What would it be like to have an intentional focus to live more ethically for a year? How can we pay more attention to our actions - and reactions, being more reflective in the choices we make when we interact with people, the choices we make in our daily lives, the choices we make as we try to make the world a better place? Could we do this for a year? What would we do?
This was the challenge I put to members and friends of the Ethical Society Without Walls (ESWoW) at the beginning of 2011 year, and one I share with you.
Some members of ESWoW have been taking action to live more ethically in 2011. But just as with any habit, or lifestyle change, living ethically isn't something that you do for a year and then stop. So we'll be doing another year of living ethically and hope that more people will join us and share their ideas, challenges, and of course, successes.
I gave a Platform Address (rather than a sermon) on this topic at several Ethical Societies which meet in person over the last year, and share the latest version, given in November 2011 at the Essex County Society for Ethical Culture in NJ. Please click on the link for the attachment to read the full Platform. Read more »
As I prepare to speak at the Baltimore Ethical Society on the tenth anniversary of 9/11, I struggle to make sense of the tragedy. I offer these thoughts to ESWoW visitors in the hope that they may allow more meaning and ethical commitment to grow from this wound in America’s psyche. The image of a wound came to me again this past July when staying in my cousin’s Battery Park apartment before speaking at the New York Society for Ethical Culture. As I headed uptown toward the Society that Sunday morning, I passed “ground zero” - the site where once stood the twin towers. Although most of the refuse and jagged metal had been removed or buried, the site struck me as a giant aching wound in the cityscape. Today, September 11, a public memorial site opens there with two huge sunken reflection pools marking the footprint of the disappeared buildings in which so many died. The pools are cut into the ground, and water pours like the tears of family members and friends of the deceased.
As I drove by, I was reminded of Maya Lin’s Vietnam Memorial in Washington, D.C., which knifes into a soft grassy knoll next to the Lincoln Memorial. I recall her saying that she wanted to cut the earth, revealing a wound that slowly heals but never fully disappears. Like Vietnam, the 9/11 horror of ten years ago will never go away. Like ground zero in lower Manhattan, it will always ache with deep and powerful suffering. Read more »
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.
This is an article originally published in the newsletter of the Baltimore Ethical Society. It is based on a Platform address given by Hugh as Leader of the Baltimore Ethical Society on May 1, 2011. (SR)
The theme of my May 1 Platform on "leadership" was that we all have the potential - in our own unique way - to be leaders. I then asked, "How does a community where everyone is a leader keep chaos at bay?" I mean if a parade was made up of nothing more than drum majors, wouldn't it just degenerate into a crowd of people each marching in different directions to the beat of their own drummer?
Well, in part, what holds us together are our wonderful shared collection of beliefs, ways of living, ethical relationships, and caring communities. We are also held together by our common history from Felix Adler to today. For me, however, what really holds us together are the values we share. While they have evolved through our history, they maintain a consistency and heart.
I concluded my talk by sharing the three values I tend to promote in my "elevator speech" - that two-minute explanation of Ethical Culture you offer to an inquirer in the time that you are riding in an elevator together. A member of the Baltimore Society suggested I share these values again in this newsletter, and so I do. I ask you to consider them over the summer.
The three values I find that best reflect what Ethical Culture means to me are as follows:
1) respect and celebration of the inherent worth of every person;
2) the importance of creating flourishing ethical relationships; and Read more »
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 »