Progressive Churching: On Slamming for Good

(This post is part of my ongoing series called Progressive Churching: Observations From the Front-Lines of Curating a Progressive Christian Church)


Sojo Slam: An Evening of Performance Art

Last Friday our church held our second Sojo Slam. The idea behind the Slam is twofold: one, provide space to celebrate the creatives among us within the realm of performance art, and secondly to raise money for good causes.

Our first Slam was back in August of last year. The performers were all from within our church and the goal was to raise $4000 to purchase the necessary sound equipment for our church plant that had just transitioned from House Church to meeting in a school. It was an electric evening of slamming, and at the end of it all we amazingly met our fundraising goal!

So for this second time around it was important to us to live in to one of our values as a church to partner with and support other people in the city who are doing Kingdom work. In this case, we wanted to help raise money for Shakti Rising, a local non-profit organization that operates a women's shelter to help women of abuse or substance issues get back on their feet, find their sense of self, and move towards becoming the light they were meant to be. They are beautiful people doing beautiful good. Our goal was to raise $2000 to pay for a Scholarship for their Apprenticeship Program.

The Setting

Around the corner from our house is an art studio called Expressive Arts @ 32nd and Thorn. The owner is a neighbor and friend of ours, and she graciously hosted us for the first Slam as well. Her studio  is this fantastic space where she utilizes art to bring healing and therapy to people (in addition to hosting fine art classes and galleries). I don't know what the fire code is for the studio, but cramming 85 people in it probably pushed the limits!

sojo slam feb 2015
sojo slam feb 2015

We brought in an insane amount of wings from Buffalo Wild Wings, had a handful of people in our church make homemade treats, and poured ale from a keg we got from the local brewery across the street, Thorn St Brewery.

There was no cover charge, nor did we sell the food. People could donate whatever they'd like. Drink tickets for beer or wine were $4 a piece.

The Artists

Twenty six people contributed to the performances that ranged from original music, to cover songs, to spoken word, to poetry and short stories. Some were creatives that shared at the first Slam, but over half of the performers this time were Sojo Slam newbs! Not only that, but this time around we even expanded and had several non-Sojo people participate, which was a ton of fun.

One of the highlights of the evening was discovering the talent from people who have been a part of our church for a while! Who knew we had so many amazing singers and writers and poets!

The Challenge

Prior to intermission I introduced Janice, the Director of Shakti Rising. She said a few words about who they are and what they do, but then she handed the mic over to one of the ladies who had gone through their Apprenticeship program.

This courageous warrior bravely stood up in front of a room full of strangers and told her harrowing tale. Complete with childhood neglect and abuse, life on the streets being used and controlled, addiction and confusion. She spoke of spending sleepless nights just counting the seconds between breaths while under the overpass, just to ensure she was actually breathing.

Her refrain was, "we tell stories to remember." And while for her it was certainly about remembering, for us it was about seeing. And knowing. And getting the opportunity to choose love and mercy by raising money so that the next girl who stumbles in to Shakti can have a fighting chance.

And so I challenged us, as a community, to come up with $2000 to fund a Scholarship. We took a short intermission for people to refill their food and drinks, to mingle a bit, and to give either cash, check, or swipe their card through our Square.

The Result

With just one performance remaining we had raised $1400. After announcing, and cheering (because, honestly, even THAT much is pretty frickin' awesome!), one kind and gracious lady casually made her way to the back and quietly made one final donation for $600. So that, when the final song was sung, we could stand up and announce to everyone that we met our goal!

There were tears and hugs and excitement that we had curated a space, like the Slam, to rally people around something beautiful.

Doing these Sojo Slams highlights several things that I am loving about planting Sojourn Grace Collective.

  • Finding creative ways to be out in our community as splashes of light and love.
  • Utilizing the arts as a way to point to something beyond.
  • Discovering where God is already hard at work doing Kingdom-good (i.e. Shakti Rising) and joining in.
  • Empowering artists within our community to Make Art!

Our goal is to have Slams several times a year. We would like to find different (larger!) venues to host us, and we'd love to expand our list of performers to include more people from outside our church. Additionally, each Slam we want to identify a different cause to raise money for.

To everyone who came out, thank you so much for performing and for supporting! If you'd like to stay informed about when the next Sojo Slam will be, make sure you're on the mailing list for Sojourn Grace Collective's Weekly Newsletter.