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This page is under continuing construction through 2018.
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2018 Programs Thanks for Noticing book
2018 Other Announcements Older Program Reports
2019 Programs About CRES participation

Links to 2018 PROGRAMS and REPORTS

Vital ConversationsProgram, 2d Wednesdays 1-2:30 pm

Photos and reports are arranged by month
Coffee, 4th Wednesdays 8 am
King Holiday Essay — 2018 Jan 15

Candlemas 2018 Feb 2 Fri 7pm see below 

What is Islam?2018 March 4 Resurrection Lutheran Church, 9100 Mission Rd

Eliot's Four Quartets 2018 March 13 Tom Brous speaks on his book

Memorial service 180331 for Anand Bhattacharyya, 1932-2018

Meeting Paul Knitter 2018 April 20 

Meeting Stephen Prothero   2018 April 30

Ministry in a Pluralistic World C-RP511 — Vern teaches the graduate course
     Central Baptist Theological Seminary

Interfaith Council's "Table of Faiths"
     2018 May 8 -- wonderful event -- a historical correction

Congratulating Kansas City Mayor Sly James
      The latest recipient of the Kansas City Tomorrow Alumni Assn 
      "Distinguished Alumni" award 

Vern thanks Senator Claire McCaskill

Celebrating an award-winning film in Hindi

A "Retirement" Observed

Independence Day Essay  "Sacred Citizenship"
     from our Archives: The America before Trump  (2-page PDF)

Margolis Scholarship Essay Contest winner announced.

World Religions Lectures — 2018 Sept 21-22 Fri-Sat 

CRES applauds Indian filmmaker —  2018 Oct 14 Sun 2:35p

Kansas City: A Neighborhood of World Religions
     Day Workshop at Tall Oaks Conference Center -- Oct 24 Wed 8:30-3

Annual Interfaith Thanksgiving Dinner -- Nov 11 Sunday 4:30
     with the Vern Barnet Interfaith Service Award

Thanksgiving Benefit Concert for the Jerusalem Farm -- Nov 16 Fri 7:30 


King Holiday Essay — 2018 Jan 15 
     Download a PDF of Vern's 2-page summary of the genius of the spiritual approach of Martin Luther King Jr by clicking this link.

Candlemas 2018 Feb 2 Fri 7pm honoring many faiths

Grace and Holy Trinity Cathedral during World Interfaith Harmony Week THE EVENING INCLUDED
:: A complimentary reception hosted by the Central Seminary
:: An exhibition of art in the rare Saint John's Bible
:: Organ pieces performed by Paul Meier on the Gabriel Kney Pipe Organ
:: The Sacred Arts Chorale performing the complete Missa Pange Lingua by Josquin des Prez (1450?–1521) -- Kyrie, Gloria | Credo, Sanctus, Agnus Dei
:: Guitar, ud, and other music performed by Beau Bledsoe
:: Poetry from Wm Shakespeare, George Herbert, John Donne, T S Eliot, W H Auden, and Vern Barnet, with actor Eddie Straub
:: Of course, the full candle-lighting ceremony, incense, asperges


Evolution Weekend 2018 Feb 9-11report pending

What is Islam? 
2018 March 4 Sunday 9:15 am
Resurrection Lutheran Church, 9100 Mission Rd
Dr Vern Barnet discussed our indebtedness to Islam and answered questions, in an informative hour classroom setting.

The session began with this "Quiz to Initiate Discussion of Islam"
1. T/F — The three largest faiths in the world are, in order, Christianity, Islam, and Hinduism.
2. T/F — Well over ten per cent of American Muslims are African-American.
3. T/F — Records show Muslim presence in South Carolina as early as 1790.
4. T/F — Most Christians in the occupied Palestinian areas have been sympathetic to the Muslim population.
5. T/F — Judaism comprises less than one per cent of the world’s population, mostly in the United States, Israel, and France. 
6. T/F — Muslim slaves are buried in New York near the site of the 9/11 attacks.
7. T/F — By 1919, a mosque had been built in Michigan, by 1934 in Iowa, by 1957 in Washington, D.C., and in Kansas City by 1981.
8. T/F — The Muslim Student Association (UMKC’s chapter formed by 1984), with  other groups, led to the founding of the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA). 
9. T/F — Saudi Arabia, our ally, a Sunni nation, is home to the Wahhabi extremist form of Islam.
10. T/F — Jesus (pbuh) is mentioned more times in the Qur’an than Muhammad (pbuh).
11. T/F — Traditionally Yaser Arafat was welcomed at the Christmas observances in Bethlehem at the Church of the Nativity.
12. T/F — Although the current administration is especially hostile to Iran, with its Shia majority, the US has never interfered with its democracy by overthrowing its government and installing a dictator. 
13. T/F — The US trained a Saudi, Osama bin Laden. 
14. a/b/c — Greater KC has (a) one mosque (b) three mosques (c) more than ten.
15. T/F — The first nation to recognize the independence of the United States of America was a Muslim nation.
16. T/F — The Jackson County Diversity Task force including Jewish, Muslim, Christian, and Buddhist members, formed after the 9/11 attacks to survey the 5-county area, presented a 77-page report with three pages of recommendations to the community on Sept 10, 2002. 
17. T/F — Muslim lands offered Jews safety when they were expelled after the Christians reconquered Spain. 

Click for answers.
Vern said "Kansas City would not be Kansas City except for Muhammad (PBUH) by pointing our that Giralda Tower on the Country Club Plaza is often used as a symbol to identify Kansas City, with the original full-size minaret still standing in Seville, once the tower from which the Adhan, the Muslim call to prayer was made. 
     After the session, members of the class hold an enlarged image of a AAA map cover for Kansas City after the talk. They are Bob Dona, his wife Sharon, and the Rev Ted Schroeder, who invited Vern. 

Eliot's Four Quartets Promoted

Tom Brous spoke at the Retired Clergy Luncheon March 13. T.S. Eliot’s “Four Quartets” may be the most important religious poem since Dante's Divine Comedy, Brous suggested, and like Dante, even with the Comedy's beauty and power, discovering the depths of its meaning its not easy.
     Now there is a guide through this masterpiece: Why Read Four Quartets? Tom's book encourages readers to “take up, read, and inwardly digest” these sacred  poems. Both for general reader unacquainted with this work and those who already cherish it, the poems are made more accessible. 
     Many critics do not take Eliot’s own spirituality seriously enough to explore it; literary analysis is often emphasized to the exclusion of viewing the poems in a personal or biographical manner. In sharp contrast to these typical studies, this book endeavors to show that the quartets can be read as the story of Eliot’s own mystical journey to the Divine, a journey by which we ourselves can benefit.
     Tom Brous is a retired attorney-at-law and adjunct law professor. He has studied and lectured on Four Quartets for over 30 years.
     The program was arranged through CRES and Vern introduced the author.

Memorial service 180331 for Anand Bhattacharyya, 1932-2018

Wearing the shawl Anand Bhattacharrya has bestowed on him, Vern spoke about their decades-long friendship at the memorial service at the Hindu Temple and Cultural Center. 

Anand's far-ranging and key contributions to interfaith understanding might be suggested by the fact that he is the “Hindu” in the Donna Ziegenhorn play, The Hindu and the Cowboy. He was tireless in promoting not only the better understanding of his own faith by sharing it in many ways with the larger community, but by supporting efforts to bring faiths together in mutuality and trust. He wrote for The Kansas City Star and often advised me on my column through its weekly appearance for 18 years. An engineer by profession, he was a spiritual scholar, teacher and servant of the divine, a man of integrity and joy. 

Anand was the first Hindu member of the Kansas City Interfaith Council 1989; and he and Dipti offered me, along with so many others, great friendship and all kinds of help. So many memories! — including bhumi puja ground-breaking at the site of what became the Hindu Temple and Cultural Center when he was president, to his being honored by CRES at the annual Interfaith Thanksgiving Sunday Family Ritual Meal in 1999 (image 1) to his participation in the press conference September 11, 2001 (image 2), and the day of observance September 11, 2002 (image 3) , to his welcoming guests from here and abroad at the nation's first Interfaith Academies for professionals and students when the participants visited the Temple in 2007 (image 4) . . . and so many other public and private ways he enriched our lives. 

We honored him at this year’s interfaith Candlemas.

We are blessed in so many ways by knowing Anand, and those who never met him still benefit in ways they may never know from his time with us.

And may I mention a couple other, rather personal, things. 
     At one Thanksgving Ritual Meal, I complimented him on his tie. He happened to have another one just like it, which he gave to me; and it sorta became a tradition that we would wear those matching ties at this annual interfaith gathering; thus were we tied together. 
     When the Interfaith Academies visited the Hindu Temple, he presented me with a shawl. I have given away all my albs and robes and retain this shawl for when I am called for sacerdotal duties, and always think of him and his generous spirit. It is like a mantle with which he is blessing me.

A collection of tributes with many photos of Anand at key points in the interfaith history of Kansas City appear here: cres.org/Anand.htm

Distinguished theologian Paul F Knitter visited Colonial Congregational Church in Prairie Village 2018 April 20 and spoke on "Attitudes toward the Religious Other: The Christian Landscape," ways Christians can approach thinking about those of other faiths. 
     Vern had a chance to speak briefly with him before his presentation and mentioned that his 2002 book, Introducing Theologies of Religion, is one of the sources for Vern's class, "Ministry in a Pluralistic World," at Central Seminary.
     Vern also commented during the forum after the lecture. One point of discussion was the difficulty of one person representing an entire faith tradition with its many historical and contemporary expressions. Vern noted that the Kansas City Interfaith Council was organized in 1989 not with representatives of 13 faiths, but with 13 people from different faith backgrounds, thus avoiding this easy trap. Even Christians forget that their faith today might be very different from another Christian's faith across the street (even within Protestantism, not to mention Catholicism or Orthodoxy) or in other parts of the world; and historical development is seldom recognized -- a Southern Baptist today may be very different from one 50 years ago. 

Thanks to Jen Greene for these photos.
2018 April 30, Stephen Prothero and Vern discuss the merits of Prothero's 2010 book, God Is Not One: The Eight Rival Religions That Run the World—and Why Their Differences Matter, which Vern is using as one of several texts at Central Seminary. Another member of the audience at the annual Religious Studies lecture at KU happened to have a copy of the 2011 column Vern had written about the book and showed it to them. Prothero signed Vern's copy of his new book, Why Liberals Win (Even When They Lose Elections). Prothero's lecture reviewed his earlier and continuing concern about American religious illiteracy, about which he wrote in his 2007 Religious Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know--And Doesn't. 
     Prothero's website is http://stephenprothero.com/.

Ministry in a Pluralistic World syllabus
     2018 May 7 – July 27 — Mondays 6-9:45pm CDT 
     2018 Aug 27 – Nov 19 – Tuesdays 6-9:45p CT 
      2019 Jan 7 – Mar 26 — Mondays 6-9:45pm CDT 
  2019 May 7 - July 23 Tuesdays 6-9:45pm CDT 
     The graduate credit course C-RP511 is held remotely via Zoom and at
     Central Seminary 6601 Monticello Road, Shawnee, KS 6226-3513.

The course, led by Dr Vern Barnet, explores these questions:

     0. Getting acquainted: Our backgrounds, travel and other experiences, and perspectives as we approach this course. 
     1. What meanings do terms such as belief, dialogue, epiphany, holistic, mission, myth, pilgrimage, religion, ritual, sacred, sacrifice, scripture, secular, spirituality, and worship, have for us and today’s society? 
     2. What attitudes have scholars identified as ways folks approach faith perspectives other than their own?
     3. What does “pluralism” mean? What are its theoretical, practical, and personal meanings? How does it apply to the local community and the “global village”?
     4. Where are we aided and challenged by other traditions? How might our own and other traditions address environmental, personal, and social disorders?

     1. How do sociological, historical, phenomenological, and other methods of studying religions differ, and how do they help us understand another’s faith? 
     2. What are the basic structures, texts, facts, practices, and variations of other faiths?
     3. How do faiths compare and contrast?
     4. What is more, and what is less, useful for each of us today?

     1. What are the basic styles and purposes of interfaith engagement? What are the significant interfaith organizations and programs affecting the student’s community? 
     2. How do I discover my community’s faith complexion and my opportunities within it? 
     3. What issues with boundaries arise and how can they be negotiated?
     4. What do we learn about ourselves as we learn about others? Can I be committed to my own faith and respectful and open to others? If so or if not, what does that mean for my ministry?

During the May 14 class (hosted on this occasion locally by HJ's Youth and Community Center, a facility of St Andrew's Episcopal Church) which included two remote students, a reflection appeared on the monitor behind Vern and a student particularly apt with electronics as well as religion, captured Vern making some obscure theological point as if he were holding a light saber for emphasis. Vern denies that he is an incarnation of Obi-Wan Kenobi, but is disappointed that the electonics seemed to obscure his halo which too few can discern in any circumstance, anyhow. Maybe as the technology improves . . . .


June 4 Rabbi Moti Rieber, head of Kansas Interfaith Action, visited the class to discuss his work. The inset is a quick figure to illustrate the process of gaining support for policy positions, and generated a wonderful controversy. Our guest expemplifies one form of interfaith work, action, which might be contrasted with  interfaith educational programs.



June 11 our guest was Maggie Finefrock, head of The Learning Project and CRES Chief Learning Officer, a veteran of many pilgrimages, including the Camino de Santiago de Compostela, and most recently, a 300-mile pilgrimage observing the  bicentennial of St. Rose Philippine Duchesne (1769-1852)'s Society of the Sacred Heart. She presented two tables of items relating to the practice of pilgrimage, elicted and responded to questions from the class deepening our understanding of what a pilgrimage is and is not, and introduced us to material on the chart she presented.

Maggie's husband, Dr Doug Bottorff, discussed his own spiritual path, Ananda Marga. The class considered the role of the guru and the importance of faithful practice. 

The Rev David E Nelson, president of The Human Agenda, was guest at the first session of the "Ordinary" term class Vern leads at Central Seminary on ministry in a pluralistic world. David told the story of two boys and their parents from different cultures to illustrate how different responses to the same situation can lead to damaged or healthy outcomes. He then outlined Appreciative Inquiry, and from his sermon (at the nation's first Interfaith Academies sponsored in part by Harvard's Pluralism Project and Religions for Peace-USA), he explained why he has given so much (and received so much) from interfaith engagement and relationships. David's rich career beyond parish ministry includes work with emergency responders, Head Start programs, prison inmates, the Greater Kansas City Interfaith Council, and the monthly Vital Comversations.


From yearning God conceived and teemed the world
to know and to be known in fullness. . . . 

-- "The Purpose of Sex"
in Thanks For Noticing: The Interpretation of Desire, p186.
Congratulations to the Greater Kansas City Interfaith Council for its uplifting "Table of Faiths" dinner 2018 May 8 at the Overland Park Convention Center -- and to award recipients, Jewish Vocational Services (Table of Faiths Award) with Hilary Cohen Singer, and Mindy Corporon and Melinda Coproran -- "Faith Always Wins" (Steve Jeffers Leadership Service Award). The program, chaired by the Rev Kelly Isola, included inspiring speakers Bill Tammeus, Aisha Sharif, and Alvin Brooks. 
     Especially gratifying were the ways the speakers and activities elaborated the theme of the evening, "to know and be known," a theme around which Vern's book, Thanks for Noticing, was created, citing a Muslim Hadith Qudsi (page 17-18, 28, 31, 51, 75, 95, 101, 161, 186.)
     Vern, who organized the Council in 1989, was given the first Table of Faiths award by then-Mayor Kay Barnes in 2005 shown here, after Vern had retired from the leading the Council. 
     For the record, the 2018 program incorrectly listed Vern as the first recipient of the Steve Jeffers Leadership Service Award; Steve tragically died in 2008 and the first Jeffers award was given that year. Steve and Vern had worked together many years on numerous projects, and with the assistance of Michael E Nelson and Michael C Brannigan, and with help from members of the Interfaith Council, completed Steve's dream of an 'interfaith PDR'-- Physicans' Desk Reference, the internationally published 740-page The Essential Guide to Religious Traditions and Spirituality for Health Care Providers.
     Vern says, "Although I am deeply grateful to the Council for the inagural Table of Faiths Award, it would be wrong for me to allow the error to stand that I received an award in the name of my precious friend, Steve. I remain overwhelmed by the the Council's Table of Faiths Award and its generous inscription." The award reads, The Greater Kansas City Interfaith Council presents the inaugural TABLE OF FAITHS AWARD to The Reverend Vern Barnet, D.Min. for his lifelong career dedicated to encouraging interfaith dialogue, for his vision in founding The Greater Kansas City Interfaith Council, and for the compassion and wisdom he exhibits every day.
     Those who have received the Steve Jeffers Leadership Service Award include Dr Robert Hill, Ahmed El-Sherif, Queen Mother Maxine McFarlane, Donna Ziegenhorn, Mayor Sly James, Bambi Shen, the Rev Dr Wallace Hartsfield Sr, Shakil Haider, Dr Sofia Khan, and this year's recipient, as noted above, Mindy Corporon and Melinda Coproran -- "Faith Always Wins."
     After the inaugiral award, the Table of Faiths Award has been given to Ed Chasteen and Don and Adele Hall (all three in 2006), The Kansas City Star and Alvin L Brooks (two awards), Shawnee Mission Medical Center, All Souls Unitarian Universalist Church, Notre Dame de Sion, the Kansas City Public Library, Unity Church of Overland Park, Children's Mercu Hospital, the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, the Blue Valley School District, the Dialogue Institute - Kansas City, and, as noted above, Jewish Vocational Services.
     CRES is seeking to provide an accurate history of interfaith activities in Kansas City, so any corrections to this list are welcomed. 

Kansas City Tomorrow Alum Assn Award Recipients

Previous Kansas City Tomorrow Alum Assn "Distinguished Alumni Award" recipients Vern Barnet (2006) and Jody Ladd Craig (2013) congratulate the newest recipient, Kansas City Mayor Sly James at a luncheon in his honor at the Polsinelli law firm offices on the Plaza 2018 May 22. (Here is a list of all honorees from 1987.)


Vern thanks Senator Claire McCaskill for her understanding of how religious diversity enriches America in countless ways, following at an event 2018 June 9 at which she spoke eloquently about valuing our variety of faiths.


Kansas City Human Rights Commissioner Kelly Kendall, filmmaker Mohammed Shaik Hussain Ali, recipient of the "2018 OUT HERE NOW Celebration of Courage Award," Open Circle'sJamie Rich, and CRES's Vern Barnet pose at the Tivoli Theater after the enthusiastic and heart-felt applause following the screening of "Evening Shadows" June 14. The award is presented jointly by the Commission and the Kansas City LGBT Film Festival. This evening was co-hosted by CRES, Open Circle, and The Fairness Project. 

Set in South India and Mumbai, this first-of-its-kind Hindi film (with English subtitles) is a tender, heart-warming story about a mother-son bond and the emotional strength needed to withstand the tests of time, traditions, and truths. It is the first Indian LGBTQ feature film to receive a family-friendly certification rating from the Indian censor board. It pressents cultural and social conflicts surrounding sexual and gender equality in India as India awaits the decision of its Supreme Court about legalizing homosexuality.
     The story: Upon returning to his hometown from Mumbai where he lives with his beloved, a talented young man is shocked to discover that his overbearing father has arranged to marry him off to his childhood friend. Feeling tremendous pressure from his family, the young man finally and impulsively tells his mother, the only person who has ever really attempted to understand him, "I am gay!" She is shocked and repulsed, but as the film skillfully follows the ensuing questions and conversations, she comes to accept and support him, leading to a dramatic confrontation with her husband and evenually her own liberation as a person whose own talents are no longer suppressed by her husband.
     While made for Indian audiences, Americans viewing this film see the struggle against oppression in our own country afresh by being immersed in a fascinating segment of today's Hindu culture and Indian politics.

The Reverend Vern Barnet, DMn, was ordained a Unitarian Universalist minister May 24, 1970. On 2018 June 21, his retirement was observed at the denominational annual General Assemby, this year coincidentally held in Kansas City. The photo by Josh Paszkiewicz captures him a few minutes before the ceremony at the Convention Center began. 
     "Retirement" is, of course, misleading, as Vern continues a hectic schedule of speaking, teaching, writing, editing, and consulting. While he maintains his clergy status with his cherished local Unitarian Universalist colleagues, he is also a committed and active layman at Grace and Holy Trinity Cathedral (Episcopal) in downtown Kansas City, MO, and participates in diocesan lay ministries.
     The shawl he wears on many liturgical occasions was presented to him 2007 June 17 with an award from the Hindu Temple and Cultural Center in Shawnee, KS, by his now-deceased dear friend Anand Bhattacharyya. The symbols of world religions  — Primal, Asian, and Monotheistic — on the reversable stole were created as a gift by Su Budd, a parishioner of Vern's last congregation as he was launching interfaith community ministry in the area in 1985.
     The symbols represent (first panel, top to bottom) Judaism, Catholic Christianity, Protestant Christianity, Orthodox Christianity, Islam, Sikhism, Unitarian Universalism, Baha'i, (second panel) Zoroastrianism, American Indian traditons, Paganism, Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, Chinese traditions of Daoism and Confucianism, and Shinto. 
     For an outline the CRES world religions "research program," click on this link.

Rabbi Morris Margolies (1921-2012) 
Congratulations to Haidee Clauer from Hyman Brand Hebrew Academy! Her essay won in the contest for the 2018 Margolis Scholarship Contest. Vern was one of the five judges. The prize was created by the will of Bernard Margolis, but Vern misunderstood the name and thought it honored Rabbi Morris Margolies who served Beth Shalom for 25 years. Rabbi Margolies participated in the Christian Jewish Muslim DIalogue Group Vern coordinated and they (both having studied at the University of Chicago) became friends. Bernard Margolis was executive vice-president of Katz Drug Stores Co. Anyhow, cheers for Haidee Clauer and thanks to Mark D Wasserstrom for managing the contest who welcomes submissions for the 2019 contest from area high school students. We are glad to remember both Rabbi Morris Margolies and Bernard Margolis, each of which helped to make Kansas City what it is today.


Lectures on
World Religions 
2018 September 21-22 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.
Vern describes the three families of faith by telling stories suggesting where these families typically find the sacred; epitomizing texts are studied; Buddhism and Islam given special attention; and the benefits of interfaith exchange celebrated.


2018 October 14 Sunday, following the 2:35pm screening, Glenwood Arts Theatre, 3707 W 95, Overland Park, KS 66206, CRES presented a special Interfaith Discernment Award for the film Evening Shadows -- for "portraying universal spiritual themes of self-discovery and social advancement" -- at the Kansas International Film Festival. The filmmaker, Mohammed Shaik Hussain Ali, accepted the award in person from Maggie Finefrock, CRES Chief Learning Officer, along with Vern. CRES is pleased to add our award to others the film has merited. The film is in Hindi with English subtitles. We would like to think that the film helped to made it possible for the Indian Supreme Court to throw out odious section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, a left-over from the Bristish raj which violated millennia of Indian culture and religion. 

Oct 24 Wed 8:30-3
Kansas City: 
A Neighborhood of World Religions
A day workshop for clergy, lay leaders, students, and those interested in learning about the many faith traditions in the Greater Kansas City community. The day, planned by the Rev Kara Hawkins of the Greater Kansas City Interfaith Council, began with table discussions about personal experiences of awe, the theme of a paper by the Rev Vern Barnet, DMn, and distributed to the participants in advance. Then Vern presented an overview of the religions of the world, suggesting that Primal faiths typically look in the realm of nature for the sacred, Asian faiths in personhood, and Abrahamic traditions in the history of covenanted community, paralleling the three great crises of our age.

Distinguished interfaith leaders Mahnaz Shabbir and Alan Edelman, superb presenters of their respective Muslim and Jewish faiths, contributed insights from their traditions regarding the corresponding environmental, personal, and social crises. A delicious lunch followed with Table Talk suggestions. 

After lunch interfaith explorer and Buddhist leader and speaker from the Tibetan tradition, Sergio Moreno, with scope and insight, discussed Buddhism's history and practice, and Kara Hawkins and Stumbling Deer presented an American Indian "case study" in the most beautiful and touching words and music. Vern was asked to conclude the conference, so he asked everyone to join hands and then we lifted them to the sky.

Tall Oaks Conference Center is located at 12778 189th, two miles east of Linwood, KS, about 40 minutes from downtown KC. The conference participants greatly enjoyed the facilities and the hospitality. Martha E Pierce, Center executive director, participated in the workshop, and we are especially grateful for her enthusiasm for interfaith understanding. The Greater Kansas City Interfaith Council was a collaborative partner with this conference at Tall Oaks (a Disciples of Christ church camp). 
     The $75 workshop fee included breakfast, lunch, drinks, and course materials. For more information about this important event, please contact the conference organizer, Kara Hawkins, at 816-509-7984 or email her at karaleehawkins48@gmail.com. Kara is interested in providing such wonderful learning experiences for others.
     While CRES no longer initiates programs, it is delighted to contribute to such efforts in promoting interfaith understanding, especially in providing an overview of the wisdom of the world's spiritual traditions in our overwhelmingly secularistic and fragmented age, to reverse the endangered environment, the violation of personhood,  and the broken community so that we may be restored with nature, the self made whole, community in covenant, and the sacred found afresh.

Although this event is not sponsored by CRES, we list it since its "Vern Barnet Interfaith Service Award" is named for CRES minister emeritus, the founder of the Kansas City Interfaith Council (1989), then a program of CRES.

2018 November 11 Sunday 4:30 pm
St Paul's Episcopal Church, 40th and Main
Annual Interfaith Thanksgiving Dinner
with the Vern Barnet Interfaith Service Award
this year to Barbara Criswell

Award recipient Barbara Criswell is the proprietor of Aquarius Store for Conscious Living, a leader in the Pagan community, active in the Greater Kansas City Interfaith Council, the Heartland Pagan Alliance, a Mayan Prietess and ceremonialist, and a mentor to spiritual seekers from all paths. 
     The hosting facility this year, St Paul’s Episcopal Church has always had an active outreach ministry to the community and for many years housed the office of the Episcopal Community Services. It hosted the 24th annual Interfaith Thanksgiving Sunday Family Ritual Meal in 2008. The Reverend Deacon Brian England offered greetings from the Church as this year’s event began, introduced by Master of Ceremonies, the Reverend Greg McCoy.
     Not on the program, KC legend Alvin Brooks was discovered in the audience and was called to the lecturn and brightened the occasion with humor and affection.
     In accepting the award, Barbara Criswell spoke movingly about organizing her first protest — as a child — when she was faced with racial injustice. She knew the situation was not right, not fair, and her and her friends’ protest precipitated the needed change.
    The designated charity this year was Hope Haven of Cass County, and Christopher Stibbs, Director of Development, spoke about its history and services. Matching charity donations at the dinner again was the Heartland Alliance of Divine Love, so the total gift this year was $476. 
     The evening featured music by Rachel Marie and Victor Dougherty during dinner and Voices of Gaia at the end of the program. 

     The program included “Interfaith Benedictions of Gratitude” from members of various faith traditions. Participating were Linda Prugh (“uma”) - Vedanta; the Rev Linda Boyce - Pagan; Sheila Sonnenschein - Jewish; Kara Hawkins - American Indian Spirituality; Jag Aggarwal - Hindu; the Rev Marcia Reardon - Alliance of Divine Love; Dennis Hargis - the Baha'i Faith; the Rev Kathleen Bergman - Unity (view obscured); Cindy McDavitt - Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints; Zulfiqar Malik - Islam; Lama Matt Rice - Buddhism. [Not shown: the Rev Mary Gibson McCoy, representing Unitarian Universalist minister, the Rev Kendyl Gibbons, unable to attend at the last minute.]
     Food included “traditional” Thanksgiving fare plus kosher turkey and a vegetarian entree. For a second year the caterer was NourishKC (formerly Episcopal Community Services). NourishKC recently served its one-millionth meal at the Kansas City Community Kitchen. Tickets were $18 adults, $12 students (ages 7-12), younger childen free.

Alvin L Brooks, Barbara Criswell with the award, and Vern Barnet

     HISTORY.— The annual dinners were begun by CRES led by Vern Barnet in 1984.  CRES continued to host them for a quarter century at various Kansas City sites through 2009 using a family “seder” liturgical meal participatory format with real food interpreting the American multi-faith experience. Children, their parents, and their friends, took speaking parts in enjoying the meal with a script adapting and updating William Bradford’s History of the Plymouth Plantation. 
     When Vern announced CRES was refocusing its work on teaching, writing, and consulting, and thus concluding the annual Interfaith Thanksgiving Sunday Family Ritual Meal series in the context of many new interfaith organizations now working in the Kansas City area, the Heartland Chapter of the Alliance of Divine Love asked to continue an interfaith Thanksgiving event, and with its 2010 program inaugurated the Vern Barnet Interfaith Service Award with Vern being the first recipient. Vern’s acceptance remarks are recorded here. The ADL’s event is co-sponsored by the Greater Kansas City Interfaith Council.
     Past recipients are Sheila Sonnenschein awarded at the Islamic Center of Johnson County (2017), Lama Chuck Stanford (2016), Ed Chasteen, PhD (2015), Pam Peck (2014), the Rev Sam Mann (2013), Barb McAtee (2012), Dr Larry Guillot (2011), and the Rev Vern Barnet, DMn (2010). Congratulations now to Barbara!

Thanks to Mary McCoy for this dining image and the photo of those offering benedictions.

Nov 16 Fri 7:30 pm
Our Lady of Sorrows Church, 2552 Gillham Rd, Kansas City, MO
Thanksgiving Benefit Concert for the Jerusalem Farm 
CRES was pleased to co-sponsor this event with thanks for the Jerusalem Farm folks who 
provide home maintenance labor and other forms of assistance to needy Kansas Citians
     The William Baker Festival Singers — conducted by William Baker with guest artists Victoria Botero and guitarist Beau Bledsoe  — gave a pre-Thanksgiving concert with proceeds benefiting the Jerusalem Farm.
     The William Baker Festival Singers have celebrated Thanksgiving each year with a Benefit Concert for Human Need, raising funds for organizations that help the less fortunate in our community. For now over 21 years the Festival Singers have raised tens of thousands of dollars for organizations across the region. In 2018 the beneficiary is Jerusalem Farm, and all the donations from the event were given to this worthy service organization. 
     The 50-voice chorale performed a range of music from Hildegard von Bingen and José Marin to Javier Busto and Sondre Bratland, with favorites including Schubert's Ave Maria and There is a Balm in Gilead. Bledsoe and Botero performed selections from the Cantigas de Santa Maria from the Court of Alfonso X of Castile to the famous Villa-Lobos work, Bachiansas Brasileiras No. 5. And with the Singers, they presented several additional delights, including Mozart's Laudate Dominum from the Vesperae solennes de confessore.
     The 16-page program offered special thanks to Patrick Neas for coordinating the program and to Charles and Michelle Ritter and John Gregory for financial support, and to the Our Lady of Sorrows Parish for the hospitality.
     CRES was pleased to assist with the promotion of this wonderful evening of music and knows first-hand the contributions the folks from Jerusalem Farm make to our community. The four “cornerstones” of their life are prayer, community, simplicity, and service.


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.

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


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

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


2018 Vital Conversations Schedule

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

     Vital Conversations A Program of the Greater Kansas City Interfaith Council, CRES, and Mid Continent Public Library Antioch Branch, 6060 N. Chestnut. Gladstone, MO 64119 The Second Wednesday of each month from 1 to 2:30 pm.
     VC Coffee the Fourth Wednesday at 8 am at Panera Bread, 311 NE Englewood Rd.

January 10, 2018 The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien
     This classic work of American literature has not stopped changing minds and lives since it burst onto the literary scene. It is “The Big Read” for the greater Kansas City area. It is about the Vietnam War but so much more. It gives the reader an opportunity to think about war, memory, imagination, and the redemptive power of storytelling.

February 14th, 2018 
The New Jim Crow
     Once in a great while a book comes along that changes the way we see the world and helps to fuel a nationwide social movement. The New Jim Crow is such a book. Praised by Harvard Law professor Lani Guinier as “brave and bold,” this book directly challenges the notion that the election of Barack Obama signals a new era of colorblindness. 
   HipHop artist Miles Megaciph was the special guest. You can download a portion of his contribution to the discussion at this icloud address. Here are other sites of interest:
Miles "Megaciph" Thomas
Watch Nuchi Du Takara on YouTube

March 14, 2018 Boxes by Temp Sparkman
     We are what we remember. We all have our own boxes, downloaded from our hard drives. They appear early in life. Some of them are like others’ boxes. Still, what’s in them are uniquely ours. Author Temp (photo left) was with us to assist in discussing his book and our unique individual boxes. He illustrated several of his own boxes, and the group, led by David Nelson, discussed the one or more of the assortment of boxes each of us is familiar with as ways of understanding ourselves (and each other) better.

April 11, 2018 God Against the Gods: The History of the War Between Monotheism and Polytheism by Jonathan Kirsch.

The last stand of paganism against monotheism is one of the great “what-if’s in history. How would the modern world look today if the worship of many gods had been tolerated instead of persecuted? Breaking a long-lived taboo, this book reveals the dark side of monotheism and the bright side of 

May 9, 2018 Radical Dharma: Talking Race, Love, and Liberation, Angel Kyodo Williams, Lama Rod Owens with Jasmine Syedullah.

     Igniting a long-overdue dialogue about how the legacy of racial injustice and white supremacy plays out in society at large and Buddhist communities this urgent call to action outlines a new dharma that considers the ways that racism and privilege prevents our collective awakening.
     Our guest, who knows the authors, was the Most Ven Sunyananda Dharma, who offered a different perspective on approaching the privilege and oppressions found thoughout history -- and on working for a more just future-- and suggested that our first responsibility may be becoming better ourselves to see the present more clearly. It was a very lively conversation with many questions and brilliant responses and observations from our guest.
     In the absence of David Nelson, Vern facilitated the 90-minute discussion.

June 13, 2018 Our Fathers: Making Black Men, Lewis Diuguid. 

    Many people don't understand why black lives must matter and why the racial divide seems to be taking the country back 50 years. Like the mythical Sankofa bird, the answer to what's missing now lies in what existed before. 
     This book focuses on one block of St. Louis in the mid-20th century, where African American businessmen living the American Dream also created a sense of community for boys in that neighborhood. Lewis and Bette joined the conversation. From the question of "white privilege" to the importance of mentoring, those filling the seats at the table and those beyond, enjoyed the documentation of those who made lives and communities better by hard work and enduring values.
     The many fans who read The Kansas City Star columns Lewis wrote before leaving the paper were delighted to meet him in person and delioghted his strong, clear voice continues throigh his books, his lectures, and his diversity program facilitation. 

July 11, 2018 The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas 
     This searing debut about an ordinary girl in extraordinary circumstances addresses issues of racism and police violence with intelligence, heart, and unflinching honesty. “As w continues to fight the battle against police brutality and systemic racism in America, The Hate U Give serves as a much-needed literary ramrod.”


August 8, 2018
The Evolution of Africans in North America: The Three Phases of Permanent Perpetual Slaveryby Archie J Williams
     This book uses elements of science by observing patterns of events shaping socioenvironmental conditions impacting on a targeted group. This analysis may  bring some understanding of present-day functioning of the identified group, African Americans, and may assist with predicting what treatment would bring the greatest healing. 
     Archie steaddily and eloquently presented the three phases of history of African Americans -- Bondage, Permanent perpetual slavery, and Heal thyself -- and answered many questions from the overflow crowd with the knowledge and wisdom of his research and study, and expressed his convictions and hopes with extraordinary grace. 
     Archie holds a Masters in Social Work. He is known for his memorized speeches of Dr Martin Luther King Jr, which he recites in cadence so exact you would think you were in the presence of Dr King. 

September 12, 2018 God: A Human History by Reza Aslan
     In Zealot this author gave us a new and refreshing look at Jesus. In layered prose and with thoughtful, accessible scholarship, he narrates the history of religion as one long and remarkably cohesive attempt to understand the divine by giving human traits and emotions. This has its benefits and problems which he points out clearly.
     Vern suggested that the book would have been stronger if Aslan showed any awareness of the work iun his area of concern done by Karen Armstrong, Robert Bellah, WC Smith. Stephen Prothero, JZ Smith, Rudolf Otto, Wendy Doniger, Jack Miles, John Esposito, Diana Eck, Robert Wright, and others 

October 10, 2018 Sinners in the Hands of A Loving God by Brian Zahnd
     Brian Zahnd founded Word of Life Church in St. Joseph, Missouri, more than thirty-five years ago. In this book, he asks important questions like: Is seeing God primarily as wrathful toward sinners true or biblical? He offers a more faithful and life-giving alternative to those who read the Bible and practice Christianity.

November 14, 2018 Celestial Mechanics by William Least Heat-Moon
     The author, who is known for his non-fiction travel adventures, embarks on an exploration into the value of knowledge and rational thinking, the essence of being harmoniously alive, and the very nature of the Cosmos. This fiction novel of haunted love explores the nature of reality, dreams, and leads the reader on a journey toward something vastly different.

December 12, 2018 Convictions: How I Learned What Matters Most by Marcus J. Borg 
     Do Christian beliefs still matter? Do they really change us or the world? Bestselling author Marcus J. Borg reflects on the convictions that he has developed over the course of his life and why they provide a part of hope for those seeking to be faithful Christs in the twenty-first century. He was among the most widely known and influential voices in progressive Christianity. As a fellow of the Jesus Seminar, Borg was a major figure in historical Jesus scholarship.

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

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.

full announcements pending


“ — ” ‘—’ 24
“ — ” ‘—’ 18
“ — ” ‘—’ 14

‘—’ 12

‘—’ 10

  All items are true except--
12. (F) The US and allies overthew the democratiocally selected  Iranian Prime Minister Mosaddegh in 1953 and reinstalled the oppressive Shah in exchange for oil control by Western countries.
13. (c).
15, (T) The nation was Morocco in 1777.