Felix Adler was not quite 26 when he held the first meeting of the New York Society for Ethical Culture. Yet the Movement he grew up around him tends to be populated mostly by people who are over 50, or maybe even over 60 or 70 or even 80 or 90. That we are a Movement of people who stay active even as they are aging, has always provided a good role model for me. I've seen people growing old and staying active and that is wonderful.
But still, youth in an organization provide an energy, and perhaps even more so, a sense of hope for our future. The Ethical Culture Movement has been fortunate in recent years to have two people come to us for Leadership Training who were not yet 30 at the time. Amanda Poppei, now Leader at the Washington (DC) Ethical Society, was certified nearly 2 years ago. And Catherine Bordeau, working with the Brooklyn Society for Ethical Culture, has been a Leader-in-Training for almost a year.
Catherine will be joining the ESWoW Community Call on August 7th and speaking with us about Youth in Ethical Culture. Catherine hosted the Future of Ethical Societies program this spring at the Brooklyn Society. The group created a video of people talking about why people are drawn to Ethical Culture. And she brought great energy and enthusiasm to this year's AEU Assembly.
I've had the great pleasure of getting to work with Catherine in my role as Dean of Leadership Training. I've seen her dedication to Ethical Culture, her good thinking and her willingness, eagerness actually, to work hard and to bring the ideas of her generation for the benefit of Ethical Culture.
Opening Words - There is no power greater than a community discovering what it cares about. - Meg Wheatley Read more »
On Friday, June 17, 2011, Rose Walker died. She had just had her 101th birthday less than two weeks before. Rose had been ill for some time. She died at a hospital in Florida with family and loved ones around her. This news was shared with me just prior to the Platform at the AEU Assembly, and we were able to include a short memorial tribute to her as part of the Platform. Rose was a member of ESWoW.
Other pieces are being written about Rose, particularly those who knew her as the driving force of the National Ethical Service. I will share links to them when I get them. I will also share more information about the memorial service for Rose as I get it, and we might even do a memorial call to honor her memory.
I knew who Rose Walker was since I was three and my parents first took me to the Brooklyn Society for Ethical Culture. Who was Rose Walker? Why she was the lady with the hats, of course. And then, as I got older, she was one of the ladies sitting in the garden after a Sunday Platform meeting - still with her hat on - talking about important things. I had no idea what the important things were then. Now I know that those were meetings of the local group of the Women's Conference - now the National Ethical Service and I have a better understanding of why United Nations Day was always observed at the Brooklyn Society and why the Children's Sunday Assembly students always went trick or treating for UNICEF, and knew what the acronym stood for and understood a fair amount about UNICEF programs. Read more »
This Sunday is Father's Day. It is American holdiay with not as much history as Mother's
Day – or so I thought until I did a little google searching. I found the following on
The first observance of Father's Day actually took place in Fairmont, West Virginia on
July 5, 1908. It was organized by Mrs. Grace Golden Clayton, who wanted to celebrate the
lives of the 210 fathers who had been lost in the Monongah Mining disaster several months
earlier in Monongah, West Virginia, on December 6, 1907. It's possible that Clayton was
influenced by the first celebration of Mother's Day that same year, just a few miles away.
Clayton chose the Sunday nearest to the birthday of her recently deceased father.
A day created to celebrate a particular person in a particular role, with the expectations
that it be a joyous occasion for all, does not always have its intended effect.
I hope for you that you had a wonderful nurturing experience with your father, and that if
you are a father that that is a wonderful experience for you. Yet I want to acknowledge
that not everyone's experience of fatherhood, either on the receiving end – as a child of
a father, or the giving end, as the father of a child(ren) is a positive one.
Perhaps your father spent hours playing with you, talking with you, teaching you to swim,
to ride a bike – trying to teach you to ice skate, as my father did. And yet perhaps
there were other times when you thought he didn't see you, understand who you really are. Read more »
ESWoW member Leonard Weis died on May 3, 2011. I've already written a bit about him and his wonderful life. He was an active ESWoW member, and we needed to collectively remember him and honor him. So we did what was most fitting for someone who participated in almost everyone of our ESWoW calls. We held a memorial service for Len in our latest Community Call.
The notion of having a memorial service by teleconference sounds bizarre. Yet it was what was most appropriate for ESWoW to do as a community.
We had several members on the call, and were also joined by Len's adult children, Becky Weis Nord and Stephen Weis. They were able to give us a fuller picture of Len's life. I smiled so much to hear about Len as a loving and adventurous grandfather, and how he influenced his children to live very ethical lives.
The strangest thing was to have a Community Call without Len. He has participated in so many calls, that I have always missed his presence when he hasn't been able to be on. It was good for people who had connected with Len, who considered him to be a vital part of their lives, even though they had never met him in person. People shared just how deeply Len had affected them, how he had been a wonderful exemplar of living an ethical life.
Ceremonies are an area in which Ethical Culture excels. Our ceremonies are about the individuals affected by that which is being celebrated. We celebrated Len's life, and we gave support to each other, knowing that there are people who will feel the great loss of a dear friend, and family members who have such a great change in their lives. Read more »
Len Weis was a child of the Ethical Movement, with two grandfathers as founding members of the New York Society for Ethical Culture. As a young adult he moved away from Ethical Culture, but only literally, away from New York to a land where there were no Ethical Societies. How fortunate we have been that Len Weis and Ethical Culture found each other again, and found ways to be supportive of each other through the Ethical Society Without Walls. I was privileged to be able to speak with him, and hear just how much it meant to him to have an Ethical Culture connection again. And how fortunate they were in Appleton, WI, to have Len and Donna Weis as part of their community as they raised their two children, Stephen and Becky.
Len and I appreciated another connection we had - I had worked at the Weis Ecology Center in its very early days, had met his mother, May, and his daughter Becky. The ecology center, nestled in the woods of northern NJ, is a gem. The Weis family has certainly been an important part of environmental education and preservation, and their good work continues. Read more »
Last weekend I spoke at the Ethical Humanist Society of the Triangle, which meets in Chapel Hill, NC. I went down to NC a few days early to visit with my colleague Randy Best. Little did I know when I made my travel plans that I would also get to visit a home funeral which was leading up to a green burial.
We visited at the home of Clark Wang, Randy's friend, who had died several days before. My initial interest was to see the coffin he was in; I had seen pictures of Randy building it about a year before out of reclaimed wood, wooden pegs, and hemp rope for handles. I was pleased to see the coffin and touch it, and could tell all the thought and care that went into the design and construction of this simple, but important box. It held the body of someone who had lived and then died. People who knew Clark had done all the care for his body - washing, applying oils to help with odor control, and placing him on dry ice in the coffin to maintain his body for the several days before the green burial.
Clark's body was draped, leaving his face exposed. Flowers were arranged over the sheet, having been placed there with love and care. I didn't have a reference point, never having met him in person, but after seeing many pictures and videos, I had the sense that his face was quite bloated. I don't know if that was from his illness and medical treatment or just from having been dead for several days.
It was a little strange going to a viewing and gathering for someone I had never met before when I wasn't officially there as a clergy person. People asked me "how did you know Clark?" My answer had to be that I didn't, but I knew Randy who helped build the coffin. That seemed to satisfy everyone. Read more »
Hope without action doesn't go very far. A praxis - reflection and action, is what gives me the most hope for us working together to make the world a more just place for everyone.
I was excited weeks ago, hearing about the demonstrations in Tunisia and Egypt, but in the back of my mind was the thought that it would be nice to see some demonstrating for democracy in the United States.
So I'm even more excited now by the demonstrations that begun in Wisconsin, are also taking place in Ohio and Indiana with demonstrations of support for true democracy around the whole country. I see these demonstrations also being demands for truth-telling. The changes the WI governor is trying to push through are not about budget cuts, but about democracy.
I was so pleased to be standing in front of the Massachussetts state house last Tuesday with hundreds (maybe even 1,000) other demonstrators. The energy and enthusiasm of the crowd gave me hope. Among all the homemade signs, the one I liked the best said "Working for Democracy - from the Mid-East to the Mid-West."
ESWoW member Brian Solomon is a gradaute of the Sunday School program at the Baltimore Ethical Society. He is also an alder on the Madison, WI City Council. I was so pleased to find the blog Brian wrote, reflecting on the demonstrations in Wisconsin, and especially noticing that it is not enough. Brian's blog clearly spells out for us that in order to continue having hope, we must continue to have action. Yes, it is possible for people to demonstrate and make changes. I'm hopeful that what we take from this demonstrating is that it is worthwhile to demonstrate, it is worthwhile to make our opinions known, to our legislators and to our neighbors. Read more »
I am putting this up as a blog temporarily since it is the quickest way I know. I'll put it in the right place soon. Please check the attachment.
... in the Ethical religion, hope is not an illusion. We each live in history, not in general, but in the here and now in particular. Our own life is always at stake and that poses the deepest spiritual issue of our entire existence. Hope is a gift which requires our total involvement. It is not sentimental, not passively "hoping for the best." The hopeful person is an emotionally active person, for hope does not come gift-wrapped. The heart of the matter is always that we each must find our own help and that does not come over the bargain counter. On the contrary, hope depends upon our response to life. It is the burden and promise for people like ourselves, not intellectual giants, but people who want to base their lives upon what we can understand and upon what our hands can find to do. Hope resides in that which is as yet unawakened in us, pregnant within us, what we can urge into birth by deepening our lives. That is the religious humanist position and it can provide us with a sense of confidence about our place in life. - Matthew Ies Spetter
In looking for a piece I wrote years ago about hope, I came across a Platform Address with the title "Reasons for Hope" given by Dr. Matthew Ies Spetter in 1986. Dr. Spetter was the Leader of the Riverdale-Yonkers Society for Ethical Culture (in the Bronx, NY) for over 40 years, retiring from there in the mid 1990's. This Platform was given at the American Ethical Union Assembly held that year in St. Louis, MO, and was given as part of the presentation of the Elliott-Black Award to Helen Caldicott. Read more »