties as well.
---And finally I know I have missed out on some of the ways we brought light into our area this past year, with your help and with your donations to www.turleyok.blogspot.com, and I definitely know that there will be many new projects and undertakings and just simple small acts of justice done with great love that will emerge that I can not even imagine now, because they are in the imagination and inspiration of someone reading this, or someone whom we haven't even met yet, but who will find through us a way to put their gifts and passions into the crevices of a broken world here.
---For example, I am about to leave to go get things started for a special Free Christmas Store today for a few hours that just came up over the weekend as we got so many donations in of toys and turkeys, etc. that we needed to begin setting up a special time when people can just come and look and receive. It will be open from 2-4 pm today, but then our Food Pantry will be open on the day after Christmas too as we continue to help people share in the holiday, reminding them that Christmas begins, not ends, on Dec. 25. To find ways that on each of the 12 days of Christmas, the spirit of incarnating the Holy can be born even here in the burned out places, in the new Nazareths, in the mangers where the homeless and the addicted and the mentally ill and the learning disabled and the unemployed and the abused and the just released from prison felons and the sick, and those who refuse to leave them and live elsewhere, and those who love this area and its people and return to it, and those who are drawn here for some reason to be blessed by all here (as surely it is a blessing to have seen those lines of children at the christmas party we hosted, to receive their spirit that was much deeper and more beautiful than anything we could give them), that all of this can be born every day, even here, even now.
Thanks for your presence with us, and for all you do wherever you are. We look forward to joining with you in the new year.
And a P.S. to those interested in our missional community: we have Christmas Eve candlelighting service for the community at large tonight at 6 pm followed by cider and cookies, etc. And on Sunday Dec. 30 we will have a special Christmas communion and a celebatory fun outing perhaps breakfast at El Rio Verde and then on to somewhere else to be determined. And on Sunday, Jan. 6 stay tuned for news of a special 10 year Anniversary of our church, first begun on Jan. 6, Epiphany Day, 2003 in Owasso OK as Epiphany Church then later moved to Turley and as The Living Room Church and then six years ago we transformed into the missional church at A Third Place and now January will have been two years since we moved here into this building and became The Welcome Table.
www.progressivechurchplanting.blogspot.com to read through the years of history of posts.
We have enjoyed this Advent season watching and discussing the new monastic DVD called The Awakening of Hope, and it and the anniversary have spurred us to begin the new year with conversations and prayers and new visions of what we still are called to become. Definitely more on that as the New Year and Epiphany draws near.....
Thank you (did I mention end of the year donations are very very much needed and appreciated and can be made at the new GoFundMe site for us at http://www.gofundme.com/1msvm8 or still at www.turleyok.blogspot.com or by mail to A Third Place Foundation at 5920 N. Owasso Ave. Turley, OK 74126.) and blessings and more to come,
Posted by Ron at 10:05 AM