This morning I was contacted by the 24-7 prayer network about using this prayer for their five city prayer pilgrimage for the new Archbishop of Canterbury. I was delighted because this is not only one of my favourite prayers, but because I strongly believe that the formation of community based on friendship and mutual care is one of the keys to Christian formation – something that is very important for us to think about during this season of Lent.

What are you doing during this Lenten season to strength your local and global community?


I am working on the programme for our upcoming Celtic retreat & thought that you might enjoy this one of the prayers I have written.

The theme is -Building Community

God build your community

From brokenness and indifference

Build love and caring

For you, for each other, for your creation

God build your community

From self centredness and independence

Build friendship and compassion

For the marginalized, the abandoned and the despised

God build you community

From mistrust and misunderstanding

Build unity and togetherness

For other peoples, religions and nations,

God build your community

May we build together your living community

Bound together by love and joy

Interrelated to all God’s people, to the earth and ll creation

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Creating A Faith Based Community Garden – Much to Reflect On

Time to plant seeds

Time to plant seeds

Garden season is underway here in the Pacific NW. I have already planted lettuce, spinach, Chinese greens, mesculin mix, cabbages, cauliflowers and peas inside on the front porch. This morning I emailed our burgeoning garden community of those keen to get their hands in the dirt. (If you would like to join us once a month for fellowship and a shared time of gardening please let me know.)

All of this has meant I am doing a lot of reflecting on creating a faith based community garden. There are some excellent websites and articles out there to help with this and I have blogged about them in previous years

More Resources for Creating a Faith Based Community Garden

Tips for Creating a Faith Based Community Garden – part 1

Tips For Creating a Faith Based Community Garden – part 2

This year my thoughts have revolved around the concept of community garden, especially in faith based gardens. So few encourage community. Sometimes the plots are even surrounded by fences that say in no uncertain terms – this is mine.  Often the work for tending the plots falls to one or two people who often religiously tend everyone else’s space. Sometimes the produce goes bad because people are too busy to harvest it.

For me there are three must do requirements for a faith based community garden:

  1. Create community. One church I heard of invited the congregation out into the garden once a month after the morning service to help weed and tend the crops. That truly is a community garden. For us at the Mustard Seed House inviting others to our monthly garden days has increased the feel of community and extended it to a broader community as well. Sometimes we can also create a deeper sense of community with our neighbours just by being out in the front yard, and when a church plants a garden in its front yard and the neighbours walk past it makes a statement about the congregation’s concern for their community too.
  2. Create a sacred space. Every garden should have a sacred space. At the least this should be a place that invites us to sit and enjoy the beauty of God’s creation. It should stir all the senses of sight, sound, taste, feel and smell. I will reflect on this more later in the week
  3. Provide opportunities to share. The garden has taught me much about the economic views of our God who provides abundantly far more than we can ever use on our own. This abundance is meant to be shared – with the marginalized in gifts to food banks and community kitchens as well as with our friends and neighbours in harvest celebrations. So make sure that you plan at least one garden party this year where the garden produce has pride of place in the food on the table.

Say YES! to This – My Favourite Green Resources

Reaching for Resources

Reaching for Resources

Ever wondered where I find all those interesting articles I post? Here are a couple of places I monitor regularly.

One of Tom’s and my favourtie magazines is YES Magazine and I wanted to share it with you.

The YES website has posted some great articles in the last few weeks on community. Here are my favourites

Ten Ways to Love Where You Live by Ross Chapin

How to build community here and now—because neighborhoods are more than houses in proximity. Read the article here

Cheaper Together. How neighbours Invest in Community by by Miriam Axel-LuteJohn Emmeus DavisHarold Simon.

Cooperative financing and community land trusts keep rents affordable and homeownership within reach. Read here

Inhabitat: Design will save the world is another great site with very innovative housing and environmental designs like this one:  PHOTOS: Get a Sneak Peek of HWKN’s Giant Blue Smog-Eating Wendy Sculpture Before It Opens Next Week | Inhabitat – Sustainable Design Innovation, Eco Architecture, Green Building

And Grist Magazine is always worth a visit. For example I loved this article Have Sledgehammer will farm

I also love to check out the latest at ECHO, ; Plant with Purpose and A Rocha

Obviously this is only a very short list of possible sites to visit for environmental issues. I would love to put together a more comprehensive list. So what are your favourite sites to visit?

So what are your favourite websites on environmental issues, green living and community?

Milenko Matanovic Helps Communities Prepare for the Future.

I just heard from Inhabit co-ordinator Paul Sparks that the renowned Visual Artist and Community Builder Milenko Matanovic will be inspiring and training Inhabit Conference 2012 participants in the art of creating community gathering spaces. He started the Pomegranate Center 25 years ago to make this happen.

This fascinating video is a great introduction to him, his work and his passion for community building through the use of art. I love his core principle – “consult the end users from the beginning”. I look forward to meeting him at the Inhabit conference.

Sharing Meals, Sharing Faith, Sharing Life

Sharing In the Eucharistic Feast

Sharing In the Eucharistic Feast

Yesterday I posted on the forming of community around the preparing and eating of food. Coincidentally Tom also posted on community yesterday Did You Ever Consider That God Might Want You to Start A New Community In A Parking Lot?.  This is so central to the gospel and to the kingdom of God that this morning I thought I would share other stories that speak vividly of this aspect of who God calls us to be and of the eucharistic power of shared meals.

First this beautiful story from Turkey that Jeri Bidinger added as a comment to my post.

I don’t garden, though we have recently taken up residence in a Turkish village where home food production forms the fabric of life. Yesterday my neighbor found me to show me how they are making olive oil from olives collected from my trees and hers. As I left, her rooster attacked me when I got too close to the hen-house to photograph their small son. Yes, much community around the sharing of what we grow (my lemon tree is also an amazing producer and her husband showed me a pine-nut sapling he prepares for my garden) and the tending of her chickens and another neighbor’s cow. And then there is my bread-baking.

The stuff of hospitality, though, resonates very deeply. In this place of very few believers (I was the only one last Sunday), we share the Lord’s table every Sunday night and it IS a meal where we consciously celebrate Christ’s body and blood in the elements as we share and pray together. Whether we are two or six, whether we speak a common language or not, these times are rich fellowship.

Beyond food, in all its beauty and simple goodness, the offer of a safe place, of thoughtful converse, of space apart from life’s battering and stresses, where one can listen and be listened to, and play a bit–joy that leads to worship.

Second another very moving story that I used a couple of years ago from a post by Lisa Carlson co-director of Aurora Care Continuum

This month my husband and I shared meals with a handful of women that are prostituted in our neighborhood. We are grateful that they trust us enough to enter our home. As I reflect on the faces of each woman- one stands out to me the most, and this is the story that I must share: her name is “Rose”. I met “Rose” on the corner of Aurora and 95th street.

When I met her she was practically slumped over onto the fast paced street of Aurora, she could barely keep herself awake. I touched her on the shoulder and she looked at me as if she did not know where she was. She told me that she was in pain and that she had not slept in four days. She went on to tell me that a “john” had busted out all her teeth on a trick a few days ago, so that is what caused the pain. Her teeth were all knocked out and she hobbled as we stepped. I invited “Rose” to walk with me to my home where she could take a much needed, much deserved nap in a safe place. She agreed and this began our 24 hours together.

“Rose” slept on the couch, and as she slept I prepared a meal of chicken, potatoes, bread and salad. I lit candles and put out our finest plates and napkins. When “Rose” woke up, I invited her to join us at the table. And as we sat together, she asked if she could pray for our dinner. Her prayer was beautiful and yet it held a harsh reality: as she prayed she shared with us that she is 40 years old and that she has been prostituted since age 13 when her dad started feeding her crack. In this prayer she thanked God for a warm and safe place to sleep and then she shared with us and with God that this is the first time that anyone has ever invited her into a home to eat.

My goodness, “Rose” is 40 and has been out in the streets for 27 years and this is the first time she has shared in meal fellowship! I could not believe my ears. As she ate, she shared that this was the best meal that she could ever remember having and then later on in the meal as she talked about her love of singing, she bust out into song! “Rose” spent the night at our home that night, and the next day I accompanied her to the methadone clinic and then to lunch at Recovery Café.

This is certainly not the first time that I have had neighbors eat at my home or sleep on my couch but this was the first time that I gave myself permission to experience the table fellowship in light of Christ’s words, “Whenever you do this, do it in my memory.” We shared Eucharist with “Rose” that evening; I have no doubt about this. “Rose” was at the table with us, sitting in the position and place that she deserved…fine linens, candles, a warm meal, singing and fellowship with the Mystical Body of Christ. This is the work of God, for the people of God. Amen. Read the entire post

And finally a story I shared a couple of years ago about an Ethiopian feast prepared by our good friends Melody and Gil George.

Several months ago our good friends Melody and Gil George cooked a wonderful Ethiopian meal for us. The delicious hot and spicy sauces were spooned onto platters spread with layers of the Ethiopian flatbread injera. More mounds of injera dotted the table waiting for us to tear off pieces with our fingers so that we could scoop up the wonderful berbere flavoured wots. By the end of the meal all that remained on the platter were broken pieces of injera soaked with the remains of the sauces.

As we gathered the empty platters I was struck by how much this meal must have resembled meals Jesus ate with his disciples and those other friends of his – the tax collectors and prostitutes. Bread was far more than an adjunct to their meals, it was the very heart of their shared life together. The bread was broken so that people could share together the nourishment they needed to sustain life. And as the bread was broken there was implicit in the act, a sharing of hospitality, of togetherness and of community. Anybody who ate from their table, friend or stranger, rich or poor, young or old would enter into this shared community. I was suddenly overwhelmed by the feeling that in eating together in this way we had shared in the communion of Christ’s body.“To the Middle Eastern mind-set bread is not just a source of nourishment.” Says Ravi Zacharias. “It is the bearer of much more… It is the means of friendship, celebration and pleasure.” Read the entire article


How Do We Form Community?

Garden day at the Mustard Seed House

Garden day at the Mustard Seed House

Friday and Saturday were community garden days at the Mustard Seed House. Afterwards I reflected on what wonderful times of fellowship and fun these were. It started me thinking again about the importance of community and how we form it.

Gardening and hospitality, I thought. These are two of the most important places for forming community. Other shared activities like shared worship practices and shared ministry are also important for forming community, but sometimes they create rather than break barriers. And the best worship and ministry are deeply enriched by the sharing of food and its production. The phenomenal growth of the community garden movement is a good example of this.

In the creation story we find God forming a community around gardening too. It is God who plants the garden of Eden and asks human kind to tend it. And it is God we hear walking in that garden in the cool of the evening, not just enjoying what has been planted but looking for Adam and Eve so that they can enjoy it together.

In gospels we are introduced to the risen Christ as the gardener of the new creation. To be part of God’s new creation we once more walk in fellowship with God and with each other, fully mindful once more of our call to tend God’s garden and make it flourish.

Gardening breaks down barriers that can destroy community. Barriers of race, social strata, and age. In the garden we are all one. We wear our oldest clothes, so no one can tell the rich from the poor. We listen to the wisdom of grandparents who had their hands in the dirt long before we were born. And we rub shoulders with people of every tribe and nation because to get the big jobs done we need every will hand and every able body.

Hospitality at the Mustard Seed House

Hospitality at the Mustard Seed House

The other place most important community forming practice is hospitality and the sharing of food together. In the gospels we find Christ constantly sitting down to table to enjoy community around hospitality and food. Even after the resurrection, hospitality plays an important part in his interactions with the disciples. One of my favourite bible stories is the resurrected Jesus making breakfast for friends. (John 21:9)

Like gardening, the sharing of food can break down barriers as we see profoundly portrayed in the wonderful film Barbette’s Feast.

It is no wonder that the central sacrament of our faith is the breaking of bread and wine, something that was once more than the symbolic sharing of a rice wafer and a sip of wine or grape juice. The last supper must have looked a little more like what Sara Miles does in her book Take This Bread. The bread and wine at communion becomes tons of groceries, piled on the church’s altar to be given away and in the pages of her book we find the most unlikely people sitting down to dinner together – church ladies, bishops, schizophrenic street people, thieves and millionaires.

What do you think? Where do you find community? What for you are the most community enhancing activities?


The Art of Leading Spiritually – Why are we Leading?

Starfish at Esperanza Canada

The art of leading spiritually

Why Are We Leading?

This post is part of series on Leading Spiritually. Before reading this you may want to check out the first post in the series: The Art of Leading Spiritually – An Invitation to a Journey

Most of us aspire to be leaders. We want to be noticed. We want to feel successful. As Christians we want to know that what we do makes a difference in God’s world. I wonder however if in our striving towards these leadership goals we sometimes miss God’s purposes for us as leaders.

To know how to become good spiritual leaders we need first to understand the purpose of leadership not from the perspective of the secular world or even from the perspective of the religious community but from God’s point of view. A good place to start is with Jesus‘ last prayer to his disciples before his betrayal and crucifixion.

I am praying not only for these disciples but also for all who will ever believe in me through their message. I pray that they will all be one, just as you and I are one – as you are in me, Father, and I am in you. And may they be in us so that the world will believe you sent me. I have given them the glory you gave me so that they may be one as we are one. I am in them and you are in me. May they experience such perfect unity that the world will know that you sent me and that you love them as much as you love me.(John 17:20-23)

Jesus invited his disciples into a journey towards unity with God and with each other. The challenges of listening together, struggling together and praying together moulded them into a richly diverse loving community that resounded with the Spirit of God and as a consequence turned the world upside down.

No wonder Jesus spent more time developing a community of followers than he did preaching. Missiologist Lesslie Newbigin explains: “…the center of Jesus’ concern was the calling and binding to himself of a living community of men and women who would be the witnesses of what he was and did. The new reality that he introduced into history was to be continued through history in the form of a community, not in the form of a book.”

Early Christians believed that to live by the law of love that Jesus called them to required community because we cannot practice love in isolation.

They reasoned that as the essential nature of God is love and because it is impossible to practice love in isolation, God the Trinity – Father, Son and Holy Spirit – must be a model of perfect community, a perfect harmony of loving relationship.

Gilbert Bilezikian in his book Community 101, further elaborates this understanding. “Since God is Trinity he is plurality in oneness. Therefore, the creation in his image required the creation of a plurality of persons. God’s supreme achievement was not the creation of a solitary man, but the creation of human community.”

He goes on to explain that this last prayer of Jesus with his disciples is a prayer for community. “The oneness that Jesus prayed for was not mere unity. It was the oneness that reaches deep into the being of God and finds its source in the relationship between Father and Son. Jesus is asking for the restoration among humans of the oneness that had originally been entrusted to them in creation, a oneness made in the image of the oneness within the Trinity.”

This understanding of God and of God’s purposes for us invites us to rethink everything including the function and form of leadership. In fact it turns our leadership models on their heads.

Spiritual leadership is not about our own advancement or success. The central purpose of spiritual leadership is to become co-creators with God in bringing into being a community that is at one with God and with each other. Together we can shine with the presence of Jesus and model the love of God in such a way that others are drawn to believe in God.

This doesn’t require a charismatic out in front personality that hopes everyone will catch their vision, follow and obey. It requires a community that is willing to journey together into the ways of God. It recognizes that leadership is a function of the whole community. As we listen together, discern together, struggle together and pray together we learn to grow together into that restored community of love and mutuality which does indeed reflect the image of the oneness within the Trinity.

(Coming tomorrow – Where are we leading)

The Art of Leading Spiritually – An Invitation to a Journey

Starfish at Esperanza Canada

The art of leading spiritually

The Art of Leading Spiritually

What does it mean to be a spiritual leader? Why do we lead and where are we heading? What was it that made Jesus leadership special? These are all questions that have revolved in my mind over the last few weeks as I have reflected on my own leadership and evaluated where I am at and where I need to grow into the future. Let me say up front that much of what I share over the next couple of weeks will, to a certain extent, be me thinking out loud. I want to grapple with important questions about why, where and how we lead and hope that you will join me in this journey.

Mustard Seed Associates is going through some huge transitions at the moment. In the next couple of years our team here in Seattle will probably double in size and we will also begin to establish the Mustard Seed Village community on Camano Island. Our Board is also going through transitions as we grapple with the new skills that are needed to move us into the future.

Mustard Seed Associates is a community not a program based organization. We see both our staff team and Board as spiritual communities that discern and carry out the will of God for our organization. We believe that everything we do should flow out of our involvement together as community. We also want to foster spirituality that draws followers of Christ into a deeper relationship with God not alone but as a community.  That is one of the reasons I am attracted to monastic communities and the liturgical calendar. Both of these provide tools that draw us into community with God’s people around the world.

The Mustard Seed team also wants to encourage innovation that enables us to create new ways to advance God’s kingdom purposes and engage tomorrow’s challenges. That kind of creativity only occurs in community.  In many ways MSA provides a networking hub for many expressions of faith and community. Shane Claiborne once described us as cross pollinators. We draw people together across generations, denominations and cultures connecting and equipping them to create their own models that can transform their cultures by both living differently and making a difference for God’s kingdom.

To be honest in some ways I am less sure now of what Godly leadership is meant to look like than I was 10 years ago partly because I realize that spiritual leadership is not a job but a journey. It is a journey into intimacy with God. It is a journey into the kingdom of God. It is also a journey into the company of others. Spiritual leadership is not about individual success, in fact I am not sure that it is about individuals at all. Spiritual leadership is about community, about enabling others to become the people God intends them to be so that together we can become the community of shalom that God intends us to become.

It is probably fairly obvious that my ideas on spiritual leadership look nothing like the secular model of leadership we so often applaud. Our modern idea of leadership, even of Christian leadership is often a very hierarchical model, based on power and prestige. Success is often judged by growth in numbers rather than in spiritual maturity. Sadly this is the model that most of us know and adhere to without even thinking about it.

So I hope you will join me in this journey of exploration and discovery as we discuss the whys, wheres and hows of what it means to lead spiritually.

Little Flowers Community

Little Flowers Community Winnipeg Manitob

Little Flowers Community Winnipeg Manitob

Today’s post is the last in a series by Jamie Arpin Ricci around the themes of his just published book The Cost of Community. I loved this book and would highly recommend it to you. Jamie is an urban missionary, pastor, church planter and writer living in Winnipeg’s inner city West End neighbourhood. He is planter & pastor of Little Flowers Community, in the inner city of Winnipeg. Jamie is also forming Chiara House, a new monastic community. He is a third order Franciscan with The Company of Jesus and is founding co-director of Youth With A Mission (YWAM) Urban Ministries Winnipeg with his wife Kim & son, Micah.


Little Flowers Community

When people learn that I have written a book that features our inner city church plant, Little Flowers Community, it is not uncommon for people to say something like: “Wow!  It must an exceptional church.”  And I always feel torn as to how I should respond.  On one hand, they are right- my community is exceptional!  The people are amazing, gifted, kind, generous and passionate.  Yet, truth be told, my perspective on my church is about as trust worthy as my view of how exceptional my 3 year old son is.  I am clearly and unapologetically biased.

However, on the other side of the coin, I know that when people say this, they often means something like, “Wow!  Your church must be a happening place with vibrant ministry and cutting edge worship.”  After all, if it is worthy to be a central character in a book, it must be a cut above the rest.  The truth be told, one of things I love about Little Flowers Community is that- while we are exceptional in many ways- we are underwhelmingly exceptional (and at times, exceptionally underwhelming).  Don’t get me wrong, I am not speaking ill of our group.  Rather, it is entirely what we want to be!

As I participate in the life of the community, I am often moved by the depth of relationships that have developed.  What is most exceptional about that, however, is that it is not because we’ve made such relationships our primary focus.  Of course we work on it a great deal, but the depth of relationship- the trueness of the community- is, instead, a by-product of our genuine attempt to live the life of Christ together.  As we explore and engage Jesus’ example and teaching (especially in the Sermon on the Mount), we begin to die to our isolated, dis-integrated selves and begin to be united together as a community- specifically, as the Body of Christ.

So many of people today go to great lengths to discover their place, to find where they belong.  Again and again, I see the raw longing for community that pervades our culture, even (sadly) in many parts of the church.  Far too many well-intentioned churches and ministries seek to serve that need as a primary means of outreach.  While much good can come of it, I genuinely believe that the truest way to the kind of community we need is through Christ- along the path that leads daily to cross and through to resurrection life together.

When people hear the title of my book -“The Cost of Community: Jesus, St. Francis & Life in the Kingdom“- many presume that it will be a book that talks about the practical dynamics of building and sustaining intentional community.  While books like this are much needed (and I can recommend several), that is not what you will find in my book, at least not explicitly.  Instead, it is an invitation to life of shared obedience to Christ that will transform your life and draw you into genuine and devastatingly costly community.  To those looking on from the outside, it might not meet the criteria of what ranks as exceptional, but it will be true, real and full of life.

I thank God daily for the community He has shaped us into.


St Francis of Assis – by Jamie Arpin Ricci

St Francis of Assis

St Francis of Assis - beyond bird baths and sound bites

Today’s post is the second in a series by Jamie Arpin Ricci around the themes of his just published book The Cost of CommunityJamie is an urban missionary, pastor, church planter and writer living in Winnipeg’s inner city West End neighbourhood. He is planter & pastor of Little Flowers Community, in the inner city of Winnipeg. Jamie is also forming Chiara House, a new monastic community. He is a third order Franciscan with The Company of Jesus and is founding co-director of Youth With A Mission (YWAM) Urban Ministries Winnipeg with his wife Kim & son, Micah.


St. Francis of Assisi

In many ways, beyond bird baths and sound bites, I only became really familiar with St. Francis of Assisi after watching the 1972 Franco Zeffirelli film, “Brother Sun, Sister Moon”.  A loose retelling of the early part of Francis’s life, the movie borrows strongly from cultural themes of the 1960’s & 70’s.  In other words, Francis is something of a peacenik, hippy, love child (albeit, a celibate one).  When I first saw the film, I loved it- moved by the beauty and poetry and devotion of the young saint, identifying with his dissatisfaction with the nominal expressions of faith around him.  The story captured me and drew me into the life of St. Francis.

As the years went by and my exploration of St. Francis and Franciscan spirituality/missionality deepened, I began to see how inaccurate the film had been.  Of course, every film made about a long past era inevitable (even necessarily) borrows from current contexts to allow the viewer to more meaningfully enter in.  However, I found myself increasingly troubled by how this version neutered Francis, making him a loveable, gentle eccentric.  The Francis I was discovering was bold, uncompromising and excessively radical in his devotion to Jesus.  His powerful example was being watered down in the film!  And so, I stopped watching the movie altogether.

Several more years have past since then and something strange has happened: the movie has grown into my heart once again.  Is it any less misleading?  No, my concerns are still as strong as they once were.  And yet, I cannot help but feel a strong sense of gratitude for this film.  After all, it was this simple and accessible telling of Francis’s life that helped me on a journey that would alter the whole course of my life.  Without it, I wonder where I would be today.  And so, I accept it for what it is and forgive it for what it is not.

I have also come to realize that my journey with Christ has had a similar trajectory.  The Jesus of my childhood looks very different than the Jesus I follow today.  Having more to do with living a moral life and providing a means to avoid hell, believing in Jesus then looked different to following Him now.  I was taught nothing of His call to live justly.  Faith was largely a private, personal piety you devoted oneself to.  The essential communal expressions of Christianity were all but unmentioned.  One might think I follow a different God altogether.  And yet, how can I begrudge a tradition that ultimately led me to active relationship with God and a place within His chosen people, the Church?

Please understand- I am not suggesting my past faith is something I have grown out of or above.  As we consider our past- those places, people and choices in our faith journey that seem less than ideal, it is important that we embrace the discipline of gratitude.  Such thankfulness does not ignore nor deny the failings that were there, but failing to be grateful denies the honesty of our journey towards Christ.