Common Ground: a little history

Common Ground

Common GroundThis past February, 78 people signed up for a year-long cross-cultural relationship-building program called Common Ground. We started the program with a Common Ground Kick-off that all participants were invited to. That meeting was informational but also energizing, a good way to start what can be a difficult commitment.

We are now in Month 4 of the program, and we’re ready for another injection of inspiration. This Saturday, Common Ground participants have been invited to a Common Ground Caucus. We’ll share with each other how things are going—celebrating successes and discussing difficulties. I’ve noticed differences in the program this year from the last time we offered it (five years ago). It will be interesting to talk about those differences.

Many of this year’s participants are new to Common Ground, so I thought it might be helpful to look back and see where we’ve come from. Below is a rerun of a post from five years ago, when we changed the name of the program….

A new name for “Breakfast Club”

originally published April 18, 2010

The Building Bridges ministry at Living Springs has a lot of good materials, programs, and events. But I think “Breakfast Club” is my favorite.

Getting personal

It’s a program that pairs two people of different cultures and equips them to meet monthly for at least one year to share a meal and meaningful conversation. What I like about it is the fact that it recognizes that true bridge-building happens on a personal level, when people are willing to share with each other, learn from each other, forgive each other, and grow. The conversations are guided by a monthly list of discussion questions that focus on matters of faith, race, family traditions, and personal life journeys.

We first learned about the program from Earl James, the Coordinator of Multiracial Initiatives and Social Justice for the Reformed Church in America. He put us in touch with CURE (Chicago Urban Reconciliation Enterprise). “Breakfast Club” is their program, and they helped us get it started at Living Springs.

Growth and change

But over the past two years that we’ve been using the program, we’ve made some changes and enhancements. So now we think it’s time to give our version of the program its own name.

We had some fun discussing a few ideas at the Breakfast Club gathering we had this past Saturday. Here are some of the possible names we came up with:

  • Living Bridges
  • Connection Club
  • Culture Club
  • Living Rainbows
  • Living Connections
  • Grow Group
  • Koinonia Club

The important thing to remember about choosing a new name is this: Nothing will sound “right” the first time you hear it. “Breakfast Club” sounded a little confusing at first, but we got used to it, and now it sounds normal. The same thing will happen with whatever new name we choose.

I hope you’ll leave a comment explaining which name you prefer, and why. Even if you’ve never been involved in Breakfast Club, you are welcome to express an opinion. We’re looking for as many perspectives as possible!

Update: We did narrow things down to two options—neither of which was in the list above! Visit “We’re Getting Close!” to find out more! 

Changing traditions


basin_and_towel_hands_400I mentioned in a recent 
Maundy Thursday post that my church family has a tradition of foot-washing at our Maundy Thursday services. When a neighbor and I were comparing our Holy Week traditions, she told me her church has a foot-washing ceremony too. But they changed it. These days the congregants and clergy are too old for all that kneeling and bending. So now they have a hand-washing ceremony instead!

Now, my first thought was, Hey, that’s pretty cool. You’ve got the same symbolism of service, but it’s more accessible now. Kind of like using gluten-free crackers and grape juice for Holy Communion.

On the other hand, I wonder if the awkwardness and difficulty of foot-washing are a necessary part of the symbolism. Removing your shoes and socks, rolling up your pant legs, allowing someone to kneel in front of you and hold your sweaty, linty feet in their hands—this seems much more intimate than having someone pour water into your palms. Isn’t it?

I wonder:

  • Is that intimacy, that vulnerability, a necessary part of the ritual?
  • In changing traditions this way, do we lose something important?
  • Is such loss acceptable if more people are able to participate in the experience?

I don’t know. But I like wondering about it and discussing it.

Traditions themselves are not holy. They are simply containers that allow us to experience intangible, holy realities. Changing traditions doesn’t change the reality they convey.

Does it?

What do you think?

Maundy Thursday thoughts

Maundy ThursdayMaundy Thursday this year falls only a few weeks after the launch of Common Ground, a cross-cultural relationship-building program my church family organizes and hosts. Common Ground gives people of different cultures monthly opportunities to have thoughtful, sensitive, friendly conversations about race and reconciliation.

People have participated in Common Ground for several years, and I have heard more than once that it is better than any “diversity training” offered by schools and workplaces. Why? Because Common Ground recognizes that reconciliation is a spiritual process, not a political or social one.

There is no greater reconciliation than the one between God and people. In fact, that reconciliation is what makes any other reconciliation possible. The sacrifice Christ demonstrated by moving into our neighborhood, the lengths God is willing to go to in order to get our attention, the sincere and selfless hope He has that we will respond—these are models for me in all my relationships, particularly the most difficult ones.

At Living Springs Community Church, we mark Maundy Thursday with a foot-washing ceremony. For some people (including me), this can be uncomfortable—it’s very personal, and unusual, and a little awkward.

But maybe that discomfort is necessary. After all, it was uncomfortable—scandalous, even—for the first disciples when their Rabbi knelt before them like a servant. Maybe that discomfort kept them from getting the point right away, but I’m guessing the image was burned into their memories and gradually seeped into their own relationships.

I believe it can do the same for me.


Net Neutrality
(democracy and the internet in action together)

Net NeutralityLast year, I posted a couple of blogs about Net Neutrality. Now, I understand that a name like “Net Neutrality” does not sound terribly exciting, but it is, in fact, a subject very important to the life we take for granted in America every day.

Many of you responded to my first Net Neutrality post by digitally signing a petition or making your opinion known in some other way. I appreciate that!

Net Neutrality
Click image to view larger

Obviously, we weren’t the only ones who took action. People all over the country made their digital voices heard.

And our President has responded. (See the letter at right.)

Not only has the FCC voted in favor of a strong Net Neutrality rule, but the President himself has issued a statement about his plan for “keeping the internet open and free.”

The White House has also provided a clear explanation of what Net Neutrality is, how it was defended by the American people, and the path of policies and petitions that led us to where we are today:

  • Net Neutrality, by

I think the whole issue is a fascinating example of regular people—the democracy—using today’s tools—the internet—to be involved in government, commerce, and personal expression.

Well done!

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