Monthly Archives: December 2012

December 29, 2012

Finding Financial Peace

One of the great disservices Christianity has done itself over they years is to convince the world (and perhaps ourselves) that our primary purpose is to be right, to prove others wrong, and to coerce others into becoming like us.The truth of the matter is that the heart of Christianity is far less coercive and far more compelling than most folk, including Christians, give it credit for.

One of the most compelling messages I find in the Judeo-Christian tradition is the message of liberation. This is perhaps the overriding narrative of the Hebrew Bible, epitomized in the story of Moses leading God’s people out of bondage in Egypt and delivering them to a land of prosperity and potential.

The Christian testament is often understood as shifting foci from earthly liberation to a spiritual liberation from sin and/or eternal judgement, but the truth is, Jesus cares about earthly bodies. While he didn’t lead an army to drive out the occupying forces of Rome as many had hoped he would, Jesus healed the sick, fed the hungry, and distribute money to the poor. In essence, a significant portion of Jesus’ earthly ministry was dedicated to the liberation of folk from disease and poverty, and he regularly taught his followers to care for lepers, orphans, foreigners, and widows who would otherwise be bound by institutional oppression that would keep them from fully participating in their communities.

Today City Square is working in partnership with community members in Downtown Phoenix to discern what liberation is necessary in our communities. While that discernment is an ongoing process, one thing we’ve heard again and again are stories of folk being bound by debt and/or an inability to get a handle on their personal finances. Mortgages, student loans, credit card debt, bills, and an overall inability to get caught up/get ahead financially are all issues that hang over our community and keep folk from living into their full potential.

If this sounds like you I hope you’ll consider joining us at 6:30pm at Burton Barr Library on Tuesdays starting in January for Financial Peace University*, a class that helped my wife and I begin to get a hold of our own finances and which might be able to do the same for you and your partner, spouse, or family.

This class isn’t about getting you to believe anything different, except maybe that you don’t always have to live with the stress that finances can cause in your life. The cost of materials for the class is $100 which goes entirely to the folk who create the curriculum. City Square isn’t making a dime off of these classes. For us, it’s all about liberation from the things that bind us. You can sign up for the class here or contact me for more information at [email protected]

Regardless of the journey you’re on, if financial peace is a part of it, we hope you’ll consider joining us for this class.

Be well y’all.
Brian

*personally, I don’t believe that the financial liberation offered by Jesus and that offered by Financial Peace University are one in the same. While Jesus offered an entirely new way of thinking about economic and social structures, FPU offers sound advice for how to live in the current US economic system by controlling your money rather than allowing it to control you. For further conversation on the economics of Christ let’s grab coffee!

December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas!

Luke 2:8-14
Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.’ And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors!’

Merry Christmas from all of us at City Square Church! We wish you love, hope, joy and peace during this season. Thank you for your continued prayers and support, we can’t wait to see what God will do with this ministry, in the new year!

Peace and Blessings,

Pastors Rob and Brian

December 19, 2012

We Love Because….

This is a guest post from City Square Church member Jme Willey. Jme and her family attend the Saturday family small group.

My husband and I are “church people,” born into families with 2 Christian parents, raised in the church, attended a “serious” Christian college, married in the church, and have “religiously” attended church as a couple.  We both have testimonies we can share with you sometime. We’ve loved the churches we’ve been a part of, but….

We felt alone – as young adults in the midst of middle aged and older adults.  We struggled to find a sense of community among people who were serious about following God (or at least trying to!) in their personal lives and as a faith community for an extended period of time.  We found institutions more concerned with maintaining the institution than faithfulness to God’s leading.

Then we had lunch with Rob one Monday in September and took the plunge to explore what City Square really was.  At our first small group gathering, we found young people who had experiences both similar and different from ours but who were seeking God and seeking community.  My husband’s first Tuesday night, happy hour, experience helped him find communion. And over the past three months, we’ve had the chance to explore what it means to practice faith together both practically and intellectually with our small group.  In our marriage, we’ve found more opportunities to talk about our faith as we’ve had a chance to be part of a small group together.  As a family, we’ve found a movement that blesses both us and our children.

 As a child, I learned a simple song at church.  The lyrics I recall go:We love, because God first loved us.

We love,

We love,

We love, Because – God – First – Loved – Us.

Our small group has been reading The Awakening of Hope this fall; it explores why Christian faith communities have some of the odd practices they do.  (Other than for a medical reason, do you know anyone who fasts besides a very religious person?  It is a little strange, don’t you think?)  One practice that isn’t covered in the book is the practice of tithing.  Tithing (according to Merriam-Webster) is “to pay or give a tenth part of, especially for the support of the church.” And as followers of Christ, we do this as an act of love with the firstfruits of our labor.  And, we tithe as an act of commitment to and dependence on God.  We do this, as the song says, because God first loved us.

When it comes to tithing, I’m lucky because I started very early, as it was a requirement in my house…My earliest memory about tithing was from when I was about 5 or 6 years old.  I wanted a raise in my allowance, and since we tithed on our allowances I wanted it raised to $1.10 so that I would still have a dollar to spend on other things!  (And yes I now know that wouldn’t have been a true tithe…but it was still fairly good young elementary math!)   Already tithing had become so much a part of my financial practices, that it was simply an automatic response to think about that first 10% as what I gave back to God.  As I grew up, I continued the spiritual discipline of tithing—on allowances, babysitting jobs, part-time jobs in high school and college, and then as a grown-up.

Tithing is something I’ve never felt resentful about, it’s something I do cheerfully and willingly knowing that God asks me to do it. I know all that I have is God’s in the first place, so giving 10% back is really a fairly small offering to make.

We still aren’t sure how God might be leading City Square into the future, but we are excited to see how the Spirit leads our new faith family forward.  We are thrilled to be a part of a movement focused on faithfulness to God but not restricted by the encumbrances of a large institution and bulky “possessions”.  As we become more involved in the movement, we find ourselves not only wanting to attend City Square functions, but wanting to share our talents and our financial gifts too. God has blessed us with City Square and we want to thank God for this exciting new movement.

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If you feel led to make a financial pledge to City Square Church in 2013, we invite you to fill out this form.

December 18, 2012

An Evening of Community and Contemplation

Join us on Sunday January 27 at 6 p.m. at Central United Methodist Church for an intimate and meditative worship gathering. The service will include contemplative music, times of silence, readings and responses. Come and experience a time to connect spiritually and with others in community. Free professional childcare will be provided.

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December 11, 2012

Do You Not Know? Have You Not Heard?

When we first proposed coming to Downtown Phoenix everyone wanted to know what we were going to do down here. All we could tell them was, “something new.”

Our first few weeks on the ground, as we met the folk who would be our friends and neighbors, partners and collaborators, in this new life and venture, they wanted to know what we were here to do. All we could tell them was, “something new.”

It’s not that we didn’t have dreams and visions. We had an idea of what was happening downtown, had spoken to folk doing new things in other parts of the country, had ideas of what we did not want to do and plans on how to begin again. We knew the elements needed to do this new thing in this new place, we just couldn’t say with certainty what it would be, because to decide ahead of time would have constrained us to the the things we already knew. We would have been limited to the potential we could grasp based on what we had experienced and what we felt called to, and we knew God’s visions for Downtown Phoenix, and Downtown Phoenix’s visions of God, were so much bigger than our limited perspectives. And so we did the most faithful thing we could think of.

We waited.

In our liturgical calendar we name these four weeks before Christmas, Advent. Advent is a time of waiting, but it is not a time of idleness. It is a time of preparation. Something is coming. Something is happening. A New Thing. And it takes time to prepare, because this New Thing is bigger than any of our perspectives. It’s bigger than the possibilities we could ever imagine. It has happened before, but it’s not quite done yet, and it needs all of us in order to fully become.

But how do we prepare for something when we don’t know what it is? when we can’t even fully grasp the possibility of it? We gather with folk who have different perspectives than ours, who dream different dreams and see different visions, and we begin to dream together. We turn to the tools that our traditions have used for generations before us: Hope, Love, Peace, Joy. And we listen very carefully for the universe to speak.

Shhh…

Do you hear it?

December 10, 2012

December Theology Pub

December 23rd, 2012 at 6 p.m.
Angels Trumpet Ale House

Topic: “Belief and Commitment in an Age of Skepticism and Irony”

Join us for conversation about what it means to believe in something and to make commitments, in a time when it’s unpopular to do so. We’ll look at this issue from at least a couple of different faith perspectives. Here’s a quote to get you thinking:

As a function of fear and pre-emptive shame, ironic living bespeaks cultural numbness, resignation and defeat. If life has become merely a clutter of kitsch objects, an endless series of sarcastic jokes and pop references, a competition to see who can care the least (or, at minimum, a performance of such a competition), it seems we’ve made a collective misstep. Could this be the cause of our emptiness and existential malaise? Or a symptom?

From: “How to Live Without Irony,” by Christy Wampole

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December 5, 2012

Community Candlelight Service

December 15, 2012, 6:00 p.m. @ Civic Space Park, 424 N Central Ave

Join City Square Church in a candlelight service of hope, solidarity, and peace as we seek to honor the holy ground in our midst.

As our days grow shorter and our nights grow longer this time of year bears significance for many of us. Whether this time of year signifies a time of celebrations with family and friends, the end of one year and the beginning of a new one, or the struggle to find moments of hope in hopeless places, come stand with your neighbors and hold a candle in the midst of the darkness.

Parking is free at meters on the weekends. Stay after the service to enjoy coffee, cider, hot chocolate and building community with others.

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December 4, 2012

Being Spiritual But Not Religious In Downtown Phoenix

“I’m spiritual, but not religious.”

This is a phrase that is becoming more and more commonplace throughout American society and a phrase I hear on almost a daily basis as I meet people in downtown Phoenix.

In fact, The Pew Research Center recently released a study that indicates:

The number of Americans who do not identify with any religion continues to grow at a rapid pace. One-fifth of the U.S. public – and a third of adults under 30 – are religiously unaffiliated today, the highest percentages ever in Pew Research Center polling.

A colleague of mine mentioned recently that older generations were “religious, but not spiritual” while younger generations, today, “are spiritual, but not religious.” Certainly there was a time when going to church on a Sunday morning was the socially expected thing to do. As the suburbs grew and people started to move out of the cities and into bigger houses with higher fences, churches became the community gathering places and social clubs. Being religious was practical and normative and not so much spiritual or mystical.

Today, churches are some of the last places many young people would voluntarily walk in to. That, however, does not mean that they don’t hold religious beliefs. It often just means that many have given up on trying to live out their faith through institutions they no longer see as relevant or even damaging to society. So, religion becomes less practical and functional, in society. Conversely, there seems to be, more than ever, a deep longing that people have to connect with something bigger than themselves, on a spiritual level.

I’ve been living in central Phoenix and working in downtown for five months now. Brian (my co-pastor) and I were inspired to begin a new faith community in downtown because we had both seen something new happening there that resonated with us on personal and spiritual levels. Indeed there is an excitement about this emerging city, led by creatives, entrepreneurs, intellectuals, community activists and business coalitions. Central Phoenix is quickly becoming a magnet for young professionals and progressive minded urban dwellers.  As the price of gasoline increases and the light rail expands, people are finding living in the city more sustainable and beneficial to their pocketbooks, in place of living in larger and less expensive homes in the suburbs, which require long and grueling commutes to work and back.

It also seems that people are drawn to Phoenix because it is a city that seems set on building community. You need only walk into one of the amazing locally owned and managed restaurants or bars in Phoenix to feel the communal vibe, or the art galleries that also act as event and office spaces, co-working spaces, independent coffee shops, seemingly unlimited mixers for professionals and entrepreneurs, gatherings and events in pop-up parks, and community festivals, all of which create a neighborhood and small community feel in the nation’s sixth largest city.

These are the new gathering places and social clubs, these are the places offering creative transformation and hope in our urban centers.

I wonder sometimes, though, if people are coming back to the urban centers to escape religion. Suburban churches tend to be “attractional” churches, meaning they depend on offering the best music, sermons, and programs to attract members. Many do really good work in the community but often suburban churches are like anything else suburban: cookie-cuter, corporate, and consumeristic.

It’s not that Phoenix doesn’t have churches. In downtown, aging cathedrals and sanctuaries stand tall enough to notice and offer architectural beauty, yet many see declining attendance each Sunday and many of their members commute from the suburbs for one reason or another.

Many people I’ve met, who live downtown, are happy not to be a part of anything religious, however, they pray, meditate, talk about making good moral and ethical decisions, and envision how to make our world a better place. Yet these things are private, these things have deep meaning, these things are “spiritual.”

It’s not that people don’t want to talk about these ever increasing personal practices, they just don’t want to deal with the baggage that comes with talking about God, religion, and especially Christianity. No one wants the potential judgement and the hypocrisy that comes with it.

So faith and spirituality bubble underneath the surface, but everyone hesitates to name it or discuss it.

How do we begin, then, to bring the conversation and practice of religion, faith, and spirituality into the public sphere in downtown Phoenix?

There’s a couple ways to do this.

First, you can transplant suburban church into downtown. That’s what a non-denominational mega church from the east valley is doing. A few months ago they purchased a historic downtown church that could no longer be supported by the denomination that built it. In January they will move in with hundreds of transplanted members and will instantly become one of the largest downtown churches. This isn’t a new idea. Thriving non-denominational churches throughout the country have identified the trend of younger populations moving back to our urban centers. Recognizing that everything old is new again, they are purchasing properties from dying mainline downtown congregations and transplanting growing evangelical congregations into them. How will these churches and their members interact with what is already happening in these cities? Will they contribute and enhance the uniqueness and organic-ness of these emerging centers or will they simply create the very thing that everyone who came to the city was trying to escape from? I have no doubt that whatever happens they will do good work and they will change lives in the community.

However, an alternative way we can bring religion, faith and spirituality to the surface is to recognize the work that God is already doing in the city. We can create space and opportunities for open and honest conversation about our beliefs and spiritual connectedness. We can identify and name those sacred spaces that provide meaning and hope for the community. We can join together as partners in showing what it means to offer grace and love to those in need. We can celebrate and mourn together through shared practices and rituals. We can vision together and challenge each other, our leaders and elected officials to continue to create a community that offers a future of hope for all of its people and the environment we live in.

As downtown Phoenix emerges and finds its voice, how will religion and spirituality be a part of it?  Will faith and spirituality be as unique as the city itself? Will it be creative, innovative, and artistic? Will it be prophetic and visionary? If faith is to become part of the fabric of Phoenix, it won’t be through the work of one church or faith community, it will be through the work of many partnering together, along with those who individuals and groups who are non-religious. That’s been my favorite discovery about Phoenix: it’s a city being built on community partnerships and togetherness. It’s not perfect and at times it’s messy, but overall, it’s hopeful and it’s beautiful. I’m honored and privileged to be a part of shaping the future of Phoenix. If you’re part of this community, I hope you feel the same way and I hope you will join me on this journey of creating something new and meaningful for a great city.

This post originally appeared on robrynders.com