Tag Archives: John

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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Technical Women Inspiration Cards

My husband, John Plocher, just created a set of colorful inspirational PC cards for Technical Women, particularly TechWomen mentors and mentees. TechWomen is an Initiative of the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, a program which I helped to design in 2010-2011 and for which I have been a proud volunteer mentor since. John designs PC cards as a part of his model train hobby – so he regularly prints new designs for fabrication in Shenzhen, China.  These cards are 4″ x 2″ in size and have two holes in them so they can be hung as decorations. One side says Technical Woman / STEM Science Technology Engineering Math.  The other side says LEADER, with one of six quotes:

  • “If your dreams don’t scare you, they’re not big enough.” – Ellen Johnson Sirleaf
  • “If it is a good idea, go ahead and do it. It’s much easier to apologize than it is to get permission.” – Grace Hopper
  • “I was taught that the way of progress was neither swift nor easy.” – Marie Curie
  • “Every girl deserves to take part in creating the technology that will change our world and change who runs it.” – Malala Yousafzai
  • “Yes, I’m a feminist, because I see all women as smart, gifted, and tough.” – Zaha Hadid
  • “A mentor is someone who allows you to see the hope inside yourself.” – Oprah Winfrey

John and I are talking about adding more colors and quotes.  Suggestions?

Here is how John made the cards – if you want to make some of your own.

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Photos Copyright 2018 by Katy Dickinson.

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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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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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Episcopal General Convention, Austin Texas, Day 1

Diocese of El Camino Real sign, Episcopal General Convention, House of Deputies, 4 July 2018

I arrived late last night in Austin, Texas, for the 79th General Convention of the Episcopal Church.  General Convention is the main governing and legislative body of the Episcopal Church and meets every three years.  I am with the Deputation of the Diocese of El Camino Real (Central California). Our Bishop Mary Gray-Reeves is in the House of Bishops (of which she is a Vice President) and we are in the House of Deputies.  This is the second time I have participated in General Convention – and I will again be blogging about the event.

I am not assigned to any committees, so I plan to attend as many Social Justice resolution hearings as I can.  For United States policy, I am particularly interested in the resolutions on mass incarceration and immigration. For Social Justice and International Policy, I want to sit in on the hearings about Israel and Palestine.  I am also showing interested groups the first half of the “Transforming Literature of the Bible” course materials I have edited and am already using at Elmwood Jail.  In addition, I looking forward to meeting with the Education for Ministry staff who are here in the Exhibit Hall with the University of the South – School of Theology.

According to the Episcopal News Service, the big topics for discussion at this General Convention are:

  1. Marriage Equality
  2. Revising the Book of Common Prayer
  3. The Episcopal Church and the #MeToo movement (for which we had a moving Bishops Listening service tonight)
  4. A salary for the president of the House of Deputies
  5. Following up on the church’s three priorities: evangelism, racial reconciliation and justice and care of creation
  6. Formulating the 2019-2021 triennial budget
  7. Middle East peace

In many ways, General Convention is like a family reunion every three years.  We get to talk with folks with whom we have a great deal in common but do not see very often.  Today, I already met briefly with the Rev. Canon Eric Law (Kaleidoscope Institute, Los Angeles), some of whose work I am using at Elmwood Jail. We had a rousing welcome (“not a sermon”) by Presiding Bishop Michael Curry who received two standing ovations.  I will be here until 13th July.

Today is not only American Independence Day but also my 18th wedding anniversary with John Plocher – happy day, love!

These blog posts and other GC79 news are posted on the Diocese of El Camino Real website.

Bishop Mary Gray-Reeves poster at Episcopal General Convention 4 July 2018

Katy Dickinson and Rev. Canon Eric Law Kaleidoscope 4 July 2018

Episcopal General Convention 4 July 2018

Transforming Literature of the Bible - Old Testament June 2018

4th of July Independence Day flowers at Saint Andrew's Episcopal Church Saratoga California 2018

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Images Copyright 2018 by Katy Dickinson.

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New Jail Curriculum

Collaborating with the Rev. Canon William H. Barnwell, this month I have been designing a new curriculum for studying faith and literature at Elmwood Jail (Milpitas, California). In 1980, at the University of New Orleans (UNO), Canon Barnwell started developing a program which would eventually be called The Transforming Literature of the Bible (TLB). TLB is based on his original class in the “Bible as Literature” in the UNO English Department. From the mid-eighties, Canon Barnwell continued to work on TLB for both the university and at his churches: first at Trinity Episcopal in New Orleans, then at Trinity in Boston, and finally at the Washington National Cathedral where he served as Canon Missioner. TLB has been presented dozens of times in a variety of settings.  The TLB version we are updating now is dated 2008.

I had been looking for a shorter course to offer at Elmwood Jail where I have been leading seminars in Education for Ministry (EfM) since 2015. Unfortunately, EfM takes nine months per program year and many of the inmates are not at Elmwood that long. EfM continues to be the right program for some Elmwood dorms; however, I was glad to find TLB for faster-cycle dorms.  I think we can complete both Old and New Testament studies using TLB in about four months.

With Canon Barnwell’s enthusiastic support, I have edited the first six TLB sessions. I plan to edit the next 30 sessions starting next week. The first six sessions cover “The Hebrew Scriptures, Part One: The Great Stories of Genesis”. In addition to reading all of the Bible book of Genesis, students will also read:

I am grateful to have Diane Lovelace and my husband, John Plocher, as my Co-Mentors in this new venture.  I am giving the inmates Bibles, Books of Common Prayer, dictionaries, pencils and journals to support their studies.  Some books are in Spanish and some in English.  Ten inmates came last week to hear about the new program.  They are a varied group from many faith backgrounds: Catholic, Protestant, and Muslim. We are looking forward to developing the TLB pilot program together.

This program is supported by the Correctional Institutions Chaplaincy and St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church.


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Images Copyright 2018 by Katy Dickinson.

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Chairs Carved by Ella Bolli Van Gilder

Thanks to my husband, John Plocher*, for reassembling and restoring one of the fumed oak chairs carved by my Great-Grandmother, Ella Rachel Bolli Van Gilder.  We found the chair in pieces in the attic of 2125 Broderick Street, my parents’ home in San Francisco, when we were clearing out the house for sale in 2012.  I have several other pieces carved by my Great-Grandmother – including another of her chairs. I am delighted to have one more.

Ella Rachel Bolli Van Gilder was a remarkable woman who early in her life worked with Jane Addams at Hull House – a settlement house for European immigrants in Chicago.  She later returned to Knoxville, Tennessee, where she married Walter Van Gilder.  They were both were enthusiastic craft workers (in the Arts and Crafts style) and gardeners, in addition to his founding and managing Van Gilder Glass Company.  My mother, Eleanor Creekmore Dickinson, grew up in their house at 1007 Circle Park Drive in Knoxville.

* with help from John Gibbs – Workshop (Campbell, CA)

This is what the chair pieces looked like when we pulled them out of the attic:

Here is the chair today, after much effort by John:

1911 portrait of Ella Bolli Van Gilder:

1007 Circle Park Drive in Knoxville: photo taken by Eleanor Creekmore when she was 10 years old, in 1941:

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Images Copyright 1941 by Eleanor Creekmore Dickinson, and 2016-2018 by Katy Dickinson.

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