Street Psalms Community

A community of the incarnation: developing communities of grassroots leaders in hard places

I.  Introduction:

Street Psalms – A Community of the Incarnation is a dispersed communion of Christ-centered leaders committed to developing communities of grassroots leaders among those who have been labeled the least, last and lost in our world.  We are called to nurture life-giving perspectives and practices that sustain those who live and breathe good news in hard places. As witnesses of the Incarnation of Jesus we seek peace and unity in all things.

To that end, we practice a shared life of action, reflection and discernment.  We are committed to the life-long process of spirituality that transforms us into the likeness of Christ with and for the leaders we serve. We recognize our task is to discern God at work in the world and to celebrate what we see God doing.

Street Psalms – A Community of the Incarnation is a network of friends who have experienced a deep sense of gratitude in being together and learning from one another.  Our desire to be a community that serves grassroots leaders not only comes from our friendship and gratitude, but it also comes from our own woundedness.  Therefore we acknowledge the following wounds and pray for the related charisms (gifts) that are foundational to our community.

The Wound                                                Charism

The wound of blindness                      charism of sight

The wound of voicelessness                 charism of voice

The wound of despair                         charism of joy

The wound of isolation                       charism of community

II.  Why is this community needed at such a time as this?

Transformational ministry among people on the margins of society increasingly invites the church to recognize, honor and develop communities of leaders who are called to serve off the map of traditionally-ordained positions.  Sustaining such a call requires a broad-based ecumenical community that demonstrates unity within the body of Christ.    

Tectonic shifts in our global, urban and postmodern world present grave challenges and explosive possibilities.   On one hand, our interconnected world is flattening. Boundaries that separate people and cultures are crumbling; new social and economic opportunities abound. On the other one hand, massive disparities of wealth and power appear more vivid than ever. These disparities are giving rise to radicalized religious and political movements.  It is the primary task of the Church to discern the opportunities embedded in these challenges – to listen for good news in hard places, and serve in these contexts with the transforming power of God’s love.     

In light of these challenges and possibilities, we see four critical opportunities that are addressed by the Street Psalms Community. 

Developing Leaders

We recognize the opportunity to honor and develop leaders who are easily overlooked by existing ecclesiastical structures as they pursue their calling among the forgotten of the world.   

We see the “misfits” and the “one-offs” as critical to mission. There are significant numbers of grassroots leaders who directly serve high-risk communities, as well as leaders who advocate for high-risk communities within contexts of power and privilege, who lack a meaningful way of nurturing and sustaining their call.  There are also leaders whose lives are occupied with the ordinary routines of daily life but desire a meaningful way of tying those routines to God’s heart for the margins.  All of these leaders tend to be people who are radical agents of God’s grace, but are not easily recognized and supported by existing ecclesiastical structures to which they are called. 

Nurturing Community

We recognize the opportunity to nurture meaningful community among leaders who feel alienated and isolated in their work.  

The hunger for authentic community runs deep among those who serve in the contexts of poverty as well as those who serve within the context of power.  Regardless of whether silver and gold are scarce or abundant, authentic community is critical nourishment for sustaining meaningful service. This resource is all too scarce for people serving in difficult contexts.  

Seeking Peace

We recognize the opportunity to seek peace in a violent world.

Never before has the world lived with such destructive potential for violence and never before has the Body of Christ been so summoned to seek peace in the midst of violence.  Therefore, we are committed to unmasking and unplugging from the mechanisms of violence (physical, spiritual, emotional) in ourselves as well as those people and places we serve.  We are also committed to modeling forms of peace making that provide real and lasting alternatives to violence.  

Promoting Unity

We recognize the opportunity to promote unity in a divided world.   

Because we serve in radically diverse and fragmented communities we are committed to a radically inclusive community.  It takes the “whole church” to serve and heal hurting people. There is a tremendous hunger for expressions of ministry that honor and celebrate the various spiritual streams of the faith (e.g. social justice, holiness, evangelical, sacramental, charismatic, and contemplative)  for the sake of least.  Therefore, we envision a community that functions much as a “lay order”–yet does not replace or subvert existing denominational or church affiliations. Rather, we seek to complement these commitments and even celebrate the historic expressions of our faith.  We envision a community that promotes unity within the body of Christ – one that is a “centered set” of people following Christ in mission, not a “bounded set” of people defined by doctrinal particulars.

III.  What makes Street Psalms Community unique from other movements?

We are a radically-inclusive community coming from all walks of life, following Christ across barriers of race, gender, economics and denomination into a life of service and reflection among the poor and marginalized.           

It is important to say that “unique” carries no suggestion of better, or even new. We are connected to various other movements that exhibit one or more of the characteristics important to our community. We borrow liberally, building upon the insights and experiences of others. Whatever uniqueness we do have – our recipe for life as a community – comes from our particular combination of familiar ingredients, and from our relationships built in the context of serving together.  The following are features that distinguish this community. 

  • People:  Grassroots Leaders in CommunityParticipants of our community share a common commitment to develop grassroots leaders who serve in hard places with those labeled the least, last and lost in society.    
  • Place:  Urbanizing WorldParticipants of our community share a common commitment to cities— urban centers and their increasing interconnectedness with hard places around the world.  We recognize the global, urban and postmodern forces that shape the cityscapes in which we live and serve.   
  • Perspective:  From Below:  Participants of our community share a common commitment to do theology from below, reading the Bible with the excluded and damned.  We see and celebrate the present activity of the Kingdom among those who have been labeled the least. We recognize that it takes the “whole church” to see Good News.  
  • Practice:  Listening for Good News:  Participants of our community share a common commitment to incarnational methods of learning and leadership development.  Our methods are as important our message. Our style is more jazz than classical – informal, communal, conversational, coming in and from the margins to influence the center. We enjoy lyrical and poetic language, as we seek the Word of God among us, retell stories of grace, and express good news. Most importantly of all, we listen.
  • Pain: Wounded Healers:  Participants of our community share a common commitment to paying attention to our own pain and the pain of others as the primary gateway of transformation.  We recognize that if we do not transform our experience of pain we will transmit it. 

IV.  Common Practices

In addition to being teachers, trainers and facilitators of spiritual formation for grassroots leaders, participants of Street Psalms Community observe the following practices:

1.  Sacramental Action

Each member of Street Psalms is committed to serving with people at the margins in concrete ways.  This service can take a variety of forms:  

  • Vocational ministry
  • Volunteer service
  • Professional advocacy
  • Ministries of presence (neighboring and befriending people overlooked or excluded by others)

2.  Sacramental Reflection   

Each member of Street Psalms is committed to a life of ongoing reflection grounded in the realities of the poor that may include:  

  • Street Psalms Intensives
  • Theological Roundtable/cohort groups
  • Reading the Bible with the Damned
  • Written reflections shared with the broader network
  • Spiritual Formation at local or international Street Psalms gatherings. 

3.  Sacramental Discernment

Street Psalms members pray with their “eyes open,” learning to map the geography of God’s grace in a particular place.  Our mapping process includes three basic exercises that pay attention to the hurt and the hope of a particular city/community as well as the heart of God.   The three exercises include: 

  • Mapping the Hurt:  e.g. “Moment of Blessing” – a public liturgy for victims of violent homicide. 
  • Mapping the Hope:  e.g. “Signs of Hope Tours” – Identify, visit and encourage key ministries/business/organizations that are signs of hope serving high-risk youth and families.
  • Mapping the Heart: e.g. “Prayer Table” - Our communities host and participate in an open and inclusive table for leaders to pray for the city. 

V.  Theological Values

 Our core theological values are founded upon and formed by the incarnational mission of Jesus Christ. In the incarnation of Jesus—God with us in human flesh—the intimacy of human and divine is fully realized. We understand the incarnation as the entire gospel event of Jesus Christ—God’s saving action for all creation. The incarnation is our motivation, message and our method; it summarizes the why, the what, and the how of who we are.

We believe the incarnation calls forth and sustains an incarnational people whose mission is to bear witness to the Kingdom of God.  Such a mission holds in creative tension the person and work of Jesus with equal integrity.  It declares the redemption of people as well as places.  It touches the body and the soul.  It invites righteousness and justice.  It calls forth personal transformation and systemic change.  It is holistic and radically inclusive.  It intentionally crosses boundaries: cultural, ethnic, social, economic, and even religious.  It is particularly concerned for those people and places that have been wrongly labeled the unredeemable least, last and lost. 

Ultimately the incarnation unites what the world divides. Therefore we affirm….

  • Whole Gospel:   We affirm the full expression of the Gospel’s saving power for all of creation – spiritual and material, sacred and secular.   
  • Whole Church: We affirm the Body of Christ in all its diverse expressions – denominationally, socio-economically, geographically and theologically.
  • Whole Person:  We affirm ministry strategies that address the whole person, body, mind, and soul. 
  • Whole World:  We affirm the radical inclusiveness of the Gospel that crosses all socio-economic, ethnic, cultural and people groups.  

VI.  Novitiate Process

Each new participant of Street Psalms will have a “novitiate” experience in which their call to the community is discerned.  To that end they will participate in the conversations (Street Psalms intensives) that establish a common vocabulary and set of theological values for members of the community.  This process can take 2-3 years, depending upon access and ability.  Novitiates will be paired with a current member (or members) of the community for a process of welcome and inclusion, shared discernment, and learning. 

VII.  Ordination Process: 

Upon completion of the novitiate participants are eligible for ordination to the community. Ordination requirements include: 

  1. Mentor-recommendation
  2. Ordination board for each person
  3. Street Psalms Community Blessing
  4. Public Blessing from below
  5. Local ordinations have common blessing themes but is essentially created by each individual.

VIII.  Commitments of Community

  1. Local Training/Mentoring Leaders
  2. Common Practices
  3. Monthly Community Calls
  4. Geography of Grace: Trainer of Trainers
  5. Vision Trips
  6. Something that contributes to the community:  writing…etc. 
© 2009 Center for Transforming Missions | Developed by BlueGill Studios