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.


Anonymous said...

Perhaps I shouldn't be advocating Quaker or emerging church, but rather balcony church, eh? :) Great to hear about how the Spirit's moving with you.

AnnMarie Kneebone said...

I found your blog because I googled Frannie. This past summer I went to the Gulf Coast with the Beatitudes Society. Frannie went as well. She is truly wonderful. If you haven't gotten in touch with her (I realize that this is an old post) I encourage you to do so. Anne Howard is Exec Dir right now. I bet both of them would be interested in figuring out how to get Quakers involved.
AnnMarie Kneebone

Chris M. said...

Hi AnnMarie,

Thanks for commenting, even on an old post. It's surprising how often people read my blog because they googled Frannie, actually!

She and I did try to get together lunch, but other issues came up and we never rescheduled. Alas.

Regarding Quakers, I recommend Beatitudes talk to students about starting a chapter at Earlham School of Religion in Earlham, Ind., and George Fox University in Newberg, Ore.

-- Chris M.