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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, please click here.
with CRES participation
February 24, 2016 Vital Conversation
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
exact 400th anniversary of Shakespeare's death
Following the popular pre-Valentine's Day talk on
RECENT PROGRAMS DUE TO MIGRATE TO THE RIGHT COLUMN
For advance reading, visit
Can a Buddhist Have Desires?
At the Rime
Buddhist Center, 700 West Pennway, November 8 Sunday 10:30, Vern will
discuss this question and explore three Buddhist themes central to his
book, Thanks for Noticing:
non-attachment, sunyata, and pratitya-samutpada. You
can hear a podcast of the talk at http://directory.libsyn.com/episode/index/id/3955780
2015 November 8 Sunday 4-6:30 pm
The annual dinner, created and sponsored by Vern Barnet and CRES from 1984 to 2009, is now sponsored by the Heartland Chapter - Alliance of Divine Love and the Greater Kansas City Interfaith Council, in cooperation with the interfaith community, and is hosted by a different venue each year.
Tickets, available in advance through www.HeartlandADL.org or at the door, are $10 adult, $5 child (5-12 years), under 5 free. Doors open 4 pm, 4:30 pm program with award presentation and buffet.
More info: 816-509-7984 or HeartlandADL@hotmail.com
Faith and the Death Penalty
part of MCC-Penn Valley’s one-read programming around the book,
Just Mercy, by Bryan Stevenson.
2015 Nov 12 Thu 11 am - 12:15 pm
Penn Valley Community College
Education Center Building Room 19
Free parking on the North side of the campus – 31st Street entrance
Machik Potts, Buddhist
Possible questions as they are developed
For each of you – many faiths have a call to service. How did you find
your call to service in the prisons? What is your role? -- Are you involved
in some type of prison work? Do your traditions have any services that
A REFRAMING OF THE ABOVE FOR A 75-minute panel
1. (5 minutes
each) FOCUS ON CURRENT -- What is your interest, personally and as a member
of your tradition or group, in the death penalty? Have you worked in the
justice system and if so, in what way? Does your tradition or group itself
offer services to those in the justice system, or has your tradition or
group made public pronouncements about the death penalty or related issues?
How does your personal experience and/or study affect your own attitude
about the death penalty? How is that related to any positions taken by
your tradition or group?
2. (2 minutes
each) FOCUS ON HISTORY -- What is the history of attitudes as they developed
in your tradition or group toward the death penalty or service to the imprisoned
in general? If you have sacred texts on this subject, what are they? If
your tradition or group does not have an authoritative text or other source
of authority (such as an ecclesiastical body), how are moral decisions
made without such guidelines?
3. (2 minutes
each) CLARIFYING LANGUAGE -- What are the differences among these terms?
Killing, Murder, Capital Punishment?
4. (3 minutes
each) THE PURPOSE OF PUNISHMENT -- Should the penal system be governed
more by revenge, retribution, or correction and rehabilitation? To what
extent does the actions of the state model values for the rest of society?
5. (2 minutes
each) THE SEAMLESS GARMENT METAPHOR -- Is a comparison between abortion,
stem-cell research, and the death penalty apt?
6. (2 minutes
each) IN PRACTICE --What are the practical problems in administering a
just and fair system of capital punishment? Should the death penalty be
a state or federal policy? if a state policy, how can consistency across
the country be achieved?
This leaves 15 minutes for Q ? A. Actually I hope we can move more rapidly than this schedule indicates, but we'll see. I also want to be sure you can ask questions of each other.
to be your moderator, but I am under medical care right now. If necessary,
I will explain to the audience that I am not contagious but I do have bouts
of coughing from inhalation of stone dust from a construction site.
Dr. Mahmoud Bishr is a mmber of the MCC Faculty - Life Sciences, Biology. Teaching- Microbiology and Anatomy ? Physiology, doing volunteer work with the jails in the state of Kansas for over 10 years.
Dr. Robert Lee Hill is minister emeritus of Community Christian Church, Kansas City, Missouri, where he served for more than 30 and a half years. He is engaged as a Community Consultant for the Kauffman Foundation. He has spoken as a keynoter and guest preacher across the United States in a wide array of ecumenical and interfaith venues. He serves the wider community as a board member for the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum, The Mayor’s Summer Youth Employment Commission, Jewish Vocational Services, the Metro Organization for Racial and Economic Equity (MORE2). With Judy Hellman he has been the co-chair of the Martin Luther King Interfaith Service since 1991. Since 1993, Dr. Hill has been a co-host of the renowned weekly Sunday morning radio call-in show, "Religion on the Line," on KCMO-Talk Radio 710AM/103.7FM. He is the author and/or editor of nine books, the newest of which, Life’s Too Short for Anything But Love, was published by Woodneath Press this past June. He is married to Priscilla Reckling, and they live in the Brookside neighborhood in Kansas City, Missouri.
Pete Machik Potts is a certified meditation teacher and ordained Buddhist minister in the Tibetan Nyingma lineage. She is a member of a thriving sangha at Temple Buddhist Center (TBC) in Kansas City (located on the Plaza) and is on the board of directors of the Inner Peace Buddhist Center. Machik is one of the original founders of TBC’s Prison Dharma program, working with medium- and maximum-security inmates weekly in both Missouri and Kansas for the past two years. Machik has also completed a rotation in clinical pastoral education, psychotherapy and chaplaincy training at Kansas University Medical Center, and is an infant loss bereavement counselor and educator for SIDS Resources, Inc. In her previous career, Machik was a copywriter and account director in marketing and advertising.
Helen Stringer.-- In early 2014, Helen Stringer founded and now serves as the executive director of Kansas City Oasis, a secular alternative to faith-based community. She also co-founded and serves as the president of the Oasis Network, the affiliate organization that helps to launch and support Oasis communities around the country. She has a master’s degree in human services with a graduate certificate in professional counseling. When she’s not working on her non-profit ventures, she enjoys working as an entrepreneur and currently owns and operates the highest-rated professional organizing company in the Kansas City metro area.
The Reverend Vern Barnet, DMn, founded the Kansas City Interfaith Council in 1989. He has been honored by local Buddhist, Christian, Jewish, Hindu, Sikh, and Muslim organizations as well as by national and international professional and interfaith groups. Dr Barnet has taught world religions and other subjects at several seminaries. His many civic activities included chairing the Jackson County Diversity Task Force which studied the effects of 9/11 on people of faith in the 5-county area. Dr Barnet's "Faith and Beliefs" column appeared every Wednesday in The Kansas City Star 1994-2012. He was one of four editors of the encyclopedic The Essential Guide to Religious Traditions and Spirituality for Health Care Providers (2013). His most recent book is Thanks for Noticing: The Interpretation of Desire (2015). He has been involved in justice issues in many ways over his long career, including a special interest in the death penalty.
private arrangements -- click for information
THANKS to Robert and Shye Reynolds, a CRES fund to assist couples with fees for wedding ceremonies has been established, in celebration of their marriage June 19, 2002, on the occasion of their thirteenth anniverary this year.
Vern's KC Star column about a friend's father dying from the Hiroshima blast is part of an exhibit, Hiroshima/ Nagasaki: Seventy Years Beyond the Bombings, at UMKC's Miller Nichols Library through October 4. Events considering the issues raised continue through November 21.
To view a 1962 letter to Vern from Bertrand Russell, click here.
see also our publications page
now available! click here for Book Launch Discussion
for Noticing: The Interpretation of Desire
in progress: KC Star, Many
Paths Columns and fresh essays:
OTHER PROGRAMS and SERVICES
If you would like to engage Vern
A Monthly Discussion Group Led by
David E Nelson
“The purpose of a Vital Conversation is not to
win an argument,
The discussions began May 24, 2002,
at the CRES facility
Dr G Temp Sparkman and Vital Conversations host Dr David E Nelson led a discussion of Temp's book, Being Human, Knowing God (2012) at the 2014 November session.
2014 July 13 Sunday
Assumptions of Appreciative Inquiry
Questions: These can be shared best in one-on-one conversations. It is very important that each participant is given opportunity to speak and that all participants listen with respect.
1. Share a story about
your life experience that might help others understand what the conflict
means to you and how it impacts you.
Prayer: God Who births the future – Touch our heartstrings; bring your song to life in us. We are chased by your extravagant joy into new territory. You turn our dark struggles into shouts of hosanna, making miracles of us. We see it with hindsight; always you were here and there in infinite possibility. Lead us today by your gentle wisdom. Amen
David Nelson's Letter
Retiring from the Interfaith Council
November 15, 2014
I am retiring from the Council effective December 31, 2014. I have enjoyed the work we have shared for many years. As one of the original members who gathered May 11, 1989, at the Marriott Hotel, and for years met regularly in a living room, to articulate a significant vision, I retire proud of the pilgrimage we have shared. I am pleased with the impact that has been made in the Greater Kansas City area and in the country by our efforts. Our early efforts – including the Gifts of Pluralism Conference, the half-hour CBS-TV national special, the nation’s first Interfaith Academies (made possible by Harvard University’s Pluralism Project, Religions for Peace USA, and the Saint Paul School of Theology working with the Council and CRES), the 77-page report commissioned by Jackson County after 9/11 in which Council members played a key role, and the special note about one of the products of the Pluralism conference, The Hindu and the Cowboy play on the Harvard Pluralism site – these are a few of many examples of the heritage on which we seek to build, clearly putting Kansas City on the map of the nation as we continue working to create a most welcoming community for all people.
I plan to continue to facilitate a monthly Vital Conversation in the Northland. If the Council would like to continue listing this as a program of the GKCIC I would welcome it. I would love it if the Council’s web site would list the upcoming programs, and if that becomes possible in the future please let me know. If the Council adds links on its website to The Human Agenda and other interfaith organizations in town, I would be happy with such inclusion.
The challenge continues. The three crisis of our time remain serious and some might argue are even greater than when we convened the Gifts of Pluralism Conference in 2001. Creation still screams in agony. Personhood is still threatened by a worship of guns, drugs, and money. Community is still shattered by divisive politics and an arrogant abuse of power by corporations and the very rich. I remain convinced that the World’s Religions, represented in our Council, offers messages, programs and actions of hope. By uplifting the wisdom of the religious traditions identified and unanimously endorsed by the 250 participants at the Gifts of Pluralism conference, we can reach beyond the valuable friendships we presently enjoy, enhance the Council’s visibility and standing in the community, to contribute more effectively the saving message the faiths of the world offer.
I am grateful for interest in, and responses to, the Appreciative Inquiry method, as acknowledged and demonstrated at the Thanksgiving Interfaith Sunday event this year in which the Council participated. I am sure that our friendships will continue.
But we gather not just to feel good about our friendships and community. I count each of you as friends and allies. I hold our work in sacred space as my life enters another phase of retirement. We gather and scatter to offer the world a better message, a more human friendly model and a more sacred path to the future.
Be well and feel good - David E. Nelson
VITAL CONVERSATIONS Detail Descriptions
March 11, 2015 The Atkins Johnson Farm is located
not far from our library where we meet. It was lived in from 1831
until 2004 and is now a museum. The Museum Manager Erica White will
be with us to share stories and invite us to attend the new exhibit on
the Life and Times of Abraham Lincoln. We will also share some stories
of the Big Shoal Baptist Church and Cemetery that is also on the grounds
now owned by the City of Gladstone. You can prepare for this Vital
Conversation by visiting: http://www.atkinsjohnsonfarm.com/ and by reading
some history of Clay County. I would also recommend watching the
movie “Ride With the Devil” which came out in 1999.
April 8, 2015 Orange is the New Black by Piper Kerman.
With a career, a boyfriend, and a loving family, Piper Kerman barely resembles
the reckless young woman who delivered a suitcase of drug money ten years
before. But that past has caught up with her. Convicted and sentenced to
fifteen months at the infamous federal correctional facility in Danbury,
Connecticut, the well-heeled Smith College alumna is now inmate #11187–424—one
of the millions of people who disappear “down the rabbit hole” of the American
penal system. Our friend Dr Kendall Hughes, Head Chaplain at USP Leavenworth,
will be present to share in the conversations along with several men who
have changed their thinking and their lives through the “Life Connections
May 13, 2015 Quiet: The Power of Introverts
in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain
June 10, 2015 On July 11-14, 2015 The National Council of La Raza NCLR will host their National Convention at the KC Convention Center. NCLR is the largest national Hispanic civil rights and advocacy organization in the United States. It’s mission is to improve opportunities for Hispanic Americans. Gene Chavez, an educator writer and leader in the Hispanic Community, will join us along with staff members of the NCLR to discuss the history of Hispanics in our community and invite us to attend portions of the convention.
March 9, 2016 Weaving The Vision: Stories of Faith for the Sons and Daughters of God. For 48 years, Father Norman Rotert served as a priest of the Catholic diocese of Kansas City- St. Joseph. The steadfast response to God’s call took him beyond the Catholic community, leading as the Spirit often does, to work that improves the lot of all humankind. From the early days of his priesthood, marching for civil rights in Selma, Alabama, in his work with Kansas City Harmony, and a variety of local and national organizations Father Norman Rotert has worked tirelessly to promote the common good. This collection of his homilies will give us a taste of his passion for the gospel’s vision of justice and peace. We will have a number of guests who have worked with Father Rotert to share additional stories that help us prepare for the Christian celebrations of Holy Week and Easter that will come later in the month.
March 23, 2016 Vital Conversation
Unwrapping the Secrets of the Immortal Poems:
What Shakespeare’s Sonnets Say About Love
a program for For Valentine's Day, 2016 February 13 Saturday 2 pm
A fuller report will appear at Vern's book blog shortly
The Kansas City Public Library Westport Branch presented
Vern in an interactive lecture on lecturing Shakespeare's Sonnets. Vern
noted that "Lovers of all sorts turn to Shakespeare’s sonnets for their
depth of emotion and the richness of their ideas" and asked, " But did
Shakespeare try to suppress the publication of his sonnets in 1609?"
The Cornerstone Foundation presented an
Author discussion and book signing of
Vern's new book, Thanks for Noticing
-- Nov 16 Mon 7 pm Free Event--
Unity Temple on the Plaza
707 W 47th St, Kansas City, MO 64112 (816) 561-4466
Free garage parking
The new Roman Catholic bishop for the Catholic Diocese of Kansas City-St Joseph, His Excellency, the Most Reverend James V. Johnston Jr greets Vern (black jacket) representing interfaith activity in Kansas City, during the Installation Ceremony after the Bishop was guided to his cathedra (chair) at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception. In blue is Muslim leader Mahnaz Shabbir, and in red is the Right Reverend Martin S Field, Episcopal Bishop of the Diocese of West Missouri.
Vern was a guest 2015 October 31 at the morning
leture at the Vedanta Society, shown here with Sawmi Chetanananda and guest
speaker Dr Christopher Chapple, who established the nation's only masters
program in yoga studies, at the Bellarmine College of Liberal Arts, Loyola
Marymount University. In the background is a portrait of Swami Vivekananda.
--With thanks to uma who makes countless thoughtful arrangements!
Living the Secular Life
Vern was guest preacher at Rosedale Congregational UCC, (4326 Lloyd Street, KCK 66103) September 13--October 4.
Sep 13 Outside, Inside, and towards the Center
Sep 20 What Do Mystics of Every Faith Say?
Sep 27 Where is the Sacred in Asian Art?
Oct 4 Do Christians Eat Flesh and Drink Blood? (Communion Sunday)
Communion Sunday, Vern showed slides from Walt Disney's Snow White, cited
a commentor who quoted Coleridge's famous phrase, "the willing suspension
of disbelief" to explain how a cartoon story can affect us emotionally,
and proposed a Postmodern understanding of the Holy Eucharist by comparing
Medieval, Modern, and Postmodern understandings of truth, facticity, and
what is genuine.
Grace and Holy Trinity Cathedral (Episcopal) Deacon, the Rev Jerry Grabher, baseball statistics expert, and Muslim leader, co-founder of Baseball Perspectives, founder of Rany on the Royals; writer for Grantland.com, and featured speaker Rany Jazayerli, and Vern at a reception before Jazayerli spoke on "Baseball, Hotdogs, Apple Pie, and Islam" at the annual Eid Celebration and Awards Dinner of the Crescent Peace Society 2015 September 12. Vern, who has received both the Community Service Award and the Lifetime Service Award in the past, was introduced as the founder of the Greater Kansas City Interfaith Councill, which was one of the honorees this year.
Women and Equality: An Interfaith Panel
Embracing Religious Pluralism
for Ozanam social workers, other staff, and partners
* Identify typical attitudes toward other faiths and common misconceptions
about religion such as "All religions believe in God"
Did the bomb
end the war and save lives
or was it unnecessary and immoral?
Leroy Seat, who, with his wife June, spent 38 years in Japan, led the August Vital Conversation exploring various opinions about the US use of the atom bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, using materials from all sides, as we oberved the 70th anniversary of these events.
Vern, Lama Chuck Stanford, board chair Gabi Otto, and Al Brooks at the 20th Anniversary celebration 2015 July 25 of the Rime Buddhist Center. Vern and Al spoke about the contributions founders Chuck and his wife Mary have made to the community. Chuck, who retires as spiritual leader at the end of this year, was named Lama Emeritus. The new spiritual leader will be Lama Matt Rice (Palden Gocha).
Vern's letter about Laudato Si, the recently released encyclical from Pope Francis, appeared 2015 June 24 in The Kansas City Star. One respondent wrote that the letter "is surpassingly relevant and your language sonorous. Your letter nullified David Brooks' negative OpEd piece" which appeared on the following page. Another person wrote, "Predictably thoughtful and ecumenical, your letter very well formed an appropriate nexus of practical life and spirituality which many more of us need to consider much more often than we do." Click here for the text of Vern's letter.
One of Vern's many pleasures was working with lector Andrew Burnside at Rosedale Congregational UCC church where Vern was "minister of the month" 2015 May 10 through June 7. His sermon titles are listed below. The congregation has a remarkable spirit of mutual and community service and may be the most flexible congregation and staff Vern has ever worked with. The commnion service, drawn from the world's traditons with a Christian focus, involved a seating arrangement entirely new to the congregation, and the experiment was warmly embraced. Vern has been asked to return September 13 - October 4.
May 10 (Mothers Day) What is a Pilgrimage?
Vern presented a 90-minute crash-course on Embracing
Religious Pluralism after breakfast 2015 May 20 Wednesday at MCC Penn
Valley Community College for KC
Vern moderated an Interfaith Panel (Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Muslim, Jew) for DayOne of the SevenDays observance of the local 2014 April 13 murders of three Christians presumed to be Jewish, at two Jewish sites.
All local TV channels covered the event. Click on the link for a pre-event advance interview with Vern on KSHB.
Panelist Vern, Bill Tammeus, and Kara Hawkins
2015 March 5, about 50 Military officers from several dozen nations and various faiths who were enrolled in Air War College training came to Kansas City, in part to learn about how we do religion here. After a lunch with table questions to guide conversations with interfaith Council members and guests with them at each table at the Marriott Hotel on the Plaza, they heard a panel discussion and asked excellent questions. Vern's assignment was to outline the history of interfaith work in Kansas City, using portions of the half-hour CBS special featuring Kansas City's interfaith work following 9/11. Bill, whose career and blog, Faith Matters, prove his passion and qualification to address the failure of American media to cover religion accurately, spoke pointedly and powerfully, and you can read his comments here. Kara, who organized the event, represented the current Greater Kansas City Interfaith Council.
Discussion: Medieval Mystics, a series with Prof Glenn Young, 2015 Lent
World Religions for Spiritual Directors with Vern Barnet, 2015 February 20-21 at Mount St Scholastica in Atchison, KS, for students in the Benedictine Sisters' Souljourners spiritual formation program leading to spiritual direction ministry.
The Vimalakirti Sutra, lecture at the Kansas City Art Institute with Vern Barnet 2015 February 26. Vern Barnet lectured on Confucianism, Taoism, and Buddhism.
World Religions lectures with Brian Carwana of Toronto, 2015 Feb 27-18Brian Carwana, Director at the Encounter World Religions Centre in Toronto, Canada, presented five lectures at Southwood United Church of Christ.
Congratulations and best wishes to Judy Mongold and Terri O'Neill on their legal marriage 2015 February 28. Fifteen years ago Vern united them in a Holy Union commitment ceremony.
David Nelson's 2015 February Vital Conversation featured stories and conversation with Tex Sample -- in person!
David Nelson, CRES Senior Associate minister, was honored by the Greater Kansas City Interfaith Council 2014 December 8.
Vital Conversations, a monthly book club, this year discussed books like Why I am an Atheist Who Believes in God (Frank Schaeffer), Being Human, Knowing God (G Temp Sparkman), The End of Your Life Book Club (Will Schwalbe), Renting Lucy: A Story of America’s Prostituted Children (Linda Smith), I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban (Malala Yousafzai), Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth (Resa Aslan), and Breathing Underwater: Spirituality and the Twelve Steps (Richard Rohr).
A Bodhi Day celebration featured Vern speaking in the Vimalakirti Sutra.
Asian Art and Spirituality was Vern's topic for a lecture at the Kansas City Art Institute. 2014 November 18.
The Hindu and the Cowboy tenth anniversary performance, 2014 November 16, was, as always, a moving experience, for those who have seen it before, and those who experienced it for the first time.
Dr G Temp Sparkman, former seminary professor, was featured at the November Vital Conversation.
Dr David E Nelson, president of the Human Agenda and CRES senior associate minister, spoke at a retired ministers luncheon.
2014 30th Annual Interfaith Thanksgiving Dinner awarding the Vern Barnet Interfaith Community Service Award to Pam Peck.
Spirituality Across the Faiths --Keynote address beginning a 7-part morning series at Maple Woods Community College.
What is Sacred? Vern led a discussion 2014 Oct 12 at the Second Presbyterian Church.
"Understanding World Religions" was Vern's topic for the Blue Valley Kiwanis Club 2014 August 28.
Surveying "The Human Spirit": An Introduction to the New Collection of Books on World Religions at the Plaza Library -- a lecture by Vern Barnet 2014 Sept 21
Religious Perspectives on Health Care, 2014 September 11, at Central Presbyterian Church, with Christian, Jewish, and Muslim panelists.
Ordination of Thich Tam Giac (Victor Chu) 2014September 6
Buddhist Relics Tour -- 2014 September 5
"Three Sacred Realms," a liturgy and sermon by Vern Barnet at Shawnee Mission Unitarian Universalist Church, 2014 August 31.
Rumi and Reality -- a liturgy and sermon by Vern Barnet at Shawnee Mission Unitarian Universalist Church, 2014 July 20.
The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict-- a special Vital Conversation was led by David Nelson 2014 July 13.
The Kansas City International Vistors Council welcomed Canadians interested in learing about Kansas City's rich interfaith tradition. Vern and others explained.
The Miracles of Jesus, a forum sponsored by the Crescent Peace Society with Vern speaking 2014 April 12.
Have You Ever Met a Muslim? Ven interviews Mahnaz Shabbir at St Thomas More Catholic Church 2014 Feb 11.
Vern spoke and signed Certificates as Interfaith Witness Master at ordinations into the Five Mountain Zen Order 2014 Jan 25 held at Unity Temple on the Plaza.
Tours of sacred art at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art are given to private groups opon request. We no longer schedule public tours. The approach we take is sketched at www.cres.org/art/index.htm
For photos and more
information about items above,
After a dozen years of work,
Vern and three others finally saw Randcliffe's publication of
Essential Guide to Religious Traditions and Spirituality for Health Care
Providers, a 740-page reference book on faiths from A to Z. The
link takes you to the publisher's web site description of the book.
SOME DETAILS FOR RECENT PROGRAMS
Surveying The Human Spirit:
An Introduction to the New Collection of Books on World Religions -- 2014 Sept 21 Sun 2p -- Vern Barnet
Plaza Library, the large conference room
Vern was asked to address how the collection can
be used for deeper understandings of the commonalities and differences
among the many faiths of the world.
Julian Zugazagoitia, Director/CEO of the Nelson-Atkins
Museum of Art, "Art and The Human Spirit"
Vern's lecture asked three questions:
Report: Surveying “The Human Spirit”
Vern Barnet introduced the new “Human Spirit” collection of books at the Plaza library Sept. 21 with an interactive lecture to a crowd filling the large conference room. The collection is the inspiration and hard work of Mary and Greg McCoy and others enhancing the religious literacy of our community. Dr. Barnet is minister emeritus of CRES and the founder of the Greater Kansas City Interfaith Council. He has taught at several seminaries, spoken here and abroad, and for 18 years wrote The Kansas City Star “Faiths and Beliefs” column.
The lecture began with the question, “How many gods are there?” The audience repeated the question as Barnet gave successive answers from the Brhadaranyaka Upanishad, found in one of the books in the “Human Spirit” collection. Barnet then asked the crowd, in pairs, to imagine what experiences could have led to the surprising set of answers the Upanishad provides. This led to the point that religion begins with amazing experiences and relationships, and only later are texts created. He said reading a book to understand religion is like trying to understand the intricacies of human anatomy by attending a Paris fashion show.
To illustrate the importance of the context and forms in which religious values are conveyed, he showed how Western Renaissance painting was conceived as a window through which a scene is viewed, whereas such an approach would bewilder a viewer of a Chinese Song Dynasty landscape scroll since the scroll is meant to be unrolled section by section and viewed through time like a movie. Barnet then gave a “rant” about how the heritage of the Enlightenment misdirects our thinking about religion, just as Western presuppositions about art are irrelevant to the Chinese scroll. Enlightenment thinking focuses on general categories and reduces experience to what can be expressed in explicit discursive language. But religion grows out of ineffable experiences; it is through analogical connections with minute particulars that a unitive vision becomes possible, not the abstractions and sensibility of literal facticity bequeathed us by 18th Century Europe.
He argued that the sacred—that on which our life depends—emerges out of our experiences the way our perception of 3-dimensional space emerges out of binocular vision; while the sacred is thus an epiphenomenon, it is also the most fundamental reality, but it is usually at the periphery of our awareness. He told a story of a friend who, in grieving after his sister's death, lost much of the illusion of his own selfhood and saw the world whole; his self-absorption was transformed by wider vision into compassion for others.
The lecture concluded with a reference to the three families of faith, Primal, Asian, and Monotheistic, where each typically finds the sacred, and why the environmental, personal, and social crises of our time can be resolved by the wisdom from the world's spiritual traditions. A final story told of a poor rabbi journeying abroad where was directed back to his own hovel in which was hidden a treasure that ended his poverty. The story offered two paradoxical lessons: first, that the treasure to put an end to the spiritual poverty of our time lies buried in one's own tradition; second, that only by a journey to explore other faiths can one learn how to retrieve one's own treasure. Books can be maps for such explorations, but they cannot replace the explorations themselves.
Buddhist Relic Tour Opening
September 5 Fri 7p
Vern Barnet spoke at the opening ceremony, along
with Sunyananda Dharma and Nima (Janet Taylor), who leads the Temple Buddhist
Center which hosts the tour in Kansas City.
Sr. Th?ch-Nu T?m Duong (Nima Sunya), the Rev Vern Barnet, DMn (Vern the Void), Wonji Dochong SSN, Ven Th?ch ?u?c T?m (Sunyananda Dharma), Rev. Th?ch-Nu ?uc Bao (Boepbo Sunya Dharma), Rev. Th?ch-Nu T?m Me (Wanmo Sunya)
2014 September 6 Saturday. -- Vern (as Interfaith
Witness Master) was invited to be a part of the panel ordaining
Tam Giac (Victor Chu), shown in the foreground, at the Kansas City
Abbey Ch?a Ph?p An, which serves as both the headquarters for the Dharmakaya
Buddhist Association and the Five Mountain Zen Order.
An interfaith panel -- Mahnaz Shabbir (Muslim),
the Rev Mike Irwin (Center for Spiritual Living), Rabbi Linda Steadman
(Jewish), the Rev Dr Wallace Hartsfield (Christian) with moderator Vern
(rear) -- pauwse for a photo after the discussion of faith practices "pertaining
to aging, caregiving and end of life" for the Kansas City Partnership for
Caregivers at Central Presbyterian Church, 2014 September 11.
What Is Sacred?
2014 Oct 12 Sun 9a
Second Presbyterian Church (816) 363-1300
318 E 55, Kansas City, MO 64113
Nov 1 Sat following coffee at the Learning Resources building at Maple Woods Community College, 2601 NE Barry Rd, KCMO 64156, speakers from the Greater Kansas City Interfaith Council, which the Rev Vern Barnet, DMn, founded in 1989, presented their faiths, following Vern's keynote opening.The other speakers, pictured below, are, for American Indian Spirituality - The Rev Dr. Kara Hawkins; Hinduism - Bhaswati Ray; Buddhism - Matt Rice; Baha'i - Barb McAtee; Christian Science - Pam Peck, C.S.; Sukyo Mahikari - Susan Nakao, Ph.D.
The program was designed by Kara Hawkins in response
to the College's request arranged by Heather K Perez working with
Sue Ann Greer of the Shepherd’s Center. We recall with grief that Susan
Choucroun, the Jewish director on the Council, originally scheduled
to be part of this program, was untimely taken from us.
and Mary McCoy on the successful dinner.
Begun in 1985 as an annual program of CRES (which led to the 1989 founding of the Interfaith Council) as a participatory scripted ritual meal for children and their parents and friends, retelling the mythic American story of Thanksgiving tempered by repentence of genocide, slavery, and prejudice, and enhanced by celebration of the pluralistic nation we have become, led by CRES for 25 years, and continued since 2010 by the Heartland Alliance of Divine Love, led by Mary McCoy in cooperation with the Greater Kansas City Interfaith Council and the interfaith and multicultural community, with the ADL's presentation of the Vern Barnet Interfaith Service Award this year to Pam Peck, CS. (Previous honorees have been 2010 Vern Barnet, 2011 Larry Guillot, 2012 Barb McAtee, and 2013 Sam Mann.)
CRES Statements Printed in the Program
RELIGION begins with experiences of awe and wonder, being caught up in the miracle and mystery of existence. When we reflect on such experiences, we become full of gratitude for them; as best we can, we offer our thanksgiving for them because they illumine our everyday blessings. And gratitude becomes mature when it is rendered in service to others. Helping others can in turn prepare us for, or even offer us, fresh awe and wonder, generating even deeper and wider gratitude . . . and thence to more service, enriching us and modeling for, and contributing to, the testimony of love to the community. I call this the virtuous cycle of gratitude, fundamental to the spiritual life, expressed in many beautiful ways in the marvelous diversity of faiths. --Vern Barnet
SOMEONE once said that one's happiness in life is in direct correlation to one's gratitude in life. I believe it. When I tell stories about gratitude I feel it more. I am deeply touched when I listen to stories from others about the things they are grateful for. In a time when I hear so much about what is wrong in the world, I seek to focus on what is right in the world. What a difference this makes in my mind and heart. --David Nelson
Dr David E Nelson, president of the Human Agenda and CRES senior associate minister, spoke at a metro-wide retired ministers luncheon 2014 November 11 in Overland Park. He illustrated the principles of Appreciative Inquiry by telling one of his signature stories, Marvin and Lincoln (Many Paths, 2003 November issue), and engaged the group in partnered conversations. David's article for CRES about Appreciative Inquiry appears here: http://www.cres.org/pubs/appreciativeinquiry.htm
Play by Donna Ziegenhorn
Before the 2014 November 16 The Hindu and the Cowboy tenth anniversary performance, some of those involved in its creation were acknowledged. Vern Barnet (second from right) of CRES was recognized with a basket of breads typical of many cultures. Others in this photo include Greg Rieke, Kathy Reigleman, and Jane Heide, all instrumental in the development of the play. Playwright Donna Ziegenhorn, who envisioned interviewing a hundred Kansas City folks, trained interviewers, compiled the stories, and wove them together into the play, is at the extreme left. As always the play was a moving experience, for those who have seen it before, and for those who experienced it for the first time.
There is no better way of learning about the many
Winner of many awards
“. . . want to know about your neighbors’ faiths?
Watch a performance of The Hindu and the Cowboy . . . No lecture or sheaf
of statistics can better reveal the surprising texture of faith and skepticism
Asian Art and Spirituality
Xia Gui (Hsia Kuei) Views of Landscape,
Vern told the story of the Vimalakirti Sutra and explicated Hinduism, Buddhist, Confucianism, and Taoism by examining selected art produced by these traditions.
2014 Bodhi Day
Vern was the featured speaker for the Dharmakaya Buddhist Association and the Five Mountain Zen Order observance of Bodhi day, 2014 December 5, hosted at Unity Temple on the Plaza. Pictured above are group leaders leading the congregation in chants, and Vern telling the story of the Vimalakirti Sutra. Bodhi day celebrates the Buddha's Enlightenment 2500 years ago. Thanks especially to the Ven. Th?ch Duc T?m (Sunyananda Dharma) [center] and his associates for their many courtesies. A Precepts Ceremony followed.
The Greater Kansas City Interfaith Council, at its
2014 December 8 meeting, recognized David E Nelson's quarter century
of leadership on the Council and to interfaith understanding with a round
of appreciative statements from Council members, a gift, and this citation,
which offers "sincere appreciation for the lasting contribution of the
Rev Dr David Nelson for his dedication and service as its first Convener,
its Founder and Coordinator of Vital Conversations, and as its at-large
Director." David joined the Council as it organized 1989 May 11, and led
the Council as it made its transition from a program of CRES to independent
status. The text of David's retirement letter is here.
Christian, Islamic and Messianic Jewish Perspectives
Sponsored by: The Crescent Peace Society, whose mission is to enhance the understanding of Muslim cultures through educational and cultural activities involving the exchange of ideas and experiences among the people of diverse cultures.
Vern's remarks discussed five views within Christianity about the miracles of Jesus:
1. The miracles of Jesus are literal, factual, historical events.
Have You Ever Met a Muslim?
one of Kansas City's (and America's)
prominent Muslim (women's) voices.
Vern Barnet MC's the event:
2014 Feb 11 Tue 6:30-8
The evening includes three main segments
Religion and the Arts Some "field trip" photos
After the 2014 January 25 Five Mountain Zen Order ordination ceremony, Vern (front right) poses with leaders and those taking in vows. Vern spoke and signed Certificates as Interfaith Witness Master.
Platform participants included the Dharmakaya Buddhist Assn's Sunyananda Dharma (at the pulpit), Marcus Halley (St Andrtews Episcopal Church), Doug Alpert (Congregation Kol Ami), Tex Sample (Trinity United Methodist Church), Kimi Yokoyama (Community Christian Church), Ruth Ellen Howard (St Mark's Hope and Peace Church), Carol Trissell (Spirit of Hope MCC), Crystal Muldrow (Unity Church), Urgyen Nima Taylor (Temple Buddhist Center), David Woosely (Lawrence Community of Christ). CRES was represented by Vern opening the event.
The service concluded with asperges using our collection
Ms. Iman Ibrahim (Assistant Ombudsperson, University of Ottawa), Ms. Chelsea Byers (Pedagogical Advisor, Quebec City Police Service), and Ms. Mina Rahravan (Police Officer, York Regional Police), and hold vials of Kansas City interfaith waters following a session with Mary McCoy, Uma, Karta Purk Khalsa, Bhaswati Ray, all of the Interfaith Council, which was once a program of CRES, and Vern, who
Rumi and Reality
2014 July 20 Sunday 10:30 am
Judy Mongold and Terri O'Neill were legally wed 2015 February 28. Fifteen years ago Vern united them in a Holy Union commitment ceremony. The marriage rite, in a cabin in the snow at a park near Topeka, began with the words, "Dearly beloved, we are gathered together today no thanks to Sam Brownback . . . ." Their vows were especially meaningful. Family and friends enjoyed a wonderful reception afterwards.
led by the Rev Jerry Grahber, Deacon, and the Rev Vern Barnet, DMn
Grace and Holy Trinity Cathedral, Common Room
2015 March 18 Wednesday 6:30-8p
Following presentations by Glenn Young, PhD, professor
at Rockhurst, on Bernard of Clairvaux, Meister Eckhart, and The Cloud of
Unknowing, and looking forward to his presentation March 25 on Julian on
Norwich, the group will together, and in small groups, discuss the meaning
and import of these mystics in their own spiritual paths.
World Religions Lectures
Friday, Feb 27
Saturday, Feb 28 - The World's Religions in Three
Encounter is an educational organization that promotes greater religious literacy and celebrates religious diversity. Our emphasis is to blend academic and experiential learning that brings people into contact with what Encounter terms the four P's of the world religions: people, places, practices and philosophies.
CRES is delighted to cosponsor this event from one of the oldest and most significant interfaith organizations on the continent.
on World Religions
2015 Februrary Friday-Saturday 20-21
Vern lectures in Atchison on world religions for
students in the Benedictine Sister's Souljourners
spiritual formation program leading to spiritual direction ministry.
At the Kansas City Art Institute Vern lectures on
Chinese Buddhism and tells the story of the householder Vimalakirti who
by his skillful means enables the throng to "enter the gate of the Not-Two
Doctrine." He aso discusses Song Dynasty Chinese landscape scrolls.
Make a Ripple, Change the World
Following the April 13, 2014 tragedy at the Jewish
Community Campus and Village Shalom in Overland Park, caring individuals
decided that we as a community, have the power to outshine and overcome
such senseless acts of hate.
Rev Vern Barnet, DMn
*The Greater Kansas City Interfaith Council (GKCIC), www.kcinterfaith.org, has provided the speakers for this program.
A report by Mahnaz Shabbir on the event appears