Category Archives: Mentoring & Other Business

Poems by Mohja Kahf

I recommend to you the poems of Dr. Mohja Kahf, whom you may know as the author of “My Grandmother Washes Her Feet in the Sink of the Bathroom at Sears.” Poet and scholar Mohja Kahf was born in Damascus, Syria. Her family moved to the United States in 1971, and Kahf grew up in the Midwest. She earned a PhD in comparative literature from Rutgers University. Her remarkable poetry books are:

We read Kahf’s poem “My Grandmother Washes Her Feet…” every term in the weekly classes I lead in Santa Clara County jail. It is one of the most popular selections in our Transforming Literature of the Bible course at Elmwood Jail. We read the poem to complement the story of Joseph in Egypt, as part of a discussion on being a bridge between cultures (Genesis 37-50). Volunteer jail chaplains are locked out now because of the Covid-19 quarantine but I look forward to returning. I miss my students!

In Hagar Poems, I found this one which seems very appropriate for the conversations our country is having now:

“Most Wanted”
by Mohja Kahf

Warning: God has slipped the noose.
We must confirm the worst
of our righteous fears –
God has escaped the mosque,
the synagogue, the church
where we’ve locked up God for years.

God is on the loose.

Henceforth beware:
You may find God in heathen beauty.
You may stumble upon God unaware.
Take appropriate measures:
You may have to behave
as if each human being
could reflect God’s face.

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Image Copyright 2020 by Katy Dickinson.

 

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Congratulations on EfM Graduation, Joel Martinez!

EfM Education for Ministry seminar online 30 March2020EfM Class Meeting Online, April 2020

Since we could not honor Joel Martinez in-person while under COVID-19 quarantine, we celebrated online. Congratulations to Joel Martinez for his graduation after four years of study from Education for Ministry – so proud of him! In addition to taking the regular EfM program, Joel was my Co-Mentor for three years at Elmwood Jail. To do this work, he became an accredited EfM Mentor and volunteer for the Correctional Institutions Chaplaincy. Joel took Year-1 at our home church (with me and my Co-Mentor, Karen LeBlanc), Year-2 and Year-3 in jail while serving as a volunteer chaplain with me as his Mentor, and Year-4 back at our home church (with Karen and me as Mentors).

2017 Bishop Mary, Peggy Bryan, Joel Martinez, Katy Dickinson at Elmwood Jail 2017 Elmwood Jail: Bishop Mary Gray-Reeves, Rev. Peggy Bryan, Joel and Katy

As his EfM Administrative Mentor, I would usually make this presentation in front of the whole congregation of St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church but thanks to technology and my geek husband, John Plocher, we were able to celebrate together in a video segment during the regular weekly service. John even created this stand-alone video.

Contact me if you want to learn more about the EfM class that starts in September. More about EfM in the Episcopal Diocese of El Camino Real. Our 2019-2020 EfM class held its closing session last night but we are taking signups for the seminar that starts in September 2020. We will meet in person or online as appropriate. More about EfM:

Education for Ministry (EfM) is a program of the University of the South – School of Theology, 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.

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Images Copyright 2017 – 2020 by Katy Dickinson.

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Shakespeare Sonnets – Virtual

2020 Shakespeare Sonnet Reading, 18 April during pandemic lockdown
Since 2012, Shakespeare reading group has been meeting every two months to read a play and enjoy a potluck meal. At Christmas, we usually have a special reading of the entire Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens. There are 61 in the group; our youngest regular reader is 10 years old and our oldest is 96. We take turns hosting the event in various cities in the Silicon Valley.

Last month, because of the corona virus lockdown, we had our first virtual meeting, to read Shakespeare’s Sonnets. We spent a lovely two hours on 18 April reading sonnets 2, 5, 8, 14, 15, 17, 18, 19, 23, 25, 27, 28, 29, 30, 33, 34, 43, 47, 51, 59, 65, 67, 73, 116, 121, 124, 130, 135, 138, 143, and 144. Fourteen of us  each picked and read two poems. It was delightful to see everyone, even if only online!

My husband John sweetly dedicated his reading of Sonnet #25 to me, and then made this video of his reading – followed by my reading of Shakespeare’s Chicken Sonnet (#143).

I am the group mentor and assign parts, Melita Thorpe manages this as a ministry of St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church, and the Rev. Stephenie Cooper analyzes the roles in advance – to be sure we don’t speak over each other. John Plocher hosted our first online meeting to be sure the technology worked.

2012 Katy's Shakespeare books
2013 Dickens reading, Christmas Carol
2016 Shakespeare reading and 90th birthday party
2019 Dickens Christmas Carol reading

Shakespeare's 456th Birthday, April 2020

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Images Copyright 2012-2020 by Katy Dickinson.

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Moving Online with EfM

EfM Education for Ministry seminar online 20 April 2020

The weekly Education for Ministry (EfM) seminar I mentor with Karen LeBlanc shifted last month from in-person to online because of the coronavirus pandemic quarantine here in the Silicon Valley. I have been an accredited EfM mentor since 2011 and very much look forward to our weekly discussions and theological reflections. We usually meet at St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church in Saratoga. This year, our class has two students in Year 1 (Hebrew Bible), two in Year 2 (New Testament), and one in Year 4 (Theology and Ethics). No one signed up to study Year 3 (Church History) this term. About EfM:

Education for Ministry (EfM) is a unique four-year distance learning certificate program in theological education based upon small-group study and practice. EfM is designed to prepare lay persons to live out by word and deed the promises made at baptism: to love God, to serve Christ, and to proclaim the Gospel. It is administered by The School of Theology Programs Center of the University of the South in Sewanee, Tennessee. More about EfM

Our annual movie night was yesterday, watching the remarkable film, “The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society.” It took some preparation but here was the process we used:

  • Make sure you have both Skype and Netflix working
  • Bring your own movie snacks!
  • Join the Skype call about 6:25 pm to be sure all is well
  • Have two devices available – one for Skype and the other for Netflix – logged in and plugged in
  • At about 6:30 pm, we will talk by Skype and then go on mute
  • Once everyone but me is on mute, I will count down so we start watching the film together on our second devices
  • Stay on mute but keep your Skype chat open so we can comment about the movie
  • After about an hour, I will announce on the chat that we will have a ten minute break and brief discussion
  • After the break, we will resume watching the movie
  • Discussion again after the movie

Other than at-home technical challenges – and remembering to stay on mute when watching (and to go off mute when talking) – movie night went well. Next week, we study the material for Week 31 of the 36 week curriculum:

Year 1:

  • Proverbs – Bible
  • Job – Bible
  • Ecclesiastes (Qoheleth) – Bible
  • The Hebrew Bible – by John J. Collins, chapter 24 – Proverbs
  • Collins chapter 25 – Job and Qoheleth

Year 2:

  • James – Bible
  • The New Testament – by Mark Allan Powell, chapter 25 – James

Year 4:

  • My Neighbor’s Faith – by Peace, Rose, Mobley,  Foreword, Introduction, Chapter 1 – Encountering the Neighbor

EfM Education for Ministry seminar online 30 March2020
EfM Education for Ministry seminar online 23 March2020

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Images Copyright 2020 by Katy Dickinson.

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Christmas 2019

Matthew Katy John Jessica Paul Christmas 2019

May this blessed Christmas season bring you and your family joy! It has been a busy Christmas, starting even before I turned in my last (16 and 18 page) term papers at the Graduate Theological Union. So far, our adventures have included:

Reading group for Dickens Christmas Carol Dec 2019
train, railroad ornaments Christmas 2019
Santa Clara First Baptist Church Bethlehem Christmas 2019
Santa Clara First Baptist Church Bethlehem Christmas 2019
Tenzin at Islamic Networks Group lunch Christmas 2019
Paul Katy Sally at Chinatown Christmas 2019
Katy Dickinson with TechWomen US State Department certificate Christmas 2019
Jessica Paul Katy at Dickens Fair Christmas 2019
Christmas candle 2019
Jessica Matthew Katy John Paul Star Wars movie Christmas 2019
Paul D. Goodman with reclaimed hardwood cutting board Dec 2019
John at St Andrew's Episcopal Church Christmas Eve 2019
St Andrew's Episcopal Church Christmas Eve 2019
Katy John at Elmwood jail Christmas 2019
Matthew Katy John Jessica Paul Christmas 2019

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Images Copyright 2019 by Katy Dickinson.

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TechWomen Team Algeria

Team Algeria TechWomen 30 Sep 2019

I am happy and honored to be a TechWomen Impact Coach for 2019 Team Algeria. TechWomen is a program of the US Department of State that brings emerging women leaders in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) from Africa, Central and South Asia, and the Middle East together with their professional counterparts in the United States for a mentorship and exchange program. I was the 2010-2011 Process Architect for TechWomen and am so very proud of this program!

Four capable and inspiring TechWomen Emerging Leaders, Celia Ouabas, Imane Chekirine, Imene Henni Mansour, and Sara Dib of Algeria, are working with my Co-Mentors Mercedes Soria, Fatema Kothari, and me to develop an educational improvement program for them to take home next month. The seven of us are meeting several times a week in workshops and social events to develop the plans and the Pitch Night presentation for Team Algeria.

Team Algeria TechWomen 30 Sep 2019 by Saul Bromberger
TechWomen Team Algeria 8 Oct 2019
TechWomen Team Algeria with WP668 Caboose 8 Oct 2019
TechWomen Team Algeria in WP668 Caboose 8 Oct 2019
Team Algeria TechWomen 11 October 2019
Team Algeria TechWomen 11 October 2019

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Images Copyright 2019 by Katy Dickinson, and Saul Bromberger.

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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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