Posted by: Mark Nielsen | August 8, 2007

Reba Place: Those Troublemakers In Evanston

I’m resting up, after the glorious tornado that was the Reba Place Church 50th Anniversary Celebration.

I served as point man for the tech and A/V portions of the program, which ran Friday night and all day Saturday, culminating with a music, dance, and multimedia extravaganza on Saturday night. In the absence of a stage manager, I ended up filling that role too: keeping the machinery oiled and all parties on one page. Though it all came out fine, it was hard for me personally, as I must begrudgingly admit I do not bear the weight of such wide-ranging responsibilities very comfortably–especially the tedious tech itself. To paraphrase a Mark Heard song, covered admirably by Buddy Miller, “I worry too much.”

As for the event itself, I think generally the people attending considered it a success, a chance to celebrate the past and take stock of the present. Yet it was very hard to accurately tell the complex story of this officially Mennonite, recently Emergent, evangelical-leaning, communal hippie-influenced, racially reconciling, ecumenical and oft-conflicted congregation (originally a small house church and Voluntary Service unit on a street called Reba Place).

With such widely divergent people and priorities over the years, many times it seemed the only things we could agree on –in our theology, social teaching, discipleship models and worship practices– was that Jesus is good for the world, singing is good for the soul, and food is good for the body (and also the Body… nothing like a few thousand potlucks to create an intimate community life). After that, the workings of this influential institution have been all over the map: from Old Mennonite to mainline Protestant to pentecostal to megachurch charismatic to Catholic & Episcopal, plus a lot in-between. We were at turns both radically liberal and biblically and socially conservative… yet all unified somehow by the love of Christ.

In other words, it’s one of the biggest, floppiest tents ever!

Tomorrow: I name names…


  1. Nice report, Mark! Looking forward to more.

    And thanks for bearing the brunt of the stage manager; it’s one of those jobs that if it goes well, nobody notices, but if it doesn’t, everyone notices….

  2. How many blogs do you got? You are all over the place. Admittedly, Lor Cunningham called today and in tghe course of our conversation she asked, “what happened.” This prompted me to google Reba Place and where only a few short year or two ago there were hardly any entries for Reba now there are several. None of them to my way of thinking answer the question “What happened.” Which leads me to conclude there are three kinds of people in the world, 1)those who make things happen; 2) those who things happen too. and 3) those who with raised hands in wonderment ask “what happened.” All three groups resided at Reba and from each group you get a different response.

    • I got two blogs – Marking Time, and I contribute to one a little bit that Will Fitzgerald co-edits: a simple desire. That’s it. I stopped the MySpace version of Marking Time last year or early this year, but I do have my WordPress blog cross-posting to my Facebook page. So that may be why it seems like I’m all over the place. Which is my goal. Though at this point, I still occupy a tiny ghetto of an online friend network and readership, with a grand total of about 25 people who care what I have to say in any given week. So no, I’m not really “all over the place”. But like Big Brother, I AM watching you…

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