Posts Tagged ‘ Flint ’

DANIEL SMITH, CORNERSTONE, AND THE LIFE I HOPE TO LIVE

Last night at Dwellings, the new church that I’m a part of, we hosted the first of three movie screenings in a film series called Contineo. Contineo is a Latin word meaning “to connect or join together”. The heart of the Contineo Film Series is to connect people together through discussions on faith, art, and community as we explore some interesting movies together.

As I sat in the Flint Local 432 watching the first film in the series, Danielson: A Family Movie (or Make a Joyful Noise Here), I was reminded of the place that this idea was born. In 2006, my wife and I made our second trip to the Cornerstone Festival in Bushnell, IL. The festival was an experiment that began in 1984 by a group of Christian/hippy/rockers from a commune in Chicago called Jesus People USA. Cornerstone was created to provide a space for Christian music that fell outside of the mainstream by gathering annually to celebrate the diversity of God’s people. Over the years, Cornerstone added different elements to the festival experience including a film festival called Flickerings.

During our first trip to Cornerstone in 2004, I was so excited to see every band possible that we ran around like crazy people. While it was a memorable experience, it was exhausting! So when we went back to Cornerstone two years later, we realized that we wanted to have a more restful experience. It was out of this desire for restfulness and a slower pace that we stumbled on Flickerings. On the second day of the fest we crawled out of our hot, sticky tent and made our way to see a documentary about a quirky musician from New Jersey named Daniel Smith.

That morning I was struck by the beauty, creativity, and honestly that the filmmaker, JL Aronson, was able to capture. I remember being inspired to think of Christianity in new ways. I saw Daniel living out an authentic faith apart from the Christian subculture that so often seems to seek to shelter and protect people from the world around them. Daniel seemed driven to create art from who he was and share it with anyone who would listen. He was true to himself even though the sounds he creates aren’t always the most pleasant for casual listening. As a new Christian, the experience of Cornerstone and watching Danielson: A Family Movie were formational events for me. I began to dream about how I could live my life with the kind of integrity displayed by Daniel. I wondered how I could live my faith in a way that didn’t scare away those who had different ideas and desires than I did. I wondered how art could be used to build relationships and nurture productive conversations.

So six years later, these are still the kinds of questions I wrestle with. And I think with every new day and each step I take I’m moving towards the kind of life I started dreaming about down in Bushnell, Il. Now, that Cornerstone has called it a day (the final Cornerstone Festival took place in July of 2012), I hope that Dwellings will help to create that kind of safe space for people to question and connect with God that Cornerstone, and artists like Daniel Smith, have provided for me, at least did in my little corner of the world.

I’d love to hear from you! What are some experiences or pieces of art that have moved your towards the kind of life you want to live?

If you are interested joining us for the next installment of Contineo, can get more info here.

DWELLINGS DAY ONE

Yesterday was the big day! As I said during our first service yesterday, we didn’t become a church yesterday when we held our first public gathering. We became a church back in January when a group of people began to come together to follow God into the unknown to learn to love and serve the people around us in Flint, Michigan. The church is a people after all, right? Well, yesterday was significant because we gathered to enter into a weekly rhythmic of worship. It’s tough to find the words to describe something that is so meaningful. Especially when this something that you are trying to explain has been a dream that has been in the works for nearly 10 years. But I’ll try…

The one word that keeps coming to mind when I think about how our first service went is comfortable. From set up to tear down everything felt very natural. I didn’t feel the need to make anything happen. It didn’t seem hard. There was an excitement in the air because new things are, well, exciting, but I think  comfortable sums it up nicely.

Set Up and Music

When we showed up at 8a.m. in the morning to get everything set up everyone who was there chipped in without a ton of direction and just did what needed to be done. With the help of the Flint Local 432’s regular sound guy, Tim, the band got set up and was ready to go within 20 minutes. We decided last minute to project the words of the songs we were singing for worship (and the PowerPoint that went along with the sermon) on the wall to the left of the stage instead of on the giant screen that would have came down in front of the stage and obscured the players from the shoulders up. It was a last minute decision that didn’t occur to us at rehearsal a couple days earlier but when we showed up in the morning it was pretty obvious that it would be a great solution. I think the result was fantastic. First, it allowed the musicians who wanted to stand to stand without worrying about being cut in half by the screen. Secondly, and I think most importantly, the screen being off to the side changed the focal point of the people in the congregation. Folks looked toward the screen and I think it made it easier to focus on the words in order to collect ourselves in worship.

After we set up the band, we quickly put the chairs and tables in place and did a run through of the set list for the service. This gave our tech person, Sarah, a chance to run the the powerpoint and get her familiar with the songs. After the band wrapped up, another crew of people showed up to get the coffee brewing, set up the kids area, and pass out donuts to the bikers who were in town for the big Bikes on the Bricks festival Downtown.

Coffee

We bought a fancy new airpot brewer to make our coffee so Jay and I had to spend some time making sure we knew how to work  it and where we were going to store it but we managed to get some decent coffee made to offer our people. We have decided to use ceramic mugs and have someone take them home each week to run them through the dishwasher in order to cut down on waste. Lisa and I went to the Salvation Army last week and picked out a bunch of the most random mugs we could find. The mugs were a nice conversation piece for the morning. We joked that instead of having people who come and sit in the same pew week after week we’ll have people that live and die by the coffee mug that they drink from. We’re also working with a local coffee roaster who will be roasting fresh coffee beans for us each week so we will be supporting a local business and have great coffee to share with our people.

Kids

Since the space we are meeting in is essential one big room with a couple restrooms attached we are trying to figure out ways to have kids stay with us in the service that allows the adults to focus and participate in the service without having to worry about their children being a disruption. We decided to set up a table and some floor mats up off to one side of the room to give kids an area where they can draw, play with playdough, or do puzzles. A couple parents and Casey, one of our college student, sat down on the mats to play with the kids throughout the service. A few of the bigger kids passed headphones back and forth while watching a movie on a computer. The kids seemed to really enjoy the atmosphere and made themselves quite at home. During the service, the kids were amazing.  For nearly and hour and a half they hung out with us doing their thing. Hopefully they will enjoy themselves as much next week as we continue to explore different ways to engage them in what we are doing as a church. We’re thinking about getting a bunch of tambourines and shakers so they can dance and jam with us during musical worship. Lisa and I saw this done at TheStory in Sarnia and it was awesome to see the kids involved in worship. Besides we don’t currently have a percussionist, so what the heck, right?

Donuts

Since the big Bikes on the Bricks thing was going on Downtown we decided to find away to engage in what was already happening around us. So we ordered 8 dozen donuts from Donna’s Donuts and gave them away to bikers who were setting up for the day. We didn’t do this as a way to have an opportunity to invite them to church but just to tell them thanks for coming to the city. This seemed very organic. As soon as the donuts showed up, a bunch of our people paired up, grabbed some of the kids and went walking around on Saginaw Street passing out donuts. I think everybody had fun and it was a simple way to connect with our neighbors for the day.

The Service

By 10:20a.m. the rest of the folks who were joining us for the service had arrived. People mingled, drinking coffee and chatting until we got started at 10:30. The service was pretty simple. We started with a song and welcomed people to make themselves comfortable while we sang songs together in order to engage in the same activity together as a community and to quiet our hearts to focus on whatever God might have for us. We sang a couple more songs and Carrie came up to read from the Psalms. We played one more song and then Jay gave some brief announcements before moving into the sermon.

We decided that we wanted to invite people to be an active part of the service by asking some questions and giving some time to reflect by writing in community journals. I asked some simple, straightforward questions throughout the service to give the congregation an opportunity to share ideas out loud as we talked about the idea of “following”. We talked about the different ways of coming to know someone or something, different kinds of things people follow in our culture, and what is required of those who want to follow someone or something. People who wished to share simply chimed in with answers. I think this questioning seemed to help people stay engaged in the message. Then, toward the end of the message, I introduced the idea of the community journals. We bought some simple composition notebooks and pens and passed them out to people around the room. I explained that the idea behind the journals was to give people a way to process and wrestle with what we were talking about in a quiet reflective way. I instructed them to keep their entries anonymous and asked them to leave the books at church so they can grow with the community. Sometimes I’ll give specific prompts for people to respond to during our services but other times I won’t mention them at all. But the plan is to make them available week to week to be used however they help the church process; taking notes, writing prayers, drawing pictures, doodling, asking questions, etc. I gave a few prompts and gave folks a 5-7 minutes of quiet to jot down some thoughts. After the journaling, I gave a few closing remarks and closed the service with a video. After the benediction people sprung into action helping us get the space back into shape for the next punk rock show. Tear down was swift and organized. I think having been a part of the set up and tear down crew at Wildwind, our mother church, for so many years really helped the process to go smoothly.

The buzz in the air was thick, at least it was for me. I know that I’ve given a brief record of concrete details here and while that might give people an idea of what we did, it doesn’t really contain the feeling of the experience. It was a great morning. The people that were with us (which included our initial core team, some friends from Wildwind, and a handful of people who wanted to see what we were all about before deciding how/if they wanted to be involved in a more direct way) seemed to be engaged and I’ve since received a lot of positive feed back in the last 36 hours.

Several new people informed me that they would be back! Another person wrote and thanked me for making the experience comfortable for introverts and extroverts alike. And yet another person made a point to tell me how refreshing the service was and how the content has already provided them with opportunities to share some of the ideas they heard at Dwellings with people at their workplace. Good stuff is happening here. Stuff I couldn’t have planned. We’re just gonna show up and see what happens next, listen for what God is up to in our midst, and then show up again the next week…and the week after that…and the week after that. So good? Maybe you can join us sometime.

If you are interested in hearing my sermon (lo-fi) from Sunday you can do so here: http://www.dwellingsflint.com/sermons/follow-me/

Thanks for sharing in our story. Blessings.

 

WHAT TO DO IN THE IN-BETWEEN TIMES

This is a note I wrote to the people who are joining us in the church planting adventure that is Dwellings Church. Though this list fairly specific to those in our community, I thought there might be some helpful ideas here for others, too.

Here we are in the in-between times. I’ve heard from some of the Dwellings folks that they weren’t sure what to do in the time between when Lisa and I finished up at Wildwind and a month or so down the road when we begin meeting on Sundays for worship with Dwellings.

Here are some ideas to help with the transition, some of which our family will be doing, too:

1. Rest. Take a Sunday off and sleep in. God gave us the Sabbath to remember that we aren’t machines. Somebody said (maybe it was Rob Bell, or somebody like that), “We are human beings, not just human doings” See what I did there?

2. Visit another church to see how others experience the community of faith. We’ll be visiting some friend’s churches to share about Dwellings and see how others do it. We’d love to head back to TheStory.CA in Sarnia (the church Darryl helped start) and a church called Praxis way up north. Some of what they are doing really resonates with us so we’d like to connect with some kindred spirits. Maybe you can join us. We’ll keep you posted. Otherwise, visit your parent’s church, or a church in your neighborhood. We’re all family so go visiting and ask for open eyes to love and serve and listen for what God is up to.

3. Invite someone else you might not know that well who is a part of Dwellings over for breakfast on Sunday. This can be church, too. Just hang out and get to know the people of our community in a different way than a larger group setting. Remember, the church is a people, not just a service.

4. Do a service project with your family. Is there a need you can meet by spending a few hours together on a Sunday? Connect with the people and the needs around you by giving some of your time, talents, or resources.

5. Consider our Wednesday night gatherings as “church”. Show up. Be present. Worship in community as we learn to listen and dream the dreams God has for our church. Again, church is wherever God’s people are.

6. Go to Wildwind. It’s okay, we love these people. Spend some time with them. They are our family, too. We would, recommend however, to take some time doing something different to ease into our new rhythm of life. I imagine that Dwellings will feel very different on Sunday than being at Wildwind. The change might not feel so abrupt if you take some time away.

7. Spend your Sunday at a coffee shop or going around to garage sales. Notice that for many Sunday morning worship is irrelevant and dated. Listen to the lives of others and try to spot how God is working outside the walls of the church.

8. Seek God in nature. Go for a hike or a bike ride. Spend some time in quiet. Listen God’s still small voice…remember, he is still there even if, especially if, we aren’t busy!

9. Engage in worship on your own or with your family. Read the scriptures together. Write a poem about God’s love. Write a story about God activity in your life.  Do something creative. God is the Creator and we are ‘created in his image’….don’t be afraid. Don’t seek perfection, just do something out of your comfort zone to connect with God.

10. Come up with your own idea. I hope my ideas are just a little spark to get you thinking about being the church over the next month. Grace and peace is the key. No guilt. Just step into the stream of God’s love and see where it leads you. And then come share your stories! We can learn a lot from each other, that is the beauty of community.

I love you guys. I can’t wait to see who we become and how God will use us in Flint. Let’s be open to new adventures and encounters with God in places where we least expect it!

DWELLINGS CHURCH @ FLINT LOCAL 432: WHAT IT DOES NOT MEAN

I made an exciting announcement on Facebook and Twitter last week about Dwellings, the church we’re planting, holding it’s services at Flint Local 432, an all ages music venue and art space that has existed in different forms in Downtown Flint for more than 25 years.While our first service doesn’t happen until September, I wanted to share a little bit about what this means for us as a church and also a little bit about what it DOES NOT mean.

Today, let’s talk about what it DOES NOT mean.

1. Dwellings Church meeting at Flint Local 432 does not mean that Flint Local 432 endorses the worldview of Dwellings Church. Flint Local 432 is not a “Christian” venue. It’s a place that has always been host to a diverse body of people with varying worldviews and ideas.

2. Dwellings Church meeting at Flint Local 432 does not mean that our church is only for the “young” and “hip”. If you are interested in checking out what we’re up to you are welcome no matter what year you were born or what kind of music your listen to.

3. Dwellings Church meeting at Flint Local 432 does not represent all of who we are and what we do as a church. The church is a people. Wherever we gather, whether two friends meeting in a coffee shop or home, or serving together in the community, the church is represented by a rhythm of life together. Gathering on Sunday mornings is one of many different expressions of the church.

4. Dwellings Church meeting at Flint Local 432 does not mean that we think we are “cooler” than other churches, it’s just the way we have decided to begin our journey. We hope that meeting in a non-traditional space for worship will allow us to have some refreshing dialogue about what it means to”be the church” and maybe remove some barriers that keep people away from exploring Christian spirituality.

5. Dwellings Church meeting at Flint Local 432 does not mean that everyone will understand what we are trying to do. We hope to respond with grace and peace to those who have different ideas about what is good and bad; appropriate and inappropriate. We aren’t interested in winning arguments as much as we are interested in having conversations. By the way, we don’t have it all figured out and won’t claim otherwise. We expect to learn a lot along the way, hopefully from unexpected sources!

I’ll be back soon to share a little bit about what makes this opportunity so exciting for our church community. I hope this gives you an idea of the kind of church Dwellings hopes to become. We’d love to hear your thoughts. Post comments and questions below.

A 3-YEAR-OLD, CURIOUS GEORGE, AND CHURCH PLANTING

This morning on the way to drop my 3-year-old daughter Claire off at day care we had a great conversation. While we have great conversations regularly, this time Claire was a source of wisdom and encouragement for me. She was pretty stinkin’ cute, too! I thought I would share this moment of greatness with you folks. Here’s how it all when down:

Claire: “Are we going to church on Sunday?”

Daddy: “Yep, we always go to church on Sunday. But pretty soon we’re going to start going to a new church.”

Claire: “Oh, where is the new church?”

Daddy: “Well, our family is going to make a new church, sweetie.”

Claire: “Oh, you mean like Curious George makes lemonade?”

Daddy: “Yes, dear, just like that.”

I smiled and began to chuckle to myself in the front seat when the truth and grace of what she said started to sink in.

I hope our church planting journey is a little bit like making lemonade. Not in the sense of the old cliche “when life gives you lemons make lemonade” though. I don’t see my job as having to make the best out of a tough situation and I certainly don’t think of the people coming along with us on the journey and supporting us as lemons. When I thought about Curious George making lemonade the idea of adventure came to mind.

George is always having fun trying to figure stuff out in the moment. In one episode of my little girl’s favorite cartoon, George thinks making a lemonade stand sounds like a good idea so he dives in to the process trying to figure it out as he goes along.

He knows what supplies he need to start with and works with what he’s got to get it right.

Once he gets everything together he decides he’s ready to go set up his lemonade stand and share it with the public. Once he gets all situated he waits…and waits…and waits some more. No one comes to his lemonade stand. I wonder if George had an existential crisis during this time. Imagine the thoughts in his little monkey brain;

“Maybe I wasn’t meant to make a lemonade stand.”

“Maybe there’s a better lemonade stand down the street.”

“Maybe I should have used pink lemonade instead. I think people probably like pink lemonade better these days.”

“What a waste of time this has been.”

“Doesn’t anybody like me?’

“What does it all mean?”

But before long, George overhears a conversation about a water truck that broke down on its way to a local construction site. It was an extremely hot day. Those workers must be thirsty.

George had an idea.

He packed up his lemonade supplies and took his lemonade stand to the thirsty construction workers. The workers were hot and thirsty and once they figured out what George was up to, a line began to form.

George didn’t seem to have enough lemonade at first but one of the construction workers shared some of his to make sure there was enough to go around.

So, yes. Claire, I think…no I hope that church planting can be a little bit like making lemonade.

I hope we aren’t so concerned about being right that we miss out on the opportunity to enjoy the process and learn something along the way.

I hope we remember what brought us here in the first place whenever we get discouraged.

I hope we remember that church is more than the place that we “set up shop” and that we are willing to be the church wherever we find ourselves, and wherever we see a need that we can help meet.

I hope we can remember that God works through other people as much as he works through us so we remain open the gifts that others have to offer.

I hope we learn to trust that God provides enough for all our needs.

I hope we can enjoy the adventure as much as a beautiful 3-year-old and her favorite cartoon monkey.

Alright, now I’m getting thirsty. Let’s make some lemonade.

THE OAK STREET CHRONICLES: MY FIRST TIME (A Flint Local 432 Story)

The Oak Street Chronicles tell the stories of my time in Downtown Flint, learning to live and learning to love.

I moved to Oak Street to help out a friend who was going travelling. He wanted me to keep an eye on his house while he was away. I wanted a chance to live closer to the heart of the music scene that I was becoming more and more immersed in with each passing year. The Flint Local 432 was a hub for this vibrant and diverse music community. It’s the kind of thing that leads a suburban, white kid to relocate to the hood.
I had gotten involved in the music scene in a participatory way when I was 14. I remember my first time like it was yesterday…

My best friend Mike and I had just joined our first band (technically, Mike played in a Metallica cover band first but let’s not count that) after replying to a sort of help wanted article in a teen-written section of the Flint Journal called Word Up. Mike was a drummer and I wanted to sing. I liked singing. That’s all you really need, right? Passion and desire. Nevermind that whole talent thing.

We connected with Phil, a Grand Blanc kid who actually took guitar lessons and liked a lot of the same alternative and grunge bands that Mike and I were getting into. After reading his article we were sure that we were soul-mates so we started “jamming” in Mike’s Grandmother’s garage.

One time Phil showed up with an article from the newspaper about a new all ages music club that was opening. The article advertised a show with the Rubgy Mothers and Offense A.D., I think. It was two bands I had seen before; one at the Capitol Theater and the other at the Capitol Lobby. A friend’s older brother had taken us to some shows Downtown a year or so earlier. We all decided we needed to check out the show and see if we could try to book our first real gig!

We arrived a Kinelo’s Cafe and the room was pretty full. I felt like one of the youngest kids there but I didn’t care. When the bands started playing I had found a new home.

Mike came up to me later in the evening and told me had just met the guy who managed the Rugby Mothers gigs and asked him how we could get a show of our own. Mike rounded up the rest of us and introduced us to a guy named Joel.

I had actually met Joel earlier in the evening. I had twisted my ankle pretty bad bouncing around in the “pit” during Offense A.D.’s set and Joel found me a chair so I could sit down for a while.

When Mike took us to talk to Joel about booking a show, Joel pulled out a paper schedule and offered us a spot on a show right there on the spot. It was that easy. He hadn’t even heard us. That probably was a good thing.

The next time we had a rehearsal we played with more purpose than ever before. We put together a set of 8 songs including 7 originals and a Lemonheads cover. We practiced every week getting the set ready for our show. It was about a month away so we kept going down to shows every weekend until then.

One night when we showed up to see Rats of Unusual Size (a band all the way from New York!), and Matt Ratza (the original bass player from Burnt Toast!), we arrived at Kinelo’s and it was pretty empty. The stage wasn’t set up and the table hadn’t been moved out of the way. We were a little confused but we saw some lights coming from another building down the otherwise empty street.  We heard some music coming from the building, too. Sound check! We made our way down to 432 S. Saginaw Street. The space wasn’t as nice as the cafe but it was awesome to know that Joel had gotten his own building. The Flint Local 432 seemed like it was something that was going to be around for a while.

We saw bands like Melange, Day 28, Beatnik Mecca, and my personal favorite Burnt Toast, who I had convinced to let me sing one of my favorite songs with them on stage one time. What a rush! I was learning that I could be a part of something that I loved in a personal way.

When our first gig came, I was super nervous so when we got on stage I did my best Eddie Vedder impression, holding on to the mic stand with both hands, not letting go for our entire 30 minute set. I swayed back and forth a little, too. The coolest part of that show wasn’t the performance itself. It was seeing the guys from Burnt Toast and Melange had come to see us play. My new heroes were becoming my new friends.

In my school, I didn’t really feel comfortable. I wasn’t that cool. I had friends but still didn’t feel like I really fit in. Flint Local 432 fixed that for me. It gave me a place. It gave me direction. It gave me experiences that have shaped my life. And it gave me a really cool collection of cassette tapes from local bands.

The Flint Local 432 is reopening soon! Get more info here!

BROKENNESS AND HOPE BOOK PROJECT

Instagram is fun, eh? Here’s a description of a little photo book project I released on Blurb.com:

I spent a not-so-gray-day in February walking around my neighborhood trying to catch some glimpses of beauty and hope. I live in Flint, Michigan, a city known by headlines that read “most dangerous city” and “miserable place to live” but where outsiders see only brokenness, I choose to seek out the beauty of hope.

Ladies and gentlmen, I give you Brokenness and Hope.

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