[Earlier this year I had the great privilege and profoundly impacting experience of attending the BCM Kinsler Institute in Oak View, California – a.k.a a clusterfest: part birthday party, part conference, part church, part action planning meeting… – it’s worth noting that I can/am only speaking to my own notes from those sessions I attended and there were generally 5-6 options for every devotional and workshop spot so this is not conclusive coverage and the mistakes are my own. If you’re interested in this kind of reading there’s many more resources, articles and stories at the Bartimaeus Cooperative Ministries (BCM) and Radical Discipleship websites]


Bible Study: Jesus, Disciple of the Story – Ched Myers

Need to be literate in the story.

Jesus underwent formation and had to discern call. Jesus was shaped in/knew his tradition – quoting, embodying, referencing… informs his consciousness and animates his imagination. “As it is written…” rooted in the story.

I will tell you something about stories,
[he said]
They aren’t just for entertainment.
Don’t be fooled
They are all we have, you see,
all we have to fight off illness and death.
You don’t have anything
if you don’t have the stories.
Their evil is mighty
but it can’t stand up to our stories.
So they try to destroy the stories
let the stories be confused or forgotten
They would like that
They would be happy
Because we would be defenseless then.

Silko, Ceremonies

If we forget the stories, we are defenceless. If you aren’t grounded in this story, what are you grounded in? Land you are on is filled with stories – do you know them? Conquest, pain, animals… to be part of restorative justice in that place, need to know the stories.

Jordan is a river of stories (Red Sea) Exodus, Joshua 304. River is flooding, ford to cross. Israelites/Canaanites – Semitic tribes politically, socially and economically aligned with Egypt > tribute to pharaoh. Much as America don’t rule South America but control it through strategic leaders politically, socially and economically. Israel just got free, trying to be free of empire, the land they want is under empire/occupied.   This is why they go the long way round. Main roads controlled by Egyptians – undocumented immigrants finding another way >> old story. US Border Patrol, “boat people” in Australia. Chasing them or keeping them out. “The Man” holds the roads, bridges, fords…believe in a God who troubles the water. Ch.3 full chapter of ritual. The ark has to go first – carrier of the tablets. Instructions on how to be non-Egyptian. We are following a Way. Symbol – religious, social, cultural… Cherubim holding up a seat, empty, un-king. Manna economics, non-hierarchal structure of mutual aid. Ritual. Dip feet. Pick up stones, 12 stones, take them to the other side and build a cairn, 12 tribes. Alternative body politic with no king. Build a cairn on the Jericho side. Statement > attack Jericho. Dancing in the teeth of empire – started with going down to the river and getting stones. When Jesus goes down to the river – he dives down into the river – diving for stones. Lost the symbols because we’ve forgotten the stories or gotten confused about them. Elijah passing the mantle to Elisha (discipling) > first thing Jesus does is call disciples like Elisha did.

Apprentice of kingdom, land and story. Need to go into the left side of our bible to make sense of the right side – which constantly references the first half. New Testament stories are re-placed and re-grounded in the Old Testament.

Invites us as disciples to do the same. Let us be disciples of the kingdom as Jesus was, of land as Jesus was, of story as Jesus was. Scripture study informing out political and theological practice.


Walking Meditation: Charletta Erb & Todd Wynward

Mayra 11016722_10153155574714715_3033034683319964493_n (4)


Artist Manuel Cisneros, a native of Guanajuato, Mexico, came to California 12 years ago. The physical labor of moving large boulders around was satisfying, and the contemplative nature of balancing and composing his sculptures fed his soul. Often, he doesn’t know what a sculpture is going to look like until it’s finished; he enjoys the way the rocks, wind and ocean waves work their own magic on him. (quote from the Ventura County Reporter, 12/24/2014)


(photo credit: Mayra Stark)



Siyahamba (Zulu, we are walking in the light of God)
Siyahamba ekukhanyeni kwenkos yoyo’,
Siyahamba ekukhanyeni kwenkos’.
Siyahamba ekukhanyeni kwenkos’,
Siyahamba ekukhanyeni kwenkos’.
[ekukhanyeni kwenkos’]
Siyahamba… ooh
[Siyahamba, hamba, Siyahamba, hamba]
Siyahamba ekukhanyeni kwenkos’.
[ekukhanyeni kwenkos’]
Siyahamba… ooh
[Siyahamba, hamba, Siyahamba, hamba]
Siyahamba ekukhanyeni kwenkos’.


Christ came down that we might have love x 3 (hope, peace, joy…)
Hallelujah forever more


We shall not give up the peace
We have only started x3
Together we can work it out
If we only listen
Together we find victory
Hand holding hand


You shall be like a garden
Like a deep spring
Whose waters never fail


Preacher: Rev. Jin Kim -“Wasting our life for Christ’s sake”

Mark 14: wasted ointment – waste/efficiency/frugality – breaking in with intimacy?

‘To waste’ and ‘to lose’ come from the same word…
whoever loses their life…
“wastes” their life.

birdThink about making something of ourselves or making ourselves nothing. Called to “be a loser”. Exodus: survival – significance – justifies the risk. I am now privileged. Christian domain – homeless, penniless… What are we leaving for our children that matters? Can’t crap in the living room, that will affect the whole house. We’re all dirt. All full of shit. Good soil or bad? Loving God and loving neighbour – generosity and hospitality.

Seriousness is a symptom of empire. Unless you have lightness, levity, joy, self-deprecating humour… your software has taken on the operating system of empire > fruits of the spirit (live in THAT!). Need to detoxify ourselves of empire. THEN reach out – physically, emotionally, spiritually… was Jesus a great prophet but failed evangelist? Message of surrender that no one wants to hear.


Guide my feet while I win this race x3
Oh I don’t want to run this race in vain
Light my path…
Hold my hand…
Set my feet…

(Kinsler Institute photo essay)
This emphemeral art piece was created by Ted
Lyddon Hatten:”…when you are looking at something
you know isn’t going to last from bud to bloom or a
baby that will grow… you appreciate it differently”


Plenary panel: Radical and Integrative Theological Education – Eric Brown and Ndume Olatushani (Proctor Institute); Jin Kim (Underground Seminary); Dee Dee Risher (Alternative Seminary); Solveig Nilsen-Goodin (EcoFaith Recovery); Kate Foran (Word & World); Rebecca Stelle (Church of the Savior)

Opportunity to hear from a variety of grassroots theological education initiative practitioners – use/addiction recovery model, small mission-minded groups, mentors + mission with intensives…

Seminary – comes from the word ‘seed’

Borders – places of convergence.

There’s a higher degree of diversity
and richness at the edges.

If we do our job properly then we should not be sure if we are in church or a classroom or at an organising meeting or in a field. Welcome to the “clusterfest”. Planting, reaping, harvesting > movement building, church renewal or social uprising?

  • Alternative publishing and seminary
  • Can’t learn the new construct from the old construct. What is full immersion? Enter into what is new.
  • Freedom Circle (12 steps) addict to the worlds sick way of being. Theological reflection happens later. Surrender is counter-cultural: full disclosure of finances, surrender authority to one another e.g. can I attend this conference?
  • Dorothy Day wasn’t just sitting around talking. Alternative Seminary: Credo (belief) and contextualisation of that is important, met in a homeless shelter, had a sliding pay scale, connect ecumenically – progressives from each tradition, can’t feel like school (competitive) or be disparaging of one another.
  • Word and World – how do you read? Learned in Greensboro (at the Beloved Community). Understand t agenda of people trying to preserve power > then hear stories and perspectives of others re-placing the stories. Be the student/intern – change the conversation. Too religious for political people and vice versa.
  • In cell – started to paint the things I wanted to see. Listen to what was within – I was fortunate. Chose not to have a TV for the first 10 years in prison (a lot of inmates live in/through that).

Knowledge makes us responsible

(cont.) …I had to educate others. Survival – keep getting up and moving forward. Always a chance to change the world around us. I couldn’t say that to others if I wasn’t doing – want to disrupt the system have to allow my voice at the table to describe what it looked like from the inside. Have to do everything I can so it doesn’t happen to anyone else. ‘Children’s Defence Fund’.

  • Poverty not only economic but internalised. Need to work on both generationally. First African American lawyer and founder of the Children’s Defence Fund. Civil rights pedagogy – not just talking but singing and preaching it and erupting and disrupting onto the streets.
  • Underground seminary: Took graduates – do an internship to undo/detoxing from professionalism. Between 20-40 years old, in debt, over-leveraged – everyone paid what they could afford. Made them live together 8-9 houses. Interns live 4 doors from church intentional. Philosophical and ideological text polluted by smog – if you don’t go to the mountains or fly above it then you can see/don’t know there is smog. As much about unlearning as learning. This way of understanding is integrated into my church and family life. It’s a natural part of our lifestyle – would happen even there were no students. Invigorating. Church gives time to it but holds it lightly. Like a flash mob. When needed, will happen; when not needed, won’t. Traditional in Asian culture to go to a school of “{person}” – personalised authority rather than a school.
  • People and churches going into “recovery”. Individualised recovery vs. communal. Have a grant that funds interns and mentors. Learn from students/cycles. Ecofaith recovery asks “what can we do?” Grief work. Part worship, part movement, self-work… A lot of people might think “I can’t give up my car so I can’t criticise petrol companies” – what are other ways we can engage with the environment?

Imagination lies underneath our grief.

Teach leadership development that is spiritually grounded and organisational skills.



Workshop V: Immigrant Rights Organising – Guillermo Torres

We do advocacy. When undocumented people are picked up they are held by the police and then turned over to Immigration. Police are not qualified to make decisions about immigration.   Principles like these get used to abuse day labourers: utilise them then don’t pay them – they have no protection or right of redress.

What is the faith response to the crisis of children coming from South America? Have a vigil. Visit them and check the conditions where they are being held. Want to do more than pray… got together key faith leaders, politicians, service provision stakeholders and a refugee to tell her story. People that came to the US and were arrested for crimes then were sent home to Honduras and El Salvador – her house was in the middle of a gang shoot out… hunger… coldness… two days on a bus… rash… boy fell off the raft she was on and a another woman went into the water to get him… family were separated… father sent back to Honduras, they had no money and he is the main provider for their family… makes no sense? Kids who arrive in the US under 18 years of age get fast tracked and are given 7 days to make a case for why they should be allowed to stay.  Waves of immigration during the wars > became gangs in LA (shared language and friends) > deported back to El Salvador and keep gang structure.


(Kinsler Institute photo essay)

How do we connect to the children who have arrived? To their faith? To lawyers? To supplies? What if we created a collective network?

How do we find out where the kids are when this is confidential? Invited the people who might have that information to come to the meeting. What are the biggest needs?

  • Legal protection/services > Guardian Angels
  • Mental health services that can be used to build a case for asylum: violence, poverty, abandonment, sex trafficking (give me your daughter r we will kill the entire family)
  • Chaplaincy: sponsor, hospitality, integration into community, links to food/clothes/transportation, navigation.

250 kids were funded to get legal support, only operating at 40% because couldn’t reach more kids/families.

  • Accompany-er who is screened and trained who is with them through the whole process. Calls weekly. Moral and spiritual support.
  • Distribution centres for pallets of shoes, clothing, food, grant for $25K, vouchers for school uniforms.
  • Welcome centers/congregations – food, clothes, school supplies
  • Serving supplies (re job skill training)
  • Raise funds for legal aid
  • Skill/job training – sewing, welding…
  • New furniture

Doing all these things and haven’t
even named the coalition.

What can the church offer as special/unique gifts?

Love, compassion, justice – what moves you? …need to know what motivates groups.

Moral authority “self-interest” motivated by love and call of God on hearts – how are we awakened to our deepest connections? John 17:21 strategy > hope and compassion. Eph 2 implicit and explicit – explain and if you have to, use words. Immigrants become involved in advocacy and non-immigrant partners. Some politicians identify as religious – an interfaith response might canvas that, clergy bring influence and members bring influence.

Anyone plus God is a majority

Further reading on the Faith Communities Contribution to Unaccompanied Migrant Children see: Guardian Angels, Clergy and Laity United for Economic Justice of Los Angeles (CLUE-LA).
See also Our God is Undocumented – Ched Myers


Workshop VI: Messianism vs. Christology – Jim Perkinson


heidelberg project
Christianity needs to be redefined, transformed, reframed…

Make desperation yield beauty
in spite of itself

Google image search “The Heidelberg Project” – economic decline saw many factories closing and abandoned housing > lots of rubbish. This project using refuse as art attracts 2000 people a year – a community art project that is constantly evolving. Step out of art protocols – make people and places speak beauty. Utilises non-human actors: stones, water, clouds, doves, snakes… what is indigenous to the area. Detroit taught me to speak in tongues – use a difference vocab than your cognisance recognises. An African dance has motion/rhythm/call and response/exchange and a heightening of energy – they are learning how to speak the land, let them have space inside our bodies. The totem animal/plant has been there longer and knows how to survive. What voice is speaking in you? Big question. We are what we eat – is my ancestor my grandfather or possum or grubs? More honest to tell the story that way.

Domesticating ecology and dominating… 10,000 years domesticated plants, 500 years later domesticated animals to help with domesticating plants, now mostly metal technologies through fossil fuels. Functioned in band societies of c.150 people or less (most of us still only engage with about that number of people). We are not hardwired to violence – when have we lived not destructively? What do we have to learn from that period? Pastoral nomadism as resistance… Genesis 1-2-3… domestication happened as a result of the Fall not “advancement”, Cain and Abel – the farmer kills the pastoral nomad then builds the first city. Replacement for Abel is Seth (replacement), Inosh (vulnerable one) and Inoch (full metal jacket) > two lines out of Eve. Son of Man/Human One not Christ or Rabbi. Kibor Inosh in Daniel (one like the vulnerable one)… history of empire and kingship – Samuel – you will come to regret this… Saul, David, Solomon… 1&2 Samuel/1&2 Kings = forced labour of men and harems of women. Pastoral nomadism has counter imperial values. Abram first thing, leave the city, take animals, become herder, trees of Moray…

hospitality is how you hear
what’s going on in the next watershed

3 angels visit. Urban Sodom is degrading visitors.

David/Daniel/Isaiah – how does Jesus talk about them? Messianism

Abraham – hospitality
Moses – lives off the land
Elijah – fed by ravens > hunting
David – on the run renegade shepherds, playing the lyre, shamanic tradition
Paul – Galilean movement

We have enslaved matter.

Indigenous people are calling us to return not for in a forward spiral. To them space – organic life and everything else – squirrel and a rock have the same vitality.

Further reading: Principalities and Powers – Walter Wink

Building in cities represent the harnessed energy of animals, minerals, humans – they are still energised but they are warped. Bloated and starving. Hungry ghosts. “I am Legion” complexity of singular and plural. Internalised scribal principalities. Exorcises the people and the first thing that happens is people start asking “What was that? Haven’t seen that before!” >start asking questions.

Me. You. God has hundreds of faces. Return wild vitality to them. Jesus puts mud and spit on blind eyes and asks: “Can you see?”. Artists take mud caps and paint and ask us “Can you see?” The project was bulldozed twice and burned nine times – not everyone thinks it’s beautiful. Folk art marking it out as beautiful – as vital. Shocks you into recognition of where you are. Ethnic cleansing is happening through tax/mortgage/water cut offs. Detroit is seen as a blight and a problem. A deep weapon for surviving is codifying beauty out of pain: spirituals/blues/jazz/R&B/gospel/soul/funk/techno/hiphop… old school and underground forms… tagging, breakdancing, turntabling…Pain made into beauty.


Reflections from our chaplains

Lots of tensions/paradoxes:

Take seriously – not too seriously
Local – global
Find voice – listen
Be still – dance
Articulate – sit in silence
Doing a lot – not doing enough

 Isaiah 37:31 root downwards, fruit upwards.

Sometimes find ourselves with less time, less money, less love, less support than we would want. Not called to imitate as they did but the way they incarnated the Word/Spirit of God in their lives.

Digging down deeper – public acts of liturgy might encourage someone to go a little further.

Imaginative capacity – how do we expand this for ourselves and our imaginations. Easier to imagine another world than our own neighbourhood being radically different, incarnating a deeper imagination.

Moving from strength to strength:

  • Gifts of young ‘uns: new ways of seeing, energy, acontextual, less baggage
  • Keeping it real
  • Connections: art, music, cross denominations, people, creativity
  • Entrepreneurship
  • Manifestation of spirit
  • Ched’s jokes

The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing – fuel, safe space, fresh air, spark rekindled.

Celebrate and nurture faithfulness.  Courageous is the loving thing to be.

We share with you
what we have received.

Movement – called to shine light not be stars, workers not heroes, move justly and lightly on the earth. “The world seen clearly, not sharp eyes but eyes moistened with tears…” Margaret Atwood.

Passion and compassion that leads us. Themes: touch my wound, leave sorrow behind >go to lead and feed.

We are enough.
Scattered but not alone.

Pick up seed and carrying it away – store, feed family, drop… grow