w=500px


Email: vern@cres.org  —  mailing address: Box 45414, Kansas City, MO 64171-8414

CRES is a 501(c)(3) organization promoting understanding of all faiths through teaching, writing, and consulting.

INDEX
2017 Upcoming Programs
2017 Reports on Past Programs and Events
2017 Other Announcements
2018 Previews
Older Program Reports



About CRES participation

2017 UPCOMING PROGRAMS

Vital Conversations — 2d Wednesday of the month 1-2:30 pm

Vital Conversations Coffee — 4th Wednesday of the month 8 am

Healing Religious Bias — 2017 Oct 25 Wednesday 9-11 am

Has Science Eclipsed Religion?  — 2017 Oct 28 Saturday brunch

Interfaith Thanksgiving Dinner — 2017 Nov 12 Sunday 4-6:30


Additional 2017 and 2018 PROGRAMS to be announced

Evolution Weekend 2018 Feb 9-11— details pending

Ministry in a Pluralistic World — 
     2018 May 7 – July 27 — Mondays 6-9:45pm CDT [2017-2018 Easter term]
     Vern teaches the graduate credit course C-RP511 
     for Central Baptist Theological Seminary




2017 REPORTS

previous years, click here    TFN book events, click here

 Candlemas  — 2017 Feb 2 Thurs 7 pm

 World Religions Lectures — 2017 Feb 17-18 Fri-Sat

 When Even Evil Will Ordain the Good — 2017 Mar 8, 15, 22, 29
          New YouTube video from this Lenten series 

12th Annual Dialogue and Friendship Dinner — 2017 Apr 6

[ 50th Anniversary of Church founding ] — 2017 Apr 6
          This is the church from which CRES developed.

[ Table of Faiths ] - Interfaith Council Annual Dinner  — 2017 May 9 

[ CRES Intern Geneva Blackmer ] receives degree — May 10

Sacred — the movie — May 18 Thurs 7 pm 

[ A 75th Birthday ] a personal entry May 25

Interfaith Pride Service —  2017 May 31 Wednesday 7 pm

Chances Are Vital Conversations 2017 July 12 Wednesday 1-2:30 pm




OTHER ANNOUNCEMENTS

WEDDINGS of all kinds click for information

We can provide a customized ceremony or direct you to a wedding chapel with low-cost package services (flowers, photographer, etc.) 

THANKS to Robert and Shye Reynolds, a CRES fund to assist couples with fees for weddings  has been established, to celebrate their marriage June 19, 2002, on the occasion of their thirteenth anniverary.

FORTHCOMING BOOKS
see also 
our publications page

in progress: KC Star, Many Paths columns and fresh essays:
The Three Families of Faith and the Three Crises of Secularism 
     Many have asked for a compilation of columns Vern wrote for the KC Star, 1994-2012,  and the essays fatured in Many Paths. Here are tentative chapter headings for the selections:
      ? The Three Families of Faith ? Faith and the Arts  ? Science and Religion  ? Teachers of the Spirit ? Ritual and Worship ? Religion and Public Policy ? Specific Faiths (Buddhism, Islam, etc) ? Comparative topics (reincarnation, gods, water, prophets, etc) ? How the column began and ended
 

OTHER 
PROGRAMS 
and SERVICES

If you would 
like to engage Vern 
or another member 
of the CRES staff 
for a speech, 
consultation, 
or other work
with your organization 
or personally, 
please visit  www.cres.org/work/services.htm or email  vern@cres.org




#Candlemas
CANDLEMAS: IN LIGHT, MUSIC, POETRY
Grace and Holy Trinity Cathedral, 13th at Broadway, Kansas City, MO 

Our Feb 2 Thu 7pm was a highlight of the season. 
Our reports of this successful and complex event are available.
#CandlemasReports

CANDLEMAS REPORTS
Handsome 8-page Color Printed Program (PDF)
Photo Report
Report in the Interfaith Council's spring newsletter
Additional Details
Additional Comments from Attendees

The original announcement included this information:

The Mass for Four Voices by William Byrd
The 13-member Sacred Arts Chorale directed by Dr Rebecca Johnson
with music for lute and other instruments by Beau Bledsoe
and with readings by Matt Schwader from
Vern Barnet’s Thanks for Noticing

 This observance of a traditional Christian feast day is honored with references to many faiths around the world, from the Paleolithic to the present, in the sonnets selected for the occasion, embraced by music from Elizabethan times when the English sonnet was defined by Shakespeare, the Quadricentennial of whose death we also mark. 



SoulJourners 

Lectures
on World Religions 
2017 Februrary 17-18 Friday-Saturday 

Vern lectures in Atchison on world religions for students in the Benedictine Sister's Souljourners spiritual formation program leading to spiritual direction ministry at the Sophia Center, 751 South 8th Street, Atchison, Kansas 66002

Vernn described the three families of faith by stellinh stories suggesting where they typically find the sacred; epitomizing texts were studied; Buddhism and Islam were given special attention; and the benefits of interfaith exchange were celebrated.




A LENTEN SERIES
Potluck at 6p, program 6:30-7:30.
The Episcopal Church of the Redeemer
7110 N. State Route 9, KCMO 64152; (816) 741-1136

When Even Evil Will Ordain the Good

CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD THE 8-PAGE PDF
AVAILABLE THROUGH HOLY WEEK

Using themes from world religions to illumine our own tradition, the Reverend Vern Barnet, DMn, explores the powerful mysteries of the crucified and resurrected love of our Savior through the texts of sonnets from the "Credo" section his new book, Thanks for Noticing: The Interpretation of Desire.
      Vern wrote the Wednesday "Faith and Beliefs" column 1994-2012 for The Kansas City Star and now writes for each issue of the diocesan magazine, Spirit. He founded the Kansas City Interfaith Council in 1989. He is a very happy lay Episcopalian.

Mar 8 - The Jesus of History or the Christ of Faith? 
Mar 15 - A Paradox of Salvation
Mar 22 - The Gospel Theater
Mar 29 - The Mystic Vision
Through Eastertide, download the 8-page study guide in PDF

YouTube video of the study group reading Sonnet 88

Readings: Sonnet 82; Mar 8 -79; Mar 15 - 80 (? 85);  Mar 22 - 84; Mar 29 - 86 (? 88).

Art to illustrate the themes


Two views of an icon of Christ teaching and Vel?zquez’s "Christ after the Flagellation contemplated by the Christian Soul" Mar 8 and Mar 15


A modern enactment of the crucifixion. Mar 22


Dali's "Last Supper" Mar 29




The Dialogue Institute Kansas City, UMKC Division of Diversity and Inclusion, and UMKC's International Dialogue Student Ass'n cordially invite you to the 
12th Annual Dialogue and Friendship Dinner
Members of different cultures join to enjoy cultural diversity
Global Warming of Hearts: Love and Acceptance

2017 April  6 Thursday 6-9 pm
UMKC Student Union Multipurpose Room 401
5100 Cherry St, Kansas City, MO 64110
Invocation: The Reverend Vern Barnet, DMn

Host Committee: Peggy Dunn, Mayor of Leawood; Carl Gerlach, Mayor of Overland Park; Ron Slepitza, President of Avila University; Marvin Szneler, Executive Director of JCRB - AJC; Jeremiah Morgan, Stake President- the Church of Jesus-Christ of LDS; William B. Rose-Heim, M.Div, Regional Minister and President Christian Church of Greater Kansas City; Sheriff, Calvin H. Hayden, Sheriff, Johnson County

The evening featured Eve Levin, PhD, as Keynote Speaker, chair, History Department, University of Kansas. Donna Ziegenhorn presided over the evening with music by Cindy Novelo, remarks by Ron Slepitza, and awards given to Dr Jospeph Sopich, the Down Syndrome Guild, and Cornerstones of Care. Music was provided by Cindy Novelo

The Invocation by Vern, wearing a stole with symbols of many world religions, appears below.

Invocation
on the theme "Global Warming of Hearts: Love and Aceptance"

SPIRIT OF UNDERSTANDING,
called by different divine names in diverse languages and faiths,
You include us, you gather us together tonight, 
a sundry concentration from many connections,
our hearts seeking to warm the globe with variation.

SPIRIT OF UNDERSTANDING,
We are joined in our journey
As a flower is joined with earth,
As a river is joined with the ocean,
As a bird is joined with the sky.

SPIRIT OF UNDERSTANDING,
You have made us differently,
just as the stars and the waters,
  and the land, and the air
are different elements of being,
though we are united without being the same.

SPIRIT OF UNDERSTANDING,
You do not make us regimented, nor copies of each other.
we are not given identical dispositions,
for we have different gifts, all sacred, for one another,
no one of which alone adequately points to your infinite and awesome glory.
For where there is no awe, there will be disaster.
For where there is no gratitude, there will be selfishness and self-deception.
For where there is no love of service, there will be grasping and disintegration.

Save us, O SPIRIT OF UNDERSTANDING,
and may this inclusive evening together,
as we delight in conversation with one another,
as we giver thanks for our food, our cooks, and our servers,
as we learn from our speakers,
as we are cheered by our musician,
as we applaud the insights and labors of 
the Dialogue Institute, the sponsors, and our honorees,

May you, O SPIRIT OF UNDERSTANDING,
dwell more fully within us
as we, in the splendor of the world's manyness,
celebrate love and acceptance in a global warming of hearts.

--The Reverend Vern Barnet, DMn


#170507
Shawnee Mission Unitarian Universalist Church
Observes 50 years

Vern was the congregation's second minister, 1975-1984. He appears in the middle of the top row of the church's archive wall of photographs of former ministers, with the incumbent, Rose Schwab, shown in the final picture, who graciously recognized her predecessor during the celebration 2017 May 7. It was in the seventh year of Vern's ministry that the congregation encouraged Vern to begin CRES.



#170509TableOfFaiths
TABLE OF FAITHS
The splendid annual event of the Greater Kansas City Interfaith Council recognized the Dialogue Institute KC with an award, accepted by Greg Reike and Eyyup Esen, shown here on either side of the Council's founder, Vern Barnet, who retired from the Council in 2005 and gives praise to his successors for the enhancement of interfaith work in the region, who received the first Table of Faiths award after his retirement from Mayor Kay Barnes at the 2005 event. Other recipients include Donald and Adele Hall and Ed Chasteen (2006), Alvin Brooks and The Kansas City Star (2007), The Rev Robert Lee Hill (2008,  Ahmed El-Sherif and All Souls Unitarian Universalist Church (2009),  Notre Dame de Sion High School (2010), The Kansas City Public Libraries (2011), Unity Church of Overland Park (2012), The Lisa Barth Interfaith Chapel, Childrens Mercy Hospital (2104), The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art (2015) and the  Blue Valley School District  (2016).

Sophia Kahn, MD, was this year's recipient of the Steve Jeffers Leadership Award, shown here in the middle with some of many friends and admirers. She was recognized for her efforts in many fields, but on this occasion particularly for or inspiring leadership in "KC for Refugees." Previous recipients include Queen Mother Maxine McFarlane (2010), Donna Ziegenhorn (2011), Mayor Sly James (2012), Bambi Shen (2014), the Rev Dr Wallace Hartsfield Sr (2015) and Shakil Haider (2016).

For the Cultural Crossroads report of the event, click here.



Congratulations to CRES intern Geneva Blackmer on completing her bachelors degree! Athens State University President Robert K Glenn hands Geneva her diploma at the 2017 May 10 graduation ceremony. 

And Geneva was inducted into Theta Alpha Kappa, the National Honor Society for Religious Studies and Theology! 



170518Sacred
Sacred - The Movie
May 18 Thurs 7 pm Tivoli Theatre
Al Brooks, Donna Ziegenhorn, Sunyananda Dharma
discuss the movie afterwards with Vern Barnet

Sacred immerses the viewer in an exploration of spirituality across cultures and religions. At a time when religious hatreds dominate the world’s headlines, this film, sweeping in global reach and yet intensely intimate, explores faith as primary human experience: how it is used to navigate the milestones and crises of private life. Directed by Academy Award® winner Thomas Lennon and shot around the globe by 40 filmmaking teams.

Presented with the cooperation of CRES 
by Open Circle Spiritual Cinema Series
May 18 Thurs 7 pm 
www.TivoliKC.com
discount tickets

EMAIL BLAST ANNOUNCEMENT


Milestones of a 
Spiritual Life

     At a time when religious hatreds dominate the world’s headlines Oscar-winning director Thomas Lennon commissioned 40 independent filmmakers from more than 25 countries to explore faith as a primary human experience and how people turn to sacred traditions to navigate the milestones and crises of daily life.
     The result is an immersive exploration of spirituality across cultures and religions sweeping in global reach and yet intensely intimate. Told without narration, without experts and, for long stretches, without words at all, the film draws the viewer into a string of private moments, sometimes for just seconds, at other times in depth. Each filmmaking team contributed a single scene capturing a unique moment in a key passages of life - from a young Muslim father in Egypt chanting the call to prayer for his baby who is only minutes old to coming of age moments in Spain, India and Israel,
     The film arcs through marriage and the trials of adulthood through to the rites to those ways which we remember and treasure our dead. An epic and kaleidoscopic cinematic experience.

170518SacredREPORT

As folks entered the theater, they were given a handout:

    Involving many faiths and cultures, a world-wide collaboration: "Sacred"
    After the movie, Alvin Brooks, Donna Ziegenhorn, Sunyananda Dharma, and Vern Barnet, moderator, join the audience in the discussion.
  Some questions to explore:
   1. What does “sacred” mean to you —  before and after seeing the movie?
    2. What delighted or challenged you unexpectedly?
    3. What is “sacred” in your own life?
    4. What would you ask the panelists?

Jamie Rich, who runs the Spiritual Cinema Series, introduced Vern who named the panelists. Vern said that in his 47-year career, no word has intrigued him more than "sacred" as a key to understanding paradigmatic experiences for others as well as for himself. The film episodes were organized into in three segments (initiation, practice, passage), in each third, scenes from Mt Hiei, home of the "Marathon Monks," appear, where Vern studied as a young man. Vern concluded, "What is sacred? -- Many answers are suggested by the multiple scenes we are about to witness. You may find some puzzling; some may touch your heart."

Vern noted that since there movie offered no overarching narration, the movie was an unusual approach for discussion. The movie opened and closed with birthing scenes. In between, a Muslim father singing the Call to Prayer to his newborn child, a Holi festival, a live crucifixion with real nails during Holy Week, the Hajj, rewrapping of ancestral bones, a bris, a boxing match and sermon in prison, group Tai Chi practice, various forms of prayer (including one who methodically prayed for others), a Buddhist initiation, a couple visiting a fertility shrine and on a porcelain phallus writing their hope to see their first child soon before placing the object on a prayer shelf, a half-sari ceremony, a baptism, workers in protective gear removing dead bodies in the Ebola crisis who think that the disease proves God is angry, an Apache dance, a wedding, a Muslim boy affirming that suicide-bombers go to hell, and dozens of other largely unexplained scenes.

Some of the questions prepared for the panelists --
     1. What does "sacred" mean to you, or come to mean to you as you watch this movie?
     2. Which episode or image in the movie best expressed what is sacred to you?
     3. Which challenged you unexpectedly?
     4. When did you have your own most profound or beautiful experience of the sacred?
     5. If you could offer an experience of the sacred for others, what would it be?
     6. What prevents our society from accessing the sacred more often?
     7. How might sharing sacred experiences benefit us individually and as a culture?

What great panelists! -- Al Brooks, Donna Ziegenhorn, and Sunyananda Dharma. Each had previewed the movie and responded to a couple questions Vern asked to begin the discussion, and then to audience responses. Examples: Al discussed the importance of faith for those in prison and cited an innocent prisoner who waited  thirty years for freedom. Sunyananda explained why Buddhist boys had finery placed on them as part of their initiation into monkshood before their heads were shaved, and how mala beads are used and what they mean, demonstrating with his as he spoke. Donna lamented that the movie did not display folks of many faiths joining together, which let to a celebration of the opportunities we have in Kansas City.


A member of the audience engages the panel with his insight.

From his experiences in Africa and the Philippines, an audience affirmed the sincerity of practices that may seem strange to those of other cultures and called for our respect of them. The conversation ranged from to comparing the crucifixion to the Sun Dance (quite a sophisticated comment from an audience member). The last question led to a discussion of what assimilation means, and Vern reminded the audience that free Kansas City "Interfaith Passports" were available at the rear of the auditorium.

Perhaps this movie creates an appetite for a less haphazard and more informed movie to explore how different folks and cultures experience the sacred; and with the insights of the panelists, the audience was enabled to envision both personal and social ways in which our lives can be more frequently and more powerfully touched by the sacred. 


Al, Vern, Sunyananda, and Donna after the discussion.

Although expectations were for about 100, some estimated the crowd at twice that size, most of whom remained after the movie for the discussion.


#170525
A 75th Birthday
As I stepped on the scales on my 75th birthday, I was delighted to have reached my goal of weighing less than 130 pounds. This is down from a pudgy 154 a year or so ago. The day was off to a good start. (The new goal is 125. I still want to fit into pants I found decades ago.) And I did my 30-minute brisk walk in 28 minutes.

May 25 is also the birthday of Ralph Waldo Emerson. He would be 214 years old. Emerson lasted three years as a Unitarian parish minister; I served fifteen, for which I am grateful; thereafter my career status as a Unitarian Universalist minister changed from “parish” to “community” minister, and now “retired.” Like Emerson, I have read beyond Christian literature, with most of my work devoted to interfaith activities. I would have argued with him about lots of things, including communion, which he felt he could no longer administer with integrity. His doubts about Christian beliefs were modern of the sort perverted by the Enlightenment. A Transcendentalist and a Romantic, his individualistic themes have helped to bring us less the development of character and more the Gospel of Greed and Ayn Rand and now Donald Trump. If Emerson had understood the Eucharist better as the loving and just sharing of divine grace, maybe the benefits of his influence would have been less likely to have been ccorrupted. May his birthday encourage me to be ever self-critical and benefit from learning from others. My own sins should make me more understanding of others; and even if God may have forgiven me, I need to be mindful of past and potential wickedness lest I become untethered from the earthly realm in which the joy of duty best fulfills.

Speaking of the Eucharist: my day’s highlight was attending Mass at the church where I am a member, Grace and Holy Trinity Cathedral (Episcopal). The liturgical calendar this year gave my birthday the extra blessing of the Feast of the Ascension.(See Acts 1:9, Mark 16:19--an appendix not in the oldest manuscripts, Hebrews 4:14, and an interpretation of Psalm 110 and Daniel 7:13; Luke 24:51-52 is doubtful; clearly the story is a later tradition influenced by cultural patterns, and the feast developed even later.) The sixth of the Cathedral chancel windows depicts this final episode in the story of the earthly life of Jesus. I love the entire set. Christ, at last untethered to the earthly realm, is that freedom in the mystics’ raptus beyond distinctions, or, to use a Buddhist phrase, “entering the gate of the not-two doctrine,” an ecstasy to be enjoyed but not possessed; as the disciples could not cling to Jesus, the mystic may be changed by the experience, but must not cling to it. One must let it go.

One of the 154 sonnets in my book, Thanks for Noticing,  is called “Ascension.” It refers to a painting by El Greco, “The Holy Trinity.” It looks like an Ascension theme to me, but it is unlike the typical magisterial portrayal of Christ ascending into the heavens from the earth. Instead we see the dead-like body of Jesus lovingly embraced by the Father in heaven, with the Holy Spirit hovering as a dove. I think it is useful to look at the Ascension not only from the human point of view, but also the divine, and surely one of the things we can imagine the Father seeing at the moment of Ascension is the horrible affliction wrought upon His Son, which is his very Being. (As a father, I have an inkling of what it is like to see a son damaged.) And thus the model and sacred story of redemption in compassion. 

Ascensions, assumptions, and other risings (sometimes with apotheosis) into heaven are common in Judaism, Egyptian, Greek, and Roman ancient religions and of course the Hellenistic culture (my favorite is, of course, Ganymede, but Hercules also deserves mention), alchemy, shamanism, Zoroastrianism, Islam, Mesoamerican traditions, Daoism, and other faiths. Two thousand years from the Christian story’s setting, we know you can’t find God above the clouds anymore than you can find him below; that above 30,000 feet, oxygen is pretty thin and you’ll shiver and die; that we have airplanes and spacecraft of various sorts to leave the ground; and the message of the Christian story may be less an astronomical tale than a paradigm image of the exaltation of the Savior as divine, the mystical union with God, and for us below to do the healing work of love He has given us to do here right on earth.





Unannounced, Vern began the sweeping ceremony from the front entrance of the church, sweeping up the central aisle, from the back to the front of the pews, using the words below. 

[sweep]
With this broom, 
we sweep away the prejudice 
that has infected every faith, 
a prejudice that makes love a secret, or a scandal, or a crime, 
even a sin requiring damnation, 
a bigotry that has damaged so many religions 
and has even caused good folk to reject faith. 

[sweep] 
We sweep and sweep as we are cleaning our world 
by restoring our community, 
polishing the floors of understanding, 
washing the windows of awareness, 
scrubbing out the smudge of bias, 
the blot of hatred, and stain of fear, 
cleansing ourselves of internalized chauvinism. 

[sweep] 
We are sweeping the past into the waste pile of decay, 
that we may be fresh and natural in affirming all faiths, 
celebrating the sacred power of affection and love, 
sweeping us into the epoch of 
Unity, Justice, and Faith, 
Standing up, proud, in love.
[sweep] 
Sweep! Sweep! 




Healing Religious Bias
October 25, 2017 Wednesday 8:30 / 9 am-11am
CPE - Continuing Professional and Education credit through UMKC

Vern engages with the Cultural Competency Collective of Greater Kansas City. The group's mission is to create a sustainable community process to provide culturally appropriate care and reduce disparities in service to clients, students and peers. CCCofGKC members are largely human service providers – mental health, behavioral health, social welfare, education and more. 
     Vern provides an overview of world religions, discusses their representation in Kansas City, offers a working definition of bias, and presents best practices in providing culturally competent service. This program design offers great interaction activities.

Our community and the world can be healed from its religious prejudice and fragmentation by learning how to talk with others about their faith perspectives. This session includes information, theory, and practice. 

Learning Community Session Objectives:
At the end of this session, participants will be able to:
     1. Identify typical attitudes toward other faiths and common misconceptions about religion such as "All religions believe in God."
     2. Appreciate where the three families of world religions find the Sacred: nature (primal faiths), personhood (Asian traditions), and the history of covenanted community (Hebraic religions). 
     3. Practice interfaith conversation skills for safe, meaningful, two-way discussions.
     4. Identify basic local resources.

Advance Reading
* “The Three Crises of Our Time,” adapted from Thanks for Noticing: The Interpretation of Desire (1 page) download PDF
* “Harmony in a World of Differences: Interfaith Works” (3 pages) download PDF
* Excerpt from The Essential Guide to Religious Traditions and Spirituality for Health Care Providers (7x2 pages) download PDF



Dialogue Institute of Southwest, 2710 S 42, Kansas City, KS 6610
2017 October 28 Saturday brunch -- free
Has Science Eclipsed Religion?
in which Vern outlines the interplay between the two since the Renaissance, and suggests how we may recover the sense of the sacred in nature, personhood, and society, through primal Asian, and monotheistic faiths so that we may be restored with nature, the self made whole, community found in covenant. 



2017 Annual Interfaith Thanksgiving Dinner

Although this event is no longer sponsored by CRES, we list it since its "Vern Barnet Interfaith Service Award" is named for the CRES minister emeritus, who founded the Interfaith Council in 1989. The text below is by the ADL and the Council.

This beloved annual event has, since 2010, been sponsored by the Heartland Chapter – Alliance of Divine Love and the Greater Kansas City Interfaith Council, in cooperation with the interfaith community.

Heartland Chapter – Alliance of Divine Love announces that the 2016 Vern Barnet Interfaith Service Award, named in recognition of the lasting contribution of Rev. Vern Barnet to our vibrant interfaith community, will be presented to Sheila Sonnenschein, past Chair of the Greater Kansas City Interfaith Council and a long-time director of the Council, as well as co-chair of the annual Table of Faiths in 2006 and 2007.

Sheila has devoted her life to interfaith action and understanding and is active in several educational, Jewish and interfaith organizations. Besides GKCIC, she is also a board member of KC for Refugees and the Kansas City Interfaith Youth Alliance. She started the Table to Table program for Yachad, the Kosher food pantry, and, with husband Ken, started Mitzvah Gardens in St. Louis and Greater Kansas City. She is deeply involved in interfaith activity, helping to form the Kansas City Women’s Interfaith Circle; is a former member of the Festival of Faiths committee; chaired Peace by Piece featuring Noa Baum in September 2005 and started the Facebook online initiative Mothers on the Side of Peace. She is a firm supporter and member of The Sisterhood of Salaam/Shalom; she is a member of the national advisory board and travels around the world with that organization.

Sheila was the first non-Muslim board member of the Crescent Peace Society, a former board member of the National Council of Jewish Women and a former board member of the Kansas City Press Club. Her articles have been published in The Catholic Reporter, Outlook Magazine, The New Light, Being Jewish, Suburban Journal of St. Louis, The Kansas City Star, and, the Kansas City Jewish Chronicle.

The 2017 Annual Interfaith Thanksgiving Dinner will be hosted at the new Islamic Center of Johnson County, located at 9005 West 151st Street, Overland Park, KS 66221. The Islamic Center of Johnson County serves the spiritual, religious and communal needs of Muslims in the cities of Overland Park, Leawood and Olathe through this new, permanent center and also serves the larger Kansas City Metro community through outreach, charity work and civic engagement.

Heartland ADL is also pleased to announce that the 2017 dinner marks the beginning of a partnership with Episcopal Community Services, 501c3 nonprofit, as caterer for the dinner. Episcopal Community Services has been serving the Greater Kansas City area since 1989 and operates the Kansas City Community Kitchen, a novel approach which blends various food-related programs, including training for culinary careers, food pantries, and community garden projects. ECS is nationally known for restaurant-style food service, which provides dignity, as well as food. In recognition of this new partnership, Episcopal Community Services has been selected as the recipient of donations from this year’s dinner.

Tickets, which include the catered meal are $15.00 for adults and $10.00 for students (5-12 years); as always, children under 5 are free. Tickets may be purchased ONLINE.
 
 






A Vital Conversation Coffee
Vital Conversations
monthly schedule
2nd Wedneday of the month 1-2:30 pm
MidContinent Public Library Antioch Branch
6060 N Chestnut Ave, Gladstone, MO 64119
(816) 454-1306

You are welcome even if you have not read the book or seen the movie
A Free Monthly Discussion Group Led by David E Nelson
C R E S  senior  associate  minister
president, The Human Agenda

“The purpose of a Vital Conversation is not to win an argument,
but to win a friend and advance civilization.”  --Vern Barnet 

Vital Conversations are intentional gatherings of people to engage in dialog 
that will add value to the participants and to the world. In Vital Conversations, 
we become co-creators of a better community. --David Nelson
The discussions began May 24, 2002, at the CRES facility
 by examining Karen Armstrong's The Battle for God
Reading is magic and a mysterious activity that feeds the mind, transports the imagination, sooths the soul, and expands life.  It is most often done in solitude and yet connects us to so many others both near us and far from us.  Many readers enjoy the opportunity to share their reading discoveries and to expand from the sharing of others.  Reading is an important aspect of our common humanness. 
--David E. Nelson
Vital Conv. Coffee
an open exchange of ideas 
with no preset agenda
 4th Wednesday monthly
8 am
Panera Bread 
311 NE Englewood Road
Kansas City, MO 64118
816-453-2770

#2017VitalSchedule
2017 Vital Conversations Schedule

2017 January 11
The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd. According to the National Women's History Museum, "Sarah Moore Grimke and Angelina Emily Grimke' were the only white people of either gender who were born in the upper-class South, but rejected that luxurious lifestyle to fight against slavery. They also were among the very first to see the close connection between abolitionism and women's rights." In this novel, based on their story, boundaries are crossed, friendships are made, cruelty is revealed, and hope survives.



February 8
     Seldom Seen: A Journey into The Great Plains by Patrick Dobson. In May 1995, with nothing but a backpack and a vague sense of disquiet, the author left his home and a steady deadening job in Kansas City. Over the next two and a half months he made his way to Helena, Montana. He not only meets a series of very interesting people and makes a difference in their lives, but introduces the reader to a clearer understanding about the meaning of relationships and life. 
     Canoeing the Great Plains: A Missouri River Summer is part two of this adventure in our wonderful part of the country. This time Patrick travels down the Missouri river and communes with nature and people. As the miles float by and the distinctions blur between himself and what he formerly called nature, Dobson comes to grips with his past, his fears, and his life beyond the river. 
     Patrick Dobson joined us for this fascinating conversation. 


March 8
     Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline. Between 1854 and 1929, so-called orphan trains ran regularly from the cities of the East Coast to the farmlands of the Midwest, carrying thousands of abandoned children whose fates would be determined by pure luck. The National Orphan Train Complex is located in Concordia, Kansas. Several of you have visited this complex and others could visit it soon. This book follows the story of several specific children. You can explore and bring additional stories to the conversation. For NPR's broadcast, go to http://www.tinyurl.com/hfs4ezn. 

April 12
Silence by Shusaku Endo. It is the story of a Jesuit missionary sent to 17th century Japan, who endures persecution in the time of Kakure Kirishitan ("Hidden Christians") that followed the defeat of the Shimabara Rebellion. The recipient of the 1966 Tanizaki Prize, it has been called "Endo's supreme achievement" and "one of the twentieth century's finest novels." Written partly in the form of a letter by its central character, the theme of a silent God who accompanies a believer in adversity was greatly influenced by the Catholic End?'s experience of religious discrimination in Japan, racism in France, and a debilitating bout with tuberculosis.  The movie based on this book was released in January of 2017.

May 10
Six Degrees: Our Future on a Hotter Planet by Mark Lynas.  Six degrees may not sound like much, but as this sobering, engrossing, up-to the minute book warns, a six-degree rise in Earth’s average temperature would be enough to reshape our world almost beyond recognition. Mark Lynas explains the processes and examines the effects of this unprecedented phenomenon, drawing on the full range of state-of-the-art research and sophisticated computer models that show conclusively that today’s climate change is a new and different challenge.

June 14
The Wolf at Twilight:  An Indian Elder’s Journey through a Land of Ghosts and Shadows by Kent Nerburn.  Some journey's take a lifetime to complete, especially when you are on another person's time. The author returns to visit an Elder Indian friend who has a strange but delicious request. First is the burial of his dog and second is to find out about a long-lost sister. Kent's commitment to assist in the long search results in a deepening understand between friends and a growing respect for another culture. Something’s we will never understand, but lack of understanding need not hinder love and compassion.

Click on this book cover to download an OCR'd PDF of the final chapter with Vern's highlights in red.

July 12
In David's absence at Vital Conversations
Vern leads the discussion.
See the report below.

Chances Are… Adventures in Probability by Michael Kaplan and Ellen Kaplan.

     This fascinating layman's trek through probability theory, from its roots in dice games in the seventeenth century to its role in modern-day thermodynamics, tackles humanity's innate need to seek order in even the most chaotic phenomena. 
     The authors, a mother-and-son team, address simple problems (How many shuffles make a deck of cards truly random? At least seven) and more complex ones (Can time move backward? Yes, but it's unlikely). 
     They do not avoid mathematical equations, but both have backgrounds in the humanities, and their sense of whimsy—"Once you know that daisies usually have an odd number of petals, you can get anyone to love you"—allows them to draw stimulating conclusions.
 

The New York Times
March 31, 2006
Books of The Times | 'Chances Are . . . '
Wonders Are Possible. Alas, the Odds Are Another Story.
By WILLIAM GRIMES

Life is a gamble, and the English language reflects it. It's common to speak of betting the house, rolling the dice or going for broke. The language of the roulette table and the poker hand apply to all sorts of situations, because uncertainty and risk haunt nearly every human decision, from crossing the street to investing in the stock market.

In "Chances Are," Michael Kaplan and Ellen Kaplan look at the role of chance in human affairs, and the efforts of the best minds to measure and tame it by constructing a science of probability. Their freewheeling tour takes them from the dice tables of ancient Rome to the offices of maritime insurers in London, who, like their predecessors in ancient China and Renaissance Italy, make their living analyzing and managing uncertainty. So do military strategists, weather forecasters, prosecuting lawyers and the fascinating Gordon Woo, a terrorism expert at a risk-analysis company. All are united, as the authors nicely put it, in a great human endeavor, "the endless struggle against randomness."

Who knew? Mr. Kaplan, a former producer and director at WGBH television in Boston, and Ms. Kaplan, his mother, an archaeologist who runs a foundation called the Math Circle, have hit on a great subject, and they explore it, down through the centuries and across the globe, with an enthusiasm that borders on glee. You can almost hear the chalk on the blackboard as the equations and the word problems fly by at top speed, and the action moves from the earliest attempts to predict the odds of rolling certain numbers with a pair of dice to current ideas about entropy. It's a dizzying, exhilarating ride.

The authors choose their examples cleverly and explain them through arresting metaphors. Take Bayes' theorem, a highly influential formula to measure confidence in the probability of a single event based on the experience of many events (say, the probability that the sun will rise tomorrow). Presenting the theorem entails a fair amount of math, as do many of the ideas in the book, but after unloading a page of equations, the authors explain the complexities of weighted probability combinations this way: "Casanova's chance of seducing the countess depends on how swayed she is by charm times the likelihood that he will be charming plus how repelled she is by boorishness times the chance that he will be a boor."

Bayes' theorem, like the bell curve, turns up in unexpected places, most strikingly the courtroom. "Chances Are" includes a chapter on efforts to apply probabilistic reasoning to legal argument and to the presentation of evidence to a jury. Many intriguing case studies follow, most showing that lawyers cannot be trusted with numbers, and that juries cannot understand them.

Doctors are not much better. In a dismaying test of probabilistic reasoning, doctors and hospital administrators were asked to grade four cancer-screening programs. Program A reduced the death rate by 34 percent, Program B produced an absolute reduction in deaths of 0.06 percent, and Program C increased the patient survival rate from 99.82 percent to 99.88 percent. Under Program D, 1,592 patients would have to be screened to prevent one death. The doctors and administrators strongly recommended Program A, but, in fact, the four sets of numbers describe the same program.

Before scoffing, chew on the now famous Monty Hall problem, named after the host of "Let's Make a Deal." A contestant knows that concealed behind three doors there are two goats and one new car. The contestant chooses Door No. 1. The beaming host opens Door No. 3 to reveal a goat, and then asks the contestant if he would like to change his choice to Door No. 2. Two doors add up to a 50-50 proposition, obviously. So why bother? Because the odds have actually shifted. The chances are now two out of three that changing to Door No. 2 will obtain the car.

In the 17th century, governments took advantage of the average citizen's inability to assess probability by selling annuities, a type of insurance policy in which the buyer, in essence, bets that he will live longer than most other people. As with all casino bets, the house held an edge. The government possessed mortality statistics, regarded as state secrets, and used them to rig the odds. It also relied on basic psychology, "the instinctive belief that everyone dies at an average age — except me."

The Kaplans cover a lot of ground very quickly, but they have a finely tuned sense of where the general reader is likely to lose a grip on the math, or on the complexities of an argument, and adjust accordingly. A timely example, or a well-placed quotation, relieves undue pressure on the brain, and the fast pace helps reinforce one of the book's central points, that questions of probability surround nearly every aspect of our daily lives. A strategy of "calibrated incoherence," for example, can lead to victory in a game of rock/paper/scissors, and police departments are quite interested in probabilistic algorithms that allow them to map crime patterns.

In the end, of course, virtually nothing is certain. The best-formulated theorems of probability have failed to pick winning stocks consistently. But, as the authors point out, "some forms of uncertainty are better than others." That's probably true.

Copyright 2006 The New York Times Company
 

#170712report
Vital Conversations Report  [the preview appears here]


Jerry Grabher makes a point as Temp Sparkman and the group listen.

Vern began the session by quoting Ecclesiastes 9:11–12: “The race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, nor bread to the wise, nor riches to the intelligent, nor favor to the skillful; but time and chance happen to them all. For no one can anticipate the time of disaster.” 
     He then proposed that the book for this month's discussion is a book on theology disguised as a history and exposition of statistics. After all, Pascal (1623–62), the first to imagine that chance could be studied to find patterns in chance, was concerned not only dice but also with saving his soul, a concern which is now known as Pascal's Wager.

Then each person took a turn responding to question A; then a second round with question B.

A. When in your life did you take a chance, and how did it turn out?
B. About what are you certain, and why are you certain?

Then, from a "deck of cards," each one of which contained one of the following quotations from the book, each participant, in random fashion, took two cards which formed the basis of the ensuing discussion. 

We search for certainty and call what we find destiny.  p1

Everything is possible, yet only one thing happens—we live and die between these two poles, under the rule of probability. p1

Conviction enough [Gorgias taught], since nothing actually existed; or if it did, it could not be known; or if it could, it was inexpressible. p3

Einstein famously remarked that he did not believe God would play dice with the universe. The probabilistic reply is that perhaps the universe is playing dice with God. p11

Rene Descartes [believed] that staying in bed until noon [so he has become] the hero of every well-read adolescent . . . p21 

People not only see patterns; they cannot resist them. p 80

De Moivre saw God revealed in the pattern of randomness. p38 

We need betting to remind us of our habit of drawing conclusions from insufficient evidence; we must remember that being too sure of anything is likely to end [poorly]. p82

The law of averages rules each play [in a game of chance] much as the Tsar of All the Russias ruled any one village; absolutely, but at a distance. p63 

. . . the golden rule of religion, “Bear ye one another’s burdens. p86

[A]ssuming it is well-shuffled, there is no Probabilistic reason that any one pack of cards should be in the same order as any other that has ever been dealt in the entire history of card playing. p65

Absolute certainty can never be achieved . . . ; the aim is what Bernoulli called “moral certainty,”—in essence, being as sure of this as you can be of anything. p88

There were three doors available; now there are two. I don’t know what’s behind either door, so its an even split whether the [prize] is behind door 1 or 2.  p72 

[As forms of insurance developed,] there was a general worry about what seemed like betting on the will of God. p94

[Of Napoleon:] If you want to interest him, quote a statistic. p116 “What usually happens” is a concept that slides all too easily into “what people like us usually do.” Christ’s parables employed likelihood in the first sense . . . p179

Throughout the eighteenth century, population and mortality were considered state secrets. p128 Justinian had intended to give the world law; unintentionally, he gave it lawyers. p 181

The true foundation of theology is to ascertain the character of God. . . . . The study of is  thus a religious service. — Florence Nightengale, p 138 

If, in the absence of all other evidence, we agree to odds of 1 in 73 million against two cases of SIDS in the same family, what . . . are the odds against two cases of infanticide? p195

[T]he mean life span of English monarchs was shorter than that of their gentry, indeed so much shorter as to suggest the counter-efficacy of prayer. p141 

We can continue to err, as long as we err in ways we find familiar. p197

The doctors were baffled; a third of them decided the probability was 90 percent; a sixth thought it was 1 percent. It would have made a big difference to the [patient]. p 170 

The great defender Charles Darrow sought out Congregationalists and Jews, but strove to purge his juries of Presbyterians. p204

. . . History’s most dangerous men are those who believe they know how the game ends, whether in earthly victory or in paradise. p276

Nothing in physics requires that we live from past to future; its just a statistical likelihood. p286 

What are we doing when we describe the world — but creating an algorithm that will generate those aspects if its consistency and variety that catch our imagination? p289

In the world’s casino—this place of danger  and pleasure we leave only at death—we place our different wagers, each at his chosen table.  p291

Our senses are not wonderfully sharp; what’s remarkable is our ability to draw conclusions from them. p294 

Has it occurred to you that the lust for certainty may be a sin? p300 

 


 

August 9
Tribe:  On Homecoming and Belonging by Sebastian Junger. We have a strong instinct to belong to small groups defined by clear purpose and understanding -- "tribes." This tribal connection has been largely lost in modern society, but regaining it may be the key to our psychological survival.Combining history, psychology, and anthropology, TRIBE explores what we can learn from tribal societies about loyalty, belonging, and the eternal human quest for meaning. It explains the irony that-for many veterans as well as civilians-war feels better than peace, adversity can turn out to be a blessing, and disasters are sometimes remembered more fondly than weddings or tropical vacations. TRIBE explains why we are stronger when we come together, and how that can be achieved even in today's divided world.

September 13
The Worst Hard Time by Timothy Egan tells the story of those who survived the Great American Dust Bowl. Some of our parents could be a part of these stories.  After reading the book, you can further prepare by interviewing some of your elders who either remember or have stories they were told about this period in the Great Plains between 1901-1939. Timothy Egan is the same author who wrote The Big Burn which we discussed in Vital Conversations.

October 11
Islam and The Future of Tolerance, A Dialogue Sam Harris and Maajid Nawaz  (respectively, author of The End of Faith and author of Radical).  We have read and discussed both these authors in the past. In this short book, you are invited to join an urgently needed conversation: Is Islam a religion of peace or war? Is it amenable to reform? What do words like Islamism, jihadism, and fundamentalism mean in today’s world?

November 8
One Hope: Re-Membering the Body of Christ.  2017 marks the 500th anniversary of the beginning of the Reformation.  The split between Roman Catholics and Lutherans played a major role in that series of events that changed the Church.  This is a resource for those interested in exploring greater cooperation between part of “The Body of Christ.”  The essays in One Hope are the product of an intense collaborative process by six gifted scholars and pastoral leaders, three Lutheran and three Catholic.

December 12
Appreciative Inquiry Evaluation of Past Year and Planning for 2018

Selections are subject to change.  If you would like to be reminded and have additional information, contact David Nelson at humanagenda@gmail.com or call (816) 453-3835





ABOUT CRES PARTICIPATION
Having spawned several other organizations,
including the Greater Kansas City Interfaith Council,
we continue to offer programs initiated by and through others
but we no longer create our own in order to focus on our unique work.
For interfaith and cultural calendars maintained by other groups, click here.