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The Power Issue VOLUME 4, NUMBER 4 // Fall 2012

Features 7 The Paradox of Power

Consp!re editors “How do we welcome one another into our fullest selves?”

8 Redeeming Power

Walter Wink “We come into a world already institutionally organized, often for injustice.”

13 Strength Together

Andrea Opel “To use my power well, I need to be aware of how we are each vulnerable and powerful.”

16 How Servanthood KILLS Community

John McKnight “Peddling services is unChristian–even if you’re hell-bent on helping people.”

20 Bad-Guy Games

Jen Pelling “Can strategies for peaceful resistance be as playful as a sword battle with shields?”

38 Power Tools

Martin Navarro “The words we chose have power.”

40 Battle of Bull Crap

Carolyn Griffeth “Neighbors exchanged smiles, laughter, and sighs of relief...”

DEPARTMENTS 42 Reviews Books and other resources

44 Breathing together: Leadership and Community David Janzen explores power dynamics in community life

46 Notes From Scattered Pilgrims News from our coconspiring communities.

49 Contributors

22 Only Some Have Power

Faith A. Neff “At five, I learned that my voice was powerless.”

25 Glass Ceiling

Leroy Barber “Many people of color are put in positions of power and influence—only to find that they have neither.”

28 Good Dreamers

Ruth Eunice Rodriguez de Orantes “Make the community the hero. Do small things for the future.”

30 Set Us Free!

Mel Leaman “My African American students are conditioned to deny their dignity, and I am conditioned to use my privilege.”


Luke Wilkinson “I’m ashamed of my deep-rooted desire to be in control.”

Photo by Nema Etebar

Find more stories and a study guide at You’ll love our new blog, where the power discussion continues! 5

The Paradox of Power P

ower lives in us and around us. It is present in every human interaction, and we all live within its constraints and paradoxes. Power is beautiful. It holds within it the possibility of newness and vigor and life. It is both fresh possibility and ancient knowing, unleashed in the world. People of faith hold to the goodness of Divine power as we work to transform ourselves and restore places of brokenness in the world. Power is contentious. Most of us perceive that we carry more (or less) of it, and we are disgruntled. We agree on who has it, or we disagree. We make things happen and things happen to us. We are in control—and absolutely not. Power can be blind. Those of us most comfortable in the dominant system are usually less cognizant of power dynamics, even as we unconsciously wield them to protect our social positions. Even if we agree with Lord Acton’s assertion that power is a dangerous principality (“Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely”), we still covet its influence and perks. Systems and institutions draw us. We create them absently, almost in our sleep. They have their own spirit. They are good, they are fallen, and they must be constantly redeemed. When we originally imagined an issue of CONSP!RE on the theme of power, one team member said: “To do that well, every article should be written by folks who are marginalized. To really understand power, you need to be powerless.” There was a great deal of truth in that insight. But in the end, we do not have all marginalized voices in this issue. Some writers are no longer with us: Walter Wink’s work on the powers within institutions seemed so critical to any examination of the topic that we share it as a legacy. To think of this as an issue on power is a misnomer. It is actually an issue on empowerment, and how we welcome one another into our fullest power. Underlying every article is our hope for a shared power that builds on our different strengths and gifts. As Ruth Orantes, a Salvadoran pastor, comments in this issue, a dream that is not a dream for one’s community is not a dream as all. It is merely ambition. We want better dreams than that. We believe that many of these voices help feed such dreams. —the editors 7

How Servanthood Kills Community John McKnight


n a small community on Martha’s Vineyard, every tenth person used to be born without the ability to hear. Everybody in the community, hearing and nonhearing alike, spoke a unique sign language brought from England when they immigrated to Massachusetts in 1690. In the mid-twentieth century, with increased mobility, the people ceased to intermarry, and the genetic anomaly disappeared.

But before the memory of it died— and the sign language with it—historian Nora Groce studied the community. Eighty percent of the nonhearing people graduated from high school as did 80 percent of the hearing. Ninety percent of the nonhearing got married compared to about 92 percent of the hearing. The groups had equal numbers of children, and their income levels were similar, as were the variety and distribution of their occupations. Then Groce did a parallel study on the Massachusetts mainland, considered to have the best services in the nation for nonhearing people. There, 50 percent of nonhearing people graduated from high school compared to 75 percent of the hearing. Nonhearing people married half the time while hearing people married 90 percent of 16

the time. Forty percent of the nonhearing people had children while 80 percent of hearing people did. Nonhearing people received about one-third the income of hearing people, and their range of occupations was limited. The one place in the United States where deafness was not a disability was a place with no services for deaf people. In that community, all the people adapted by signing instead of handing the nonhearing people over to professionals and their services. That community wasn’t just doing what was necessary to help or to serve one group. It was doing what was necessary to incorporate everyone. I’ve been around neighborhoods, neighborhood organizations, and communities in big cities for decades. I have never seen service systems that

Get Up and Walk, by Chris Cook, acrylic on canvas

brought people well-being, delivered them to citizenship, or made them free. When I’m around church people, I always check whether they are misled by the modern secular vision. Have they substituted the vision of service for the only thing that will make people whole–community? Are they service peddlers or community builders? Peddling services is unChristian— even if you’re hell-bent on helping people. Peddling services instead of building communities is the one way you can be sure to not help. We all know that at the Last Supper Jesus said, “This is my commandment: Love one another as I have loved you. There is no greater love than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” But for mysterious reasons, I never hear the next two sentences. “You are

my friends if you do what I command you. I no longer call you servants, because servants do not know the business of the one they serve. But I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything I learned from God” (John 15:12-15). Our goal is not service and servanthood, but friendship. I’m consistently impressed by how dangerous people who want to serve others are. The service ideology and its systems don’t work for three reasons. First, they constantly steal money from people who are poor. Over the years, I’ve added up how much money the four levels of government—federal, state, county, and city—target for low-income people in Cook County. It is a chunk of change. But when you look at what families actually receive 17

in cash versus how much they receive in services, it’s alarming. Less than 40 percent is actual income they can use. The rest, between 60 and 70 percent, are services provided by do-gooders who do well. Bureaucracy is not the problem. (Bureaucracy eats only about 6 percent.) The money goes to health-andhuman-service professionals: nurses, doctors, psychologists, psychiatrists, social workers, public-housing administrators, land-clearance officials, welfare workers. It doesn’t go to poor people. The second problem with service systems is that they base programs on “deficiencies.” I fight against “needs surveys” in low-income neighborhoods. Here’s why. I was organizing block clubs in West Side neighborhoods. I wasn’t very good, but people responded. They understood what I was saying, which was that together, as a community, we can solve problems. Then the antipoverty program came. Within three years organizing became incredibly difficult. The antipoverty program sent people out to interview people this way: “Mrs. Jones, we’re from such-andsuch. Can you tell me how far you went in school?” “Well, I just got though the tenth grade.” So they write on the clipboard, “Dropout. Two years.” Then they say, “I wonder if you could read this to me.” She looks at it, embarrassed. “No, I can’t read.” “Illiterate,” they write. Then, “You squinted your eyes. Do you have trouble seeing?” “Visual deficit,” they write. “Do you have children?” “Three daughters: fourteen, six18

teen, and eighteen. The sixteen-yearold has a child, and the eighteen-yearold has a child.” “Teenage pregnancy,” goes on the clipboard. Then they say, “We’re going to get you some help. We’re going to make a service center here.” And they cash in their needs inventory for a GED dropout-training center and three people who work there, for an illiteracy program with four staff people, for a neighborhood optometrist, and for a new teenage-pregnancy counseling program that gets the schools more money. This poor woman is a gold mine. That’s how she ended up getting one-third what the service system got. When I go back to this woman, organizing, I say “Mrs. Jones, I’m with the local neighborhood organization, and your neighbor told me that when her daughter was hit by an automobile, you took charge while she went to the emergency room. And when the tree fell across the street, you’re the one who came out and told people who to call. “She told me you’re the leader on this block. People believe in you. People follow you. That’s one of the most wonderful things in the world, because you have the opportunity to join with others like yourself to do more than just deal with these situations. Would you come to a meeting tonight?” “No” she says. “I’m waiting for the professionals in the white coats.” Service systems teach people that their value lies in their deficiencies. They are built on “inadequacies” called illiteracy, visual deficit, and teenage pregnancy. But communities are built on the capabilities of drop-out, illiterate, teenage-pregnant women like Mrs. Jones. If the church is about commu-

nity—not service—it’s about capacity not deficiency. Third, the service system displaces the capacity of people’s organizations to solve problems. The proliferation of an ideology of therapy and service as “what you need” has weakened community associations and organizations of citizens across the United States. Many churches and pastors have become the agents of systems. They themselves may not understand who they represent, but they refer people to systems. Instead of building community, they help take responsibility away from the community and give it to professionals. People who do this in the name of the church and of Jesus are community busters, not agents of Christ. Saul Alinsky referred to the first rule as the “iron rule:” Never do for others what they can do for themselves. Second, find another’s gifts, contributions, and capabilities. Use them. Give them a place in the community. Third, whenever a service is proposed, fight to get it converted into income. Don’t support services. Insist that what poor people need is income. The fourth rule is a subhead of the third. If those in power are hell-bent on giving poor people services rather than income, then fight for those services to come in the form of vouchers. That way the persons who must be served at least have a choice as to who will serve them, and there may be some competition. Fifth, develop hospitality. Abraham decided to follow a God who claimed to be the only God. That made Abraham and his people strangers in their own land. They journeyed as strangers through the world and so

developed some unique ideas about responsibilities to the stranger. Jesus’ disciples were also people who decided to become strangers—in their own land and in others. They built communities based on the knowledge of neighbors and strangers. That deepened their understanding of obligations to strangers and to hospitality. In every household, in every tent, the door was open—to the outsider, the enemy, or potential enemy. And the stranger was one with whom one acted not in service but in equality. Then a terrible thing happened in third-century Italy. They built a little room for stranger on the side of a monastery. They called it a hospice. The church took over responsibility for the stranger, and Christians forgot what had been unique about their community—how to welcome the person who was outside and hungry. The hospice took hospitality out of the community. “Hospice” became “hospital.” The hospital became Humana, a for-profit corporation buying up church hospitals. Communities and churches forgot about hospitality. Now systems and corporations claim they can produce it and sell it and that you can consume it. Struggle with all your might to reclaim the central Christian act of hospitality. You will have to fight your local hospitals and Humana. You will have to fight United Way and social services. They have made a market out of the temple, and we know what we are supposed to do: Get ‘em out! Or bring into the church the hospitality that is at the center of understanding a relationship as a friend not a servant. A church’s response to people in need should be hospitality, not services. 19

Only Some Have Power

Faith A. Neff



ower is an elusive word. I will tell you a story of a child who learned all about power at the age of three. I had determined that boiled cabbage did not meet the high standards of my young palate. As I sat in my vinyl-covered high chair, legs sticking out, I flung the cabbage away with pudgy fingers. I was immediately yanked from my highchair by the very hands that gave me life and carried by my leg down a dark, narrow hallway. My head dragged and banged on the floor along the way. At twenty, I asked my mother about this incident. I thought it was a dream. She confirmed that it really had happened. Her sorrow settled through the phone line like thick, dense fog. At three, I learned that some have power, and some do not. I was in the “do not� group. At five, I learned that my voice was powerless. When I was five years old I was molested by an uncle who was supposed to be caring for me. No one else was around. He took me into the bathroom and asked me to do stuff. Being five, I complied. Afterward, I felt dirty. I felt ashamed. I felt guilty. When I entered that bathroom I was five years old. When I left that bathroom, I carried with me knowledge of things far beyond my age. Later that evening I cried, alone, in my closet; my tears falling onto my favorite teddy bear. It was this moment, in a dark closet, that I learned what it is to be powerless as a girl, a woman. I learned that my body

Freedom by Angela Treat Lyon, oil on board

was an object to be used. Though I told my parents what had happened, and my father pulled a gun on my uncle, what happened was rarely spoken of. To add to the shame and guilt, there were family members who did not believe me and chastised me for lying. I learned what it was like to be thought of as a liar when I was actually the victim. There were other moments between the age of five and eleven in which I was subject to further molestation by various men. I never divulged these to my family. I had learned that my voice was powerless, that I was not to be listened to, and that what I said did not matter. I have carried silence for years, afraid to speak the truth. When I was twenty, I went on a date with a man from


work. He had charmed me for weeks, convincing me he was a good guy. He showed me pictures of his children, explaining that his ex-wife kept him from seeing them. We drove separate cars to a nearby restaurant and had a great dinner. He made me feel beautiful, sexy even, smart, and needed. I felt that I could trust him. He asked me if I wanted to ride with him to our next destination. Feeling comfortable, confident in my twenty-year-old discernment and wisdom, I decided it would be okay. It wasn’t okay. I was raped. More than once. Afterward, I was taken to my car and threatened with death if I told anyone. I never went to the hospital. I did not tell anyone about it until ten years later. What happened to me that night changed my life forever. Even the smallest things, like locking a deadbolt, became a ritual in my life. When I park my car, it has to be close to the entrance of the store to which I’m going. At night, it must be under a light. I carry my keys, ready to use them as a weapon. I have big dogs because they empower me. If I am in your community, I will not trust you instinctively. But it is never enough. As long as I have to be vigilant, aware of every inch of my environment, there will always be a piece of power that has been stolen from me. There will always be a reason to double-check that deadbolt. Does my story have a place within community life? Maybe more than you think. Nestled deep within the lines on someone’s face is a story waiting to be listened to. Take a look at the faces around you; at my own face. What might be perceived as hardness is merely years of developed stoicism. The squint in my eyes is not anger or disgust. It is fear. My lingering presence at your door is a request of friendship. Every day presents us with moments in which we can empower. We can practice vulnerability and humility. We can create a space in which it is safe to bare wounds and scars as I bare mine here. Will you hear me? Will you see me? We each offer salve to the wounds of the powerless. Will you tend to me? Our words can heal. Will you heal me? Our actions, restore. Will you help repair me? These are the questions of the powerless. These are my questions. 24

Glass Ceiling Leroy Barber


have always been a leader, and dreamed of being in a position where I use that gift for positive change. As a person of color, I’ve also imagined ways to do missional work differently to be more culturally relevant for all people. However, I’ve learned the hard way that there is nothing more difficult than being put in a position of leadership without actually being given any power. This is the situation many people of color find themselves in when asked to lead organizations that are or have been predominantly white. I’ve had many experiences where people used power well, and I learned from them. There are wonderful examples of people who have supported me as a leader of color. Yet those with power have often hurt me and other people of color deeply. To move closer to the beloved community for which we all yearn, I share some personal experiences—not to create separation but to open space for dialogue. As a veteran program director at a nonprofit, I enjoyed the respect and strong support of both staff and leadership. When I applied for an executive director opening, however, I was rejected. I’d hit a glass ceiling. Caring friends, both black and white, counseled me to leave. After much prayer, I felt called to stay. As it happened, the newly hired executive director moved on. I was first asked to serve as interim director, and subsequently hired as executive director. Finally, I had the leadership position I had long felt called to. The board gave me full support, and I felt affirmed by it. Unfortunately, its members could not control the larger community’s response to a person of color moving into the top executive position. Immediately, promised funding was pulled. On the surface, everyone was kind and supportive, but the underlying feeling was that, far from backing me, people were anticipating my failure. Several longtime partners retreated rather than investing further in the organization’s future, with major impact. Instead of hearing statements like, “This is great! You are president, one of very few persons of color at this level,” 25


I was constantly asked, “Is the organization going to stay in business? Are you going to be around?” Some of those who backed away, white males, were close friends. They were noticeably quiet. One told me I was just a “token.” I no longer felt supported, but needed to prove myself to them, day after day. Minorities, regardless of race, gender, or sexual orientation, are often put in positions of power and influence, yet actually have neither. The people who fund them, or with whom they share accountability, silently withdraw support in favor of leaders who share their own race, class, background, gender. Minorities are not given the same backing, confidence, or space to make mistakes. I don’t crave power, but I want the same opportunities afforded every other leader. One African American pastor observes that the more distressed and impoverished a neighborhood, the more likely organizations with white leadership are to be funded to work there rather than organizations led by people of color. Established by Josh McCallister, watercolor The very organizations that might work most effectively in these (usually non-white) neighborhoods are excluded by wary funders more comfortable with white leadership. Some wonder if the difference is skill-based, arguing that some people of color may lack certain management or administrative skills. This may sometimes be the case, but I know so many visionary white men who lack the same skills, and it is not seen as the deficit it is for me, a leader of color. I grew up in a poor Philadelphia neighborhood. I had no rich friends and no fundraising “ins.” I quickly learned that I had no influence. I would show up for meetings or make calls only to realize later that a conversation had happened before I got there. I discovered that others in the nonprofit community undermined me, telling folks the ship was not going to make it. The voices of white folk carry a lot of weight. This was painful and counterproductive. Social scientist Peter Drucker’s leadership insights were a lifeline to me: “Lead with your strengths and manage your weaknesses.” He gave language to my leadership instincts. What did I have? I’m good at urban ministry, so that became a strength I leaned on. At heart, I’m a pastor, so I know how to listen to people and care for them. I built on these two things: implementing a strong program and caring for the people around me well. In the process, I found both support and resources. The people I have connected with across race, class, and gender appreciated my leadership style as

a person of color. Our partners got to know me and caught my vision for the organization, and I learned that people share their resources through relationship. Many leaders feel threatened by relational power underneath them. It shifts dynamics. People make decisions around relationship and trust. We no longer buy into the paradigm that our role is to listen and execute what any given top person says. However, many leaders still connected to the old way of doing things want to influence everyone at every point. Because relational power subverts that type of leadership, it drives power-motivated leaders absolutely crazy. You see this with the Pharisees and Jesus. Jesus challenged their power structures through his relationship with so-called sinners. Authentic relational power overturns power from the top to create power together. I run the organization on strong relationships. I care for my staff and love them well, and I am authentic. I don’t micromanage them but trust their gifts and acknowledge their hard work. I have learned from many mistakes. Seven years later, we are strong in different ways. The organization is 30 to 40 percent people of color. We focus on how we serve one another and our neighbors, because true power exists in service. Once you serve one another, the bond goes deep. Mutual service is hard for middle-class people. They like to serve. Many leaders who are not white males (women and various races and cultures) lead differently than their white counterparts, usually reshaping and distributing leadership. I could relate anecdote after anecdote about this shift. I hear the pushback now: “I know black pastors who lead out of power. They are domineering and call all the shots.” I would argue they have learned that style from U.S. cultural norms of individualism, and that their influence is limited. It is my sincere belief that leaders of color who lead broad cross-sections of people usually distribute power well because they understand shared leadership. Many who hold positions of power seem pressured to give the illusion that they have all the answers. This is a false identity. I do not want to be a leader who knows everything, and I’d certainly not want to be led by that person. I am learning at all times, and I will never master everything. I have begun a process in my life to make sure as a leader I don’t portray myself as a know-it-all, but as a part of a team. Power is its own principality. It will claim you. But relationship transforms power, which is always with us, into collective empowerment. That is the leader I wish to be.


Eunice Rodriguez de Orantes



hen I connect with U.S. friends working in marginal communities, I often ponder our different challenges. In El Salvador, we live with no illusion that our national government is on the side of marginal or poor people. Early on, we learned that we could expect nothing good from it, and that our survival depended only on ourselves. Once we articulated that we wanted a different life, the only way to that life was the empowerment of our communities, and this led to civil war. Our oppressive history, in which rulers used power to subdue us for centuries, is something for which we are, ironically, grateful. That oppression helped us see reality clearly. We suddenly grasped that collectively we had the power to take care of ourselves. Yes, we wanted food, land, housing—but the basic and beautiful gift we most craved was human dignity. People joined the revolutionary movement because it gave them dignity. Power is always with us, yet so much depends on how we talk about and use it. The more relationships we create between us, the more afraid and threatened oppressive power structures become. Sharing power comes naturally to El Salvadorans because of our native heritage. Our indigenous ancestors had no concept of “my land” or “my children.” Yet fifty years of connection to U.S. culture has changed our culture. We import U.S. mass media and its accompanying materialistic values. (There is no El Salvadoran programming— your television is our television, and even our most remote rural areas have some access.) Our young people want smart phones and fancy clothes. They believe that what they wear, drink, or own will make them important. This erodes community and makes our work much more complicated. Poverty likewise undermines our ability to build community. Many women leave home at five a.m. to work in the maquilas [factories] and return home at eight at night. Such a struggle for survival leaves little time for community.

There are those who have a vested interest in perpetuating a culture of fear. Certainly we have violence in El Salvador, but there are powers that profit from exaggerating that violence. People die every day—but people also live joyfully and do kind things every day. When there is a culture of fear; when every building is guarded by armed security, people are afraid to go out. It is hard to empower a frightened community. Yet I now know that the most critical thing is that we offer one another dignity. I grew up in a poor family who never owned a home, and, at fifty, I don’t have my own house. I’m not sure I ever will. But I do not need such things to have dignity. I have so many good things— my family, a child, my community. I am simply grateful for this life. I try to build our church community as I would a family—reminding people of their gifts, affirming their capacity to lead, and helping even the smallest members find some critical task to do. We don’t need to wait on someone else to empower us. We do it for one another. Last Sunday, a family of four lead communion. The father has no voice. The mother is too blind to read. The parents held up the bread and wine while their children read. Their eucharist symbolized the body we need to become. We are in a liminal time in El Salvador. Unlike Nicaragua or Cuba, we did not “win” the revolution here, and so cannot recreate our social order from the bottom up. We signed some peace accords—very different. Our leaders and revolutionaries (FMLN) have had to come to the table with a right wing which has been running this country for more than two hundred years. Some criticize them, asserting that they have been compromised by power. I believe they are doing their best. It is not all we hope for. They are fallible human beings and they are in a system of power which resists all change. Some of them will die before they glimpse the change they dream and work for. Yet are we not each going to die before we reach that for which we dream? Our goal, then, is also the path we make each day. We strive to be faithful, even if we never reach our final goal. Do the work you do for your neighbor, community, or church. Make the community the hero. Do small things for the future. We teach our young people to dream. “Be a dreamer,” we say. “Never stop, and do something to make that dream real.” If we don’t carry dreams to make life better, life has no real meaning. But, we caution them, “Be good dreamers.” A dream that is only one of desire—an iPhone, wealth—is no dream. It is only ambition. To carry a dream for one’s community is completely different. Always dream for your community and give thanks for the path before you. All around the world are others like you, and one day we will no longer be a river. We will be an ocean.

29 29

News from our Coconspiring Communities Consp!re is sustained by communities and groups. Here is the place we talk about how we are doing and what we are doing, from the mundane to the inspiring. For contact information and description of each community’s mission and activities, go to We hope you will join our conspiracy of goodness and use Consp!re to support your circle, wherever you are! Anthony’s Plot (Winston-Salem, NC): Sukkot is the traditional Jewish harvest celebration acknowledging God’s provision in the wilderness. It bears witness to when our spiritual ancestors were displaced and homeless. In October, we spent the days and nights of Sukkot outside the public library, sharing public worship, open meals, and the experience of being un-housed, while witnessing to the transforming work of Christ ( Camden Community Houses (Camden, NJ): This has been a very violent summer in Camden. Our neighborhoods are reeling from the loss of many young people. We ask for prayer for Camden, and cities like it, which are forgotten—and bear the scars of struggle and poverty. Other, more hopeful, news: Chris and Cassie are expecting their second child in January! New life is a blessing! Chicago Catholic Worker (Chicago, IL): We are excited to announce the Emmaus House, a new intentional Christian community in Chicago’s North Lawndale neighborhood. Many of us were able to join the annual Midwest Catholic Worker gathering in September! Church of the Sojourners (San Francisco, CA): We welcomed three new apprentices and are celebrating the launch of a business, Now IT Matters ( Dathouse (Indianapolis, IN): We finally finished fixing up our first abandoned house and got our initial family moved in! We welcomed June, a new member born into the community, and we are making progress on converting the old strip club into our community center. We pray that God will, with divine timing, give us the wisdom to know when to move or wait (www. Dathouse dancing 46

Pictured above: Common Ground, Georgetown College Campus Ministry

Detroit Villages (Detroit, MI): This fall we enter the Academy for Missional Wisdom (with Elaine Heath and folks from Rutba House) to explore deepening possibilities for Wesleyan-informed intentional community here in the Motor City. Thanks for your prayers as we re-envision this movement and our role in nurturing it ( First United Presbyterian Church of Crafton Heights (Pittsburgh, PA): Over the summer, 65 children were accompanied by mentors and friends from our community during our five-week day camp. More than a dozen kids were able to go to “sleep away” camp for the first time! We’ve had several babies born this summer—and our friend Betty, who joined this faith community in 1926, turned 100 ( Georgetown College Campus Ministry (Georgetown, KY): We’ve welcomed a wonderful class of first-year students over the last few weeks. We also changed the name of our ministry to Common Ground. Common Ground is a space where students from different backgrounds come together to grow deeper relationships with God and others ( Hyaets Community (Charlotte, NC): We are welcoming several new members, including two in community internships and two permanent members to help us start a new, rural branch of our community outside the city. Please pray for us and our neighbors as we lost a thirteen-year-old friend to gun violence in Hyaets farming August ( ReIMAGINE! (San Francisco, CA): Over the past six months, we’ve been getting people together to share stories about when being God-conscious intersects with everyday life. These conversations have been sacred moments for Jesus followers in San Francisco to connect through shared experiences, rather than navigating differing ideologies. We are also excited about starting our “Practicing the Way of Jesus” workshops, with simplicity as the first topic this fall ( Relational Tithe (Oakland, CA): The past few months have been amazing times to enjoy life together—at a Wild Goose pig roast, a house party and board retreat in Minneapolis, and in each other’s homes. We’ve also been hard at work creating our new web application to connect people and their resources with others. October 21 marks the tenth anniversary of the Money Drop on Wall Street, one of the catalysts to the beginning of Relational Tithe.  We are excited about another season of imagination and celebration that another way is possible. Visit us, call us at 510323-2349, or email at ( The GAPS Community (Downey, CA): This fall, we will begin reclaiming clothing discards from our pay-what-you-will thrift shop (ClothesHelp) to make quilts for those who need extra warmth this winter in the L.A. area. If you would like to contribute to this effort, send us your 7” by 7” cloth squares (any style/color) ( 47

The Simple Way (Philadelphia, PA): Huge thanks to people who partnered with us as we gave out 650 bags of school supplies. A Giving of Life matching grant gave resources to our education program as well. We said goodbye to our bookstore manager, a neighbor named Maria who poured herself into many aspects of life at the Simple Way, and we prepare to welcome Dan from the UK as our newest resident in October. We invite prayer as we head toward our annual fall retreat and seek God’s direction for the future. Harvest parties, Thanksgiving turkeys, and Christmas toys march toward us (

More Coconspiring Communities: Alterna (LaGrange, GA) Alternative Seminary (Philadelphia, PA) Associated Mennonite Biblical Seminary (Elkhart, IN) Castanea (Nashville, TN) Centurion’s Guild (Honolulu, HI) Come Together (Canton, TX) Community of Faith (Fallbrook, CA) DC Area Community of Communities (Washington, DC) East Central Ministries (Albuquerque, NM) JustUs (Sioux Lookout, Ontario) Mercy Station (Anderson, AL) Missio Dei Community (St. Petersburg, FL) More Than Thursdays (Oakland, CA) Mulberry House (Springfield, OH) Nehemiah House (Springfield, MA) Reba Place/Shalom Mission Communities (Evanston, IL) Rutba House/School for Conversion (Durham, NC) Sacramento Conspirators (Sacramento, CA) Salado United Methodist (Salado, TX) San Rafael First UMC (San Rafael, CA) Servants Vancouver (Vancouver, BC) Solomon’s Porch (Minneapolis, MN) The Book Parlor (Spokane, WA) The Vine (Haverhill, MA) Tierra Nueva (Skagit Valley, WA) 48

Pictured above: Images from various coconspiring communities!

The Power Issue  

Power lives in us and around us. It is present in every human interaction. It is beautiful, it is contentious.The more comfortable we are in...

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