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CRES is pleased to be part of bringing this book to the public.
Vern was the developmental editor.

Learn more about Al and the book here.

Except for monthly Vital Conversations convened by David Nelson, CRES programs arise by request. Our management principle is "management by opportunity." Every year we are delighted by the number of opportunties given to us, as, for example, last year's list demonstrates. (Of course we also provide free consulation to organizations and other services as requested, not listed on our public website.)
This page is continuously updated.
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Upcoming Programs -- What's Next Thanks for Noticing book
2021 Past Program links Older Program Reports
2021 Other Announcements About CRES participation

Transcendent meanings from COVID-19?
Essay for Spring 2020 Interfaith Council Newsletter
yellow box on Vern's Sidebar page

Vital ConversationsProgram, 2d Wed 1-2:30 pm          Coffee, 4th Wed 8 am
Photos and reports are arranged by month

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.

From Aporia to Praise: 
(postponed poned from 2020)
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.

Annual TABLE OF FAITHS postoned this year to
2021 May 18
The Greater Kansas City Interfaith Council,
now independent but originally a program of CRES,
was founded 1989 May 11.

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.

to be announced -- this is the 2020 announcement

The annual observance was sponsored by CRES for its first 25 years. This year is the 35th year of what has become a beloved Interfaith Thanksgiving tradition, but this year  is different. Due to the coronavirus pandemic and in order to bring the joy of interfaith gratitude to our community, the Gathering is virtual this year. 

Thanks to sponsors: the Heartland Alliance of Divine Love, the Greater Kansas City Interfaith Council, and The Interfaith Center at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. 

There are a number of ways to join this online event:
* Simply click on this link to participate in this event:
* Register for free on Eventbrite and the link will be sent to your lnbox.
* Join the live-streaming on the Heartland Facebook page.

There is NO COST for this event — everyone is invited to participate and everyone is welcome! As always, a highlight of the event will be the offering of prayers from the multitude of faiths and religious traditions in the greater community.

Even in the midst of this most unusual year, there is much to be grateful for, and this year’s Gathering acknowledges this situation with a dual focus: (1) to remember and honor all those who have been lost during this pandemic and their loved ones and (2) to celebrate andthank the “heroes of the pandemic" -- the health care workers, first responders, and spiritual workers who have helped families with loved ones lost. Heartland ADL also chooses a charity each year -- this year, Harvesters, because of the unprecedented need. We invite you to send your donations to Harvesters

Look for additional information about the dinner on the Council website, the
Heartland-ADL website, and the Heartland Facebook page.


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.htmor 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.



A Vital Conversation Coffee
Vital Conversations
monthly schedule
ZOOM 2nd Wedneday of the month 1-2:30 pm
MidContinent Public Library Antioch Branch, 6060 N Chestnut Ave, Gladstone, MO 64119 -- (816) 454-1306  -- to receive the zoom link:
humanagenda@gmail.com or call (816) 453-3835

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

2021 Vital Conversations Schedule

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

January 13 Wednesday 1-2:30 p.m. on Zoom
Humankind: A Hopeful History by Rutger Bregman

It's a belief that unites the left and right, psychologists and philosophers, writers and historians. It drives the headlines that surround us and the laws that touch our lives. From Machiavelli to Hobbes, Freud to Dawkins, the roots of this belief have sunk deep into Western thought. Human beings, we're taught, are by nature selfish and governed by self-interest. 
     Humankind makes a new argument: that it is realistic, as well as revolutionary, to assume that people are good. The instinct to cooperate rather than compete, trust rather than distrust, has an evolutionary basis going right back to the beginning of Homo sapiens. By thinking the worst of others, we bring out the worst in our politics and economics too. 
     In this major book, internationally bestselling author Rutger Bregman takes some of the world's most famous studies and events and reframes them, providing a new perspective on the last 200,000 years of human history. From the real-life Lord of the Flies to the Blitz, a Siberian fox farm to an infamous New York murder, Stanley Milgram's Yale shock machine to the Stanford prison experiment, Bregman shows how believing in human kindness and altruism can be a new way to think - and act as the foundation for achieving true change in our society. It is time for a new view of human nature.
     If you are unable to purchase or find a copy of this book, and wish a PDF, you can download it free at https://bookfortoday.com/all/humankind-a-hopeful-history/  .

Quotes and questions elected by David Nelson.

Releasing Conversation: Do you believe human beings are inherently good (Planet A) or inherently bad (Planet B)? Why? What difference does it make which you believe? Did you watch the events January 6th in Washington D.C. while it was happening? Describe your feelings then. What are your feelings today about the United States? Who have you talked with about your feelings?

1. Veneer Theory “The notion that civilization is nothing more than a thin veneer that will crack at the merest provocation. In actuality, the opposite is true. It’s when crisis hits - when the bombs fall or the floodwaters rise – that we humans become our best selves.” (p. 4). Share a story from your experience that illustrates this.

2. Placebo effect “If your doctor gives you a fake pill and says it will cure what ails you,chances are you will feel better. The more dramatic the placebo, the bigger that chance…If you believe something enough, it can become real…We are what we believe. We find what we got looking for. And what we predict, comes to pass.” (p.8-9) Nocebo effect“Warn your patients a drug has serious side effects, and it probably will. If you believe something enough, it can become real.” (p.9) Ashil Babbitt died inside the Capital on January 6th. What do you think she believed? Why did she believe these things? What did the tens of thousands who participated in rally in Washington believe?

3. Compare the two stories; Lord of the Flies by William Golding and the real event told by Peter Warner. 

4. “In one corner is Hobbes: The pessimist who would have us believe in the wickedness of bhuman nature. The man who asserted that civil society alone could save us from ourbaser instincts. In the other corner, Rousseau: the man who declared that in our heart of hearts we’re all good. Far from being our salvation, Rousseau believed civilization is what ruins us.” (p. 43-44). Which corner do you stand in? Can you make the case with personal stories? “That’s how our sense of history get flipped upside down. Civilisation has become synonymous with peace and progress and wilderness with war and decline. In reality, for most of human existence, it was the other way around.” (p.110). What does the author mean by this?

5. What did you learn from the Easter Island story? The Stanford Prison Experiment? The Stanley Milgram’s Laboratory? “Hannah Arendt argued that our need for love and friendship is more human than any inclination towards hate and violence. And when we do choose the path of evil, we feel compelled to hide behind lies and cliches that give us a semblance of virtue.” (p. 173). Does your personal experience and observation agree with her? “Belief in humankind’s sinful nature also provides a tidy explanation for the existence of evil. When confronted with hatred or selfishness, you can tell yourself, ‘Oh, well, that’s just human nature. But if you believe that people are essentially good you have to question why evil exists at all. It implies that engagement and resistance are worthwhile, and it imposes an obligation to act.” (p. 174) When have you benefited by using communication and confrontation, compassion and resistance?

6. Had you heard about the death of Catherine Susan Genovese before readying Humankind? Why did this story get retold so often?

7. “Tactics, training, ideology – all are crucial for an army, Morris and his colleagues confirmed. But ultimately, an army is only as strong as the ties of fellowship among its soldiers. Camaraderie is the weapon that wins wars.” (p. 205-206) If you were in the military would you agree? If you know men or women in the military would you agree? “Terrorists don’t kill and die just for a cause…They kill and die for each other.” (p.208)

8. “Infants possess an innate sense of morality. Infants as young as six months old can not only distinguish right from wrong, but they also prefer the good over the bad.” (p.209) What does the author suggest has been done to train human beings to hurt and kill others? Military friends, is this your experience? What would it take for you to kill another person?

9. Power Paradox “Scores of studies show that we pick the most modest and kindhearted individuals to lead us. But once they arrive at the top, the power often goes straight to their heads – and good luck unseating they after that.” (p. 229) Why do you think 75 million Americans voted for Donald Trump in the recent election?

10. “Exchange suspicion for a more positive view of human nature. Just imagine, academics would burn the midnight out of a thirst for knowledge, teachers would teach because they feel responsible for their students, psychologists would treat only as long as their patients require, and bankers would derive satisfaction from the service they render…This question is neither conservative nor progressive, neither capitalist nor communist. It speaks to a new movement…a new realism. Because nothing is more powerful than people who do something because they want to do it.” (p. 277-278) What motivates you to do your very best?

11. “Play is not subject to fixed rules and regulations but is open-ended and unfettered. Unstructured play is also nature’s remedy against boredom…Dutch historian Johan Huizinga christened us HOMO LUDENS – ‘playing man’. Everything we call ‘culture’ originates in play.” (p. 282-283). How do you play? When was the last time you really played?

12. “Hatred and racism stem from a lack of contact. We generalize wildly about strangers because we don’t know them. So the remedy seemed obvious: more contact. After all, we can only love what we know” (p.352) In order to “stay human” who can you contact in the near future? What other ways can you “stay human.” 

Another great discussion!

Here is Clif Hostetler's review on Goodreads.com

If you wish to believe that people are naturally good but you can’t because of the counter examples in the news and you’ve been taught otherwise in history, sociology, and psychology school classes, then you need to read this book. This book makes a convincing case that humans are by nature friendly and peaceful creatures, and most of the counter examples are caused by pressures of civilization for which evolution of the human brain has left us ill-prepared. 

Bregman makes the case that a probable reason Homo sapiens prevailed during the prehistory era over Neanderthals, Denisovans, and Homo erectus is because we were hard-wired to be social, work in groups, and consider what’s best for the collective community. This predisposition worked well over many years while humans lived as hunter-gatherers. But these same tendencies led to violent behavior when subjected to the territorial concerns and concentrated populations of the civilized world. The predisposition for protecting the collective community in the hunter-gatherer world transformed into xenophobia in the civilized world.

The book attacks the commonly accepted truths about human nature described in the novel Lord of the Flies, and presents as a counter example a true historical instance of young boys marooned on an island in which successful cooperation was exhibited. Also, a reinterpretation of the true facts surrounding the famous 1964 murder of Kitty Genovese is provided that demonstrates the tendency of news articles to exaggerate and falsify sensational aspects of a story. 

Bregman also deconstructs the bad science and/or lazy reportage contained in many famous sociological case studies that have claimed that civilization is but a thin fragile coating protecting us from dangerous human nature. Some of the better known debunked studies are the Stanford Prison experiment and the Milgram experiment. The book also makes the case that the chief motivation for soldiers to fight in war is the spirit of camaraderie, not ideology.

The second part of the book is devoted to proposing ways to structure work, school, and organizations that can utilize true human nature for optimum beneficial results. Many of these example argue that when we expect better, we very often get better. Examples given include an exemplary Norwegian prison, Nelson Mandela and the end of Apartheid in South Africa, challenging playgrounds for children, and unstructured schools. 

Bregman repeatedly notes that even though civilization has bred into the human brain a suspicion of people outside of our own group, our prejudices tend to fall away once we come to know those “others.”
     “Contact engenders more trust, more solidarity, and more mutual kindness. 
      It helps you see the world through other people’s eyes.”
He also notes that,
     “It’s when a crisis hits…that we humans become our best selves.”

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#vcFeb             back to January Rutger Bregman's Humankind: A Hopeful History 
February 10 Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents by Isabel Wilkerson.
     Linking the caste systems of America, India, and Nazi Germany, Wilkerson explores eight pillars that underlie caste systems across civilizations, including divine will, bloodlines, and stigma. Some suggest this was the most important book of 2020.

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Selections are subject to change.  For Zoom link and additional information, 
contact David Nelson -- humanagenda@gmail.com or (816) 453-3835.


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