Why Being Spiritual may be More Important Than Being Religious by Rob Rynders

Grace cathedral San Francisco

Yesterday my friend Steve night posted a link to this video. It seemed so appropriate in our discussion of creating sacred space that I thought many of you would appreciate it too. Sacred space as someone comment yesterday is where the soul goes and that is very much reflected in this video. We need to get our souls (and our bodies) outside churches and into the streets to discover the sacredness already present in our neighbours and our neighbourhoods. We need to rediscover the sacredness of those third places where people gather.


More Insights from My Parish Collective Friends

Toward an architecture of place

Toward an architecture of place – via project for public spaces

It is easy for me to get distracted and I must confess that since the Inhabit conference I have found it even easier. My friends at the Parish Collective keep posting such interesting articles, examples of what creative ordinary people are doing in their communities. It is both inspiring and energizing so I thought I would share some more of what I have learned this week.

Continuing the Conversation: Toward an Architecture of Place and Toward an Architecture of Place are two articles well worth reading.

We believe that the  iconic design movement, which defines our architectural era, must integrate a sense of place into its work. When the bold idea of place takes hold in modern design, cities will become more livable, sustainable and authentic.

Now it is time to watch Paul Spark’s video on Land and the Baptized. produced by Work of the People. Paul is always an inspiration to me and his insights are well worth reflecting on.

OK now download this great resource from the New American Dream.

New American Dream Guide to Sharing

And finally this is a very inspirational video to watch too. I love the comments she starts with: There is no failure – creativity comes out of chaos. Gratitude trumps fear.

And Paul Spark’s comments:

The only stories of heroes most people have in common are the ones they watch on TV. But in our neighborhood a lot of us have stuck around long enough to see the characters who deserve to be called “hero” because of the way they live their lives, and what they’ve overcome. In our town stories are told about their lives, about their character, about their courage, and about how their acts of imagination bring power to the people. My friend Patricia Lecy-Davis is one of those kind of heroes.

Salvation in the Neighbourhood – Creative Ideas from the Parish Collective.

The Inhabit conference which the entire MSA team attended this last weekend was one of the best conferences I have been at for a long time. So many creative and committed Christians gathered in one place inspiring each other with how they have seen their neighbourhoods transformed. Many of us are being stretched in our faith and life practices as we grapple with what it means to be the shalom of God in our communities.

I have been following with great interest the continuing conversations and story sharing that is occurring on the Inhabit Connect facebook group too. To encouraging to hear about the ways that God is planting mustard seeds that are growing and producing fruit.

I particularly enjoyed this video by Paul Sparks this morning. Do listen to the whole video – the end of the interview is particularly inspiring.


And this is a great article by Craig Goodwin over in Spokane – hope to have him over for a conversation at the Mustard Seed House some time


This one is very close to my heart as I strongly believe that we need to encourage our urban centres to become more self sustaining. it is an inspiring and imaginative way to use an old warehouse in Chicago


A great website worth exploring – the work of Candy Chang an artist, designer, and urban planner who explores making cities more comfortable and contemplative places.

And finally a story about a church helping to develop a grocery co-op in an impoverished community.

Learning to be the presence of God is part of what salvation is all about. God desires wholeness not just for us as individuals but for the entire human race as a community. And people like those who attended the Inhabit conference are busy planting seeds and light beacons that are quietly transforming our world.


Snapshot Inhabit 2012 – Andrew Wade

Inhabit is over. Great fun, great fellowship with friends old and new and much to think about. Here is a snapshot from MSA team member Andrew Wade. A great event to be a part of. Will let you know as soon as we have the dates for next year.

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.

Inhabit Conference 2012 is Coming

InHabit Conference 2012Seattle, Washington – April 20-21

There are not many conferences that I look forward with great anticipation, but this is one of those rare ones. It will be an opportunity to be stretched, and enriched, a chance to gather with friends and make new ones and above all a chance to see God at work. I hope that you can join us.

Here is what Paul Sparks, one of the conference organizers has to say:

Why Inhabit 2012?

For the beginning of a New Parish Awakening

Something wonderful is rumbling under the surface. Join practitioners from all over North America who are moving toward more local and embodied forms of being the church in everyday life.

For an end to Consumer Church

The day of passively attending church events for individual self-help and entertainment must stop. It’s time for faith communities that actively participate together in weaving a robust fabric of care in real places.

For an end to Colonial Mission

The results of arrogant decisions that church leaders have made – decisions that affect communities where they are not members – have driven us to inaction. It’s time to reimagine mission through faithful presence and everyday friendship.

For an end to Information-based Formation

We have imagined that instructing the right ideas and doctrines is the primary mode of discipleship. We have underestimated the transformative power of a full-bodied practice of the ways of Jesus. Action is primary to reflection.

For the beginning of Rooted Collaboration

When links form between small pockets of local care something BIG happens. Connect with hundreds who are discerning how to follow the Spirit into particular places and link across cities and around the world for collaborative support.

MSA Happenings – We are Building a Networking Hub

Many hands make light work

Many hands make light work whether we are building a network or a pole barn

MSA – A Networking Hub

A couple of days ago a local pastor told me that he saw MSA as a community hub and matchmaker that networked like minded people and ministries.  This summer has certainly exemplified that.   We have been both encouraged and blessed by the many opportunities to bring like minded people together sharing creative examples of what others are doing and stirring peoples’ imaginations to create new and innovative possibilities for their own lives and ministries. The momentum of the Mustard Seed Village Project is accelerating, the MSA team is growing and God is providing resources in remarkable ways.

Our summer networking began with the Wild Goose festival in June and progressed through our recession readiness session in conjunction with the Diocese of Olympia of the Episcopal Church, the Washington Association of Churches, and the Parish Collective.  In August Tom and I also spoke to Reformed Christian Educators on re-imaging K-12 education preparing kids to live and serve in a much more uncertain future.  We also led a creativity workshop for Kent Covenant Church, and participants came up with some very innovative ways to live and serve God in there community which is one of the most ethnically diverse in Washington state.

This last weekend we held another significant networking event, bringing together members of the  Parish Collective, Seattle School of Theology and Psychology and Seattle Mennonite church for a discussion about the role of the church in local and regional sustainability.  We hope to meet again in October and expect that in the coming year this will become a hub for networking many who are concerned, as we are about economic, environmental and spiritual sustainability.

Jubilee and new Beginnings

Our 20th annual Celtic retreat on Camano Island brought together an incredibly diverse group from Canada and U.S.  It was a very moving event with great enthusiasm and anticipation for the development of the Mustard Seed Village. Our theme of Jubilee and New Beginnings was significant for many attendees.  And for us personally the new beginnings were profoundly celebrated in a very meaningful ceremony on the recently cleared land that roughly marks where the pole barn will be erected. We drove a pole into the ground and then prayed for the new beginnings in construction of the Mustard Seed Village and fulfillment of the vision God has given us. You can view more photos from the retreat here or check out liturgies from the retreat here and listen to reflections from first time attendee Owen Brown here.

We are still on track to launch the SEED Semester Away Program in partnership with Creation Care Study Program September 2012.  Tom and Forrest Inslee have worked with a curriculum advisory group to design a unique curriculum which will enable students to:

  • Increase their understanding of environmental, economic, political, societal, and religious issues facing our troubled planet and learn to anticipate some of the new challenges likely to face both society and our endangered planet tomorrow;
  • Learn about and work with groups, like A Rocha and Sustainable Bellingham, that are creating innovative responses to these challenges.  We hope this will inspire the students to create their own ideas of how to enable local communities to fashion sustainable economic and agricultural networks wherever they choose to live.
  • Experience co-housing and other eco-villages in the northwest. We hope this will ignite their imagination to create new models of community for their lives that are more sustainable environmentally and economically after they finish college. We also hope these new models not only enable students to free up more time and resources to invest in advancing God’s purposes, but also to more authentically reflect the values of God’s new creation in their community-based lifestyles.

New Ideas and Beginnings for the Future

All of us on the MSA team are passionate about the need to provide resources that prepare us to live as more effective followers of Christ in these volatile times.  We want to continue providing publications, hosting events and networking opportunities that enable all of us to create innovative responses to the challenges of both today and tomorrow and are excited about the emerging possibilities for the coming year.

This year we are expanding our Advent resources to include a daily devotional guide as well daily reflections at Godspace, both drawn from our worldwide network of authors.  We expect that this will be the first in a series of devotional guides designed to encourage us to grapple with the challenges of our turbulent world and provide tools that strengthen our faith.

In January 2012 we plan to relaunch a new monthly e-zine called  Imagine That – creating mustard seeds of change, hope & new life.  This will be a place not only to relate creative examples but also to stir imagination and awaken creativity that enables us to imagine and create appropriate responses for our own locations.  We encourage you to frequent our website and Facebook pages, contribute your ideas and comments so that all of us can be enriched and better equipped for the future.

Growing the Mustard Seed Team

We have also been blessed with new volunteers here at the Mustard Seed House. We have a new book keeper, Nancy Merklinghaus, and an executive secretary Bonnie-Jean Heather both of whom are a huge blessing to our growing ministry.

However we expect that the MSA team will continue to expand in this coming year.  We are currently looking for student interns and a garden manager  And there are other possible collaborators and additions to the team for the Mustard Seed Village on the horizon.

This is an exciting time of growth and new beginnings for Mustard Seed Associates.  We appreciate your prayers and support as we move towards the development of new resources, the launch of the Mustard Seed Village and the relaunch of our monthly ezine.

If you would like more regular updates please consider  joining the MSA mailing list or  join us on facebook or

Recession II Ready or Not

Recession II- Ready or Not! 

Join us in creating new ways to reach out to those that will be hammered by the coming wave of state cut backs, the ongoing federal cutbacks and increasing global economic volatility at Saint Mark’s Cathedral, 1245 10th Ave. E. Seattle, 98102

 9:00 to 12:00 Saturday July 23, 2011

Please register now:

Recession II- Ready or Not!

  • We will have church leaders share what they are already doing to reach out to those hammered by the recession
  • We will identify some of the new  impacts of the state cutbacks on the poor and middle class
  • We will brainstorm new ways churches can reach out to those that will be impacted by these cutbacks
  • We will also identify creative new ways to help our people to reduce their own economic vulnerability to increase their availability to their neighbors
  • We will offer a process to track how successfully people implement their new  ideas

After Katrina numbers of churches created disaster response capabilities in conjunction with local governments. Thankfully a number of those churches were ready to respond to the horrific tornadoes and floods as a result of that preparation. We want to enable churches to also prepare for economic crises.

This is the third event we have sponsored to enable churches in our region to prepare for waves of economic distress impacting our neighbors.  In prior sessions people came up with ideas like starting a church “craigslist” posting available vehicles or rooms in their homes.  Saint Margaret’s Episcopal asked attorneys, counselors and spiritual directors to offer their services pro-bono to those in need.  Trinity Lutheran Church in Lynnwood offered classes in financial management and food processing and a number of churches have started community gardens.

This ecumenical event is co-sponsored by the Episcopal Diocese of OlympiaThe Washington Association of Churches , The Lutheran Public Policy Office , The Parish Collective and Mustard Seed Associates

Bishop Greg Rickel, from the Diocese of Olympia will welcome participants. Alice Woldt from WAC and Paul Benz from LPPO will describe the specific ways the new state cutbacks will likely impact our neighbors.  Younger church planters from the Parish Collective and leaders from other churches will describe creative ways they are already reaching out to those impacted by the first waves of the recession.  Tom & Christine Sine from Mustard Seed Associates will lead the brainstorming process.

We are counting on you to share ways your congregation is already responding and to imagine new ways we can reach out to those that will be impacted by the new waves of state cutbacks.

Parish Collective – Learning to Belong to A Place

Last night we met with Paul Sparks, Dwight Friesen and Ben Katt involved in the Parish Collective here in the Pacific NW as well as Steve Knight from the Transform network.  It was an exciting time of learning as we grappled with what it means to incarnate Jesus in the places within which we live.

The Parish Collective is one of the most encouraging networks I have come across for a long time as I strongly believe that churches of the future will need to be deeply rooted in their local communities.  It is very much in keeping with the emphasis on sustainability that we are concerned.  In fact the whole network is about local presence and sustainability and I would highly recommend it for all those who are looking for resources on how to be more locally present in your neighbourhoods..

They will be hosting a conference Inhabit together with Mars Hill Graduate School and Transform Network April 29th – May 1st.  Yes I know it is the same weekend as my spirituality of gardening seminars in Portland and Hood River.  So time to struggle with those choices between local and distant.

Here is how the Parish Collective is described:

Welcome to a collective of people who have begun rooting in neighborhoods and wish to develop supportive relationships that link their groups to:

a) Stories from similar contexts
b) Critical resources and guides
c) Friends and partners in their neighborhood, city, and region.

Learn more here