This message was shared on Sunday September 17th, 2017 in preparation for our community to hit the open streets event called Viva Calle SJ
It’s wonderful be among all of you this morning for this special day in our city. It is Viva Calle San Jose! That is a Spanish phrase that translates to “long live the streets!” I think of it also as living streets, streets that are alive with fun and food and friends. I think of it as the celebration of our shared public life, or celebration of life in common.
This year as a fellow in the American Leadership Forum, I have had the occasion to know Ed Solis. Ed is the recreation superintendent of San Jose’s Department of Parks, Recreation & Neighborhood Services and he is the leader behind this spectacular event. He is hoping that it will make this “giant city known for its distinctive neighborhoods and diverse cultures a little more accessible.” He sees it as a chance for people to “traverse… social-economic lines and cultural lines. Ed says that his “hope is to unify the city through open streets.”
Ed might not call what he is doing church, but I believe it is more church than a lot of churches…
The same year I moved to San Jose and began to gather people for a new progressive church, Kanye west released a song called No Church in the Wild. 2012 was the year of the Newtown massacre and Superstorm Sandy and before Trayvon Martin and Black Lives Matter. The song was a critique of what the church was up to and where it should be instead. The church is in silos, instead of the streets. No Church in the Wild.
Before trying to start a church from scratch, I still had this idea that what I was after was building a large community of people who would gather on a Sunday around a progressive Christian message. But it wasn’t too long in before I realized this was entirely new territory for me and that if I was willing, I had to leave old paradigms behind.
I was doing networking and workshops and events, both hosting and attending. I was raising money and gathering people. I was organizing and connecting in local justice circles. Showing up at actions, doing trainings, reading books and listening to coaches. People who were sold as experts told me to do things like give away gas or plane tickets to build a new church. I came to realized that much of this was rooted in the dying form, which is a spiritual community built on a consumer model, where showing up to be nourished is adequate engagement. Discipleship is reduced to listening to TED Talks. It was a lure for something different, that was about the personal and social transformation and more change and about the common good.
I found myself pondering, what if it isn’t all about how many people show up in one place on a Sunday morning? What if it is more about being love in the world and inviting others to do the same? That’s where our tagline came from, it’s not what you believe; it’s how you love. But I had trouble finding people who understood. Evangelical Christian male experts would tell me it didn’t make sense. Either you have a large worshiping body or it’s a failure. What a relief to meet Dana. We first met through the PACT Clergy Caucus in 2012.
The same time I was doing all of this outreach and church planting, Dana, you and the folks of First Christian Church were exploring taking the risk of doing something different and being love in the neighborhood in creative ways. Recovery Café San Jose emerged from you all being willing to ask different questions. Can you say more about that?
Questions for Dana:
- What allowed you to pivot what you were doing and relate to the needs of the neighborhood differently?
- What did you learn that could be useful for our emerging faith community?
In 2015, I encountered this book called the New Parish and I was like, yes, yes, yes. It was the first place I have seen what I experienced express theologically and practically.
Instead of conceptions the church has carried since Christendom, when the institutional church more or less dictated or tried to determine the norms of the neighborhood, this is a shift to the view that the neighborhood has a voice and that something beautiful and different happens when we are rooted in and related to the people and possibilities of a particular place. 
What the authors of the New Parish lay out is the idea that “by crafting a life together in a definable place, the parish becomes a platform for a whole new way of being church.”
The New Parish comprises all of the relationships, including the land and the animals, where the local faith community shares life together.
With this definition our purpose transcends just the needs of this group.
Living out God’s dream and caring for the whole place we are called…
Some of the outcomes of this are:
-Disparate groups find connections
-We move from insularity and abuse of power, privilege, etc. to transparency, innovation and subversive ecumenism
-We end the fragmentation created by the myth of the individual and living “above place”
Questions for the community:
- In what ways are living out God’s dream for this place already?
- What possibilities do you see for living into relational ministry with our neighborhood more fully?
Viva Calle, “long live the streets!” and let them call us to our feet, to be love to all we meet, long live the streets.
In this time of fear, do not retreat, instead draw near, to the streets, long live the streets, and let them call us to our feet, to be love to all we meet.
Long live the streets, leave the silos, to be Church in the Wild, love live the streets!
Be church in the streets!
 The New Parish: How Neighborhood Churches are Transforming Mission, Discipleship and Community by Pal Sparks, Tim Soerens and Dwight Friesen