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Upcoming Programs -- What's Next Thanks for Noticing book
2020 Past Program links Older Program Reports
2020 Other Announcements About CRES participation
 Below are links to 2020 PROGRAMS and REPORTS
Vital ConversationsProgram, 2d Wed 1-2:30 pm          Coffee, 4th Wed 8 am
Photos and reports are arranged by month

A Schubertian Epiphany --January 12 free Sacred Arts Chorale concert

Ministry in a Pluralistic World C-RP511

KC Interfaith History Project continues 

King Holiday Essay

Lenten Series: When Even Evil Will Ordain the Good -- Mar 5, 12, 19, 26
     Episcopal Church of the Good Shepherd

Table of Faiths  TBA

From Aporia to Praise:
An observance of the 50th anniversary of Vern Barnet's ordination May 24

Sacred Citizenship
Exploring ideas in Vern's essay on the topic June 10

Independence Day Essay  "Sacred Citizenship"
     from our Archives: The America before Trump  (2-page PDF)

Annual Interfaith Thanksgiving Dinner -- 2020 Nov TBA Sunday 4:30
     with the Vern Barnet Interfaith Service Award 
     given to TBA Event sponsored by the HeartlandADL


A final first edit of the Al Brooks memoir is now complete. We are in the proof-reading stage. 

Announcement and Reports
Free Music and Munchies for Epiphany! 
January 12 Sunday 2-4 pm, Simpson House, 4509 Walnut St
      CRES is pleased to co-sponsor music for Epiphany! The Sacred Arts Chorale again presents an intimate musical performance with plenty of time for munchies and wine (we hear the cider will be spiked with whiskey).  Music by Schubert, Mendelssohn, Brahms, Richard Strauss, Rachmaninov, and Andrew Lloyd Webber. 
     Director Dr. Rebecca Johnson says the Chorale picked this date because "there is so much gorgeous choral music in Kansas City prior to Christmas, and then it all goes pretty silent until February."
     Simpson House is a favorite event space in the heart of Kansas City, near the Country Club Plaza, a few blocks east of the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, a block away from the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art. Plenty of parking in the lot and on the street.
    Vern says, "I can testify from past years that both the music will be splendid and the hors d'oeuvres will astonish as they delight." 
     Free, a gift from Central Baptist Theological Seminary to the community, with the co-sponsorship of CRES.


ABOVE: The Chorale receives the enthusiatic applause of the Simpson House audience.
 Soprano: Karli Carbrera, Christina Casey; Alto: Kimberly Wilkinson, Roslinde Rivera, Charlotte Thuenemann; Tenor: Jonathan Ray, Spencer Ruwe, Eddie Taul; Bass: Nathan Brown, Ben Donnelly-Strait; Accompanist: Charles Dickinson; Conductor: Rebecca Johnson.
BELOW: Dr Molly Marshall, president of Central Seminary, 
congratulates Dr Rebecca Johnson, conductor of the Sacred Arts Chorale.

from Canon John Schaefer 
(quoted from his Jan 14 email distribution:

    On Sunday, we attended the Schubertian Epiphany.  It was presented at the Simpson House by the Sacred Arts Chorale.  There was a warmhearted mix of sacred and secular music by Franz Schubert, Felix Mendelssohn, Johannes Brahms, Sergei Rachmaninoff, Andrew Lloyd Webber, and Richard Strauss.  The program described the Chorale as “one of the Kansas City area’s finest sacred music performing groups.” In the words of A. E. Housman, “’tis true, ‘tis true.”

King Holiday Essay — 
     Download a PDF of Vern's 2-page summary of the genius of the spiritual approach of Martin Luther King Jr by clicking this link.

Ministry in a Pluralistic World syllabus
     2020 TBA 6-9:45pm CT 

     The graduate credit course C-RP511 is held remotely via Zoom and at
     Central Seminary 6601 Monticello Road, Shawnee, KS 6226-3513.

The course, created by Dr Vern Barnet, and currently taught by Dr Matthew Silvers with Vern taking the Feb 17 session, explores questionslike these:

     0. Getting acquainted: Our backgrounds, travel and other experiences, and perspectives as we approach this course. 
     1. What meanings do terms such as belief, dialogue, epiphany, holistic, mission, myth, pilgrimage, religion, ritual, sacred, sacrifice, scripture, secular, spirituality, and worship, have for us and today’s society? 
     2. What attitudes have scholars identified as ways folks approach faith perspectives other than their own?
     3. What does “pluralism” mean? What are its theoretical, practical, and personal meanings? How does it apply to the local community and the “global village”?
     4. Where are we aided and challenged by other traditions? How might our own and other traditions address environmental, personal, and social disorders?

     1. How do sociological, historical, phenomenological, and other methods of studying religions differ, and how do they help us understand another’s faith?
     2. What are the basic structures, texts, facts, practices, and variations of other faiths?
     3. How do faiths compare and contrast?
     4. What is more, and what is less, useful for each of us today?

     1. What are the basic styles and purposes of interfaith engagement? What are the significant interfaith organizations and programs affecting the student’s community? 
     2. How do I discover my community’s faith complexion and my opportunities within it? 
     3. What issues with boundaries arise and how can they be negotiated?
     4. What do we learn about ourselves as we learn about others? Can I be committed to my own faith and respectful and open to others? If so or if not, what does that mean for my ministry?

KC Interfaith History Project continues . . . .

Former CRES Board chair Larry Guillot and former CRES intern, now CRES historian, Geneva Blackmer met with Vern for lunch 2019 Febuary 21 to review progress and plan next steps. Geneva, with both her interfaith experience and library skills, has scoured local and state archives, interviewed folks, and drafted what is even at this stage by far the most complete look at how ecumenical and interfaith activities have developed in the KC region, but the work is ongoing. Visit the KC Interfaith History Project.
     In his 2019 July 25 entry in his “Faith Matters blog, Bill Tammeus about Geneva Blackmer’s book, The Ecumenical and Interfaith History of Greater Kansas City. 
     Bill says, “As Blackmer, a 2016-'17 intern for the Center for Religious Experience and Study who recently accepted a position as program director for the Interfaith Center at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, notes, ‘If it was ever necessary to designate one city in the United States as the heart of interfaith activity, a very compelling argument could be made for Kansas City.’
     “The booklet is itself an argument for that contention.”
     After several paragraphs discussing some of the content of the book and mentioning several important interfaith organizations, he concludes, “There is, of course, still much to be done to reach the Interfaith Council’s goal of making KC the most religiously welcoming community in the country. But Blackmer’s work is a tribute to how much effort already has gone into achieving that goal.”
     Surely Bill himself is one reason that Kansas City has been more welcoming to interfaith efforts than some places, and Geneva’s outline of Kansas City’s progress can inspire us to move forward.
     Geneva is shown above in a February review session with Larry Guillot who was one of her advisors on the book project.
     Vern says, “Geneva was one of the best things ever to happen to CRES, to interfaith progress in Kansas City, and to me. Her initiative, energy, faithfulness, many diverse skills, and academic competence made her a cherished laborer in the interfaith field here, and — as I know from all the requests for references I’ve received around the country — a much sought-after leader into the future.”

Lenten Series:
When Even Evil Will Ordain the Good 
Mar 5, 12, 19, 26 -- Thursdays, 6pm meal, 6:30 program
Episcopal Church of the Good Shepherd
4947 NE Chouteau Drive, Kansas City,  MO 64119 -- (816) 452-0745


Lent is a special time to explore the powerful mysteries of the crucified and resurrected love of the Christian Savior. As terrain for this exploration, the Reverend Vern Barnet, DMn, offers sonnets from the  “Credo” section his book, Thanks for Noticing: The Interpretation of Desire with art and music for discussion.
     Vern wrote the Wednesday "Faith and Beliefs" column 1994-2012 for The Kansas City Star and has written a dozen essays for the diocesan magazine, Spirit, 2015-2017.He is a layman at Grace and Holy Trinity Cathedral where currently he is a Godly Play storyteller and Saint John’s Bible docent, and he serves on the diocesan Commission on Ministry. He is minister emeritus at CRES — the Center for Religious Experience and Study. He founded the Kansas City Interfaith Council in 1989. Free copies of the book will be given to class members to celebrate the publication of the second edition expected sometime in March. Copies of the sonnets will be supplied for each session.

Mar 5 - The Jesus of History or the Christ of Faith?
Mar 12 - A Paradox of Salvation 
Mar 19 - The Gospel Theater 
Mar 26 - The Mystic Vision 

Here is a DRAFT version of the 
8-page study guide in PDF

Readings: Theme Sonnet 82
Mar 5: Sonnet 79
Mar 12: Sonnet 80 (also? 85); 
Mar 19: Sonnet 84
Mar 26: Sonnet 86 (also? 88).

Art to illustrate the themes below
theme music "Third Tune" by Thomas Tallis
an instrumental version  -  a choral version  -   Fantasia by RVW
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T8oKEx1-J1w -    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lD5TG8z3-SM
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ihx5LCF1yJY - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p0AuHYNj8qQ

Two views of an icon of Christ teaching and Velazquez’s "Christ after 
the Flagellation contemplated by the Christian Soul" Mar 8 and Mar 15

A modern enactment of the crucifixion. Mar 22

Dali's "Last Supper" Mar 29 


From Aporia to Praise: 
May 24
An observance of 
the 50th anniversary of Vern Barnet's ordination
Aporia: "impasse, puzzlement, doubt."

      Vern offers his conclusions from 50 years of experience and study: in a troubled world, what paths lie forward? and how can one dare offer praise for the intertwined mix horror and beauty of existence?
* Doing theology is less like mathematics and more like expounding why you love someone.
* My passion for "world religions" in the context of the crises of secularism.
* The mystic's vision (amour fati - love of fate) and the public expression in worship.

Sacred Citizenship 
David Nelson has asked Vern to participate in the June 10 “Vital Conversation” when the group will consider Vern's essay on “Civil Religion” as part of the program. 
     “Civil Religion” has a bad name. Even Robert Bellah, who popularized the term in 1967, abandoned it because it has come to connote right-wing desires to fuse church and state as in the case of one proposed Constitutional amendment, meant to recognize the “sovereignty of Christ.” But isn't citzenship -- beyond sectarian and partisan claims -- really a sacred gift and responsibility?

2020 TBA 
The 31st anniversary of the founding of 
The Greater Kansas City Interfaith Council,
now independent but originally a program of CRES.

Vern Barnet, who founded in the Council in 1989, is Council Convener Emeritus. The Council newsletter has published his brief notes about three milestones in the early history of the Council.


Becoming Nobody
Ram Dass Movie Premiere 
postponed -- expect new date soon
Additional shows: expect new dates soon
Unity Temple on the Plaza

Enjoy this new cinema portrait of a beloved icon's life and teachings. BECOMING NOBODY follows the fascinating journey of Ram Dass — the world renowned sage and guru whose vision transformed hippie America — from his early years as a rock star Harvard psychologist and LSD pioneer to an Eastern holy man who encouraged the world to “be here now.” Dass’s teachings —  shedding one’s ego and one’s sense of self, becoming “one with the universe” — have defined a generation of truth-seekers. His wisdom flows out of this quintessential film portrait, and you are sure to leave this experience with more compassion, and more attentiveness to the moment, than when you arrived.

Historic clips balance an engaging conversation with director Jamie Catto. We come to understand how encrusted roles and habitual disguises become increasingly burdensome. The film captures a loving man full of joy, wit, honesty, and wisdom, at ease in conversation while sharing his considerable pains and pleasures. The life experiences that have freed him from the attachments of his ‘somebody-ness’ have transformed him into the radiant soul who now inspires a new generation.

Presented by the KC Film Forum and co-hosted by CRES, the Open Circle Spiritual Cinema Series, and the Temple Buddhist Center.

Although this event is not sponsored by CRES, we list it since its Vern Barnet Interfaith Service Awardis named for CRES minister emeritus, the founder of the Kansas City Interfaith Council (1989), then a program of CRES.

2019 November TBA Sunday 4 pm
Annual Interfaith Thanksgiving Dinner
with the Vern Barnet Interfaith Service Award
this year to TBA


WEDDINGS of all kinds click for information

We can provide a customized ceremony. We regularly work with the great folks at Pilgrim Chapel and are happy to serve at any venue. 

THANKS to Robert and Shye Reynolds, a CRES fund to assist couples with fees for weddings  has been established, to celebrate their marriage June 19, 2002, on the occasion of their thirteenth anniverary.

see also
our publications page

in progress: KC Star, Many Paths columns and fresh essays:
The Three Families of Faith and the Three Crises of Secularism 
     Many have asked for a compilation of columns Vern wrote for the KC Star, 1994-2012,  and the essays fatured in Many Paths. Here are tentative chapter headings for the selections:
      ? The Three Families of Faith ? Faith and the Arts  ? Science and Religion  ? Teachers of the Spirit ? Ritual and Worship ? Religion and Public Policy ? Specific Faiths (Buddhism, Islam, etc) ? Comparative topics (reincarnation, gods, water, prophets, etc) ? How the column began and ended


If you would
like to engage Vern 
or another member 
of the CRES staff
for a speech, 
a wedding,
a baptism,
or other work
with your organization 
or personally, 
please visit  www.cres.org/work/services.htm or email  vern@cres.org

Having spawned several other organizations,
including the Greater Kansas City Interfaith Council,
we continue to offer programs initiated by and through others
but we no longer create our own in order to focus on our unique work.
For interfaith and cultural calendars maintained by other groups, click here.

announcements pending


A Vital Conversation Coffee
Vital Conversations
monthly schedule
2nd Wedneday of the month 1-2:30 pm
MidContinent Public Library Antioch Branch
6060 N Chestnut Ave, Gladstone, MO 64119
(816) 454-1306

You are welcome even if you have not read the book or seen the movie
A Free Monthly Discussion Group Led by David E Nelson
C R E S  senior  associate minister
president, The Human Agenda

“The purpose of a Vital Conversation is not to win an argument,
but to win a friend and advance civilization.” Vern Barnet 

Vital Conversations are intentional gatherings of people to engage 
in dialog that will add value to the participants and to the world. 
In Vital Conversations, we become co-creators of a better community. 
David Nelson
The discussions began May 24, 2002, at the CRES facility
 by examining Karen Armstrong’sThe Battle for God
Reading is magic and a mysterious activity that feeds the mind, transports the imagination, sooths the soul, and expands life.  It is most often done in solitude and yet connects us to so many others both near us and far from us.  Many readers enjoy the opportunity to share their reading discoveries and to expand from the sharing of others.  Reading is an important aspect of our common humanness.
David E. Nelson
Vital Conv. Coffee
an open exchange of ideas
with no preset agenda
 4th Wednesday monthly
8 am
Panera Bread
311 NE Englewood Road
Kansas City, MO 64118

2020 Vital Conversations Schedule

to see last year's fascinating programs, click here.

January 8, 2020 — The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead. Cora is a young slave on a cotton plantation in Georgia. An outcast even among his fellow Africans, she is on the  cusp of womanhood — where greater pain awaits. And so when Ceasar, a slave who has recently arrived from Virginia, urges her to join him on the Underground Railroad, she seizes the opportunity. Whitehead brilliantly re-creates the terrors of the antebellum era; he weaves in the saga of our nation, from the brutal abduction of Africans  to the unfulfilled promises of the present day.

Clif Hostetler's Reviews 

Releasing Conversation:  Share your name and one resolution you might make for the decade of the 2020s.

Questions for Conversation
     “People may be victimized, but no one is inherently a victim.”  Although Cora is victimized by others she never behaves like a victim.  Discuss the ways in which she fights against the different types of oppression she encounters.
     Discuss the difference forms of racism Cora encounters in the American states she passes through.  What is this prejudice driven by?  Which state, in your opinion, was the worst in its violation of human rights?
     While Cora’s perspective dominates, The Underground Railroad incudes narratives from the point-of-view of a range of other characters.  Why do you think the author includes the stories of relatively minor characters as Dr. Stevens and Ethel Wells?  Did they add anything to the novel?
     The author uses deliberate anachronisms and magic realism in his story.  How do these elements allow the author to express things that could not be conveyed in a strictly realist novel?  How do you feel about the combination of realism ad fantasy?  Is it appropriate for Whitehead’s subject matter?
     “If niggers were supposed to have their freedom, they wouldn’t be in chains.  If the red man was supposed to keep hold of his land, it’d still be his.  If the white man wasn’t destined to take this new world, he wouldn’t own it now.  Here was the true Great Spirit, the divine thread connecting all human endeavor ---if you can keep it, it is yours.  Your property, slave or continent.  The American imperative.” (page 82)  Ridgeway’s guiding philosophy is a belief in this “American Spirit.”  How dominant was this in the 19th century?  How much is it still the belief of some today?
     “Stolen bodies working stolen land.  It was an engine that did not stop, its hungry boiler fed with blood.  With the surgeries that Dr. Stevens described, Cora thought, the whites had begun stealing futures in earnest.  Cut you open and rip them out, dripping.  Because that’s what you do when you take away someone’s babies ---steal their future.  Torture them as much as you can when they are on this earth, then take away the hope that one day their people will have it better.”  (p.119-120)  Dr. Stevens narrative gives an account of the lucrative trade in dead bodies.  His commentary upon the value of corpses draws parallels between the bodysnatching trade and slavery, which both profit from the sale of human beings.  What do these reflections add to the story Whitehead is telling?
     Discuss the parallels the novel draws between Cora’s experience in North Carolina and the regime of Nazi Germany. Can you think of more recent events which also bear a similarity to the atmosphere of racial hatred and fear Cora finds in North Carolina?
     By the closing pages of the novel Cora still has a long way to travel before she reaches freedom.  Did you interpret the ending in an optimistic light?  How has your thinking and feeling changed after reading this novel?

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February 12 — Taking Civility Out of the Box: The Insanity of Incivility and What Can Be Done About It   by  Barbara Mason Condra
These are not easy times for important conversations because it is difficult to converse when there is a lack of civility. Barbara addresses this issue from her perspective as a retired teacher, school administrator, and volunteer.  She will be with us, along with others from The Assistance League of Kansas City. She addresses the questions:  Why are so many people angry and meanspirited? How will a lack of civility damage our democracy? Am I going  to have to accept incivility as a way of life? 

Releasing Conversation: Share your name and identify a “civil person” you know or have witnessed and explain why you choose that person.

 Link to  Clif Hostetler's review of Taking Civility Out of the Box

     “A simple definition for “civility”: being polite and respectful to other people…The word “Civility” equates the idea of being civil to the right of being a citizen…Strong opinions and beliefs can be stated and emphasized but name calling and belittling of each other is not present.” Pages 12-14. What other places do you gather where civility is needed? How do you respond to those who are not civil?
     “Civil discourse makes a positive difference in any setting where disagreements exist…The only way forward to finding a solution to any situation is for the people involved to have real discussions about the options and seek to come to an agreement…both parties have to be seeking the same thing.” P. 21. Do you agree? Can we have civil discourse about disagreements without finding a solution? “The purpose of a Vital Conversation is not to win an argument but to win a friend and advance civilization.” Is that a possibility?
     “According to the Eighth Installment of Civility in America, ninety-three percent of the public agrees that the nation has a civility problem.” P. 57. Does incivility work? If not, why is it so dominant in our current cultural climate?
     “A part of our problem is that digital communication has allowed us to engage in consequence-free hostility…the person who writes demeaning, hostile messages cannot see the hurt, the tears, or the anger they have created. Teenagers, who are most vulnerable to verbal attacks like these, are most likely to experience this type of incivility in the form of cyber-bulling. They are not prepared to handle these types of attacks.” P. 59. Do you use digital communication? How can you practice civility even in this medium? Give some examples.
     “A blind spot is an unknown obstacle that prevents us from seeing our unethical behavior.” P. 77. Are you familiar with “the Johari Window? Look it up and see if it would be helpful in understanding your own behavior and the behaviors of others. “Being an ethical person requires developing characteristic traits of behavior that are admirable.
     Being ethical doesn’t come naturally to everyone but can be nourished by practicing ethical behavior.” P. 79. What are some ethical behaviors you practice on a regular basis? The author suggests eight things to do to be more civil in public life. Which one stands out for you? Do you have additional suggestions you can share with our group?

The group was very engaged (and quite civilly!) in questions about civility. 
Author Barbara Mason Condra (in the red sweater) is at the far table.

Vern's comments:

Most of my career has been devoted to promoting civil -- respectful, appreciative -- exchange among peoples of various faiths. But you cannot have a civil discussion when one party's deliberate intent is overwhelming power or an intentional parades of lies. You may possibly have a relationship of some sort, perhaps even a valuable one; but on topic, you cannot have a civil conversation. When the President demeans, attacks, and vilifies his opponents, by tweet and at his rallies, hope for a civil conversation is ridiculous. And when individual incitement is magnified by group response, you have the kind of potential mob evil that became realized by Hitler, Pol Pot, Mao, and so many others with power. Consider when the practice of civil disagreement proved impossible from bullying to lynchings to the Civil War. Unchecked power corrupts, and the additional power afforded and exercised by Trump following his Senate acquittal should not naively be regarded as a call for civil discourse but rather as a loud alarm signaling the danger to democracy. Time to re-read Reinhold Niebuhr's classic Moral Man and Immoral Society: A Study in Ethics and Politics. Can we have a civil conversation about this? I am looking for insights and answers.
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March 11 — Letters to My Palestinian Neighbor by Yossi Klein Halevi. “Given our circumstances, ‘neighbor’ may be too casual a word to describe our relationship. We are intruders into  each other’s dreams, violators of each other’s sense of home. We are living incarnations of each other’s worst  historical nightmares. Neighbors? ” In this taut and provocative book, Halevi endeavors to untangle the ideological and emotional knot that has defined the conflict for nearly a century. Using history and personal experience as his  guides, he unravels the complex strands of faith, pride, anger, and anguish he feels as a Jew living in Israel. 
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April 8 — Why Won’t You Apologize? Healing Big Betrayals and Evervday Hurts by Harriet Learner. The courage to apologize, and the wisdom to do it well, is at the heart of effective leadership, marriage, parenting, friendship, personal integrity, and what we call love. “I’m sorry” are the two most poweful words in the English language. Harriet Leamer is one of our nation’s most loved and respected relationship experts, renowned for her scholarly work on the psychology of women and family relationships. 
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May 13 - Inheritance: A Memoir of Genealogy, Paternity, and Love by Dani Shapiro.  In the spring of 2016, through a genealogy website to which she had whimsically submitted her DNA, Dani Shapiro received the astonishing news that her beloved deceased father was not her biological father. Over the course of a  single day, her entire history — the life she had lived — crumbled beneath her. In just a few hours of internet  sleuthing, she was able to piece together the story of her conception ad, remarkable, find a YouTube video of her biological father. A true story that reads like a novel. 
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June 10 –  American Soul:  Rediscovering the Wisdom of the  Founders by Jacob Needleman. Needleman has spent a lifetime studying the religious traditions of the world looks at the wisdom of the American Spirit by focusing on George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, The American Indian, Frederick Douglas, Walt Whitman and others.  He shares his perspective on where we have been and his vision of what is still possible in this nation.
      Sacred Citizenship by Vern Barnet
We will also read an updated version of our friend Vern Barnet’s paper of “Civil Religion” which has been part of classes on World Religions.  Vern will be with us to share his insight and our vital conversation.
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July 8 – Just Mercy:  A Story of Justice and Redemption by Bryan Stevenson
“From the frontline of social justice comes one of the most urgent voices of our era.  Bryan Stevenson is a real-life Atticus Finch who, through his work in redeeming innocent people condemned to death, has sought to redeem the country itself.  This is a book of great power and courage,  It is inspiring and suspenseful. A revelation.”  Isabel Wilkerson, author of The Warmth of Other Suns.

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Selections are subject to change.  If you would like to be reminded and have additional information, contact David Nelson at humanagenda@gmail.com or call (816) 453-3835


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