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This page is continuously updated through 2019.
INDEX 600-10x2=580px 
2019 Programs Thanks for Noticing book
2019 Other Announcements Older Program Reports
2020 Previews About CRES participation
 2019 Links to PROGRAMS and REPORTS
Vital ConversationsProgram, 2d Wednesdays 1-2:30 pm
Photos and reports are arranged by month
Coffee, 4th Wednesdays 8 am
Ministry in a Pluralistic World C-RP511 — Vern teaches the graduate course 
     2019 Jan 7 – Mar 25 — Mondays 6-9:45pm CT 
     2019 May 7 - July 23 — Tuesdays 6-9:45pm CDT 
    Central Baptist Theological Seminary

King Holiday Essay — 2018 Jan 15

KC Interfaith History Project continues February 21

Vern at Temple Israel March 8

The Dialogue Institute Public Service Award March 28

A Multi-Faith Lenten Meditation April 6 -- Saturday 9 am

A Personal Appreciation of Islam April 6 -- Saturday 11 am

Table of Faiths  Apr 30 Tuesday 5:30 - 8:30 pm

A visit with pre-medical students private event May 1

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

KC Interfaith History published

Vern learns how to teach "Godly Play"

One God? Comparing the great Monotheistic Faiths 2019 Sept 23 Monday 1 pm

Ram Dass Movie Premiere -- new date to be announced

Healing Religious Bias — 2019 Oct 16 Wednesday 8:30-10:30 am 

Vedanta hosts Philip Goldberg 2019 Oct 26 Saturday 10:30 am

Annual Interfaith Thanksgiving Dinner -- 2019 Nov 10 Sunday 4:30
     with the Vern Barnet Interfaith Service Award 
     given to The Peace Pavilion. Event sponsored by the HeartlandADL

Jerusalem Farm Benefit  2019 Nov 23 Sat 7:30 pm
     St Mary's Episcopal Church

Our Friend Al Brooks Kansas Citian of the Year 2019 Nov 26

Christmas Concert  Dec 23 Mon 7 pm Beau Bledsoe and Mary Jamerson


We expect to complete a final first edit of theAl Brooks memoir this year.

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.

Ministry in a Pluralistic World syllabus
     2019 Jan 7 – Mar 25 — Mondays 6-9:45pm CT 
     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?

KC Interfaith History Project continues . . . .

Former CRES Board chair Larry Guillot and former CRES intern, now CRES historian, Geneva Blackmer met with Vern for lunch Febuary 21 to review progress and plan next steps. Geneva, with both her interfaith experience and library skills, has scoured local and state archives, interviewed folks, and drafted what is even at this stage by far the most complete look at how ecumenical and interfaith activities have developed in the KC region, but the work is ongoing. Visit the KC Interfaith History Project.

Vern preached on What Judaism Offers a World of Diversity at Temple Israel  for the March 8 Friday 6 pm Shabbat service with a splendid potluck following. He argued that interfaith relations are important, and cited the special role of Judaism in the recovery of a sense of the sacred in our desacralized global culture. The tradition's emphasis on rules by which human relationships can best be respected (such as the Decalogue), by its understanding of a covenantal relation with the divine and within the community, and the significance of historical (social and political) processes are distinctive and yet universal in their application, and underlie much of Western culture.
     Temple Israel enjoys interfaith arrangements with Rolling Hills Presbyterian Church at 9300 Nall Ave, Overland Park, which hosts the congregation. Rabbi Jacques Cukierkorn has befriended Vern on many occasions. Rabbi and Bill Tammeus wrote They Were Just People: Stories of Rescue in Poland During the Holocaust, and Rabbi has written several other books, including the wonderfully informative Accessible Judaism: A Concise Guide to Judaism.


CRES minister emeritus, the Rev Vern Barnet, DMn,
received the Dialogue Institute Public Service Award 2019 March 28.

The honor was given as part of the 14th annual Dialogue and Friendship Dinner, this year with a theme of "Service in a Time of Turbulence." The keynote speaker was Sophia Pandya, PhD. About 320 people attended. The Hon Ed Eilert, chairman of the Johnson County Commission, is chairman of the Host Committee which includes the Hon Peggy Dunn, Mayor of Leawood; Ron Slepitza, President of Avila University; Joseph Sopcich, President of Johnson County Community College; the Rev William B Rose-Heim, Regional Minister and President, Christian Churches (Disciples of Christ) of Greater Kansas City; Calvin Hayden, Johnson County Sheriff; and Jude Huntz,Faith Director, Habitat for Humanity. 
Dr Barnet gave the invocation at the 2017 dinner. You can read it here. Vern has been friends with the folks of the Dialogue Group for many years. In 2005 he was part of a US group traveling in Turkey hosted by the Gulen Hizmet Movement which our keynote speaker has studied.
     Dr Barnet founded CRES in 1982 and the Greater Kansas City Interfaith Council in 1989 as a program of CRES. His 947 weekly columns ran in The Kansas City Star for 18 years. The recipient of many religious and civic awards for his work building understanding among peoples of all faiths, he was one of a team of four producing the 740-page reference book, The Essential Guide to Religious Traditions and Spirituality for Health Care Providers, published internationally (2014). His book of 154 sonnets, Thanks for Noticing: The Interpretation of Desire (2015), is heavily annotated to identify themes from world religions. Professor Barnet has taught as an adjuct at several universities and theological schools; he currently teaches "Ministry in a Pluralistic World" at Central Baptist Theological Seminary. A full bio sketch can be found at www.cres.org/vern.  A 2-minute video of Vern interviewed by folks from the Fethullah Gulen Movement asking about why he is involved with interfaith work appears on YouTube.
Friends of the Dialogue Institute, my colleague David Nelson, CRES board chairs Joe Archias, Larry Guillot, David Stallings, friends of Grace and Holy Trinity Cathedral, and other new and old friends:

Thank you for building interfaith friendships, rejoicing in differences as gifts to one another. This is the first step in this time of turbulence to contain the raging fires of our desacralized age. 

Now from the Primal faiths we must learn the wisdom to save our environment, from Asian faiths the wisdom to make the self whole again, and from the faiths of Monotheism the wisdom to heal broken community.

Again, thank you.

The award reads 
2019 - Public Service Award
[The] Rev Vern Barnet
in recognition of your exemplary dedication 
and outstanding public services for the community

Three CRES board chairmen cheered Vern on: David Stallings who reorganized CRES governance, immediate past chairman Larry Guillot, and long-serving current chairman Joe Archias. Vern is very grateful to all three for their support and encouragement over the decades, and to know them as extraordinary friends.
Some of the friends from the Grace and Holy Trinity Cathedral table greeted Vern for this photo after the dinner -- Jim Royer and Donna Knoell, Kari O'Rourke, Vern, and the Rev Ron Verhaeghe and Jeffrey Bennett. 

The MC for the evening was the Rev Kelly Isola, chair of the Greater Kansas City Interfaith Council who graciously introduced Vern and outlined his presence in the community. As the chair of the Council, which Vern founded in 1989, Kelly said that she was standing on Vern's shoulders, a way of reminding us that we build on the work of others who have gone before us. 
     The invocation was given by  the spiritual leader of Congregation Kol Ami, Rabbi Doug Alpert, whom Vern has long admired for his leadership in social justice issues. 
     The award was presented by the Hon Peggy Dunn, Mayor of Leawood, who is faithful in so many ways over so many years to the message of interfaith understanding.
     One of the other award recipients was Clare Stern, Executive Director of the KC Interfaith Youth Alliance.

Vern spoke April 6 Saturday at 9 for
the Unity Church of Overland Park Men's Group at the Main Johnson County Library nearby at 9875 W 87th, following breakfast at the Santa Fe Cafe, 9946 W 87th.

A Multi-faith Lenten Meditation 

     Lent is a season in the Christian liturgical calendar for self-examination as preparation for Holy Week's commemoration of the suffering and crucifixion of the God-Man Jesus, leading to Easter. Some observe Lent by abstaining from certain foods or other enjoyments. (The word "Lent" seems to derive from the lengthening sunlight in the days leading to spring.) But religions other than Christianity may also have periods of introspection and self-denial. 
     How have various faiths understood suffering as a redemptive experience? How can their insights enrich our lives in today's desacralized world?
     Vern said that the Christian story of crucifixion of Jesus has been construed throughout history and still today in ways that are unhealthy. 
     How are we benefited by the sacrifice in the Christian narrative? To explore this question, Vern discussed merited and unmerited suffering in the Hebrew canon (the "Old Testament"), in Islam (such as fasting during Ramadan), and in Buddhism (by telling the story of the Vimalakirti Sutra). He also mentioned the benefits we receive from the unmerited suffering from figures like Gandhi, Mandela, and King. 
     In Kansas City, the murders of three people thought to be Jewish April 13, 2014, led Mindy Corporon --  who did not deserve to lose her father and son in those horrid, hateful, and ignorant crimes -- to found the SevenDays organization to reduce prejudice and grow understanding.
     Better than the ideas of Origen, Augustine, and Anselm -- figures who explained the benefit of the death of Jesus as satisfying the demands of God for someone to pay the penalty for all our sins -- is the approach of those like Abelard who understood Jesus as an example of living one's life with integrity, despite the cost.

A Personal Appreciation 
of Islam
by a Christian Scholar

While our culture's debt to Islam is great but seldom acknowledged, the theological treasures of the faith are even greater. However, the widespread misunderstanding of the tradition, and its misuse by some of those claiming it, sometimes make it difficult to appreciate. Vern discussed how his own life and our culture have been enriched by the Muslim faith.
     The remarks April 6 Saturday at 11 am followed a 10:30 brunch at the Dialogue Institute, 2710 S 42, Kansas City, KS 66106, where Vern has been the speaker twice before. A 2-minute video of Vern interviewed by folks from the Fethullah Gulen Movement asking about why he is involved with interfaith work appears on YouTube.
     Vern prepared the following quiz to initiate the discussion. Answers here.

Vern asks what this number is. No one was able to say immediately. It is 1492, the year Columbus "discovered" the New World, but also the year of the Reconquista, which led to Christians to expell Jews and Muslims from their homes then in what is now Spain and Portugal. Would you like to use these Roman numerals or Arabic numerals in calculating your income tax? We benefit from Muslim culture in countless ways but seldom recognize it. 
What do you know about Islam?
     1. T/F — The three largest world faiths are, in order, Christianity, Islam, and Judaism.
     2. T/F — Well over ten per cent of American Muslims are African-American.
     3. T/F — American colonies were formed by those escaping religious persecution in Europe who then offered religious liberty to those who settled here.
     4. T/F — Muslims lived in South Carolina by 1790.
     5. T/F — Jesus (pbuh) is mentioned more times in the Qu’an than Muhammad (pbuh).
     6. A/B/C — the KC area offers (a) one mosque  (b) three mosques, (c) more than ten.
     7. T/F  Thomas Jefferson, who wrote the Declaration of Independence, advocated religious rights for  the “Mahamdan,” the Jew, and the “pagan.”
     8. T/F — Jesus or Christianity is mentioned in the Declaration of Independence three times and in the Constitution twice.
     9. T/F — Muslim slaves are buried in New York near the site of the 9/11 attacks.
     10. 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.
     11. 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). 
     12. 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.
     13. T/F — A Socialist wrote the Pledge of Allegiance to the United States in 1892, but the words “under God” were not added until 1954.
     14.  T/F — In 1783, the president of Yale College, Ezra Stiles, cited a study showing that “Mohammadan” morals 
were “far superior to the Christian.”
     15. T/F — In 1953, the US and Britain staged a coup d’?tat to oust the democratically chosen popular prime minister Mohammad Mosaddegh and supported the cruel and dictatorial Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi.
     16. T/F — The first nation to recognize the July 4, 1776 independence of the United States of America was a Muslim country, Morocco, in 1777.
Answers here.

Vern honored with "Pioneer" award at the
2019 Apr 30 Tuesday 5:30 - 8:30 pm
The 30th anniversary of the founding of 
The Greater Kansas City Interfaith Council,
now independent but originally a program of CRES.

Vern Barnet, who founded in the Council in 1989, offered greetings, congratulations, and thoughts about this year's theme, Honoring in Sacred in All. Congratulations also to Bill Tammeus on receiving the Steve Jeffers Leadership Service Award for his significant voice in religious journalism and community service, and who received the CRES award in 2001 for "work over many years in recognizing the importance of religion and by writing about matters of faith with knowledge and passion," and to the Crescent Peace Society on this wonderful Muslim interfaith organization receiving the Table of Faiths Award. Vern, who is Council Convener Emeritus, received the first award from Mayor Kay Barnes in 2005, and is pleased also to have been a part of creating the CPS. The Council newsletter has published his brief notes about three milestones in the early history of the Council.

The evening's MC was the Rev Kelly Isola, chair of the Council, who skillfully shaped the evening's program. After the awards, she introduced Vern. Vern, who had previously reviewed highlights of the Council's early history with slides at its April monthly meeting, instead this evening focused particularly on the wisdom from the 2001 Gifts of Pluralism conference.
     After Vern's remarks, he was surprised with special award to him from the Council. Larry Guillot cited Vern's background and initiation of a number of programs, and the Council itself in 1989, and presented him with the "Interfaith Pioneer" award.  Vern thanked Larry for his extraordinarily generous remarks and saluted the Council for its 30 years of promoting interfaith understanding.

#ToFRemarks   [this text includes some expansions]
Noting the evening's theme, Vern said that he tells his students, "if you want to understand others' faiths, don’t ask them what they believe; ask them what is sacred to them." He then offered some descriptions of the sacred --
:: the sacred is what fills you with awe.
:: the sacred is what is most meaningful to you.
:: the sacred is what you’d give your life for.
:: the sacred is sensed when you are "with the flow"
:: the sacred points to ultimate worth, giving your life has purpose and direction.
:: the sacred is what really counts. 
:: the sacred is what Joseph Campbell calls "the rapture of being alive."
:: the sacred appears when you are most glad to be alive.
:: the sacred comes with the unanswerable questions like Why is there something rather than nothing?
:: the sacred is what creates the Agenda.
:: the sacred produces an "oceanic feeling."
:: the sacred appears as a numinous darkness or radiance or presence; perhaps as one encounters mysterium tremendum et fascinans (Rudolf Otto).
:: the sacred is reported in classic stories such as the bush that burns but is not consumed which Moses encounters (Exodus 3), the vision of Isaiah (chapter 6), the voice in the whirlwind (Job 38), Elijah hearing the still small voice (1 Kings 19:11-13),
Julian of Norwich seeing the world in a nutshell, the form of Krishna as the Universal Deity manifested to Arjuna (Gita, chapter 11), the awakening of the Buddha under the Bo Tree, Israʾ (the Night Journey of the Prophet Muhammad, pbuh -- Qurʾān 17:1), and so forth.
::  One of the most stunning (and scandalous) representations in Roman Catholic (Christian) art is Bernini's Ecstasy of St Teresa in the Cornaro Chapel of the church of Santa Maria della Vittoria in Rome. An infinitely more quiet manifestation of the sacred is the rock garden at Ryōan-ji in Kyoto, Japan, of the Myōshin-ji school of the Rinzai branch of Zen (Buddhism). Surely one of the most stupendous monuments to the sacred in India, at Ellora, is the Kailāśanātha temple (Hindu). The colossal Buddhist site at Borobudur, Java, enacts the path to Enlightenment. The Intihuatana at Machu Picchu, Peru, is a cosmic recognition of our dependence on, and ordering by, the sacred. Perhaps one of the most awe-inducing places in nature anywhere in the world is the Grand Canyon in Arizona, USA (the Pueblo peoples regarded it as holy land). But the sacred can be found anywhere if one's eyes are fully open.

"Think of a time when you encountered the sacred in nature, in yourself, or in community. -- Maybe the evening moon on the waves of the ocean; maybe when you had a hard decision to make, a sudden insight; maybe when you experienced solidarity when you marched for civil rights or to walked from mosque to synagogue to church to demonstrate the fabric of love in our community."
     He then asked folks to find a partner or two at their tables to share what had come to mind about an experience of awe and wonder, the sacred . . . . 
     In his remarks, Vern praised the 2001 “Gifts of Pluralism” Concluding Conference Declaration (unanimously-approved) which set forth this wisdom:
      * In Primal faiths we find ecological awe: nature is respected more than controlled; nature is a process which includes us, not a product external to us to be used or disposed of. Our proper attitude toward nature is wonder, not consumption. Our lives depend on nature. 
     * Asian religions generally find the sacred in personhood as our actions proceed spontaneously and responsibly from duty and compassion, without ultimate attachment to their results. 
     * In Monotheistic traditions, the awesome work of God is manifest in history’s flow toward justice when peoples are governed less by profit and winning and more by the covenant of service. Our lives depend on community. 
     As an example of this wisdom, he outlined an American Indian (“Primal”) understanding of the sacred found in nature with a couple of stories and then said— #oil

    Those with personhood corrupted by greed and other base desires deny climate change to profit from certain industries perverting the governance of the community and the holiness of the planet.
     Our culture’s desecration of nature is not new. If it didn’t begin in 1620 with Francis Bacon’s natura vexata — vexing nature, controlling nature, to our own desires rather than respecting all things that compose our environment, it surely was not corrected by René Descartes’ 1637 discovery that only humans had souls, that animals were merely machines cleverly disguised by God to appear to experience pain, but really, just machines with no feelings. 
     But violating the sacred sphere of nature also profanes the other two realms in which the sacred is found, personhood and society, because all things interpenetrate.
     One quick example to suggest the interconnections: Oil.
     A good man benighted like most of us, Charles Wilson, the head of General Motors, concerned to sell cars, chosen as Secretary of Defense, helped plan the so-called Defense Highway Act, which gave us what we call the Interstate. I'm old enough to remember: “What’s good for General Motors is good for the country.” By the government turning from public transportation to subsidizing the oil industries, our greenhouse gases contribute to global warming. Nature violated.
     The social order is violated because our oil purchases from Saudi Arabia  prop up the very nation that produced most of the 9/11 terrorists, one of the most horrific attacks against social order as well as 3000 immediate violations of personhood and millions of collateral injuries and deaths, not to mention the psychological trauma and poisoning from the extraction process afflicting so many. 
     Let me mention one person in particular. Saudi Arabia for decades has, around the world, advanced the most intolerant approach to faith. Now its corrupt monarchy has murdered -- sawed up his body -- the American-based journalist Jamal Khashoggi. 
    One other quick oil example. Since the US and Britain felt entitled to Iran’s oil, we overthrew the democratically elected government of Mohammad Mosaddegh of Iran in the 1953 coup d'état, and installed the corrupt and vicious dictator, the Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi who the people understandably overthrew in 1979. Even though it is a far more democratic state than Saudi Arabia, the history between our counties has been spoiled by oil. This lampoon overstates how oil corrupts US foreign policy, but only by a measure.
     Our unreasonable thirst for oil not only violates nature but also violates personhood and corrupts politics.  Desecrating one sphere of the sacred violates them all.
     The Interstate Highway System is part of American structural racism. Its construction purposely often went through, and destroyed, poor, Black communities. Families and businesses forced to move were often unfairly compensated and the "social capital" of urban neighborhoods destroyed, a factor leading to various forms of disorder. 
     Let’s stake a step back and look at the evil of slavery. Thomas Jefferson was troubled by slavery, and maybe he really loved Sally Hemmings. While he freed all the Hemmings children, other slaves were not freed. The culture of the time and place supported slavery. People depended on the peculiar institution even though it violated sacred personhood. Now people love their private cars. Our economy now depends on private transportation, even though the private fleet violates the environment and the profanes the future of the planet. Not to mention plastics derived from oil. It took a civil war to be rid of slavery, and even now the dignity of personhood is threatened. Will we reform culture and public policy to remove the antibodies of unnecessary vehicles and the cancer on the land of metastasized highways and redeem the environment? 
     Oil is a pervasive problem illustrating how environmental, personal, and social crises of our time are interlaced. We are doomed unless we move from the Enlightenment/Modernist growth mentality of "progress" to ways of sustainability through the realization of the Sacred which leads to gratitude rather than accumulation through destruction.
     Yep, Francis Bacon, the Enlightenment, and its colonization vexed nature. And so much more. 

    He concluded with a story with the paradoxical truths than the sacred can be found in every tradition, and that the treasure to end our spiritual povery can be found in our time by encountering and learning from the sacred in other faiths. 

     A short overview of the three families of faith as cures to our environmental, personal, and social crises can be downloaded here

As a historical note, we list the leaders of the Council since its status as a program of CRES when Vern had led it fifteen years, 1989-2004: the Rev David Nelson, DMin; the Rev Kathy Riegelman; Robert Bacic; Sheila Sonnenschein; the Rev Mary Gibson McCoy; the Rev Kelly Isola. [Subsequently, leadership has passed to Cindy McDavitt.]

Vern visits with pre-medical students

As one of the four editors of The Essential Guide to Religious Traditions and Spirituality for Health Care Providers, Vern had a delightful informal discussion about spirituality in health care with a dozen local pre-med students at breakfast. He began by telling about his teacher at the University of Chicago Hospitals during chaplaincy training, Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, who is credited for developing the study of dying patients. Vern described her interviews on one-side of a reciprocal mirror, followed by a discussion with her students on the other side. Her first question always was, "What was your gut-reaction?" She was concerned that until students were aware of, and could process, how they felt, their view of the patient would be clouded by unacknowledged personal filters. 
     So Vern asked each of the students what "spirituality" meant to them. One student's response included his belief that everything happens for a reason. Later, without directly speaking to that student, Vern noted the value of being aware of such a personally held viewpoint in order not to assume that the patient had a similar viewpoint and in fact might need to feel otherwise in order to be supported in the process of healing.
     Vern outlined the sacred in "three families of faith" and told of how the understanding of the sacred in nature became critical for an American Indian in a Pennsylvania hospital who could not access the healing rites of a Navajo sand painting chantway, and how it was resolved.
     Students asked some wonderful questions, such as How can you both be detached from a patient in order to see the patient's needs clearly aside from your own on one hand, and on the other, enter into the patient's experience in such a way as the patient knows you understand and deeply care?

Bill Tammeus writes July 25 in his “Faith Matters blog about Geneva Blackmer’s book, The Ecumenical and Interfaith History of Greater Kansas City. 
     Bill says, “As Blackmer, a 2016-'17 intern for the Center for Religious Experience and Study who recently accepted a position as program director for the Interfaith Center at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, notes, ‘If it was ever necessary to designate one city in the United States as the heart of interfaith activity, a very compelling argument could be made for Kansas City.’
     “The booklet is itself an argument for that contention.”
     After several paragraphs discussing some of the content of the book and mentioning several important interfaith organizations, he concludes, “There is, of course, still much to be done to reach the Interfaith Council’s goal of making KC the most religiously welcoming community in the country. But Blackmer’s work is a tribute to how much effort already has gone into achieving that goal.”
     Surely Bill himself is one reason that Kansas City has been more welcoming to interfaith efforts than some places, and Geneva’s outline of Kansas City’s progress can inspire us to move forward.
     Geneva is shown above in a February review session with Larry Guillot who was one of her advisors on the book project.
     Vern says, “Geneva was one of the best things ever to happen to CRES, to interfaith progress in Kansas City, and to me. Her initiative, energy, faithfulness, many diverse skills, and academic competence made her a cherished laborer in the interfaith field here, and — as I know from all the requests for references I’ve received around the country — a much sought-after leader into the future.”

Vern, who has been teaching 3 to 5-year olds for several years at the church he attends, completed a regional "Godly Play Core Training" August 22-24 with a group of nine other learners and two trainers. "While I have always been in accord with Godly Play's approach to respecting and supporting children's own experience, I learned to be a much better teacher by understanding the Montessori-influenced methods and the extraordinary curriculum materials and physical arrangements more fully," Vern says.
     "But I was quite intimidated by my 'classmates' who learned their assigned stories and told them well. I was fatigued going into the training and had difficulty learning my story with the accompanying materials. Even though I loved the lesson, and even with insights from a couple classmates who helped me rehearse, I was prepared only to embarrass myself. I had always told Godly Play stories with notes at hand if I needed them and always sought to engage the children by making eye contact with them throughout the story.
     "Now I was being asked to tell a story without notes, using the materials (in this case, two candles, matches, two plaques, an unrolling underlay, simple carved unpainted wood images of Mary, Joseph, a donkey, and a model of Bethlehem) and get the timing of using the materials with the story text right. The words are wonderfully sequenced and crafted and echo throughout the curriculum. Even more unnerving was not looking up (at the children; in this case, my classmates).
     "After lunch on the last day, I could not postpone my turn much longer, so I began.
     "It was not until the training ended, the morning after, waking with a start at 4 am, that I realized what had happened when I told my story. From the first phrase of the story, 'Everything is changed,' to the end, I was in a sort of trance broken only slightly one time when I, for split second, asked myself, 'What comes next?' and one other time when I realized I had left out one part and then effortlessly added it back in, even if it was in the wrong place. Almost all that time there was simply the story. I was pretty much not there. It was the story telling itself. When the story ended, the trainer caught my attention and then I also saw the others in the room generously approving of my imperfect effort; it was like waking up.
     "I realize now more deeply that by inviting the children to focus on the story rather than on the story-teller, without even our implied interpretations, we can offer to children the experience of stories that open into the sacred, the realm of wonder, the source of life's meaning."

One God?
Comparing the great Monotheistic Faiths 
2019 Sept 23 Monday 1 pm, Lakeview Village, Lenexa

In this interactive program, Vern discussed how Monotheistic religions arose, how they compare and contrast, how they differ from Primal and Asian Faiths, and how Zoroastrianism influenced Judaism, Christianity and Islam, themselves generating additional faiths like Bah?'? and Sikhism, and movements like Marxism. Below Lakeview chaplain Quentin Jones introduces Vern for the afternoon session and announces that over a hundred residents had registered for the event.

In order to present what monotheistic religions have in common, Vern distinguished them from Primal and Asian faiths in several ways, particularly by contrasting the monotheistic purposive "straight-line" view of time with the circular playful (lila) view in, for example, Hinduism.

The commonalities identified include --
1. a focus on historical events and processes
1a. (governed by a single supreme power -- "God")
2. and specifically singular events around which the faiths pivot, with
3. concern about the disjunction between God's will and the existing social order.
4. These religions all have authoritative written sacred texts.
5. They involve a covenant or relationship between God and a special people.
6. They are eschatological and incipiently dualistic with figures like Satan
7. Mysticism, while present, is not normative.
Marxism was placed in the monotheistic family (along with Bah?'? and Sikhism) even though some forms of Marxism are atheistic ("economic determinism" is a functional equivalent of God).

In order to clarify how different religions emphasize different dimensions of religion (the 4 C's: creed, code, cultus, community), participants were invited to make pie charts allocating their perceptions of the three main monotheistic faiths, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, and a pie chart for one's own present world view or religion. Vern also offered other caveats about the study of religion. During the course of the presentation, two quizes led to interesting exchanges in small groups.

For a free copy of printed materials distributed to the audience, send a self-addressed stamped envelope to Monotheism, Box 45414, KCMO 64171. For a background overview (not presented on this occasion) of world religions and the crises of the environment, personhood, and society, download this PDF: The Gifts of Pluralism: Awe is the Cure.pdf .


Becoming Nobody
Ram Dass Movie Premiere 
postponed -- expect new date soon
Additional shows: expect new dates soon
Unity Temple on the Plaza

Enjoy this new cinema portrait of a beloved icon's life and teachings. BECOMING NOBODY follows the fascinating journey of Ram Dass — the world renowned sage and guru whose vision transformed hippie America — from his early years as a rock star Harvard psychologist and LSD pioneer to an Eastern holy man who encouraged the world to “be here now.” Dass’s teachings —  shedding one’s ego and one’s sense of self, becoming “one with the universe” — have defined a generation of truth-seekers. His wisdom flows out of this quintessential film portrait, and you are sure to leave this experience with more compassion, and more attentiveness to the moment, than when you arrived.

Historic clips balance an engaging conversation with director Jamie Catto. We come to understand how encrusted roles and habitual disguises become increasingly burdensome. The film captures a loving man full of joy, wit, honesty, and wisdom, at ease in conversation while sharing his considerable pains and pleasures. The life experiences that have freed him from the attachments of his ‘somebody-ness’ have transformed him into the radiant soul who now inspires a new generation.

Presented by the KC Film Forum and co-hosted by CRES, the Open Circle Spiritual Cinema Series, and the Temple Buddhist Center.


Healing Religious Bias
2019 Oct 16 Wednesday 8:30-10:30 am
Metropolitan Community College - Penn Valley
3201 SW Trafficwav, Kansas City, MO 64111, Room EC19
CPE - Continuing Professional and Education credit through UMKC
Registration: http://www.culturalcollectivekc.org/NewsandEvents

Vern engaged with the Cultural Competency Collective of Greater Kansas City whose "mission is to create a sustainable community process to provide culturally appropriate care and reduce disparities in service to clients, students and peers. CCCofGKC members are largely human service providers – mental health, behavioral health, social welfare, education and more."
     Vern opened with a quiz (a copy of which you may have by mailing us with a stampt, self-addressed envelope), provided an overview of world religions with an interactive, small group process, and offered guidelines and practice for overcoming bias (hint: differences are gifts, not threats). 
     Our community and the world can be healed from its religious prejudice and fragmentation by learning how to talk with others about their faith perspectives as we work to heal the environmental, personal, and social crises of our time. This session offered information, theory, and practice. 

     Posted on the unused lectern (Vern works from the floor with participants in chairs in a circle in small groups (no tables), was the Ground Rules developed by Maggie Finefrock, president of The Learning Project. CRES also claims her as our Chief Learning Officer. The organization's session leader reviewed the rules before introducing Vern.

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

* “The Three Crises of Our Time,” adapted from Thanks for Noticing: The Interpretation of Desire (4-page, 1 sheet) download PDF 
* “Harmony in a World of Differences: Interfaith Works” (3 pages) download PDF 
* Excerpt from The Essential Guide to Religious Traditions and Spirituality for Health Care Providers (7x2 pages) download PDF 

Photos from Vern's work with this group in 2015.


Philip Goldberg
India's Impact on America's Spiritual Landscape
Arjun Kumar Sharma Memorial Lecture

CRES is pleased to cosponsor the KC Vedanta Society's 
free presentation of 
Philip Goldberg
with Swami Chetanananda 
including a reception

October 26 Saturday 10:30
Regnier Hall
KU Edwards Campus
12600 Quivira, Overland Park
with music by Ben Summers

Goldberg is author of American Veda and The Life of Yogananda
Information: info@vedantakc.org -- 816 444 8045
flier: https://www.vedantakc.org/yahoo_site_admin/assets/docs/2019-Sharma-flyer-rgb.259215708.pdf

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.

2019 November 10 Sunday 4:30-6:30 pm
Peace Pavilion, 607 West Lexington, Independence
Annual Interfaith Thanksgiving Dinner
with the Vern Barnet Interfaith Service Award
this year to The Peace Pavilion

The Heartland Chapter Alliance of Divine Love (website) (Facebook) recognized The Peace Pavilion with its yearly “Vern Barnet Interfaith Service Award.” The Peace Pavilion is a non-profit organization devoted to teaching peace, starting with children. The slogan of The Peace Pavilion is “Building Peace by Creating Peacemakers.” Peace is more than the absence of war, and this is illustrated by imaginative, interactive activities focusing on the four concepts of *Peace for Me, *Peace for Us, *Peace for Everyone, and *Peace for the Planet.

Long a presence in the Community of Christ Auditorium, the Peace Pavilion is expanding to a stand-alone location for more space for activities for children and adults. 

Participants from the Greater Kansas City Interfaith Council each offered “Benedictions of Gratitude.”
Additional photos are posted on the Heartland Chapter ADL Facebook page.    Photo coutesy HC ADL.

     Greg McCoy was the evening's Master of Ceremonies. Members of the Greater Kansas City Interfaith Council each offered “Benedictions of Gratitude” for Thanksgiving in a touching exhibition of interfaith comity.


Andy Kroesen
The Vern Barnet 
Interfaith Service 
Award for 2019 
from Greg McCoy

     The Executive Director of Peace Pathways, Peace Pavilion, Andy Kroesen, accepted the award. His extended remarks and illustrated presentation made clear how much efforts such as The Peace Pavilion are needed in today's world, and how the programs it offers is enhanced by the new facility.
     The dinner was catered by Evans Catering, LLC, a local minority-owned business which works with nonprofits and community organizations. The meal included "regular" and klosher turkey and a vegetarian entree.
     Musical entertainment was provided by Victor Dougherty and Rachel Marie during the dinner; and following the award presentation, the SMART Club Singers concluded the evening.

Among those attending the dinner: the Rev David Nelson, DMin, with Larry Guillot, STD;
and Vern Barnet with Stephen Veazey, Prophet-President of Community of Christ 

    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 focusing 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. In its first year, 2010,   the Vern Barnet Interfaith Service Award was inaugurated with Vern being the first honoree. The text of Vern’s acceptance remarks are recorded here. The ADL’s event has been co-sponsored by the Greater Kansas City Interfaith Council
     Past recipients of the Vern Barnet Interfaith Service Award are Barbara Criswell (2018 at the St Paul's Episcopal Church), Sheila Sonnenschein (2017 at the Islamic Center of Johnson County), 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).

Jerusalem Farm Benefit  AN EVENING OF TANGO: 2019 Nov 23 Sat 7:30pm
     St Mary's Episcopal Church, 1307 Holmes, 1307 Holmes, Kansas City, MO

CRES was pleased to co-sponsor three of Kansas City’s finest musicians, violinist Elizabeth Suh Lane, guitarist Beau Bledsoe and bassist Jeff Harshbarger for an evening of passionate tango -- with a post-concert reception featuring empanadas from Empanada Madness. 
     The ticket price of $50 included the concert and reception with all proceeds benefiting Jerusalem Farm, an intentional community of service in the Catholic tradition providing home repair to those in financial need. Jerusalem Farm is built on the four cornerstones of Prayer, Community, Service and Simplicity. The members say, "We strive to transform our lives and those around us through service retreat experiences, sustainable living and home repair."
     We at CRES know first-hand both the work and the spirit of this remarkable group of people, and are grateful that these outstanding musicians are honoring the work of the Jerusalem Farm. The website is www.jerusalemfarm.org

Al Brooks is Kansas Citian of the Year
Called to the platform, Al responds to the announcement that he is "Kansas Citian of the Year"

Our beloved friend Alvin Brooks was named the Kansas Citian of the Year at the 132nd annual dinner of the greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce 2019 November 26.  A bio video was shown about this amazing and inspirational Kansas City influence and  treasure. A physical award, "Ring Study," was a small sculpture by famous sculptor Tom Corbin. The award was presented by former Mayor Kay Barnes, who did so much to make the CRES 2002 September 11 observance so meaningful, and who presented Vern Barnet the first Table of Faiths award in 2005. Those involved with the award to Al, including Vern, were successful in keeping it a surprise. Al did not figure it out until Mayor Barnes began, "This year's Kansas Citian of the Year was born in Arkansas . . . ." 

Vern offers his congratulations to Al following the presentation. Photos credit: Kyle Rivas
Vern has edited Al's 240,000-word memoir which is now in the hands of proofreaders.

     Over 2,000 people attended in the Kay Barnes Ballroom at the Convention Center. Speakers included Kansas Governor Laura Kelly and Missouri Governor Mike Parson, both of whom at length described their interests and concerns. An unusual kinetic invocation was offered by Rockhurt University president, Fr Tom Curran. Calvin Arsenia provided music during the dinner. John Sherman, the head of the new KC Royals owners, was a surprise speaker. The "keynote" speaker was actor Rob Riggle, who told lots of sports jokes.

     At the "family table," far away from where Al had been on pretext seated, Vern was lucky enough to sit next to Mamie Hughes, who appears on the video. Also representing CRES was John Gregory who sat next to Al's current sucessor at AdHoc, Damon Daniel, who also appears on the video.

With the award in hand, Al poses with folks brought forward from the "family table" to the platform.

     Al has been recognized with dozens of awards, among them the CRES annual Thanksgiving award in 2002 "for his work as citizen and his career of public service locally and internationally celebrating religious pluralism and the human spirit." And, of course, President G H W Bush named him one of America's Thousand Points of Light.
     Thanks to the amazing staff at the Chamber (especially Pam Whiting!) who made possible this surprise award presentation to Al, so richly deserved.
Above a scene of the Kay Barnes Ballroom; below two inset images of Al's surprise as he learned he was selected the Kansas Citian of the Year, and then posing with former Kansas City, MO Mayor Kay Barnes (Al was Mayor Pro Tem during her eight years) and KC Chamber President and CEO Joe Reardon (former Mayor of Kansas City, KS and Wyandotte County). Photos credit: Kyle Rivas

Here's a link to the Dana and Parks 98.1 radio interview with Al on Nov 27.

The next Vital Conversation is 
December 11In Pursuit of Peace:  Community of Christ’s Journey

In the final rush of the Christmas season, take a much-needed break with a soothing, uninterrupted hour of seasonal music performed by two of Kansas City’s finest musicians, Mary Jamerson and Beau Bledsoe. Enjoy the magical combination of flute and guitar in the beautiful simplicity of Pilgrim Chapel. 
Vern introduces the program. It's free. 

December 23 Monday 7 pm, Pilgrim Chapel, 3801 Gillham Road

Mary Jamerson's website: www.maryjamerson.com
Beau Bledsoe's website www.beaubledsoe.com.

The Saint John's Bible
The first hand-illuminated Bible 
since the invention of the printing press

One of seven volumes of the limited 
set Heritage Edition (299 in the world) will be on display with a docent for those who arrive early.

Wikipedia - Bible website - LibCongress


Pilgrim Chapel was packed. After all the pews were filled, we opened the side room, which quickly was crowded; and filling the foyer, people stood the whole hour there. Afterwards I was emailed by one couple who could not get in, saying they will know better next time not to show up one minute before starting time. We don't know how many others were turned away; our apologies! The weather, the spare beauty of the Chapel with poinsettias and candlelight, the season, the publicity, and the fantastic musicians conspired to make a perfect, memorable evening as Advent was ending and Christmas neared.

Before and after the performance, Saint John's Bible docent Catherine Green (below, left) showed the Gospel volume of the 7-volume set of the rare Heritage edition on loan from Grace and Holy Trinity Cathedral, the only set in the Kansas City area. The Cathedral is eager to share this amazing work of art and spirituality with other institutions. Recently the SJB was exhibited at the Central Kansas City Public Library.

Answers to Quiz on Islam -  All T/F  are true except 1, 3, and 8; 6 is C.


click for information

We can provide a customized ceremony.  We regularly work with the great folks at Pilgrim Chapel and are happy to serve at any venue.

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


2019 Vital Conversations Schedule

January 9 – Size Matters:  Why We Love To Hate Big Food by Charlie Arnot

Despite food being safer, more affordable and more available than at any time in human history, consumers are increasingly skeptical and critical of today’s food system.  Charlie Arnot, provides thought provoking insight into how the food system lost consumer trust, what can be done to restore it, and the remarkable changes taking place on farms and in food companies.  Charlie will be a part of our Vital Conversation.

Quotations and questions selected by David Nelson
     1. “The frequency and visibility of violation of public trust continue a steady march.  The very institutions that are supposed to expose deception have themselves committed acts that erode public trust.” (5)  Do you agree?  Can you name some of those institutions?
     2. “The implications of these improvements in productivity are immense.  For one thing, it means more food and less famine.  Richard Jackson notes that since Borlaug’s wheat took root, food shortages are driven more by politics than the plow.” (36)  How does politics result in food shortage?
     3. “Science is important, but not sufficient to build trust with the growing number of consumers who look to social and digital sources of information to guide their decisions in a world where emotion and opinion carry more weight than objective fact.  Fortified by sources of information that align with their values and that confirm existing bias, doubters are rejecting scientific consensus that conflicts with their beliefs.” (47)  Can you share an example of where your bias has gotten in the way of clear decision making based on facts?
     4. “Science tell us if we can do something, but society tells us if we should…Values are grounded in firmly held beliefs, not fact-based information. The path to building trust begins by demonstrating you share the values of your stakeholders.  Consumers aren’t asking if we can do what we’re doing, they are asking if we should do what we’re doing.  We’ve been answering the wrong questions.”  (52) “As Stephen Covey said, ‘Contrary to what most people believe, trust is not some soft, illusive quality that you either have or you don’t; rather, trust is a pragmatic, tangible, actionable asset that you can create.’”  (57)  How can food producers and food consumers build more trust with each other?
     5. “The tribal connection influences where we get our information, but it also influences the tone, the attitude, the demeanor of our communication.  While this happens naturally throughout daily experiences, it is amplified exponentially online and has led to a disintegration of civility.”  How does the source of where you get your news and opinion impact your behavior and relationships?
     6. “Author Douglas Rushkoff describes the situation well. ‘The television era was about globalism, international cooperation, and the open society…Digital media, by contrast, are made up of many discrete samples.” (79)  Can you identify some examples of this reality?
     7. “The global food population can be divided into three groups: the satisfied, the undernourished and the over-nourished…Global hunger increased in 2016, the first increase in more than a decade.  The battle to assure everyone is fed is as old as humankind.”  (87) “We are invited to dinner.  Dinner without dogma, but with lots of dialogue.  We must be engaged in a discussion on the issues that really matter to people, animals and the planet we share…Better is not a binary choice.  Better is Yes, And…” (93) Do you personally have feelings about this reality?  What are they?  What will you do about it?

Charlie Arnot answers a question in the remodeled library.
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Here is Clif Hostetler’s review of the book:
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February 13 –While the World Watched  by Carolyn Maull McKinstry.

Luke Welsh joined guests Melanie Allmayer, Sonnenschein Sheila, and Ameneh Pazerish, and convener David Nelson for this photo after a fascinating and important discussion with 27 people crowding around the table (see photo below).

Quotations and questions selected by David Nelson
     A half century has passed since the Ku Klux Klan bombed the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church on September 15, 1963, that killed four young friends.  For five decades Carolyn Maull McKinstry has tried to forget the deaths, the inhumane injustice, and the brutal assassinations of those who spoke out for change.  But now she feels compelled to write down in permanent ink her eye witness account of exactly what happened.  In 2018, Sheila Sonnenschein, Melanie Allmayer, and Ameneh Pazerish, who live in the Kansas City area, traveled on the Sisterhood of Salaam Shalom Civil Rights and Social Justice Trip to the American South.  They will be present at our book discussion. These women from various religious communities visited Birmingham and met the author.
      “Hate is too great a burden to bear…I have decided to love…If you are seeking the highest good, I think you can find it through love.  And the beautiful thing is that we aren’t moving wrong when we do it, because John was right, God is love.”  MLK Jr. (page 1) Think of times you have chosen to love and/or forgive instead of continuing to hate. 
     “On the day after the church bombing, a young, white Birmingham attorney, Charles Morgan Jr. publicly blamed the pillars of the city for the girls’ deaths. ‘Every person in this community who has in any way contributed during the past several years to the popularity of hatred is at least as guilty, or more so, than the demented fool who threw that bomb,’ Mr. Morgan said.” (p. 73) Do you agree with Mr. Morgan?  Are you, are we, contributing to hate when we remain silent in the presence of verbal expressions of vicious hatred for ‘others’?
     “After the funerals, no one mentioned again the four dead girls – my friends.  Not my parents, not my teachers, not my pastor, not my Sunday school teachers, not my church members, not my friends. No one.  It was like the word cancer.  No one wanted to say it out loud or acknowledge it.  And with the restroom ‘death chamber’ sealed off and walled up, offering no visible reminder of the bombing, it was almost as if it never happened.”  (p.79) Why do you think this happened and can you think of other times this was the case?
     “And then I sensed God planting in me a vision for my future. ‘Carolyn, I need you to tell people that this is not about skin color or ethnicity or religion.  It is about love, it is about forgiveness, it is about reconciliation.  I need you to be my messenger, my ambassador.” (p. 201) Reflect on a time in your life when you received a vision, a call, a nudge, to be a messenger.
     “Bitterness hurts only the people whose hearts house it, not the offenders.  By God’s grace, I choose to forgive Bobby Frank Cherry, Robert Chambliss, Thomas Blanton, Herman Cash (a suspect who had died during the time the investigation was reopened), and all the others who lived lives of hate.  It’s the difficult road, yet it’s also the road to ultimate freedom.” (p. 261) When you have let go of hate, even when you have the right to feel it, have you felt relief and a new sense of self-worth?
     “At its core, forgiveness is a spiritual act – it’s not something we can do in our own strength.” (p.274)  What does that mean to you?  Where do you get your strength to forgive?  “In order to truly love our neighbors, we have to get to know them.” (p. 278)  What are you doing to get to know your neighbors better?

The Birmingham Pledge
I believe that every person has worth as an individual.
I believe that every person is entitled to dignity and respect regardless of race or color.
I believe that every thought and every act of racial prejudice is harmful; if it is my thought or act, then it is harmful to me as to others.
Therefore, from this day forward I will strive daily to eliminate racial prejudice from my thoughts and actions.
I will discourage racial prejudice by others at every opportunity.
I will treat all people with dignity and respect; and I will strive daily to honor this pledge, knowing that the world will be a better place because of my effort.
--While the World Watched (p280)

Leroy Seat writing 9/15/13 about the four girls killed in the Birmingham bombing on 9/15/63: 

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March 13 – Some of My Best Friends Are Black by Tanner Colby
     Much of the book is about Kansas City, and Al Brooks appears beginning on page 116.
     "Who would expect a coauthor of two Saturday Night Live alumni biographies to pen a thoughtful, judicious, yet provocative social history of American race relations? Evenhanded, felicitously written, and animated by numerous interviews, Colby’s book is a pleasure . . . .”  — Library Journal
     “Pointing out the shortfalls of court-ordered busing, affirmative action, and other well-intentioned programs, Colby’s charming and surprisingly funny book shows us both how far we’ve come in bridging the racial divide and how far we’ve yet to go.”  — Publishers Weekly
     Clif Hostetler's Review: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2731381800

Some of My Best Friends are Black, by Tanner Colby Ed Kail, facilitator
Questions from David Nelson
     Using a historical/case study approach, Tanner Colby describes the “strange story of integration in America.” Beyond the societal and political dynamics of segregation and integration, he reflects on the phenomenon of racial separation in American society. Why is it that people of different races in this country largely do not associate or develop close relationships?
     Colby examines 4 segments of American society: a) schools/public education; b) housing and real estate development; c) business and industry; and d) religion/church.
     In preparation for our Vital Conversation, consider several questions for personal reflection:
     1) It is widely held that “race” is a social construct: an idea developed as a category for distinguishing people from one other in society. What is your understanding of race? Beyond simple appearances – “color of skin” – what are the functioning elements of race in America – and in your life?
     2) What has been your own personal experience of “racial separation” throughout your life? What’s one story you could tell?
     3) Of the 4 societal segments Colby uses to organize his book, with which one do you most strongly resonate intellectually, and emotionally?
     4) In a public presentation at Rockhurst College, Tanner Colby described Kansas City as the epicenter for the “racialization of space” in American cities, due to the leadership and work of J. C. Nichols. What do you think, and how does that make you feel?
     5) In response to this book, what are you motivated to do?
     Note: Part 2 of Colby’s book, which features a case study of real estate development and housing in Kansas City, is partly based upon work by Kevin F. Gotham in his book Race, Real Estate and Uneven Development: The Kansas City Experience, 1900 – 2000. Five years ago, I was able to check out a copy from the Public Library on inter-library loan. I discovered last month that the two copies owned by the system have been designated “reference works” and are listed for “in-library” reading only.

EXCERPTS from The View from This Seat, a blog by Leroy Seat, Ph.D
Some of My Best Friends are Black
     At the March 13 Vital Conversations meeting, the 25 or so who attended discussed Tanner Colby’s book Some of My Best Friends are Black: The Strange Story of Integration in America (2012). 
     The meeting was a very helpful one, especially since there were four African-Americans present—including the venerable Alvin Brooks (b. 1932), a civil rights leader who is a former police officer and former city councilman of Kansas City.
     The second part of Colby’s book is about racial segregation in housing—and in getting loans for purchasing a home. The situation in Kansas City is a prime example of segregation having been actively enforced by housing planning—and restrictions.
     In particular, Colby writes about J.C. Nichols, whom Colby (no doubt rightfully) calls “the most influential real estate developer” in the U.S. during the first half of the twentieth century. Colby adds, “One could make the argument that he still holds that title today, despite being dead for sixty years.” (p. 82).
     (Specifically, Nichols died in February 1950, several months before his 70th birthday.)
     Nichols was the developer of Kansas City’s Country Club Plaza, regarded as the nation’s first shopping center. After his death, he was memorialized with the impressive J.C. Nichols Memorial Fountain, just east of the Plaza, and the nearby street renamed the J.C. Nichols Parkway in 1952.
     The King of Kings County.-- In addition to the County Club district and Plaza in Kansas City, Missouri, a lasting legacy of J.C. Nichols is the development of Johnson County, Kansas, whose eastern border is just a mile west of the Plaza.
     That story, which is told to some extent in Colby’s book, is the theme of the novel The King of Kings County (2005) by Whitney Terrell, a nephew by marriage to J.C. Nichols’ son Miller.
     As Colby writes, the novel “tells the story of Kansas City’s blockbusting and suburbanization in a way that only a novel can: fictionalized, but brutally truthful” (p. 291).
     (In the book, Nichols is called Bowen, the Plaza is Campanile, and Johnson County is Kings County, but for those who know the history of Kansas City, the identification is obvious.)

Thanks to Leroy for permission to quote these excerpts. For the complete blog entry, click here.

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April 10 – Something Beautiful Happened:  A Story of Survival and Courage in the Face of Evil by Yvette Manessis Corporon. 
     At once a very personal memoir and an ambitious account of the untold history of the Greek Jews and a nuanced story about the important of kindness and the courage to stand up for what’s right, no matter the cost.  Mindy Corporon plans to attend and share her personal connections with this powerful and healing story.

Clif Hostetler's review Mar 22, 2019  at Goodreads

A holocaust story and a recent hate crime, two events separated by seventy years and apparently unrelated to each other except for the fact that they involved members of the author’s extended family. These events anchor this memoir to provide optimistic life lessons by honoring the good that can grow out of evil events.
     The author grew up hearing stories about her grandmother’s youthful years living on a small Greek island. Included with those stories was an account of a Jewish tailor and his daughters who were able to hide from the Nazis on the island during WWII. After her grandmother’s death the author became curious about this story and began efforts to locate descendants of this Jewish family. Just when this effort began to meet with some success the author received news that her nephew and his grandfather had been gunned down in a hate crime on April 13, 2014 in Overland Park, Kansas. 
     This recent tragic event becomes part of this memoir's story while asking the question, how does one go on with life after events like this. The book describes efforts made in response to both events that were made to honor the good in life and spread better understanding in the battle against hate. As the author recounts these events we also learn about the history of removal of Jews from Greece by the Nazis as well as a description of the author's childhood as part of the Greek immigrant community in America.
     The book tells the story of the founding of the Faith Always Wins Foundation to promote "dialogue for the betterment of our world through kindness, faith and healing." It was founded by the mother and daughter of the nephew and grandfather who were slain in Overland Park. Also, the book's narrative climaxes with an account of a reunion of descendants of the WWII era story on the small Greek island to honor and memorialize the bravery of those involved with that incident. All these events are described with words saturated in emotion.

Mindy, who founded the Faith Always Wins Foundation, spoke eloquently, frankly, and movingly as she answered questions about the book and how her life had changed following the murders of her father and son, now five years ago. 
     Vern thanked her for persisting through the horror and hate, and transforming the experience into gifts of understanding for our community and the nation.

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May 8 – Born A Crime  by Trevor Noah
    Trevor Noah's unlikely path from apartheid South Africa to the desk of The Daily Show began with a criminal act: his birth. Trevor was born to a white Swiss father and a black Xhosa mother at a time when such a union was punishable by five years in prison.  His stories weave together to form a moving and searingly funny portrait of a boy making his way through a damaged world in a dangerous time, armed only with a keen sense of humor and a mother's unconventional, unconditional love.
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June 12 – Religion for Atheists: A Non-Believer's Guide to the Uses of Religion by Alain de Botton
     De Botton suggests that rather than mocking religion, agnostics and atheists should instead steal from it – because the world’s religions are packed with good ideas on how we might live and arrange our societies.  He looks to religion for insights into how to build a sense of community, make relationships last, overcome feelings of envy and inadequacy, inspire travel, get more out of art, and reconnect with the natural world.
    Releasing Conversation:  Share your name and one thing you appreciate about religion (any religion).

Quotes and questions selected by David E. Nelson
     “Let us bluntly state that of course no religions are true in any God-given sense….The premise of this book is that it must be possible to remain a committed atheist and nevertheless find religious sporadically useful, interesting and consoling -- and be curious as to the possibilities of importing certain of their ideas and practices into the secular realm.” (page 11-12)  How do you feel about looking at religion, both your own and others, and finding new ideas and truth of value?
     “We invented religions to serve two central needs: first, the need to live together in communities in harmony, despite our deeply rooted selfish and violent impulses.  And second, the need to cope with terrifying degrees of pain.”  (page 12)  Do you agree that these are the two reasons for religion?  Can you think of others?
     “The church views the ill, the frail of mind, the desperate and the elderly as representing aspects of humanity and (even more meaningfully) of ourselves which we are tempted to deny, but which bring us, when we can acknowledge them, closer to our need for one another.” (page 35)  Share an experience when this reality became yours.  Has your faith been influenced by “the least of these” in a positive manner? 
     “The Day of Atonement has the immense advantage of making the idea of saying sorry look like it came from somewhere else, the initiative of neither the perpetrator nor the victim.” (page 56)  Is it difficult for you to apologize?  Why or why not? 
      “Religions are wise in not expecting us to deal with all of our emotions on our own.  They know how confusing and humiliating it can be to have to admit to despair, lust, envy or egomania.”  (page 62-63)  Do you have a community where you can deal with your emotions?
     “Much of modern moral thought has been transfixed by the idea that a collapse in belief must have irreparably damaged our capacity to build a convincing ethical framework for ourselves.”  (page 79)  Do you agree?  Explain. 
     “The object of universities is not to make skillful lawyers, physicians or engineers.  It is to make capable and cultivated human beings…a proper cultural education should inspire in us a love of our neighbor, a desire for clearing human confusion and for diminishing human misery…it should engender nothing less than the ‘noble aspiration to leave the world better and happier than we found it.’”  (page 102)  Did your education experience foster these values?  Can our higher education system today advance these qualities in more and more people?
     “The difference between Christian and secular education reveals itself with particular clarity I their respective characteristic modes of instruction; secular education delivers lectures, Christian sermons.  Expressed in terms of intent, we might say that one is concerned with imparting information, the other with changing our lives.”  (page 115-117)  Can secular education become more about “changing our lives” and should it?
     “Mary in Christianity, Isis in ancient Egypt, Demeter in Greece, Venus in Rome and Guan Yin in China have all functioned as conduits to recollections of early tenderness.” (page 171)  Who are our models for tenderness today?  How do we remember them and share their stories with our children and each other?
     “The secular are at this moment in history a great deal more optimistic than the religious.”  (page 183)  Do you agree?  If so, why and if not, why?  Should we strive for more optimism in today’s world?
     “Out secular world is lacking in the sorts of rituals that might put us gently in our place.  It surreptitiously invites us to think of the present moment as the summit of history, and the achievements of our fellow humans as the measure of all things – a grandiosity that plunges us into continuous swirls of anxiety and envy.”  (page 200)  What are the rituals you use and treasure in your life?  Are they enough to keep you growing on a strong human path?

Clif Hostetler's review of Religion for Atheists: A Non-believer's Guide to the Uses of Religion,
by Alain de Botton: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/738112065

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July 17 – Books About Crazy Horse.  Samn Wright who wrote and performed his one-man play at Atkins-Johnson last year joined us. The play has been presented about 40 times, including in the UK, and future performances are being demanded. With the knowledge of a scholar and the grace of a friend, Samn answered questions throughout the hour about Crazy Horse, his culture, various books about Crazy Horse, and about the process of writing the play and performing it. Samn said he approaches the performances as a spiritual activity. A short video appears at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mYY-fOLZWSg

Shown here with David Nelson and a slide of the emerging Crazy Horse monument David took recently, Samn has been seen over the years in theatre ranging from The Hindu and the Cowboy and the title roles in Shakespeare's Hamlet and The Who's Tommy. He is currently performing in The Summer House in the Fringe Festival.

Releasing Conversation:  Share your name and something you learned about Crazy Horse or about yourself in reading about Crazy Horse.

From Curly to Crazy Horse: Leadership Lessons for Today
By David E. Nelson
     I have discovered clues to leadership for our time in the stories of Chief Crazy Horse.  A combination of Francis of Assisi and General Paton, Crazy Horse brought together some of the finest qualities of the human spirit.  He lived his truth in a way that invited others to live theirs.  He was captured by a vision that inspired and drove him to acts of bravery and compassion.  He became a community leader and yet remained emotionally intimate with family.  He grieved the death of a daughter and the defeat of his people and yet never confused particular outcomes with eternal realities. From Curly to Crazy Horse is a story of the paradox of human leadership for today.
     Curly loved his life.  His father was Oglala Sioux and his mother Brule.  He spent time with both peoples and learned that two legged are not all the same.  Like the winged and four legged, humans were all different and all unique.  His early years were lived in joy and security.  He had no idea that he would one day be thrust into the forefront of the most critical struggle ever to face his people.  Although Crazy Horse did not write in a book, he stored his learning in his head.  He would put together ideas and new insights and in his nightly meetings with the elder would share stories and thoughts that would challenge even grandfather and grandmother.  His early days would remain an important time of growth and learning.  Curly would never lose sight of these days of peace and harmony.  All life is connected.  All the world is in a sacred balance.  “irresistible attraction” is the notion that life is good and that we are unique and wonderful human beings.  When you start to enjoy your uniqueness rather than attempt to become more like someone else you become more attractive to others.
     In the stories and legends about Crazy Horse I have discovered some clues for the paradox of leadership in our tie.
     Leaders are born and emerge in a context.
Leaders are personally strong and build strong communities.
Leaders seek to understand the past and not stay there.
Leaders have deep roots in their heritage and become culture brokers.
Leaders make clear plans and never get stuck in them.
Leaders have inner vision and open eyes.
Leaders take time to care for themselves and others.  (In that order.)
Leaders have thinking hearts and feeling minds.
Leaders see the big picture and sweat the small stuff.
Leaders anticipate the future and life full in the present.
     Even in his death Crazy Horse remains an inspiration to his people and others who pay attention to his story to live and dies with dignity, courage, and hope.  Death may end a life, but it does not end a relationship.

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August 14 – Why Religion?  by Elaine Pagels -- A provocative and deeply moving memoir from one of the most compelling religious thinkers at work today.  Pagels explore the spiritual dimension of human experience by sharing events from her own life journey.  She revisits how these losses taught her to think more deeply about suffering and how the world’s religions have addressed it.  Readers of all faiths, and none, can learn from her brilliance and courage. She is shown below with Vern in May, 2001, in Lawrence, KS, at the University where she was a guest lecturer.

Releasing Conversation: Share your name and your response to the question: “Why  Religion?”
     Quotes and questions selected by David Nelson.
     “Am I religious?” Yes, incorrigibly, by temperament, if you mean susceptible to the music,  the rituals, the daring leaps of imagination and metaphor so often found in music, poems,  liturgies, rituals, and stories – not only those that are Christian, but also to the cantor’s  singing at the bar mitzvah, to Hopi and Zuni dances on the mesas of the American  Southwest, to the call to prayer in Indonesia. But when we say “religious,” what are we  talking about?” (p.32) What do you most appreciate about religion? Are their activities you  have appreciated from other religions? 
     I began to see what fascinated him (Heinz) about investigating the natural world, from the  “big bang” to elementary particles and galaxies; and he became intrigued with the secret  gospels…I never felt so close to anyone.” (p. 37) Share a story of conversation with another  person whose life focus and experience were vastly different from you own and yet you  connected in a meaningful way. 
     Whatever most people mean by faith was never more remote than during times of  mourning, when professions of faith in God sounded only like unintelligible noise, heard  from the bottom of the sea. (p. 98) Have you experienced expressions of faith that seemed  empty, meaningless, or even downright painful at times of loss or tragedy? (Example: “God needed another child in heaven.” 
     We found no meaning in our son’s death, or in the deaths of countless others. The most we  could hope was that we might be able to create meaning. (p. 104) What is the difference  between finding meaning in something and creating meaning? Can you illustrate?  “You have no choice about how you feel about this. Your only choice is whether to feel it  now or later.” Although her comment helped a little at first, during the next twenty-five  years I would keep discovering that how much I was able to feel, or not, and when, was not  a matter of choice. (p. 121) How have you experienced and processed feelings during your  life? Can you control when and how you feel? 
     After we sat together in silence for more than an hour, I asked about something strange  that happened during the meditation. “Thomas, I felt as though waves of energy were  coming toward me from various directions, like waves and ripples in an ocean, as though  people were sending me energy; but I have no idea from whom they came. What – if  anything – do you make of this?” Before that time, when someone said to me “I’m praying  for you,” I’d assumed that this was a vague gesture, a nod to good intentions, the pious  equivalent of saying “Let’s have lunch sometime.” (p. 129) What is your intention when you  pray for someone? What is your expectation when you pray for someone? How do you feel  about the criticism today that “thoughts and prayers” are not enough in relation to the mass  shootings? 
     “Do you believe in life after death?” “Yes, of course – but not my life after my death.” (p.  137) What does the author mean? What does “life after death” mean to you?  I still wanted to believe that we live in a morally ordered universe, in which someone, or  something – God or nature? – would keep track of what’s fair? (p. 167) Do you believe that  we live in a moral universe? 
     Emerging from a time of unbearable grief, I felt that such sayings offered a glimpse of what  I’d sensed in that vision of the net. They helped dispel isolation and turn me from despair,  suggesting that every one of us is woven into the mysterious fabric of the universe, and into  connection with each other, with all being, and with God. (p. 177) Do you have visions,  experiences, and memories that give you such hope? Is this the authors answer to the question  “Why Religion?” 

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September 11 – The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls. -- This inspiring novel that really deals with problems that many face, neglect. The mother doesn't care enough to be a true mom, and the father is too busy getting drunk to care in a fatherly way. Which leaves the children with a lot to be desired. In a quest for independence and to find a way through life the children separate, and it shows many different paths life can lead you down  It is truly an inspirational book, that shows you don't need someone always and to never give up. 

Clif Hostetler's review:

Preparation  quesions from David:
1. Rex and Rose Mary Walls were unconventional parents, but were they abusive? Why or why not?
2. What does the glass castle signify to Jeannette and her father. Why is it important that, just before leaving for New York, Jeannette tells her father that she doesn't believe he'll ever build it?
3. The first story Walls tells of her childhood is that of her burning herself severely at age three, and her father dramatically takes her from the hospital: "You're safe now". Why do you think she opens with that story, and how does it set the stage for the rest of the memoir?
4. Rex Walls often asked his children, "Have I ever let you down?" Why was this question (and the required "No, Dad" response) so important for him -- and for his kids? On what occasions did he actually come through for them?
5. Jeannette's mother insists that, no matter what, "life with your father was never boring". What kind of man was Rex Walls? What were his strengths and weaknesses, his flaws and contradictions?
6. Discuss Rose Mary Walls. What did you think about her description of herself as an "excitement addict"?.
7. Describe Jeannette's relationship to her siblings and discuss the role they played in one another's lives.
8. In college, Jeannette is singled out by a professor for not understanding the plight of homeless people; instead of defending herself, she keeps quiet. Why do you think she does this?
9. Were you surprised to learn that, as adults, Jeannette and her siblings remained close to their parents? Why did the parents follow their children to New York? Why did the children keep seeing them?
10. What character traits -- both good and bad -- do you think that Jeannette inherited from her parents? And how do you think those traits shaped Jeannette's life?
11. For many reviewers and readers, the most extraordinary thing about The Glass Castle is that, despite everything, Jeannette Walls refuses to condemn her parents. Were you able to be equally nonjudgmental?

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October 9 –  The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood. -- In the world of the near future, who will control women's bodies?  Offred is a Handmaid in the Republic of Gilead. Handmaids are only valued if their ovaries are viable. Offred can remember the days before, when she lived and made love with her husband Luke; when she played with and protected her daughter; when she had a job, money of her own, and access to knowledge. But all of that is gone now.  Funny, unexpected, horrifying, and altogether convincing, The Handmaid's Tale is at once scathing satire, dire warning, and tour de force.  “The Handmaid’s Tale” is also a TV series.
Clif Hostetler's review of The Handmaid's Tale.

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November 13 – Kansastan: Ad Allah Per Aspra by Farooq Ahmed
Inspired by the American Civil War, Kansastan takes place in a dystopic Kansas that is besieged by its neighboring state, Missouri. Close to the state line, an orphaned and disabled goatherd lives atop a minaret and is relegated to his aunt and cousin arrive, the mosque’s congregants believe that the cousin, Faisal, is a young prophet. Faisal comes to also believe in his divinity stoking the goatherd’s envy and hatred. Kansastan is a singular work, infused with Islamic folklore, Quranic lyricism, and Old Testament tales. Farooq Ahmed was raised in Kansas City and now lives in Los Angeles with his wife, two children, and a fear of earthquakes; he will join us in our conversation.
     Farooq Ahmed is a graduate of the Columbia University Creative Writing Program and of Brown University, where he studied biochemistry. His writing has appeared in the Financial Times, Nature, and the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, and has been lauded by the South Asian Journalists Association. You can follow him on Twitter (@mcfruke).

Vital Conversations organizer and Leader David Nelson and guest author Farooq Ahmed pose for a photo before an exceptionally interesting session on Kansastan.

     Vern and Farooq visited briefly before the discussion began. 
     David began by asking us each to say breifly about what “home” meant to each of us since the book in a way asks us to think about home. 
     David and the full complement of regulars and guests asked about the unusal language of the novel, the relationship of the book to the author's life, how folks around the country think of the State of Kansas stimulated by this work of fiction set in the area of the "border wars" between Kansas and Missouri, the stories from the Judeo-Christian-Muslim tradition brought into the story, how the 9/11 experience affected him, how the book is being received in various settings, how the book reflects current national and international realities, in what sense the book is “halal,” peering into the writer's methods and approaches, what future writing projects Farooq has in mind, and other fascinating topics raised by David and others around the room. We are eager to see what he next produces with his perspective enriched perhaps by his interfaith marriage, his formal studies, his travels abroad, the reception of this, his first novel, and his increased appreciation for the craft of writing. 

* Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Kansastan-Farooq-Ahmed/dp/1732868689
* Kansastan website: www.kansastan.com/
* Clif Hostetler's review

    GINA KAUFMANN's radio interview NOV 2, 2019 from 20min20sec - 37min.

November 10 Sunday 4 pm
Kansas City KANSASTAN Launch
Prospero's Books -- 1800 W 39th St, Kansas City, MO

November 14 Thursday 7 pm -- MikroBrews Series, Wichita, KS
 86 Cold Press, 600 East Douglas Avenue

November 15 Friday 7 pm -- Driptorch Series, Manhattan, KS
Arrow Coffee Co., 1800 Claflin Road 

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December 11 – In Pursuit of Peace:  Community of Christ’s Journey  by Andrew Bolton, John Hamer, David Howlett, Lachlan Mackay, and Barbara Walden
     The vision of Zion, the Peaceable Kingdom, was at the heart of the 19th Century movement that gave birth to the Community of Christ.  Once known as the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints” (RLDS), since 2001 the Community of Christ has its international headquarters in Independence, Missouri. 
     Stephen Veazey, Prophet-President of Community of Christ, shown here, plans to join the conversation.
     The Community of Christ was an important partner at the 2001 "Gifts of Pluralism" Conference arranged by CRES with the participation of the Interfaith Council.
     Here is Clif Hostetler's review:

As it happened neither Prophet-President Stephen Veazey nor our Vital Conversations organizer David Nelson were able to attend. In Veazey's stead were Cathi Cackler-Veazey, Chair of PeacePathways, and Zac Harmon-McLaughlin, Seminary Director at Graceland University; leading the discussion this time was blogger extraordinaire and author Leroy Seat. Our guests answered 90 minutes of questions with the most delightful combination of grace, humility, knowledge, and neighborliness. Leroy was careful to make sure everyone had a chance to participate and shaped the session by exemplifying mutual respect and a shared passion for community and peace.

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The 2020 Vital Conversations schedule is on our 2020 page here: 

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.

some announcements are posted here


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