Category Archives: Church

Interfaith Panel on Religion and Environment

Today, the Islamic Networks Group (ING) presented an interfaith panel discussion on Religion and the Environment at St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church, in Saratoga, California (the Silicon Valley).  I was honored to be the panelist representing Christianity, joined by other certified interfaith speakers who are Buddhist, Hindu, Jewish, and Muslim.  Some of the questions we answered, in addition to those from the audience:

  • What texts or traditions in your religion speak to the relationship of humanity to the natural world and the importance of caring for the environment?
  • Stewardship can be interpreted as living in harmony with the earth: careful and responsible management of shared resources; or dominance and making the most out of an owned resource. How does your faith tradition interpret stewardship of the earth? Does your religion have a formal position on this?
  • What personal or community practices have you observed in your faith group with regard to these teachings?
  • How do adherents of your faith consider climate change? Do people in your religious tradition feel a responsibility to respond to climate change? What have you observed in this area in your faith community?
  • St. Andrew’s holds an annual Faith and Innovation Conference. Technology and innovation have had both positive and negative effects on the environment, for example: reducing transport emissions on the one side, and on the other side using developing countries as a dumping ground for e-waste. Does your religious tradition have a point of view on this? What have you observed in this area?
  • How can religious traditions and groups work together for the good of the planet?

Each of us researched and brought notes to the panel.  Part of what I said was about Christianity and Environmentalism in the Protestant, Catholic, and Orthodox branches, and part about the ongoing tension between Stewardship and Dominion. My materials included:

  • From St. Andrew’s Prayers of the People
    • (2 Sep 2018) “Creative God, we pray for the earth. Keep watch over those who rescue endangered species and repair scorched landscapes. Make us good stewards of creation.”
    • (16 Sep 2018) “Creative God, quarks and galaxies bear witness to your imagination.  Inspire scientists, naturalists, and conservationists who work to conserve precious natural resources. Grant us the wisdom to be good keepers of the earth.”
  • From 1982 Episcopal Hymnal – 14,161 hymns include “earth” – 5,274 include “sky” – and 5,254 include “stars”
    • “For the beauty of the earth” – “For the beauty of the earth, for the glory of the skies, for the love which from our birth over and around us lies. Christ, our Lord, to you we raise this, our hymn of grateful praise…”
    • “The Holy Trinity” Verse 4 – “Holy! holy! holy! Lord God Almighty! All thy works shall praise thy Name, in earth and sky, and sea…”
    • “Earth and all stars” – “Earth and all stars, Loud rushing planets, Sing to the Lord a new song! Hail, wind, and rain, Loud blowing snow storm, Sing to the Lord a new song! God has done marvelous things. I too sing praises with a new song!”
  • Book of Common Prayer: Prayers and Thanksgivings, Prayers for the Natural Order pp.827-828
    • 40. For Knowledge of God’s Creation
    • 41. For the Conservation of Natural Resources
    • 42. For the Harvest of Lands and Waters
    • 43. For Rain
    • 44. For the Future of the Human Race
  • “Steward” in the Bible, 20 mentions in NSRV. The steward’s job: Manager of house and lands and workers – Master of the Household (Isaiah 22:15)
    • “Moreover, it is required of stewards that they be found trustworthy.” 1 Corinthians 4:2
    • “For a bishop, as God’s steward, must be blameless; he must not be arrogant or quick-tempered or addicted to wine or violent or greedy for gain” Titus 1:7
  • “Dominion” in the Bible, 50 mentions in NSRV – Ruler, owner, in control over
    • “Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the wild animals of the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.”” Genesis 1:26
    • “God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth.” Genesis 1:28
    • “Bless the Lord, all his works, in all places of his dominion. Bless the Lord, O my soul.” Psalm 103:22
    • “We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him.” Romans 6:9

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Photos Copyright 2018 by John Plocher

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Collect from Jail

I am getting ready to go to my Education for Ministry (EfM) seminar at Elmwood Jail in Milpitas tonight. Before driving from San Jose to Milpitas after dinner, I make printouts of the varied information the guys requested during the last class. Today, I am bringing in:

Each term, the students write at least one Collect together at the end of a theological reflection. A collect is a prayer meant to gather the intentions of the people and the focus of worship into a succinct prayer.  Their group prayer last week was:

Dear God: holy, righteous, omnipresent, all-knowing, superstar, elusive, father of lights, love…

You are: so cool, great, ever-powerful, gracious, miraculous, creative…

We pray that you: forgive us for our sins, bless us, reconcile us with those we have hurt, make us more humble in spirit, make us happy, will illuminate our hearts and minds…

So that we: can forgive ourselves, live what we confess with our mouths, can live our lives in a state of grace, can be your hands and feet in the world.

Amen.

I have from time to time posted other collects written by earlier Elmwood classes.

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Photos Copyright 2018 by Katy Dickinson

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Starting Master of Arts in Social Transformation, Finished Revising TLB

Today is my first day of orientation at Pacific School of Religion (PSR) in Berkeley for the Master of Arts in Social Transformation degree.

Yesterday, I finished editing and revising the final document for the “Transforming Literature of the Bible” (TLB) program. I have been working on TLB since May 2018 and have finished two books, 36 sessions, 604 pages total.

This has been a busy few days but I wanted to finish TLB before starting studies at PSR.  Literary selections are included in TLB to provide a diverse context in which to understand some of the major themes in the Bible passages under consideration.  In addition to readings in the Old Testament (Hebrew Bible), the students of Book One also read:

  1. “The Welcome Table” story by Alice Walker (1973)
  2. “A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings” story by Gabriel Garcia Marquez (1955)
  3. “My Grandmother Washes Her Feet in the Sink of the Bathroom at Sears” poem by Mohja Kahf (2003)
  4. “The Son from America” story by Isaac Bashevis Singer (1973)
  5. “The Big Red Apples” story by Zitkála-Šá  aka Red Bird (1900)
  6. “My Last Duchess” poem by Robert Browning (1842)
  7. “I Have a Dream” speech by the Rev. Martin Luther King (1963)
  8. O Pioneers! excerpt by Willa Cather (1913)
  9. “The Family of Little Feet” story by Sandra Cisneros (1984)
  10. The Gangster We Are All Looking For excerpt by Lê Thị Diễm Thúy (2003)

In Book Two, in addition to New Testament readings, the literary selections are:

  1. “At the Arraignment” poem by Debra Spencer (2004)
  2. “A Private Experience” story excerpt by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (2009)
  3. “Sonnet XXVII” by William Shakespeare (1609)
  4. “Under the Poplars” poem by César Vallejo (1919)
  5. “The Grand Inquisitor” excerpt from The Brothers Karamazov, by Feodor Dostoevsky (1879-1880)
  6. Farewell to Manzanar excerpt by Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston & James D. Houston (1973)
  7. “XVI” poem by Emily Dickinson (circa 1890)
  8. “Limits” poem by Jorge Luis Borges (circa 1961)
  9. “A Discreet Miracle” excerpt by Isabel Allende, from The Stories of Eva Luna (1989)
  10. “The Fullness of Time” poem by James Stephens (circa 1900)

I am collaborating on the revision of TLB with the Rev. Canon William H. Barnwell who wrote the original course. In addition to revising Canon William’s 2008 course materials, I am running a pilot version of the class itself at Elmwood Jail (Milpitas, California). I am grateful to my Co-Mentors Diane Lovelace, and my husband, John Plocher (with the Rev. Peggy Bryan as backup). This program is supported by the Correctional Institutions Chaplaincy  (CIC) and St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church.  Thanks to Collette Lynner of CIC for supporting TLB production.

More pictures from my PSR Orientation week:

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Photos Copyright 2018 by Katy Dickinson.

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The Way of Love – in Jail

Joel Martinez and I are Education for Ministry (EfM) Co-Mentors for a weekly class at Elmwood Jail in Milpitas, California.  We were recently part of a class to renew our mentor accreditation in the University of the South – School of Theology‘s EfM program.  During the training, Joel and I discussed how we could extend the theological reflections and discussions with the jail inmates.  We decided to use the structure of “The Way of Love – Practices for a Jesus-Centered Life” – a new program of the Episcopal Church, by Presiding Bishop Michael Curry and Canon Stephanie Spellers.

Joel reviewed the published material and prepared a handout about The Way of Love.  I edited the handout and added more Bible quotes and passages from the Book of Common Prayer.  We distributed the handout as homework to the EfM seminar on 15 August 2018.  With permission of the inmates, Below is some of what they said in class 22 August 2018 about what they found valuable and world continue to work on in their lives. This EfM program is supported by the Correctional Institutions Chaplaincy and St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church.

More: Joel’s blog on 26 August 2018, discussing The Way of Love with St.Andrew’s Youth.

TURN

Meditating on issues, problems, and God – alone, without distractions when possible EfM, having a solo-cell, quiet time Pay it forward, doing nice things for others without expectation of reimbursement
Praying Spiritual discussions, joining EfM Meeting with spiritual advisor, EfM, prayers at night
Will continue to work with priest, other EfM students and mentors Pray at night and daytime – for other people and for my family .

LEARN

Compare scripture stories and verses to life experiences See an action that reflects what God wants us to do – doing the right thing for the right reason. Know that I am doing OK in this situation Reading scripture in a more modern context – seeing Jesus in the world today – “new age Jesus” – even among non-Christians
Imagining scripture scenarios inspires – look for wording to break down meaning – how it is presented Share with EfM classmates, cellie, my Mom Referring to prior Bible passages that were meaningful when I read them before

PRAY

Remember to pray at meals and certain times of the day – thank God throughout the day A single cell helps – quiet time Use the “Catholic Prayers” book – favorite prayers tied to times of day – grace at meals – say guardian angel prayer when I wake up
Grace before meals, thanks throughout the day Read “Daily Bread” every morning, pray with EfM class Devotions before dinner

WORSHIP

Saturday chapel, Sunday mass, read the Bible after church, read biographies of saints EfM weekly – being part of the class Only regular service in the jail dorm is Catholic, go to Episcopal service when available

BLESS

Talk about God a lot – show my faith through kindness and love, smiling, laughing Give people hope – spin negative to positive Opportunities to advise, counsel, bless, help feed when I can, give wisdom and encouragement – do what I can
Can try to advise but can’t always convince, bless the hungry and those truly in need, choose to help based on real need – try to be smart and not be taken advantage of Never say no – follow the example of St. Francis – learning when to set barriers .

GO

Programs  help – like RRR (Re-educate, Recovery, Re-entry), and MRT (Moral Recognition Therapy), and Enneagram, and EfM Outside programs for recovery – letters and certificates help to get in EfM, thanking God during the court process, talking with other inmates when in transit
Sometimes have good conversations in the holding tanks Coach and guide new inmates – scared people – reassure them .

REST

Meditation, working out, stretching Exercise, sleep, daydream Stopped being a dorm Trustee so could get more sleep
Rest in God’s grace – know he is sufficient – pray for help to get through this (not to get out of it) Meditation – close my eyes and breathe – meditate lying down: pull energy through body into the world Use “Be still and know that I am God” prayer for meditation, to quiet my mind – still trying

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The Way of Love image is from The Episcopal Church, 2018.

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Finished Shakespeare’s Henry VI

Since the St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church (Saratoga, California) Shakespeare Reading Group started meeting in 2012, we have read almost all of the Bard’s plays at least once.  We meet about every two months for a potluck dinner and to read a play – taking turns hosting.  Since April, we have been reading one of Shakespeare’s early hits, the three play history series on Henry VI and the Wars of the Roses.  Our group of 13 last night ranged in age from 92 to 16 years.  I am the group Mentor – sending out recommended reading and movie links in advance, assigning roles, and giving an overview on each play before we read.  The Rev. Stephenie Cooper prepares a role analysis to keep us from having too many readers being assigned roles who speak with each other. Melita Thorpe is in charge of the theater program for the parish. Some of us read from paper books and others from iPads.

The favored roles in our group are the evil characters.  Our 16-year-old reader of Richard of York (the future Richard III) enthusiastically murdered most of the other characters. John Watson-Williams, our 92-year-old reader, asked to read the role of the classic politician Warwick the Kingmaker.  I read King Edward IV whose unwise marriage to Elizabeth Woodville changes his reign.  My husband John Plocher read all of the messenger roles in his usual energetic and irreverent style.  We had a delightful evening!

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Image Copyright 2018 by Katy Dickinson.

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Re-Binding Books for Jail

Part of my leading seminars at Elmwood Jail (Milpitas, California) is finding study materials for the inmates: journals and pencils as well as dictionaries, prayer books and Bibles. Books going into jail cannot have hard covers since those have the potential to be turned into weapons.  If hardcover books are donated to the Correctional Institutions Chaplaincy, the covers have to be ripped off before use. Ripping off the cover makes a book more vulnerable to falling apart, especially in the rough and dirty jail environment. So, I figured out an alternative: how to re-bind books using manila folders and a hot glue gun.  Collette Lynner of CIC asked me to teach volunteers at Menlo Church how to repair and re-cover donated books so they would last longer in jail.  Collette and Rié Collett put together 30 volunteers in two teams.  On 28 July 2018, we re-bound 465 Bibles, enough for CIC to distribute in about six months.

This is bookbinding at its most basic – with a focus on low expense and high durability.  This method is not appropriate for valuable volumes but works very well for books that need to last a long time in a hard place.  Here are the steps:

  1. If the book’s back cover is loose, or some sections of printed text (called signatures) are loose, use the hot glue to stick them back together before starting the re-binding.  Running a thin bead of glue into the crack between the signatures will re-attach the book to itself.  Running a wide zigzag of hot glue between the book back (called the case) and the sewn-together paper signatures (called the text block) will attach them firmly together.
    • Hot glue is hot and it is easy to burn yourself. If the glue gets on you, rub it off quickly.
    • Hot glue only stays really hot for about 3 seconds after it leaves the gun – that is how long you have to adjust things before your glue gets too hard.
    • Put the glue on the book, not on the board.
  2. Remove the book boards (sides of the hardcover binding) by cutting carefully along the spine, leaving at least a 1/4″ hinge beyond the fold.  Leaving the spine binding intact protects the book better and keeps the original printing on the spine intact.
  3. Cut pieces of manila folder or heavy paper (about 50 pound card stock) to the size of the removed book boards.  There should be about 1/4″ of card on the sides beyond where the book pages end.
  4. Run a bead of hot glue under the hinge – at the cut edge of the spine – then push the cut pieces of heavy paper into the glue.  If you can do so without touching the glue, push the edges of the spine into the glue.
  5. Trim off any loose threads or extra bits of glue.
  6. Either write the name of the book on the new soft book boards, or use printed labels.

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Image Copyright 2018 by Katy Dickinson. Thanks to Collette Lynner for her photo of the Bibles in many languages.

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Starting Book Two

Last month, I finished revising and printing/binding 256 pages (in 17 sessions of Book One – “The Hebrew Bible“) for the pilot version of the new “The Transforming Literature of the Bible” (TLB) course. Today, I finished revising 140 pages in the first 9 sessions (out of 19) of TLB Book Two (“The New Testament“).  Production starts tomorrow.  I am collaborating on the revision of TLB with the Rev. Canon William H. Barnwell who wrote the original course. In addition to revising Canon William’s 2008 course materials, I am running a pilot version of the class itself at Elmwood Jail (Milpitas, California). I am grateful to my Co-Mentors Diane Lovelace, and my husband, John Plocher (with the Rev. Peggy Bryan as backup). This program is supported by the Correctional Institutions Chaplaincy  (CIC) and St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church.  Thanks to Collette Lynner of CIC for supporting TLB production.

Six students are finishing the 17 sessions in Book One this Friday.  We start studying Book Two next week.  The inmates are very enthusiastic, doing their extensive homework reading and participating energetically in in-class discussions and reflections.  There is a waiting list of inmates from two dorms to join us.

Literary selections are included in TLB to provide a diverse context in which to understand some of the major themes in the Bible passages under consideration.  In addition to readings in the Old Testament (Hebrew Bible), the students of Book One have also read:

  1. “The Welcome Table” story by Alice Walker (1973)
  2. “A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings” story by Gabriel Garcia Marquez (1955)
  3. “My Grandmother Washes Her Feet in the Sink of the Bathroom at Sears” poem by Mohja Kahf (2003)
  4. “The Son from America” story by Isaac Bashevis Singer (1973)
  5. “The Big Red Apples” story by Zitkála-Šá  aka Red Bird (1900)
  6. “My Last Duchess” poem by Robert Browning (1842)
  7. “I Have a Dream” speech by the Rev. Martin Luther King (1963)
  8. O Pioneers! excerpt by Willa Cather (1913)
  9. “The Family of Little Feet” story by Sandra Cisneros (1984)
  10. The Gangster We Are All Looking For excerpt by Lê Thị Diễm Thúy (2003)

The Book Two (New Testament) students will read these literary selections in Part One “A Journey With Mark“:

  1. “At the Arraignment” poem by Debra Spencer (2004)
  2. “A Private Experience” story excerpt by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (2009)
  3. “Sonnet XXVII” by William Shakespeare (1609)
  4. “Under the Poplars” poem by César Vallejo (1919)

One of the TLB students wants me to start another Education for Ministry (EfM) seminar in their dorm after I finish Books One and Two of TLB. Joel Martinez and I are Co-Mentors for a weekly EfM seminar which started in 2015 in another dorm where inmates tend to stay inside longer. I designed TLB to be finished in 5 months but EfM takes four 9-month terms to complete. I told him that if he can find ten other students who will be there for long enough, I will start another EfM class.

Other than my ongoing project as the Mentor for the Shakespeare Reading Group, TLB is one of the few times since I was graduated from the University of California at Berkeley in English (with a specialty in Shakespeare) that my knowledge and passion for literature has been of such use.  I am very much enjoying reviewing potential TLB selections.  Thanks to my daughter Jessica Dickinson Goodman for her advice on some of the selections, and to John for reviewing my drafts.

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Image Copyright 2018 by Katy Dickinson.

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