How do you find balance in your life between the demands of school, home, work, friends and family? The Campus Ministry Collaborative will explore this question during its third annual retreat, to be held on the weekend of October 21-23, 2016 in Columbus. To register, fill out the form below.
Climate change is both a wicked problem and a grand challenge. These are OSU Dance Professor Norah Zuniga Shaw’s words, and, as she pointed out to the Ministerium a few weeks ago, most people don’t feel personally equipped to do anything about wicked problems and grand challenges. We all know that climate change is a reality, but, beyond recycling and watching our energy footprint, most of us feel that there’s very little that we, personally, can do about it. Particularly at a time when we are overwhelmed by change. New technologies, new social behaviors, and the collapse of old institutions can leave us feeling lost at sea. But for Norah, this means that it’s time to take stock of our gifts, abilities, and choices, rather than to despair.
“What do you do to respond to uncertainty and change?” She asked us, and then asked us to list out some answers to that question. This was what she calls a “priming process,” in which a problem is stated (we live in a time of great change) and people are invited to name the agency they already have (list the responses). As a pedagogical method, these priming processes come out of the world of dance, and especially out of the work of one of Norah’s mentors, the West Coast dancer Simone Forti. They allow groups to have a certain kind of conversation and then see what kinds of associations arise from those conversations.
Having been primed in this way, we were then asked to think about that huge, overwhelming question of climate change, and relate it to our own disciplines. Since most of us in the Ministerium are clergy, lay religious leaders, and theologians, it came as no surprise that many of our disciplines had to do with God and community. But Norah pushed us to think beyond our work and consider our practices and our identities as well. She handed out a worksheet that had three simple questions, and space to answer them.
How do we confront ecological crisis through __________? (Make a quick list of your disciplines, working methods, experience you bring, and who taught you.)
What are your practices of taking action/making/doing and what role might your practices play in activating alternative futures? (List your practices and where you learned them, try not to edit yourself, just write what comes.)
What do you know already about climate change as a _____________ and who else can you turn to for answers? (List your relevant identities, relevant geographies, disciplinary groundings, relationships, and what you already know from these positions.)
Norah used these methods with dance students to create the piece “Let’s Make Climate Change.” She found that bringing the topic of climate change into the studio helped students engage with it. Suddenly a wicked problem was scaled to a size where they could respond to it by using their gifts, not just as dancers but as students, young people, women and men, children, romantic partners, and everything else that comprised their identities. And the things that they already did, those daily practices that we all have, could be brought to bear on the problem.
We’re all in the position of those dancers. We have gifts and positions within our wider culture that help us address any problem. We have daily practices that have great power. Solutions to any problem arise when a great number of people bring their diverse abilities to bear on it, when they name their personal responses and bring these responses together into grand collaborations.
There was still a lot to do when I woke up early that rainy gray Saturday morning in March. In just a couple of hours I was to be at Gabriel’s Place setting up for a potluck and conversation with gardeners, farmers and foodies to connect and share our passion of growing, sharing and eating food. I felt my anxiety rise as I stared at the task list I had scribbled down the night before. One of the tasks “Make chicken and rice,” made me say aloud, “What was I thinking? I don’t have time for this.”
As I began chopping shallots that Leslie had planted in our Brendan’s Crossing garden last spring, I noticed it was quiet enough to hear my own thoughts and more importantly the words of Wendell Berry and Brian Andreas that I would later share with the group. This morning silence is a rare luxury afforded to me by the fact that my three boys had spent the night at Grandma and Grandpa’s house and my wife, Brooke, was still sound asleep. I took a deep breath, slowed down and chose to focus intently on this task and the gift of this quiet morning.
Though we had dried herbs in the cabinet, I decided a potluck for gardeners and farmers required a walk out back to the backyard of the Riddle House to see what other gifts might find their way into the pot. I pulled on a jacket and my mud boots and headed out into the drizzle and a rare moment of greater awareness.
I walked past the old garden the Mennonites tended for nearly a century before us.
I picked two of this spring’s first asparagus spears that Jason and Emily helped plant over 6 years ago.
I walked past the chicken that Chad gave us and that Johnna nursed back to health (Don’t worry! He stayed in the coop – for now.)
I crossed the bridge that Te helped build.
I picked some sage that Jane gave us.
I opened the garden gate that Riley built as part of the fence that Darrell built to keep out the pesky deer.
I picked the marjoram that Brianna planted from the soil that Carl and Paul helped her shovel.
I picked the kale that Oliver loves to eat fresh each time he visits the garden.
I picked the thyme that Mac planted.
I brought it all back and threw it in the pot that was a gift from my parents.
I added the stock that Brooke made.
And most importantly – I sipped the coffee that Les, Ryan, Adam and Courtney roasted on Greg and Mary’s farm.
On this one quiet morning, in this one dish, in this one moment of awareness, all these gifts and all these connections came together for me in this one pot.
I thought about the words of Brian Andreas that we painted on the wall of the community house kitchen over a decade ago. They’ve remained a constant truth as eating together has been the one consistent act through all the “fits and starts” of community life.
“There are things you do because they just feel right and they may make no sense and they may make no money and it may be the real reason we are here: to love each other and to eat each other’s cooking and say it was good.”
And on this morning in this dish I would add, “…to eat each other’s cooking and say it was good and realize it’s all connected.”
My wife Brooke often “comments” on the fact that I can never recreate a dish because while I may reference a combination of recipes, I tend to make it up as I go. I’m pretty certain this dish will never be recreated, but here are the ingredients if you want to try:
This story was originally published in the Diocese of Southern Ohio’s latest issue of Connections all about food and farming initiatives in our diocese. Find it and other stories about food and faith here!
The study of physics has had an indelible effect on human affairs and philosophical thinking. The 20th century was no exception as physics experienced two revolutions: Einstein’s theory of relativity and the revolution in our understanding of atoms and other elementary particles. This latter topic is usually called quantum mechanics and the subject is the source of much discussion in philosophical and theological circles since it involves a variety of truly mysterious and paradoxical phenomena.
Chris Orban, who is an assistant professor of physics at OSU, gave us an overview the physical and philosophical thinking that came prior to the advent of quantum mechanics in the early 20th century. As Chris discussed, after Newton and Laplace, the earth and the cosmos were understood to be a kind of “world machine” or “clockwork universe” that operates in a highly predictable way according to the laws of physics. This understanding led many church-goers in the 18th and 19th centuries to an idea of God as a kind of watch maker who created the world and set it into motion, but who may or may not need to intervene as this universe takes the course it was designed to take.
Chris argues that this idea has had a profound effect. By creating a detached and distant picture of God, this would have helped lay the groundwork for the Enlightenment. The “clockwork universe” idea may also have had a strong effect on the past and present reluctance of American audiences to accept evolution as fact. The first American interlocutor of Darwin’s theory of evolution was a Harvard botanist and protestant church member named Asa Gray. In defending Darwin’s theory to religious audiences, he had the unenviable job of explaining that this clockwork universe must have been designed by God from the very beginning to use scarcity and competition as a means for producing biodiversity. “Nature, red in tooth and claw” as Tennyson would say.
Although Einstein was not an especially religious man, he too had an idea that God (or whatever God is) determined the laws of physics at the beginning of time and set the universe in motion. Einstein’s goal was to understand the symmetries of nature so well that he could understand whether God could have made the laws of physics in any other way than they currently are.
The phrase “God does not play dice!” is attributed to Einstein in a series of discussions he had with the physicist Neils Bohr over the way that quantum mechanics introduces a degree of randomness into the world. Quantum mechanics removes the absolute predictability of the “world machine”. Einstein once said that he found quantum mechanics to be so strange that he spent more time thinking about it than his own theory of relativity. Chris drew from a chapter on Niels Bohr in Richard Rhodes’ The Making of the Atomic Bomb to explain that although Bohr too was not an especially religious man, he dismissed Einstein’s assertion. He argued that the universe can operate however it operates. Decades of subsequent investigation have continued to confirm the notion that the affairs of atoms are intrinsically unpredictable on the smallest scales, which was the scientific basis of Bohr’s response.
The ramifications for this understanding of the world are as far reaching as the clockwork universe idea that came before it and Bohr spent time considering a renewed understanding of free will and other concepts in the light of quantum mechanics. Bohr once said that “[Philosophy] was, in a way, my life”, which is a reference both to his contributions to quantum mechanics and to the philosophical discussions he experienced growing up as a child of a biology professor at the University of Copehagen. A collection of Bohr’s speeches and writing can be found in his book Atomic Physics and Human Knowledge.
The Near East House, the newest Praxis intentional community, partnered in the Woodland Park neighborhood with St. Philip’s Columbus, is the proud recipient of a 2016 Young Adult United Thank Offering Grant to start a new community garden.
The Woodland Park Community Garden purposes to serve the residents of the neighborhood, both by (1) being a space for a stratified community to come together and work alongside one another toward a common goal, building fellowship among people with different backgrounds and (2) providing healthy, affordable food to a community that lacks access to fresh produce. The garden is purposefully a community garden, built and maintained by and for the residents of Woodland Park and is intended to attract and empower neighborhood gardeners to work and teach others in the space.
The community garden aims to bring together the neighborhood residents around the care for creation, care for each other, and care for the life of the earth in an urban environment. The garden will restore and safeguard not only the integrity of the physical earth of a vacant and overgrown city lot, but also that of the community that works to care for it. This garden, being in an urban setting, will remind those who witness it of the earth beneath the concrete streets. It will create a hopeful reminder of what the earth does naturally – grow and renew life. This is especially important in a neighborhood shot through with suspicion and fear of change. A thriving garden will be a symbol of hope and renewal, showing that change can be positive and strengthen community relationships.
Woodland Park is an overlooked residential area sandwiched between a highly developed suburb to the east and a gentrifying neighborhood to the south. Woodland Park itself has clear demarcations between incomes of households but a lack of physical barriers (i.e. rundown and vacant homes are one block over from mansions). Poor and wealthy people live so close to each other but do not have shared space or cause to come together. The community garden will offer that space and cause. Both will work in partnership with one another and with other residents of Woodland Park to build and maintain the garden. St. Philip’s will employ neighborhood youth. The youth will be responsible for maintenance of the garden and harvesting produce in the summer, having the opportunity to learn new skills, develop professionally, and earn income. Finally, excess produce from the garden will be donated to the St. Philip’s food pantry, which serves 200 households (made up of mostly Woodland Park residents) each month.
St. Philip’s and the Near East House are excited to work together in living out their call to love and serve the neighborhood of Woodland Park!
Interested in getting involved? Join us for our work days listed below at 1658 Harvard Ave Columbus, OH or Contact Jed Dearing at 614.327.4299 or email@example.com
Join us April 9th from 1-4 pm for an afternoon of conversation, reflection, and planning for the future. This is a gathering of our creative partners – so we look forward to deeper conversation and sharing about your communities, experiments, and insights as we deepen our own understanding of Praxis Communities. We will be meeting together with Campus Ministry Leaders to find places of collaboration. If you help lead a praxis community, or a campus ministry, please join us for this time of inspiration and encouragement.
Praxis Communities are communities fostering Christian faith and practice in Southern Ohio. Praxis communities walk in the way of Christ and represent expressions of church outside the conventional mold. We sometimes call them Fresh Expressions. Praxis groups and communities share in practices of faith such as prayer, service with the poor, creativity, study, discernment, and much more. Praxis Communities are united by our common praxis – the putting of theory into action. These small groups and communities commit to walking the spiritual path together and sharing how faith practices transform their lives. To find out more about praxis communities in Southern Ohio, check out our blog: www.praxiscommunities.org
We are meeting at the Procter Center in London, OH – 11235 State Rt. 38 SE.
by Katharin Blodgett
I grew up in a pretty diverse area in an Indianapolis suburb. But it wasn’t until I was 24 years old that I actually started grasping the truth, history, and scope of everything that had happened and was still happening in 2015. I worked for a summer with a racially diverse staff in racially diverse areas, including St. Louis, MO. But man I had so much to learn and listen to and experience. I remember seeing name after name of young black men who were killed by police brutality show up on the news; I was disgusted with it all. No longer could I think of that community as “other” and that the things happening were “their fault.” I was coming to understand systemic racism, white privilege, and how the definition of racism I’d been taught to understand all throughout school didn’t even touch the evil that racism really is. As long as I was nice and respectful of everyone, regardless of the color of their skin, racism didn’t exist and we were in a postracial America, right?
I went through the feelings of white guilt. I wrestled with my privilege and had to start really looking at race in America and in my life. I naively thought the only difference between blacks and whites was our skin color. How simplistic of me. Thankfully I had friends this summer who were patient and open with me. So now, fastforward to our retreat last week to Ferguson. It was amazing to be back in St. Louis, a place I’d spent 4 weeks in this past summer. The whole weekend was a great experience, but there are a few moments that really stuck out to me. We were able to attend a service at St. John’s Church (the Beloved Community), a church that is racially diverse, and seeks to care for the north side of St. Louis because they know their future depends on that community. There was a guest speaker, Rahiel Tesfamariam, who spoke a wonderful sermon about seeking validation from the right place, and continuing a fight for justice. This was an amazing sermon about racial justice and appropriation and captivity and intimacy. Towards the end of the sermon, she was talking to her black brothers and sisters. But then, she talked to her white brothers and sisters. It was actually refreshing to me, that she called me out by skin color, she recognized it and didn’t ignore it, and let me know that THIS IS MY FIGHT TOO. And it made me think of all the times I decided to ignore skin color, because it was easier, but when really I was missing an opportunity to recognize the purpose and value and passion in each of us.
Another part of her sermon that really stuck with me was when she said something along the lines that “so often we lose the capacity to see the world as God sees the world.” I mean, we’re living in PostRacial America after all, right?! But I’ve lately been struck by how much of God’s creativity and beauty and individuality we’re missing out on when we say that. For me specifically, a blonde haired white 25 year old, I know that my life is so much richer having friends who are from different cultures than me. I’m not saying that we all need to have our certain “token” friends. Because that’s a whole other issue in itself. But I do believe that God created us all how we are. And that every body has value, regardless of skin color. We can learn so much from each other and, as iron sharpens iron, really mold each other. We are doing each other and our communities a disservice when we don’t recognize those differences, understand where we differ, but more importantly see how we are so much more similar than we think, and are in this fight for justice together.
So for me, I know some practical steps I took at the beginning of my journey and I’m still taking now are reading and educating myself about my privilege. About systemic racism. Listening to other people. Shutting my mouth because a lot of times, it’s the better thing to do. I think we are a people who like to ignore what makes us uncomfortable. But it’s great, because the more you read and learn and meet more people, the less uncomfortable you’ll get and the more fired up and passionate you’ll get about everyone’s value.
by Katie Guy
Our team from urban Columbus Ohio arrived in Dilley and made several turns down dusty roads and into the ranch that the CARA staff lives and works out of when they are not working out of the visitation trailer of the Dilley Detention Center. It became clear very quickly that this was a grass roots initiative that was doing some important work that not enough people know about. The CARA staff was able to cram masses of information into our heads in a 3 hour time span that would allow us to legally assist the women and children that are detained in the Dilley Detention Center.
These women are from Central American and have crossed the Mexican border seeking asylum and are now being detained in Dilley, Texas (population about 4,000) where there is no legal assistance available. In response to the huge need the CARA Project has a team of advocates and lawyers that live full time in Dilley and handle the cases that come through the detention center. They also take all the help they can get from volunteers like our team. A large part of what we did is prepare the women for their Credible Fear Interview, the interview that decides whether they can stay in the US or if they are deported back to their home country. If they are deported, they will most likely be returned to a country that is run by gangs.
All of the women that we encountered had horrible and heroic stories. They faced abuse from their partners, or gangs in their neighborhood that have driven them to leave their families and their home country. These are not women that are here in the United States to ‘take our jobs’. They are here running from a life that is full of fear and by no fault of their own. I found it most frustrating that not all the women that were living in fear had a case to receive asylum. One women in particular fled because she was fearful that her son would get recruited into the gangs. Her son went to a school where he was guaranteed to join the gang if he attended, but his mother kept him out for fear of the gangs. She was proactive and fled before her son had the chance to be recruited. Because her family was not threatened personally, her case was weak. I find it quite appalling that a women that was solely looking out for her family is not able seek asylum because she didn’t allow anything to happen to her son. Essentially, for any women to have a case they have to have to let a severe trauma happen to them or their child. I keep telling myself that there has to be a better way. Join me in asking these questions of ourselves and of our law makers.