Category Archives: Church

Happy 1st Anniversary, Stepping Stones!

Stepping Stones ministry, 27 Oct 2019

Happy First Anniversary, Stepping Stones!

Stepping Stone Gathering:
Supporting & Celebrating Reentry & Recovery!

Worship and Celebrate with us: Sundays, 8:15-9:15 am
at Grace Baptist Church, 484 E. San Fernando Street, San Jose.

Led by the Rev. Peggy Bryan and Jackie Fanning.

ALL WELCOME! No Exceptions. Please Spread the Word!

This is a joint ministry of St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church (Saratoga) and Grace Baptist Church (San Jose).

Contact: The Rev. Dr. Liliana Da Valle, Senior Pastor of Grace, and the Rev. Peggy Bryan, Associate Rector of Saint Andrew’s.
More: Stepping Stone Gathering on Facebook.

Thanks to Crystal for her lovely song!

Letters of Congratulation

From the Right Rev. Mary Gray-Reeves, Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of El Camino Real

Dear Friends,

Happy anniversary as a worshiping community! I am thankful for each of you and for the courage you have to make the journey of recovery in the world. Community is a powerful force indeed. We are always better together! I encourage you to continue to gather, to pray, to give thanks to God for each day and for the opportunities that grace offers you.

There are always more gifts than we can see or know, always an abundance of love and power around us that can build us up and give glory to God. May you continue to find ways to serve others as you care for yourselves for “it is in giving that we receive”. Abundance will build upon itself as we trust this truth.

May you know God’s peace in your hearts and respect and love between you. By your presence you will attract others to join you, sharing the good news and power of the grace of Jesus to heal and to strengthen us to live for the glory of God!

Blessings,
Bishop Mary

From the Rev. Channing Smith, Rector of St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church

Dear Stepping Stones worship service at Grace,

Congratulations on your one-year anniversary and your remarkable success in establishing a truly Christian community where all are welcome and all can lead. Those who join you each Sunday know that they will find a place of belonging and share in a discussion of Jesus’ teachings about how to live your life. It is clear that you are a family and that extends beyond your time together on Sunday. You are there for each other in remarkable and generous
ways.

I also give thanks for The Rev. Peggy Bryan and many other lay leaders who have lived into God’s call to be a church without boundaries. Her energy, humor, creativity and commitment are clearly evident in vitality of your worship together. No doubt your have found the goodness of coming into the awareness of God’s love together and giving thanks.

I celebrate with you the blessing of this community and give God thanks for you and for the actions of God’s spirit among you. Please know that you are very much a part of our identity as a parish. In many ways, you remind all of our ministries that God is with us, and that we reflect God’s love as we welcome one another as fellow human beings on life’s journey together.

May God continue to bless you personally and as a worship service. May you always thrive! I look forward to watching you continue to do this incredible ministry of Jesus together.

God’s peace, love, and blessing,

The Rev. Channing Smith

Stepping Stones ministry, 27 Oct 2019
Stepping Stones ministry, 27 Oct 2019
Stepping Stones ministry, 27 Oct 2019


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Images Copyright 2019 by Katy Dickinson. Thanks to Mary Ann Gee for the group picture!

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How Not to Get a Grant

International coins, picture by Katy Dickinson, October 2019

There is much good advice on how to get a grant. This is about how not to.

For the last nine years I have been on the Opportunity Fund Committee for St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church (Saratoga, California). Jerrie Thurman and I are Co-Chairs of the Committee. It is exciting to see how much good work can be done with relatively small grants. Our committee has reviewed hundreds of inspiring grant applications. St. Andrew’s Vestry has generously approved grants of up to $5,000/year to support many of them.

What you need to know about the group who will read your application:

  • We want to give away this money. We are on your side!
  • We are called to fund only highly qualified programs that make the best use of their resources.
  • Committee members are busy volunteers.
  • It is far easier to disqualify an application than it is to approve and fund it.

How not to get funded:

  • Ignore the grant guidelines. If the guidelines say that the grant giver does not fund staff expenses or rent or political programs, go ahead and ask to fund those because you are special. If the guidelines say that the grant giver prefers to fund programs for at-risk youth, economically challenged adults, and seniors, submit an application to fund a fancy conference table so that your board room looks its best.
  • Submit your application late. Insist that the grant giver fund you anyway.
  • Do not answer questions on the application. Assume the grant giver will chase you down to fill in the blanks.
  • Cut and paste in large amounts of irrelevant text so that application reviewers have to hunt for answers to questions.
  • Call the leader of the funding organization and exert pressure to get your application funded even though it is not qualified.
  • Instead of sending in a document in .PDF or .DOC format, submit photos of your application form that are so dark they cannot be read.
  • Hand write your application illegibly. Write in pencil, then partially erase what you have written.
  • Spell badly.
  • Make sure your financial statements and funding request do not add up.
  • Submit an IRS non-profit letter for a different organization than the one applying for the grant. Offer no clarification of how the two are related.
  • Do not reply when the grant giver asks you a follow up question.
  • Send your application to the wrong email.
  • Be sure you have no website or one that is confusing and out of date. All web links in your application should be broken.

Go and do not do likewise.

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Image Copyright 2019 by Katy Dickinson.

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Honoring the Reverend David Robinson, Jail Chaplain

David Robinson Cross of Light Vacaville 1978 photo

On 12 October 2019, the Correctional Institutions Chaplaincy and its large volunteer community honored the Rev. David Robinson who recently retired as CIC Executive Director. The program for the event was titled “Jail Break – Freedom on the Inside.” Dave is a remarkable and inspiring leader who has served in jails and prisons for over forty years, 34 of them working for CIC. Dave was also honored as a Community Hero in 2016 by the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors with the Commendation pictured here. Dave’s successor as CIC Executive Director is the Rev. Liz Milner who gave one of the tributes, gently teasing him about the mascot rat skeleton in his office (now named “Dave Junior”), and celebrating Dave who:

  • Talked in depth with over 32,000 inmates
  • Put on over 5,000 worship services in Elmwood men’s chapel
  • Provided services to over 100,000 inmates
  • Screened and delivered over 1,700 notices of death of a loved one to inmates
  • Had over 108,000 staples removed from Daily Breads so that chaplains could give them out

Eloquent tributes to Dave were given by Christian, Buddhist, and Muslim chaplains, men and women for whom he has long been a mentor and role model. Some read letters from incarcerated men who wanted to pay tribute to their pastor.

At the party, Dave made available a photo he calls “The Cross of Light.” He wrote: “I took this picture in 1978 at the Correctional Medical Facility in Vacaville during my chaplain internship. Given all the security restrictions of a maximum security psychiatric prison, it was a complicated process… The symbol of a cross of light in this hell hole has been a constant reminder and challenge of God’s Powerful presence in the places of greatest need.”

I met Dave in 2015 when I was first trained as a volunteer jail chaplain. I am grateful that he took a chance on me and my vision for a weekly college-level faith-based inmate study program. I will always remember what I thought was a preliminary phone call during which I explained my idea to him. It ended with Dave saying, “Are Wednesday nights good for you?” I have been going into Elmwood jail almost every Wednesday night since that call. I have gone into jail as a mentor, teacher, and chaplain volunteer about 350 times to present the Education for Ministry, and Transforming Literature of the Bible programs with my Co-Mentors in two dorms. This ministry continues to be one of the most positive, profound, and powerful experiences of my life.

Thank you, Dave, for your service and love where it is most needed.

David Robinson Jail Break Chaplain retirement 12 Oct 2019
David Robinson Jail Break Chaplain retirement 12 Oct 2019
David Robinson Jail Break Chaplain retirement 12 Oct 2019
David Robinson Jail Break Chaplain retirement 12 Oct 2019
David Robinson Jail Break Chaplain retirement 12 Oct 2019
David Robinson Jail Break Chaplain retirement 12 Oct 20192019 CIC Leadership
David Robinson CIC Santa Clara Board of Supervisors Award 8 Dec 20152016 Commendation
David Robinson CIC Santa Clara Board of Supervisors Award 8 Dec 20152016 Commendation
Visit the Prisoner banner Grace Baptist Church San Jose CA April 2015

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Images Copyright 2015- 2019 by Katy Dickinson, except for “The Cross of Light” – Image Copyright 1978 by David Robinson.

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Mentor Accreditation, EfM, GTU


My second year of classes at at the Graduate Theological Union (GTU) in Berkeley starts early next month. Before that, I need to finish registering six students for the Education for Ministry (EfM) seminar for which I am a Mentor on Mondays, September-June annually, hosted at St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church. I have been an Accredited Mentor for EfM since 2011, with about fifty students having taken the course with me. Accreditation is by University of the South – School of Theology, which sponsors the EfM extension program from Sewanee, Tennessee.

Education for Ministry (EfM) is a unique four-year distance learning certificate program in theological education based upon small-group study and practice. Since its founding in 1975, this international program has assisted more than 100,000 participants in discovering and nurturing their call to Christian service. EfM helps the faithful encounter the breadth and depth of the Christian tradition and bring it into conversation with their experiences of the world as they study, worship, and engage in theological reflection together. – From Education for Ministry (EfM)

A requirement of being an EfM Mentor is re-accreditation every 12 to 18 months. As the EfM Coordinator for the Episcopal Diocese of El Camino Real since 2015, I am responsible for arranging mentor training, including my own. This month, six of us participated in the training, with an EfM Mentor Trainer coming from Boston and mentors from churches all over Central California: Los Osos, Salinas, Saratoga, Cupertino, and Mountain View. The Diocese hosts our training weekend at Sargent House, its elegant and historic headquarters in Salinas.

In addition to the Monday night EfM classes, I am also a Mentor for faith-based classes on Wednesday and Friday nights in two men’s dorms at Elmwood Jail. I used to present the EfM program at Elmwood but EfM’s nine-month cycle did not work well for the inmates, so in 2018 we shifted to the Transforming Literature of the Bible (TLB) materials that I revised to fit the jail setting. TLB can be offered in two three-month terms. My Co-Mentors are Karen LeBlanc, Joel Martinez, and Diane Lovelace, with my husband John Plocher as our backup.

Today, I registered at GTU. I was glad to sign up for classes that do not conflict with my own teaching / mentoring schedule. I am very much looking forward to taking:

  • Christian Theology & Natural Science
  • Archaeology of the Lands of the Bible
  • Research Methods

I forgot to take group pictures at this year’s EfM Mentor training, so these are of the 2018 mentor cohort.

Diocese El Camino Real Sargent House Salinas CA August 2018

EfM Mentor Training Salinas August 2018

Pictures Copyright 2018 by Katy Dickinson

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Honoring Gandhi

A reflection paper on Gandhi from my Pacific School of Religion “Transformative Leadership” class with the Rev. Dr. Dorsey Blake:

Paper

My fourth reflection paper is on the 1982 movie Gandhi, also considering parts of Gandhi’s 1927 Autobiography: The Story of My Experiments with Truth. I saw the movie when it was released but this is the first time I have watched it since I made two trips to create mentoring programs in Bangalore (now Bengaluru), India. I have the deepest respect for Gandhi and his remarkable accomplishments. Watching the movie again and reading his writing have only increased my appreciation for this great and humble man. It would be hard to overstate my admiration for Gandhi as a role model for generosity of soul, vision, non-violent change, organization and communication.

I have in my mind’s eye three bronze statues of Gandhi, one in Gandhi Square, Johannesburg, South Africa, another in Washington D.C. near Dupont Circle, and the third at the Museum of Memory and Tolerance, in Mexico City. For me, these heroic artworks represent the beginning and end of his story and illustrate parts of the movie. The statue in Johannesburg shows Gandhi in a legal gown over his suit, as he would have appeared as a young lawyer. He is reading a book, looking forward, and stands on a high plinth in a large public square. When I saw the statue in 2015, several men were lounging comfortably on the plinth base. The statue represents the young Gandhi at the beginning of the movie, a man who is making his professional way in Johannesburg, working inside the British system. The statue in Washington D.C. in front of the Embassy of India is very different. Over life size, the bronze shows Gandhi as an older man, striding along wearing very little and using a long staff. The red stone base says, “My Life is My Message.” This represents the Gandhi who walked modestly among his people, getting his social justice and political work done by force of personality. I make a small pilgrimage to Gandhi’s statue every time I go to Washington D.C. It feels like visiting an old friend. The final Gandhi statue is a bust in a line in front of the museum along with busts of Nelson Mandela, Mother Teresa, and the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King. Four more larger than life statues of these great leaders make up the final exhibit of the museum, representing heroism and hope. Our Pacific School of Religion – Mexico immersion class visited the Museum of Memory and Tolerance in January 2019. Gandhi is represented among those who inspire the whole world to change for the better.

In the “Face to Face with Ahimsa” section of Gandhi’s autobiography, I was inspired by how much love was a part of his effectiveness as a catalyst for social change. Gandhi writes, “The people had for the moment lost all fear of punishment and yielded obedience to the power of love which their new friend exercised.” Gandhi uses the word ahimsa, meaning respect for living things and avoidance of violence, to describe how he interacted with the people of Champaran, in India at the foot of the Himalayas. He writes, “It is no exaggeration, but the literal truth to say that in this meeting with the peasants, I was face to face with God, Ahimsa and Truth. When I come to examine my title to this  realization, I find nothing but my love for the people.” The emotional connection between Gandhi and the people of India was profound. His leadership of the movement for Indian independence against British colonial rule was so effective not only because he was a great strategist, organizer, and communicator but also because he lead from love. I too have found that my best ideas and most effective communications come when I lead from my heart.

Gandhi is so important and beloved in India that he is sometimes referred to by just his initials. In the several weeks I stayed in Bangalore, India, in 2004 and 2007, I learned that M.G. meant Mahatma Gandhi. For example, I attended church at St. Mark’s Cathedral, which has the address 1 M.G. Road. 10 It took me a while to understand that the Bangalore hotel clerk was not saying “emmgee” but rather “M.G.” when giving directions to the cathedral for Sunday services. Gandhi is entirely deserving of this deep affection and respect by his nation, by the world, and by me.

References and Bibliography

  1. Gandhi, directed by Richard Attenborough, featuring Ben Kingsley (Columbia Pictures, 1982).
  2. Mohandas K. Gandhi, Autobiography: The Story of My Experiments with Truth, trans. Mahadev Desai (New York: Dover Publications, 1983).
  3.  “Mahatma Gandhi Memorial (Washington, D.C.),” Wikipedia, last modified 2 April 2017, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mahatma_Gandhi_Memorial_(Washington,_D.C.).
  4.  “Statue of Mahatma Gandhi, Johannesburg,” Wikipedia, last modified 19 August 2017, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Statue_of_Mahatma_Gandhi,_Johannesburg.
  5.  “Memory and Tolerance Museum (Museo Memoria y Tolerancia),” CDMX – Ciudad de Mexico, accessed 11 March 2019, http://cdmxtravel.com/en/attractions/memory-and-tolerance-museum-museo-memoria-y-tolerancia.html.
  6. TechWomen Tour Johannesburg,” Katysblog (blog), 25 January 2015, https://katysblog.wordpress.com/2015/01/25/techwomen-tour-johannesburg/.
  7. Communities of Liberation, Cuernavaca Mexico (5),” Katysblog (blog), 30 January 2019, https://katysblog.wordpress.com/2019/01/30/communities-of-liberation-cuernavaca-mexico-5/.
  8. St. Mark’s Cathedral, Bangalore,” St. Mark’s Cathedral, Bangalore, last modified 2017, http://saintmarks.in.

Photos Copyright 2015-2019 by Katy Dickinson

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Communities of Liberation, Cuernavaca Mexico (6)

This is the sixth and last in a short series about my two week Spanish language and social justice immersion program in Cuernavaca, Mexico, with Pacific School of Religion‘s Center for LGBTQ and Gender Studies in Religion (CLGS) and CILAC Freire.

Indigenous people: Presentations at the Cilac Freire school spoke about a a variety of social justice issues, with regular focus on the indigenous peoples of Mexico. The afternoon charla topics during the second week included “Mujeres y Religión,” “Situación Política de México,” and “Las CEB’s desde la Experiencia Laica.” There was also a talk on “Historia del Movimiento LGTBQ y Feminismo” but I felt ill that day and regretfully missed it. Several of the talks also discussed the indigenous Zapatistas of the southern state of Chiapas who since 1994 have fought against the Mexican state. There were a number of images of ski-masked figures in the school – a trademark of the Zapatistas who cover their faces to hide their identities. When I first saw the images, I wrongly thought they were wearing a kind of Muslim niqāb, covering their faces for religious reasons.


Zapatista posters – wearing masks

 
Indigenous political posters 2018

In one of the talks, I asked the speaker (who self-identified as Mestizo) what it meant to be indigenous. That is, was it a matter of biology or of customs and traditions (or something else)? She replied that it was biological and that even if an indigenous person moved off traditional lands into the city and married someone who was not indigenous, their children would still be indigenous. It felt like each person who spoke was proud of the indigenous people of Mexico and the fight to retain their traditions and land. In the recent election for the Mexican President, the independent indigenous candidate Marichuy (María de Jesús Patricio Martínez) from the National Indigenous Congress was widely respected even though she did not have enough signatures to be on the official ballot.

Before our excellent Spanish lessons and interesting talks or tours each day, our group from Berkeley, California, started the morning with reflection and prayer.  We also had some free afternoons to go shopping and walk around the city of Cuernavaca. All in all, it was an inspiring experience and I would like to return to CILAC Freire to continue improving my Spanish and learning more about social justice in Mexico.

Communities of Liberation Blog Series: The posts in this series are-

  1. Communities of Liberation, Cuernavaca Mexico (1): About Blogging, Course Description, Celebrating 3 Kings, local homes, Cuernavaca, Museo de Arte Sacro, Tonantzin
  2. Communities of Liberation, Cuernavaca Mexico (2): Immigration, Base Communities, Mexico and Morocco
  3. Communities of Liberation, Cuernavaca Mexico (3): Customs and traditions, Virgin of Guadalupe, San Charbel Makhlouf of Lebanon, Iglesia del Río de la Plata and the LGBTQ community
  4. Communities of Liberation, Cuernavaca Mexico (4): Don Sergio Méndez Arceo, Museo Morelense de Arte Contemporaneo Juan Soriano, Coco, the Day of the Dead
  5. Communities of Liberation, Cuernavaca Mexico (5): Museo de Arte Prehispánico Colección Carlos Pellicer, Yolcatl: La representación animal en el Morelos Prehispánico, Museum of Memory and Tolerance (Museo Memoria y Tolerancia), Hate Speech, Rwandan genocide, Diego Rivera murals
  6. Communities of Liberation, Cuernavaca Mexico (6): Indigenous people, Zapatistas, Marichuy and 2018 elections

 
Cilac Freire classroom talks and Spanish lessons

 

Shopping in Cuernavaca and Tepotzotlán

 
Cilac Freire closing party with cake biting and music

 
Cilac Freire graduation!


Heading home to California

Blog post updated 5 Feb 2019

Photos Copyright 2019 by Katy Dickinson

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Communities of Liberation, Cuernavaca Mexico (5)

This is the fifth in a short series about my two week Spanish language and social justice immersion program in Cuernavaca, Mexico, with Pacific School of Religion‘s Center for LGBTQ and Gender Studies in Religion (CLGS) and CILAC Freire.

Our group visited a variety of museums in Cuernavaca, Tepotzotlán, and Mexico City (Ciudad de México). Although I have been to Mexico many times for both business and leisure, I never before visited any of these remarkable cities. There are a number of excellent collections of prehispanic artifacts, two of which we visited: the Museo de Arte Prehispánico Colección Carlos Pellicer in Tepoztlán, and the Yolcatl: La representación animal en el Morelos Prehispánico in Cuernavaca. We did not have time to see the large and famous National Museum of Anthropology (although I have seen some of its collection in other museums), so I plan to return to Mexico City to see that. (Another treasure of Ciudad de México I missed seeing is the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe.) However, I was very happy at last to see the world famous Diego Rivera murals on the history of Mexico at the Palacio Nacional.

Museum of Memory and Tolerance: The most disturbing museum we visited was the Museum of Memory and Tolerance (Museo Memoria y Tolerancia), Mexico City. It presents a wide variety of information about genocide, racism, LGBT bigotry, and other forms of intolerance, including extensive galleries about the Holocaust, the Rwandan Genocide and other crimes against humanity. I grew up in a Jewish community in San Francisco that lost most of its senior members to the Holocaust, and I later worked with Holocaust survivors on a kibbutz in Israel, so touring these exhibits was painful.  In 2014, I visited the Kigali Genocide Memorial with the TechWomen Delegation, which I wrote about in “Touring Kigali,” “Swords to Ploughshares, Rwanda” and other blog posts. The Kigali Genocide Memorial also offers exhibits on the topic of genocide around the world.

One of the most upsetting exhibits in the Museum of Memory and Tolerance was on Hate Speech (Discursos de Odio), featuring a wall-size display on President Trump speaking vitriol about Mexico. I felt nauseous and embarrassed at how America is seen now, and I wished that there were some way to say how deeply many Americans disagree with our President. The museum’s ending exhibits about more positive topics like Tolerance and Diversity seemed weaker and less effective than the horrors presented in the upper floors. The final room honors four great leaders with heroic statues and video biographies: Nelson Mandela, Mother Teresa, Gandhi, Rev. Martin Luther King, ending on a message of hope. There are busts of these four outside the museum as well.

 
Nursing mother and dog vessel, ceramic artifacts in Museo de Arte Prehispánico Colección Carlos PellicerTepotzotlán, 2019

 
Iguana and starfish, ceramic artifacts in the Yolcatl: La representación animal en el Morelos Prehispánico, Cuernavaca, 2019

 
Artifacts from the Holocaust: measurement tools to determine race, in the Museum of Memory and Tolerance, Mexico City, 2019

 
Artifacts from the Holocaust: boxcar used to transport prisoners to concentration camps in Poland, and Walther P38 German pistol used by the Wehrmacht, in the Museum of Memory and Tolerance, Mexico City, 2019

 
Exhibits on the Rwandan Genocide, in the Museum of Memory and Tolerance, Mexico City, 2019

 
Never Again: flowers for a mass grave – honoring the dead on the 20th anniversary of the Rwandan Genocide, Kigali, Rwanda, 2014

 
Machete, mass gravesite from the Rwandan Genocide, Rwanda, 2014


Lost Potential – In Memory of the Children Lost in the Genocides (El Potencial Perdido – En memoria de los niños perdidos en los genocidios), in the Museum of Memory and Tolerance, Mexico City, 2019

 
Racism and LGBT Bigotry, and Tolerance, in the Museum of Memory and Tolerance, Mexico City, 2019

 
Hate Speech (Discursos de Odio) with a film of President Trump, big statues of Nelson Mandela, Mother Teresa, Gandhi, Rev. Martin Luther King, in the Museum of Memory and Tolerance, Mexico City, 2019


Busts of Nelson Mandela, Mother Teresa, Gandhi, Rev. Martin Luther King, in front of the Museum of Memory and Tolerance, Mexico City, 2019

 
Diego Rivera murals, Cilac Freire group at the Palacio Nacional, Ciudad de Mexico, 2019

 
Diego Rivera murals, Palacio Nacional, Ciudad de Mexico, 2019

Blog post updated 5 Feb 2019

Photos Copyright 2014-2019 by Katy Dickinson

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