December 8, 2014

City Square Church is Moving (In January 2015)

Ucc Space

After a year of Sunday morning worship at The Bioscience High School, in downtown Phoenix, City Square is moving to a new space in the historic Coronado Neighborhood on January 4, 2015. We will remain at Bioscience for the remainder of 2014, including for our Christmas Eve service.  Beginning in January we will be worshipping regularly at the headquarters of The Southwest Conference of The United Church of Christ located at 917 E Sheridan, Phoenix, 85006, 1.7 miles northeast of Bioscience High School. The UCC made us a generous offer to use the space at a very low cost and our leadership team decided this was the right move for us. The new location will allow us to be in a new neighborhood and will make for an easier setup/breakdown process each week. There is a small parking area and ample street parking. Each Sunday there will also be ample signage so folks will easily know where to go. We’re thankful for the time we had a Bioscience, especially the extremely friendly maintenance staff who worked to make it a great space to be in every Sunday. We’re excited about this new opportunity and hope you will join us in helping us tell other about the move. We’ll see you in January, Coronado!

December 1, 2014

Advent Art Project: Hope

This Advent, City Square Church will be featuring a piece of locally made art, each week in worship, representing that particular week’s Advent theme.

This first piece is “Hope” and was created by Ramon Aguirre.

Csq Advent Final from PJ Szabo on Vimeo.

December 1, 2014

Chureca (or, Why I Believe in God)

This is a guest post from City Square member Nathan Rosswog

Chureca 3

If I believe in God, it’s because of a garbage dump that smells like shit.

In the summer of 2008, my friend Clay and I backpacked through Central America for three months. We had no structured itinerary for our trip, but our goal was simple: Our desire was to meet people we had never met, to hear their stories and look into their eyes, and find connection between all of humanity. Truthfully, we wanted to find God in a way and place we had never found him before.
Though our trip was well-intentioned, it was poorly planned. In fact, the night before our departure from Florida to Guatemala City, our contact in Guatemala called to say he couldn’t meet us at the airport, but would send his friend Carlos to pick us up instead. Which was great, because we had no idea what Carlos looked like.

That vignette served as a microcosm for our entire trip: any flimsy planning we attempted to do was quickly blown away by the winds of travel, unexpected circumstances and Latin American instability. Still, despite the setbacks-Clay losing his passport, staying in an extremely dilapidated and sketchy hotel in San Salvador, wandering around aimlessly in Guatemala City for hours after taking a “short walk” and getting lost- I have never experienced God more clearly than on that pilgrimage.

I saw God everywhere.

I saw God in the natural beauty of Guatemala and Nicaragua; in the chiseled mountains and rolling fields and rushing, crystal waters.

I saw God on the top of the mountain in Guatemala where we were living and
working: He was in the strength of quiet and serious women who carried baskets of fruit on their heads every day; He was in the dedication of the calloused machete men who went into the fields to work the land, and of course he was in the laughter of the children as they played soccer.

I saw God in the funeral processions for loved ones, complete with pinatas, banners, and flowers; and I saw God in the general commitment to relationships and people that is lacking here in the United States.

I saw God in conversations, in lifestyles, in the street and on the mountaintop, in
the alleyways and hotels and buses and smiles and tears.

I saw God everywhere.

But mostly, I saw God in La Chureca, a Nicaraguan garbage dump community that was home to over 800 people. It was hell on Earth.

On the first day that Clay and I ventured into the dump, I noticed a blackened, soot-filled Teddy Bear that was suspended by its neck with wire hanging over the entrance. Below the bear fires burned, and the smoke that rose from these burning pyres had darkened the Teddy Bear’s coat to a deep soot-grey. I couldn’t help but ruminate on the imagery: though an ominous welcome, the blackened bear was an appropriate portrayal of the brokenness and death that lay inside. Once inside, my suspicions were confirmed: one quick glance revealed three-legged dogs that scoured for food, heaps of trash that burned incessantly, creating a canvas of ash and soot that blanketed the community, and children who, despite their surroundings, used the mountains of trash to play King of the Hill and Hide and Seek (children are the best of every culture, aren’t they?) People’s eyes were downcast and lifeless, shoulders were heavy from the weight of the discarded garbage and discarded lives. Literally, the place I was standing had “weeping and gnashing of teeth.” I was in hell.

The questions began immediately, and furiously: Where was God in this place? If these people are in Hell now, what kind of God would send them to an eternal one? What does salvation mean to these people? What relevance does church have in this place, when survival is the goal and trust is unknown?

Though most of my questions weren’t answered and many of them rage to this day, I began to see clearly -probably for the first time- that all of my preconceived notions about Sin, Hell, Salvation, Heaven and God were rapidly dismantled. It was unsettling to realize that Sin was tangibly real, and not simply a vague theological concept: It was clear to me that the greed and selfishness that created this dump, and the structures in place that perpetuated it, were nothing short of an abomination before God. Hell was real: I was in it. Salvation was real: In a palpable and desperate way, this place needed saved.

Oh, but the joy I felt when I realized that if Hell was real, Heaven was too! As I spent time with the people and heard stories of hope, of families sticking together, of neighbor helping neighbor, I knew all was not lost. As I spoke with the children about their dreams for the future, I knew that Death had not completely won, and that Life was still breathing there, though softly. I knew, or rather I choose to believe, that God hears the prayers of the nine year old girl there who prays every night to be a doctor, and that one day he will take the bones of poverty and sin that reside in that dump and breathe life into them until they are dancing upon the injustice that they now know. I choose to believe.

I believe in God, and it’s because of a garbage dump that smells like shit.

October 17, 2014

Statement on Marriage Equality in Arizona

As proud members of the Arizona family, we at City Square Church celebrate the thousands of families whose love and commitment have gained legal recognition in the place they call home. As proud members of the United Methodist family, we grieve our denomination’s continued failure to recognize all who are called into covenant relationship by God. As proud members of the City Square movement we remain committed to our call, acknowledge the sacred worth of all people regardless of gender or sexual orientation, race or ethnicity, political ideology or mental/physical ability. We believe that by strengthening the bonds of love and grace within our communities we live more fully into Christ’s call to create God’s kingdom on earth. That is why our pastors, Rev. Rob Rynders and Rev. Brian Kemp-Schlemmer are prepared to serve any couple seeking to enter into the covenant of marriage. May we celebrate together as we seek to connect people to God and each other for the transformation of our lives, our communities, and our world.

September 22, 2014

Announcing City Square Church Arcadia


After much time in prayer and conversation with the leaders of the Desert Southwest Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church and with the leaders of City Square Church, we are extremely excited to announce that we are launching a second City Square community that will be based in the Camelback East Village area of Phoenix. This new “site” will be called “City Square Church Arcadia.”

By March 2015 we hope we will have a worshipping community that meets weekly in the Arcadia area of Phoenix. I will be taking on the primary leadership of this new endeavor, as lead pastor. Pastor Brian will remain with the downtown site and will assume the role of downtown site pastor, immediately.

I have already begun the work gathering new people together in the Arcadia area. That work will significantly increase, throughout the fall, leading to a preview worship service in January 2015. While I only will preach from time to time at the downtown site, I will still assist in worship on Sunday mornings, in downtown, through December.

In July 2012 pastor Brian and I officially began the work that we believed God had called us to – planting a new, progressive, community of faith, in downtown Phoenix. As I write this, it is hard to believe that it has been over two years since we began that work. Things were extremely uncertain that first year. At times we didn’t know whether or not we’d make it. However, we remained faithful and on September 8th, 2013 we launched our weekly Sunday morning worship service in downtown. A couple of weeks ago we celebrated the one year anniversary of that launch. We could not have gotten this far without the amazing community of people that make up City Square Church. In fact, this movement has never been about the pastors, it’s been about connecting people to God and each other, for the transformation of lives, our communities, and our world.

If you’ve read that mission statement before, you may have noticed that we use the word “communities,” not the singular “community.” That’s because the original vision of City Square Church was to be one church with a presence in multiple communities. We started City Square with two pastors so we could innovate and learn a model of doing church in the 21st century together, so that model could be multiplied. In the beginning, we weren’t sure when that time of multiplication would come, however, early last summer we began to see that vision made clearer and we started to see a clear timeline develop for a second site.

We will not be splitting the current downtown congregation in half, however, we are providing an open invitation to people who live in the Arcadia, East Phoenix, and Scottsdale areas to help out with the Arcadia site. If you live in that area we ask that you pray about what role you may play in helping us build community there.

While this is very exciting, it also may be confusing and/or difficult for some folks. Brian and I have developed meaningful relationships with all of you and know that you will grieve not having a full-time presence from both of us. Please remember, however, that we are both still co-pastors of City Square Church and will continue to work together, even though we may be in different places on Sunday mornings. We will also continue to have a single leadership team and will work with them to put on events that will bring people together from both sites on a regular basis.

We know that you probably have questions, and we are always available to respond to your e-mails and phone calls. We’re also always open to grabbing coffee with you if you’d like to have a more detailed discussion. Please also know that we have three amazing lay leaders who are very knowledgable about our transition to two sites and would be more than happy to talk with you, as well. Those leaders are Theresa Thomas, Samuel Richard, and Jessica Anderson.

This is not the only time we will start a new City Square site. We sincerely believe in planting churches that are contextually relevant to, and serve their immediate neighborhoods. Once the Arcadia site is running and stable we will be looking to where God is calling us to plant the next site. I hope you will join me, Brian, and our leadership team in praying for this bold and exciting step City Square is taking, as week seek to make the love and compassion of Jesus Christ known throughout Phoenix and beyond.

Peace and Blessings,

Pastor Rob

For questions/information about City Square Church Arcadia please do not hesitate to contact us and/or if you’re interested in learning more about this new progressive and fully inclusive church plant please join us on October 4 for a family friendly mixer and information session.


May 19, 2014

Adventures in Missing the Point :: Faith & Science Part 1 :: The Beginning

Sermon from Rob Rynders based on Acts 17:24-28

Additional resources:

Mike McHargue (Especially his reading list, which helped with much of the research for this sermon)
Lawrence Krauss – A Universe From Nothing
Neil de Grasse Tyson
Carl Sagan
Cosmos Television Series (2014)
Brian Greene – Interview on “On Being With Krista Tippet”
David Montgomery – The Rocks Don’t Lie
Francis Collins – “Why This Scientist Believes in God”
The BioLogos Foundation