What is Taco Day?

mission

The tweets are circulating, the facebook event page is up, and the website is online. Taco Day 5 is nearly upon on us. Taco Day is a 12-hr taco party where you bring something to drink, some money for charity, and you eat free tacos, this much is clear.  But what’s isn’t always clear for folks who come across the event, is the concept behind Taco Day.  Who is this communitasPHX group that puts it on?  What is it about? Is it really free? What’s the point?

To be honest, for most Taco Day participants, answers to these questions aren’t that vital.  The combination of the words, “party” & “free tacos” are enough to secure their participation. But for those unfamiliar with Taco Day and those who haven’t been to one of the 4 previous Taco Day’s, these questions linger.  So here’s a behind the scenes look at Taco Day – a glimpse into the what and why behind the annual event.

The Story of Taco Day:
IMG_6502For my wife, Kelli and I, Taco Day began about 7 years ago.  While living in Southern California, some friends invited us to an all day Taco Party. Apparently, two buddies who had birthdays close to each other, decided to celeb rate their birthdays together by throwing a party for all of their friends.  They decided that instead of people giving them gifts, they would instead “give” their community of friends tacos – all day long.  This crazy but brilliant idea became an annual excuse for all their friends to be together and to celebrate the sense of community between them.  It was a simple, but powerful expression of what human relationships could look like.

As we moved our family back to Phoenix-metro area 5 years ago, Taco Day was something we knew we had to start in the desert.  So in 2005, we hosted Taco Day Uno at our home in Mesa. Opening up our house for 12hrs and having all our friends of our friends a hundred or so tacos could have easily been an overwhelming and exhausting experience.  But it wasn’t.  Something was beautiful about all of our friends stopping by, about us making tacos for them, and about connecting friends from different circles with each other.  The whole event was life-giving to us and gave us a new purpose as a family who wanted to promote and model new, hopeful, and generous ways of human interconnectedness.

As we enter our 5th year of Taco Day here in Phoenix, we’ve moved the event (and our family) to Downtown Phoenix, a vibrant and developing part of town that’s know for it’s counter-cultural people and creative expression. At Taco Day Cuatro, we had over 170 friends eat over 800 tacos and helped us raise $1200 for the Laundry Love Project – a local initiative serving the working poor.  Even with all of this growth, we can’t shake the feeling that Taco Day is just getting started. We hope to soon give the idea away to others looking to host Taco Days wherever they live across the country (or world). For now, though, we’ll focus on making this year’s event as special and as unique of an experience as any previous Taco Day.

So What’s the Point of Taco Day?:
IMG_6503

What’s not to like about friends, free tacos, and supporting a good cause? First and foremost, Taco Day is an experiment. In a world that seems to be increasingly isolated and individualistic, we wanted to get people together for a common good. There is something deep inside each of us that enjoys connecting with those we share our city and neighborhoods with. There is something inside each of that is interested in getting to better know those who see the world a bit differently than we do. This diversity of perspective challenge the ways in which we relate to one another and demand that we live more hospitable toward one another. And as we better understand each other, we learn how to exist and to work together to meet the unique challenges of our city.

Who is communitasPHX and what is their role with Taco Day:
CommunitasPHX is a local non-profit based in Downtown Phoenix that seeks to cultivate spirituality, community, justice, and creativity in the city. With initiatives ranging from a collaborative art/music/workspace (fractal) to grassroots work with the working poor (The Laundry Love Project) & the homeless (On Bikes with Love), communitasPHX hopes to offer fresh and creatives alternatives to the way in which we live and relate to one another. For the communitasPHX community, Taco Day has become a way in which we can model radical hospitality and inclusive generosity. Those involves with the movement help plan, pay for, set-up, and clean-up Taco Day each year. Our hope is that this simple gesture illuminates a new path of community, hospitality, and generosity for our neighborhoods and cities.

What else you need to know about Taco Day:

  1. YOU are invited – all are welcome to this event and the more the merrier. So bring some friends with you as well as some drinks to throw in a cooler to share with the the Taco Day crowd. If you can, bring a few dollars to support the work and efforts of communitasPHX.
  2. It’s 12hours long (10am-10pm) – you really don’t have a good excuse not to come. Your cousin’s wedding doesn’t last all day. You aren’t scheduled to work the entire time between 10am-10pm. You can stop by for 5 minutes or you can stay for 12hours – it’s up to you. Eat tacos for breakfast – we don’t care when you come, we’d just love for you to be a part of Taco Day.
  3. ALL money donated will go straight to the various initiatives of communitasPHX. Donations help us dream of new programs to run out of our community artspace (fractal) and will help us start new LLP’s and OBWL’s around the city. It’s good stuff that’s making a difference in the City of Phoenix.

We’d LOVE to have you join us for Taco Day 5.  You’ll find all the specifics of the event on the Taco Day website (http://www.tacodayaz.com) or on the Facebook event page.

This article was originally posted on the communitasPHX blog

April 19th, 2010

Dwelling in the Cracks; Filling the voids

mission

After two years of life & work in downtown Phoenix, there is so real momentum behind communitasPHX. We’ve built a great deal of social capital & relational credibility, and our initiatives and events we’ve hosted have been well received by downtown dwellers. Now, with the opening of fractal, an art, music, & workspace in the Downtown Phoenix arts district, our opportunities are endless to make an even bigger impact on the people & culture of our city. At the risk of getting ahead of ourselves, it’s quite remarkable that we’ve been given such a voice and such influence here in such a short amount of time.

Don’t get us wrong, this influence hasn’t been easy. We have worked hard for the past two years to gain the trust of neighbors. We have had to overcome the stigma associated with Christianity that young urbanites carry. We’ve promoted and participated in the agendas, hopes, and dreams of others. We’ve had to prove to folks in downtown that we love and care deeply not just about Jesus, but also about the city, her problems, and her people. Any voice we’ve been given to speak into the challenges of Downtown Phoenix has been because we’ve chosen to dwell in the places where we find voids.

There are numerous factors that play into the development of any city. If a city is young in it’s development cycle, or if it is far from reaching it’s full potential, many of these factors are being neglected. These “voids” could be anything: the lack of enough art spaces or music venues, a lack of social services to care for the poor and under-resourced, or the lack of a good bar or coffee shop. These voids are like the cracks of an old concrete sidewalk. They represent that which is keeping the city from being whole and they need to be filled. Filling these “cracks” help us “play a significant role” in the neighborhood we live in. They allow us to weave ourselves in the fabric of the community. And they give us a voice in the development of in our city.

Unfortunately, most communities of faith don’t realize the power of filling these voids in their cities. All too often, they come to their cities with a pre-conceived plan and agenda that fails to be sensitive to the real needs of the city. Our commitment is to dwell in the cracks of our city, to look for God there, and to join in whatever we find Him up to. Here’s how we’ve been able to fill these types of voids recently:

fractal as an art & music venue

Recently, the premiere downtown small music venue for independent and local bands announced it would be adjusting it’s format and would no longer be hosting these small concerts. With fractal, we can open our space up to these events and invite a whole new creative community in Phoenix to participate.

To view an article that our local entertainment magazine wrote about fractal, click here.

fractal as a community resource

As in any city, the needs of the under-resourced are numerous. Fractal gives us a home base for our justice initiatives (Laundry Love Project and On Bike With Love), but it has also allowed us to invite other groups doing great stuff in downtown Phoenix to join us in the space.

The Rusty Spoke Community Bike Initiative – the Rusty Spoke is a community bicycle shop that “provides space and tools for people to come to learn how to repair their bicycle and can also work towards getting a new bike by doing work trade at the shop or buying the bike outright at an affordable price”. These guys are recycling bike parts, promoting alternative forms of transportation, and providing transportation for those living on the streets. We’re excited and honored to partner with these guys.

To see the Rusty Spoke in action, view a recent video we’ve made

Rapid ReBrand – With another partner of ours, the Dojo Collective, we’ve developed an initiative that provides free design, web, and marketing solutions for local non-profits we believe in. Tapping into the graphic design community around us, we lock a group of designers and web developers in our space for 6hours once a month and don’t let them out until they’ve created a logo, website, print material, and whatever else our chosen non-profit needs to moves it’s efforts forward. It’s a great way to get the creative skills of the design community interfacing with the non-profit community to initiate change.

spiritual space

Many of our friends in downtown Phoenix don’t feel comfortable in church settings. Others have significant baggage that keep them from exploring God in the ways of Jesus. So we’ve starting a every-other week gathering for people to explore and interact with God in creative ways. This “space” is meant to be open, inclusive, and free-form. We hope to create environments and opportunities for people to have genuine interaction and connection with God.

Each of these are ways in which we’re dwelling in the voids that exist in our city. They are unique to our context and our experience. These can’t be duplicated elsewhere with the expectation of the same results. They have come as a result of us listening to those God’s put us in relationships with. We’ve chosen to get involved in each of these because we’re convinced they each represent a way in which we can be living symbols of God and his Kingdom.

This article was originally posted on the communitasPHX blog

February 1st, 2010

New Year, New Opportunities

mission

I love the turning of the year.  The passing of a year allows us to put the past 12 months behind us and look forward to what’s ahead.  The freshness of a new year begs us to shake the excuses and the fears that have kept us from doing the things we should be doing.  The new year is a blank slate full of the unknown.  What will we look like in the fresh space of a new year?  Will we push forward, becoming more of what we were intended to be and better play the role we were intended to play? I love the new-year-hope that leads us to answer these questions positively and confidently.

For communitasPHX, we too feel the excitement of new possibilities.  The end of 2009 was a busy one for us, starting with the success of the PHX BrewParty and ending with the opening of fractal (a collaborative artspace we’ve opened).  In 2010, we’ll continue this momentum with the launch of the Open Abbey (an initiative exploring contemplative spirituality in the city) and the kickoff a monthly art installation merging art & spirituality.  In the Fall, we hope to invite a new class of folks into our Symbol Collective, offering recent college graduates the chance to flesh out their faith through community, social action, and creativity before entering the “rat race”.

And all these events and initiatives overshadow the real life of communitasPHX, the people and relationships that make the movement what it is.  Both those who help and those being helped together will in 2010 better understand who they are and the role their meant to play.  Through the touch of relationship, they will get a glimpse of the heart and compassion of God.  Through the extension of grace and the sharing of laughter, they will experience the radical beauty that is the Kingdom of God.  Above all else, we do what we do because of the people we share this movement with.

So, as we move into this fresh decade, we hope that you too find yourself staring into the future with excitement.  We pray for you what we pray for ourselves, for an awareness and presence to see what God is up to, in our lives, in the lives around us, and in the city we live.

This article was originally posted on the communitasPHX blog

January 5th, 2010

The 2nd Annual PHX BrewParty

mission

CommunitasPHX throws two big annual parties to promote community in downtown Phoenix. The biggest and longest-running is Taco Day. Right behind it (and quickly growing in local popularity) is the PHX BrewParty.

We are happy to announce that the 2nd Annual BrewParty is on the calendar for the fall. This November 14th, 10-12 brews, a handful of local DJ’s, friends, strangers, and neighbors will converge on the front yard of a historic bungalow in Downtown Phoenix. The PHX BrewParty is part homebrew competition, part community party, part benefit, and all good times. You can find all the details on the BrewParty website.

This article was originally posted on the communitasPHX blog

September 2nd, 2009

Taco Day 4 will be livecast on the web

community // creativity // family // Justice // mission

For those of you who don’t live in Phoenix, but want to celebrate Taco Day with us, will be live streaming the event all day on Saturday including some special looks into Taco Day and interviews with guests at every 2 hours starting at 10am. The live stream is also a great way see what’s going on before you head over or after you leave.

Until Saturday, the channel will loop previous Taco Day videos for your TacoDay preparation. We’ll see you at TacoDay4!

April 28th, 2009

the communitas network: our new community site

mission

For those involved in the various efforts of communitasPHX locally, we’ve created and launched a new community site.  It’s a place where we can interact, share thoughts, document our journey, post photos and videos, and share important information (events, etc).  If you are following the movement from afar or are local and want to take a step deeper into our world, please feel free to participate in this new online community.

http://communitasphx.ning.com

AND….please feel free to let us know how we can make it even better.

April 1st, 2009

Prayers for Justice

mission

During our most recent collective, both as an excercise in creativity and as an exploration of God’s heart for Justice, we wrote down some thoughts and prayers.  Here’s a sample of what we came up with:

Justice is not about punishing the wrongs, it’s about embodying the good and true life.

We live in troubled times.  The economy hits close to home.  Friends, family, neighbors; anxiety is everywhere, but also Hope.

We are not judged by the events of our past, rather by the faith in and direction of our future.

As we live in a world of labels, make us people who live without regard to our differences.  May we live with compassion to all we encounter, both those who know they have need AND those who don’t. Make us people who are aware, who aren’t distracted by the notion of ourselves. Show us the differences between what we need and what we want – and help us live simply in result. Let us live on less before we’re forced to and when we are forced to, let us remember that we are not alone.

As I reflect on this exercise and it’s result, I am challenged by the paradox discovered in the simplicity of the language and the complexity of actually living in these ways.  As always we’ll do our best as a people, extending much grace to each other along the journey.

April 1st, 2009

2009 explorations

mission

communitasPHX is an experimental movement in that we empower fresh thinking, try new things, and accept both the successes AND failures that come with experimentation. With our new focuses for 2009 (see above article), we’re centering our common and public life together even more around the ideals of spirituality (Jesus-centric), community, justice, & creativity. We’ll be digging into these ideals deeply as a people in 2009, and here’s some of the aspects we’ll be exploring:

Spirituality (Jesus-centric):

  • Will being a part of an open spiritual dialogue (anything goes) allow for people to discover and follow Jesus?
  • Will developing a global community of some who are together living out ancient contemplative rhythms in modern day help develop our spirituality in new ways?
  • How do health and balance in our mental, emotional, relational, & physical lives affect our spiritual life?

Community:

  • Can middle-class and lower-class families really build deep friendships and share life together in meaningful ways?
  • Can white, african-american, & hispanic people really build deep friendships and share life together in meaningful ways?
  • Can parties be an effective and illustrative way to expose those around us to the kingdom?

Justice:

  • What systems are at work keeping those around us in poverty?
  • What are some simple and transferrable ways we can help those in poverty break out of the oppressive systems of poverty to discover a new hope?
  • Where and how are the issues of poverty, immigration, and human trafficking present our neighborhood and city?
  • How can we affect change in the issues of poverty, immigration, and human trafficking in our city?
  • Can we effectively introduce people to Jesus as they join us in “Kingdom-activity’?

Creativity:

  • How can we as a people play a “trickster” (publicly challenging the “way things are”) role in our city?
  • Can we introduce the public to the ideals of the kingdom by presenting the parables of Jesus through fresh, creative, and artistic events?
  • Would offering creative workshops (organic gardening, beer-brewing, arts) help those around us live more imaginatively?

April 1st, 2009

the roller-coaster ride of incarnational living

mission

During a recent conversation with a family member, I was asked to describe the various neighborhoods around us in Downtown Phoenix. I described at least three local neighborhoods as “if we took you there, you would think we’re crazy for not wanting to live there.” I didn’t know any other way to describe these neighboring communities. They are cleaner, more developed, trendier, and safer-feeling that the neighborhood we currently live in. To the average person, our decision to live in our neighborhood doesn’t make sense socially, economically, and physically (ie. safety concerns). To top off the insanity, the demographics of these neighborhoods are more like us: white, affluent, educated, & established. Ironically, it’s these very qualities that led us NOT to live in those neighborhoods and to instead settle into a much messier, less safe, diverse, and chaotic neighborhood filled with more people who are not “like us”, than those who are.

At the core of the communitasPHX movement is an interest in making Jesus accessible to all people. Our clear calling is to cultivate a movement that exposes our world to the radical beauty of the Kingdom of God and to the reality that this same Kingdom is available to all. To do this, we need to be in and amongst the people to whom Jesus is currently inaccessible. For sure, in a country built on religious freedom, all have the right to pursue the faith of their choice, but social systems and cultural realities exist that render some outside “the current reach of the church”. These are the people that communitasPHX primarily exists for. Further, in anticipation of a future-fulfilled Kingdom of God that is sure to be multi-racial and multi-cultural, we want to now live amongst a diversity of ideas, perspectives, cultural understandings, races, and socio-economic realities.

It was these postures that led us to center communitasPHX out of the Coronado district in Downtown Phoenix, a community that is filled with white & hispanic, gay & straight, young & elderly, rich & poor, religious & secular, and various other peoples. Living in the middle of such diversity has been an amazing joy, but it has challenged us to our core. We have hosted parties where all people can be (and are) valued, no matter what their sexual preference, race, or socio-economic status. We have talked with neighbors about caring for each other & the neighborhood itself in creative ways. We have embraced those stuck in lives of poverty and learned from their experience. We have discussed the pain of the past with neighbors and been able to offer a hope for the future. We have made neighbors feel welcome and have been made to feel welcome by others. We have let those who feel shut out of a relationship with God know that we want to help them reconnect with Him. In all my years of ministry, I am most fulfilled as I experience these “kingdom moments”.

But to be honest and fair, living in the messiness of diversity and of difference can be really painful as well. We have listened as the African-american mother-of-two on our street explain how her husband left the family earlier in the morning. We have cried with a neighbor whose wounds are still fresh from pain of losing a young daughter decades ago. We’ve experienced death: as both a visiting family member of a neighbor and a homeless man have died on our street. We’ve struggled with the indifference toward others that some can’t seem to shake. We’ve sought to help those living with addiction and been devastated by their inability to get help. We’ve felt lonely and powerless to really make a difference in the messiness and chose that so many people’s lives are characterized by.

Sharing life this way with people, especially people whose lives look different than ours, is really difficult. It is a roller-coaster with some unbelievable highs and some absolutely depressing lows. We recognize that these ups and downs represent the fact that the Kingdom of God is “already, but not yet fully” here. We catch glimpses of the radical beauty of God’s reign, but more often we experience the pain, the brokenness, and the messiness that sin has caused in our world. Were we not aware of this (and able to handle it), we’d have no business engaging in this sort of incarnational mission. We are people of light in a world of darkness, and as we build relationships with those God has put us in proximity with, we must celebrate the glimpses of the Kingdom every chance we get to allow us to handle the depth of pain and sorrow we walk with people through.

April 1st, 2009

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