Thursday, June 08, 2017

Table to Action Design Workshop

Back in October 2016 I wrote about attending the initial SF Bay Area meeting of Table to Action[1].  I mentioned soliciting one or three of my local interfaith colleagues who are Roman Catholic, Buddhist, and/or Hindu.  Unfortunately, I was unsuccessful.  A college professor friend recommended a liberal Catholic at her institution, and introduced us by email.  I invited her and got her in the loop for the next meeting in February.  She responded that she was eager to come, but for whatever reason(s) she did not attend.

Sponsored by Auburn Seminary and Starr King School for the Ministry, that second meeting was very like the first one.  Table to Action had planned a longer follow-up workshop to take place in April.  It was an evening, followed by a daylong design workshop.  This is some of what the invitation said:

From September 2016 through February 2017, a multi-religious group of about thirty Bay Area spiritual and community leaders have gathered…to form a community of resilience and accountability and discuss common questions related to our struggles for justice.

When we began…the questions before us were related to our spiritual, emotional and physical sustainability in the context of relentless demands and challenges and frequent setbacks.  We approach the questions intersectionally, both from personal and communal standpoints,

We asked ourselves what kind of justice movement we dreamed of, one that would engage issues intersectionally, respected our different social locations and histories and honored our bodies and souls as we are in the struggle.  …

After the elections, we checked on how our bodies and souls and our community fared in the midst of constant multiple attacks on the values and communities we love.  We asked ourselves how we could best support each other across our different communities, and strengthen our capacity to build a sustainable and resilient local community or resistance and resilience.

This longer engagement culminated “with a DesignShop[2] … [to] imagine together where we might want to reimagine ways to collaborate for justice in the Bay [Area] in these times.”  The title was:

We Are Not Afraid to Reimagine[3]
A Design Shop Intensive[4]

We gathered at City of Refuge United Church of Christ in Oakland on the evening of April 23 and all day on April 24.  The Hospitality Services of City of Refuge, an excellent venue, conveniently located with plenty of parking and a small garden outside, catered our event.  The food was great, accommodating various dietary concerns, and the food preparers (all women, it seemed) friendly and kind.  They earned several applauses throughout the two days.

The first evening entailed a re-acquaintance with other participants, and for those who hadn’t attended the first two meetings, getting to know each person.  Again, I was unsuccessful in recruiting either Buddhists, Catholics, or Hindus, although I know that all three are active in interfaith, social justice, and environmental concerns.  To be fair, there are few Hindus in my immediate area except for a Vedanta retreat, which is a member of Marin Interfaith Council.  However, there are plenty of activist Catholics and Buddhists.  And since this was a Bay Area-wide effort and there are many Hindus in the Santa Clara Valley (aka Silicon Valley), I found their absence worth mentioning.  It wasn’t I who convened this group, so I don’t know how wide a net they cast.  Regardless, I did invite Felicity Grove, an interfaith colleague from NCLC-CoG.[5]  Surprisingly, among this group of about thirty, there were four Witches.  One, Courtney Weber Hoover works at Auburn and is part of the program, so she was an employee-participant.  The other was local Witch Luna Pantera, whom I’ve known for many years and knew of her involvement with NOW.  I had not encountered her at interfaith activity until now, although I’m now aware that she attended the second MountainTop in Atlanta in 2015, as I did in Nashville in 2013.  I was glad to see her taking the step of further involvement.

As in earlier DesignShop sessions, we gathered in small working groups, where we were given a topic or a problem to address collaboratively.  The specific configurations of these groups changed with each change of topic; all were timed to 30 minutes.

An artist documented our full group discussions on whiteboards around the room.  I described this here, starting at the sixth paragraph. 

Get on the Bus

Round One of this exercise involved teammates depicting “the Bay Area’s movement work as if it were a bus on a journey…traversing any kind of landscape.”  Includes details such as obstacles, challenges, landmarks, “as well as the nature of the interaction on the bus…”  After this we walked around to see what others had been talking about.

“It’s easier to get from THERE to HERE than it is to get from HERE to THERE.”
DesignShop Axiom

For Round Two, teams drew a bus that represented the ideal Future State, three years from today, then chose a team member to report the group’s final ideas to the whole gathering.

Design a Home

For this module we formed new teams in which each of us was given a description of a specific person and assigned to enact that individual in the discussion.  We were five people, each decidedly different from the other in terms of age, health, economic situation, ethnicity, et al., seeking to share housing in the Bay Area.  We were to consider each participant’s needs: cost; location; quiet hours or quiet area; rooms for entertaining visitors; sharing food and/or meals or not; accessibility of public transit; pet(s) or none; house meetings; levels of fastidiousness; chores; need for yard or garden area; etc.  No one knew who the other was portraying prior to the role-playing discussion.

My role was that of a 52-year old gen X-er, middle class, working in nonprofit, given to inclusivity, reflection and discussion, no rash decisions.  The names given to each participant were not generally seen as being gender-specific.  My name was Leslie.

“To add someone’s experience to your experience, 
to create a new experience, is possibly valuable.”
DesignShop Axiom

Then we debriefed for another 20 minutes, setting aside our roles and reviewing what just happened in our housemate meeting.  Questions we considered were:

1.              What process did you work out to make this decision?  Who took the lead?  Was it an explicit process or did it just evolve?

2.              What worked well and what could you have done differently in listening to what was important to each of the other housemates?

3.              How did you balance incompatible objectives and priorities?

4.              How was this scenario like some of the trade-off decisions that have to be made in creating a more racially and economically equitable Bay Area?

5.              What did you learn about design decisions like this one that you can use going forward?

At the end of that time, we reported what we learned to the whole gathering.  I felt okay about how this module went.

“Everything that someone tells you is true; 
they are reporting their experience of reality.”
DesignShop Axiom

Designing a Game
Design the Sustainable Justice Game

Beginning with the assumption that everything can be turned into a game, we were tasked with designing a “sustainable racial and economic justice game.”  Colored paper, beads, yarns, colored markers, and other game-making materials were provided.  Both Felicity and I were in this group together with two other people.

Questions we considered in devising this Sustainable Justice Game were:  Choosing a game to model; the objective of the game; what winning looks like; who can win and under what circumstances; strategies leading to success or failure; what advances play or sets players back; barriers/obstacles to winning and how to overcome them; resources/skills players need and whether they’re easy to pick up or can be offered from one player to another; who are the players and what are their roles and characteristics; player interactions and powers, limits or constraints; cooperation or competition; field of play; and rules.  And importantly, what unique characteristics of the multifaith movement for social justice can be built into our game?

We began by brainstorming a list of our favorite games.  There was one game that neither Felicity nor I knew anything about.  Both of us clearly expressed this numerous times.  Nevertheless, time was running out and we hadn’t settled on one game to use as a template that all of us agreed on, so the person most invested in using the game she suggested took the lead and began writing about it on our whiteboard.  We settled with doing the support work of making the board and the pieces according to what the other two were telling us about how the model game goes.  Personally, I felt excluded from designing the game and handicapped due to our ignorance of it.  And I will say that this exercise was not fun for me.  Nor was it an equitable collaboration.

Our result, ideally, was writing the rules, preparing the board (or other field of play), pieces, and other elements so that another team can actually play it.

“If you can’t have fun with the problem, 
you will never solve it.”
DesignShop Axiom

We then moved our tables together to hear what another group designed and to share what we designed.  The other group created a game I really liked.  It was a board game, with all roads leading to the center.  The object was to get to the center, and for those who reached the center sooner to work towards bringing along every other player.  I couldn’t hear their explanations due to the distance created by two large tables pushed together, the acoustically “live” room, and the softness of their speech.  I did the obvious, which was to request the speaker to speak louder because I wanted to hear what they had to say but couldn’t.  The first time I said this, the speaker duly increased her volume.  However, the next speaker again spoke softly and again I said I couldn’t hear.  This situation was exacerbated by people leaning in to hear better and thereby blocking my view.  Of course, I kept moving my vantage point so that I could see the speaker, but it didn’t do much good

We concluded the day by gathering once again in a circle, where Melvin Bray, the facilitator asked that someone from each team tell us what they did.  This is where things got dicey among four who participated in the game design segment.  The facilitator did not extend our talk so that we could express our frustrations and resolve our differences.  Perhaps others didn’t see the tension and bewilderment on our faces.  I was disappointed.  Normally I would do that myself  -- speak up.  However, we were at the end of the day and there seemed to good way to deal with the problem without being disruptive.  Instead, I spoke to another team member one-to-one after the close, expressing that I wanted to clear things up.  I have heard nothing more.

In hindsight, I see that we – or I, at least – participated in a lower key, less take-charge way because we were conscious that we were viewed as the seemingly privileged middle-class educated white folks, or using the term I prefer in such circumstances, Euros, among a minority majority assembly.  We tended to hold back more than we usually would in service, I thought, of good behavior, not bullying or trying to take over.

At each of the three Bay Area sessions, I met and talked with several very interesting people, folks it’s unlikely I’d meet otherwise, because they were primarily from the Abrahamic religions and I don’t usually have occasion to attend Christian, Jewish, or Muslim religious ceremonies.  At all three Table to Action events I attended, I met several people I’d like to know better, and perhaps ultimately either supporting each other’s efforts or perhaps collaborating.  I would have enjoyed more socializing -- just in general, not specifically at these events.  Because those of us to participate in interfaith (or, more appropriately in our case, inter-religious) activities know that it is in opening ourselves to and cultivating personal friendships that forge and sustain our efforts.  In order to make this happen, we would need to be able to remain in contact so we could deepen these connections to the extent that each of us was moved to do so.

So my primary frustration with this whole project is that we have been provided no way to continue our conversations and to help with and/or fortify each other and each other’s interfaith work.  For some reason I was under the mistaken assumption that this project was intended to forge alliances.  Some of us did, individually, exchange contact information.  I hope that a contact list is provided at some point, although I don’t anticipate more sessions.

[1]  Unfortunately the FAQs on the Table to Action website appear to be in Latin.
[2]  DesignShop is a method created by Rob Evans of Imaginal Labs.  Here’s a brief talk about it.  You may recall my post about MountainTop in 2013, which I explained as I experienced it.  The founders explain it here. 

[3]   “We Are Not Afraid to Reimagine” is a line from a poem written collectively at the Table to Action dinner on September 20, 2016.
[4]   “DesignShop is a methodology that puts participants into interaction with one another to identify challenges, concerns, problems or opportunities and to design together a way of addressing them.  The future is coming, whether we are ready or not.  Our desire is a future by design—that we shape toward justice—not by default.”

[5]   Northern California Council, Covenant of the Goddess

Thursday, April 27, 2017

My First Class at Cherry Hill Seminary

Boundaries & Ethics

Back in an earlier incarnation of Cherry Hill Seminary, the late Judy Harrow and I were recruited to a new course offering called “Boundaries & Ethics in Pagan Pastoral Counseling” – yes, I dislike using the word ‘pastoral’ in a Pagan context because it’s a specifically Christian term relating to sheep and shepherds (“shepherds of men”; however, Judy convinced me that it was the term used for what she did as a member of professional counseling organizations).  Now Judy actually was a pastoral counselor by training, I, on the other hand, have never been one, nor do I have such aspirations.  This course is appropriate for anyone, Pagan or not, pastoral counselor or not.

I think this may have been CHS’s first online class, taught by the inestimable Cat Chapin-Bishop, Chair of the then-Pastoral Counseling Department.  This was during her previous career in counseling.  Our class had its own Yahoogroup for discussion, plus our weekly live online meeting held in a Yahoogroups chat.  This was prior to Moodle teaching programs.  As you can imagine, the chats were clunky and unreliable, with people getting bumped off and having to re-enter.

In any case, I found it to be really useful, addressing a topic that one doesn’t learn in the typical process of a Pagan training.  We discussed such issues as:

«    How much counsel coven or group leaders can reasonably provide (i.e., has adequate professional training);

«    Avoiding burnout;

«    Evaluating the counselee’s situation to determine if you (leader, HPs, whatever) can help or if and when to refer someone to professional therapists;

«    Researching local therapists, and even interviewing them, to see if they’d be sensitive to Pagan spiritualities (i.e., would they think it strange that anyone would consult the Tarot for guidance or do they think it’s is the work of the devil);

«    Researching and reviewing the ethics statements of various helping professions (i.e., American Counseling Association and the like);

«    Ultimately, writing our own personal statement of ethics, which may or may not be like others’ statements of ethics.

This last had the most value to me.  These things are not usually taught as part of Pagan religious training.  And it’s not essential for you to articulate a formal statement of ethics if you’re not the person whom troubled members consult.  However, it is important to review one’s own ethical principles once in a while.

In fact, one significant product engendered by that course is “Spiritual Counseling and Wiccan Clergy: not psychotherapy in disguise,” which remains available to the public among the archival treasures on the Proteus Coven website, founded by Judy Harrow and colleagues and thankfully still available to anyone online.

Cat’s solicitation to take this course recruited both Judy and me in the development of Cherry Hill [Pagan] Seminary.  Sadly, Judy is gone now, but I’m still kickin’.  Drop by to see how you can help and to see what’s being offered.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

MIC Clergy Luncheon on Diversity and Inclusion

If you do not intentionally include, you unintentionally exclude.” 
~Neil Lenane

Last week I attended one of Marin Interfaith Council’s monthly clergy meetings.  I learn a lot at these meetings, not so much about religio-spiritual stuff as much as about organization, institutionalization, healthy and dysfunctional groups and how some institutions work towards healing community.  Also about lots of social justice issues – immigration, capital punishment, war, teen suicide, LGBTQ concerns, domestic violence, et al.

MIC is mostly white folks, reflecting the demographic of our locale.  We solicit and welcome as much diversity as our region has.  Yet we are aware of the limitations that our relative homogeneity might present.

 This meeting addressed our assumptions and behavior around diversity and inclusion.  To that end, we had a presenter from the San Francisco & Marin YWCA.  The Y’s motto is “eliminating racism/empowering women.” Human Resources at the W.K. Kellogg Foundation says:

The foundation has come to understand that diversity and inclusion are about the experiences staff members have while they work here and how all of our actions influence the work environment, from learning about and celebrating our differences to addressing structural barriers that perpetuates inequalities.  [Emphasis in original.]

Presenter Laura Eberly brought “a strength-based lens and motivational interviewing technique to group and individual cultural competency development.” 

Laura provided an Inclusion Inventory for us to consider when evaluating our own cultural literacy and attitudes.  She took us through five stages of evolution to help us understand some of our unconscious assumptions that tend to separate us from others.

The first, Denial, applies to missing the differences.  Sometimes privileged people say to themselves, “I don’t have to be concerned about ‘that’.”  She also pointed out that “passing” is a minimization.  Perhaps some seek to “pass” for reasons of safety; however, if they feel unsafe, we need to work towards a society where instead of seeking safety by passing, everyone feels safe and accepted, welcome and included.

The second, Polarization, seeks to judge our differences.  Polarization reinforces and affirms stereotypes, even while acknowledging our diversity.  It can put us in an oppositional stance, which is good for no one.

Minimization de-emphasizes difference.  In my view, this attitude makes our world bland, colorless, lacking vibrancy and nuance.  It’s also trivializing.

Reaching the level of Acceptance means that we understand differences.  This enriches our cultural competence.  We’re not yet where we want to be, but nearing that goal.

Finally, Adaptation bridges difference.   Bridging difference, finding common ground, allows us to work together with trust and respect.  Bridging brings the greater resources of everyone included.  Lessons, customs, talents, ideas from everyone who wishes to contribute give us a richness and pool of resources and ideas we wouldn’t otherwise have.  Working together presents a stronger force with which to resist oppression and foster positive change for everyone.

Certainly as Pagan and Witchen religious expression has diversified, it behooves us to look towards how others address and resolve these issues.  I would like to see us explore this subject in more depth within our own diverse and inclusive Pagan communities.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Annual Thanksgiving Eve Service and Homeless Persons Memorial Day

19th Annual Thanksgiving Eve Service

For the past several years I’ve participated in an annual Thanksgiving service sponsored by the Marin Interfaith Street Chaplaincy.

Each ‘clergy’ -- I don’t use that appellation for myself but the interfaith communities do – is asked to bring a teaching, reflection, or other offering to the gathering.  For the first few years, I briefly told the story of Demeter and Persephone, reminding attendees that they’ve likely heard this tale or some version of it before.  Then my sweetie Corby, who’s a good singer, and I sang “Demeter’s Song in harmony.  I think it’s a beautiful song and one that contains imagery that is timeless and easy to identify with, i.e., “the lover’s smile and the workers arm” and “the heart that cries and the hand that heals.”

Last year, given the situation in the Middle East, I found myself thinking of Inanna, who arose in those lands.  I debated with myself just what I might bring to the service that was relevant and new.  What I decided to do was to speak about Inanna and the troubles in her ancient lands, and then have us do a spell together using a call-and-response; it went well.

Since last year went well using Pagan concepts (Inanna and spells) that are less familiar and less accessible to mainstream religions, this year I decided to add another Pagan notion, that of entheogens (wine, mescaline, et al.) and the change of consciousness that accompanies their ingestion.  In my mind was John Barleycorn, except that many homeless folks struggle with alcohol abuse and my presenting him as a harvest god who lives in the barley would have been insensitive to their situations.  So I skipped talking about entheogens and simply introduced the idea of the the divine spirits who inhabit different plants, specifically grain crops.  Then we sang “John Barleycorn,” with everyone singing the refrain together.  “All among the barley, who would not be blithe, when the ripe and bearded barley is hanging on the scythe.”  I love this song.  I love the feeling I experience when we sing these words together.  I can practically see waving golden grains.

So that’s what we did.  Corby and I sang the verses and everyone joined in the refrain.

I searched the Internet for this song so I could provide a link for the reader to hear it.  Alas, in the folk tradition both lyrics and melodies of many songs morph in various ways, and all the versions of this song I could find on YouTube were slightly different from the way I learned it.  I learned the song in the early 1980s from singer and folklorist Holly Tannen.  She learned it from the singing of Mike James and Mick Tems, of the Welsh singing group “Swansea Jack.”  Having been written or created in the late 19th Century, “All Among the Barley” is no ancient song.  That makes is nonetheless appropriate and effective, and my former community and I, within community or on my own, sing it at Harvest Home (Autumn Equinox).  For the past three years the inmates at San Quentin where I volunteer have sung it when our circle celebrates autumn.  For the reader’s pleasure I offer it here:

Now is come September, the hunter’s Moon begun
And through the wheaten stubble is heard the frequent gun.
The leaves are pale and yellow, and kindling into red,
And the ripe and bearded barley is hanging down its head.


All among the barley, who would not be blithe
When the ripe and bearded barley is smiling on the scythe.

The spring is like a young man who does not know his mind.
The summer is a tyrant of a most ungracious kind.
The autumn’s like and old friend who loves one all she can.
And she brings the bearded barley to glad the heart of man.


The wheat is like a rich man; it’s sleek and well-to-do.
The oats are like a pack of girls, laughing and dancing too.
The rye is like a miser; it’s sulky, lean and small.
And the ripe and bearded barley is monarch of them all.


(Repeat first verse.)

At this Thanksgiving Eve service new sleeping bags, packages of socks, and such array the harvest altar along with pumpkins, ears of corn, and other harvest.  They are distributed at the conclusion of the ceremony.

I reluctantly must say that the other chants offered at this service were, to me and Corby at least, pretty lifeless, except for the music of the Lighthouse Gospel Choir of Marin.  Singing “All Among the Barley” together livened everything up.

We concluded with a chant lead by a woman from San Francisco Theological Seminary.  It’s one we all probably know, “All Shall Be Well.”  However, the folk tradition being what it is, we sang it as one single note instead of with the melody I’m used to.  Nevertheless, it proved to be an effective seal for the spell.

Homeless Persons Memorial Day

I’ve reported in the past about memorials for those in our county who’ve died without a roof over their heads.  They’ve taken place in summertime and have begun with a procession through the streets.  This year was different.   The National Healthcare for the Homeless Council has designated December 21 (on or around the date) as Homeless Persons' Memorial Day.  This year we joined others all over the country in memorializing those unfortunate and often premature passings.

Street chaplain Rev. Paul Gaffney asked me to offer the prayer and lead the gathering in a chant I’ve done before.  I had something better and more seasonal to share because the service, and the named day, was scheduled for December 21, the first day of the returning sun.  So instead I delivered a brief reflection on the return of the light.  Then, at the conclusion of the ceremony, after we’d all lit candles from a single flame and assembled on the terrace in front of 1st Presbyterian Church of San Rafael.  It’s lively. It’s fun.  It’s affirming and encouraging.  And it keeps the legacy of Pagan songwriter Charlie Murphy alive.  This one I was able to find on YouTube (albeit we didn’t have the enhancement of a gospel choir).

Happy Holidays!


Thursday, November 17, 2016

Faith and Aging

My latest blog is at Patheos in their Public Square.  I am joined by eight other faith leaders addressing the topic of Faith and Aging.


Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Interfaith Retreat -- The Interfaith Path: Many Roads, One Way

Marin Interfaith Council offers periodic retreats, open to all.  Two speakers from two different religions reflect on the same topic.  This is about the most recent retreat, held at Green Gulch Zen Center last week, and posing the following questions.

What would interfaith spirituality look like if we practiced it faithfully?  How do we engage the unique practices and teachings of our own traditions in a way that includes, rather than excludes, those of other traditions?  Is there a life-giving path in each tradition that is both unique and inclusive?

 The first speaker was Fr. Thomas Bonacci, C.P.  Our paths had not crossed prior to the day of the retreat, even though we are both active in interfaith locally.  A scriptural scholar and activist, Fr. Tom is founder and director of The Interfaith Peace Project, which “encourages interfaith peace and mutual respect through small discussion, study, prayer, ritual, and practice.”  Here are some of his observations that I managed to note:

“Jesus is only one way.”  “The way” is one route; we are to be the road, not the obstacles.”  “When you go to the ‘soul of your heart,’ you sense interrelatedness, interdependence, not as ‘we’ but as the awesome One.”

“The tao is a bucket of water.  Tip it over and it flows to the lowest places where it is most needed.”

“Who do you think you are?  God’s gift to the universe.  You are the light of the world.  Your responsibility is to let your light shine.”

He spoke eloquently of “the river of peace, the pool of healing, the lake of serenity.”

Fr. Tom also explained, for us non-Catholics, that there are different kinds of priesthood:  Diocesan priests “make a promise.”  Monastic priests and nuns in orders “take vows.”  I had no idea.

The second speaker, the Rev. Shokuchi Deirdre Carrigan, is a Soto Zen priest in the lineage of Shunryu Suzuki Roshi, founder of San Francisco Zen Center.  She met her teachers, Zen Master Tenshin Reb Anderson and Senior Iyengar Yoga teacher Donald Moyer 30 years ago.  She has been practicing, and later teaching, Zen and Yoga. 

After Fr. Tom spoke, Shokuchi, who was brought up in a Catholic family, was visibly moved when she said that if she’d been brought up with the kind of Catholic scriptural interpretations and teachings Fr. Tom offers, she may not have sought spiritual sustenance elsewhere.

At our quiet delicious vegetarian lunch with other Green Gulch residents, I enjoyed an infrequent opportunity to catch up with my friend Sister Marion Irvine, “the running nun.”[1]

When we returned to the zendo after lunch, Shokuchi had us read aloud together this Loving Kindness Meditation:

Loving Kindness Meditation (Buddhist)

This is what should be accomplished by the one who is wise,
Who seeks the good, and has obtained peace.
Let one be strenuous, upright, and sincere.
Without pride, easily contented, and joyous.
Let one not be submerged by the things of the world.
Let one not take upon oneself the burden of riches.
Let one’s senses be controlled.
Let one be wise but not puffed up and
Let one not desire great possessions even for one’s family.
Let one do nothing that is mean or that the wise would reprove.
May all beings be happy.
May they be joyous and live in safety,
All living beings, whether weak or strong,
In high or middle or low realms of existence.
Small or great, visible or invisible,
Near or far, born or to be born,
May all being be happy.
Let no one decieve another nor despise any being in any state.
Let none by anger or hatred wish harm to another.
Even as a mother at the risk of her life
Watches over and protects her only child,
So with a boundless mind should one cherish all living things.
Suffusing love over the entire world,
Above, below, and all around, without limit,
So let one cultivate an infinite good will toward the whole world.
Standing or walking, sitting or lying down,
During all one’s waking hours,
Let one practice the way with gratitude.
Not holding to fixed views,
Endowed with insight,
Freed from sense appetites,
One who achieves the way
Will be freed from the duality of birth and death.

After that, she invited us to do a slow walking meditation in the glorious gardens of Green Gulch Farm.  Unfortunately, I twisted my knee on the walk down the hill, so did the rest of my meditating on a bench.  (This was on the right leg, the one that was affected by the stroke I suffered last year and that I’ve been working to heal and strengthen.)

It’s been several months since MIC has sponsored a retreat, and I for one have missed them.  The current staff, including Interim Director Rev. Scott Quinn, Acting Programs Associate Stephanie Humphrey, and Executive Assistant Janice Lum, did former Executive Director the Rev. Carol Hovis proud.

[1]           More about Sister Marion hereherehere, and here.  There’s lots more.

Thursday, October 06, 2016

Table to Action Initial SF Bay Area Meeting

Last week I attended an invitational meeting at Starr King School for the Ministry (UU) of the first local iteration of the Table to Action Project.   This project is co-sponsored by Auburn Theological Seminary in NYC (where I have presented and served on panels for several years, with, among others Judy Harrow, Katrina Messenger, and Grove Harris, in case you happen to know those Witches in interfaith) and the Arcus Foundation.  I really didn’t know quite what to expect, except for this description on the invitation:

 that seeks to bring together faith and moral leaders from across the landscape of the social justice sector to build an activist community and network grounded in right relationship. 

Our goal is to craft a blueprint for multi-issue organizing that presses past transactional and competitive ways of working and being together toward a vision of progressive organizing that can allow us to stand with and for each other in honesty, truth and compassion other over the long haul.

When I checked the website, I found that I had engaged with several of the key people over the years, at both Auburn and MountainTop about which I’ve blogged.  I was glad to have another opportunity to engage with the convener, Lisa Anderson, her colleague in Atlanta, Melvin Bray, and Gabriella Lettini of SKSM.

The first meeting was held in Chicago, the second in Atlanta, and this was the third. They plan more in other cities, which is where you, my Pagan colleagues, come in.  I will be asked for suggestions of participants.  So if and when one of these meetings takes place in your area, I can let them know of your interest.

About half of those 20 religious leaders at last night’s meeting were POC and the majority seemed to be (some said, some didn’t) LGBTQ folks.  There was one Muslim, several Jews, and lots of Protestants.  Evidently two participants were Buddhists, but I didn’t hear them state that.  Needless to say, this collaboration needs more diversity among its participants.  Same problem at MountainTop — a noticeable absence of Catholics, Buddhists, and Hindus, much less Pagans.

I spoke to the convener, Lisa Anderson, about that observation, and disappointment, at MountainTop (also co-sponsored by Auburn) as well as at Table to Action.  She said they were well aware and wished to remedy that.  So for the next meeting in this area I will be inviting some Catholics, Buddhists, and Hindus whom I know in local interfaith.  Maybe a Pagan or two as well.

To be clear, there were four Witches at the first MountainTop in 2013, which I consider a more than adequate representation.  Evidently there were others at the second MountainTop gathering; I did not attend.

I also mentioned this observation to Dr. Lettini, the local host, who told me the same thing I heard after MountainTop, which is that others were invited and for whatever reasons were unable to attend.

I told both Lisa and Gabriella that I was surprised, because in my experience in local interfaith, my friends from the Roman Catholic Dominican Sisters of San Rafael are among the most committed activists.  So are my friends and colleagues at Green Gulch Zen Center, Spirit Rock (Vipassana), and other local Buddhist groups.

It’s tricky to address the organizers about these omissions or unbalances without seeming critical and ungrateful.  I did, though, and they were very receptive.  (If I’m not good for anything else, I can really network well.)

So for our next meeting I’m soliciting one or more of my Catholic interfaith colleagues, whom I know would be a good addition to the mix.  By that I mean they’re open-hearted and caring, accepting of diversity and not hesitant to work.

I’m eager to see what Table to Action does and to participate to the extent that a congregation-less Pagan can.  That said, I thank the Covenant of the Goddess (an assembly of smaller congregations called covens) for financial support for my more distant interfaith activities.