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Except for monthly Vital Conversations convened by David Nelson, CRES programs arise by request. Our management principle is "management by opportunity." Every year we are delighted by the number of opportunties given to us, as, for example, last year's list demonstrates. (Of course we also provide free consulation to organizations and other services as requested, not listed on our public website.)
This page is continuously updated.
INDEX 600-10x2=580px 
Events listed by date, earlist first

General Announcements Link to eBlast Archive
1982 - 2012 Archive on request About CRES participation
On-line Archived Program Announcements and Reports 

2021   2020     2019   2018     2017   2016     2015   2014     2013


Transcendent meanings from COVID-19?
Essay for the Interfaith Council Newsletter 
also  yellow box on Vern's Sidebar page

Vital ConversationsProgram, 2d Wed 1-2:30 pm          Coffee, 4th Wed 8 am
Photos and reports are arranged by month


King Holiday Essay —  2022 January 7 and Jan17
     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.
     You can also read the Letter from a Birmingham Jail here.

February 1-7
To celebrate World Interfaith Harmony week, we offer one of our most cited essays, "Stealing Another's Faith." The question of honoring without misappropriating material from others is not so easy, and this essay raises awareness so faiths can be less in conflict and more in harmony. Read, download this PDF, and share this important essay by Vern -- with excerpts from Huston Smith and Harvey Cox.


A Martian Muses on Monotheism
2021 Febuary 8 Tuesday 1 pm Zoom link posted here by Monday.
Retired Clergy of All Faiths -- guests welcome

What would a Martian report after surveying the religions of our planet? How are monotheistic faiths similar to one another and different from primal and Asian faiths? Vern has seen a purloined copy of the Martian's study, and discloses these findings to the group, offers an exercise for individual assessments of the strength of various dimensions of faith in one's experience (creed, code, cultus, community), and welcomes questions and responses.



One way of understanding 21 years since 9/11

While the 9/11 attacks 20 years ago opened the gates of hell, the way our government has responded has brought us inside hell's domain. The smoke from that day, the acrid fumes, amplified into war, brings us purblind to the charred and hobbled Body Politic. How do we understand what has happened? How do we move forward?

One way of understanding what happened, and is still happening, is by looking at the metaphors we use to explain things and which shape our responses.


1. Before 911, terrorism had been dealt with as a CRIME, internationally and at home. The violation of life and property in an otherwise orderly society makes the terrorist an especially despised outlaw. We employ a legal system to assure justice by punishing the criminal and removing the criminal from society. International courts have done the same.

2. But since September 11 we have used a WAR metaphor. Of course the metaphor is hardly new. We love war. We have fought the war against poverty and the war against drugs, though it is hard for us to admit defeat, even though Vietnam and Afghanistan are history now. We still fight the war against cancer, against crime, against . . . you name it.

But a war against terrorism was new. The metaphor had power because we struggled not just against isolated attack but against an organized force seeking not just advantage through harm of a target but rather destruction of a government or civilization. Though we ourselves use violence, we assumed our own righteousness would bring us victory over evil.

Both of the metaphors of crime and war too easily commend themselves because they are simple, and rest on the assumption that we are wholly good — and our opponents are completely evil.

3. A third metaphor might come closer to the complexity of the situation: DISEASE. Here the metaphor suggests not two separate, competing powers but of all humanity as a sick body, within the organs of communities, cities, and nations, afflicted in various ways, degrading or sustaining each other in different degrees, infected with individuals and groups poisoned (using Buddhist language) with greed, fear, and ignorance. Now, with COVID, we are learning that, as Martin Luther King said, “Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”

Just so, CRES insists that the three great crises of our time, in the environment, in personhood, and in the social order, are all intertwined.

And that the world's Primal, Asian, and Monotheistic traditions, respectively, provide the therapy to heal the planet, revivify personhood, and restore social order.

Let us bring the healing powers of generosity, fellowship, and understanding to one another, expanding a circle of joy in service.


On the first anniversary of 9/11, CRES opened a day-long observance beginning with a water ceremony between City Hall and the Federal Justice Center, later shown on national CBS-TV. Click here to see a 3-minute excerpt from that ritual. 

TRANSCRIPT OF REMARKS: Today is an anniversary of a day of horror that somehow brings us together as members of this community, as Americans, and as citizens of the world. As a community of many faiths, we gather to honor those who perished and to work to comfort and save all others. * In the face of disasters, we yet proclaim hope. * Water in this pool, water in our containers -- water has many meanings in the religions of the world. To answer the fireball of a year ago, we make water an emblem of hope. Kansas City is the City of Fountains. Into this pool, members of the Interfaith Council will pour waters from fountains from Independence and Lenexa, Kansas City, Kansas, and Lee's Summit, all over the metro area, along with waters from the Ganges, the Nile, the Amazon, the  the Thames, the Yangtse -- and the Kaw and the Missouri -- to say that ultimately our lives flow together, from one source and to one source. These waters become the tears of Muslims, Jews, Christians, those of all faiths. These waters will be transformed from the waters of tears into the waters which purify, the waters which douse the fire of hatred, wash away our self-righteousness, and well up as healing fountains in the heart. As these waters join, so let us unite in proclaiming hope. * Any who have come and want to taake this mixed water to your own observance in your own place of worship later in the day are welcome to come to the spot where I am standing and take water from this wonderful rich mixture.

From Aporia to Praise:
(postponed from 2020 May 24)
An observance of
the 50th anniversary of Vern Barnet's ordination
Aporia: "impasse, puzzlement, doubt."

      Vern offers his conclusions from 50 years of experience and study: in a troubled world, what paths lie forward? and how can one dare offer praise for the intertwined mix horror and beauty of existence?
* Doing theology is less like mathematics and more like expounding why you love someone.
* My passion for "world religions" in the context of the crises of secularism.
* The mystic's vision (amour fati - love of fate) and the public expression in worship.

September 23 Thursday 6:30-7:30pm
“From the Front Lines: Spirituality in Times of Crisis”
honors chaplains, first responders and many others who have played such a critical role in our lives these past months.
A Virtual Fundraiser and Signature event of
the Greater Kansas City Interfaith Council
now independent but originally a program of CRES.

Vern Barnet founded the Council in 1989 and is Council Convener Emeritus. The Council newsletter has published his brief notes about three milestones in the early history of the Council.


November Sunday Date to be announced
“Promoting Interfaith Peace, Renewal and Regrowth” 

FREE online interfaith gathering -- including interfaith prayers of gratitude.
lHosted by Heartland Chapter of the Alliance of Divine Love 
Co-sponsored by Greater KC Interfaith Council

The annual observance was sponsored by CRES for its first 25 years. 
This year is the 36th year of the tradition and we are indeed grateful to the 
sponsors for perpetuating the recognition of the place of gratitude in every faith.


WEDDINGS of all kinds 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,
a wedding,
a baptism,
or other work
with your organization 
or personally, 
please visit  www.cres.org/work/services.htmor email vern@cres.org

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.


A Vital Conversation Coffee
Vital Conversations
monthly schedule
ZOOM 2nd Wedneday of the month 1-2:30 pm
MidContinent Public Library Antioch Branch, 6060 N Chestnut Ave, Gladstone, MO 64119 -- (816) 454-1306  -- to receive the zoom link:
humanagenda@gmail.com or call (816) 453-3835

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’sThe 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

2022 Vital Conversations Schedule

To see last year's fascinating programs, click here.

January 12 Wednesday 1-2:30 p.m. on Zoom  --  (Notes from last month)

The Little White Boat: My Search for the Joy Beyond Time by Howard Martin who writes, “While I have written these pages for an audience of two, I trust that, if they have fallen into your hands, they are also for you. As you read them, I ask only this – that you receive them in the spirit with which they are given; with kindness, compassion, and openness of heart. Sit beside me now in the little white boat. Let’s row together through the storms into the still waters. Beauty below us, Beauty above us. Beauty all around.” 
     This book, written by a friend, did fall into my hands. It is a memoir that shares a life and connects me to literature from many ages. Howard will be with us to share his stories and his life. --David Nelson

Quotations and questions selected by David Nelson
“It’s the great mystery of human life
 that old grief passes gradually into a quiet tender joy.”
--Fyodor Dostoevsky, The Brothers Karamazov

Releasing conversation:
Share your name and make a brief comment about the above quotation.

1. “They were both born—like their older sister—with Hurler Syndrome.  Their stories are so intertwined in my memory that I cannot adequately disentangle them.” P. 12.  What is Hurler Syndrome and how is it treated?  Why is this important in your life Howard?

2.  “With her gentle whispers and kind caresses, Rene Martin nurtured a loving family into being and traveled a short while with it toward the sun…Because of her, I found it possible, ultimately, to believe in the existence of an eternal Beloved, whose presence is manifest in all of creation, always and everywhere, the loving center of gravity of all that exists…It was my first intuition of paradise.” P. 38. What is an “intuition of paradise” and how has it evolved throughout your life?

3. “There are beloved people who come into our lives as companions for a season, and then there are those who have been there from the beginning.” P. 97 Who have been some of your companions for a season?

4. “In a sense, my brother Bryn was—and remains—the other side of my very self…” p. 104-105. Please read out loud as we listen.  Did any of you have such a companion in your life, sibling, friend, or other?  “As I write this, my brother is ill, and I ponder the real possibility that he will leave this life before me.  Yet I choose to believe that there will be a time beyond Time when we will laugh together, my brother and I – and indeed all of us – in an unimaginable symphony of Joy.” P. 106.  Update us about your brother. 

5. “It became my hope, in my later years as a professor and arts educator, to offer in the classroom moments where my students could feel the goodness and rightness – and safety – of that “somewhere” else.  In that sense, I would come to think of my teaching as a means of nurturing spiritual life, an introduction to the care of the soul.” P. 108. How did you get away with that in public education?  Can real life be explored without some discussion of the spiritual?

6. “To this day, Sairey Gamp (character in Dickens) lightens my spirit and makes me laugh…What does it matter that there is no such person as Sairey Gamp in the real world?  She arises from somewhere in the human spirit.   The genius of Charles Dicken found her somewhere. So much the better for me and, I think, for all of us…All I had to so was let a film or a book take me there.” P.111-112. How can we nurture intimacy with a character in a novel or film?  Can any of you share other examples of fictional characters that have made a difference in your life?

7. “I was fast becoming aware that suffering and loss were not just themes in my own story, but were unavoidable strands in the tapestry of other lives as well, universal realities in the human condition that would require all my efforts to understand.  I would need a story of some kind – a really good story – to help me get there.” P 121 Do you have a story “big enough” to encompass the complex quandaries of your life?

8. “As a child and as a fledging adult in my teens and early twenties, I more often than not felt overwhelmed, rather than gently nurtured, by religion.  A great flood of religious dogma and practice overwhelmed the tiny channels of my interior life…Like a member of a secret society, I was initiated into this culture by repeating words…” born in sin,” or “justified by faith,” and “saved by the blood.” P 124-125. What is the role of religion in your life? 

9. “Poems—and novels and plays—were about my own inner life, my own life of felt imagination.  They were also, but extension, about the inner life of every person I knew and indeed every person on the planet.” P 139 “It seemed that whereas in religion there was a tendency to turn flesh into words, in the theatre there was an instinct to the opposite—to embody ideas in the multi-dimensional actualities of character and story.” P 139. Say more about the difference you have discovered between the church and the theater.

10. “We bear our sorrows bravely for the most part and even in the midst of them look for the return of joy.  It may well be that the experience of joy returning after times of great sadness can—if we so choose—prepare our hearts for the coming of the Great Joy beyond time.  Our sorrow and our joy are both ways in which we are, as Abraham Heschel so beautifully put it, ‘in travail with God’s dream.’” P 187. We all experience sorrow.  Why do some seem to never choose the joy that can follow?

“What’s lost is nothing to what’s found
and all the death that ever was would scarcely full a cup.”
--Frederick Buechner

Here is Clif Hostetler's review on Goodreads.com 

This memoir tells of the author's growing up in New Zealand, moving to the United States for college, and remaining in the USA for marriage and raising a family. Beyond the timeline of life's activities, friends, and family, the author also attempts to describe a search for transcendence beyond everyday life that the subtitle of the book refers to as the "joy beyond time."

There was a point in the book where the author describes the feelings of perceived insight that came from studying and learning about fictional characters in theatrical dramas and novels. I was impressed with the clarity with which this experience was expressed because I have been trying to communicate similar ideas in my own book reviews. Then later in the book I learned he had advanced academic degrees in Theater, and he had been a lecturer at the University of Missouri at Kansas City many years for an introductory class titled, "How Theater Can Change Your Life." No wonder he is able to articulate so clearly the merits of theater and fiction.

I was impressed that the author was willing to let his wife advance in the world of academia while he settled for being adjunct professor. This role reversal from the stereotypical norm allowed him to pursue other creative ventures and spend summer vacations with his two sons. The author is my approximate contemporary age wise, so in a hopeful sense this book could be an example for me to aspire to achieve if I were to write my own memoir. But I despair at the comparison because I'll not be able to match his writing skill.

The following are two excerpts from the book that I've decided to provide here to represent nature of the writing found in this book.

In the following excerpt the author describes his maturing beyond the conservative Christian faith of his younger years.

And so it was that I began to shift my focus from an anxious search in the forest of religion to a more restful surrender in the glade of simple trust. It was a shift of focus, not an attainment. I began to know a little of what it mean to rest in the grace of the world and breathe free. I was taken back to the whispers of the divine in the beauties of the natural world, the lives of kind and humble human beings, and to the miraculous stories of homeward return—like that of the prodigal son—I had heard in my earliest days. (p.214)

The author ends the book with the following paragraph in which he ties his boyhood memories of time spent in a small white boat with his continuing experience of life today.

In memory, I can still see my self as a kid floating in the safety of the little white boat. I see a time when I drifted in stillness on the glassy surface of the lake, the beauty around me mirrored in a Beauty within. I see a time when the waters seemed to rise up against me and, even with my brave little brother alongside, I felt vulnerable and afraid. I see a time when a great launch, regal in its trim of polished wood and brass, slowed down its heavy engines and smoothed the angry waves before me. And, as I follow in the wake of this Majestic Apparition, I see—even now—the sun-drenched shores of Home glowing on the farther shore.


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February 9 Wednesday 1-2:30 p.m. on Zoom  --  (Notes from last month)

Go Tell It on the Mountain by James Baldwin.

In one of the greatest American classics, Baldwin chronicles a fourteen-year-old boy’s discovery of the terms of his identity. Baldwin’s rendering of his protagonist’s spiritual, sexual, and moral struggle of self-invention opened new possibilities in the American language and in the way Americans understand themselves. With lyrical precision, psychological directness, resonating symbolic power, and a rage that is at once unrelenting and compassionate, Baldwin tells the story of the stepson of the minister of a storefront Pentecostal church in Harlem. Originally published in 1953, Baldwin said of his first novel, “Mountain is the book I had to write if I was over going to write anything else.”

Here is Clif Hostetler's review on Goodreads.com 

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March 10 Wednesday 1-2:30 p.m. on Zoom

Gunfight: My Battle Against the Industry that Radicalized America
by Ryan Busse 
“Ryan Busse presents a fascinating, clear-eyed account of the gun industry’s slide into extremism. I was  left with a sense of hope that there is a path forward; one where the majority of Americans, including the  majority of gun owners, stand up to the gun lobby bullying and demand lasting change.” --Gabby Giffords  “Gunfight reveals the truth about the roots of our national division, and many people will see themselves in  Busse’s resistance to extremism.” --Jon Tester, three-term Montana Senator

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April 13 Wednesday 1-2:30 p.m. on Zoom  --   (Notes from last month)

The Immigrants’ New Camera: A Family Collection
by Maryfrances Wagner

National Poetry Month is a time to explore how words can explore the world is beautiful ways.  Maryfrances Wagner is the Poet Laureate of Missouri and will be with us for this Vital Conversation.  She will not only share some of her poetry but also reflect with us on the value of poetry for our time.  She is a retired writing teacher and has published nine collections of poetry.  Wagner said she wants “to find ways to reach out to people who don’t usually read poetry or think they like it.”  If you like poetry or not, you will enjoy this conversation with Maryfrances.

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May 11 Wednesday 1-2:30 p.m. on Zoom  --   (Notes from last month) 

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June 8 Wednesday 1-2:30pm on Zoom --Notes from last month

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July 13 Wednesday 1-2:30 p.m. on new Zoom  --   (Notes from last month) 

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August 10  Wednesday 1-2:30 p.m. on Zoom  --  (Notes from last month) 

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September 14 Wednesday 1-2:30 p.m. on Zoom  --  (Notes from last month)

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#vcOct #NextEvent
October 12 Wednesday 1-2:30 p.m. on Zoom  --  (Notes from last month)

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November 9 Wednesday 1-2:30 p.m. on Zoom  --  (Notes from last month)

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December 14 Wednesday 1-2:30 p.m. on Zoom  --  (Notes from last month)

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Selections are subject to change.  For Zoom link and additional information,
contact David Nelson -- humanagenda@gmail.com or (816) 453-3835.

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