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Wade in the Waters: Connecting with Beloved Community Here in 2013

Wade in the Waters of 2013: A Place For You Here in Beloved Community
Special note: Community Breakfast Saturday, Jan. 12, from 8 to 10 am at the Odd Fellows Lodge, 6227 N. Quincy Ave., $5 all you care to eat. Support this group that supports our community.
Special Thanks: To Tulsa Community Foundation, the Anita Hill Foundation, Community of Hope, Elks Lodge for recent donations, and to our generous individuals who support us with monthly gifts and with special project gifts; we continue to be volunteer based and in need of more grant and individual support (when i hear the numbers tossed around in local state and federal debates about monies spent, and think what we could do with such an infitesmial portion of that, and what we do with what is given, it astounds me still) but we are immensely grateful for recent gifts and look forward to the new year of surprising the world of scarcity here due to the surprises we will receive from you and yours.
One of the biblical stories being lifted up this Sunday during the Epiphany and new year Season in churches across many denominations is the story of Jesus being baptized in the Jordan River by John the Baptizer. John had formed a community of radical forgiveness out in the wilderness away from the places and people of power. Jesus, in coming to John, and stepping into the symbol-rich waters of liberation connects with, and later challenges, John’s community, and the spirit of God then blesses and names Jesus as Beloved, signaling the beginning of his own missional ministry of blessing the outcast and sharing God’s naming of Beloved with those without name and standing in the society.
It begins with going into the water, seeking community, discovering your deepest sense of Whose you are, being refreshed in the Spirit and then going forth into service.
Last Sunday at our 10th Anniversary Celebration here, we paused and were refreshed with the presence of one another, and our neighbors here, and visitors who came to celebrate with us in worship, in meal, and in companionship, getting to know more of our journey these past ten years. We celebrate the past in order to let it become the past, learning from it in order to keep wading into the waters of life and renewal around us, expanding the Beloved Community to all the places and people who touch us and whom we touch.
Take Your Step Into The Water With Us…
Here below are some of the ways we are still stepping into the waters, responding to the call of community based on radical forgiveness and justice for all, and inviting others to experience the sense and spirit of the Beloved Presence that presents itself to us as a gift continually. We will be sharing hopes and plans and ways that we can be and become more community even as we practice and point toward it now. Baptism is a sign of something new, and yet a sign of something everlasting at the same time; in this vein, as a community on this particular Sunday celebration of the baptism of Jesus, how do and can we show evidence of our communal baptism, of our newness, of our being Beloved, of our renewal to share with others?
1. Our Food Community. We are moving toward creating a new space at the Community Center, 5920 N. Owasso Ave. that will allow us to better embody our different approach to providing food for the hungry, one that does not treat people as clients at a service agency, but as brothers and sisters in the neighborhood. We are working on expanding the pantry into more of an old-fashioned style Neighborhood Corner Pantry where people shop from shelves and our freezers as if they were in a store where the food had to be purchased. We will be painting new space for it, and moving into it. This will free up one room for a much needed downstairs small more private meeting room. Part of our Food Community is also the GardenKitchenPark and Orchard, 6005 N. Johnstown Ave., from which some of our food comes, and now we are hoping to move forward with plans for creating more welcome there by putting in wheelchair accessible paths to some of our garden beds, and more accessible beds. It is one of the winter-time hardscape projects we would like to accomplish with your help, especially bearing in mind the people who ride on their motorized scooters past the park on their way from homes to the grocery store on North Peoria and back up the hill past us to their homes again. Helping them grow their own food and to give away, all in community, is important.
On Friday, Jan. 25 from 11 am to Noon at the Center we will be expanding our food outreach to many more hungry families who haven’t been aware of us, through our mobile van food giveaway; this time we are reaching out through nearby schools to identify the families in need whom we will give vouchers for the event to come get some 60-80 pounds of food. We are hopeful we can do this throughout the year again, targeting different schools and their families as a way to make them aware of us and to get them into our ongoing regular food community where we have our nutritional consultant and other programs and connect them with our garden and events. If you are in a school in our 74126 74130 and 74073 area and would like to participate sometime this year with us please let me know.
2. Our Center Community. We are working on being a more hospitable place in the midst of much scarcity by improving our own restrooms, and our GardenArt Room, and our emerging Crafts and Sewing Coop Room, and by installing washer and dryer for those in need, especially in light of the closing of our community’s closest laundramat, the one we used to have our Center next to. We have recently expanded lighting on the outside of our Center, some for security but also so it will be able to be used more often especially when the inside of the building is not open. We are looking at ways to create a public access Little Free Library outside at the Center, part of a nationwide movement for those (see and also put them out in the community, at the gardenpark and along the bike trail and with partner businesses and O’Brien Park, etc. wherever people go by, and perhaps also at the center a small Giveaway Food Spot on the outside of the building (imagine being able to get some fruit or small items without having to go inside, trying to catch us open; a way of expressing radical abundance and hospitality especially to those who might be homeless). And to create some sit down spaces in our courtyards outside the building, where our free wifi can be accessed as well. The more we claim our own grounds, by offering to give the grounds away to others, the more we show that our area is not one being neglected, and so we invite the care of others and not the neglect or destruction of others. As part of our 2013 Center Renovation we are also expanding and creating a better Clothing and Items Giveaway Store in our South Building which begins our use of it for the public and not just for storage of items we are selling to raise funds. Gradually as we can we will fix up and expand more into that largest of all our spaces. We are also hoping someone will take the lead on bringing back our monthly or making it a weekly Game Night at the Center. And help plan trips together for our area residents. Finally in our Center Community we have need of helpers to work with us on the old parsonage to secure it for its transformation and uses too. We worry about it because due to its openness and past neglect; it is like so many of our structures in the neighborhood here around us that have recently been set on fire. With a little focused attention it can continue to be changed into some kind of place of use and beauty.
We are again blessed to partner with OU Graduate Social Work students this semester to help us in many of these areas above, and connect the wisdom of our residents with their service learning needs. We hope to connect with many other universities and programs, public and private and seminaries; just about every degree program could find a way to connect student projects with our area.
3. Again this year we will take the values of our group and our projects and put them on parade…the Monday, Jan. 21 Martin Luther King, Jr. parade to be precise, and this year we will be joined in the parade with our partners, the McLain High School students and the project we are working on with them called Healthy Living=Smart Choices. Come walk with us as we honor Dr. King and highlight our partnerships. In February and in March we will host events for the students at the center and at the park in keeping with the goals of the project; more on those later, but if you would like to help us create those events let us know. Come meet the students and staff during the parade. We are also looking for a truck or a van for the parade as well that we can decorate and use. We will be doing parade planning during our common meal this Sunday at noon lunch.
4. Beyond our own properties and projects on them, we wade this year into the waters of our community of far north Tulsa and Turley. We need non profits who want to serve in our area who might carry out some of their programs or use office space in the closed Cherokee School; we are working on strategies to repurpose and put back into use our wonderful school building on North Peoria and in the process provide a win-win by purchasing it from the Tulsa School District to help their financial status which has suffered from the injustices on the state level that are trying to gut public education and in so doing fragment further our communities and our peoples. We are also this month organizing to start a much needed Senior Citizens Center in our area which we haven’t had since federal funding for it was eliminated several years ago; we are looking for people to help be on our steering committee and a new nonprofit board to run it. We are working and needing volunteers soon to help us help the Turley Area Volunteer Fire Dept conduct a campaign to become an independent Fire District which will both raise funds and improve services in our area, which has suffered from wildfires and arson so much, but also help reduce the cost on residences by sharing the costs more widely through property tax assessments for the district which will in almost all cases be lower in actual taxes than what the fire dept dues are now. We need people to help us market the campaign, raise funds for the campaign, and soon begin getting petition signatures. We talk and plan about many of these ventures at our monthly gatherings: First Thursdays at 3:30 pm at the community center, and on the Last Tuesdays, this month Jan. 29, at 6 pm for planning and then 7 pm for TownHall at O’Brien Park Center, 6147 N. Birmingham.
5. We continue to need help to get out the visuals and the message about all our unhealthy abandoned burned down buildings that remain open and accessible to kids and are an eyesore in our community, especially those on our major streets like Peoria Ave. it takes constant pressure on county and health dept officials to keep the pressure on property owners, many or most who don’t live in our area, to clean up the properties….We are working to try to improve our area and support existing businesses and welcome in new ones; also trying to help hold existing businesses accountable for environmental care of our community, and have been working with the Turley Community Association and county officials on issues related to the metal crusher. We also are hoping to highlight the need for more community neighborhood watch and better work with area law enforcement, and getting law enforcement to come meet with community residents and answer questions at the monthly Town Hall where the deputies haven’t been in months. Those residents who have suffered from recent rash of burglaries and other concerns are especially invited to the community center each last Thursday of the month at 6:30 pm to connect with the Turley Area Alliance Against Crime….And we hope to pick back up on our discussions about helping run the affordable housing project in our surrounding area, helping to keep houses from becoming abandoned, and therefore streets from becoming neglected, and thus being claimed by those who prey upon people and property most vulnerable.
6. I went to a public hearing this past week on plans for improving the bus system in Tulsa. My witness was both pro and con; first pro is that going to a rapid bus transit system is a great plan for both economic development and social justice, especially as it begins to make it easier for people to be on foot, and easier for people who are on foot to be able to get to jobs and health care and community events. It is one of the most important investments our wider community can make, even those who are privileged, so to speak, to not have to need mass transit even though many who can afford not to use it do want to have better options and incentives for using it; better for pocketbooks, better for the environment, better for personal health, better for building community connections. The con is that even though the system prioritizes the 105 Route which goes along North Peoria, from here in our community at 66th St. N. south, the proposed plans for increasing the frequency of service would not extend to our far north, 46th St. and north on Peoria, McLain High School service area and neighborhoods, new Health Department Wellness Center neighborhoods, here where we serve in a much abandoned area. This plan continues to offer little to nothing more than what is currently available to our local area residents, even though it is overall a good plan needed for the greater area. The plan’s new stations (four along South Peoria and only two along North Peoria) are not in our far north area, and would only begin by the Dept. of Human Services building at 38th and North Peoria; the immense neighborhoods north of the divide geographically of the Flat Rock Creek Basin would have nothing new offered except if they are able to get to the new station at DHS they could if they desired get off their bus and wait for a rapid transit bus when it came; very little time incentive is aided. In one of the discarded plans there was floated an option to provide shuttle service throughout the McLain school and Turley neighborhoods that would take people to the proposed new station, but because of stated costs concerns it was dropped. There are geographic differences because of the Flat Rock Creek basin; those north of it are naturally cut off except by Peoria from the areas south of the creek basin, and it affects the identity and ability for walking south on Peoria. It is why the current 105 is so important and why its frequency needs to be increased; without the frequency increase and other improvements there is not the incentive to use it as often as it needs to be used, and people use that lack of use for a catch-22 of not making the moral imperative and economic incentive needed for our low income lowest life expectancy area.
Even at the truncanted service plan that doesn’t extend rapid service all the way along the line north, the plan is worthy of support and is running into opposition, and will more I suspect, from those with short-sighted economic lens, social justice lens, and those who equate poor people with criminals and don’t want poor people riding buses into their neighborhoods for work, or shopping or services that are not available where we live.
And even if it were to be approved as is currently it would still be three years before the plan was fully implemented. But, even so, it is worth it to keep learning, discussing, planning, dreaming, all for the way we can raise consciousness about these vital issues. For example, one recent conversation I had with an economic leader for poor communities about the issues of lack of transportation options and how it holds back the vulnerable led us to the idea of taking our radical health care from the ground up plan we had envisioned a few years ago with OU but never implemented, for neighborhood health advocates and connecters, and turning it into a neighborhood transportation plan, where you help pay gasoline and some car expenses for neighbors who will help drive neighbors to the places needed to go. That kind of personal jitney service, volunteer taxi type services, can be part of the broader picture, just as we need to concentrate on educating and equipping our residents and our area with better and safer bicycling options; though none of this is ever a replacement for the benefits of mass transit.
Let your voices be heard. Go learn more at and and send your comments and ideas to I think given the opposition they are already encountering because of the estimated costs of providing faster bus service to the poor that the plan should go in all the way and truly present a plan that serves the poor and helps increase economic incentives for areas to attract businesses and residents; if you are going to go down, go down big; you might be surprised; so put in at least one more rapid transit bus enhanced station on the northside, make it four on south Peoria and three on north Peoria at least, and have one of those stations be here in the heart of our business area at the grocery store at 62nd and North Peoria, or at the least up near McLain High School perhaps at the current stop at the old McLain Shopping Center that is sorely in need of a boost. It is the right thing to do, and in the long run, perhaps the next generation, it will be the cost-effective thing to do, as any and all investment in the northside is and will be though it is invisible to our outward eyes.
So, These are the kinds of daily waters of mission we are wading in to so far this 2013; we experience such a feeling of Beloved Community when we do so, and invite you to experience it with us by connecting with us in one of these endeavors. Or sharing with others who might find inspiration in serving with us.
P.S. Our worshipping community gathers on Sunday for conversation, communion, common meal, and connections, from 10 am to 1 pm here at the community center
Thanks, blessings, and more soon,
Ron Robinson

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