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Back from Thailand

I'm back from Thailand, recovering from jet-lag, catching up on mountains of unanswered email, and enjoying being home. The time in Thailand was amazing, thanks to all the participants in the Mesa gathering who worked hard, communicated honestly and from the heart, and deeply connected with one another. Special thanks to Carolyn and Fuzz Kitto and Ash and Angie Barker, whose planning and hosting were a gift to us all. I'll have more to say about the time there in the coming weeks, but here is a statement we put together that summarizes our time together:

The Mesa Story

Over recent years, many of us have felt something stirring in us ...

a thirst for a more authentic, honest, and sustaining spiritual life
a hunger to do justice, to show compassion, to walk humbly with God
a desire to understand and engage with the critical problems of our world
a need for a space to grapple honestly with our questions of theology and practice
a loneliness for a sense of shared identity and belonging.

As Christians, we were searching for companions on a journey

a journey from many of the forms and assumptions that were no longer working for us
a journey toward something new that we had not yet seen.

The journey was often frightening and difficult. Whenever we found someone who shared our questions, desires, and dreams, we gathered around a table for conversation. Through conversation, we became friends on a journey. And from our friendships, we gained the courage to try new things.

Sometimes we met each other online. Sometimes we traveled great distances to be together. Sometimes we formed networks in a city, nation, region, or continent. We would share books, ideas, and websites. We would share our successes and setbacks. As our numbers grew, so did our confidence and so did our dreams. We found that we became better together than we were alone.

Soon, we realized that all around the world, similar tables and networks were forming:

in Africa and Asia
in North, Central, and South America
from Europe to the Middle East to Australia.

So we eventually decided to invite people to gather face to face in one place for the first time in Thailand, in 2013. About fifty of us traveled from around the world. We chose the name Mesa, the Spanish word for table, because it suggested a space of conversation, companionship, and nourishment for life, work, and action.

Our group included pastors, theologians, activists, authors, NGO leaders, and lay people from a variety of professions. We began by spending a few days in a poor rural village, sharing in the hard work and beautiful culture of our hosts. Later, in an urban center, we walked the streets where the sex trade is a major industry. We knew that whatever God was doing among us, it must be rooted in a concern for our neighbors who live in poverty.

Then we gathered at a retreat center for prayer and worship. We reflected on the Scriptures and we began to talk about what we thought we might be able to be and do together, with God’s help. We brought different gifts, weaknesses, and concerns to the table, but we shared ten deep commitments:

1. We believe in Jesus and the good news of the reign, commonwealth, or ecosystem of God, and we seek for God’s will to be done on earth as it is in heaven by focusing on love - love for God and neighbor, for outsider and enemy.
2. We seek to know, serve, and join the poor in the struggle for justice and freedom ... through advocacy, relationships, and action.
3. We seek to honor, interpret, and apply the Bible in fresh and healing ways, aware of the damaging ways the Bible has been used in the past.
4. We seek to reconnect with the earth, understand the harm human beings are doing to it, and discover more responsible, regenerative ways of life in it.
5. We seek the common good, locally and globally, through churches of many diverse forms, contexts, and traditions, and we imagine fresh ways for churches to form Christlike people and join God in the healing of the world.
5. We build inclusive partnerships across gaps between the powerful and vulnerable - including disparities based on wealth, gender, race and ethnic identity, education, religion, sexuality, age, politics, and physical ability.
6. We engage conflict at all levels of human society with the creative and nonviolent wisdom of peacemaking.
7. We propose new ways of encountering the other in today’s pluralistic world and we collaborate with other religious and secular groups in alliances for the common good.
8. We host safe space for constructive theological conversation, seeking to root our practice in theological reflection and seeking to express our reflection in practical action.
9. We value the arts for their unique role in nurturing, challenging, and transforming our humanity.
10. We emphasize spiritual and relational practices to strengthen our inner life with God and our relationships with one another.

Having affirmed these ten commitments, we prayed for strength and guidance. We prayed that others would join us. We prayed that goals, plans, and resources would be provided as needed. We decided to gather again in four years to see and celebrate what fruit will be born from our little seeds of faith, and to see what new dreams might take shape.

We have many possibilities ahead of us. We also have many unanswered questions and challenges. But we are beginning, and we invite you to join us. If your heart resonates with our story, we invite you to ...

Invite some people to gather around a table. Get to know each other. Share your stories.
Talk about the twelve commitments and if your heart moves you, make them your commitment too.
Identify as a participant in Mesa.
Invite other individuals and networks to connect to the network too.
Make use of the resources on this website.
Let us know you’ve organized a mesa community so we can link to it.
Stay informed, participate, and contribute in any ways you can.
Let us know if we can help you.
Report what God does in and through you so we can celebrate together.

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You can learn more here:
http://mesa-friends.org
And here:
https://www.facebook.com/mesafriends
(There are links to lots of great video and photos on the Facebook page.)
Here are some great photos: http://www.flickr.com/photos/72398048@N04/