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Nichola Torbett
Nichola Torbett
Nichola Torbett is the founding director of Seminary of the Street.

Babel and the Mustard Seed Movement


by: on July 9th, 2009 | 6 Comments »

It was one of those moments that make or break meetings, the kind of moments that cause meeting facilitators to hold their breath and pray. We were “just” checking-in, just getting started with the gathering. The participants–all leaders of one sort or another within nonprofit social change organizations in the East Bay area of Northern California–were sharing what they’d been working on, thinking about, or struggling with in the month since the group’s first meeting: new programs, questions about the tone of a policy campaign, struggles to lead with integrity–that sort of thing. Then, near the end of the check-in round, one woman shared the depth of her agony as she struggled to follow God’s call within the institutional expectations of the organization for which she worked. There was something in the way she spoke, something in her refusal to tidy up her feelings, to be “upbeat” or casual or mater-of-fact, that plunged the group into new territory.


Beyond Single-Issue Organizing


by: on July 4th, 2009 | Comments Off

Affordable housing, increased funding for public transportation, healthcare for all, gay marriage — we all have our pet issues, but many of us work on our issues because we see them as part of a larger systemic transformation. We are hungry for an alternative way of doing life, a way characterized by mutuality, deep relationships, love for all forms of life, joy, honesty and wonder. In other words, we are hungry for a way of living outside the systems of empire characterized by domination, exploitation, oppression, hoarding, defensiveness, and extreme self-interest.

By focusing on individual pieces of this larger transformation, we miss the interconnections among them. As Pastor Lynice Pinkard likes to say, we are pulling at the individual bootstraps of the boot of imperial domination. In doing that, we not only miss that there is a whole boot there, but we inadvertently work at cross-purposes to each other, competing for media airtime, funding, and the public’s attention.


The Radical Potential of Being Queer


by: on June 27th, 2009 | 8 Comments »

Lover Evolution, Love Revolution from toppun.com

We are coming into Pride weekend here in the San Francisco Bay Area, and I know that many other celebrations of gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and queer pride are happening at the same time around the country. Given that, Seminary of the Street board member Rev. Lynice Pinkard and I wanted to take a few minutes, as lesbians, to reflect on what there is to be proud of. In other words, what is the transgressive potential of being gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, or otherwise queer?

At its heart, we believe that the radical potential of being queer is the way that it demonstrates that anyone can love everyone. As lovers who challenge conventional notions of who may love whom, queer people have the potential to show forth in a particularly vivid way the Spirit-given capacity, given to all people, to love in spite of all obstacles – in spite of homophobia, in spite of state sanctions, in spite of family expectations, in spite of workplace discrimination, in spite of rejection from our religious communities, in spite of all of the accumulated wounds incurred by being people who do not conform to cultural norms. The radical notion embodied in this kind of queerness is the notion that we can get up out of the shame that the culture tells us is our due, that we can get up out of that swamp of shame and love anyway. The Spirit has vested in human beings the capacity to cultivate deep bonds of affection with ANYBODY, no matter how unlikely, and to enter into solidarity with all life. We have the capacity to make a circle with NO ONE OUTSIDE IT, to define ourselves as one interconnected life community. This is a radical act in a culture driven by self-interest.