Freedom Rising Salons

A year-long conversation series with thought leaders, organizers, poets artists and modern prophets reflecting on crucial justice issues, addressing our nation’s most pressing moral concerns, and what we all can do to rise and meet them.

Middle Church is a renowned center for justice-oriented public education. Thousands of people have attended our virtual antiracism trainings, and thousands more participate in our conferences and teach-ins. And we’re thrilled to announce the launch of our new Freedom Rising Salons! This year-long virtual conversation series will feature thought leaders, organizers, poets, artists and modern prophets reflecting on crucial justice issues, addressing our nation’s most pressing moral concerns, and what we all can do to rise and meet them.

Click here to purchase tickets!

Building on the incredible response to our 15th annual Revolutionary Love Conference last spring (click the link to purchase footage of that gathering), we have expanded our public education format. This year, we’ll offer more regular convening—each focused on a different theme—putting our senior minister, Rev. Dr. Jacqui Lewis, in conversation with leaders who will deepen your engagement with that month’s theme.

Through this series, we hope to ground exploration of justice issues in rich particularity, while also honoring how the work of liberation builds upon itself. Each month will examine freedom from a different vantage, but the entire series will be organized around how we can rise in fierce love, equipping participants with the tools they need to fight for freedom in their own cultural contexts. And we also will foster a culture of communal support to help nourish your dreams, and connect you with other people who can help you pursue them.

A season ticket offers:

  • Tickets to all virtual Freedom Rising Salons, to be held monthly on Wednesday evenings from October 2021 through June 2022. (And, after the event, recordings of every session so you can watch any you miss and rewatch whatever you’d like!)
  • Access to two special teach-Ins to be held on MLK, Jr. Sunday and Juneteenth. More details forthcoming.
  • Automatic registration for our two-day April convening, “Rising to Multiethnic Community: An Antidote to White Supremacy” with Andre Henry, Kat Armas, Robert P. Jones, and others. More details forthcoming.
  • A copy of Jacqui Lewis’ upcoming book, Fierce Love: A Bold Path to Ferocious Courage and Rule-Breaking Kindness That Can Heal the World (Penguin Random House, November 2021). The first 100 orders will receive a signed copy!

October 10 | 12:45 – 1:45 p.m. ET

A Sabbatical Journey Through White Supremacy, Black Resistance and The American South

Join Rev. Dr. Jacqui Lewis and Rev. John Janka for a free teach-in describing lessons they learned on sabbatical travel through the South. They embarked on this journey asking how the same religion could birth both theologies that enslaved people, and theologies that resisted slavery. And they searched for lessons about Black joy and resilience that sustained people through the struggle against that evil, that can inform how we live into fierce love today.

John Janka (he/him) is the co-founder of The Middle Project, which prepares ethical leaders for a more just society. He created the annual Revolutionary Love justice conference offered at Middle Church.  John is a consultant to congregations and denominational systems on strategic planning and visioning; managing change and resistance; dealing with cultural diversity and conflict; and human relations. Ordained in the United Methodist Church, Janka has taught leadership skills in the Doctor of Ministry Program at Wesley Theological Seminary and co-created the Doctor of Ministry Program in Public Theology at Drew University.

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October 20 | 7:00 – 8:30 p.m. ET

Rising to Indigenous Reparations

In this conversation, we’ll talk about how to move from nominal indigenous reparations, like land acknowledgements, into deeper partnership with native siblings. We’ll talk about how power and colonization still manifests in many of the ways religious communities interact with indigenous communities, and in our own theologies. We’ll also talk about the role art can play in helping us to imagine new futures that foster indigenous thriving, and tell more accurate stories about our native siblings’ past, present and future.

Jacqui Lewis will be joined in this conversation by Kali Spitzer and Jim Bear Jacobs.

Kali Spitzer (she/her) is is Kaska Dena from Daylu (Lower Post, British Columbia) on her father’s side and Jewish from Transylvania, Romania on her mother’s side. A photographer, her work includes portraits, figure studies and photographs of her people, ceremonies and culture.

Jim Bear Jacobs (he/him) was born in St. Paul, Minn., and is a member of the Stockbridge-Munsee Mohican Nation. He is the Director of Community Engagement and Racial Justice for the Minnesota Council of Churches. and the creator and director of “Healing Minnesota Stories.”

This conversation is made possible through sponsorship by the Middle Project, an organization that prepares leaders for a more just society through social justice initiatives that foster greater political and civic engagement. The Middle Project takes its strength and approach from the progressive faith traditions that have played a major role in America’s greatest democratic achievements: the abolition of slavery, civil rights, universal suffrage, and the anti-war movement. It carries out its work through active partnerships and collaboration, education and training, and fiscal sponsorship.

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November 17 | 7:00 – 8:30 p.m. ET

Rising to Fierce Love for Ourselves and the World

We’ll celebrate the launch of Jacqui Lewis’ new book, Fierce Love: A Bold Path to Ferocious Courage and Rule-Breaking Kindness That Can Heal the WorldIn the book, Rev. Dr. Lewis teaches readers how they can build concentric circles of fierce love—to better love yourself, your posse and our world. Throughout, she weaves stories from her own life that illustrate the surprising ways love manifests in our lives, and how it bends our world toward justice.

Jacqui will be in conversation with Cole Arthur Riley. Cole (she/her) is the writer and creator of Black Liturgies, a space for Black spiritual words of liberation, lament, rage, and rest; and a project of The Center for Dignity and Contemplation where she serves as Executive Curator. Her debut book, This Here Flesh: Spirituality, Liberation, & the Stories that Make Us, will be published February 22, 2022 and is available for preorder now.

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December 15 | 7:00 – 8:30 p.m. ET

Rising to A Moral Economy

We live in a world of economic extremes: American billionaires added more than $1 trillion in wealth throughout the pandemic, while millions of families now risk eviction. Unfortunately, that gap will continue to grow if we don’t pass policy deliberately crafted to reduce inequality. This deplorable state of affairs violates the abundance created for us to share. In this conversation, we’ll explore a variety of policy solutions that could help rebalance this cultural mess. We’ll particularly focus on the ongoing eviction crisis, and examine how public housing, increased minimum wages, community land grants and collective action can make a difference. Plus, we’ll discuss how theology has been complicit to constructing these economic disparities, and the spiritual changes religious communities must make to help build systems that equitably distribute everyone deserves.

Jacqui Lewis will be joined by Tiffany Dena Loftin and Jawanza Williams. Tiffany (she/her) is a national social and racial justice organizer. She trains movement leaders on the fundamentals of power relationships and organizational capacity building to directly improve the conditions of communities of color. Tiffany served as the National Director for the Youth and College Division at the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). Her mission there was to train, organize and uplift young Black leaders everywhere who fight for the racial, social, and economic equity of all people. She worked with 340 middle, high school, and college autonomous chapters under her leadership who are constantly recruit new members that organize local and national campaigns like ending mass incarceration, ending gun and police violence, school safety, college affordability, and protecting and increasing democracy.

Jawanza (he/they) is a Black, radical Queer, Prison Abolitionist, Socialist, Community Organizer. He is a native of Beaumont, Texas. They are Director of Organizing for Voices of Community Activists and Leaders (VOCAL-NY), and were recognized by City & State New York in 2021 as one of the 50 top activists to watch.

This conversation is made possible through sponsorship by the Middle Project, an organization that prepares leaders for a more just society through social justice initiatives that foster greater political and civic engagement. The Middle Project takes its strength and approach from the progressive faith traditions that have played a major role in America’s greatest democratic achievements: the abolition of slavery, civil rights, universal suffrage, and the anti-war movement. It carries out its work through active partnerships and collaboration, education and training, and fiscal sponsorship.

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January 16 | 1:30 – 3:00 p.m. ET

How to Build Beloved Community with Fierce Love: A King Day Teach-In

Join the Middle Church ministry team for a free Martin Luther King Jr. Day teach-in about how to cultivate the kind of fierce love we need to heal this country. Particularly on the heels of the one-year anniversary of the Capitol insurrection, it’s clear that a chasm is widening between neighbors. And we simply cannot overcome the crises of this century as a house divided upon itself. But we also cannot heal without confronting the truth about what is driving us apart.

Dr. King’s legacy offers a blueprint for this work. Through engaging with original source material and the insights of modern organizers, we can transform dreams of beloved community into a plan for action.

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January 19 | 7:00 – 8:30 p.m. ET

Rising to Beloved Community

The beloved community that Dr. King promised requires radical honesty and true repentance, a journey upon which white American society stubbornly refuses to embark. Even now, the fervent resistance against teaching honestly the history of US racism in our schools underscores the work we must do. This conversation will focus on how we can transform beyond the painful divisions that try to tear us apart, to foster conciliation. We will focus on both the personal and social dimensions of this work, and the practical steps each of us can take to heal what is broken.

Jacqui Lewis will be in conversation with Danya Ruttenberg. Rabbi Danya (she/her) is Scholar in Residence at National Council of Jewish Women and author of the forthcoming On Repentance: Repair and Amends in an Unapologetic World (Beacon Press, August 2022), on applying an ancient framework of repentance and repair to the contemporary public square, to institutions, and to national policy.

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February 16 | 7:00 – 8:30 p.m. ET

Rising to Freedom

“Freedom is never given; it is won.” – A. Philip Randolph

The United States is perched upon a precipice: In the next decade, we will either become a genuine, multiethnic democracy for the very first time or tumble backward into Jim Crow-era disenfranchisement. Right now, lawmakers in dozens of states are advancing bills that would use modern poll taxes and literacy tests to prevent millions of people from casting a vote. Whether they will succeed depends entirely on the power of our collective resistance.

In this conversation, Rev. Dr. Jacqui Lewis will talk with LaTosha Brown (she/her) and Lisa Sharon Harper about what we all can do to demand free and easy access to the ballot. And they’ll examine the lessons learned from organizing efforts in the 2020 election about the best way to encourage our neighbors to make their voices heard.

LaTosha Brown
LaTosha Brown is the Co-Founder of Black Voters Matter, Black Voters Matter Fund and Black Voters Matter Capacity Building Institute. These initiatives are designed to boost Black voter registration and turnout, as well as increase power in marginalized, predominantly Black communities. She has received numerous awards and accolades for her work. She has been featured on ABC, CBS, CNN, Democracy Now, and PBS. Her Op-Eds have been showcased in the New York Times, Politico and Essence. Her work has also been highlighted in several docuseries: What’s Eating America?,  American Swamp, and Finding Justice. Ms. Brown is also the 2020 Hauser Leader at the Center for Public Leadership at Harvard Kennedy School, the 2020 Leader in Practice at Harvard Kennedy School’s Women and Public Policy Program, and a 2020-2021 American Democracy fellow at the Charles Warren Center at Harvard.

Lisa Sharon Harper
A prolific poet, artist, and activist, Lisa Sharon Harper is the founder and president of, a consulting group dedicated to shrinking the narrative gap in our nation by designing forums and experiences that bring common understanding, common commitment and common action. Ms. Harper leads trainings that increase clergy and community leaders’ capacity to organize people of faith toward a just world.

Ms. Harper is the author of several books, including Evangelical Does Not Equal Republican…or Democrat (The New Press, 2008); Left Right and Christ: Evangelical Faith in Politics (Elevate, 2011); Forgive Us: Confessions of a Compromised Faith (Zondervan, 2014); and the critically acclaimed, The Very Good Gospel: How Everything Wrong can be Made Right (Waterbrook, a division of Penguin Random House, 2016). The Very Good Gospel, recognized as the “2016 Book of the Year” by Englewood Review of Books, explores God’s intent for the wholeness of all relationships in light of today’s headlines.

This conversation is made possible through sponsorship by the Middle Project, an organization that prepares leaders for a more just society through social justice initiatives that foster greater political and civic engagement. The Middle Project takes its strength and approach from the progressive faith traditions that have played a major role in America’s greatest democratic achievements: the abolition of slavery, civil rights, universal suffrage, and the anti-war movement. It carries out its work through active partnerships and collaboration, education and training, and fiscal sponsorship.

Learn More

March 23 | 7:00 – 8:30 p.m. ET

Rising to Gender Equality

The fight against patriarchy is a holy struggle. For far too long, men have wielded undue economic, social and political influence to the detriment of all other people. And while forms of #girlboss feminism have made headlines, they have sadly left much structural inequality intact—we still suffer gross disparities in pay, bodily autonomy and representation across board rooms and statehouses alike. Moreover, “gender justice” has too often left out our trans and gender nonconforming siblings, who are currently under legislative assault. Any movement for true gender equality must confront these myriad forms of harm. In this conversation, we’ll talk along the fault lines of these modern struggles—how we can build new coalitions of all people impacted by patriarchal abuse—to birth a world where everyone is free to live into the fullness of their gender without fearing violence or suffering injustice.

Abby Stein (she/her) will join Jacqui Lewis for this dialogue. Abby is is a Jewish educator, author, speaker, and activist. In 2015, Abby came out as a trans woman, and has since become a prominent activist for trans rights and those leaving Ultra-Orthodoxy. She is the author of Becoming EveMy Journey from Ultra-Orthodox Rabbi to Transgender Woman.

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April 20 | 7:00 – 8:30 p.m. ET

Rising for Mother Earth

Between raging fires and devastating storms, it’s very clear: Our Earth is in crisis. And it’s also clear that this planetary emergency is caused by capitalism—which continues to view nature solely as resources to be extracted, even as the consequences of this destructive theology intensify. Unfortunately, too many faith communities try to pursue ecological justice without confronting our problems at their source.

In this training, Jacqui Lewis will speak with Oluwatosin Kolawole, a representative from Green Faith, an interfaith and international organization that equips religious communities to fight extraction and exploitation. Kolawole (he/him) is a Nigerian climate activist and the Executive Director at Climate Tube media. His passion for environmental sustainability is grounded in his experience working on dumpsite cleanup in Lagos, Nigeria, and his conviction that impacted communities hold the wisdom to lead global change. He was a convener for the People’s Climate March in Nigeria, 2014 – 2016 and has partnered in campaigns against climate change, gas flaring, water privatization, and oil spillage with partners such as, Mother Earth project, Climate reality, Global Catholic Climate Movement, and Friends of the Earth.

They’ll talk about the pervasiveness of ecological racism—in the U.S. and abroad—and articulate why we must move beyond a lens of individual change to pursue structural solutions. Attendees will leave with new tools and theologies for building resilient, caring communities and economies that honor our common Mother, and the love we’re called to share human and non-human kin.

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April 23-24 | 11:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. ET

Rising to Multiethnic Community: An Antidote to White Supremacy

Multiethnic community isn’t easy. It’s also the only way we can uproot the white supremacy that’s poisoning our politics and communal life. To build spaces where all people are welcomed, seen and celebrated, we must begin by facing crucial truths about the interlocking injustices that currently keep us apart. Jacqui Lewis is a renowned expert in multiethnic movement building: In her  more than 15 years as senior minister, she’s helped Middle Church transform into one of the most robust and diverse faith communities in the country.

We invite you to join us for a two-day intensive, where Jacqui will be joined by a host of fabulous guests, who each approach community-building from a different vantage point. Together, we’ll help equip you for the difficult but essential work of fostering space where everyone is welcome, and organized to disrupt the forces keeping us apart.

Kat Armas (she/her) is a Cuban-American author and podcaster from Miami, FL. Her first book, Abuelita Faith: What Women on the Margins Teach Us About Wisdom, Persistence and Strength examines the intersection of women, Scripture, and Cuban identity. She also explores similar topics on her podcast, The Protagonistas, which centers the voices of Black, Indigenous, and other women of color in church leadership and theology.

Curtiss Paul DeYoung (he/him) is the Chief Executive Officer of the Minnesota Council of Churches. He has also served as the Executive Director of Community Renewal Society in Chicago, and as Professor of Reconciliation Studies at Bethel University in St. Paul, MN. He is the author of Living Faith: How Faith Inspires Social Justice.

Mary Fashik (she/her) is a Lebanese born, queer disability rights activist, author, public speaker, and workshop facilitator. She is the founder of Upgrade Accessibility, a movement designed to challenge today’s accessibility standards. In 2020, she created Camp Access, a virtual camp experience for the disabled and chronically ill community.

Andre Henry (he/him) has a passion for making the invisible visible. In the summer of 2016, he began lugging a solid granite boulder around Los Angeles to show the weight of systemic racism on the black psyche. And he founded an activist collective called “Something Disruptive” after police killed his mentally ill neighbor, J.R. Thomas. An accomplished musical artist and writer, he is also the host of the Hope and Hard Pills podcast.

Robert P. Jones (he/him) is the CEO and Founder of Public Religion Research Institute and a leading scholar and commentator on religion, culture, and politics. Jones is the author of White Too Long: The Legacy of White Supremacy in American Christianity, and The End of White Christian America, which won the 2019 Grawemeyer Award in Religion.

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May 18 | 7:00 – 8:30 p.m. ET

Rising to Disability Justice

Our justice work is incomplete if it isn’t accessible for all people. Even though most people, at some point in their lives, will become disabled, our communities continue to fail to provide even baseline accommodations for universal access. A solution to this problem cannot rely solely on the goodwill of individuals and organizations—we need deep, systemic changes to transform our culture. The past two years have clearly shown how swiftly we can change workplaces, schools, restaurants and public facilities when we want to. We cannot force our disabled siblings to keep waiting for change we need right now.

Jacqui Lewis will be joined by Talila Lewis. Talila (no pronouns) is an abolitionist community lawyer, educator, and organizer who works to ground all social justice movements in disability justice. Talila’s current work primarily focuses on helping people understand the inextricable links between ableism, racism, classism, and all forms of systemic oppression and structural inequity. Recognized as a 2015 White House Champion of Change and one of Pacific Standard Magazine’s Top 30 Thinkers Under 30, Lewis co-founded and serves as director of HEARD, a cross-disability abolitionist organization.

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June 15 | 7:00 – 8:30 p.m. ET

Rising to Divine Queerness

Queer people and communities, though long-vilified in religious spaces, provide one of the most beautiful embodiments of what God is doing in our midst. Ethics of radical community care, joy as resistance, destabilizing false binaries/hierarchies, and the revolutionary power of art transform divine promise into worldly action. In this conversation, we’ll examine how we come to know God better through LGBTQIA+ people, and the ways queer liberation offers a roadmap to free all people.

In this conversation, Jacqui Lewis will be joined by Semler. Semler (all pronouns) recently became the first openly queer artist to hit number 1 on the iTunes Christian music charts with their EP, Preacher’s Kid. The project explores Semler’s experience growing up as a queer person of faith. Semler has been featured on NPRThe Washington Post and Apple Radio. Preacher’s Kid was recorded independently by Semler on a USB mic and received over a million streams in just a few months.

Together, they’ll talk about how they use their music to offer the kind of radical love they wish they heard growing up. She’ll talk about the why heteronormative culture fears LGTBQIA+ people, and how everyone can fight legislative bigotry. And he may even offer a song or two…

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June 19 | 1:00 – 3:00 p.m. ET

Juneteenth Teach-In

Juneteenth is a reminder of the chasm that persists between our nation’s founding promises and lived realities, and the holy resistance that has narrowed that gap. In this free event, we’ll celebrate the Black joy that fuels our fight for Black liberation. We’ll speak with movement elders, to give historical perspective for the present struggle, and community activists who are building the nation we deserve. And no celebration would be complete without music! So come ready to dance and sing: We’re freed by the love we plant together.

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Do you yearn to not just belong, but be celebrated for exactly who you are? Do you want a community of folks committed to radical love and justice? Wherever you live, you can call Middle Church home.


This movement needs you! We need your time and talent, but we also need your resources. Make a contribution today and help us be midwives to love and justice.

December 5, 2020

A six-alarm fire spread from the building next door and destroyed our beautiful sanctuary. But no fire can stop revolutionary love! Learn how we’re rising from the ashes, and what you can do to help.

Find Your People!

Middle hosts small groups for everything from beginning ukulele lessons, to Queer Black Men in the Middle and our Voting Reform team. And all of them have options to gather virtually! Join the groups that best fit your passion, and the love you want to offer the world.

Liberative Learning

How do you change the world? First, you change yourself. Part of how we fulfill our commitment to God’s gospel of liberation is by training leaders with the skills you’ll need to bring freedom wherever you go. Thousands have participated in our digital courses. Will join them?

What We Believe

Middle is on a mission to reclaim and reframe Christianity—to realign our faith with Jesus’ teaching and take it back from the folks who have stolen it. We do this work joyfully, fueled by the Spirit, and strengthened by the community we create with one another.

Celebrate LOVE with Us!

Middle’s worship is a joyful, diverse celebration that gives a taste of what heaven feels like—an experience to soothe your soul and fill you with God’s liberatory fire! Every week is different, but what remains constant is how we tell the story of love through transformative art.

Do Justice

Faith comes alive when our love radiates outwards. At Middle, we’re committed to building an intersectional movement that both addresses the particular needs of different communities and unites us in common solidarity. This is God’s work, and we hope you’ll join us in it.