Category Archives: Uncategorized

How An Electric Bill Can Change A Life

“I can’t believe an electric bill changed my life”

How can an electric bill possibly change someone’s life?  Brandon Duncan claims just that, because it was a bill that first brought him to COMPASS’ Hand Up Program.

In May, many of us heard from Brandon in a Minute for Mission during worship and also in a class called “The Best Kept Secret – Single Black Fathers,” all part of COMPASS’ “HisStory” emphasis.

Now we hear from Brandon a third time, about how this single custodial father, who is raising his two children as a lone parent, is finding full time employment.  It is a story of hope, determination and mentorship.

Enter Norman Deena, spouse of COMPASS Director Fredericka Wallace-Deena.  Norman works for Community Housing Network (CHN).  CHN develops, owns and manages housing across Franklin County, renting affordable apartments to people disabled by mental illness, substance addictions and histories of homelessness.

Norman had encouraged Brandon to find full time work.  But Brandon had a stumbling block – he had a felony on his record, which essentially made him a permanent temporary worker.  But Hand Up doesn’t give up.  Rather, it replaces words like “entitlement” and “dependency” with the expectation that participants be the first investors in their own lives.

Norman participated in that mission by going the extra mile.  He took Brandon’s resume in to CHN and vouched for him.

What joy they experienced, when, after several interviews, Brandon was hired as a Community Housing Coordinator!

Brandon’s new job starts August 3.  He looks forward to working 8:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m.  For the first time he will be able to put his daughter and son on the school bus in the morning and greet them before dark.

Sometimes in life we encounter obstacles, big immoveable things, like a felony in one’s past.  That is one truth.  But there is a larger, bigger truth; “With God, all things are possible.”

Brandon says, “I can’t believe an electric bill changed my life … Norman gave me a chance, not just for a job, but for a career.”  Thanks be to God for a place like COMPASS’s Hand Up program, a mentor named Norman, and a persistent father named Brandon.


Take Us With You! 5 Compelling Summer Podcasts from Broad Street

BSPC staff member Nicole Denman, Director of Communications, offers this week’s evotional, written as part of a project for a class called “Content Strategy for Professionals: Expanding Your Content’s Impact and Reach.”

Ever since Brittany and I led the winter Adult Education class, Understanding Social Media, then again when we introduced Broad Street Listens, people have asked us, “What are your favorite podcasts?” So we decided to share what we listen to, and why it’s on our subscription list.

1. This American Life
Who Listens: Amy & Brittany
Why: A staple on NPR since 1996, This American Life is the most popular podcast in the country, with around one million people downloading each episode. Each week, experimental logic and journalist integrity open up a different theme.  Their recent piece on The Birds and the Bees discussed how to talk to children about sex and sexual assault.  A great piece for parents, grandparents, and others who have children they care about, this podcast not only makes us think, but gives conversations starters for those talks we really should have.  We suggest you listen to the podcast alone, and then discuss with your child, as some parts may be too mature for all audiences.

2. TED Radio Hour
Who Listens: Amy, Ann, Nicole
Why: We know and love TED talks, and this NPR production is promoted as “a journey through fascinating ideas: astonishing inventions, fresh approaches to old problems, new ways to think and create.” It’s based on the famous TED Talks with a common theme.  One I love and share is Animals and Us, discussing our complicated relationship with animals.  Whether you are an animal lover or just watch cat videos on YouTube, you can’t deny pets have become a part of our lives.

3. Invisibilia
Who Listens: Amy & Brittany
Why:  Just a few months old, Invisibilia (Latin for “all the invisible things”) explores the intangible forces that shape human behavior – things like ideas, beliefs, assumptions and emotions. A must listen is The Secret History of Thoughts which discusses the inner workings of dark thoughts and what they really mean. This podcast can help with the understanding of others, as the man in the first part of the piece suffers from Harm OCD, making the audience question if a man who is obsessed with harming his loved ones is actually more moral than those who don’t have this condition.

4. On Being
Who Listens: Amy & Brittany
Why: This Peabody Award-winning podcast discusses many of the questions about being a human in the 21st-century.  We suggest the April 2, 2015 show with Father Greg Boyle, The Calling of Delight: Gangs, Service, and Kinship as he discusses what it means for those looking for a second chance. It may challenge your opinion about gang members and whether they can become functioning members of society.

5. Story Corps
Who Listens: Ann, Nicole
Why: Since 2003, StoryCorps has collected and archived more than 50,000 interviews with more than 100,000 participants, which are preserved at the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress. The podcasts focus on one or two interviews with a similar theme.  For instance, on the 20th anniversary of the Oklahoma City Bombings, two young adults, some of the few survivors from the nursery, spoke about how something that happened when they were so young affected their lives forever.

Regardless of your preferences, there are dozens of podcasts available.  This is a great place to start …don’t be afraid to branch out and find one that speaks to you.


Happy are They Who Lead from the Back Pews

Brittany Porch recently share this blog post with me that does a lovely job of capturing some important things about church life.


Blessed are those whose names are unknown.

The voiceless ones

who were quiet, so their stories were never heard;
who were overwhelmed, so they couldn’t find the words;
who felt like others had more important songs to sing;
who shared their stories in less-public arenas.

Blessed are those who showed up.

The ones who did the countless behind-the-scenes work

who made the coffee and baked the cookies;
who folded the bulletins and served as ushers;
who stuffed envelopes and licked stamps;
and did all the other Martha chores
that those in the spotlight never even knew about.

Blessed are those who remained in the shadows.

Those who just couldn’t…

who lived in insurmountable unsafe places;
whose closet doors were nailed shut;
who yearned to live in the light;
who were isolated;
whose participation was a financial contribution
…or a prayer.

Blessed are those who moved on.

Those who needed to be elsewhere

who were battered by the church;
in order to survive;
in order to more fully live;
so that they could find happiness.

Blessed are those who died on the journey.

Those who we knew
and those who we never got a chance to know.

And blessed are YOU.

Those who come next

the leaders (and the followers)
of this generation and beyond,
who find the next liberations
and who work for them to become reality.


Weep With Those Who Weep

Today our hearts are in Charleston, South Carolina with the congregation of Emanuel AME Church.  As President Obama reminded us yesterday, this is the 14th time during his presidency when he has made a statement after a mass shooting.  This time, the shooting took place in a church, during a prayer meeting, a time deliberately set aside to communicate with God, the act of violence committed by a man who had been welcomed into that circle of prayer.

Words fail me.

I cannot move past the vulnerability of that prayer circle.  Prayer makes us physically vulnerable – eyes closed, bodies relaxed.  Prayer makes us spiritually vulnerable as we let go of those things that separate us from God and open ourselves up to the healing power of the Spirit.  To shoot folks at such a time…

Words fail me.

I don’t know what to do, what to say, how to respond other than to join in that circle of prayer, join in that circle of vulnerability, to lift up to God the names of those who died, and the name of the young man who did the killing.

O Lord, hear our prayers and make us instruments of your peace.



Remembering Aminah Robinson

Last Friday, the communion of saints got a little more colorful when artist Aminah Robinson died at the age of 75.   She was a recipient of a MacArthur genius grant and her work has been shown in galleries and museums around the world.  Her work was shaped by this neighborhood and so often depicted this neighborhood.  She grew up in Poindexter Village and the streets and stories and people of the near east side were so often the focus of her art.
When I think of Aminah Robinson, I first picture the staircase mural in the Columbus Metropolitan Library’s downtown branch.  When you remember her, what comes to your mind?

Columbus Metropolitan Library patrons use the stairs covered by the Aminah Robinson mural depicting life at Poindexter Village,   Wednesday, Jan. 30, 2013.  (Dispatch photo by Courtney Hergesheimer)

Columbus Metropolitan Library patrons use the stairs covered by the Aminah Robinson mural depicting life at Poindexter Village, Wednesday, Jan. 30, 2013. (Dispatch photo by Courtney Hergesheimer)

Today I give thanks to God for the ways in which Aminah Robinson expanded our imaginations, pointed beyond herself to the community she loved, and helped us better understand the rich history and deep resources of this neighborhood.


untitled Robinson 3 Robinson

Meet Flat Jesus!

Flat JesusOn Sunday we introduced Flat Jesus during children’s time.  If you missed him we invite you to meet him now.

Flat Jesus reminds me of Flat Stanley!  A children’s book tells the story of Flat Stanley.  He was a little boy flattened by a bulletin board – in the book it’s amazing what he could do after that – he could fly like a kite, slip under doors, and travel by mail.  During elementary school my children brought Flat Stanley home so we could send him to grandparents through the mail.

Last Sunday at BSPC we introduced our own version of Flat Stanley – Flat Jesus!  Flat Jesus is here because it is almost summer, when the weather is nice and school is out.  No matter our age, summer is a fun time to get out of our homes and see God’s world.  Sometimes, because we are so busy enjoying creation and friends with travels and adventures, we don’t find our way to church on Sundays.

To keep us all connected with our church family over the summer, we want people of all ages to take Flat Jesus wherever you go – on vacations, day trips, or to the neighborhood park.  Then we invite you – all of you –  to take photos of Flat Jesus out in the world; in nature and with the people you are visiting.

Flat Jesus 1

Flat Jesus reminds us that God is with us wherever we go.  We’ll remember Jesus’ love in the mountains, at the beach, or at the zoo.  Wherever we are, we can know God is with us.

So before you go on an adventure this summer, choose a Flat Jesus and take him with you.  And when you return, bring him back to BSPC so he can go on another adventure.  For your next trip you can choose a new Flat Jesus.  All we ask is that you email or text us your photos to Nicole.

You can also print and color your own Flat Jesus at home, on cardstock, using this PDF.

We even have a few special devotions in ‘on the go’ bags –  for a trip with Flat Jesus to the beach, a lake, the mountains, a park or the zoo.  If you go to one of these places, choose a bag offering specific activities that connect our everyday life to faith.

A two minute You Tube video from the Coral Gables United Church of Christ invites you into their Flat Jesus project.

This Sunday, look for the Flat Jesus display in the Narthex.  And remember, where we go, God goes, too.



We convinced pastor and poet and 8:45 worship regular Bill Leety to share this poem with the congregation.  Enjoy!


Snow floated that morning-Sunday.
Through the art glass atrium windows
behind table and pulpit and pastors,
movement catches the eye.
The other side of an occasional slow-moving car
on Broad Street, and morning pedestrians on sidewalks,
a woman slowly climbs a fire escape
on the east side of a building to a second floor door-
distraction:  from silence, hymn, prayers, sermon, and from
a congregation dressed in early service less-formals.

Or, is the Edward Hopper cityscape always part
of Sunday plot? preached, sung, prayed, celebrated and
confessed?  God’s storied presence just the other side
of a window membrane?  Permeable as a bridge, pass-thru
or pass-on, or passion? a door that only appears securely closed?

In red coat and black cap, the woman foot over foot ascends;
from my place of vision, through or into or within
images in glass-creation’s rocks and stream, a loaf of bread,
a chalice.

Such is worship!  world and Word as close as a line
of vision.  Stories mix in plot or loaf,
in creation’s big-bang, stars hurled at galaxies, and light
into dark, and in a knot of worshipers and the stew made
of our attention, boredom, hope, distraction, memory,

With us gathered this side of a window, this side of Broad,
this walker is gathered too, returning from her trip
to a store on Parsons for the Sunday Times, or from
her shift at Children’s Hospital, or a night partying;
or to her father or friend,
or to warmth across the street, up the stairs.

And, she and we become one by that membrane
of glass and slowly floating snow,
of line of vision and distraction,
of Broad Street, and the city,
and of The One.

Talking about Death & Dying

On Palm Sunday Broadstreeters gathered in Palmer Hall at 9:45 to talk about a challenging subject: Death and Dying. This was not a first run through; in the last 18 months we have addressed this topic at least four times. Each time the conversation has been nourishing, meaningful, and provocative.

On Palm Sunday, we focused on our desire to have honest conversations with our families about the reality of death and the process of dying. We identified some reasons it is hard to have such conversations:

  •    It’s easier to postpone the conversation for another day
  •    When we talk about death, we leave uncertainty behind
  •    Talking about death suggests that death may be imminent
  •    Talking about death is raw, emotional – and who needs that?
  •    We are uncomfortable with the topic

In all of our classes on the topic of death and dying we heard from experts* and each other that everyone benefits when such honest conversations take place. We explored the idea that the church might be well positioned to play a role in suggesting and hosting such conversations. At the heart of the Christian story is a story about life and death. The Bible acknowledges the reality of death and offers the promise of a life to come. Our confessions and creeds make the claim that in life and in death we belong to God. And death is a regular part of our life together as a community of faith. The church has a unique role in ushering a person from this life into the life to come.

At the Palm Sunday class we sought input around a modest proposal. What if the church were to offer to host family conversations about death? The request could come from any member of the church community.   We would develop a standardized list of questions that could be shared. The person who requests the conversation can decide which family members they want to invite into the room. There would be no pre-determined outcome. The representative of the church would be present to invite conversation. That representative might be pastor, Stephen minister or medical professional.

We took a first run at the list of questions which could be explored at such a meeting.

  • What is your understanding of what is happening to you?
  • What do you believe about death? (not what you are supposed to believe but what do you actually believe)
  • What is God’s role in our death and dying?
  • What are your fears/worries about death and dying?
  • What are your priorities if time runs short?
  • What are you willing to sacrifice? What are you not willing to sacrifice?
  • In the event that you became too sick to speak for yourself, who would you like to speak for you?
  • What’s really important in your life?

We are sending out this email to get your input and counsel. What do you think of this idea of offering to host such conversations? What suggestions to you have? What questions would you add or delete or change?

May God grant us wisdom and courage as we continue this conversation as a community shaped by the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

-Amy & Ann

*Atul Gawande’s book “Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End” has been an important resource

Black Arts Plus

This Thursday, April 9th, the East Side Arts Initiative will present Black Arts Plus: Legends Remembered and Artists to Watch with the opening from 5:30 to 7:00 p.m. in Palmer Hall.  Appetizers will be served and several of the artists featured in the exhibit will be present. All are welcome.  This week’s evotional is written by George Miller the owner of Black Arts Plus, a near eastside art gallery on Parsons Avenue in business for 28 years.

george millerThe near eastside of Columbus is an historical Mecca for Black artists.  Internationally known are Robert Stull, Elijah Pierce, Aminah Robinson, Pheoris West, and Bernie Casey. Other well known is the like of Roman Johnson, Kojo Kamau, Ben Crumpler Queen Brooks, Walt Neil, Ed Colston, Larry Winston Collins, Ron Anderson, Gilda Edwards, Pepper, Bruce Robinson, and Harvey Gilliam.

The unique character of the Columbus community is the universities, colleges and art institutions that feed the proliferation of the art in both development and presentation. The art makes a statement, records history and enriches lives. The diverse living pattern allows the artists to draw upon the “black experience” and the skills taught by recognized legends.  The neighborhood fed the genius, of folk artists William Hawkins, Elijah Pierce, Smoky Brown and Leroy Almon.

When I was first introduced to black art, I had a passion to expand the exposure of the artist and increase the awareness and resources in the art arena.  I opened Black Arts Plus as a retail/gallery space to provide matting and framing, art by local, regional and national artists, black books, greeting cards, collectibles and artifacts. An interest evolved for collecting “Fine Art” and I became a unique outlet for artists that included Barbara Chavous, Leon Page, Charles Dillard, Jeff Clark, Dennis Harkness and many students from Columbus College of Art and Design.  As the artists emerged and gained exposure in the ACE Gallery, the Columbus Museum of Art, The Elijah Pierce Gallery, The William H. Thomas Gallery, Peaceworks Gallery, the Shot Tower Gallery, and Short North galleries they gained recognition and many of the works have become highly collectable.

The exhibition is a mixture of many different styles, mediums, professional from beginning artists to master artists, self taught to youth to senior artists. The selected works are only a few Eastside artists represented from Black Arts Plus operating 27 years in the community. Indeed, they are Legends Remembered and Artists to Watch.

-George Miller

George and others from the East Side Arts Initiative will be the presenters in Palmer Hall this Sunday at 9:45 a.m.

Jed and Jenny Koball are Returning to BSPC!

Jed and Jenny KoballWho are Jed and Jenny?  They are our mission co-workers in Peru.

This means they are PC(USA) staff; Jed serves as the Presbyterian Hunger Program’s Joining Hands in Peru facilitator, and Jenny is the site coordinator for the Young Adult Volunteer program in Peru.

For six years this church has been in personal relationship with Jed and Jenny.  They have welcomed multiple Peru Crews to Lima and companioned Broadstreeters of all ages up the steep Andes mountains.  Through their words and relationships and by faith, they challenge us to live as global citizens.  Each year Jenny and Jed travel stateside.  When Jenny decided to join BSPC and make this congregation her church home, we joyfully received her!

In December, 2014, Jed and Jenny wrote a letter about climate change.  It begins:

Every morning before the sun rises Gregorio gets out of bed and goes to his stable to collect 50 pounds of fresh cow manure. After gathering the manure he mixes it with 120 liters of water and pours the ripe concoction into his newly constructed bio-digester buried in his backyard. The bio-digester (a simple technology that is reminiscent of a giant inner tube) allows for the mixture to be converted into methane gas that then flows through plastic tubing and connects to a one-burner stove in his kitchen (as opposed to escaping into the air). Shortly after the sun rises Gregorio´s wife, Irma, lights the stove and cooks breakfast over a blue flame. “It may be a small thing,” says Gregorio, “but it is part of our contribution to stopping global warming.”

The letter continues, connecting the urgency of addressing global warming and climate change in Peru with our own stories here in the United States.  For the full text of their letter, click here.

This Sunday, come, open yourself to what Jed and Jenny have to say.  They are prophets in our midst.