Walls and Borders: Setting the Captives Free VOLUME 3, NUMBER 1// Winter 2011
FEATURES 7 THE TRUMPET BLEW AND THE WALLS TUMBLED
“The good news is that walls are never too big to fall.” 10 EL BUEN COYOTE
“Reading Paul and the Gospel with undocumented immigrants, inmates, and ‘criminal aliens’ brings new life to worn-out texts.” 14 BODY AND BEANS OF CHRIST
“In the desert, Christ takes elemental form.” 15 THE KNOCK ON OUR DOOR
“Families wait for police to bang on their door and take their loved ones away.” 18 NO PAPERS, NO WORTH
“All my dreams for my children have gone to dust.” 19 THE BLESSINGS OF BABEL
34 THE CANVAS OF HISTORY
“Ours is a history of shadows and light, hope and despair.” 35 THE EYES OF THE WARDEN
“My dad taught me that there are many prisons. Most of them do not have bars.” 36 INSTITUTIONALIZED
“Too often, God’s people rebuild walls mimicking the old order.” 38 JOINING JESUS IN PRISON
Erich W. Kussman
“A light shone in this prison, and the chains fell off my wrists.” 39 AN HONEST LIFE
Jose Israel Garcia
“We can just be ourselves there.” 41 THE ELECTRONIC SHACKLE
“I felt nervous, like I was in another world.”
“Shall we speak of borders? Or frontiers?”
20 THE LEAST OF THESE
50 I WONDER
“Prison life is like combat. It has to be experienced to know it by heart.”
24 NO MAN’S LAND
“The major repeated that last part, enunciating each syllable. ‘Beheaded.’ ” 26 WALLS Bethlehem photos by Ryan Rodrick Beiler
44 BREATHING TOGETHER: ABOLISH FENCES! Jack Legg wonders what would happen if all the fences in our neighborhoods came down.
28 JUSTICE THAT RESTORES OUR LIVES
46 NOTES FROM SCATTERED PILGRIMS Our Co-Conspiring communities share what they’ve been up to.
“Restorative justice is a communal practice as old as the Gospel.”
32 PRISONS AND THE BOTTOM LINE
Katie Jo Brotherton
“Questions about why my friend might be moved to another state brought me face-toface with the prison business.” Flowers of Freedom, by Collin Rowland, photograph
Find the study guide for this issue on our website: www.conspiremagazine.com
The Trumpet Blew and the Walls Tumbled
e live in a world of walls. We put up fences around our suburban homes and bars on our windows. We place razor wire around our businesses and churches. We construct walls to keep immigrants from entering our country. Some are obvious: concrete and barbed wire. Others are subtle: picket fences and office cubicles; academic bubbles and gated neighborhoods; ugly looks and cold shoulders. We build walls with language (four-letter expletives or academic jargon or liberal buzzwords) and with what we wear, whether the dress code is business casual or hipster slick or anarchist grunge. All these social markers create insiders and outsiders. Nearly two million people in the United States are behind bars, the largest gated community in human history. Millions more are held hostage to security, racism, prejudice, and imprisoned by fear. The land that Jesus walked now houses the most advanced wall ever engineered. Jesus wouldnâ€™t be able to make his twomile pilgrimage from Bethany to Jerusalem because of the checkpoints. The Holy Land, cradle of three faiths, is one big gated neighborhood. But walls are never too big to fall. If the story of Jericho tells us anything, it is that walls can always come down. Our God is a God of liberation, with a pretty good track record for setting people free. Some of us are being set free from the ghettoes, and others from the cul-de-sacs; some of us are being set free from the slums, and others from the shopping malls.
Wall, by Anton Flores, photograph
Old Jericho falls without a weapon raised—joy, trumpets, and dancing were enough to topple those walls. When the disciples marvel at the incredible stone walls of the temple, Jesus reminds them not to marvel too much, for one day those stones will be scattered. Maybe this is the meaning of the tearing of the temple veil as he died on the cross: God setting free even the stuff held captive in the holy of holies. God is not to be bound to a cross or a temple or a flag. I love that heaven joke: It was a busy day there as folks waited in line at the pearly gates. Peter stood as gatekeeper, checking each newcomer’s name in the Lamb’s Book of Life. But the numbers weren’t adding up. Heaven was getting a little crowded. A bunch of folks were unaccounted for. Angels were sent to investigate, and before long two of them returned. “We found the problem,” they said. “Jesus is out back, lifting people over the gate.” Jesus told a parable about a wealthy man who built a wall and locked the poor outside, a story often known as “the rich man and Lazarus” (Luke 16:1931). Both the rich man and the beggar Lazarus (whose name means “the one God rescued”) die. Lazarus is saved, brought into heaven, and seated next to Abraham. The rich man finds himself in a lonely, isolated hell. He ends up asking God to send Lazarus on an errand of mercy for him. It’s a story loaded with irony, sass, and imagination. One of the interesting things about it is that, though the rich man is very religious and knows all about Abraham and the prophets, his religion does very little for folks like Lazarus, starving on the streets. Ultimately, the walls we build not only separate us from other people, but from God. In the story, Jesus exposes this truth about walls: They not only lock others out, but they lock us in. The poor are robbed of community and compassion, and so are the rich. The wealthiest countries in the world suffer the highest rates of loneliness, depression, and suicide. Walls lock us in a selfcentered world and steal from us that very thing for which we are made: to love and be loved. Ultimately, love topples all walls. This was Jesus’ beautiful promise to Peter: “The gates of hell will not prevail” (Matt. 16:18). Yet even a cursory study of gates reminds us that their very function is to defend. They are not part of the offensive team, but rather are constructed around cities, countries, neighborhoods, and homes as a defense shield—usually because we are obsessed with security and possessed by fear. Jesus’ assertion that the gates of hell will not prevail is scandalous, suggesting that even hell and death have no power. Grace crashes through. This is the promise we carry. The gates will not prevail. There are all sorts of gates and walls locking us in, holding us hostage. But we have a deliverer
and liberator. We should be storming the gates, hand in hand. The Book of Revelations tells us that in the New Jerusalem, the great City of God, “on no day will its gates ever be shut” (Rev. 21:25). The gates of the kingdom will forever be open. Who are the people you have written off, locked out, or boxed in? Maybe you’ve locked out the poor. Maybe you’ve locked out the rich. Maybe there’s no room for a conservative at your dinner table, or no welcome space for liberals. When we storm those gates and bring them down, we will finally see that both the rich man and Lazarus are better off. A few years ago, I was invited to speak on Veterans Day at a Christian school with roots in a historic peace church and known for its uncompromising commitment to nonviolence. It also hosted a sizeable ROTC program. My presence stirred up a storm of controversy. The social justice group printed T-shirts saying things like “Jesus was a pacifist” and “Who Would Jesus Bomb?” The ROTC planned to attend in full military fatigues and walk out. The walls were up. We prayed, and the Spirit showed up. By the time we were done, all of us repented of talking at each other rather than with each other. People shook hands, and it wasn’t simply a Polyanna-Kum-By-Yah moment. It was a crack in the wall. On another campus, the young Republicans and social justice club couldn’t get along. They finally decided that while they might never agree on ideology, they could agree that God didn’t want people to be cold on the streets. So they started making blankets together by hand and then going down to the city and wrapping them around the homeless. An act of compassion can bridge gaps left by many old debates. Jesus’ dinner table was open to tax-collectors and to zealots, religious elites, and down-and-out women of the street. The Kingdom banquet is all about holy-trespassing and offensive friendships. It knows that no one is beyond redemption—neither slave nor master, neither oppressed nor oppressor, neither prostitute nor chauvinist. All can be set free. As Paul writes, “Nothing can separate us from the love of God. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38-39). And that, friends, is really good news. —Shane Claiborne
El Buen Coyote Bob Ekblad
drive across the Skagit River, and head out across the fertile farmland of Fir Island on my way to visit don Feliciano, a Mixtec farmworker who pastors a Mixtec-speaking congregation called Iglesia de Jesucristo. I pass wintering snow geese and recently harvested potato fields, stopping where cars are parked beside three run-down trailers. People look nervous until a man recognizes me and says something in Mixteco.
Don Feliciano meets me at the trailer door, a dark, weather-beaten man in his late 50s, dressed in polyester pants, muddied work boots, and an insulated nylon jacket. He looks worried, tired. He tells me that it has been difficult pastoring the forty-eight families while still working full-time as a crew boss for a local farmer. “Mucho problema, the people don’t understand,” he tells me. “I visit families. Lots of drinking, violence between spouses. It’s difficult.” He tells me of terrible headaches that have kept him in bed. I offer to pray for him. After I anoint him with oil and pray with him, he tells me how all his people are illegal. “This is the biggest problem we face. Pray that God would help us get papers.” He tells me how U.S. brothers and sisters 10
from other churches he knows have been telling him that it is wrong to break the law. “This makes me feel bad. What do you think, Roberto? All of us are illegal. I thought at first that maybe you too were coming here to tell me that this is wrong that we are illegal.” I tell him that I believe that in the Kingdom of God there are no borders and that God views us all as beloved children. If salvation were about obeying the law, then all of us are damned. I tell him that I’ve been seeing Jesus more and more as our Buen Coyote. Jesus crosses us over into the Kingdom against the law, by grace. We cannot save ourselves through observing laws. Jesus liberates us, Jesus saves us. He doesn’t even charge, he just wants us to trust him and follow.
Moon Talk by Marion Rose, acrylic
Yet, even pastor Feliciano is living under the shadow of the dominant theology. This theology views God as a cosmic Customs and Border Protection (Border Patrol) chief and the church as his officers. I lament his correct perception that the mainstream church, much like the scribes and the Pharisees of Jesusâ€™ time, takes the side of State and the law rather than that of the people and Godâ€™s Kingdom. My view delights Feliciano with joy and encouragement in ways that are more visible than my prayers. I have always been attracted to coyotes, the wild dogs that wander
under cover of darkness throughout Skagit County. I regularly hear them howling in the woods outside our home. Each time, a chill goes up my spine. Though they have eaten two of our sheep, I cannot help but admire their wily, street-wise nature. They have learned to survive at the edges, much like the outlaws and indigents with whom I minister. Smugglers who lead people into the United States through the U.S.-Mexican border are named after coyotes. Nearly all immigrants from Mexico and Central America who do not qualify for visas have had to hire coyotes to smuggle them into the 11
United States. Coyotes meet their clients in border towns or barrios of large border cities like Tijuana and Ciudad Juarez. They take their cash (down payments in U.S. dollars) and set up the time to begin the perilous journey through the hills or deserts into the United States, “priests” offering a rite of passage into the land where tangible salvation is possible. Most every immigrant can tell you both good and bad coyote stories, much as they have good pastor and bad pastor stories. A bad coyote may knowingly lead people into bands of robbers, rape women, or abandon their charges in the desert. Some will hold people hostage in safe houses until family members pay their fees. Others are known to lock people into trucks or boxcars and even abandon them to their deaths. Good coyotes treat people respectfully and fulfill their obligations to guide people securely into the country. This includes guiding people to safe houses where they can eat, bathe, and rest. They may carry children, rescue lost immigrants, or provide food and water to stranded travelers. Coyotes all function to lead immigrants who lack legal immigration documents into the United States against the law—a role that provides a strong contemporary metaphor to Jesus’ role as Savior according to Paul’s theology. Jesus can be viewed as comparable to a coyote in his embracing— and symbolically crossing—people who cannot fulfill the legal requirements to enter legitimately into the Reign of God. Jesus’ eating with tax-collectors and sinners, healing 12
on the Sabbath, touching lepers, and speaking with Samaritans mark him as an alien smuggler. The Pharisees, scribes, and other religious authorities neatly parallel the Border Patrol and other law-enforcement agents, who consider it their job to keep “illegal aliens” out. Most of the immigrants with whom I work do not have the luxury of legality. They work using counterfeit residency and social security cards and drive without valid drivers’ licenses and insurance. In addition, many struggle with addictions to alcohol or drugs. Consequently they are constantly living in a state of legal and spiritual insecurity. Inspired by my visit with don Feliciano, I decide to further explore the image of Jesus as Good Coyote with a group of twenty-five Latino, Native American, and Caucasian inmates with whom I study Scripture. “Do you feel like you are unable to cross from where you are in your life right now to the new way of being that you desire?” Nearly everyone nods. Some talk of difficulties stopping smoking weed, using harder drugs, or drinking. Others talk about failing to meet child support, courtimposed fines, or complying with the Department of Probation. We read Romans 7:15-24, which describes the experience of failing to live up to the law. “For I know that nothing good dwells within me. I can will what is right, but I cannot do it. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do… Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” Everyone relates readily to this
realistic description. I ask the Mexican men whether there are barriers that keep them from coming to El Norte (North America). They talk freely about how it is virtually impossible to get permission to enter the United States legally unless you are a university student, from a wealthy family, or have a U.S. citizen family member who qualifies to sponsor you; and how it costs $2500 to $5000 to cross the border with a coyote. We talk about how impossible it seems to achieve our dreams or change our lives through our own efforts; how easy it is to give up and assume we must be damned. “So if we face impossible obstacles to getting out of debt, getting a driver’s license, a job if you are a felon, or acquiring legal immigration status, what hope is there?” I share Paul’s own answer: “Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus” (Rom. 7:25). “If this is true,” I ask, “then can we say that Jesus is like a coyote who crosses us into the Kingdom of God and brings us into favor with God even though we cannot legally do this ourselves?” I describe how Jesus is such a good coyote that he actually gets caught by the Border Patrol agents of his time while the law breakers run free. His work undoes the legal basis for us-them borders or barriers of any kind, destroying distinctions based on compliance with laws and making everyone children of God. “He preached peace to those who were far off and peace to those who were near; for through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. You are no longer strangers and
sojourners, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God” (Ephesians 2:1719). I sit amazed at the power of these words read in the heart of the jail and migrant farmworker communities. Reading Paul and the Gospel with an ear for “good news” to undocumented immigrants, inmates, and “criminal aliens” brings new life to worn-out texts. I am fully aware of other texts that emphasize the importance of being subject to governing authorities (Romans 13:1-7, 1 Peter 2:13). However, most broken people on the margins of society assume the Scriptures are only about lists of dos and don’ts and calls to compliance. Reading with people whose social standing, family of origin, addictions, criminal history, and other factors make compliance with civil laws or Scriptural teachings impossible requires a deliberate reading for and acting by grace, and often involves boldness and risk. We are people of another Kingdom, whose allegiance is to Jesus the Good Coyote. This is a call to live outside the camp, in solidarity with those who truly suffer exclusion, regardless of their circumstances. The Good News must be seized by faith as having the power to save, heal, deliver, and liberate. My own attempts to follow Jesus through accompanying today’s Samaritans, lepers, tax-collectors, and sinners have shown me the necessity of changing allegiances. Clearly-stated and boldly-lived solidarity brings great hope to people on the margins. Yet it must be announced, practiced, and celebrated, over and over. 13
The Least of These Philip Brasfield
n Matthew 25: 31-46, Jesus speaks clearly. Those who follow him must feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, welcome the stranger, clothe the naked, care for the sick, and visit those in prison. Those like me. Prison is not a place anyone would choose to live, yet millions of us inhabit its confined universe of concrete, steel, and razor wire. Antisocial behavior accounts for the presence of some, but most of us are connected to drugs, alcohol, abuse, and addiction. For the institutionalized, prison becomes the home one has never known: a place of conditional stability, safety, and solace from the grim realities on the outside. Here one can rely on being fed, clothed, given shelter from the elements, and sometimes provided with rudimentary medical care. Thus prison becomes a substitute life in a perpetual advent for death; a retirement plan for those on the extreme margins of society. Prison is a place of punishment and social ostracism, of condemnation and contempt. Here predators and prey exist cheek by jowl in a never-ending gestalt of opportunity and remorse.
While prison can be a place of true penance for those who seek it, and a place of redemptive suffering to amend terrible trespasses made against others, it is often only a grace when these happen. The vast majority of Americans 20
who have no contact with prisoners or who lack experience inside prisons have no idea what life behind bars is like. It is not like the movies or television. For most of us on the inside, prison is a place where human
The Good Shepherd, Bringing the Homeless Home, mosaic by Matthew Works
beings are routinely humiliated, abused, and deprived of basic rights as a matter of policy. Prison life is like combat: it has to be experienced to know it from the inside out; to know it by heart. People in cages donâ€™t matter much one way or another to those who keep them there. What matters to the guard-
ians of the peace and dignity of the state is to maintain their own power over inmates, and they enforce that power desperately and by any means necessary. When images of abuse of Iraqi prisoners by U.S. military officers in Iraqâ€™s Abu Ghraib prison captured public condemnation a few years 21
ago, they made almost no stir here behind walls, where variations of such kinds of abuse that so shocked the world are commonplace. Stress positions like ordering men and women to “catch the wall” (stand for hours in one place while waiting to talk to an official), or to be forced to sit naked on a concrete floor back-to-back while other cells are searched; to be driven to work at frantic, bent-over pace in the fields; to be strip-searched every day as you re-enter the prison from a wageless prison job (“lift your nuts, spread your cheeks!”) … these are all designed to kill the spirit. The threat of assault or injury by guards is real. When it happens, it is considered a justified “use of force” for prisoners too slow to obey orders. The taunts and racial slurs, the poor food, the lack of heat in winter or air conditioning in summer, the paucity of treatment for medical, dental, and psychiatric needs are but a handful of the struggles one awakens to each morning behind bars. Prisons exist under the radar of public scrutiny unless riots occur or hostages are taken, or particularly heinous conditions come to light through court actions. When abuses can no longer be denied, the negligible public reaction blames the abuse on “a few bad apples.” But abuse in prisons is never accidental. It is not something that just happened because of “inexperienced and poorly trained” personnel. Participation in abuse is a group process. It begins in basic training, where unquestioned obedience to authority is not 22
only encouraged, but demanded. It is frequently reinforced up and down chains of command until it becomes second nature, something expected of any guard who wants to fit in or be a bonafide “team player.” No one can avoid the fear, stress, anxiety, despair, and anger that permeate prisons like the stench of some slow-motion death. This is not a physical death (although that certainly happens). It is a kind of spiritual death that is as far-reaching as it is inescapable. Whenever men and women are continuously confronted with nonnegotiable condemnation of past actions for which there is no avenue of forgiveness or redemptive justice, redemption in its deepest sense is aborted and justice is forever doomed. Rehabilitation into society is then impossible. The crime of punishment in our prisons is that so many, inside its walls and out, miss the point. For these, prison is a matter of settling scores or exacting vengeance on one part of society using the the vagaries of law and order. If this is the goal, we feed a cycle of violence. Until the purpose and nature of prisons radically change from their present course, they will remain places where the minds, bodies, and souls of both the guard and the guarded alike are methodically destroyed in a single-minded obsession with punishment and retaliation instead of reconciliation. Jesus was no stranger to prison. Neither were his followers. The last place Jesus lived before Pilate handed him over to the lynch mob was prison.
In his final hours as a condemned criminal, before he was nailed up between two others fresh from death row, Christ knew he would perish ignobly and in utter disgrace. Not just being among, but being at one with prisoners was something Jesus didn’t avoid, but instead, intentionally embraced. Just as the last hours of Jesus’ passion were lived out in prison, so hundreds of those who followed him went into the mystery of their own passion, imprisonment, execution. Many of the New Testament epistles are penned in blood and tears from the depth of prison, an ironic source for a message designed to set humankind free from death. Jesus’ identification with “the least of these” enabled me to recognize those incarcerated with me not as strangers, but as brothers. It is to my unutterable shame that I might have never seen them as they are, had I not been sent down this river myself. Prisoners around me often ask, “What doesn’t the public care about us?” It’s a question for which I have no answer. How do we reconcile ourselves as Christians to the fact that we mindfully and willfully refuse to do that which Jesus tells us to do? To visit another means to spend some time with them, to “be” with them for awhile. That’s all. If one can overcome the encoded fear, the prejudice and bias surrounding those who are vilified and characterized as “other” for having been convicted of criminal activity and cast into prison, one would learn that what prisoners need and seek the
most is forgiveness. That forgiveness comes from God’s grace, but it comes through being perceived as made whole again: to be seen as another human being once more. In Learning to Sing in a Strange Land, Wesley F. Stevens writes, “Jesus, as One who suffered punishment and death at the hands of a worldly authority, has become a friend to those who mourn in the lonely exile of prison. Many well-meaning folks who decide to take Jesus into the prison are surprised to discover that he is already there.” Until my arrival, I feared coming to prison worse than I’ve ever feared anything. I didn’t know what to expect on death row. It didn’t take long for that fear to subside. After I got there and settled in, I was made hopeful by others who struggled as I did against the ominous twin weight of captivity and condemnation. It was a dark time. Some were crushed. Others were merely broken yet somehow survived, and wondered what to do with having been spared. Our fears blind us to the unexpected, to the possibility of being able to make it through the unimaginable. It is only through faith that we can dare overcome that fear. Yet there it is! That great transformation of Matthew 25. When our eyes are opened by the love and mercy of the crucified Christ, we recognize him as the stranger when we welcome her in. We identify him in his holy sickness and nakedness. And perhaps then, finally, we become fearless enough to seek him among those like me, here, behind these bars. Captive, and yet free. 23
News from our Co-Conspiring Communities CONSP!RE is sustained by communities and groups. Here, our Coconspirers share what’s happening, from new kids to a new world; from the mundane to the inspiring. For contact information and description of each community’s mission and activities, go to www.conspiremagazine.com. While there, join our conspiracy of goodness!
Anthony’s Plot (Winston-Salem, NC): We moved into the diverse Waughtown neighborhood of Winston-Salem last August, where twenty of us (four residents) share our lives and resources. We practice daily prayer, a meal and worship on Mondays, meetings each Thursday (“Plot-lucks”), and are actively committed to our neighbors and our homeless and incarcerated friends (www.anthonysplot.com). Carpenter’s Church (Lubbock, TX): We are joining others around Lubbock in moving toward a creative, just response to a pending curfew ordinance targeting several downtown locations utilized by those living on the streets. Pray—and let us know if you share interest, knowledge, or similar experiences! Contact email@example.com (www. carpenterschurchlubbock.org). Members of Carpenter’s Church Church of the Sojourners (San Francisco, CA): As we study Exodus, we find ourselves in a place suspiciously like Egypt, wondering whether we are the Hebrews, Pharaoh’s righteously rebellious daughter, the middle-class task masters, or Egyptians collaborating with Pharaoh. For anyone interested in live-together church community as an alternative society in the face of Empire, we offer a one-year apprenticeship that begins in August 2011 (www.churchofthesojourners.org). Coral House Community (Lake Worth, FL): This past fall, we welcomed our first European guest, John (from Germany). He stayed with us eight weeks, bringing wisdom, insight, and humor. It was difficult to say farewell to this inspiring brother. We also partnered with 150 faith communities around the world to introduce the Book of Common Prayer, eating, singing, praying, and dancing with old and new friends (www.coralhousecommunity.com). DC Area Community of Communities (Washington, DC): Cornerstone Community, a community for homeless men in recovery, is sad to say good-bye to Brey Cribbs as a community builder (live-in staff), but welcomes John Ross in his place. We gather monthly for prayer and conversation at a different place to get to know our city’s diverse communities (www.dc.newmonastics.org). Detroit Villages/Ailanthus (Detroit, MI): We hosted a Common Prayer release party, and are continuing with gardens (yes, even in winter), hospitality, and conversations of conscience. Our invitation stands: Come visit and be prepared to stay! (www.youngleadersinitiative.org). Dwell (Burlington, VT): We’ve started a monthly multi-church gathering, where four Burlington churches come together to pray and worship in one accord. In December, this gathering coincided beautifully with hosting a Common Prayer party, and over seventy folks joined the revelry. We were featured in our state-
wide, independent newspaper (www.7dvt.com/2010dwell-church). All of this while entering into the season of Advent and studying the Acts of the Apostles (www. dwellchurch.com). FLOOD (Sacramento, CA): This past fall, our leadership board discerned that it was time to lay down the six-year journey with this experiment called FLOOD. Until the end of 2010, we gathered together as a community, celebrating all that God has done in our lives and in our city. We are now seeking out what might be next in our pursuit of the Kingdom. We will continue to support and contribute to the CONSP!RE community and be advocates here in Northern California. Contact us at Ryan@floodsac.com. Hyaets Community (Charlotte, NC): We will be retreating together in January for some rest and opportunity to reflect together. Please pray for families in our neighborhood who are dealing with domestic violence, as well as our neighbors whose families are broken by addictions (www.hyaets.org). Tuck House, one of the Mulberry House (Springfield, OH): We are still plotting residential spaces for Hyaets Community the transformation of an abandoned lot into a neighborhood park. We now gather every Thursday night with friends and neighbors for a time of informal Bible study and group discussion. All are welcome (www.unlikelyinsurgence.blogspot.com). Nehemiah House (Springfield, MA): Debbie and Pat Murray joined five others to represent Relational Tithe in Havana, Cuba in early December. We worked to observe Advent and delay Christmas (not an easy task these days). We’ve begun creating a community covenant, and wish you all shalom (www.nehemiah-ministries.com). Relational Tithe (Oakland, CA): Relational Tithe builds a worldwide network of relationship and redistribution. We’ve been legally approved to travel to Cuba for two years. In December, a handful of us went to meet face-to-face for the first time with folks there who have been participating with us in relational redistribution. We anticipate many more visits. For opportunities to join future trips, see www.relationaltithe.com. Servants Vancouver (Vancouver, BC): We’ve birthed a new initiative: Creative World Justice, which works to bring together imagination, the arts, and creativity with activism and the battle for justice. Now you can start a group in your city. Check out our website for more info and a three-month starter pack (www. servantsasia.org). The Book Parlor (Spokane, WA): In early December, we hosted a release party for Common Prayer and everyone—both newbies to the liturgical experience and tried-and-true liturgical veterans—had a great time. As this new year begins, we look forward to what God has in store! (www.TheBookParlor.com). The GAPS Community (Downey, CA): We have a logo now—a water pitcher with lots of mended cracks and chips in it, image of the broken-yet-reparable church today. It was designed by Kovacs Alida of Budapest, Hungary, a potential artist in residence here (www.downeymoravian.org). The Vine (Haverhill, MA): The Vine has found a house! By the time you read this, we hope to be well on our way to purchasing this property with three floors of living space, a storefront, and a two-floor garage. This means our community can grow and find new ways to be a blessing to our
neighbors. Our plan is to renovate using volunteer labor and green methods, and our hope is to be living there by summer 2011. Pray for us! If you are interested in helping out, contact Melissa at firstname.lastname@example.org (www.thevinehaverhill.com). The Simple Way (Philadelphia, PA): Five new people have moved into our Village House and we’re now taking reservations for our new Hospitality House. A friend, Dimitri Kadiev, completed a mural with a group of little and big contributors from our community in late October. We also gave Christmas toys to around 72 neighborhood families (www. thesimpleway.org). Tierra Nueva means New Earth. Back in the eighties, Community Mural our founders Bob and Gracie Ekblad studied sustainable farming techniques with farmers in the Honduran mountains. They also read the Bible among the marginalized, outside the church and under mango trees—and came to embrace Isaiah’s vision of a new heaven and a new earth. Today Tierra Nueva continues in both Honduras and Washington’s Skagit Valley, reading the Bible with men and women in jail, working with the migrant farmworker community, and seeking that new earth God is creating among us. We are happy to have two articles in this issue, and to be a new co-conspirator with you all at CONSP!RE (www.tierra-nueva.org). More conspiring communities: Alternative Seminary (Philadelphia, PA) www.alternativeseminary.net • Caritas Village (Memphis, TN) www. caritasvillage.org • Camden Community Houses (Camden, NJ) • Centurion’s Guild (Honolulu, HI) email@example.com • Chicago Catholic Worker (Chicago, IL) • Circle of Hope (Philadelphia, PA) www.circleofhope. net • Conspiring for Coatesville (Coatesville, PA) • Dathouse (Indianapolis, IN) www.dathouse.wordpress.com • East Central Ministries (Albuquerque, NM) www.eastcentralministries.org • George School (Newton, PA) www. georgeschool.org • Georgetown College (Georgetown, KY) • Incarnation Station (Kansas City, KS) • Lahash International (Portland, OR) www.lahash.net • New Providence Community Church (Nassau, Bahamas) www. npcconline.org • Nomad Supply (Birmingham, AL) www.nomadsupply.com. • Raising Micah (Thousand Oaks, CA) www.raisingmicah.org • Reba Place/Shalom Mission Communities (Evanston, IL) www.rebaplacefellowship.org • ReIMAGINE! (San Francisco, CA) www.reimagine.org • Rutba House/School for Conversion (Durham, NC) www.newmonasticism.org • San Rafael First UMC (San Rafael, CA): www.sanrafaelfirstumc.org • Solomon’s Porch (Minneapolis, MN) www.solomonsporch.com • The Rabbi’s World (Santa Rosa, CA) • Third Street House (Lexington, KY)
The Walls We Cross
Racial barriers are strong in our neighborhood. When a shooting killed a young woman and injured two children, we wanted to pray with our neighbors but had concerns. Who were we to offer this act? We decided to check with neighbors about organizing a vigil. At the first house, someone mocked, “You look lost.” But they were friends of the victims and offered their help. Seventy-five people came to the vigil. We began by acknowledging our hesitation while affirming our desire to pray for a safer community. Someone thanked us for taking the chance, then introduced the mother of one of the children, and they both co-led the service as we walked through the streets together. We’ve been stepping over those walls since. —St. Anthony’s Plot 48