We drink it.

We swim in it.

We wash our cars with it.

We spend the first months of life immersed in it.

We are baptized in it.

We dam it.

We pollute it.

We waste it.

We thirst for it.

We can’t imagine life without it.

We take it for granted.


In the fall, Vine Street will do another 360. That’s the name we came up with when we first decided to look at something from every possible perspective and address it with as many of our senses and capacities as possible. We have done hunger:360, homelessness:360, prison:360, aging:360, and now it’s time for water.

We may well have discovered the one thing that touches every dimension of our life: physical, spiritual, political, economical, theological - or try to name one aspect of life that doesn’t participate in water’s flow.

What do we want to learn about water? How do we want to explore its theological meaning? What ways of knowing water have we never thought about? What do artists do with it?

If you would like to be part of a small group that plans this series, please get in touch with Thomas. We’ll find all kinds of ways to bring water into education, worship, service, and other aspects of our congregational life, and you could be part of the group that puts it all together!

Visit to Riverbend

We were able to schedule another visit to Riverbend (short for Riverbend Maximum Security Institution); so if you missed the tour on October 18, please join us on Monday, November 21. The tour begins at 5:30 and lasts about two hours, including conversation with two inmates.

Visit to Riverbend
Monday, November 21, 2011

Register now

The group size is limited, and we must submit the list of visitors to prison officials for background checks prior to the visit. Please use this form to submit your name and date of birth. We will organize child care as needed and make car pool arrangements. Registration deadline: Monday, November 14, 9:00am.

The visit is part of our prison:360 focus.

Can Prisons Be Places of Healing?

I still remember the faces of the women at Bedford Hills Correctional Facility. I still remember the words they shared with each other, their courage to speak truth, hard, painful truth.

Eve Ensler conducting a writing workshop with inmates at Bedford Hills Correctional Facility in New York.Monday night, as part of our prison:360 focus, I watched a documentary, What I Want My Words To Do To You, about a writing workshop led by playwright Eve Ensler inside a women's prison. I had the privilege to witness the power of words to open paths toward healing and wholeness. Fifteen women, the majority of them convicted of murder, used writing and conversation to delve into their most terrifying realities and grapple with their own culpability. If you haven't seen this documentary, I hope you will.

We all need places where we can speak the truth without fear, places where, in an atmosphere of love, we can explore the things that haunt and terrify us. We all need relationships that allow us to face our own brokenness, and for some of us prison can be the place where such relationships finally become possible.

On Sunday, we will have guest speakers from The Theotherapy Project, both during the Sunday school hour at 9:30 and during worship at 10:45. Mark and Dana West will talk about their work with small groups inside Tennessee prisons, and with former female offenders at Rivera House, a transitional home for women in East Nashville. Two of the residents will talk about their experience during worship. When truth is spoken and heard in a setting defined by love, healing occurs. Join us on Sunday in the fellowship hall and in worship, and you too will remember the faces and words of women who found healing behind prison walls.

What Are Prisons For?

At first the answers may seem simple. Prisons are for the punishment of people who have broken the law. Prisons are for the protection of the community from potentially dangerous offenders. Prisons are for the correction of behaviors that threaten life in community. But prisons are also communities where people live and work, where babies are born and people die of old age. What do we make of the fact that the U.S. has the largest prison population in the world? How effective are prisons in accomplishing what they are supposed to accomplish?

This fall we will meet numerous times for conversations around incarceration and how it relates to our faith. Some of the conversations will happen in our fellowship hall, others in homes, in a local prison, and in our sanctuary. We are well aware that we cannot address every dimension of this seemingly simple question, What are prisons for? Once the planning team started naming themes for programs, we quickly realized that we were looking at a complex and multi-layered set of issues.

The idea behind prison:360 is not to look at an issue from every possible angle. What we try to accomplish is integrating traditional classroom learning with opportunities for fellowship and service, as well as spiritual practice and reflection. 

All of the programs are open to the public, but please note that a registration is required for some.

Wednesday, October 12

6:30 p.m. (dinner begins at 6 p.m. ) in the fellowship hall

Robin Porter – How Do Prisons Work?

Robin began working in prisons as an intern when she was a student at Vanderbilt Divinity School, and today she is the Director of Victim Services with the Tennessee Department of Correction. She will share with us from her own experience how prisons work, system-wide and on the day-to-day level in a specific setting.

Make your dinner reservation by Monday October 10

Thursday, October 13

8 p.m.   Documentary night at the Kleinert’s

American Drug War (2007)

The U.S. has the largest prison population in the world, and illegal drugs have a lot to do with that. The War on Drugs has become the longest and most costly war in American history, the question has become, how much more can the country endure? Inspired by the death of four family members from “legal drugs” Texas filmmaker Kevin Booth sets out to discover why the Drug War has become such a big failure.

Map and directions

Sunday, October 16

9:30 a.m.   in the fellowship hall

Gayle Ray – What Are Prisons For?

Gayle is a former sheriff of Davidson County and former Commissioner of the Department of Correction. She will talk about the purpose of prisons: what is incarceration supposed to accomplish, and how well does the system work?

Sunday, October 16

10:45 a.m.   worship
Lee Camp, guest preacher
Lee is Professor of Ethics at Lipscomb University, at both the college and graduate level, and he is well known as the host and creator of Tokens, a “theological variety show.”

Monday, October 17

7 p.m.   Documentary night at the Kleinert’s

What I Want My Words To Do To You ( 2003)

The film goes inside a writing workshop at New York’s Bedford Hills Correctional Facility led by playwright Eve Ensler. Fifteen women, most of whom were convicted of murder, delve into and expose their most terrifying realities as they grapple with the nature of their crimes and their own culpability. The film culminates in a prison performance of the women’s writing by acclaimed actors Mary Alice, Glenn Close, Hazelle Goodman, Rosie Perez and Marisa Tomei.

Map and directions

Tuesday, October 18

5:30 p.m.   Riverbend Prison

Life Behind Bars

We have the opportunity to visit one of Nashville’s prisons, Riverbend Maximum Security Institution. Visitors get a close look at life behind bars as well as time to talk with two of the inmates. The group size is limited and early registration is required. Please register here or call the church office at 269-5614.

Sunday, October 23

9:30 a.m. in the fellowship hall

Prisons – Places of Healing?

Many non-government agencies, groups, and ministries work with inmates and ex-offenders. Mark and Dana West are with The Theotherapy Project, and they will tell us about their work with convicts while in prison as well as after their release, when they face the challenges of life outside. Graduates of the program will talk about their experience during worship.

Monday, October 24

7 p.m.   Documentary night at the Kleinert’s

The Dhamma Brothers (2008)

An overcrowded maximum-security prison in Alabama is dramatically changed by the influence of an ancient meditation program. Behind high security towers and a double row of barbed wire and electrical fence dwells a host of convicts who will never see the light of day. But for some of these men, a spark is ignited when it becomes the first maximum-security prison in North America to hold an an emotionally and physically demanding course of silent meditation lasting ten days.

Map and directions

Wednesday, October 26

6:30 p.m. (dinner begins at 6pm) in the fellowship hall

Charlie Strobel – When Crime Becomes Personal

Most of us know and love Fr. Strobel for his work with the homeless in our community. What many of us don’t know is that Charlie’s mother, Mary Catherine, was murdered in 1985 by a man who had escaped from a prison mental ward. We have invited Charlie to talk about how his faith shaped his response to the violent and painful loss of his mother.

Make your dinner reservation by Monday, October 24

Wednesday, November 2

6:30 p.m. (dinner begins at 6 p.m. ) in the fellowship hall

Robin Porter and Nicole H. Smith - Victim Impact

Incarceration is a means to punish and rehabilitate offenders. What about the victims of crime? How does the prison help offenders take accountability for what they have done? What systems are in place to support victims of crime? Robin is the Director of Victim Services with the Tennessee Department of Correction. Nicole has used her experience as a victim of crime to teach victim impact classes for inmates and facilitate victim offender dialogues.

Make your dinner reservation by Monday, October 31

Thursday, November 3

8 p.m.   Documentary night at the Kleinert’s

Prison Town, USA (2007)

In the 1990s, at the height of the prison-building boom, a prison opened in rural America every 15 days. The film tells the story of Susanville, California, one small town that tries to resuscitate its economy by building a prison — with unanticipated consequences.

Map and directions

Sunday, November 6

After weeks of conversations and experiences, we address in worship and in the context of the gospel some of the questions that have been raised. Our faith traditions speak and sing about prisoners losing their chains and prison doors flying open, about repentance, forgiveness, and reconciliation, and the scriptures are full of prison stories – Joseph, Daniel, John, Peter, Paul, to name just a few. Who knows what will emerge when we juxtapose recent experience and ancient tradition, burning questions and living Word?

Sunday, November 6

4:45 p.m.   Documentary night with the youth group

(the title of the film will be announced shortly)

Letters to a young elder

During April and May, we will talk a lot about “aging” at Vine Street. No, not the kind of aging we like in our cheese, steak, wine, or scotch – our own getting older and the aging of our parents. We will have a series of programs on baby boomers and medicare and how to live independently as long as possible – a whole host of conversations about important issues we call aging:360.

While I was meeting with the group that is putting it all together, I thought about what I would like to do as part of this 360 project. The landscape of aging is so vast and universal, and at the same time it is so very personal. What else might we do, other than sharing important information? How about some wisdom?

Joan Chittister, a very wise woman and one of the most gifted writers on spiritual matters of our time, published a series of brief meditations when she was just over 70 years old. The title of her book is, THE GIFT OF YEARS: Growing Older Gracefully.

Each of the forty short meditations with titles like, DREAMS, TALE-TELLING, REGRET, AGELESSNESS, and PRODUCTIVITY, begins with a quote. “Old age transfigures or fossilizes.” So true, isn’t it? Another one I liked because it reminded me of some of my favorite old people, “How beautiful the leaves grow old. How full of light and color are their last days.” When I sat with this one, “For the unlearned, old age is winter; for the learned, it is the season of harvest,” I just wondered what I might need to learn before the time of harvest begins.

In Chittister’s book, the quote in each chapter is followed by a meditation of about four pages, and the chapter ends with two pithy statements like these, “A burden of these years is to assume that the future is already over. A blessing of these years is to give another whole meaning to what it is to be alive, to be ourselves, to be full of life. Our own life.”

This is not a book for study, but rather one that invites deep reflection and response. I would like to read this book with a group of folks over 50. For eight weeks, starting sometime in April, we each read one chapter every day, five chapters per week. At least once a week, we write in response to what we have read. We may respond to just one particular thought, or to one or more of the chapters, or to the whole experience of reading, and we give our response the form of a letter.

At first I thought it would be fun to write this letter to a child or a grandchild, to a niece, or to the kid across the street. But then I started to think about bringing the reflection closer to the community where we live, work, and worship with several generations, closer to Vine Street. That’s when “letters to a young elder” crossed my mind like a bird you suddenly notice and then you can’t take your eyes off of it.

I like the idea that is beginning to take shape: Each week, we get together to listen to each other’s letters. We might read our own or ask someone in the group to read it for us. We may decide to talk some more. We may decide to collect the letters and give them to our folks under 50. We may decide to invite them to dinner and an evening of homemade wisdom. This is something I’d really like to do. How about you?

If this sounds like something you'd like to give some of your time to, call me or send me an email, let's say by April 10, and then we talk some more about how we'll make this happen.

muddy hymnal

As part of Vine Street's hunger:360 ministry project, we are happy to announce the opening of an art exhibit in our sanctuary.

The artist, Tallu Scott Schuyler, is a member of Vine Street, and in 2009 she spent several months working in Nicaragua.


muddy hymnal
photographs + stories about food + resurrection
by tallu scott schuyler

a photo essay about farming and faith that tells stories from a regional food security program in Nicaragua that prioritizes sustainable economic development in poor, rural communities across the country

march 6 - april 6, 2010
vine street christian church, nashville tennessee

*opening reception march 6 at 5–7 pm, gallery talk @ 6 pm

Take This Bread

One early, cloudy morning when I was forty-six, I walked into a church, ate a piece of bread, took a sip of wine. A routine Sunday activity for tens of millions of Americans — except that up until that moment I'd led a thoroughly secular life, at best indifferent to religion, more often appalled by its fundamentalist crusades. This was my first communion. It changed everything.

Eating Jesus, as I did that day to my great astonishment, led me against all my expectations to a faith I'd scorned and work I'd never imagined. The mysterious sacrament turned out to be not a symbolic wafer at all, but actual food — indeed, the bread of life. In that shocking moment of communion, filled with a deep desire to reach for and become part of a body, I realized what I'd been doing with my life all along was what I was meant to do: feed people.

And so I did. I took communion, I passed the bread to others, and then I kept going, compelled to find new ways to share what I'd experienced. I started a food pantry and gave away literally tons of fruit and vegetables and cereal around the same altar where I'd first received the body of Christ.

from the Prologue, Sara Miles, Take This Bread: A Radical Conversion

What do you do for Lent? Same as always? Or skip dessert? Decline chocolate? Non-fat lattes only?

I like going back to the ancient suggestion that I take time to reflect on my need to repent. That I open myself to the possibility of conversion.

I love marking this season that leads up to Easter with a journey through a book, the turning of pages taking the place of steps taken on a pilgrim's path. This year, it's going to be Take This Bread, and I invite you to join me. We read through the book together, and once a week we meet to talk about favorite passages, about questions and discoveries, and to take the bread of life, give thanks for it, break it, and eat it.

Does this sound like something you'd like to do? Get a copy of the book, and meet me on Wednesdays at 7pm, starting on February 17 (with smudges on our foreheads), in my study at the church.

It's no coincidence that this also fits in beautifully with our hunger:360 project.


In our 360 projects, we bring together what belongs together. Too often, we treat church life and ministry like a pizza: a slice of worship, a slice of education, a slice of service in the community, etc.

At Vine Street, we want to integrate what we do in those areas: the life of faith is not a pizza, but more like a circle where all points are defined by a common center. Our work, our worship, our family life, our study, our hopes, our fellowship – they all share, we all share a common center in the God who meets us in Jesus Christ.

360 is the sum of all angles. 360 is our way of saying, “We want to look at this from as many angles as possible. We want to experience this as completely as possible. We want to bring together what we know belongs together.”

hunger:360 is our second 360 project. Why hunger? That’s the question. Our gardens, fields and farms produce more than enough food for all, and yet there is persistent, deadly hunger on every inhabited continent. In November, the Department of Agriculture reported that here in the United States the number of Americans who lacked consistent access to adequate food soared last year, to 49 million. The government began tracking what is now commonly called “food security” 14 years ago, and the number of men, women, and children lacking “food security” has never been higher.

During Lent this year, beginning with Ash Wednesday on February 17, we will bring hunger and faith together to see how and where they touch.

We will study, we will fast, we will prepare and serve meals, we will pray, we will map our pantries, we will walk, we will read, we will trust the God of abundance in the deserts of scarcity.

hunger:360 offers us opportunities to

  • talk with Tallu Schuyler, Executive Director of Mobile Loaves and Fishes, about hunger in Nashville, and how we can address it
  • hear Kevin McCoy, Coordinator of the Nashville CROP Walk, who is passionate about the work of Church World Service and its fight against hunger
  • prepare meals and serve them in unfamiliar places in our city
  • walk through a photography exhibit in our sanctuary
  • pray with Jesus, the bread of life
  • watch a movie about a community garden project in L.A.
  • tour Second Harvest Foodbank
  • ask ourselves what hunger drives our insatiable consumerism
  • talk with Prof. Douglas Heimburger from the Vanderbilt Institute of Global Health about the effects of hunger and malnutrition on the human body
  • read Sara Miles, Take This Bread and discuss it in a small group
  • participate in the Nashville CROP Walk
  • map our pantries and refrigerators and find out where all this food comes from
  • worship God with our whole being

Watch for updates on individual events on this website.

The calendar below looks best in Agenda view.