Arts Ministry at St. John’s in Manhattan

St. John’s continues to be grateful for the Sower’s Grant that is offering support to our emerging arts-based ministry.

St. John’s Presents is our concert series that gives young musicians of diverse styles a venue to present their unique sounds. We are inviting neighborhood seniors to come for free in an effort to bridge generations.

Theatre at St. John’s collaborates with four different resident companies to support creativity, bring theatre artists together in community, and provide thoughtful theatre for our neighbors. A recent production addressed the insanity of gun violence head on. Through providing rehearsal space, production venues, and social gatherings for artists, we are building a reputation as a place of artistry for artists.

This spring we will also be producing our own production of a new play Insisted Living, that further advances the interweaving of excellence in art with engaging articulation of a bold, progressive proclamation of the good news of God’s love made known in Jesus Christ.

The influence of this ministry is having its effect on other aspects of St. John’s life together as a diverse community of faith. Musicians and actors have contributed to liturgies. And we have a new element in our Sunday morning liturgy called: Creative Commentary. Members are invited to create a creative expression of the readings or psalm. So far, we have had theatrical, musical, and visual art offerings.

In addition, the council is exploring a reimagining and reshaping of our sanctuary space to better provide for the diverse uses yet retaining its dignity as a sacred space.

The seeds are well planted and we are seeing growth.

HBML | project overview

We are excited to share a draft of our media lab project summary. In addition to the music and theater project, we are collaborating with local arts and education orgs in the South Bronx to create a media/learning center for youth and young adults of the South Bronx. We are now working to fund a pilot project to introduce marketing and advertising curriculums to the 16-24 age group.

HBML Project Overview

Highbridge Media Lab | exciting developments

Greetings from the South Bronx.

Construction @ 1205 Woodycrest Ave.
Mario our very dedicated volunteer contractor / congregant has been working very hard to complete our recording studio and stage.

We’re hoping to have our space up and semi-operational in the next month. We have recently partnered with METABRONX, a brand new, first of it’s kind technology startup accelerator in the South Bronx. We’ve been honored with an invitation to mentor the current team of cohorts as they develop their products and business plans. In support of this effort we will be producing a civic tech and entrepreneurial podcast right here in the High Bridge Media Lab studios. Stay tuned for further details.

Construction May Update

The Hudson Valley Cooperative: A Food, Faith, and Community Project

Greetings from the Hudson Valley! Some of us in the Hudson Conference have been working on a Sower ministry project that we’d love to tell you about. Here’s a bit about the ministry and what we’ve done in the past year.

An alternate food and economy movement has been growing in this region and we think the church has the resources, tools, and vision to be leaders in this trend.

The production and distribution of food touches many of the most pressing social, spiritual, environmental, human health, and economic issues we face as a society today. Some of the fastest growing populations in our region are young people intensely interested in sustainable, artfully prepared food, and alternative, community-building economies. On the other hand, another of the fastest growing populations are people who cannot afford to participate in this flourishing cornucopia. These populations are disproportionately urban and minority groups. Consequently, there is a widening gap between the food and arts movements and those who cannot afford to participate or benefit from them. HV food deserts

In this context we’ve created a food, faith, and community ministry with the following key characteristics:
1. Diaconal: Diaconal ministry is service oriented and intended to create a bridge between the church and the world. It is meant to draw people out of the church in service to the world while drawing the concerns of the world back into the church.
2. Transcongregational and interfaith: the working model here is based on building alliances, collaboration, and cooperation across congregations, denominations, faiths, and spiritualities. IMG_1138
3. Action based: the focus is on taking action in our communities while building and broadening our sense of community. We’ve seen that the church can be a source of creative solutions to community needs. By bringing people of diverse beliefs together around shared concerns we’ve been building a reputation as community leaders who are effective change-makers.

Here’s what we’ve done this year:

We started with a brainstorming party to identify the areas of community need we wanted to focus on, looking for ways we could connect unmet community needs with untapped community resources. IMG_1490

We decided to start by purchasing CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) shares from Phillies Bridge Farm Project (New Paltz) to distribute fresh, sustainable, healthy produce to people living in food deserts. We asked interfaith community leaders to help us identify people who were not only low income, but also had difficulty accessing healthy food because of lack of transportation options. IMG_0556


We then organized a network of 17 volunteers from over 7 interfaith worshipping communities to pick up and deliver Phillies Bridge shares to 4 families and one food ministry. IMG_0572

We also organized several educational “Action Events” at Phillies Bridge Farm where we linked service with faith by concluding service parties by sharing a meal and holy conversation about the spiritual and religious impact of food and gardening.IMG_0573

We created and distributed educational and inspirational materials: a Lutheran Study Guide for Pope Francis’ letter on climate change and 9 newsletters (distributed to 70 subscribers).

Here’s what’s still developing and coming in the next year:

An educational event this May 7 (9-4pm, Christ Lutheran, Newburg) with Lutheran ethicist Cynthia Moe-Lobeda on the interconnections of food, climate change and systemic racism.

We wrote and received a grant with Phillies Bridge Farm to expand our CSA distribution project to address one of the area’s two major food deserts in Kingston Rondout neighborhood (the other is in Newburg).

Action Events again this spring and summer

HBML March Update

It’s been a super busy month here at HBML.
While construction on the space at 1205 Woodycrest Ave has slowed due to coordination conflicts with the volunteers, we’ve made lots of progress reaching out to the community at large and connecting with other agencies and educators doing similar and related work in the Bronx.


“Dreamyard uses project-based arts learning to ignite the transformative spirit in youth, public schools and communities.”

We met with DreamYard’s Director of Digital Learning Hillary Kolos a few weeks ago to both get a tour of the beautiful Dream Yard Art Center @ 1085 Washington Avenue Bronx, NY and discuss the state of digital literacy training in the Bronx. We talked memes, Drake animated gifs and gap that exists connecting youth to jobs in the communication arts industries.

South Bronx Rising Together

“South Bronx Rising Together is a collaborative network of program providers and community stakeholders. This group will work together to create a community that is college and career ready by leveraging the expertise of a network of families, educators, business leaders, community advocates and service providers to support the lifelong success of families and youth in the community.”

Abelardo Fernandez, Co-Director at South Bronx Rising was kind enough to jump on a call with us to talk about the South Bronx Rising offering and help provide some insight into future community planning and how they are using data and new reporting methods to track the progress of youth through the educational system and providing targeted support at key intervention points. Our team has been invited to the next SBRT Stakeholder Table Meeting at Hostos Community College on March 28 – keynote Rev. Alfonso Wyatt.


“New York Collective of Radical Educators (NYCoRE) is a group of current and former public school educators and their allies committed to fighting for social justice in our school system and society at large, by organizing and mobilizing teachers, developing curriculum, and working with community, parent, and student organizations.”

We had the extreme pleasure of attending the NYCoRE 2016 conference on Saturday. While we missed the keynote – found here [] we had a great / informative time and met many educators from around the country and nyc. We will definitely be back next year once our project launches.

Big shout out to Cliff Lee visiting scholar at @YouthRadio in Oakland for a great session on Remastering Digital Tools for the Community


“Hive NYC is comprised of 55 non-profit organizations such as museums, libraries, code clubs, advocacy groups, higher education institutions, afterschool programs and tech start-ups. Together, they create equitable and accessible opportunities for young people to explore their interests and gain skills that prepare them for success in the information age.”

Another great opportunity to network with our peers. HiveNYC hosts meetings every 6 weeks to reconnect with their many partner/stakeholder team. It’s an opportunity to network, get feedback on projects and introduce new members to the inner workings of the Hive and how to get involved. We look forward to collaborating with them in the near future.

ReJoicing Spirits is growing!

We are finally picking up momentum! Our service was advertised in the Uniondale Beacon and in Newsday’s faith calendar!!!
We have also reached some of the group homes in our community. Yesterday we had visitors from 3 local homes attend our service. Not that we are counting (well maybe just a little:) but, our service had almost 30 attendees: staff, morning worshippers who came back, caregivers and those with learning disabilities.
We tried an activity for the first time. Upon entering our building people were asked to make a pretzel with some bread dough. During the service they were baked by our staff and we enjoyed them after service. Our theme for the day was prayer. We talked about different ways to pray. We folded our arms like a pretzel and learned about the monk who made pretzels to remind people to pray. It was well received lesson and the aroma of the baking bread added an additional sensory element.
As we said in our service: God is good all the time! All the time, God is good!!!

Thecla Comes to Williamsburg


Thecla at St Paul’s Lutheran was a success! Thank you to everyone who made it possible: To the talented cast, the Sower’s Grant team at the ELCA, our patient guest musician, door tenders, the gracious and kind staff at St Paul’s, and to our esteemed and honored collaborators who came and shared a wonderful evening with us! Thursday night and Friday night, Thecla enthusiasts from the five boroughs (as well as some visitors who had no idea what was going on) trekked to Williamsburg, Brooklyn to experience a worship moment unlike any other.


A fully immersive worship experience that relies heavily on interactive storytelling and dramatic representations, the story of Thecla comes to life in a unique way every performance. One of our two performances was filmed, and many of our guest collaborators volunteered to offer testimony about their experience. These interviews have been collected and will be shared as soon as possible.


Looking back on the experience, I have to say that I noticed a sense of calm the swept across the stage after worship did not last. There was a low point of energy after the conclusion of both performances, however the lull in energy soon gave way to passionate conversation – sometimes about the performance, sometimes not. I’m most excited to pursue this work because the effect of singing and experiencing fully a story alongside someone else, can be a transformative experience. We hoped to share the good news with anyone who would come and hear it, and the results were overwhelming. Our next blog post will include testimonials from our collected video as well as our thoughts about how to move forward.

With Blessings of Peace and Tranquility this Lent,

Zachary Stevens-Walter and the Yes And Cast



greetings from the south bronx

This post comes to you by way of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Highbridge, Bronx. We’ll be utilizing this space to keep the teams abreast of our progress and share the fun details of our journey toward building the Highbridge Media Lab [stay tuned for our social media site – coming soon]

We’ve had a busy winter with one of our first phases of the project – the vocal booth and performance stage build out.

makin stuff
highbridge media lab buildout

The Highbridge MediaLab project was conceived with the intent to create a creative space where the community can gather to perform, showcase, learn, create and build. Using the existing event space we will convert the stage area into a multiuse production / performance space complete with vocal recording booth, band rehearsal space, concert performance venue and film/screening room.

– ceiling in sound booth
– square off stage. ensure stage is flush and square with front of stage.
– sound booth roughed out
– extend stage to lengthen booth
– replace flooring with new vinyl tile

– add 2/4 more colored flood lights
– install heavy curtain – also serves to dampen sound
– plaster and painting all sheet rocks
– make and install sound dampening panels
– cover exterior window
– install film/video screen
– install high lumen LCD projector


We’ll be back soon with additional updates!

– David & the Highbridge Medialab team