Thursday, July 31, 2008

Hatred Culminates in Tragic and Senseless Shooting

By now many of you have heard about the tragic shooting in the sanctuary of the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church in Knoxville, TN where two individuals were killed and seven wounded in a senseless shooting by a disturbed individual that targeted liberals.

I speak the names of Greg McKendry age 60 and Linda Kraeger age 61. May their deaths not be in vain. May we be reminded of the all too common scenarios that manifest when we allow twisted notions of hatred based on biases and discrimination to take root in our hearts againt others.

Memorial Service
First Unitarian Church of Chicago in Hyde Park held a Memorial Service on Wednesday, July 30 to commemorate the lives of those killed and to pray for the injured. We sat outdoors with about thirty five individuals in the relentless heat of Chicago's summer in folding chairs on the beautiful lawn amidst the colorful flowers. Vehicles carrying passengers passed by while pedestrians made their way at the close of the day to their various destinations. Greg McKendry and Linda Kraeger will never have the opportunity to greet friends, family and loved ones again at the conclusion of their day. They will never see the inside of a sanctuary in their beloved congregations where they were active members. Memorial services will be held in a few days in those very same sanctuaries where family, friends and loved ones will bid them farewell and ponder the tragedy that has taken their loved ones away so unexpectedly. When will we learn and when will it end?

The words spoken at the Memorial Service were comforting to me while at the same time they made me weep softly and sadly. So I offer them to you. May we continue to work toward a violence free world where we do not have to fear for our lives simply because of our religious or political beliefs:

In Gathering
We gather together at this time, we come together in this place,
We are drawn here, confounded and confused
By the terrible and fearful events of our days and years.
Once again, as so often,
In the face of senseless violence and meaningless chaos,
We are drawn together by our aching hearts.
We are bound together by our quest for peace-serving justice-serving ways.
We would be the promise-seekers, the promise-makers, the promise-keepers.
We seek ways that will lead us toward deeper understanding, broader compassion.
We seek ways toward greater service, strengthened resolve, wider unity.
We seek ways to resist the violence and overcome the chaos of our time.
We seek life-sustaining and life-serving ways,
Ways that lead toward peace, foregiveness, reconciliation
among peoples and nations.
Rev. Jim Hobart

Prayer Meditation
Life presence, Spirit of Love,
addressed by amny titles, and by none at all,
Known in nemerious ways and circumstances,
with us in life and in death,
We come in humility, and with heavy hearts
to these moments of mindful reflection, meditation and prayer.
We seek understanding. We strive for direction.
We are determined not to be ruled and silenced
by our all-too-real fears, anxieties and confusions.
Our living and aour dying are framed by the twin human capacities
for violent nihilism and courageous life-reverence.
Once again we are stunned by sensless violence and brutal killings,
Even as we know these are the lot of people across our city,
throughout our country, across the world.
At the very same moment, we are lifted up and inspired
by a person who sacrificed his own life to protect others, and by people who reiske dtheir own safety to stop the killings.
In this service, let us claim our inherent power to join in partneship
one with another.
Let us together fervently seek to act in harmony
With Creative Power, in concert with Creating Process
wich uphold the cosmos,
which sustain lie and loving ways,
which are the ground of our restless yearning and our greater vision.
This is our intent. This is our promise. This is our resolution. AMEN
written by Rev. Jim Hobart

Tonight, we remember all who suffer, all who are degraded,
all who perish through human acts and neglect.
Our thoughts and our prayers especially are directed
to adults and children in Knowxville,
who suffer in body and in spirit.
May we do our part to restore them to well-being.
Let us as well take our responsibility and our opportunity
to seek and find ways to reduce the world's suffering and grief.
In this spirit we come together. In this spirit we voice our fervent prayer.
written by Rev. Jim Hobart

Let us be ready to address the worst in life,
As we are prepared to serve the best in life.
On our many paths, this is our common work and destiny:
Reducing unnecessary suffering and death,
REsisting oppressing and humiliation,
Increasing the ways of justice and peace,
Serving love and compassion,
Discovering grace and joy,
Offering our heart-felt gratitude for and our generosity in response to
the precious gift of life.
Rev. Jim Hobart

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

On Your Mark Get Set Go! - Retooling For the Classroom

One of my passions is pedagogy, that is, teaching. I am equally keen about learning as well. Recently reviewing some of Mark Hicks essays on transformational education I gleaned the following observations about learning:

*our brains are both storing and processing units
*learning has little meaning unless it produces a sustained and substantial influence on the way people thik, act and feel
*effective learning involves students assessing their efforts and making progress and making appropriate changes
*effective learners usetheir knowledge to deelop techniques for grasping fundamental principles, and organizing concepts that others can use to begin building their own understanding and abilities. They know how to simplify and clarify complex subjects, that is, the abiity to think metacognitively.

Effective teachers do some or all of the following:
*provide tools of analysis and of creativity to allow students to situate their experiences across contexts, to define their intellectual itineraries on their terms, and to find a voice to speak
*Instead of putting emphasis on mere acuisition and accumulation of knowledge in research, an effective teacher stresses the role that knowledge plays in the constitution of self and other, or in the students' daily life and practices that the theory that arises from their own contexts and interactions.
*Effective teaching does not merely transmit knowledge, but introduces a substantial difference in the students relation to knowledge. Furthermore, the teacher breaks the circular relation of supplier and consumer between student and teacher, and to gain theoretical dimensions and scope in the way we conceive of our society and ethical every day.
*good teaching can be learned
*includes a natural critical learning environment. In such an environment students learn by confronting task/problems/experiences that challenge themto grapple with ideas, rethink their assumptions and examine their mental modes of reality
*reflect a strong trust in students
*help learners grapple with ideas and information to construct their understanding and abilities
*teach how individual parts relate tot he whole and kinds of decisions students will be able to make with comprehension developed
*offer non-judgmental feedback
*stress opportunities to improve
*encourage cooperation and collaboration
foster intrinsic motivators (as opposed to external motivators)

In the work that seminarians at Meadville Lombard will do in their sites located in the 20th ward, some of the questions for faculty will include:

what can we do to help students effectively learn in their sites?
How do we make the site the focus of the learning experience?
What key information or concepts can faculty present to students to build their understanding?
what voices do they need to hear esides ours?
How can we create a safe learning environment?
How will we survey students intersts in particular issues or questions?
How can we stimulate students to take charge of their learning exxperience?
How do we build a community of learners?
How do we teach observation, analysis and synthesis?

Blessed Be! Rev. Qiyamah

Use of Questions
The writer contends that questions play an essential role in the process of learning and modifying mental models. Questions help us construct knowledge and point toholes in our memory structures and are critical for indexing information that we attain when we develop an answer for inquiries. If we are not seeking an answer to anything, we pay little attention to random information.

Putting Down Roots

This week I traveled to Atlanta, Georgia to retrieve my babies that had been in storage for over a year. In addition, I stopped off at Clark Atlanta University to work on obtaining a copy of my doctoral degree. It has been like pulling teeth. But that is another story for another day. lol

But back to my babies, that is, my books. I sat in the god awful hot storage patiently sorting through books and pictures, realizing that while some folks collect clothes, real estate and shoes - I collect books. I had finally come home to Atlanta to collect those scattered pieces of myself that had felt cut off and banished. And now I could gather all my children and bring them home. Only a writer can understand what I am feeling and talking about. It is a time of gathering so that I can put down roots after being homeless since January, 2007. And while I have been exceptionally good about making home where ever I was and in whatever circumstances I found myself, it has been hard not having my own place/space. But I will soon have a home to call my own.

By the Sweat of My Brow
Hats off to folks that do manual labor for a living. The hours of back breaking labor to pack and transport boxes from storage to the post office have been a grueling reminmder that for some people this is the day to day reality. Each night I am so exhausted that I can barely fall into bed - I am delirious with fatigue. I am aware of my aching body and my need to veg out in front of the tv. What would my life have been like if I were a mover or ditch digger or a farmer required to push my body to the limit each and every day in order to keep a roof over my head and bread on the table? I have had a brief glimpse into what it means to tax the body not for recreational purposes but to pay the bills and keep food on the table.

May I always be mindful of and grateful for the sacrifices that others make that I benefit from.

Question: When was the last time I took note of those around me that are working and performing manual labor, or any kind of labor that benefits me that I do not acknowledge? Have I made efforts to thank them sufficiently?
Blessings! Rev. Qiyamah

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Service of the Living Tradition

Every year at the Service of the Living Tradition held at General Assembly, graduates are honored that have achieved Preliminary Fellowship along with deceased ministers, retired and those that have gained Final Fellowship. This year was my opportunity to be showcased along with others. Here are a few pictures from the occasion.

Blessed Be! Rev. Qiyamah
Question: What are you doing to show up in all your greatness and to testify to your call to life?

Cheers from Chi Town

L-R Qiyamah and Libra

L-R Qiyamah and Libra M. Finley (oldest daughter) in front of Fideity Bldg. in Chi Town

L-R Libra and Brandon (her son and my grandson-age 15 years)

L-R Qiyamah and Libra

I love it when my family comes to visit.
Blessed Be! Rev. Qiyamah
Question: Have you told your loved ones how much you love and appreciate them? What do you do to demonstrate your love and appreciation?

Community Partnership Program - Changing Lives to Change the World!

Dr. Mark Hicks, new faculty person at Meadville Lombard listening attentively to Father Bruce Wellums inside the Holy Cross Church in Back of the Yards.

L-R Father Bruce Wellums of Holy Cross and Mike Hogue, Professor of Theology at Meadville Lombard

L-R Father Bruce Wellums, Mike Hogue and a police officer from the 9th district

Interior picture of the Holy Cross Church located in historic Back of the Yards in Chicago, IL

These pictures were taken on June 19 during a tour of the 20th Ward that I conducted to introduce faculty (Sharon Welch, Mike Hogue and Mark Hicks) to some of the sites that will be hosting our first year students in our Community Partnership Program at Meadville Lombard Theological School. Through Meadville Lombard's new Community Partnership Program, due to begin Fall, 2008, we will introduce first year students to practicums located in the 20th ward community in Chicago. Holy Cross will be one such site that will engage them with staff and clients that provide critical services, and allow the students to explore and enhance multicultural competencies and learn how to be present with others different from them in environments where residents are underserved with minimal resources. Site experiences will be complemented by weekly faculty led reflection groups that focus on the theoretical, ethical and theological implications of service to marginalized populations and what it means to be of service to others.

May we be blessed to stand up and be present with others in their joys and sorrows; in their triumphs and despairs as we build a life worth living in times when hope is sometimes fleeting and a kind word and a smile are few and far between. May we know hope when the sun does not shine and when the light is cast aside by darkness. But still our hope springs ever eternal. Amen

Blessed Be! Rev. Qiyamah
Question: What are you doing to change the world, beginning with yourself?

Inheriting the Trade: A Northern Family Confronts Its Legacy as the Largest Slave-Trading Dynasty in U.S. History

Thomas Norman DeWolf, author and past member of the Oregon Arts Commission and elected official.

..."And when darkness came to me, my visions brightness gave me hope, and I moved on to find tomorrow." Debbie Kennedy - Founder of Global Dialogue Center

The gentleman in the picture above is Thomas Norman DeWolf. He is the author of Inheriting the Trade: A Northern Family Confronts Its Legacy as the Largest Slave-Trading Dynasty in U.S. History. I recently had the opportunity to hear DeWolf at the Unitarian Universalist General Assembly June, 2008 in Fort Lauderdale. In an hour and a half workshop, DeWolf recounted his family's involvement in the slave trade that resulted in great wealth for his ancestors on the one hand represented a tragedy of epic proportions that is only still being comprehended among the descendants of African people.

Myrlie Evers-Williams, civil rights leader, chair emeritus of the NAACP and widow of the late Medgar Evers contends that the book is "required reading for anyone interested in reconciliation. Healing from our historic wounds, which continue to separate us, requires us to walk this road together."

I am still absorbing and processing my feelings having sat in the midst of about 75 to 100 European American Unitarian Universalists and hearing this story directly narrated by someone that had traced their ancestors dastardly deeds. It is one thing to read about it. But another to hear it from such a direct source. I think that I disconnected from my feelings and emotions so that I could hear his words. Before I left I took his picture and obtained contact information so that once I am past the initial emotions I can talk with him about how he is using the proceeds from his book and video to help make a difference? I will grant that his book alone can be a part of a powerful healing but there is something perverted about making money off of the story of his slave trading ancestors that is disturbing. But so as not to sound like a hypocrite I Ghanaians.

Time does not allow me to linger but my thoughts will be on this troubling problem of healing and how best to create spaces to do so. Unitarian Universalists are in a particularly unique position to pioneer such work as religious liberals dedicated to the inherent worth and dignity. Furthermore, the publishing company, Beacon Press is a UU company whose mission if furthered by the successful pursuit of this work and marketing of the book.

Blessed Be! Rev. Qiyamah
Question: How are you working to dismantle racism? What actions have you taken to interrupt racism? How are you working to foster healing in yourself and others?

Mis-steps, Milestones and Miracles

Nancy is a prison chaplain in North Carolina for 850 men in a medium security prison. She spends her days with men named Mad Dog, Porkchop and Pookie: murderers, rapists, child molesters and others who have made poor choices in life and committed acts of violence against others. Still others have messed up their lives over minor things and gotten caught by mandatory sentencing laws such as "three strikes and you are out" which include victimless crimes such as parole violations and possession of small amounts of substance abuse. Nancy talks about the Department of Corrections being a place of "unrelenting hopelessness, a place of darkness, where it is hared to see the light shining through." The first day on the job, the Lieutenant stopped by her office, "I'm not glad you're here. Women don't belong in a men's prison, they only make more work for me and my guards," he said. And this is how their professional relationship began.

After a few months,the Chaplain and the Lieutenant stepped into an altercation between prisoners and together stopped a fight. Later when things had quited down, the Lieutenant stopped by the Chaplain's office. "I know that you need me here," he said. "What I hate to admit is that I need you here." "You're right, Lieutenant, I do need you here to keep order on the floor, but how do you need me? She replied.

"I need you here to restrain my inclination to physical violence," he answered, "I need you to show me another way, another kind of force.

Source: recorded by Bob Reister in the newsletter of the Allisonville (Indiana) Christian Church

Question: What are we teaching by our example? How do we let our light shine so that others might be influenced to try something different or inclined to a different path that might transform their lives?

...I've saved some sunshine should you ever need a place away from darkness for your mind to rest." Rod McKuen

Blessed Be! Rev. Qiyamah