10.02-01 .On the web since.1997. Site Map  /290+5x2/300/250=875   CRES refocus.Vern Barnet  Vern Barnett Vernon Barnett
click for information about these symbols of world religions and liberation movements
World Faiths Center for Religious Experience and Study
Return to MAIN MENU
Email: staff@cres.org  —  mailing address: Box 45414, Kansas City, MO 64171
CRES is a 501(c)(3) organization promoting understanding of all faiths through teaching, writing, and consulting.

THIS DAY of Indian summer and the joys of having all of us of every faith around the table in friendship, with our international guests: we rightly observe this most American of festivals, Thanksgiving.

Religion and Freethinking have three intermingled sacred components, wonder, gratitude, and service. From experiences of wonder flow a need to give thanks for them and all that supports them. This gratitude is mature only when it becomes service to others.

Today is a time of economic stress and political corruption; and religious prejudice is enflamed by ignorance and fanned deliberately for partisan gain. People are hurting, folks are oppressed, and ignorance darkens our civic life.

When we are threatened, it is not easy to feel wonder. When we are hungry or deprived of our rights, giving thanks is difficult. When we are in need, serving others may be far from our minds.

But the legend of the first American Thanksgiving recalls the hardships of the Pilgrims' voyage and the first winter, from which only half of them survived, survived on only five kernels of maize a day.

Yet somehow America itself has survived. We have repented the slaughter of Indians. We have freed slaves, given women the vote, finally elected Jews and Catholics, and now Muslims, into office; and are moving toward equal rights in the military and in marriage for all citizens. We have become the most religiously diverse nation on earth. We grateful for that.

Every faith has stories of hardships and triumphs, and the theme of giving thanks is universal. So it was 26 years ago when folks of sundry faiths gathered at this first Thanksgiving Sunday Ritual Meal to give thanks for the deepening of our own faiths through the friendships we were making with each other. 

From that eventually developed the Interfaith Council and other groups and activities whose mission is guided by the question “What is sacred? — What is so important that my life depends upon it, that I would die for it? — And what may I do to understand, honor and share it?” This guiding question leads to awe, thanksgiving, and service.

Together we have learned that the Primal faiths are especially equipped to help us find the sacred in the world of nature; that the Asian religions have special techniques to lead us to the sacred within, and the Monotheistic traditions teach us about the sacred revealed in the history of covenanted community.

Because we've done our work together, we've served others. Two examples: § When CBS wanted to see how a community successfully dealt with 9/11, the network came here for their broadcast special. § When Harvard University's Pluralism Project and Religions for Peace at the United Nations Plaza wanted a community for rich field trips to various religious sites for the nation's Interfaith Academies, they came here.

And our sacred interfaith connection shows in crises, as when a Jewish acquaintance called a Muslim acquaintance on 9/11 and asked if he was OK, and when we came to Johnson County Community College a few days later and lit candles to be a witness against fear and for safety and understanding. 
     And when, a year later, we rose before dawn and assembled at Ilus Davis Park with a water ceremony and a brass ensemble from the Symphony and proceeded to the Episcopal Cathedral for a day-long observance, concluded with an evening event with Jewish and Muslim children singing together and folks of every faith participating in various ways, in music, word, and blessing of the mingled waters. 
     And when the husband of one of our beloved sisters in interfaith work suddenly died, the overflow funeral has become a precious memory. And the members of the Interfaith Council, hesitant at first, launching out into an independent organization, now find themselves flourish. 
     So many other public and private examples come to mind!
     And the formation of the Festival of Faiths, the intentionality of Notre Dame de Sion, the work of Cultural Crossroads and the Alliance of Divine Love, and perhaps 30 other new interfaith efforts – Mary [McCoy], especially thanks to you and the many others you named who have continued this Thanksgiving Sunday Ritual Meal tradition and created an award bearing my name.

These many years, from that guiding question, “What is sacred?” I have lived out of a sense of awe in the majesty of nature, the mystery of personhood, and the hope of human community. From this awe, and for the gifts of the American Constitution, and the richness of the faiths now about us, this gratitude led to a desire to serve. I know I have not always been worthy of the tasks before us, and my own personal limitations and failures have sometimes impeded our progress. Still, I am assured of the pleasure of your company and the honor of your friendship.
   INTERFAITH -- like faith itself, with its intermingled components of awe, gratitude, and service – interfaith itself is a sacred affair of the heart, and so I gratefully accept this honor with abiding affection.


November 19, 2010

.  . . Thank you for establishing a recognition of our friend Vern Barnet.  Almost every person who is involved in appreciation of the rich diversity of religion and spirituality has a "Vern Barnet Story" to tell. 

     Following the "North American Assisi" in Wichita in the 80s, Vern contacted me and invited me to lunch. Since that day he has been one of my best friends and an important collogue in my personal and professional journey. He clearly articulates the vision of "what is sacred?" He generously offers his insight and leadership for all who aspire to celebrate the gifts of pluralism. He is a bright light in our city and our nation in a day when we need some light in the darkness of prejudice and fear mongering. The greater Kansas City area can indeed be proud of this human treasure. 

     I love Vern; and because of him, I love so many more sisters and brothers of different faith traditions. 

     Celebrate him for me, too. 

The Reverend David E Nelson, DMin

Vern and James R Houx Jr, CRES secretary

The award was presented at the 26th annual Thanksgiving Sunday Ritual Dinner, November 21, 2010, at the Regnier Center, Johnson County Community College, co-sponsored by the Heartland Chapter - Alliance of Divine Love and the Johnson County Community College Office of International Education and Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in cooperation with the interfaith community with meeting support from All Souls UU Church and cooperative partners The Greater Kansas City, Interfaith Council, 3HO Kundalini Yoga Center, Baha'i Faith Community of Greater Kansas City, Community Christian Church, Crescent Peace Society, Cultural Crossroads, Culturally Speaking, Festival of Faiths, , Hatebusters, Hindu Temple and Cultural Center, Rime Buddhist Center, Sikh Dharma of Kansas City, Urantia Book Fellowship, and Vedanta Society.

Bio sketch of Vern Barnet on Wikipedia

Bio sketch of Vern Barnet on CRES website: