Diolog The Texas Episcopalian December 2015 : Page 40
PROFILE: CONGREGATION FRONT PORCH, AUSTIN by Alisa Carr 40 | epicenter.org
Congregation, Front Porch, Austin
FRONT PORCH, AUSTIN
Missional Community Gathers at Favorite Austin Watering Hole
I was really looking forward to participating in Parable this Sunday, and was relieved when timing allowed me to be present. I have learned to arrive a little early to avoid a long line to order a beverage or a bite to eat, and to have a conversation or two before the “service” begins. We are here to worship and pray, yes, but not in the traditional sense … we are at Scholz Garten in Austin, after all. We are gathering over bratwurst and beer at tables that invite us to look at each other and talk. This is a space to connect with others—with intention and with the purpose of listening to, holding and honoring both our differences and our similarities
Austin singer-songwriter Stephen Smith shared his music with us this evening. He has a beautiful voice and sings us a prayer with a hint of the blues. It is a heart song with beautiful energy in which to enter silence and then pray Steve Kinney’s translated version of the Lord’s Prayer—words and phrases that also grab the heart: “that we may see as you see,” “interrupt us with grace,” “release us from the burden.” These phrases open up my heart and mind to receive what is to come. I am moved. Since today our topic is “marriage,” we get to sing "The Wedding Song" by Peter, Paul and Mary. I don’t know about everyone else, but tears well up in my eyes.
We are led in discussion on marriage by the teachings of Jungian analyst and Episcopal priest, J. Pittman McGehee. We talk about becoming “whole,” about becoming who we are created to be, and about relationship as the “crucible” for this inner journey. The hard work of embracing the shadow—within ourselves and in those whom we love—is the Way. This is the content that itself becomes a vessel for vulnerable and heartfelt sharing of personal struggle. How do I love and accept myself? How do I move beyond shame and guilt to allow myself the freedom to be and express who I am in my core? How do I accept the messiness that is within me? Where we wind up in this discussion is where we started in the opening of silent prayer … an invitation to compassion, the freedom to be, radical acceptance and love. I experience compassion drawing us together—the openness of a few taking the whole group, or at least those of us willing to go, to greater depths.
I like to come to Parable as often as I can, and I am grateful that it is now a weekly gathering. The more I come, the more I witness and participate in the community that is emerging. It seems that every week there are people willing to express deeply felt experiences, opinions, feelings, challenges and hopes. In an atmosphere that is, on the surface, more conducive to cheering for a favorite sports team, we are increasingly exposing ourselves with courage and vulnerability. I have found myself wanting to reach out in support, encouragement and gratitude.
With that level of heart opening, we move into Parable’s unique celebration of Communion—what has drawn me here in the first place. Every week, Steve leads us in the most earthy, intimate and descriptive telling of the Eucharistic story that I have ever heard. Amidst the clamor of the kitchen, the music of the guitar, bass or other instruments, conversations erupting and between bites of bratwurst or burgers and sips of beer, wine or tea, we approach the “common table.” Surrounded by all the sounds and would-be distractions, we receive those familiar words of blessing, “The Body of Christ, The Bread of Life…The Blood of Christ, The Cup of Salvation…” as we share table fellowship for all. For this lifelong, liturgical, contemplative Episcopalian this is both profane and sacred. It turns out that the line between those two realities is quite murky, if present at all. Being among others who are willing to hold that tension is what keeps me coming back to Parable on The Front Porch.
Carr is a spiritual director, licensed counselor and Reiki practitioner in south Austin.
Front Porch’s pub church, Parable, meets at Scholz Garten on Sunday evenings. The Front Porch is a nonprofit mission of the Episcopal Church designed to create opportunities for people in secularized culture to connect and enjoy communion through its programming and services in a world often divided by religion, politics and culture. They promote dialogue as the way to build and strengthen community because of, rather than in spite of, personal differences.
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