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




2016 Programs
and earlier


Recent publications

Other Faiths Deepen Our Own
Episcopal Diocese of West Missouri
Spirit magazine
Earth Day Prayer and Pledges
Unitarian Universalist Worship Web

Thanks for Noticing:
The Interpretation of Desire

Spiritual Health Care Guide
a 740-page multi-faith reference

The Vern Barnet Interfaith Service Award 
Lama Chuck Stanford was presented the Vern Barnet Interfaith Service Award at the annual Interfaith Thanksgiving Dinner, run by CRES for 25 years, now by ADL which began the awards in 2010 in continuing cooperation with the Greater Kansas City Interfaith Council. Past recipients are Ed Chasteen (2015), Pam Peck (2014), Sam Mann (2013)  Barb McAtee (2012 ), Larry Guillot (2011), and Vern Barnet (2010). The event was held at William Jewell College 2016 Nov 13. 
     In his acceptance remarks, Lama Chuck repeated the core theology of CRES which locates the sacred in three dimensions, nature, personhood, and the human species: "We are facing environmental, personal, and societal crises that I think can best be solved by groups of different faiths working together for common solutions." 

Yearing in Flesh and Spirit
Vern spoke to the Professionals Club 2015 November 6: Yearning for fulfillment of our sexual and spiritual desires are often sharply distinguished by our culture. But the mystics of many faiths spoke about them as if they were the same. Vern Barnet samples such mystical literature and art in a recent church publication, and presents his own struggles to understand how body and soul are related in his new book, Thanks for Noticing: The Interpretation of Desire. 

For advance reading, visit 

Vern's KC Star column about a friend's father dying from the Hiroshima blast is part of an exhibit, Hiroshima/ Nagasaki: Seventy Years Beyond the Bombings, at UMKC's Miller Nichols Library through October 4. Events considering the issues raised continue through November 21. 
     To view a 1962 letter to Vern from Bertrand Russell, click here.


Away and Back: A Tour of World Religions for Teens with Vern Barnet


While we update our website, please scroll down for these and other reports

Confronting Extremist Violence, the Refugee Crisis, 
   and Fear: Faith Responses
May 19 Thu 6:30 - 8 pm
Plaza Branch Library, 4801 Main, KCMO

Dr. Vernon Howard (President of Southern Christian Leadership Conference of GKC),
Fadi Banyalmarjeh (Islamic Society Of Greater Kansas City Board Member, who is from Syria), 
Rabbi Linda Steigman (Rabbinical Association of Greater Kansas City Board Member), and 
Father Paul Turner (Bishop Johnston’s Ecumenical and Interfaith Representative)
Bill Tammeus, retired KC Star columnist and nterfaith activist.

Lt. Col. Brian Steed (an instructor of military history) presents the international-strategic context.

Faith leaders discuss what their faiths teach about responding to extremist violence, human suffering, and fear. The panel is also asked to comment on the Iraq and Syrian refugee crisis, Islamophobia, and scapegoating, and how faith wisdom could be used to guide U.S. policy.

The program is arranged by the American Friends Service Committee and co-sponsored osponsor with the Greater Kansas City Interfaith Council, the KCMO Public Library, Central Baptist Theological Seminary, Citizens for Justice in the Middle East, Cultural Crossroads, Inc., PeaceWorks, and the Center for Religious Experience and Study (CRES), 

May 17 Tue 6:30p 
     CRES panel on the 60s
     7p Dying to Know: movie 

More details soon
May 21 Sat 11:15a -- second screening

2016 Mar 9
Vital Conversations -- Fr Normon Rotert's book

2016 Feb 13 Valentine's Day Program with Vern
Unwrapping the Secrets of the Immortal Poems:
What Shakespeare’s Sonnets Say About Love

March 9, 2016  Weaving The Vision:  Stories of Faith for the Sons and Daughters of God.  For 48 years, Father Norman Rotert served as a priest of the Catholic diocese of Kansas City- St. Joseph.   The steadfast response to God’s call took him beyond the Catholic community, leading as the Spirit often does, to work that improves the lot of all humankind.  From the early days of his priesthood, marching for civil rights in Selma, Alabama, in his work with Kansas City Harmony, and a variety of local and national organizations Father Norman Rotert has worked tirelessly to promote the common good.  This collection of his homilies will give us a taste of his passion for the gospel’s vision of justice and peace.  We will have a number of guests who have worked with Father Rotert to share additional stories that help us prepare for the Christian celebrations of Holy Week and Easter that will come later in the month. 

March 23, 2016 Vital Conversation Coffee


The new Roman Catholic bishop for the Catholic Diocese of Kansas City-St Joseph, His Excellency, the Most Reverend James V. Johnston Jr greets Vern (black jacket) representing interfaith activity in Kansas City, during the Installation Ceremony after the Bishop was guided to his cathedra (chair) at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception. In blue is Muslim leader Mahnaz Shabbir, and in red is the Right Reverend Martin S Field, Episcopal Bishop of the Diocese of West Missouri.

Vern was a guest 2015 October 31 at the morning leture at the Vedanta Society, shown here with Sawmi Chetanananda and guest speaker Dr Christopher Chapple, who established the nation's only masters program in yoga studies, at the Bellarmine College of Liberal Arts, Loyola Marymount University. In the background is a portrait of Swami Vivekananda. --With thanks to uma who makes countless thoughtful arrangements!

Living the Secular Life
Helen Stringer, executive director of Kansas City Oasis, was the guest at the Vital Conversations 2015 Sept 9, shown here with leader David Nelson, as  the topics raised by Living The Secular Life:  New Answers to Old Questions by Phil Zuckerman were explored. 

Four Sermons
Vern was guest preacher at Rosedale Congregational UCC, (4326 Lloyd Street, KCK 66103) September 13--October 4. 
   Sep 13 Outside, Inside, and towards the Center
   Sep 20 What Do Mystics of Every Faith Say?
   Sep 27 Where is the Sacred in Asian Art?
   Oct 4    Do Christians Eat Flesh and Drink Blood? (Communion Sunday)

For Communion Sunday, Vern showed slides from Walt Disney's Snow White, cited a commentor who quoted Coleridge's famous phrase, "the willing suspension of disbelief" to explain how a cartoon story can affect us emotionally, and proposed a Postmodern understanding of the Holy Eucharist by comparing Medieval, Modern, and Postmodern understandings of truth, facticity, and what is genuine.
Dear Rosedale Friends, 
     I want you to know that I greatly appreciated being your guest minister. Not only do I admire the good spirit within the congregation and your outreach to the community, but also I cherish the kindness with which you welcomed me and received my ministry. The last Sunday, communion Sunday, was especially meaningful, even poignant, for me. I preached about different understandings of Communion, and cited one or two of my most meaningful Communion experiences. Now I have another especially treasured Communion experience -- I did not expect to be so deeply moved as I saw the presence of Christ in each of you through the beauty of your faces as you came to receive the Eucharistic bread. Thank you for many blessings, and especially for this. 
     With congratulations and best wishes as you move forward,

Vern Barnet

Grace and Holy Trinity Cathedral (Episcopal) Deacon, the Rev Jerry Grabher, baseball statistics expert, and Muslim leader, co-founder of Baseball Perspectives, founder of Rany on the Royals; writer for Grantland.com, and featured speaker Rany Jazayerli, and Vern at a reception before Jazayerli spoke on "Baseball, Hotdogs, Apple Pie, and Islam" at the annual Eid Celebration and Awards Dinner of the Crescent Peace Society 2015 September 12. Vern, who has received both the Community Service Award and the Lifetime Service Award in the past, was introduced as the founder of the Greater Kansas City Interfaith Councill, which was one of the honorees this year. 

Women and Equality: An Interfaith Panel
"Global Ties, Local Conversations: An Inter-faith Dialogue on Women and Equality" was the subject of a fascinating and valuable panel discussion 2015 August 28 breakfast at Grace and Holy Trinity Cathedral. The panel, shown here with Vern who suggested several of the panelists to the organizers, are Mahnaz Shabbir (Muslim), Sheila Sonnenschein (Jewish), moderator Shelly Cline (public historian of the Midwest Holocaust Center), Lia M McIntosh (Christian, Protestant), Sr Donna Ryan (Christian, Roman Catholic). and Bhaswati Ray (Hindu). This was an event observing Women’s Equality Week organized by UNA Women group (including Julie Brogno of the hosting facility) and sponsored by the University of Saint Mary.

Embracing Religious Pluralism
for Ozanam social workers, other staff, and partners
2016 August 20 Vern led a training introducing a way of looking at world religions by asking of each faith, "Where do you go to find the sacred, that on which your life depends, the source of meaning for you?" The objectives for learning were --

     * Identify typical attitudes toward other faiths and common misconceptions about religion such as "All religions believe in God"
     * 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), and their responses to the crises of our time.
     * Practice interfaith conversation skills for safe, meaningful, two-way discussions 
     * Identify basic local resources
Suggested reading included: www.cres.org/pubs/UnityMag2011MarApr.htm
For a copy of the handout, please email Vern, vern@cres.org.

Did the bomb 
end the war and save lives 
or was it unnecessary and immoral?

Leroy Seat, who, with his wife June, spent 38 years in Japan, led the August Vital Conversation exploring various opinions about the US use of the atom bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, using materials from all sides, as we oberved the 70th anniversary of these events.

Vern, Lama Chuck Stanford, board chair Gabi Otto, and Al Brooks at the 20th Anniversary celebration 2015 July 25 of the Rime Buddhist Center. Vern and Al spoke about the contributions founders Chuck and his wife Mary have made to the community. Chuck, who retires as spiritual leader at the end of this year, was named Lama Emeritus. The new  spiritual leader will be Lama Matt Rice (Palden Gocha).

Chaplain Dane Sommer, director of Spiritual Services at the Adele Hall Campus of Children's Mercy Hospital, gave David Nelson and Vern Barnet a June tour of the Lisa Barth Interfaith Chapel complex which includes an outdoor area shown here with Dane (suit) and David, a library, a collection of sacred objects from many faiths for use in worship, a well-equipped assembly room, a prayer wall, and other features of what is surely one of the most beautful and welcoming interfaith spaces anywhere. The chapel won an award from the Greater Kansas City Interfaith Council.

CRES senior associate minister David E Nelson was interviewed 2015 June 19 on TV following the racist terrorism at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, SC. David, also president of The Human Agenda, recently retired from the Greater Kansas City Interfaith Council, founded by CRES in 1989. 

Vern's letter about Laudato Si, the recently released encyclical from Pope Francis, appeared 2015 June 24 in The Kansas City Star. One respondent wrote that the letter "is surpassingly relevant and your language sonorous. Your letter nullified David Brooks' negative OpEd piece" which appeared on the following page. Another person wrote, "Predictably thoughtful and ecumenical, your letter very well formed an appropriate nexus of practical life and spirituality which many more of us need to consider much more often than we do." Click here for the text of Vern's letter.

Gene Chavez and Maria Chaurand spoke at Vital Conversations
2015 June 10 about Latino history and the national La Raza convention in Kansas City 2015 July 11-13.

One of Vern's many pleasures was working with lector Andrew Burnside at Rosedale Congregational UCC church where Vern was "minister of the month" 2015 May 10 through June 7. His sermon titles are listed below. The congregation has a remarkable spirit of mutual and community service and may be the most flexible congregation and staff Vern has ever worked with. The commnion service, drawn from the world's traditons with a Christian focus, involved a seating arrangement entirely new to the congregation, and the experiment was warmly embraced. Vern has been asked to return September 13 - October 4. 

May 10 (Mothers Day) What is a Pilgrimage?
May 17 (Graduation) What Can We Learn from Other Faiths?
May 24 (Pentecost) Vimalakirti and the Church
May 31 Broken China on the Sidewalk
June 7 (Communion Sunday) Eucharistic Mysteries

Vern presented a 90-minute crash-course on Embracing Religious Pluralism after breakfast 2015 May 20 Wednesday at MCC Penn Valley Community College for KC Cultural Competency.
Here are the learning objectives covered
     * Identify typical attitudes toward other faiths and common misconceptions about religion such as "All religions believe in God
     * 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). 
     * Practice interfaith conversation skills for safe, meaningful, two-way discussions 
     * Identify basic local resources
Suggested reading: www.cres.org/pubs/UnityMag2011MarApr.htm
For a copy of the handout, please email Vern, vern@cres.org.

Vern listens in on a small group practicing a multifaith exercise.
Other images from the training event appear below.


On Memorial day, his birthday, Vern  approaches the Honeywell plant near the lead of several dozen marchers on the ten-mile trek from the old bomb-parts plant at the Bannister Federal Complex to the new one at 14510 Botts Road, the nearly $1 billion National Security Campus. Thanks to  publisher of the National Catholic Reporter, Tom Fox, for the photo and story with other pictures. The march and die-in (video here) were organized by various peace groups including KC PeaceWorks, Henry Stoever, board chair. Vern's  thoughts about the experience appear here in the magazine Spirit

Vern moderated an Interfaith Panel (Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Muslim, Jew) for DayOne of the SevenDays observance of the local 2014 April 13 murders of three Christians presumed to be Jewish, at two Jewish sites. 

All local TV channels covered the event. Click on the link for a pre-event advance interview with Vern on KSHB.

Panelist Vern, Bill Tammeus, and Kara Hawkins

2015 March 5, about 50 Military officers from several dozen nations and various faiths who were enrolled in Air War College training came to Kansas City, in part to learn about how we do religion here. After a lunch with table questions to guide conversations with interfaith Council members and guests with them at each table at the Marriott Hotel on the Plaza, they heard a panel discussion and asked excellent questions. Vern's assignment was to outline the history of interfaith work in Kansas City, using portions of the half-hour CBS special featuring Kansas City's interfaith work following 9/11. Bill, whose career and blog, Faith Matters, prove his passion and qualification to address the failure of American media to cover religion accurately, spoke pointedly and powerfully, and you can read his comments here. Kara, who organized the event, represented the current Greater Kansas City Interfaith Council.

Discussion: Medieval Mystics, a series with Prof Glenn Young, 2015 Lent

World Religions for Spiritual Directors with Vern Barnet, 2015 February 20-21 at Mount St Scholastica in Atchison, KS, for students in the Benedictine Sisters' Souljourners spiritual formation program leading to spiritual direction ministry.

The Vimalakirti Sutra, lecture at the Kansas City Art Institute with Vern Barnet 2015 February 26. Vern Barnet lectured on Confucianism, Taoism, and Buddhism.

World Religions lectures with Brian Carwana of Toronto, 2015 Feb 27-18Brian Carwana, Director at the Encounter World Religions Centre in Toronto, Canada, presented five lectures  at Southwood United Church of Christ. 

Congratulations and best wishes to Judy Mongold and Terri O'Neill on their legal marriage 2015 February 28. Fifteen years ago Vern united them in a Holy Union commitment ceremony.

David Nelson's 2015 February Vital Conversation featured stories and conversation with Tex Sample -- in person!

David Nelson, CRES Senior Associate minister, was honored by the Greater Kansas City Interfaith Council 2014 December 8. 

Vital Conversations, a monthly book club, this year discussed books like Why I am an Atheist Who Believes in God (Frank Schaeffer), Being Human, Knowing God (G Temp Sparkman), The End of Your Life Book Club (Will Schwalbe), Renting Lucy: A Story of America’s Prostituted Children (Linda Smith), I Am Malala:  The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban (Malala Yousafzai), Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth (Resa Aslan), and Breathing Underwater: Spirituality and the Twelve Steps (Richard Rohr). 

 A Bodhi Day celebration featured Vern speaking in the Vimalakirti Sutra.

Asian Art and Spirituality was Vern's topic for a lecture at the Kansas City Art Institute. 2014 November 18.

The Hindu and the Cowboy tenth anniversary performance, 2014 November 16,  was, as always, a moving experience, for those who have seen it before, and those who experienced it for the first time. 

Dr G Temp Sparkman, former seminary professor, was featured at the November Vital Conversation

Dr David E Nelson, president of the Human Agenda and CRES senior associate minister, spoke at a retired ministers luncheon.

2014 30th Annual Interfaith Thanksgiving Dinner awarding the Vern Barnet Interfaith Community Service Award to Pam Peck.

Spirituality Across the Faiths --Keynote address beginning a 7-part morning series at Maple Woods Community College.

What is Sacred?  Vern led a discussion 2014 Oct 12 at the Second Presbyterian Church.

"Understanding World Religions" was Vern's topic for the Blue Valley Kiwanis Club 2014 August 28.

Surveying "The Human Spirit": An Introduction to the New Collection of Books on World Religions at the Plaza Library -- a lecture by Vern Barnet 2014 Sept 21

Religious Perspectives on Health Care, 2014 September 11, at Central Presbyterian Church, with Christian, Jewish, and Muslim panelists.

Ordination of Thich Tam Giac (Victor Chu) 2014September 6

Buddhist Relics Tour -- 2014 September 5

"Three Sacred Realms," a liturgy and sermon by Vern Barnet at Shawnee Mission Unitarian Universalist Church, 2014 August 31. 

Rumi and Reality -- a liturgy and sermon by Vern Barnet at Shawnee Mission Unitarian Universalist Church, 2014 July 20. 

The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict-- a special Vital Conversation was led by David Nelson 2014 July 13. 

The Kansas City International Vistors Council welcomed Canadians interested in learing about Kansas City's rich interfaith tradition. Vern and others explained.

A Sweeping Ceremony was created for the opening of the  2014 KC Pride Week at an interfaith service June 18; the service concluded with our collection of interfaith waters.

Religion and the Arts, a graduate course (SAS 602) at Unity Institute and Seminary, 2014 Mar 27 - May 29 Thursdays 1-5 pm, Unity Institute, Room 204, with three Kansas City area site visits.

The Miracles of Jesus, a forum sponsored by the Crescent Peace Society with Vern speaking 2014 April 12.

Have You Ever Met a Muslim? Ven interviews Mahnaz Shabbir at St Thomas More Catholic Church 2014 Feb 11.

Vern spoke and signed Certificates as Interfaith Witness Master at ordinations into the Five Mountain Zen Order 2014 Jan 25 held at Unity Temple on the Plaza.

Tours of sacred art at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art are given to private groups opon request. We no longer schedule public tours. The approach we take is sketched at www.cres.org/art/index.htm

For photos and more information about items above, 
click on their links or scroll below.


After a dozen years of work, Vern and three others finally saw Randcliffe's publication of The Essential Guide to Religious Traditions and Spirituality for Health Care Providers, a 740-page reference book on faiths from A to Z. The link takes you to the publisher's web site description of the book.
Here is a link to a summary on the CRES website.


Surveying The Human Spirit:
An Introduction to the New Collection of Books on World Religions -- 2014 Sept 21 Sun 2p -- Vern Barnet
     Plaza Library, the large conference room 

Vern was asked to address how the collection can be used for deeper understandings of the commonalities and differences among the many faiths of the world. 
       Vern assisted in selecting volumes for the collection, the work of Mary and Greg McCoy, Cultural Crossroads, and others..

     This event was a follow-up to the Aug 17 address by
     Julian Zugazagoitia, Director/CEO of the Nelson-Atkins 
     Museum of Art, "Art and The Human Spirit"

Vern's lecture asked three questions:
     1. What is the value of books about religion?
     2. What is the key to religious understanding?
     3. How do religions compare and contrast? 
An illustrated handout, a statute, and reproductions of a Renaissance painting and a Chinese scroll were part of the presentation. For a copy of the handout, send SSAE to CRES, Box 45414, KCMO 64171.

Report: Surveying “The Human Spirit”

Vern Barnet introduced the new “Human Spirit” collection of books at the Plaza library Sept. 21 with an interactive lecture to a crowd filling the large conference room. The collection is the inspiration and hard work of Mary and Greg McCoy and others enhancing the religious literacy of our community. Dr. Barnet is minister emeritus of CRES and the founder of the Greater Kansas City Interfaith Council. He has taught at several seminaries, spoken here and abroad, and for 18 years wrote The Kansas City Star “Faiths and Beliefs” column.

The lecture began with the question, “How many gods are there?” The audience repeated the question as Barnet gave successive answers from the Brhadaranyaka Upanishad, found in one of the books in the “Human Spirit” collection. Barnet then asked the crowd, in pairs, to imagine what experiences could have led to the surprising set of answers the Upanishad provides. This led to the point that religion begins with amazing experiences and relationships, and only later are texts created. He said reading a book to understand religion is like trying to understand the intricacies of human anatomy by attending a Paris fashion show.

To illustrate the importance of the context and forms in which religious values are conveyed, he showed how Western Renaissance painting was conceived as a window through which a scene is viewed, whereas such an approach would bewilder a viewer of a Chinese Song Dynasty landscape scroll since the scroll is meant to be unrolled section by section and viewed through time like a movie. Barnet then gave a “rant” about how the heritage of the Enlightenment misdirects our thinking about religion, just as Western presuppositions about art are irrelevant to the Chinese scroll. Enlightenment thinking focuses on general categories and reduces experience to what can be expressed in explicit discursive language. But religion grows out of ineffable experiences; it is through analogical connections with minute particulars that a unitive vision becomes possible, not the abstractions and sensibility of literal facticity bequeathed us by 18th Century Europe.

He argued that the sacred—that on which our life depends—emerges out of our experiences the way our perception of 3-dimensional space emerges out of binocular vision; while the sacred is thus an epiphenomenon, it is also the most fundamental reality, but it is usually at the periphery of our awareness. He told a story of a friend who, in grieving after his sister's death, lost much of the illusion of his own selfhood and saw the world whole; his self-absorption was transformed by wider vision into compassion for others.

The lecture concluded with a reference to the three families of faith, Primal, Asian, and Monotheistic, where each typically finds the sacred, and why the environmental, personal, and social crises of our time can be resolved by the wisdom from the world's spiritual traditions. A final story told of a poor rabbi journeying abroad where was directed back to his own hovel in which was  hidden a treasure that ended his poverty. The story offered two paradoxical lessons: first, that the treasure to put an end to the spiritual poverty of our time lies buried in one's own tradition; second, that only by a journey to explore other faiths can one learn how to retrieve one's own treasure. Books can be maps for such explorations, but they cannot replace the explorations themselves.

—David E. Nelson, president, The Human Agenda

Byron Lee, president of the Blue Valley Kiwanis Club, holds a statue of Shiva Nataraja, after Vern's talk, "Understanding World Religions,"  at the Club 2014 August 28. Vern discussed the question whether all religions are basically the same, and how the three families of faith can help us address the environmental, personal, and social crises of our time. Shiva was one of several objects Vern used to illustrate his theme. Thanks to Mark Wasserstrom for arranging the event.

Buddhist Relic Tour Opening

September 5 Fri 7p
Unity Temple on the Plaza
707 W 47, Kansas City, MO 64112

Vern Barnet spoke at the opening ceremony, along with Sunyananda Dharma and Nima (Janet Taylor), who leads the Temple Buddhist Center which hosts the tour in Kansas  City. 
The International Maitreya Project has been created to increase loving-kindness and compassion within our hearts and throughout the world. It is also an opportunity to bring local Buddhist communities together to build relationships, and to increase the awareness of our innate goodness and wisdom. This is a rare opportunity to view these relics, which were found among the cremation ashes of Buddhist masters. They resemble beautiful, pearl-like crystals. Some Buddhists believe relics embody the master’s spiritual qualities of compassion and wisdom. 

Sr. Th?ch-Nu T?m Duong (Nima Sunya), the Rev Vern Barnet, DMn (Vern the Void), Wonji Dochong SSN, Ven Th?ch ?u?c T?m (Sunyananda Dharma), Rev. Th?ch-Nu ?uc Bao (Boepbo Sunya Dharma), Rev. Th?ch-Nu T?m Me (Wanmo Sunya)

2014 September 6 Saturday. -- Vern (as Interfaith Witness Master) was invited to be a part of the panel ordaining Thich Tam Giac (Victor Chu), shown in the foreground, at the Kansas City Abbey Ch?a Ph?p An, which serves as both the headquarters for the Dharmakaya Buddhist Association and the Five Mountain Zen Order. 

An interfaith panel -- Mahnaz Shabbir (Muslim), the Rev Mike Irwin (Center for Spiritual Living), Rabbi Linda Steadman (Jewish), the Rev Dr Wallace Hartsfield (Christian) with moderator Vern (rear) -- pauwse for a photo after the discussion of faith practices "pertaining to aging, caregiving and end of life" for the Kansas City Partnership for Caregivers at Central Presbyterian Church, 2014 September 11.

What Is Sacred?
  2014 Oct 12 Sun 9a
  Witherspoon Class
  Second Presbyterian Church    (816) 363-1300
  318 E 55, Kansas City, MO 64113

Vern leds a discussion inspired by this passage from Mircea Eliade's The Sacred and the Profane: "Whatever the historical context in which [one] is placed,  homo religiosus always believes that there is an absolute reality, the sacred, which transcends this world but manifests itself in this world, thereby sanctifying it and making it real." (p202) At the University of Chicago, Eliade was Vern's neighbor and came to his wedding; and Vern, of course, studied under him at the Divinity School.

Spirituality Across the Faiths

Nov 1 Sat  following coffee at the Learning Resources building at Maple Woods Community College,  2601 NE Barry Rd, KCMO 64156,  speakers from the Greater Kansas City Interfaith Council, which the Rev Vern Barnet, DMn, founded in 1989, presented their faiths, following Vern's keynote opening. 

Vern discussed the three families of the world's faiths and identified and iilustrated the source of spirituality in each of them, with stories, texts. and art. Typically Primal faiths find the sacred in nature, the Asian faiths in personhood, and the Monotheistic faiths in the history of covenanted community. See chart.

The other speakers, pictured below, are, for American Indian Spirituality - The Rev Dr. Kara Hawkins; Hinduism - Bhaswati Ray; Buddhism - Matt Rice; Baha'i - Barb McAtee; Christian Science - Pam Peck, C.S.; Sukyo Mahikari - Susan Nakao, Ph.D.

The program was designed by Kara Hawkins in response to  the College's request arranged by Heather K Perez working with Sue Ann Greer of the Shepherd’s Center. We recall with grief that Susan Choucroun, the Jewish director on the Council, originally scheduled to be part of this program, was untimely taken from us.    ,

Annual Interfaith
Thanksgiving Dinner
, 2014 November 2 Sunday, Jewish Community Center

Vern congratulates Pam Peck (right) on her award
and Mary McCoy on the successful dinner.
Begun in 1985 as an annual program of CRES (which led to the 1989 founding of the Interfaith Council) as a participatory  scripted ritual meal for children and their parents and friends,  retelling the mythic American story of Thanksgiving tempered by repentence of genocide, slavery, and prejudice, and enhanced by celebration of the pluralistic nation we have become, led by CRES for 25 years, and continued since 2010 by the Heartland Alliance of Divine Love, led by Mary McCoy in cooperation with the Greater Kansas City Interfaith Council and the interfaith and multicultural community, with the ADL's presentation of the Vern Barnet Interfaith Service Award this year to Pam Peck, CS. (Previous honorees have been  2010 Vern Barnet, 2011 Larry Guillot, 2012 Barb McAtee, and  2013 Sam Mann.)

CRES Statements Printed in the Program

RELIGION begins with experiences of awe and wonder, being caught up in the miracle and mystery of existence. When we reflect on such experiences, we become full of gratitude for them; as best we can, we offer our thanksgiving for them because they illumine our everyday blessings. And gratitude becomes mature when it is rendered in service to others. Helping others can in turn prepare us for, or even offer us, fresh awe and wonder, generating even deeper and wider gratitude . . . and thence to more service, enriching us and modeling for, and contributing to, the testimony of love to the community.  I call this the virtuous cycle of gratitude, fundamental to the spiritual life, expressed in many beautiful ways in the marvelous diversity of faiths. --Vern Barnet

SOMEONE once said that one's happiness in life is in direct correlation to one's gratitude in life. I believe it. When I tell stories about gratitude I feel it more. I am deeply touched when I listen to stories from others about the things they are grateful for. In a time when I hear so much about what is wrong in the world, I seek to focus on what is right in the world. What a difference this makes in my mind and heart. --David Nelson

Other wonderful statements may be available by contacting the Heartland Alliance of Divine Love or the Greater Kansas City Interfaith Council.

Dr David E Nelson, president of the Human Agenda and CRES senior associate minister, spoke at a metro-wide retired ministers luncheon 2014 November 11 in Overland Park. He illustrated the principles of Appreciative Inquiry by telling one of his signature stories, Marvin and Lincoln (Many Paths, 2003 November issue), and engaged the group in partnered conversations. David's article for CRES about Appreciative Inquiry appears here: http://www.cres.org/pubs/appreciativeinquiry.htm

Play by Donna Ziegenhorn
November 16 Sunday 2p
Interfaith Stories from Kansas City
The Hindu and the Cowboy
Produced by Metropolitan Ensemble Theater
Presented by Kansas City Festival of Faiths
Hosted by Trinity United Methodist Church
Trinity United Methodist Church, Free

Before the 2014 November 16 The Hindu and the Cowboy tenth anniversary performance, some of those involved in its creation were acknowledged. Vern Barnet (second from right) of CRES was recognized with a basket of breads typical of many cultures. Others in this photo include Greg Rieke, Kathy Reigleman, and Jane Heide, all instrumental in the development of the play. Playwright Donna Ziegenhorn, who envisioned interviewing a hundred Kansas City folks, trained interviewers, compiled the stories, and wove them together into the play, is at the extreme left.  As always the play was a moving experience, for those who have seen it before, and for those who experienced it for the first time.

There is no better way of learning about the many faiths 
in Kansas City than through this play, 
drawn from real stories.

Winner of many awards 
and featured by Harvard University's Pluralism Project,
the play is an astonishing outgrowth of the 2001
"Gifts of Pluralism" Conference
led by CRES.

“. . . want to know about your neighbors’ faiths? Watch a performance of The Hindu and the Cowboy . . . No lecture or sheaf of statistics can better reveal the surprising texture of faith and skepticism among us.”
— Vern Barnet, The Kansas City Star

CRES history of the play

Asian Art and Spirituality
Kansas City Art Institute. 2014 November 18 Tuesday

Xia Gui (Hsia Kuei) Views of Landscape, detail,
Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City

Vern told the story of the Vimalakirti Sutra and explicated Hinduism, Buddhist, Confucianism, and Taoism by examining selected art produced by these traditions.

2014 Bodhi Day

Vern was the featured speaker for the Dharmakaya Buddhist Association and the Five Mountain Zen Order observance of Bodhi day, 2014 December 5, hosted at Unity Temple on the Plaza. Pictured above are group leaders leading the congregation in chants, and Vern telling the story of the Vimalakirti Sutra. Bodhi day celebrates the Buddha's Enlightenment 2500 years ago. Thanks especially to the Ven. Th?ch Duc T?m (Sunyananda Dharma) [center] and his associates for their many courtesies. A Precepts Ceremony followed.

The Greater Kansas City Interfaith Council, at its 2014 December 8 meeting, recognized David E Nelson's  quarter century of leadership on the Council and to interfaith understanding with a round of appreciative statements from Council members, a gift, and this citation, which offers "sincere appreciation for the lasting contribution of the Rev Dr David Nelson for his dedication and service as its first Convener, its Founder and Coordinator of Vital Conversations, and as its at-large Director." David joined the Council as it organized 1989 May 11, and led the Council as it made its transition from a program of CRES to independent status. The text of David's retirement letter is here.
     In 1995 he became CRES associate minister, and in 2014 became senior associate minister. David is president of The Human Agenda and is known nationally for his inspiring speaking and effective training. In 2007 David was honored by CRES at its annual Interfaith Thanksgiving Family Ritual Meal for his pioneering work broadening and deepening interfaith understanding with energy, skill, and vision. In 2013 David was applauded at a game of the Kansas City Royals at Kauffman Stadium with the Buck O'Neil Legacy Award, given to persons who embody Buck's values -- including diversity and working to make the world a better place. 
     The new citation was presented by Council member Kara Hawkins.

Christian, Islamic and Messianic Jewish Perspectives on: 
APRIL 12, 2014 3 PM 
Blue Valley Library 
9000 W 151st St, Overland Park, KS 66221 

Speakers: Co-Laborers in Messiah Rick and Debbie Banhart, 
invited by the CPS since Jewish leaders were involved in preparations for Passover,
Imam Bilal Muhammad, Vern Barnet

Sponsored by: The Crescent Peace Society, whose mission is to enhance the understanding of Muslim cultures through educational and cultural activities involving the exchange of ideas and experiences among the people of diverse cultures. 

Vern's remarks discussed five views within Christianity about the miracles of Jesus:

1. The miracles of Jesus are literal, factual, historical events.
2. They are metaphors for spiritual insights. 
3. Natural explanations are possible for many.
4. They are irrelevant, even damaging to the Gospel epistemologically, historically, anthropologically, and morally.
5. A focus on Biblical miracles distract us from seeing that what we call the ordinary is actually miraculous.

Have You Ever Met a Muslim?

A program introducing Islam with Mahnaz Shabbir,
one of Kansas City's (and America's) 
prominent Muslim (women's) voices. 
Vern Barnet MC's the event:

2014 Feb 11 Tue 6:30-8 pm
St Thomas More Catholic Church, 
11822 Holmes Rd, Kansas City, MO 64131

The evening includes three main segments

  • our usually ignored cultural indebtedness to Islam,
  • an interview with Mahnaz on what happened to her and her family on 9/11 and after, her pilgrimage to Mecca, her life in Kansas City, and so forth
  • Basic history and facts about practices, communities, ethics, and beliefs in Islam

Religion and the Arts  Some "field trip" photos

Above: Touring the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art

Above: Attending a Friends of Chamber Music performance by 
Benjamin Grosvenor, piano, at the Folly Theater 

Above: Barbara Adler demonstrates the organ at St Mary's Episcopal.

After the 2014 January 25 Five Mountain Zen Order ordination ceremony, Vern (front right) poses with leaders and those taking in vows. Vern spoke and signed Certificates as Interfaith Witness Master. 

2014 June 18 Wednesday 7pm. Unity Temple on the Plaza

Platform participants included the Dharmakaya Buddhist Assn's  Sunyananda Dharma (at the pulpit), Marcus Halley (St Andrtews Episcopal Church), Doug Alpert (Congregation Kol Ami), Tex Sample (Trinity United Methodist Church), Kimi Yokoyama (Community Christian Church), Ruth Ellen Howard (St Mark's Hope and Peace Church), Carol Trissell (Spirit of Hope MCC), Crystal Muldrow (Unity Church), Urgyen Nima Taylor (Temple Buddhist Center), David Woosely (Lawrence Community of Christ). CRES was represented by Vern opening the event. 

Sweeping Ceremony 
beginning the
2014 Pride Week Interfaith Service
sponsored by the
Kansas City Coalition for Welcoming Ministries

With this broom, 
I 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 prejudice that has damaged every faith 
and has even caused good folk to reject faith.

I 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.

and 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

Sweep! Sweep!

The service concluded with asperges using our collection of interfaith waters.

Ms. Iman Ibrahim (Assistant Ombudsperson, University of Ottawa), Ms. Chelsea Byers (Pedagogical Advisor, Quebec City Police Service), and Ms. Mina Rahravan (Police Officer, York Regional Police), and hold vials of Kansas City interfaith waters following a session with Mary McCoy, Uma, Karta Purk Khalsa, Bhaswati Ray, all of the Interfaith Council, which was once a program of CRES, and Vern, who 

Thanks to Courtney Brooks of the International Visitors Council of Greater Kansas City at Union Station for her arrangements, and to Mary McCoy of the Council and countless other activities,including Cultural Crossoads for her special assistance. The consultations were handled by the US State Department.

Rumi and Reality

2014 July 20 Sunday 10:30 am 
A sermon by  Vern Barnet  at the
Shawnee Mission 
Unitarian Universalist Church
9400 Pflumm Rd. Lenexa, KS 6215-3308

Rumi and Reality.-- In our overwhelmingly secular society, the 13th Century Persian poet, Jalaluddin Rumi, has become surprisingly popular. What is his message? Who might it benefit and who might it harm? Can his mysticism help us to recover from our environmental, personal, and social disorders, or does it distract us from dealing with reality?
   Copies of the liturgy and sermon notes are available on request -- send a stamped, self-addressed envelope to 
CRES, Box 45414, KCMO  64171.
     The Rev. Vern Barnet, DMn, served this congregation as its second minister, 1975-1984. He later founded the Kansas City Interfaith Council, and for 18 years wrote a weekly column for The Kansas City Star. In 2005 he made pilgrimage to the Rumi shrine in Konya, Turkey.

Judy Mongold and Terri O'Neill were legally wed 2015 February 28. Fifteen years ago Vern united them in a Holy Union commitment ceremony. The marriage rite, in a cabin in the snow at a park near Topeka, began with the words, "Dearly beloved, we are gathered together today no thanks to Sam Brownback . . . ."  Their vows were especially meaningful. Family and friends enjoyed a wonderful reception afterwards.

Medieval Mystics: A Discussion
led by the Rev Jerry Grahber, Deacon, and the Rev Vern Barnet, DMn
Grace and Holy Trinity Cathedral, Common Room
2015 March 18 Wednesday 6:30-8p

Following presentations by Glenn Young, PhD, professor at Rockhurst, on Bernard of Clairvaux, Meister Eckhart, and The Cloud of Unknowing, and looking forward to his presentation March 25 on Julian on Norwich, the group will together, and in small groups, discuss the meaning and import of these mystics in their own spiritual paths.

World Religions Lectures
by Brian Carwana
Southwood United Church of Christ
7904 Raytown Rd, Raytown, MO 64138

Friday, Feb 27
   6:30-9:00 p.m. "To See, To Be, To Do: Primary Perspectives of World Religions" --  a succinct and helpful map for navigating the landscape of world religions

Saturday, Feb 28 - The World's Religions in Three Acts
   9:00 - 11:00   Act 1: The Indian Family - Hinduism
   11:15 - 1:15   Act 2: The Balance Family - Daoism
   1:30 - 3:00     Act 3: The Middle Eastern Family - Isalm
   3:45 - 5:00     Concluding Q?A

Brian is the Director at the Encounter World Religions Centre in Toronto, Canada and is a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Tornonto. 

Encounter is an educational organization that promotes greater religious literacy and celebrates religious diversity. Our emphasis is to blend academic and experiential learning that brings people into contact with what Encounter terms the four P's of the world religions: people, places, practices and philosophies.

CRES is delighted to cosponsor this event from one of the oldest and most significant interfaith organizations on the continent.

on World Religions
2015 Februrary Friday-Saturday 20-21

Vern lectures in Atchison on world religions for students in the Benedictine Sister's Souljourners spiritual formation program leading to spiritual direction ministry.

The Vimalakirti Sutra 
2015 Feb 26

At the Kansas City Art Institute Vern lectures on Chinese Buddhism and tells the story of the householder Vimalakirti who by his skillful means enables the throng to "enter the gate of the Not-Two Doctrine." He aso discusses Song Dynasty Chinese landscape scrolls.


Seven Days: Make a Ripple, Change the World
2015 April 7 Tuesday 7-8p, Leawood City Hall
Day 1: Love

Following the April 13, 2014 tragedy at the Jewish Community Campus and Village Shalom in Overland Park, caring individuals decided that we as a community, have the power to outshine and overcome such senseless acts of hate. 
     SevenDays is a challenge for young and old, to embrace diversity across races, religions and cultures.
     To open this week of Love and Kindness, the Greater Kansas City Interfaith Council of Kansas City presents individuals from five major faith traditions, describing how their tradition understands love: Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam and Judaism. Each representative will present a devotional practice or ritual to provide a better understanding of their faith practices, followed by a discussion led by the Rev. Vern Barnet, DMn, to contribute to the community's growing understanding of the religious pluralism of our area.
     Events, including speakers, a song contest and speakers, will fill the week from April 7 through April 13.  A description of the events may be found at www.givesevendays.org and an RSVP form is requested for the events featuring speakers, due to size limitation of the venues: http://givesevendays.org/speaking-event-rsvp/.

 MODERATORThe Rev Vern Barnet, DMn
     minister emeritus, CRES, www.cres.org.
The speakers:
     BUDDHISM  Matt Rice  (Urgyen Palden Gocha)
    Senior Dharma Teacher - Rime Buddhist Center
     CHRISTIANITY (Protestantism)  The Rev David E Nelson, DMin
    Appreciative Inquiry Coach -- The Human Agenda.
     HINDUISM  Bhaswati Ray
    Director at Large of the GKCIC* and Hindu community leader
    ISLAM  Mahnaz Shabbir
    At- Large member of the GKCIC* and Muslim Community Leader
     JUDAISM  Sheila Sonnenschein
     Community Advocate and Immediate Past Convener, GKCIC*, Sisterhood of Salaam Shalom: sosspeace.org  kcrabbis.org (Rabbinical Association of Greater KC), myjewishlearning.com

*The Greater Kansas City Interfaith Council (GKCIC), www.kcinterfaith.org, has provided the speakers for this program.

A report by Mahnaz Shabbir on the event appears at 

Dharma Talk:
Can a Buddhist Have Desires?

At the Rime Buddhist Center, 700 West Pennway, November 8 Sunday 10:30, Vern will discuss this question and explore three Buddhist themes central to his book, Thanks for Noticing:  non-attachment, sunyata, and pratitya-samutpada.  You can hear a podcast of the talk at http://directory.libsyn.com/episode/index/id/3955780 .

Annual Interfaith Thanksgiving Dinner 

2015 November 8 Sunday 4-6:30 pm
    Community Christian Church – Centennial Hall
    4601 Main Street, KCMO  64112

    Vern Barnet Interfaith Service Award
2015 awardee: Ed Chasteen
Founder and President of HateBusters, and former professor at William Jewell College, in recognition of his many years of interfaith and multicultural education and his unique ability to bring people together

The annual dinner, created and sponsored by Vern Barnet and CRES from 1984 to 2009, is now sponsored by the Heartland Chapter - Alliance of Divine Love and the Greater Kansas City Interfaith Council, in cooperation with the interfaith community, and is hosted by a different venue each year.

Tickets, available in advance through www.HeartlandADL.org or at the door, are $10 adult, $5 child (5-12 years), under 5 free. Doors open 4 pm, 4:30 pm program with award presentation and buffet.

More info: 816-509-7984 or HeartlandADL@hotmail.com

 Faith and the Death Penalty
part of MCC-Penn Valley’s one-read programming around the book, 
Just Mercy, by Bryan Stevenson. 
2015 Nov 12 Thu 11 am - 12:15 pm
Penn Valley Community College
Education Center Building Room 19
Free parking on the North side of the campus – 31st Street entrance

Machik Potts, Buddhist
Dr Robert Hill, Christian 
Dr Mahmoud Bishr, Muslim
Helen Stringer, secularist
Dr Vern Barnet, moderator 

Possible questions as they are developed

1.     For each of you – many faiths have a call to service. How did you find your call to service in the prisons? What is your role? -- Are you involved in some type of prison work? Do your traditions have any services that help prisoners?
2.     What do you personally feel about the death penalty? How do you reconcile that with your religious beliefs?
3.     This person’s interpretation of religious / secular perspective.
4.     Brief history of death penalty in their religious text /rules over time
5.     Thou Shalt Not Kill – how does that fit with the death penalty?
6.     In the US, the system of law says it is secular (not faith-based), but religion informs folks who are making the rules). Have you seen this play out?
7.     Helen: People say it is impossible to make moral decisions without a guideline. How do you make a moral decision around this issue?
8.     To the religious panelists: The US has a separation of church and state, how do you defend you decision to use a faith-based argument around the death penalty?
9.     What are your thoughts about the fact that media/debate focuses on “life and death” issues for the unborn and not the convicted?
10.    Can the death penalty be used as a sentencing strategy and imposed as a punishment in a just and fair way?  If so, how so?  If not, what are the options for states who still employ the death penalty?


1. (5 minutes each) FOCUS ON CURRENT -- What is your interest, personally and as a member of your tradition or group, in the death penalty? Have you worked in the justice system and if so, in what way? Does your tradition or group itself offer services to those in the justice system, or has your tradition or group made public pronouncements about the death penalty or related issues? How does your personal experience and/or study affect your own attitude about the death penalty? How is that related to any positions taken by your tradition or group? 
20 minutes

2. (2 minutes each) FOCUS ON HISTORY -- What is the history of attitudes as they developed in your tradition or group toward the death penalty or service to the imprisoned in general? If you have sacred texts on this subject, what are they? If your tradition or group does not have an authoritative text or other source of authority (such as an ecclesiastical body), how are moral decisions made without such guidelines?
8+20 minutes=28 minutes

3. (2 minutes each) CLARIFYING LANGUAGE -- What are the differences among these terms?  Killing, Murder, Capital Punishment?
8+28=36 minutes

4. (3 minutes each) THE PURPOSE OF PUNISHMENT -- Should the penal system be governed more by revenge, retribution, or correction and rehabilitation? To what extent does the actions of the state model values for the rest of society?
8+36=44 minutes

5. (2 minutes each) THE SEAMLESS GARMENT METAPHOR -- Is a comparison between abortion, stem-cell research, and the death penalty apt?
8+44=52 minutes

6. (2 minutes each) IN PRACTICE --What are the practical problems in administering a just and fair system of capital punishment? Should the death penalty be a state or federal policy? if a state policy, how can consistency across the country be achieved?
8+52=60 minutes

This leaves 15 minutes for Q ? A. Actually I hope we can move more rapidly than this schedule indicates, but we'll see. I also want to be sure you can ask questions of each other. 

I'm planning to be your moderator, but I am under medical care right now. If necessary, I will explain to the audience that I am not contagious but I do have bouts of coughing from inhalation of stone dust from a construction site. 

Bio sketches 

Dr. Mahmoud Bishr is a mmber of the MCC Faculty - Life Sciences, Biology. Teaching- Microbiology and Anatomy ? Physiology, doing volunteer work with the jails in the state of Kansas for over 10 years.

Dr. Robert Lee Hill is minister emeritus of Community Christian Church, Kansas City, Missouri, where he served for more than 30 and a half years. He is engaged as a Community Consultant for the Kauffman Foundation. He has spoken as a keynoter and guest preacher across the United States in a wide array of ecumenical and interfaith venues. He serves the wider community as a board member for the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum, The Mayor’s Summer Youth Employment Commission, Jewish Vocational Services, the Metro Organization for Racial and Economic Equity (MORE2). With Judy Hellman he has been the co-chair of the Martin Luther King Interfaith Service since 1991. Since 1993, Dr. Hill has been a co-host of the renowned weekly Sunday morning radio call-in show, "Religion on the Line," on KCMO-Talk Radio 710AM/103.7FM. He is the author and/or editor of nine books, the newest of which, Life’s Too Short for Anything But Love, was published by Woodneath Press this past June. He is married to Priscilla Reckling, and they live in the Brookside neighborhood in Kansas City, Missouri. 

Pete Machik Potts is a certified meditation teacher and ordained Buddhist minister in the Tibetan Nyingma lineage. She is a member of a thriving sangha at Temple Buddhist Center (TBC) in Kansas City (located on the Plaza) and is on the board of directors of the Inner Peace Buddhist Center. Machik is one of the original founders of TBC’s Prison Dharma program, working with medium- and maximum-security inmates weekly in both Missouri and Kansas for the past two years. Machik has also completed a rotation in clinical pastoral education, psychotherapy and chaplaincy training at Kansas University Medical Center, and is an infant loss bereavement counselor and educator for SIDS Resources, Inc. In her previous career, Machik was a copywriter and account director in marketing and advertising.

Helen Stringer.-- In early 2014, Helen Stringer founded and now serves as the executive director of Kansas City Oasis, a secular alternative to faith-based community. She also co-founded and serves as the president of the Oasis Network, the affiliate organization that helps to launch and support Oasis communities around the country. She has a master’s degree in human services with a graduate certificate in professional counseling. When she’s not working on her non-profit ventures, she enjoys working as an entrepreneur and currently owns and operates the highest-rated professional organizing company in the Kansas City metro area.

The Reverend Vern Barnet, DMn, founded the Kansas City Interfaith Council in 1989. He has been honored by local Buddhist, Christian, Jewish, Hindu, Sikh, and Muslim organizations as well as by national and international professional and interfaith groups. Dr Barnet has taught world religions and other subjects at several seminaries. His many civic activities included chairing the Jackson County Diversity Task Force which studied the effects of 9/11 on people of faith in the 5-county area. Dr Barnet's "Faith and Beliefs" column appeared every Wednesday in The Kansas City Star 1994-2012. He was one of four editors of the encyclopedic The Essential Guide to Religious Traditions and Spirituality for Health Care Providers (2013). His most recent book is Thanks for Noticing: The Interpretation of Desire (2015). He has been involved in justice issues in many ways over his long career, including a special interest in the death penalty. 


July 13, 2016 Julie McPike is the Managing Director
Freedom’s Frontier National Heritage Area and will be with us to explore this local resource. Events that happened in the 29 eastern Kansas and 12 western Missouri counties of Freedom’s Frontier National Heritage Area led to the Civil War and an enduring struggle for freedom. Conflict over slavery and other issues drew those on both sides into a violent Border War. Missouri heroes were Kansas villains. Kansas victories were Missouri tragedies. Now Freedom’s Frontier bridges the border.  We will participate in and listen to a “reader’s theater” piece.

August 10, 2016. Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury. This novel published in 1953 is regarded as one of his best works. The novel presents a future American society where books are outlawed and "firemen" burn any that are found. The title refers to the temperature that Bradbury asserted to be the autoignition temperature of paper. In reality, scientists place the autoignition temperature of paper anywhere from high 440 degrees Fahrenheit to some 30 degrees hotter, depending on the study and type of paper. There is also a movie based on this book which can be watched to prepare for the conversation.

September 14, 2016. The Fourth Industrial Revolution. Professor Klaus Schwab, Founder and Executive Chairman of the World Economic Forum, has been at the centre of global affairs for over four decades. He is convinced that the period of change we are living through is more significant, and the ramifications of the latest technological revolution more profound than any prior period of human history. He has dubbed this era the fourth industrial revolution which “entails nothing less than a transformation of humankind.”

October 12, 2016 Hostage by Elie Wiesel. The author builds the world of memories, haunted by the Holocaust and a Europe in the midst of radical change. This story is both a thriller and a meditation on the power of memory to connect us to the past and our shared need for resolution.

November 9, 2016. November 9, 2016. Pursuit of Truth by Monroe Dodd tells the story of Alvin Sykes who from Kansas City’s libraries plotted an unlikely course to civil rights history. Alvin will be with us.

December 14, 2016. The annual year-end "What book would you like to discuss?" roundtable.


April 13, 2016 The Little Book of Restorative Justice by Howard Zehr. How should we as a society respond to wrongdoing? When a crime occurs or an injustice is done, what needs to happen? What does justice require? Restorative justice is a process to involve, to the extent possible, those who have a stake in a specific offense and to collectively identify and address harms, needs, and obligations, in order to heal and put things as right as possible.  Bill Ryan, a leader in restorative justice will be with us to share his experience and explain the process.

May 11, 2016 Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury. This novel published in 1953 is regarded as one of his best works. The novel presents a future American society where books are outlawed and "firemen" burn any that are found. The title refers to the temperature that Bradbury asserted to be the autoignition temperature of paper. In reality, scientists place the autoignition temperature of paper anywhere from high 440 degrees Fahrenheit to some 30 degrees hotter, depending on the study and type of paper. There is also a movie based on this book which can be watched to prepare for the conversation.

June 8, 2016 Integral Christianity: The Spirit’s Call to Evolve by Paul R. Smith. “An impassioned book that helps chart a future course of development for the Christian church, showing how the integral philosophy of evolution can illuminate our quest to find God.” Steve McIntosh. Paul Smith served Broadway Baptist Church in Westport his entire active ministry. He has modeled a vision of inclusion and progressive Christianity that inspired loving devotion and outspoken criticism. Paul will be with us to discuss his ministry, his vision and new ways of living.

November 11, 2015
Thanks for Noticing: The Interpretation of Desire by Vern Barnet.  Our good friend explores the sacred beauty of sex and love in 154 sonnets, glosses, and other commentary.  Lovers of all kinds turn to Shakespeare’s 154 Sonnets for his depth of emotion and richness of thought, even though most of the poems were written to a beautiful young man and some to a mysterious dark lady. “My sonnets, similarly, range though many moods from youthful folly to maturity, using insights from the world’s religions.  Because the sonnets are arranged by parts of the Mass, and because some of the sonnets identify the spiritual with erotic, some may consider the book blasphemous.”

November 25, 2015 Vital Conversation Coffee

December 9, 2015 Between The World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates.  There are many attempts to have a conversation on race in the last few months.  This book gives a gritty, painful, and provocative look at the experience of inhabiting a black body.  Mr. Coates writes a letter to his son attempting to coach him in his life in this country.  He challenges “The Dream” embraced by so many even by those who “think they are white.”   We need each other in understanding this current struggle.  Of course, no person can fully understand or experience another person’s life.  However, I still believe that as we listen to another’s story and are listened to as we share our own, we all can grow and become better allies in our daily life.

Dr G Temp Sparkman and Vital Conversations host Dr David E Nelson led a discussion of Temp's book, Being Human, Knowing God (2012) at the 2014 November session.

After the 2014 May session, visitors from Ramle, Israel,
pose with host Alan Edelman and VC leader David Nelson

2014 July 13 Sunday
Vital Conversation:
Israeli-Palestinian Conflict
led by David E Nelson, president, The Human Agenda, 
and Senior Associate Minister, CRES

See also the link http://humanagenda.typepad.com/the_human_agenda/vital_conversations/

Assumptions of Appreciative Inquiry

  • In every human being and organization something works.
  • What we focus on becomes our reality.
  • Reality is created in the moment, and there are multiple realities.
  • Being present to another person influences the person in some way.
  • People have more confidence and comfort to journey to the future (the unknown) when they carry forward part of the past (the known.) 
  • If we carry parts of the past forward, they should be what are best about the past.
  • It is important to value and celebrate differences.
  • The language we use creates our reality.

Topic:  The current situation in Israel and Gaza bring sadness and concern to the whole human family.  The people of the Kansas City Area, along with friends and family throughout the world, desire to come together, share thoughts, share prayers and envision a more hopeful world.   We come together in respect and openness to better know each other and to be known by others.

Questions:  These can be shared best in one-on-one conversations.  It is very important that each participant is given opportunity to speak and that all participants listen with respect.

     1. Share a story about your life experience that might help others understand what the conflict means to you and how it impacts you.
     2. What are your deepest concerns when conflict arises?
     3. What about the current situation is difficult to sort out in your own mind or talk about with others?  Do you find yourself pulled in different directions as you think about the full range of beliefs, values, hopes, and concerns?
     4. What do you most hope for in this situation in regard to the wonderfully diverse community and the interfaith relationships we have in greater Kansas City?
     5. Imagine opening the paper five years from now and there is a headline that an agreement has been made between Israeli and Palestinian leadership and that this agreement is widely seen as likely to be sustainable.  It is also an agreement that is good enough in your eyes.  What was agreed to?  What was gained?  What was given up?   What aspects of the process were especially helpful?  What happened between now and that time in the future to make the agreement possible?
     6. What can you do in the present situation to ease the suffering and move toward a better future?

Prayer:  God Who births the future – Touch our heartstrings; bring your song to life in us.  We are chased by your extravagant joy into new territory.  You turn our dark struggles into shouts of hosanna, making miracles of us.  We see it with hindsight; always you were here and there in infinite possibility.  Lead us today by your gentle wisdom.  Amen


The group 2014 June discussing Stuart Murray's
The Naked Anabaptist:
The Bare Essentials of a Radical Faith
(apolgies to those beyond the camera's margins)

David Nelson's Letter 
Retiring from the Interfaith Council

November 15, 2014


I am retiring from the Council effective December 31, 2014.  I have enjoyed the work we have shared for many years.   As one of the original members who gathered May 11, 1989, at the Marriott Hotel, and for years met regularly in a living room, to articulate a significant vision, I retire proud of the pilgrimage we have shared.  I am pleased with the impact that has been made in the Greater Kansas City area and in the country by our efforts.  Our early efforts – including the Gifts of Pluralism Conference, the half-hour CBS-TV national special, the nation’s first Interfaith Academies (made possible by Harvard University’s Pluralism Project, Religions for Peace USA, and the Saint Paul School of Theology working with the Council and CRES), the 77-page report commissioned by Jackson County after 9/11 in which Council members played a key role, and the special note about one of the products of the Pluralism conference, The Hindu and the Cowboy play on the Harvard Pluralism site – these are a few of many examples of the heritage on which we seek to build, clearly putting Kansas City on the map of the nation as we continue working to create a most welcoming community for all people.

I plan to continue to facilitate a monthly Vital Conversation in the Northland.  If the Council would like to continue listing this as a program of the GKCIC I would welcome it.  I would love it if the Council’s web site would list the upcoming programs, and if that becomes possible in the future please let me know. If the Council adds links on its website to The Human Agenda and other interfaith organizations in town, I would be happy with such inclusion.

The challenge continues.  The three crisis of our time remain serious and some might argue are even greater than when we convened the Gifts of Pluralism Conference in 2001.   Creation still screams in agony.  Personhood is still threatened by a worship of guns, drugs, and money.  Community is still shattered by divisive politics and an arrogant abuse of power by corporations and the very rich.  I remain convinced that the World’s Religions, represented in our Council, offers messages, programs and actions of hope. By uplifting the wisdom of the religious traditions identified and unanimously endorsed by the 250 participants at the Gifts of Pluralism conference, we can reach beyond the valuable friendships we presently enjoy, enhance the Council’s visibility and standing in the community, to contribute more effectively the saving message the faiths of the world offer.

I am grateful for interest in, and responses to, the Appreciative Inquiry method, as acknowledged and demonstrated at the Thanksgiving Interfaith Sunday event this year in which the Council participated. I am sure that our friendships will continue.

But we gather not just to feel good about our friendships and community. I count each of you as friends and allies.  I hold our work in sacred space as my life enters another phase of retirement. We gather and scatter to offer the world a better message, a more human friendly model and a more sacred path to the future.

Be well and feel good - David E. Nelson


March 11, 2015 The Atkins Johnson Farm is located not far from our library where we meet.  It was lived in from 1831 until 2004 and is now a museum.  The Museum Manager Erica White will be with us to share stories and invite us to attend the new exhibit on the Life and Times of Abraham Lincoln.  We will also share some stories of the Big Shoal Baptist Church and Cemetery that is also on the grounds now owned by the City of Gladstone.  You can prepare for this Vital Conversation by visiting: http://www.atkinsjohnsonfarm.com/ and by reading some history of Clay County.  I would also recommend watching the movie “Ride With the Devil” which came out in 1999. 
March 25, 2015 Vital Conversation Coffee

April 8, 2015 Orange is the New Black by Piper Kerman. With a career, a boyfriend, and a loving family, Piper Kerman barely resembles the reckless young woman who delivered a suitcase of drug money ten years before. But that past has caught up with her. Convicted and sentenced to fifteen months at the infamous federal correctional facility in Danbury, Connecticut, the well-heeled Smith College alumna is now inmate #11187–424—one of the millions of people who disappear “down the rabbit hole” of the American penal system. Our friend Dr Kendall Hughes, Head Chaplain at USP Leavenworth, will be present to share in the conversations along with several men who have changed their thinking and their lives through the “Life Connections Program.”
April 22, 2015 Vital Conversation Coffee

May 13, 2015 Quiet:  The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain
At least one-third of the people we know are introverts. They are the ones who prefer listening to speaking, reading to partying; who innovate and create but dislike self-promotion; who favor working on their own over brainstorming in teams. Although they are often labeled "quiet," it is to introverts that we owe many of the great contributions to society--from van Gogh’s sunflowers to the invention of the personal computer.  Cliff Schuette will facilitate this Vital Conversation,
May 27, 2015 Vital Conversations Coffee

June 10, 2015 On July 11-14, 2015 The National Council of La Raza NCLR will host their National Convention at the KC Convention Center.  NCLR is the largest national Hispanic civil rights and advocacy organization in the United States.  It’s mission is to improve opportunities for Hispanic Americans.  Gene Chavez, an educator writer and leader in the Hispanic Community, will join us along with staff members of the NCLR to discuss the history of Hispanics in our community and invite us to attend portions of the convention.

November 9, 2016. November 9, 2016. Pursuit of Truth by Monroe Dodd tells the story of Alvin Sykes who from Kansas City’s libraries plotted an unlikely course to civil rights history. Alvin will be with us.


Oct 14The Big Burn: Teddy Roosevelt and the Fire That Saved America by Timothy Egan. 
Sept 9Living The Secular Life:  New Answers to Old Questions by Phil Zuckerman. Helen Stringer of KC Oasis was our guest. 
Aug 9 Did the bomb end the war and save lives or was it unnecessary and immoral? -- Leroy Seat led the discussion.
July 8 Finding Frances by Janice M. Van Dyck 
June 10 About The National Council of La Raza with Gene Chavez as KC prepares to host the NCLR convention
May 13 Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain
April 8  Orange is the New Black by Piper Kerman
Mar 11 The Atkins Johnson Farm with Manager Erica White
Feb 11 Tex Sample Stories of Faith
Jan 14 The Beloved Community, a King Holiday duscussion
Feb 11 Earthly Mysticism by Tex Sample 
Dec 10:Why I am an Atheist Who Believes in God by Frank Schaeffer
Nov 12: Being Human, Knowing God by G Temp Sparkman
Oct 8: Guests on Earth by Lee Smith
Aug 13: The End of Your Life Book Club by Will Schwalbe
Sep 10: Rise and Dream  with Barclay Martin

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

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, please click here.