Fundraising, the Beatitudes, and holy ground

On Friday April 28, I attended the annual "community heroes" lunch by Peninsula Interfaith Action (PIA), a local affiliate of the PICO faith-based organizing network.

PIA honored Rev. Frances Hall Kieschnick, better known as Frannie, and her husband, Michael Kieschnick, the co-founder of Working Assets.

Frannie was ordained an Episcopal priest in 1983. She worked for a time at All Saints, Pasadena, which was recently in the news because the IRS was challenging their tax-exempt status. As part of her ministry she has always participated in community organizing, organized service learning projects, or worked on housing and homelessness issues. In his introduction of his sister, Brad Hall (apparently a TV personality who used to be on Sat Night Live) said that in all her church work, she did social justice work through one-on-one spiritual work and vice versa.

In accepting the award, Frannie said, in paraphrase, "It's good to be here today. This [interfaith community organizing] is Kingdom work. Subversive work. It's good that we are here today to celebrate and eat together." She lifted up the "balcony people" who cheer on the people in the center (I couldn't help but grin and think of AJ).

She quoted her mentor, the recently-late William Sloane Coffin of Yale, who resisted his doctor's diagnosis that he was dying. Then near the very end of his life, he went to a large gathering in his honor. When he saw all the people there, he said, "I now know I really am dying. And I'm already in heaven!"

She spoke about a recent trip that PIA had sponsored to their sibling organizing group in New Orleans. She quoted Coffin again, who said at his own son's memorial service, "God didn't want my son to die or make it happen. God is the first whose heart breaks when someone dies." Similarly, she said, God didn't want New Orleans and the Gulf Coast to be destroyed; God's heart was the first to break when they were devastated. "Your heart will be among the first to break, too -- if you have PIA training!"

She wrapped up by quoting Micah 6:8: "And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God." The room was quiet, then burst into a standing ovation.

It was then her husband's turn to speak. He began by saying, "I'm the luckiest man in the world. Except in order of speaking today!"

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It was an emotional event, after that. The County Supervisor who was introducing the State Assembly Member who was getting a public servant award teared up when she said, "His most important role, beyond anything material or political, is grandpa to his three wonderful grandchildren."

And the closing blessing by Rabbi Janet Marder from Congregation Beth-Am -- with a truly new and inspired reading of God telling Moses to take his sandals off, this was holy ground -- is worth its own post.

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Finally, Rev. Frannie Hall Kieschnick is currently working as executive director of The Beatitudes Society, which works "to identify and support Christian leaders beginning in seminary and graduate school as they seek to put into practice the prophetic teachings of Jesus, as exemplified in the Beatitudes and Sermon on the Mount."

I would love there to be a way for Quakers to be involved with this group's work. Yet for us unprogrammed Friends, there aren't very many of us in seminary or in related graduate study, and then it's more often for chaplaincy purposes than pastoral work with our own congregations. I'd like to get in touch with her about this work, but I am pondering whether to just send a "fan letter" of sorts, or actually seek to have a dialogue with her about ways unprogrammed Quakers could engage in this work of spiritual formation, too.


On fire and spice

Last night I co-led a workshop on the Quaker value of equality at San Francisco Friends School. This is part of a series of workshops using the SPICES acronym: the Quaker testimonies or values of Simplicity, Peace, Integrity, Community, Equality, and Stewardship. (See posts by Liz Opp and me for past blogger thoughts on the SPICE(S) framework.)

This is the third year that John, Patty & I have done the workshops for the parents. In the first two years we did just SPICE. We're adding the second-S of SPICES with a Stewardship workshop this year for the first time, in May. It's generating a lot of interest among other parents who are helping us organize it, which is great.

We were going to call it Sustainability. But then in a committee meeting, a teacher said, "In Faith and Practice it talks about stewardship, not sustainability." Keep in mind that most (all?) of the teachers there are not members of the Society of Friends. However, this teacher has begun attending meeting for worship at San Francisco Meeting frequently in the past year or so. In addition he has meeting for worship in the classroom once a week and with the whole school community once a month. He also did a wonderful job in our Peace workshop as the teacher presenter.

And here he is quoting Faith and Practice to the rest of the folks on the committee!

"Yes, he's on fire!" Patty said.

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Thinking about that teacher, I wanted to lift up just one sentence that spoke to my condition in Doug Gwyn's Seekers Found: Atonement in Early Quaker Experience. This is from page 290 in a section about Isaac Penington:

The Quaker movement was about power -- not human power, but divine power coursing through surrendered human minds and bodies.

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How about you? Have you experienced surrender like that? How did it feel? Was it like fire? Was it like a hot chili, stinging and hot followed by sweat and bliss? Was it like rushing water? Was it a small voice whispering, or the sound of silence after a storm? Was it a still, deep pond? Was it like being fully present at the feet of the Teacher?


The Berlin Wall and the Shame of Self Promotion

I've been blessed in my work life with some decent media coverage recently. I gave a television reporter from a station called KRON a tour of several new transit-oriented developments (TODs) in San Mateo County, in preparation for a TOD tour we're giving in May as part of Affordable Housing Week. The piece even featured an image of my hands on the steering wheel of my car as I drove us around.

Anyway, that's the shameful self-promotion.

Appearing on television was a little strange for me, because I don't own a TV. It is a little weird to access images of oneself on TV through the web. (Unfortunately for my self-promotion purposes, the clip on KRON is no longer on their website.)

So, being on TV reminded me of a thought experiment I came up with a while back: First, consider the state of our nation today. In the United States, many people and entire systems of production and consumption are enthralled by a Domination System, as Walter Wink calls it, that values immediate self-interested gain over the well-being of our fellow humans, creatures, and creation.

What would it take to turn the Domination System back to Gospel Order? To the inbreaking Kingdom or Kindom of God?

These are very big questions, and involve a lifetime's work, not something I can blithely prescribe in the course of a blog post.

Consider instead, the state of Eastern Europe in the late 1980s. What was the symbol of the old system that was crumbling as people stopped believing in and cooperating with it? The Berlin Wall, of course. Nothing symbolized the shattering of the old totalitarian regimes more than the destruction of the wall by the people of Berlin.

Here's the crux of the thought experiment: What is the Berlin Wall of OUR society?

What is the symbol that helps hold us back -- collectively as a society -- from seeing the truth about ourselves as a society? To me, the answer is television. Of course, it's more than a symbol, it's a way of transmitting messages straight into our brains. But there's something about the very TV-ness of American culture that seems important to me.

I could go on, but would be interested in others' thoughts before I say more.

Recent readings

Some of what I've read so far in 2006:

> The Powers That Be, by Walter Wink: The booklength summary version of his groundbreaking trilogy on the Domination System, known as "The Powers." I hope to blog about this.
> Seekers Found: Atonement in Early Quaker Experience, by Douglas Gwyn. Excellent survey of the Seeker milieu out of which Quakers arose. I typed up a bunch of passages and hope to post them.
> Amazing Grace: A Lexicon of Faith, by Kathleen Norris: I've been listening to this in the car; it's wonderful. It's just soooo inspiring.
> The Jesus Mysteries: Was the original Jesus a pagan god? by Timothy Freke and Peter Gandy
> A Bible atlas, probably by Reader's Digest (from the library)
> The Trial of Socrates by I. F. Stone
> Race Manners: Navigating the Minefield between Black and White Americas, by Bruce Jacobs
> Robert Griswold, Creeds and Quakers: What's Belief Got to Do with It? (Pendle Hill Pamphlet 377)
> Bury the Chains, Adam Hochschild: Highly recommended book about the British abolitionist movement. Many Friends were involved.

Borrowed from library, didn't read:
> The Myth of Jesus, Andrew Greeley
> Christian Yoga by a French Benedictine


Interview with a Mennonite Entrepreneur

The San Francisco Chronicle's website, www.sfgate.com, today in the "Finding My Religion" column has a fascinating interview with Shawn Riegsecker, a tech company CEO who was raised as a Mennonite: "In the high-flying world of Internet entrepreneurs, Shawn Riegsecker is an unlikely success story. Born into a strict Mennonite family in a small Ohio farming town, Riegsecker was taught to view technology cautiously."

One highlight:

Q: You've incorporated those same values into your company manifesto, which you give to all new employees and business partners. What was the idea behind that?

A: I think one of the biggest mistakes we ever made as a country was that we took religion out of the schools and didn't replace it with any values and principles. I think the same thing has happened in corporate America. You can't bring up religion inside of a corporate setting, and in staying so far away from it we fail to inject any sense of principle -- right types of living -- into our work.

I've taken the principles that my upbringing and religion taught me and put them into a structured document.

Full post here.