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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
2022  2021   2020   2019   2018   2017   2016   2015   2014   2013

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

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

On the Death of
Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI
1927 - 2022  ::  r. 2005-2013
     The efforts of Benedict XVI to repair and strengthen interfaith and inter-Christian cooperation call forth admiration and praise.
     His identification of secularism's evils and capitalistic excesses should not only to be recalled but heeded.
     While disagreements with any religious leader might always be possible, one could never doubt the good will and devotion of Pope Benedict XVI.
Vern Barnet, CRES minister emeritus
David Nelson, senior associate minister

Robert T Stephan, 1933-2023
Our friend, former four-term Kansas Attorney-General Bob Stephan, accepting the CRES award from Board president Joe Archias at the Rime Buddhist Center at the 2005 Annual Thanksgiving Sunday Ritual Meal. The award reads, "CRES gives thanks for Robert T Stephan who in public and private life has provided leadership and inspiration celebrating religious liberty and personal integrity."
     As a child, Bob experienced religious prejudice and worked endlessly as judge, as the longest- serving attorney-general in Kansas history, and as citizen to promote human dignity and justice, and to relieve suffering. He worked especially on consumer protection and the rights of victims. He was courageous as he answered political smears and in his repeated contests with painful cancer; and his amazing quick wit and humor brought perspective and delight to those around him. Our deepest condolences to his beloved wife, Marilynn, and family.

CRES supports Dr Erika López Prater, along with the Middle East Studies Association, the Medieval Academy, the National Coalition Against Censorship, and other organizations and (so far) over ten thousand knowledgeable academic and religious leaders -- and thanks Prof Christiane Gruber, PhD, for helping us to protest against Hamline University for dismissing Dr López Prater because of a complaint over the inclusion of an honored painting in her art history class. The action was not only based in ignorance of the subject and situation, the teacher was afforded no due process to respond.

Here is a link to the 2023 January 8 New York Times story, A Lecturer Showed a Painting of the Prophet Muhammad. She Lost Her Job.  After an outcry over the art history class by Muslim students, Hamline University officials said the incident was Islamophobic. But many scholars say the work is a masterpiece.

Here is a link to Prof Gruber's article about the dispute in New Lines Magazine. She is professor of Islamic art in the History of Art Department at the University of Michigan. Here is a link to the statement by Eboo Patel, one of America's most highly regarded Muslim and interfaith leaders, in the Chronicle of Higher Education. The Muslim Public Affairs Council has strongly supported the Dr López Prater. Even the statement in support of Dr López Prater by the more conservative Council on American-Islamic Relations, while it supports the right of students to raise the issue, notes that views about the depiction of the Prophet vary within Islam and that the circumstances of this cases make the charge of Islamophobia against Dr López Prater unfair.  

Here is a link to updates.

CRES condemns Islamophobia and, in this case, laments the student's ignorance of Islam and the student's shameful organization of other students who had no first-hand knowledge of the situation to pressure the school into an unexamined response.  by the The response from the Hamline administration is reprehensible. Here is an NBC News story.  Here is a story from Minnesota Public Radio. Here is a link to an article in the Atlantic. Here is a story from the Washington Post.

UPDATE, January 17-- "Hamline University officials made an about-face on Tuesday in its treatment of a lecturer who showed an image of the Prophet Muhammad in an art history class, walking back one of their most controversial statements — that showing the image was Islamophobic. They also said that respect for Muslim students should not have superseded academic freedom." --NYTimes
      Dr López Prater's suit against the school continues because of devasting harm to her and her career. She plans to teach at Macalester College in the spring.
A compilation of comment at InterfaithAmeica.

Islamic Art . . . for understanding . . . the Muslim World

Historic debate over Christian images

Panelists discuss Hamline controversy


King Holiday Essay —  2023 January 16
     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.
     Bill Tammeus writes about King's visits to Kansas City here.
     Vern writes:
     I remember meeting King in a church basement in Washington, DC, the year before he was assassinated. I remember his appearance was delayed quite a while as his team checked the church for threats and dangers, as those of us gathered to hear him hoped to see him alive. It was a dark time. I remember his brilliant analysis of Vietnam, and particularly its effect on young Black men.
     I was a student at the University of Chicago Divinity School when he was assassinated. The next Sunday was Palm Sunday, April 7, and I was to be a guest preacher. I remember struggling to find something uplifting to say, and thankfully, able to rely on King's teachings and his  public ministry in the context of the Christian story. I used a recording of the April 3 "Mountain Top" speech in many sermons in the following months.
     I remember studying the writings and speeches of King, with their eloquence and depth. Each year I continue to reread the Letter from the Birmingham Jail, which every year renews me with astonishment. I also especially cherish his last sermon, March 31, at the Washington National Cathedral, a few days before his assassination. And I claim King also as an exemplar of interfaith respect, which is why I wrote this essay.

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.


CRES senior associate minister David Nelson enjoys the company of Alvin Brooks, the recipient of the Invictus Award for Social Justice at William Jewell College in a ceremony honoring Dr Martin Luther King, Jr. January 16 at the school's John Gano Memorial Chapel. The 39th annual King Celebration was sponsored by the Clay County African American Legacy and the Northland Martin Luther King, Jr. Program Committee.

February 22 Wednesday 4-6 pm, Al will be the featured guest during Black History Month at the observance of the 125th anniversary of the Westport Branch Library, which he mentions in the Acknowledgements in his memoir, Binding Us Together: A Civic Rights Activities Reflects on a Lifetime of Community and Public Service, copies of which will be available for purchase and signing. A video made in January with Al and CRES minister emeritus Vern Barnet will be screened during the celebration.

Sufi talisman (Louvre) and Dore's Dante Paradiso Canto 31
Islamic and Christian mysticism
Forrest Pierce and Kurt Knecht in Dialogue
new compositions for organ and voice by them both
w i t h s o p r a n o Sarah Tannehill Anderson
Pierce: Verses of Light Meditation on Qur'an 24:35 (ayat an-nur) by Neil Douglas-Klotz -- 20 minutes
Knecht: I am my beloved's (from The Song of Solomon) -- 12 minutes

St Paul's Episcopal Church, 11 E 40th, KCMO
2023 February 9 Thursday 7 pm, free    
YouTube recording - 1 hr 40 min

Forrest Farhad Pierce teaches composition at
the University of Kansas and is a practicing Sufi.
     Kurt Knecht is St Paul's organist and a composer with a long time interest in Christian mysticism and contemplative practices.


When Even Evil 
Will Ordain the Good 

2022: Mar 2, 9, 16, 23
Thursdays, 6 pm meal 
6:30 program

Episcopal Church of the Good Shepherd 
4947 NE Chouteau Drive, 
Kansas City,  MO 64119 
(816) 452-0745  
Lenten Series:
Lent is a special time to explore the powerful mysteries of the crucified and resurrected love of the Christian Savior. As terrain for this exploration, the Reverend Vern Barnet, DMn, offers sonnets from the  “Credo” section his book, Thanks for Noticing: The Interpretation of Desire with art and music for discussion.
     Vern wrote the Wednesday "Faith and Beliefs" column 1994-2012 for The Kansas City Star and has written a dozen essays for the diocesan magazine, Spirit, 2015-2017. He is a layman at Saint Paul's Episcopal Church and he has served the Episcopal churches in many capacities, including on the diocesan Commission on Ministry. He is minister emeritus at CRES — the Center for Religious Experience and Study, a ministry to the interfaith community in the area. He founded the Kansas City Interfaith Council in 1989.
     Free copies of the book will be given to class members to celebrate the publication of the second edition if it is ready in March. Copies of the sonnets for the series will be supplied for each session.
Mar 2 - The Jesus of History or the Christ of Faith?
Mar 9 - A Paradox of Salvation
Mar 16 - The Gospel Theater
Mar 23 - The Mystic Vision

Download the 8-page study guide in PDF
Download the 8-page Sonnets booklet in PDF
Readings: Theme Sonnet 82
Mar 2: Sonnet 79  
Mar 9: Sonnet 80 (perhaps also 85
Mar 16: Sonnet 84  
Mar 23: Sonnet 86 (perhaps also 88)


Art to illustrate the themes below
theme music "Third Tune" by Thomas Tallis
an instrumental version  -  a choral version  -   Fantasia by RVW
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T8oKEx1-J1w -    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lD5TG8z3-SM
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ihx5LCF1yJY - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p0AuHYNj8qQ

Two views of an icon of Christ teaching and Velázquez’s "Christ after 
the Flagellation contemplated by the Christian Soul" Mar 2 and Mar 9

A modern enactment of the crucifixion. Mar 16

Dali's "Last Supper" Mar 23


The themes help us focus on kindness in seven different ways, on seven different days.
2023 April 5-13

The SevenDays website gives you
the SevenDays story (with the horrific past
on April 14, 2014), the present, and the future,
the SevenDays events this year, how to get involved, resources, and an opportunity to shop and various sponsorship opportunities.


CRES is glad to have been involved from the very first year with an interfaith panel, and admires the folks and the organization involved for turning tragedy into continuing community benefit by advancing understanding and relationships.


A way of understanding 22 years since 9/11

While the 9/11 attacks 22 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 9/11, 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)
A late observance of
the 50th anniversary of Vern Barnet's ordination
Aporia: "impasse, puzzlement, doubt."

      Vern offers his conclusions from over 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 of the horror and the 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 13 Tuesday  5:30-8:30pm
Fundraiser and Signature Event
Stoney Creek Hotel & Conference Center - Independence, MO
the Greater Kansas City Interfaith Council
now independent but originally a program of CRES.

The Council writes --
Interfaith cooperation is key to transforming this religiously diverse society into a more just, kind, and pluralistic nation, and world. We ask ourselves what it would look like if every American, regardless of their religion or no religion, or worldview, was inspired and equipped to:
  • Come together in a way that respects different religious identities?
  • Build mutually inspiring relationships across differences?
  • Engage in common action around issues of shared social concern?
2022 David Nelson, SevenDays



The first Table of Faiths event, with David Nelson as convener, was a luncheon at the Marriott Muehlebach Hotel downtown Nov 10, 2005. Alvin Brooks, one of the co-chairs (Gayle Krigel, Mahnaz Shabbir, and Chuck Stanford), welcomed guests. Mayor Kay Barnes was the keynote speaker and presented the first Table of Faiths Award to Vern Barnet.
     The second Table of Faiths luncheon, Nov 14, 2006, honored Don and Adel Hall and Ed Chasteen.
     The third Table of Faiths luncheon, Nov 7, 2007, honored Alvin L Brooks and The Kansas City Star.
     The fourth Table of Faiths luncheon, Nov 13, 2008, included a presentation of Donna Ziegenhorn's play, The Hindu and the Cowboy. Honored were Robert Lee Hill and the Shawnee Mission Medical Center, and Steve Jeffers (1948-2008) was lovingly remembered.
     The fifth Table of Faiths luncheon, Nov 12, 2009, introduced The Steve Jeffers Leadership Award, given to Ahmed El-Sherif. All Souls Unitarian Church was also recognized, and Allan Abrams (1939-2009) was lovingly remembered.
     The sixth Table of Faiths luncheon, Nov 11, 2010, honored Notre Dame de Sion High School with the Table of Faiths Award and Queen Mother Maxie McFarlane with the Steve Jeffers Leadership Award.
     The seventh Table of Faiths luncheon, Nov 10, 2011 honored the Kansas City Public Library with the Table of Faiths Award and Donna Ziegenhorn with the Steve Jeffers Leadership Award.
     The eighth and last Table of Faiths luncheon, Nov 8, 2012, presented the theme of "Spirituality and the Environment: Caring for the Earth, Our Legacy." The Steve Jeffers Leadership Award was given to Mayor Sly James and the Table of Faiths Award went to Unity Church of Overland Park.
     There was no Table of Faiths event in 2013. Beginning in 2014, Table of Faiths events were no longer major downtown civic luncheons involving elected and cultural leaders. With a longer evening format, the first in the new Table of Faiths dinners was held May 8, 2014, at Unity Village. 

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

The Council's ancestry, in brief: the 1893 Chicago Parliament of World Religions; the interfaith gathering in Assisi, Italy, convened by Pope John Paul II, the first such gathering in North America since the 1893 Parliament, the "North American Assisi" held in Wichita, KS (Vern was on the planning committee), and with some from the Kansas City area and others who had been drawn into interfaith relations through CRES, the hosting organization, the members of 12 different faith traditions began their work to honor and learn from one another and encourage the community to celebrate the rich diversity available in the Kansas City area.


2023 TBA 2022 November 13 Sunday 5 pm CT
“Promoting Interfaith Peace, Renewal and Regrowth” 

FREE online interfaith gathering -- including interfaith prayers of gratitude.
Hosted by Heartland Chapter of the Alliance of Divine Love 
Co-sponsored by Greater KC Interfaith Council
Livestream on www.facebook.com/HeartLoveKC

The annual observance was sponsored by CRES for its first 25 years. 
This year, 2022, is the 376th 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  hybrid  schedule  with  ZOOM
2nd Wedneday each month 
1-2:30 pm
MidContinent Public Library  Antioch Branch,
6060 N Chestnut Ave, Gladstone, MO
64119 and via Zoom
 (816) 454-1306   --   to receive the active zoom link, email

humanagenda@gmail.com -- or call David at (816) 453-3835

David answers questions about Vital Conversations

A 13-minute YouTube video with Vern

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

"Listen with curiosity, not judgement.”  David Nelson

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 Monday monthly 8 am
Now on Zoom
311 NE Englewood Road
Kansas City, MO 64118

2023 Vital Conversations Schedule

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

2023 January 11 Wednesday 1-2:30 p.m. hybrid on Zoom  and in person
100 Views From This Seat by Leroy Seat
     Leroy and his wife June attended Vital Conversations from the time we started meeting at the MCPL – Antioch Branch over 10 years ago. He is clearly a “thinking friend” and remains persistent in sharing his reflections. Beginning in 2009 he has blogged on every day divisible by five. “Reflections about Life, Love, Light, and Liberty” have been both personal, light-hearted, religious, ethical, and political. I have appreciated these provocative reflections even though I have not responded to every one of them. This collection is an excellent representation of the delicious variety of subjects. I invite you buy his book, select one of your favorites and come on Zoom or at the library to thank Leroy and give some response.

The View from This Seat blog

 Clif Hostetler's review on Goodreads.com  -- click for embedded links 

 This book consists of 100 blog postings selected from over 800 postings that the author, Leroy Seat, made at regular five day intervals between the years 2010 to 2020 on his blog, The View from this Seat.

On this date (January 9, 2023) as I write this review, I am anticipating that tomorrow Leroy will be posting his 1,000th blog post!. Then the following day he will be meeting with the Vital Conversations book group to discuss this book, and presumably there also will be some discussion of posts made since the era covered by this book including his 1,000th blog post.

His posts over these past twelve years have provided reflections on religious, ethical, and political issues as well as personal experiences and memories. His views come from eighty-four years of living, beginning in rural northern Missouri, then obtaining a PhD, and then working as a Baptist missionary to Japan and as full-time faculty member at Seinan Gakuin University (Fukuoka, Japan) from 1968 to 2004. Since his retirement he has continued to be active in many facets of life including the writing of the following books in addition to 100 Views from This Seat (links are to my reviews).

I have found Leroy's blog posts quite readable, partly because he conscientiously kept the word count per post below 700. Now that I've read this book I know of another reason seven hundred is a good word limit, it fits on two pages (front and back). Thus the one hundred posts fit neatly onto two hundred pages of this book. This word limit also allowed the inclusion of some of the comments left by readers on the blog. Those of you who are personally acquainted with Leroy will probably recognize some of the names of the comment writers. I was surprised to discover two comments written by me!

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2023 February 8 Wednesday 1-2:30 p.m. Hybrid on Zoom and in person.

100 The Way of Happiness by L. Ron Hubbard
    This is a non-religious moral code based on common sense distributed by the church of Scientology worldwide. “The Way to Happiness” and the program it inspired have helped millions around the world lead happier, more fulfilling lives.” Present for our Vital Conversation will be members of The Kansas City Church of Scientology. The booklets are free, and you can pick one up from me (David Nelson) or free online at www.thewaytohappiness.org.

We will have members of this "new" religion with us. You can visit their website, https://www.scientology.org, to view very professionally done videos. Remember to listen and watch with "curiosity not judgement" as we seek to understand others

[This program should not be construed as an endorsement or disparagement of Scientology or this booklet. This session of Vital Conversations is an opportunity to learn first-hand about Scientology and to share our varied perspectives about it, with the opportunity to pose questions and seek clarifications. -Vern]
Releasing Conversation: 
     Share your name, and your Star (*) and your arrow (»).
     Look over these 21 items from The Way to Happiness and select the ONE you are personally very efficient in doing, good enough to coach others in doing.  Put a Star (*) by it.
     Look over list again and put an arrow (») pointing to the one you personally need to work on to be more effective as a human being.
     Are there any on the list you do not understand, disagree with, or would like to discuss further?  If so put a question mark (?) by it.

⦁    Take Care of Yourself.
⦁    Be Temperate.
⦁    Don’t be Promiscuous.
⦁    Love and Help Children.
⦁    Honor and Help Your Parents.
⦁    Set A Good Example.
⦁    Seek To Live With the Truth.
⦁    Do Not Murder.
⦁    Don’t Do Anything Illegal.
⦁    Support A Government Designed and Run For All the People.
⦁    Do Not Harm A Person Of Good Will.
⦁    Safeguard and Improve Your Environment.
⦁    Do Not Steal.
⦁    Be Worthy of Trust.
⦁    Fulfill Your Obligations.
⦁    Be Industrious.
⦁    Be Competent.
⦁    Respect the Religious Beliefs of Others.
⦁    Try Not to do Things to Others that you Would Not Like them to Do to You.
⦁    Try To Treat Others As You Would Want Them to Treat You.
⦁    Flourish and Prosper.

Q: Using this “research program chart,” describe the “new religion” of
     Scientology.  Which of the three families of faith would you say
     Scientology fits best?
Q. If you could put the message of Scientology in a sentence parallel to
     the Four Wisdom Treasures, what would that sentence be?
Q. Describe the worship, education, evangelization, outreach, service,
     and other practices of Scientology.
Q. Are there sacred texts in Scientology?
Q. Are their core theological doctrines in Scientology?
Q. Who is L. Ron Hubbard? Do you worship or honor him?
Q. Does Scientology continue to adapt scientific findings into their practice?

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2023 March 8 Wednesday 1-2:30 p.m.
in person at the library and on Zoom ID: 832 3534 6541

To Keep From Undressing by Aisha Sharif
     “From the intersection of Black culture and religion, to conversations with jinn, to motherhood, marriage and the meaning of hijab, Ms. Sharif beautifully melds private and public, interweaving bold and delicate themes into a one-of-kind tapestry of words and freeing truths.” --Nadirah Angail.
     Aisha Sharif shared an original poem at the last Tables of Faith gathering of the Greater Kansas City Interfaith Council and will be with us to share in our conversation. When I read her poems, I feel like I am eavesdropping into the personal journey of a sister I long to know better. We will meet two weeks before the beginning of Ramadan.

Aisha Sharif's website poetry:

Releasing Conversation:  Share your name and an opening line or sentence quote from a poem that says something about you.  It could be a lyric from a song, classic poetry, or personal poem.

Q.  Aisha, will you share the poem you wrote for and shared at The Greater Kansas City Interfaith Council Table of Faiths Dinner?

Quotes and Questions
My Islam be black.
My Islam be Sister Clara Muhammad School
My Islam be the only Muslim girl at a public high school
My Islam don’t hate Christians
My Islam be just as good as any Arab’s.
My Islam be universal
My Islam just has to be. (p. 11-13)
Q. Why have you chosen poetry to tell your story, share your religion, and connect with world in such a personal and inviting way?

“To My Muslim Father”
     Q.  Reading this poem, I felt grief and joy.  What were you feeling when you wrote it?  How do you feel about it now?

“If My Parents Hadn’t Converted: Questions & Answers” Parts 1-5
“A very special thank you to my family: to my parents, you stepped out and spoke the truth of your belief and taught me that I can do the same, and through you, I learned how to own my background and create a path reflective of that…to my extended family, thank you for showing me how faith and love blend beyond religious line!” (p 95)
     Q. You keep coming back to your parents’ conversion.  “How They Remained” tells us a great deal about them. Was there a time when you were not Muslim? 

     Q. Would you read "Security" out loud while we listen?  Listening to an “art form” is important because what we hear, and experience is important.  Before you tell us about the poem, participants can share their feelings, thoughts, questions from listening with our ears, hearts and minds.
     Q.  "Iddah: Part I and Part II" tells a story of a period for waiting after a divorce.  Why did you choose a line from this poem for the title of your book?

     Q.  "Hijab Be" (p 89) When I read your poem out loud it felt like rap.  Is that your intention?

“The jinn are spiritual beings made of smokeless fire, neither angels nor devils.  They have free will and can inhabit the earth in a physical form, acting as somewhat of a trickster for the purposes of good or evil.  Every human is said to have a jinn. The Prophet Muhammad was said to have made his jinn Muslim.” (p 94)
     Q.  Can you tell us more about a jinn?  Have you revealed your jinn in these poems and in this conversation?  Do other participants understand more about their jinn at this moment?

     Q. Do you have other books of your poetry? 

 Clif Hostetler's complete review on Goodreads.com

The author of this book of poetry identifies as Muslim, African American, and a woman. Thus, not only do I have very little in common with the author, I seldom read poetry and am not worthy to be writing a review of anything called poetry. By happy coincidence I happen to participate in a book group that met with the author, so I've been exposed to some additional commentary about the original writing of these poems.
The poems are mostly autobiographic in nature and divided into five segments that are roughly chronological in order. Issues of being black, muslim, and wearing a hijab are frequently addressed. The early poems address the author's experience of being identifiably different from her classmates. Also the fact that her parents were converts to the Muslim faith prior to the author's birth is repeatedly addressed. Each of the book's five sections contains a poem titled "If My Parents Hadn't Converted, Questions and Answers..."

Since most of the poems appear to be autobiographic, when I came to a poem toward the end of the book titled "Vanna White Reconsiders Her Pact with Her Jinn" I assumed that it must be a metaphor applicable to her own life in some way. The poem ends with the phrase, "I want to solve by own puzzle." I wondered if that meant she was rebelling against something in her life.

I asked the author to explain the Vanna poem during our group's meeting with her. She said the poem was simply a product of her interest in watching the TV show Wheel of Fortune. She imagined Vanna may have made a wish to her Jinn that she become a show business star, and subsequently it came true but not in the way she had hoped. Vanna's career ended up being one who obediently turned letters as requested by other people.

This collection of poems conveys truths and meaning beyond the finite collection of words. The insight into the author's life seems intimate and personal. I'm glad to have had an opportunity of read this book.

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April 12, 2023, Wednesday 1-2:30 p.m.
in person at the library and on Zoom ID: 832 3534 6541

Freshwater Road: A Novel by Denise Nicholas

     This book tells the story of one young woman’s coming-of-age in Mississippi during the Freedom Summer of 1964.
     Nineteen-year-old Celeste Tyree leaves Ann Arber to help register voters in Pineyville, a place best known for a notorious lynching that occurred a few years earlier.
     As the summer unfolds, Celeste confronts not only the political realities of race and poverty in this tiny town but also the deep truths about her family and herself.

 Clif Hostetler's review on Goodreads.com  -- click for embedded links 

Titles are subject to change.
May 10, 2023, A Political Reading of the Life of Jesus by George W. Baldwin ::  George Baldwin, who will be with us on May 10th, was a local pastor for twelve years and a seminary professor for fourteen years. He felt called to live in voluntary poverty and moved into a community in Kansas City.  From 1984 until 1996 he resided in Nicaragua and worked in both a religious and a political setting.  In this book he tells the story of Jesus and the Biblical theme of liberberation, as seen through the eyes of the poor.  He now lives here in the greater Kansas City area.

June 14, 2023, Out of The Pews and Into Politics: Francis Schaeffer and the Evangelical Takeover of the Republican Party by Charlie Broomfield   ::    Our friend Charles Broomfield, who will be with us, is a lifelong Missourian with 50 years of experience and involvement in politics, government, religion and business. He served in the Missouri House of Representatives for 8 years and came very close to being elected to the United States House of Representatives.  He has paid special attention and now published this book to explore the connections between religion and politics.  His friendship and partnership with Francis Schaeffer has assisted in Charlie’s deep conviction that “Right Wing Politics” is a threat to our democracy in the United States.

July 12, 2023, Next Year in Havana A Novel by Chanel Cleeton

August 9, 2023, Wired For Love: A Neuroscientist’s Journey Through Romance, Loss, and the Essence of Human Connection by Stephanie Cacioppo

September 13, 2023,  Fratelli Tutti: On Fraternity and Social Friendship by Pope Francis

October 11, 2023,

November 8, 2023, From Here to Eternity:  Traveling the World To Find the Good Death by Caitlin Doughty

December 13, 2023

Click here for 2024 Vital Conversations.

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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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