This issue of Soundings includes:
Reports on the Brian McLaren conference, reflections on a trip to Pearlington MS, recipients of Seekers External Giving funds, and more.
Sunday, April 6—InterPlay, 1–4 pm, Seekers Sanctuary; Kate & Billy Amoss, Certified InterPlay Leaders
Saturday, April 19—Seekers Singalong, Sandra Miller’s house, 7:30 pm. Bring a snack to share; we’ll sing from Rise Up Singing. Glen Yakushiji facilitates and plays guitar.
Members’ Programs, Events, and News
Farm Shares coordinators—Jeannine Caracciolo writes: Tabor Farms will be starting with farm shares again in May. Aeren Martinez and I coordinated this for Seekers last year, but we’d like to know if anyone else would like to step in. We enjoy participating but don’t want to be the main pickup and distribution people this time. Thanks, Jeannine
Jackie McMakin writes—This week our New Dominion Chorale rehearsed this beautiful piece of music straight through and could see what a fantastic piece it really is. I’m hoping some of you might like to attend our concert. Please give me a holler if you would like me to get you tickets. Thanks. Jackie McMakin 703-827-0336
New Dominion Chorale presents Bach’s Mass in B Minor, Sunday, April 27, 4 pm. Rachael M. Schlesinger Concert Hall, Northern Virginia Community College, 3001 North Beauregard Street, Alexandria.
Marjory Bankson has an exhibit of her unfired burial urns and painted prayer shawls. The location is Goodwin House (also the home of Emily Gilbert) in Alexandria, VA. Marjory will also hold a Goodwin House workshop April 25 on making a burial urn—check for spaces available.
Margreta Silverstone is participating in a quilt exhibition April 1–30, with reception April 13, 11:30–1:30. Location: Friendship Heights Community Center, 4433 South Park Avenue, Chevy Chase, MD. Gallery hours are M–Th 9–9; F 9–5, and Sat/Sun 9–2.
Pat Conover writes—The website www.patconover.com is ready for use. A lot of the material on the website is relevant to Seekers, including sermons, worship resources, and Christian education resources. For example, I’ve posted materials for my School of Christian Living Class there. If you didn’t get a copy of my book, Seekers Church: Case Study of a Progressive Christian Community, it is available there. In response to the controversies over the sermons of Jeremiah Wright, I’ve posted a piece on Christian political speech. There are also my poems, stories, recipes, and songs. One section deals with my journey as a transgender person, including a coming-out sermon at Seekers. I’ve posted an updated spiritual autobiography as well as other autobiographic material. The theme of the website is “sharing the journey,” and it has led to the incorporation of dozens of wonderful photographs from around the world. Samantha, my daughter, has helped me get going, and now there are usually daily additions to the site. One note: If your browser has difficulty showing the site, please let me know for a possible fix.
Peace Camp—a message from Trish Nemore: Eyes to See, Ears to Hear Peace Prayer group is organizing a 1-day Peace Camp for kids ages 3–11, July 26, from 9 am to 3 pm at Carroll Street. The camp will be jointly sponsored by Seekers Church and Little Friends for Peace and will include art, music, cooperative games, learning about conflict resolution by boarding the Peace Train, and more. Camp will need teens and adults to help with activities. Mark your calendars! More later!
And a thank-you from Roy Barber for the Bokamoso scholarships: Dear friends—Your donations and pledges have been put to work already! I have been able to enroll 28 Bokamoso Youth Center graduates in college or vocational training courses. Thank you for sharing your resources to help these young adults improve their lives.
[Note: See the March 5 email to all seekers from Elese Sizemore, which includes an attached letter from Roy noting all the Bokamoso scholarship recipients and their schools and program fields. Those involved here in the annual trip to the U.S. are also thanked.]
Jackie McMakin sends a note from one of the Bokamoso visitors and scholarship recipients this year, Jeffrey Resenga: Hi—Jeffrey reporting or behind the mic. How are you? Hope you are okay. I’m okay and I will be starting my classes this week, if everything goes well. Other guys have already started going to school and Sam will be starting in June. What happened here was a big shock to us, but you guys came in and helped. I thank you for your kindness and caring for us. Now reporting on the job (responsibility) that you gave me, two guys changed and they are Sibusiso (Sibu) and Margareth. Sibu is doing child and youth care; meanwhile, Margareth is doing Beauty Therapy. Thanks for everything that you are doing for us. God bless you. Yours truly, Jeffrey
Anna Gilcher notes—Dayspring has a new website with updated information. The basic stuff is the same, but it’s got the dates of this year’s retreats, etc., on it. It’s www.dayspringretreat.org Looking forward to being there in April with many of you!
Kate Cudlipp notes: Dear Seekers—I am changing to a new email address, email@example.com. Thanks for noting the change.
BRIAN MCLAREN CONFERENCE REPORT
Jeannine Caracciolo writes—Here is a recap of Brian McLaren’s conference that several Seekers went to, based on his book “Everything Must Change.”
I missed the Friday night lecture which dealt with the “suicidal system” in the US. McLaren describes the system by outlining three subsystems: a Prosperity system based on overconsumption, which must be protected by an enormous Security system, and an Equity system, which is supposed to distribute the prosperity to those who cannot support themselves, but does not.
On Saturday McLaren gave a sermon on Jesus as a liberating king who can show us the way to overcoming the suicidal system. Then several speakers were brought on stage to describe what they were doing in their community to fight the suicidal system. Bill Duncan spoke about adopting a watershed in his area, Becca Stelle spoke about the spiritual support groups that she coordinates, and a man spoke about Emergent Village.
Then there was more prayer and singing in the “Emerging Church” style that McLaren represents. The emerging church movement has been growing since the late 1990s and is drawing a lot of interest from churches that want to find a way to attract people as the mainline churches are declining. There are several branches of the emerging church, and McLaren’s style is described as the liberal branch.
During lunch we found that the 4 other people at our table were more interested in the Emerging Church movement than in dealing with the suicidal system. 🙁
McLaren spoke after lunch about the need for a revolution in the churches, in businesses, and in government. He showed a chart that described the four “Ps” that need work: Poverty (people crisis); Planet (environmental crisis); Peace (crisis of wars); and Purpose (spiritual crisis).
He started to fill out the chart by saying that on the personal level we can reduce, recycle, and garden to help the planet, and we can volunteer with the marginalized and buy fair trade to help with poverty. He directed us to his website for us to add our own solutions. He suggests we move this work into the community and eventually to the global level.
This is where the conference fell short for me. It was the same when I got to the end of McLaren’s book and he says: “Jesus’ invitation to his original disciples was to begin living into this new way now. And it is, I believe, his ongoing invitation to us today…an exciting journey begins—a journey that leads us to action on four levels.” And next is a footnote that says, “I hope to more fully explore this call to action in a future book.” Yikes!!
I feel like I have already been doing the personal work on the 4 issues, but I want to see a larger movement that will make a world impact. I hope we can keep the conversation going at Seekers.
Cynthia Dahlin, Chair of Domestic Giving, reports:
Al Seekers who wanted to vote on Domestic Giving were invited to meet. I was so amazed by the way people were generous and giving in working out the compromises necessary to stretch a budget of $51,000 over $57,300 worth of requests. Just to summarize, a key factor this year was to look at the depth of Seekers’ actual hands-on involvement, and several requests were cut, not out of a judgment of worthiness or need, but on the depth of daily involvement of Seekers in the work. It looks like we might have the re-emergence of a “community passions” type list of groups—some groups have had historical importance to us, but there is not the daily involvement that we want for a major grant. So be sure to look hard—your group might have a bit of a scale-down. Here is a summary:
Hope and a Home—$4000
N Street Village—$5000
Children of Mine, Our Place and Horizons —$1500 as a group, to be allocated by Roy Barber.
Christ House Art Program—$325
Art for Autism—$200
Discipleship Year, Festival Center—$4000
Faith at Work—$3000
Compassion Over Killing—$200
Mass. Transgender Legal Advocates—$2000
Center for Medicare Advocacy—$500
Coalition on Human Need—$1000
Learning Disabilities Assn of Montgomery Co.—$1000
Thanks for all the thoughtful participation in this process. I was anticipating much more difficulty reaching this decision, and should have trusted in the spirit among us!
David Lloyd, Chair of International Giving, sends this report.
1. Direct Services, usually in a way that builds a capacity or system to improve lives
|Bokamoso teachers salaries||South Africa||Elese Sizemore & Roy Barber||$7,500|
|PAVA||Guatemala||Marjory Bankson & Sandra Miller||$6,500|
|Chojolon School||Guatemala||Sandra Miller||$4,500|
|Afghanistan Institute of Learning||Afghanistan||Jane Engle||$1,000|
|Hope Street||Australia||Cynthia Dahlin||$1,500|
|La Paz Shelter (Dresselhaus)||Mexico||Brenda Seat||$2,000|
|Kasih Hospice Care Society||Malaysia||Mary Carol Dragoo||$ 500|
|Kom Kids||Cameroon||Jackie & Dave McMakin||$ 500|
|Khulumani Victim Support||South Africa||April Sizemore||$ 500|
2. Advocacy for systemic change through a nonprofit or religious group
|Polaris Project||Worldwide||Jeannine Caracciolo||$500|
|American Friends Service Committee||Israel/Jordan||Sandra Miller/Ron Kraybill||$500|
|Friends Committee on National Legislation||Iraq||Pat Conover||$500|
3. International Community Passions: a place to incubate ideas for a response to God’s call, support an emerging response to call, or otherwise bear witness as the Body of Christ to places of suffering or conflict.
Recipient Country Seekers contact 2008amount Pioneer Bible Translators Sudan Rachel Smith $500 Bruce Helland Japan Brenda Seat $500 Centro de Esperanza Infantil Mexico Jacqie Wallen $1,000 TOTAL
REFLECTIONS ON A WORK TRIP TO PEARLINGTON, MS
Kevin Barwick sends reflections about a trip to Pearlington to make repairs and do building projects, in part because of Katrina destruction:
I, along with Richard Lawrence, Pat Conover, and my brother-in-law Fred Forney, left on March 13 for 5 days. This brief account is what has come to me so far. In short, I still have a lot to learn!
Our trip seems almost a blur. The four-man team was tasked with building a handicap ramp and an emergency exit, including a back door and a small platform, for a house. This was a big job, especially with only four of us and limited skill levels.
We arrived about midday; the day was warm and a little muggy. I began by sketching out some plans for demolition and construction, as well as making a list of materials. Since I was the designated foreman, I assigned others the task of preparing the space by moving things off the porch and clearing the ground work area.
We were introduced to Miss Suzie (aka “Big Mama”), resident of the house, when we arrived. We were warned that she, though in her 70s, was the biggest playful flirt in the town. She was a large woman who had trouble standing straight. She walked leaning over. This, she said, was due to pains in her knees and back.
Miss Suzie’s hunched posture was compensated for by her voice, however. She often yelled out the door to us, or across her yard to the folks working on a new shed. She often said how thankful she was for people helping in this way. She was so “thankful” that she wanted to help out as much as she could. She often would say to give her a hammer, or to tell her where the wood should go. We had to gracefully tell her thanks, but no thanks, for her help. Her asking if we needed help with something, or if we wanted some tea, coffee, cake, or whatever, was her say of saying thank you.
Her gestures, which could be gruff or inappropriate (given her age and strength), were often taken by the team, including myself, as intrusive or a little nutty. Sometimes I thought, Didn’t she know that we had a job to do?! We had time restrictions! We were not there to play and chat! But I soon was able to catch on to her way of communicating, and to remind myself of the purpose of being there.
Before the trip, we were reminded that our real purpose for being there was to be a bridge builder of hope and love. We were not there to “accomplish/conquer” anything. Our work was to be the expression of our love and support to the folks in Pearlington. If we did accomplish something, all the better; but it should not be our focus.
We soon had the floorboards up and were beginning to set the footers for the posts. Then we began to build the frames for the ramp. Things were moving along. Miss Suzie was “getting in people’s way.” Some team members got frustrated; some laughed.
The next day was somewhat different. In my mind’s eye, I could see the finished work. In reality, with the limited tools and skill level, it wasn’t fitting into my picture. I was usually able to keep the right perspective, but had difficulty in helping others do the same. I was trying to listen to all the perspectives, use my skill, keep the team unity, and calm the rising tensions…then make a decision. I made the decisions, but wasn’t able to quell all the frustrations. This happened in part because of my making a mistake in the design and measurements, all of us being tired and not willing to listen.
I realized that my purpose had changed. I became that person that had to, indeed, conquer this ramp. Most of my thinking was because the work that we had completed thus far was unsafe if Miss Suzie or her husband, Josh, had walked out on it. I was determined that all the floorboards be screwed down and the railings be secure. I was balancing finishing the project, while staying open to the needs of Miss Suzie, Josh, and the team. I don’t think I did that as gracefully as I could have.
I learned several things about myself from our trip. 1) I need to be more prepared in my planning research before the trip. 2) I let myself get too easily distracted with the project, rather than focusing on the people whom we are to support. 3) It would have been helpful if I had initiated a morning reflection on the previous day and plans for the current day. 4) I should have been clearer about how a particular task can be done for those less skilled. It must have made some feel a little incompetent. 5) Though we had definite time constraints, I could have stopped the work and reflected on the team member’s needs during his frustration. 6) I wish I had gotten to know Miss Suzie and Josh a little better.
There is still a lot to learn; I’m looking forward to the next time. I know my heart will be much more prepared. Until then….
Seelers Sermons for March
The sermons appearing on the Seekers website are listed below, with brief thoughts about their themes.
What Just Happened? by Marjory Zoet Bankson, March 23. Easter Sunday is the culmination, the pinnacle of the church year. And this ancient proclamation of the resurrection is at the heart of our faith. But what does it mean to say “Christ is risen”???
Waving Palms and Shouting Hosannas, by Deborah Sokolove, March 16. Every year, when we come to this day, the Sunday before Easter, Celebration Circle asks, which lections shall we read? Perhaps we should celebrate Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem, and read Matthew 21:1-11—as we just did—from the liturgy of the Palms. In many churches, everyone waves palm fronds and shouts “hosanna!” When we enter the story we have heard so many times, we become the crowd that greeted Jesus as he entered Jerusalem riding on a borrowed donkey.
Solid Ground? by Anna Gilcher, March 12. I’m thinking about eyes being opened, about being made to see. I’m thinking about dead bodies coming alive. I’m thinking about bones coming together, about the intimacy of healing, about the connection we have to the earth.
Good News of Shepherd’s Table, by Jacki Coyle, March 2, 2008. I am humbled to share a story of my own blindness with you and hopefully to offer to you the time to look into the eyes of your own heart and soul and to see the areas where you might be blind. It is particularly good to be able to share the good news of Shepherd’s Table and to thank you for the gift of your partnership.