Sunday, March 9 at 5 PM: Ashes to Ashes

Sounds Sacred (to me): Ashes to Ashes is this Sunday evening, a service of poetry and music centered around the Christian season of Lent, with a reminder that we are not God, we are only human; we are dust and to dust we shall return. This gathering will  explore the themes of Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent: that we are mortal, that we are broken and in need of forgiveness.

Come and participate in whatever ways make the most sense for you. There will be paper and pens at tables for you to reflect by drawing or writing down words if you want. There will be an open space time when you can plant a seed, receive communion, offer gratitude, receive ashes on your forehead or just sit and reflect in your own space.

This will be my final Sounds Sacred (to me) in this space before I head off to California. It has been a lovely space for me to participate in, and I hope that it has been for others too–and that however it continues into the future, it opens space for people to encounter something that sounds sacred to them.

Holly Johnson

Director of The Project F-M

Leadership Transitions at The Project F-M

With mixed emotions I write today to tell you I have resigns from my role as the Director of The Project F-M. I have accepted a position at the seminary I attended, Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary in Berkeley, CA as the Director of Admissions. I start in April, so my last day with The Project F-M will be March 24.

It is with mixed emotions because I have loved lots of the work that I  do with The Project F-M. I get to have great conversations with fantastic people asking great questions as we live in this mystery together, exploring through conversation and experience.

It has, however, been a half-time position, and I will be grateful to be called to one position. And, California doesn’t hurt on the first of March, when it feels like thirty-five below ZERO outside.

In this new job I will be helping people identify their call and navigate the choices around theological education, along with helping the seminary think about the future of the church and theological education. I believe that my experience with The Project F-M will be good background for both of these things, and I thank you all for the time we had together.

The Board of The Project F-M (which includes several participants) is working on the transition, and will put together a team to select a new director. In the meantime, many participants are stepping up to leadership so that the programming of The Project F-M will continue. With people stepping up to leadership, this community of faith and doubt may move into the future with a stronger connection to each other. That is my hope.

I take with me many wonderful memories, learnings, blessings, and a brand new Winter coat that I will use well in the next 24 days before it goes into storage…

Holly Johnson - Director of The Project F-M

PS. But see you Monday night at Theology Pub! My memories are not done yet!

 

Sounds Sacred (to me): Where’s The Love

SS2M-Where's the Love? PUBSunday, February 9, 5 pm at Studio 222

Sounds Sacred (to me) is a service/reflection/gathering/music-poetry thing that happens every Second Sunday at Studio 222 (this really awesome space that’s down a long hallway right in between Atomic Coffee and Dempsey’s on Broadway).

This month, because it is Valentine’s Day, our reflection is called “Where’s The Love.” It has nothing to do with candy hearts, or bears or chocolate (this is a list of things I heard from someone as ‘acceptable’ Valentine’s day gifts. For the record, I personally have no desire for a stuffed bear).

Instead, it is a reflection on the issues that plague our world, and asks the question, “where is the love?” and finds hope and some answers in knowing we are not alone in our concerns or in our ability to act.

Valentine’s day is cheesy (to me). Sounds Sacred (to me) is not. Except for maybe this one time, because during this month you will hear what I promise is the cheesiest song that has ever, and probably will ever be done at a Sounds Sacred (to me) event. And it will be awesome. And we hope you’ll sing along. But we don’t require it.

Live music provided by Michael Larson, Matt Bishop, Chad Svendby, John Schmidt, and John Juhl offering the music of Jack Johnson, Black-eyed Peas, U2, Marvin Gaye, Joshua James, Willy Mason and more. Poetry will be read from Marge Piercy, Wendell Berry, Adrienne Rich, and more.
All are welcome.
Participate at your own pace.
Because sometimes it is all you can do to just be there.

 

Holly Johnson,
Director of The Project F-M

A community of Faith and Doubt, making space for people to love God, and love their neighbor, by cultivating an open-minded, curious faith.

Sounds Sacred (to me): Resolution

January 12, 5 PM at Studio 222 on Broadway

The beginning of a new year is here.

With it comes another opportunity to consider the past, put it behind us and move into the future.

Art, poetry, and live music will guide our reflection. Come and immerse yourself in image, word, sound, art, and a God who is making all things new.
All are welcome.
Participate at your own pace.
Because sometimes it is all you can do to just be there.

Live music provided by Michael Larson, Matt Bishop, Chad Svendby, John Schmidt, and John Juhl offering the music of people like Florence and The Machine, Mumford & Sons, Cloud Cult, Sia, Brandi Carlile, Joshua Radin and more.

Poetry will be read from poets like Mary Oliver, William Stafford, Denise Levertov, and more.

Sounds Sacred (to me) happens on the second Sunday of every month at 5 PM @Studio 222, down the long hallway next to Atomic Coffee on Broadway.

What’s in a Name?

The Project F-M is considering a name change. Why would we do such a thing, when it requires changing all of our social media and trying to rebrand who we are and make sure all of our friends are still connected to us? Its a good question.

When The Project F-M began, the folks who met around the table initially came up with the name. Think about how hard it is to name something before you know what it is. These folks decided to call it The Project F-M, knowing it would work for now, and that someday, when this nebulous “thing” became an actual “thing,” the people involved at that time could name it.

I think we’ve outgrown that nebulous stage, so it is time to come up with an actual name. The Project F-M tells you nothing about what we are and do. If you are from this area, you recognize the letters “F-M” are short for “Fargo-Moorhead.” That tells you the location—but only if you are already from here. Outside of the area, people sometimes say to me, “so, F-M…is that a radio station? And what is the project about?”

We are at a point of being an actual thing, with actual people who have a pretty good sense of who they are and why they gather. We’ve put together a survey, asking participants to weigh in on what they think The Project F-M is, and what words make sense to them as descriptors. From those surveys (if you are a participant and want to take the survey, here it is: https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/NBZQGY8 we will come up with something that resonates with what we have become and what we are about.

Stay tuned; a name will be given soon and we will let the world know!

Holly Johnson,
Director of The Project F-M

We have values. Here is what they look like…

The Project F-M has five values listed that tell something about who we are. If you want to know what The Project F-M is like, I offer these stories from the last year of how these values play out in the life of our faith community.

Authenticity: At The Project F-M people share their faith and life. Two participants lost their homes for various reasons. Several more shared of job loss. One talked about what it is like for him to be on the autism spectrum. Another shared his recent struggles with depression. Someone gave a talk about the grace and call he experienced in coming out as a gay man. Everyone shares their faith and life struggles, and we all grow from hearing about people’s lived experiences.

Seeing the gray: Many people in the demographic The Project F-M serves are disinterested in absolutes, preferring the gray area in between extremes. One participant calls himself an atheist, but says “my head tells me there is no God, but my heart tells me something different.” Another participant is a member of a local congregation, but has questions about some issues and wants a safe space to explore those questions. The Project F-M allows her that safe space. In fact, there are no issues that are taboo in our conversation. People respectfully work out their thoughts and beliefs on a wide range of hot-button issues, from gun-control, abortion and homosexuality to hermeneutics, theism, and forgiveness.

Community: One college student active in our ministry said after a Theology Pub one time, “I just love everyone in this group. They’re all so interesting.” And it is true–the common ground we all share is a desire to engage the questions, but otherwise it is a fairly eclectic group that might not have opportunity to meet otherwise. I knew we had developed “community” when I learned that the two people who lost their places to live were invited to stay with other Project participants for awhile. Not only did they feel safe sharing their experience with potential homelessness, but instead of hearing an inauthentic “that’s too bad” what they heard was “you can stay with us for awhile.”

Open to Diversity: A new person one night once asked, “We’re all Christian here, right?” and he got a fairly resounding “no” from around the table. He had missed the introduction that might have explained that. Many participants are Christian, but all of them crave conversation and community with people from different backgrounds and beliefs. Our most highly attended Theology Pub topic of the year was with guest speaker Rabbi Janeen Kobrinsky, on “What I wish people knew about Judaism.” Their only negative feedback on it was that they wish there was Jewish voice at ALL the theology pubs.

Grounded in Christ: This year, we began a worship service of sorts. The gospel (good news of Christ) is proclaimed (announced) in various diffused ways. We call this service “Sounds Sacred (to me).” Through poetry, song, art, presence and bread and wine people might experience Christ as present in their lives. At first, we didn’t know what would happen to our diverse community if we introduced communion. But it is a table set by Christ, “shed for you and for all people,” and so I tell them that. Then we serve to anyone who comes forward. Christ made space for everyone at the table–drinkers, doubters, liars and searchers. Pious and un-pious. Most of us fall into all of those category at various times in our lives. We trust the grace announced at the table for all–grace that might be felt even if you choose to not participate, and we find our grounding there.

Because like our posters always say, “Participate at your own pace. Because sometimes, it’s all you can do to just be there.”

Well, that’s kind of a hard question to answer…

“What is your Intended Outcome?” people ask me a lot. They ask this question because they’re confused about this THING we call The Project F-M. People want to know what we are doing, and what my job is. The Who-What-Where-Why and How questions.

In some ways, the very nature of the question points to a difference in generations. Some want concrete answers to these questions. But many in the variously-called “Millennial” or “Y” generation don’t appreciate concrete answers. And so it is fitting that it is hard to answer the concrete questions. Here is my demonstration:

The “Who” question: Generally speaking, people in their 20‘s and 30‘s are the participants in The Project F-M. Some who don’t find conventional churches a good fit for them. Some who do. Some former Catholic/Lutheran/Evangelical/various other traditions. Some current. Men and women. Gay and straight (and likely a bunch of other ways of understanding sexuality not so easily labeled). Occasionally various opinions on generally-described “conservative” and “liberal” issues. Some college students. Some career people. Some underemployed. Some married, some not. I can say that very few have kids yet, and everyone likes a good discussion. That is the most concrete answer.

The “Where” question: Generally speaking, downtown Fargo. Coffee shops, bars, and a cool space called the “Spirit Room” which houses various studios, art spaces, prayer rooms, etc. We don’t have a physical building we call our own.

The “What” question: It is a faith community. We talk about faith, and explore faith in various ways, with various understandings of what that means. We have no prescribed doctrine. Awhile ago a set of values was identified: Authenticity, seeing shades of gray,  gathering together, and being a community open to diversity and grounded in Christ. These still hold true, though I would add that these values were named BEFORE the book “Fifty Shades of Gray” came out, and the two have nothing to do with each other. In other words, we are not waiting for the movie to come out so we can all go “see shades of gray” together.

The “Why” question: I have an answer for this one! Our current vocational statement is that we are making space for people to love God and love their neighbor by cultivating an open-minded, curious faith.

The “How” question. We “make space” by having conversations, worshipful gatherings, artsy-type spaces for exploring faith, and more. The “outcome” is that people would have found space to love God and love their neighbor, and also that their faith–however they understand it, would grow. Whether that grows into a place where people decide to go back to church, I cannot say. Growth in faith is obviously hard to evaluate.

The “How Many” question. Some gatherings have 5. Some have 50. Somewhere in between those two numbers is what you will likely experience.

Any other outcomes I am leaving in the hands of the Holy Spirit for now, which, as I understand it, blows where she/he/ it chooses–we don’t know where or how (or what, how many, who, when or why).

The Project F-M Celebrates Pride!

August 8-11th, 2013 is Fargo-Moorhead’s PridSS2M-Yes!e weekend, which celebrates sexual diversity and gender variance.  With celebrations like this, we work together to affirm all people, end discrimination and build community for everyone. For more information about the weekend, visit the FM Pride website.

The Project F-M will be celebrating at Pride in the Park at Davy Park behind Ushers in Moorhead on Saturday, August 10 from 12-5. Come pick up info about our events and who we are, and begin working on an art piece for the next day’s Pride Interfaith Service: Sounds Sacred (to me): YES!  The service is at The Fargo Theatre, reception starting at noon, service at 12:30. It will finish around 1:15 in time for the parade at 2. This event’s music and poetry centers around a message that names people’s experience of rejection, moves to a place of hearing God say “yes” to us, and saying “yes” back to God as we offer ourselves to the world. For this service, we are partnering with people from the F-M Unitarian Universalist church, First Church UCC in Moorhead, and Temple Beth El.

The Project F-M is involved in Pride because our vocation is to “make space for people in their 20′s and 30′s to love God and love their neighbor by cultivating an open-minded, curious faith.”  To break that down:

“Makes space.”  All kinds of people don’t feel like they fit in or don’t find a home in conventional church settings. There are as many reasons for this as there are people who feel like they don’t belong in church. For some, it is because they have experienced rejection and shame. The Project F-M is has room for people to be who they are: Gay, straight, queer, questioning, bisexual, transgender, asexual or add your own here _____________.

“To love God and love neighbor.” People who participate in The Project F-M are at least curious about God and what is Holy in the world, and desire conversations with all kinds of people who are neighbors. Diversity makes our conversations more interesting. All faiths  and all kinds of expressions of being human are invited to the table, and we all hope to learn to love.

“Cultivating an open-minded and curious faith.” Maybe in the past religions of the world presented a face that seemed sure and unwavering, perhaps removing mystery and room for new understandings of how God is working in the world. Times are changing and so are many expressions of faith. This is a space that seeks to be curious and open-minded in its quest for what is Holy.

All of these things make F-M Pride a good place for The Project F-M to be. Hope to see you there!

PS. A sort of sidenote: At the meeting of The Project F-M Board last month, in preparation for the legalization of gay marriage in Minnesota, the Board affirmed the director’s ability to officiate at same sex unions (marriage or otherwise).

All kinds of reasons to celebrate!

Holly Johnson

Director of The Project F-M and Pastor in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

Cracked Word: A New Gathering of The Project F-M

On Monday, July 29th at 7:30, a new kind of gathering begins for The Project F-M. “Cracked Word” will be a writing group that writes for spiritual and personal discovery.

Why is it called, “Cracked cracked lightWord”? TS Eliot wrote in a poem, Burnt Norton these words: “ ”Words strain, crack and sometimes break under the burden, under the tension…” but as Leonard Cohen sings, “There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.” (from the song Anthem) We will explore the words we find, even if they are imperfect and cracked, to see if they can shed some light on something that brings life or is holy.

What to expect: Come to Babbs Coffee House on Main in Fargo; we will meet in the basement (there is a staircase near the counter) for about one hour. Bring a writing utensil and whatever you want to write in or on. I will introduce the theme of the day, read you two or three pieces–poetry, essay, fiction, and set you loose to go where you want to go with it. Write poetry, essay, fiction, or lists. We will write for about a half an hour, and then come back together for a time of listening. Sharing is invited but not required.

This group will meet about once a month.

All are welcome–participate at your own pace. No experience necessary.

New Book Club: “Putting Away Childish Things”

Our online survey has chosen the next book for the WTF (Where’s The Faith) Book Club: Marcus Borg’s novel, Putting Away Childish Things: A Tale of Modern Faith.”  His theological lens will also show up in this novel about a religion professor and her students.

Marcus Borg is a theologian and new testament scholar, known for being a Progressive Christian. He has written a ton of books, but this is his only novel. He is the author of books like, “Reading the Bible Again for the First Time” and Speaking Christian: Why Christian Words Have Lost Their Meaning. Before retiring, he was a  a professor at the University of  Oregon. Less well-known is the fact that he earned his undergraduate degree at Concordia College in Moorhead.

WTF Book Club meets most 2nd and 4th Monday nights at 7:30 in the Spirit Room on Broadway, located up the staircase next to Moxie Java. Order your copy of the book however you want (Kindle Edition: $9.78, Hardcover new: $18.54, Hardcover used: from $.01 on Amazon.)

Our first discussion of this book is June 10th, where we will discuss chapters 1-5. All are welcome.