Source, Fallout, and Minneapolis

April 10, 2010

emerging church / life / ministry

We recently spent a week in Minneapolis with Source and the Fallout Arts Initiative, in the most diverse neighborhood in the United States. There are over 100 languages spoken in 1.5 miles, alongside one of the best art schools in the country, and a large amount of poverty and homelessness. We have known Peter Wohler, the director, for the past four years through spending time with him at Cornerstone Festival.

In any case, we were finally able to go spend a week during Kiera’s Spring Break, and see some of the things they do. Though it was not a normal week, since there were students from two area colleges who were there, we still got to experience praying with Source folks,1 the Fallout’s art gallery,2 some great meals, hospitality, and conversations, and some of the work they do and have done among the poor and oppressed of the city.

Peter has led the Source since 1995, and at that time transitional housing began for folks who wanted to come off the streets, or live in intentional community in South Minneapolis. The Fallout Arts Initiative began in 2001, and it includes a gallery that hosts art shows, a small concert area, a co-op where folks can use supplies and studio space, and also the beautiful prayer room for the Source, which is always open and often hosts prayers from Northumbria’s Celtic daily office, among other things.

The Source has a deep resonance with the Celtic monastic identity, which existed and thrived away from the influence of the Roman church for a good part of the Middle Ages. These monasteries existed as small communities of prayer, work, hospitality and study in the midst of the people, often planted at the crossroads that people traveled upon. Rather than the imperialist methods that the Roman church employed at the time, these communities were much closer to what we now see as missional church, striving to live the kingdom of Jesus holistically among the people they loved.

The Source has lived in these ways among alternative subcultures,3 homeless and transient youth, and the art scenes of South Minneapolis, and in doing so has developed a beautiful sense of missiology4 that intertwines prayer, mission, and justice in a truly indigenous community, and sees that the gospel necessarily involves bringing good news to the poor and freedom to the oppressed.5

While we were there, we had the opportunity to meet one of the folks who came through the Source’s transitional housing a few years ago. In his early teen years, he became addicted to meth, got into the drug and sex industry in Minneapolis, and lived on the streets until deciding in early adulthood to move into the Source’s housing. Today, a few years later, he has housing and has taken various culinary classes.

During our visit, the Source held an art auction and benefit for Haiti, with proceeds going to an organization that is currently feeding 20,000 folks a day. This person I just spoke of catered the event, doing research to learn what Haitians eat and preparing four of these entrees for everyone who came to the benefit. Everything was wonderful, but the beauty of it was seeing the peace in his life, and seeing him able to give back to the Source and be genuinely honored there. Too often, as you know, ministries that work with folks on the street end up (sometimes intentionally, sometimes less so) colonizing and patronizing them, rather than letting those folks give back to them and shape them as well.

So part of the reason I’ve written about the week is that it was a great week for both of us, spending time with a real mentor in a season of our lives in which we have few mentors, and watching the way a group we really believe in lives. The other part of the reason I’ve written is that I’d love to see the Source, and Peter, be a bit known among us emerging folks. Source is not well known among the emerging church, though it has similar values and passions. The deep experience in mission, spirituality, and justice that exists there is a deep well from which we can draw things to put into our own contexts.

In light of that, I think there are great opportunities for different areas of the emerging church to begin learning from and talking with each other. Folks who have a deep love for theology can learn from and talk to folks who don’t think much about it. Folks with a deep love for liturgical smells and bells can learn from and talk to folks who paint in prayer rooms with spontaneous drum circles.6 And of course, folks with trendy black glasses can learn from and talk to folks with dreads.

Do you see these possibilities, and the vast number of others here?

  1. Source is a 24-7 Prayer Boiler Room, and thus the prayer room is an artist’s dream and is always open, in addition to the regular weeks of consecutive prayer. []
  2. The Fallout runs an art gallery, and a co-op where folks can rent studio space. Artists don’t have to be “Christian,” to participate in these or to have their work displayed. []
  3. In the 90s when rave was a bigger subculture than it is today, they hosted raves that were well-known in the city, and even today they attend rainbow gatherings and continue to host concerts among the scenes that are there. []
  4. This sense of missiology is accompanied by a strong knowledge of it. Peter was among the first folks several years ago to introduce us to books like The Shaping of Things to Come. []
  5. Luke 4 []
  6. It’s often genuinely hard for me to understand the appeal of liturgical structures, while it’s very easy for me to appreciate the spontaneous and charismatic, but I do see a lot of people that I respect who benefit from them, for example. []