Monday, July 6, 2015

River City Community Church: A community recalibrating together



I don't often share the more behind-the-scenes social media and blog management work I do because it's just that: behind the scenes.

But this project is allowing me to continue a project that I started months ago for RELEVANT Magazine, one that I spoke about on Lisa DeLay's "Spark My Muse" podcast and that I hear resonated with a lot of my friends, social media followers and blog readers. It is allowing me to profile some churches that are changing everything, churches that are putting hands and feet to Jesus' words, churches that are being the church. It's telling a fuller story, including those stories that don't normally grab headlines (not that those aren't important – I write those stories, too).

It's the heart of OUTCRY, a concert tour seeking to reflect and empower the local church this summer in 12 cities around the country. The tour features artists like Jesus Culture, Hillsong United, Passion, Crowder, Kari Jobe and Trip Lee.

And it all kicks off in Chicago.


Early one Thursday afternoon in June, about 20 doctoral students from Fuller Theological Seminary gathered in the lobby of River City Community Church in the Humboldt Park neighborhood on the west side of Chicago.

They’d come from Pasadena, California, for a weeklong, intensive course and spent the morning touring River City’s space in a renovated warehouse. Now they were gathering for a question-and-answer session with several church leaders over jibaritos from a neighborhood restaurant.

The first question was one most of the students likely were wondering: What particular challenges does River City face as a self-described “multi-ethnic” church?

That’s because its “very rare” to find one church that is embracing both multi-ethnic and community development church models, founding Pastor Daniel Hill admitted to the group.

When the church first started in 2003, Hill, who is white, said its core team was warned, “You guys are trying to hold together some different church models that don’t normally go together.”

But reconciliation and neighborhood development are two of the three pillars that guide River City.

They also are part of the vision that attracted leaders like Pastor Carlos Ruiz and Brandon Green, a pastoral apprentice, to River City in its early years.


Tell me about your church: How is it inspiring you?

You can read my future church profiles on OUTCRY's blog. You also can contact me about your own freelance reporting and/or social media and blog management needs.

And you can read more from Pastor Daniel Hill on that visit from Fuller Theological Seminary on his blog.

Monday, June 29, 2015

How to spend a three-day weekend in Nashville



In the past few years we've witnessed a mass exodus: All of our friends moving from Chicago to Nashville. It's cheaper than Chicago, they say, and the arts scene is just as happening.

So we decided to visit Nashville over Memorial Day weekend, also known as our fourth anniversary. 

I don't think we'll be moving to Music City anytime soon. I was excited to catch up with my friends Leigh and Bethany, and the food and hospitality were outstanding, but that whole downtown situation was not for us – sort of like a weird, Southern Las Vegas. Although, to be fair, it's not like we hang out every night on the Mag Mile in Chicago.

Here are a few of the highlights of our trip, in case you're planning your own trip to Nashville:


Husk, 37 Rutledge St. Joel was committed to eating only Southern foods while we were in Nashville, and Husk is about as Southern as it gets. Not only did we get a taste of shrimp and grits and gooey hot water cornbread, pit-roasted chicken and Florida snapper, but also all the ingredients are sourced in the South. Not to mention, everybody was incredibly friendly, even bringing us champagne to make up for a longer-than-expected wait.

Barista Parlor, 519 Gallatin Ave. Barista Parlor gives hipster coffee places in Chicago a run for their money – mostly for its sheer hipster-ness. The "parlor" actually is a converted auto repair garage, with indoor-outdoor seating, a record player, bandanna napkins, macarons the size of your fist and a selection of coffees from some of the country's best roasters, like Intelligentsia, Stumptown and Counter Culture. We drank bourbon barrel vanilla and salted caramel whiskey lattes and split an order of biscuits and gravy because Southern foods.

Parnassus Books, 3900 Hillsboro Pike. Author Ann Patchett's Parnassus Books is a bookstore by and for people who love books. Its shelves are full of books the staff has read and liked and can recommend. I ended up taking a book called "From the Ground Up," a kind of spiritual travelogue by a local author, to the Parthenon, where I sat on the steps and stretched my legs out in the sun and read in peace for a while.

Edley's East, 2706 12 Ave. S. If there were two things all our Nashville friends agreed we should do, they were these: (1) Go to Edley's BBQ, and (2) order the nachos. They were more potato chip than tortilla, covered in cheese and pulled pork and all manner of nacho-y goodness. Also not to be missed: the Bushwhacker (like a whiskey milkshake) and the awesome deck at the East Nashville location.

Las Paletas, 2911 12th Ave. S. My friend Leigh steered us straight on this one: We caught up with her over creamy, fresh-fruit popsicles, refreshing after a stroll through nearby Sevier Park. Related: Leigh has a whole list of her favorite places to eat in Nashville over on her blog, which I can vouch for, because we now are pretty much obsessed with paletas.

Corsair Artisan Distillery & Taproom, 1200 Clinton St. When in Nashville, Joel figured, one ought to visit at least one distillery. He chose Corsair, which is committed to keeping things small and artisanal and really is trying some interesting things. We sampled a Quin-Wit beer and Quinoa Whiskey – both brewed with quinoa, in case you didn't catch that from their names. And we came home with a bottle of red absinthe, infused with red hibiscus instead of the green anise that usually gives absinthe its distinctive color.

Station Inn, 402 12th Ave. S. Also when in Nashville, I reasoned, one ought to visit at least one live music show. And so we ended our trip in probably the best way possible: the Sunday night bluegrass jam at Station Inn. It was loud and laid-back, everybody gathered around a circle of musicians picking at steel guitars and banjos and fiddles, and we ended up sharing a table with a family from the Chicago area who insisted we share their pizza and beer and told us stories about their strange psychic experiences.


What are your favorite places in Nashville?


If you're looking for more travel destinations, we visited Las Vegas for our first anniversary and Milwaukee for our second. We traveled for our second anniversary, too, but separately: Joel was at ICSC the weekend before, and I was at Renew & Refine the weekend after.

Photo: Follow me on Instagram.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

'It's time to take out the trash' (Crux)



By now, you probably have read Pope Francis’ encyclical – at least in part. But have you seen the movie trailer for “The Encyclical?”


For the rest of the story, read "It's time to take out the trash."

Photo: Crux.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Here’s what Obama revealed about his (mostly) nonreligious upbringing during the WTF podcast (Washington Post)



Nope, I can't believe it either. But here it is: my first byline on the Washington Post's Acts of Faith blog, edited by Sarah Pulliam Bailey, who is pretty much the best in the biz. (You may remember I mentioned Acts of Faith among my favorite religion journalism websites on Lisa DeLay's Spark My Muse podcast. Ask and ye shall receive, I guess!)


On Monday’s WTF podcast with comedian Mark Maron, President Obama addressed the tragic mass shooting last week at Emanuel AME church in Charleston.

He talked about health care and gun control, about his reputation in Washington for being “professorial.”

And, yes, he dropped the n-word while talking about racism, the comment that has so far drawn the most attention from the media.

But the president also talked about his upbringing in Hawaii and growing up while a student at Occidental College in Pasadena, Calif. That included the “corny” values his mother, Ann Dunham, had instilled in him as a young boy, and the mosques, Shinto temples and occasional Easter Sunday church services that formed the backdrop of his childhood.


For the rest of the story, read "Here’s what Obama revealed about his (mostly) nonreligious upbringing during the WTF podcast."

Photo: Flickr.

Monday, June 22, 2015

10 things Pope Francis said about the 'digital world' in his encyclical



Pope Francis' highly-anticipated encyclical on the environment was released last week, and I did what anybody in the unlikely position of freelance religion reporter/social media consultant would do: I live-tweeted the whole thing as I read through all 150-or-so pages in a day.

"Laudato Si," as it turns out, isn't just about the environment. With its rallying cry, "All creatures are connected," it also veers into a number of | social issues. (Alas, it does not confirm the existence of extraterrestrial life.)

Notable especially to our mission here in this TinyLetter to figure out how to use the Internet without losing our minds or our souls, it even has a number of things to say about that one way in which we all most obviously are connected – in the "digital world."

Here are 10 of those things.

1. Slow down.

"The speed with which human activity has developed contrasts with the naturally slow pace of biological evolution."

2. There's more to life than social networking.

"Technology ... proves incapable of seeing the mysterious network of relations between things and so sometimes solves one problem only to create others."

3. Live wisely, think deeply, love generously.

"When media and the digital world become omnipresent, their influence can stop people from learning how to live wisely, to think deeply and to love generously."

4. L O G  O F F .

"The great sages of the past run the risk of going unheard amid the noise and distractions of an information overload."

5. Wisdom comes from relationships, not data.

"True wisdom, as the fruit of self-examination, dialogue and generous encounter between persons, is not acquired by a mere accumulation of data which eventually leads to overload and confusion, a sort of mental pollution. Real relationships with others, with all the challenges they entail, now tend to be replaced by a type of internet communication which enables us to choose or eliminate relationships at whim, thus giving rise to a new type of contrived emotion which has more to do with devices and displays than with other people and with nature."

It's been a long time between issues No. 1 and 2, but Get the 'Net is back!

Click here to read the rest of this list in my TinyLetter for those of us who read the comments, and enter your email address below to have it delivered directly to your inbox every month.





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Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Photo: Made using Unsplash and Canva.
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