Tuesday, February 28, 2017
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., "Beyond Vietnam," April 4, 1967
Yet again, we've weathered the storm. Back in early October, we got more than a foot of snow in Saskatoon, just in time for Canadian Thanksgiving. Then, in early January, we got snowed out of our place just outside of Portland. This time, the Ojai Valley got pounded with six inches of wind-gusting rain for twenty-four hours. The tree outside our little apartment came crashing down, ripping down power lines with it. Amazingly, we only lost power for eight hours (we went dark for three full days in Detroit back in the Fall of 2014).
Our time up here, one hundred miles north of downtown L.A., has started with a bang. Last week, we staffed the annual Bartimaeus Cooperative Ministries Institute, a gathering of leaders from all over North America. It is a blessed space committed to alternative theological education, uniquely intersecting the seminary, sanctuary, street and soil. Starting just a month after the inauguration of a new President, the timing couldn't have been more important. As Ched Myers proclaimed, "This is not just another conference, but a family meeting to deal with this unique historical moment." Elaine Enns called it "a brave space, a kindred space for tending and befriending." What we need now, these organizers said, was a gathering dedicated to keeping one another's courage up.
Really, the Institute is part-church, part-strategy brain-storm, part-therapy session, part-recovery meeting, part-spiritual retreat. Lindsay served as the gathering's therapist and many attendees signed up for time with her. She also helped facilitate the "Feminary" cohort of six women who studied and corresponded throughout the year, and acted on the side as ad-hoc child care guru and playmate. Tom was a chaplain and helped facilitate a workshop on the importance (both spiritually and politically) of grief work. Both of us were tasked with all sorts of logistical endeavors, from making meals to setting up for plenary sessions to staffing the book table to transportation needs.
The Institute focused on the 50th anniversary of Dr. King's "Beyond Vietnam" speech as a sacred text to help guide us during this time. The prophetic speech was honest and forthright and more than 150 newspapers editorialized against King the next day. It was written by Vincent Harding, who decades later wrote "the un-tranquil King and his peace-disturbing vision, words, and deeds hold the key to the future of America." History often forgets just how much opposition King experienced from every angle. His political vision was what he called "the militant middle:" participating in both strategic, organized nonviolent civil disobedience and a continuing quest to win electoral power.
King was wedged between the black nationalists who believed King was a sell-out and the white moderates in Birmingham calling his protests “unwise and untimely” (and white Evangelical Billy Graham telling him to “put on the brakes”). Many “people of conscience” believed King was too radical, trying to move too fast and furious on issues of race, poverty and the war. Dr. King, most certainly, was not what we would call “moderate” or “centrist” today. He was very much like the radical Jesus of the Gospels, himself squeezed into “the militant middle” between the fiery zealots advocating violence against Rome and the religious elites seeking compromise to sustain their power and privilege.
Our gathering focused on play and creativity too, exercising the right side of the brain. One morning, Lindsay got swept up into a spontaneous parade with the Carnival de Resistance, complete with song, dance, games and plenty of face-paint. Over the course of the week, many participants worked together (animated by the work & vision of Resident Artist Chris Wight) to build up a lego Trump Tower of Babel (Genesis 11)…
...and then transformed it into a Tree of Life whose leaves are for "the healing of the nations" (Revelation 22:2).
It is with this "revolutionary spirit" that we move forward into this season. Fifty years ago, Dr. King pleaded with people of faith and conscience to "make America the truly great America that it is called to be." He proposed that the main obstacle to this vision wasn't "the bad people," but instead the good people who were staying "silent about the things that matter most." He called upon "discipline non-conformists" and "creative extremists" to organize and strategize for a whole new world.
We invite everyone, people of faith and conscience, both the spiritual and the religious, to join us in journeying through the forty days of Lent, starting tomorrow (what Christians call "Ash Wednesday"). Tom and Lydia Wylie-Kellermann have organized a daily devotional on Dr. King's "Beyond Vietnam" speech on RadicalDiscipleship.Net. Every day, there will be a couple paragraphs of King's speech with a short devotional from a long-distance runner for justice. We hope it helps to inspire and challenge and, above all else, to keep one another's courage up.
*Lastly: mark your calendars for April 7-8. BCM and our dear friends Hyun and Sue Park-Hur of ReconciliAsian are teaming up to organize a commemoration of the 25th anniversary of the L.A. Uprising (what we used to call "riot"). See below for more info on this two-day forum called "429: Remembearing and Renewal."
Sunday, January 29, 2017
I am convinced that if we are to get on to the right side of the world revolution, we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. We must rapidly begin the shift from a thing-oriented society to a person-oriented society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights, are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, extreme materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.
Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., “A Time To Break The Silence” (1967)
Clackamas River, Oregon
We are one-month into our year in the wilderness, an ongoing experiment of learning from beloved communities all over the North American continent. We flew to Orange County for the memorial service for Mark Thornton, Tom’s high school basketball coach. It was supposed to be a thirty-six hour trip, but ended up being a whole week away from our sabbatical retreat. We got snowed out! After a two-day delay, we landed on Tuesday night: in Seattle. We booked train tickets for the next day and that trip was cancelled. When we finally arrived back on the Clackamas River, Lindsay got a horrific sinus infection that lasted these past two weeks. If you’re going to get sick, this is probably the best place for it—a beautiful view through the front window: trees, sky and a beautiful variety of birds.
Our next stop is the Ventura River watershed, home of the headquarters of Bartimaeus Cooperative Ministries, our sending organization directed by mentors and bosses Ched Myers and Elaine Enns (photo below with Ched and Elaine 200 kilometers north of Saskatoon). We’ll be posting up there from February to June, working closer with the organization, staffing the big annual institute in late February, hosting a marriage retreat in late April, helping facilitate a weekly Sabbath Economics group and working on various writing and editing projects. Somehow we got a fully furnished one-bedroom apartment in Ojai, a stone’s throw from downtown. Call it divine intervention.
This, of course, is a new season for all of us. The Trump presidency started with a bang just ten days ago. We are grateful to be living in this country, but we believe there are many deep structural problems that dehumanize women, immigrants, people of color and poor and working people. We do not pledge allegiance to any political party. We campaigned for Obama, but were vocal from the get-go in 2009 when he filled his cabinet with leaders who were dedicated to economic policies that would benefit Wall Street over everyday, ordinary people, let alone for those Jesus called “the least of these.” We protested and marched when he escalated drone warfare and deportations of immigrants and never closed Guantanamo Bay prison (as promised). We were deeply frustrated that he did nothing for the people of Flint and Detroit who continue to suffer from poisoned or shut-off water.
The Trump presidency magnifies these issues (and plenty more) to exponential degrees. He is following through with campaign promises of building the border wall, accelerating deportations, blocking refugees, openly discriminating against Muslims and Latinos, and much more. This is all seasoned with a bitter string of lies about a whole slew of subjects. Again, these issues aren’t new to our country—just expanded and deepened. We are thrilled that Bartimaeus Cooperative Ministries is choosing to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Dr. King’s “Beyond Vietnam” speech (also called "A Time to Break the Silence") for the annual institute next month. This is a proud text that is incredibly relevant in this season of life for all of us. What King named as the giant triplets of evil (racism, militarism and materialism) are alive and well in Trump’s America. It will be a spiritually and emotionally enriching time to spend with dozens of leaders from around the country. We invite you to join us (all information here...registration closes Feb 3rd)!
For us, this is not just political. It’s personal. The current “issues” making headlines are affecting actual human beings that we are deeply grateful for. The undocumented immigrants that we know are far from "criminals" and "rapists." We admire and love them dearly. In fact, they are some of our heroes. With the odds stacked against them, so many of the undocumented students that were in Tom’s class are thriving as leaders. Their parents came north for opportunity, to do jobs that white suburbanites refuse to work (this is documented with legitimate studies). We think of Marco, Yesenia, Aida, Ana Karen, Lupita, Roberto and plenty of others. They've made our life (and our culture) richer and deeper. So have the victims of abject poverty who we met in Detroit, somehow holding out hope as they search desperately for jobs that do not exist: Deborah, Byron, Ann, Jasmine, Matthew, Ike, Fletcher, Donna and so many others.
There is collateral beauty, though, at the advent of the Trump era. People are waking up all over the place. They are aware, alert and ready to get involved with a movement dedicated to restoring love and dignity to all those Howard Thurman described as "having their backs against the wall"--in our country and the world. This is our prayer: that a spiritual and political movement will grow bountifully. The mustard seed was planted in the 50s and 60s, as the Civil Rights Movement of Dr. King and so many others set out on a mission that was far bigger than just rights and freedoms for black people. It was nothing less than “to save the soul of America.” This is going to be a wild ride.
Sunday, January 1, 2017
Francis Weller, "The Geography of Sorrow"
Clackamas River, Oregon
Happy New Year from the The Rice Place up here in the Pacific Northwest. We are spending some quality time recovering, writing and reflecting over the past 2+ years in Detroit and beyond. In the midst of this season of transition, we are discovering so much grief and gratitude overflowing from within. Here are Ten Deep Things we've experienced this year:
1. Celebrating the Cycle of Life: the birth of our nephew Mason Thomas Orr and godson Cedar Martin Wylie-Fahey (photos: Mason's big brother Riley watching over him in Orange County; Cedar's big brother Isaac protects with the hug on Larkins)
2. Telling "the other side" of Detroit's Comeback story: in workshops, on tours, over meals with friends and family (photo: Lindsay takes the junior highers from U of D Jesuit in Detroit on a tour of the 3rd floor of the Peace and Justice Hive at St. Peter's; we join good friends at St. Peter's during a Joe Reilly benefit concert)
3. Bearing witness to water shut-offs, organizing 25-40 gallon deliveries and advocating for policy change (photo: delivering 1000 gallons to the St. Peter's water station)
4. Staffing Bartimaeus Institutes in Oak View, CA and Saskatoon, SK (photo: with ReconciliAsian's Sue Park-Hur; the Institute after-party in Saskatoon--read Tom's review here)
5. Traveling the continent--from Quebec to Atlanta, Whidbey Island, WA to Minneapolis, MN (photo: five miles from Coulee Dam, WA, the birthplace of Tom's dad)
6. Hosting Marriage Strong retreats and officiating weddings together (photo: the wedding of Eliisa Bojanic and Peter Croce on Belle Isle in Detroit)
7. Cultivating friendships and mentorships, old and new (photo: Lindsay and Solveig Nilsen-Goodin on a Sunday hike in Portland with the Wilderness Way Community; with Detroit Jyarland Daniels of Harriet Speaks)
8. Our bodies and emotions breaking down! Two surgeries for Tom, traumatic mouse sightings for Lindsay, bike accidents, sprained ankles, chronic back pain, and wrestling the demons of fatigue and despair in the wake of personal and communal loss.
(photo: our friend Cait's car on Cecil Avenue in Detoit--a metaphor for some of the agony experienced this year)
9. (semi)Weekly sabbath treks to Ypsilanti on Thursdays to sit by the Huron River and celebrate life with Happy Hour (photo: Mustard!)
10. Getting the opportunity to write about our adventures:
From the conclusion of Lindsay's RadicalDiscipleship.Net post on the "Persistent Widow" of Luke 18:2-5:
Another way is possible. It is the way of hope-inspired, self-loving, gritty resistance—offering us a liberating detour from the tired road of resigned, hardened and complicit cynicism trod by the Judge and his good ole’ boys club. It is up to us (as it always has been) whether we will count the costs and consider ourselves, along with every other living being, worthy enough to throw in with those making a beautiful, more just way out of no way.
From Tom's article "Thirsty in Detroit: Water Shutoffs and Baptismal Witness" in The Christian Century Magazine:
The real Detroit is, and always has been, its neighborhoods, the familial and communal incubators of those who, two generations ago, put America on wheels and manufactured the arsenal of democracy. What ultimately happens to their children and grandchildren will measure whether Detroit is making a comeback or not.
The complexity of this social analysis beckons Christian disciples back to the simple, sacred waters of baptism. At the font, followers of Jesus hear the messianic commission of Psalm 2, “You are my beloved child,” alongside Isaiah’s prophetic blessing of the suffering servant, “with you I am well-pleased.” Like Jesus, we are challenged with the conviction that royal personhood is bestowed upon all humanity and commissioned to give our lives to self-donating service.
See you SOON in 2017!!!!
Tuesday, November 29, 2016
November brought us all the way down the West Coast: from Seattle to Portland to Bend, OR to Sacramento to the Bay Area and into Orange County, CA. Our time has been dedicated to celebrating life with friends and family. Specifically, we danced to the music of the birth of yet another precious nephew, memorialized Tom's dad Dennis, one year after his sudden death, with a long hike down the Oso Creek Trail with Tom's Aunt Sandy, his mom Sue and her perra loca Sophie. We celebrated Thanksgiving with Lindsay's family and have had a plethora of meet-ups with so many beautiful people who have supported us on this Journey the past two years.
We are preparing our hearts, minds and bodies for the next stages of the Journey into 2017. On December 11, we will leave for a 50-day sabbatical at a writing retreat just outside of Portland. We will be reflecting on all that has happened in the past two years and working on a book project, in addition to some online articles. We plan on going to some counseling sessions and al-anon recovery meetings in the city--a great opportunity to keep learning more about our pain and undoing old patterns!
From Portland, we will move to Southern California for our first "residency" of 2017. Most of our time will be spent in the Ojai Valley, working closely with Ched Myers & Elaine Enns, the co-directors of Bartimaeus Cooperative Ministries. We also look forward to spending some time in Los Angeles with a few interesting experiments in Beloved Community!
Some of our recent highlights...
A throwback to Saskatoon in mid-October, the "Feminarians," a group of women that Lindsay is helping facilitate this year. This is the second year that BCM has offered a cohort to study a “hybrid” course (online and in person) that engages the dynamic "radical discipleship" theology and ethics of Elaine and Ched.
In Seattle, we had pizza with former Capo Valley Cougar cross country runner Mikaela Mulhull:
In Portland, we survived Halloween with the Nilsen-Goodins:
In Berkeley, we got a campus tour from Natalie Herberg (aka, "Herbie"), now a Political Econ major at Cal and getting ready to compete in the steeplechase:
In Upland, we attended the ordination of Sue Hur at Mountain View Mennonite Church:
In San Clemente, we spent time with Kyle & Courtney Rutenbar and their 4 beautiful children. Great to be re-united with 5 of our former roommates from The Manna & Mercy House...and to get to know their new(est) addition: Baby Mabel (not really a baby, as she is already keeping up with the big kids)!
...and (Surprise!), Beloved Detroiter Jyarland Daniels of Harriet Speaks (and fellow 1996 University of Kansas grad) took us out for Happy Hour in Laguna Hills (she was in town doing a diversity training at a local car dealership).
Four full days after we got trumped
upside the head, dizzy spinning
confusion, weighing us down with the
dead weight of a scapegoat
infusion, she texted: “in labor.”
Four full days: only one day short of
a resurrection but it’s still the miracle of
new life, one more striving heart beating
for justice, living one day at a time is a
must, about to get raised up to never
say it’s about “just us,” another
nephew on the Way to bless us.
Introducing: Mason Thomas.
Monday, October 31, 2016
so much like stars
filling the dark trees
that one could easily imagine
its reason for being was nothing more
Greetings from Whidbey Island, Washington. We've been "on the road" for 40 days. Half of our time was in Saskatoon, Canada, preparing for and staffing the Bartimaeus Institute focused on the theme of The Truth & Reconciliation Commission Calls Churches to Action: Building Capacity for Restorative Solidarity. 100 indigenous and white church leaders gathered together to share honestly and openly about how Christian communities can help work towards "reconciliation" (what our boss Elaine Enns calls "restorative solidarity") after centuries of pain, abuse and violence aimed at tribal peoples and lands. There were seven indigenous elders in attendance--all of them residential school survivors in Canada. Both Canada and U.S. governments have a long, mostly hidden history of mandating that young indigenous children leave home.
Literally, the script (in most of the trauma-filled stories we heard) went something like this: church or government officials showed up unannounced at these children's doors, took them from their parents, placed them in boarding schools, then trained them to "assimilate" to the dominant culture by any means necessary. After enduring (and quite courageously and tenaciously surviving!) childhoods characterized by ongoing terror, unthinkable violence, and unconscionable abuse at the hands of those running these schools, many were never to see their families again. It was an eye-opening, inspiring and very challenging time together (to say the least), and after centuries of empty words and phrases, it was certainly "a call to action." You can read Tom's review of the Institute here.
We joined in a Canadian Thanksgiving (the second Monday in October) feast with Elaine's extended family. They were hosting a Syrian refugee family who joined us at the long dinner table.
We traveled a couple of hours north (Emma Lake, Saskatchewan) and it started snowing. A lot. Snow on October 10? Really? We joined all these delightfully crazy Canadians around the fire.
The BCM staff (Below, from left: Tom, Lindsay, Elaine, Ched, in back with snow cap, or as the Canadians call it "a toque" and Joshua Grace from Philadelphia) visited with Vern Ratzlaff, a legendary pastor in the Mennonite Church. Vern worked for many years in the Middle East for the Mennonite Central Committee, an agency that combines mission work with peace and development work. He was also an adjunct professor of theology at the nearby Lutheran seminary (philosophy and historical theology). Officially “retired,” now, he pastors a small Mennonite congregation in rural Saskatchewan. He is brilliant and very funny.
After we left Saskatoon, the Path led us to Banff, through the Canadian Rockies and into British Columbia, probably a couple of the most beautiful drives we've ever taken (a mix of mountains, streams, lakes and Fall colors popping everywhere).
We stopped at Grand Coulee dam in Central Washington, the birthplace of Tom's dad, Dennis (his dad owned and operated a drug store in town before they moved to the outskirts of Seattle in the mid-1940s). We brought some of his ashes and sprinkled them off this bridge into the Columbia River below.
On one side of the bridge is the little town that was started to house workers on the dam (all white men) during the 1930s and early 40s (a New Deal project at the height of the Great Depression). On the other side is the Colville Reservation, the space the original inhabitants of the land were corralled into by the U.S. government in the mid-19th century and then (for decades) disconnected from the "benefits" of the dam: the electricity, irrigation and the trout, now blocked from swimming upstream. This is yet another one of the painful (mostly untold) stories that we want to work towards re-learning, reclaiming and redeeming (the hard work). This is what Elaine wrote a few months ago: "our healing as [white] Settlers depends on our willingness and ability to re-vise our stories, and re-member the stories of the land and its First Peoples." The personal always intersects with the political.
We will be in Orange County from early November to early December. We are looking forward to catching up with so many family and friends who have made this Journey possible the past 25 months...and into the future. We would love to share more of our ongoing story over meals and happy hours, with small groups and faith communities.
Thursday, September 29, 2016
the time, and the arena, and the manner of our revolution,
but more usually
we must do battle where we are standing.
Arise! It's another beautiful Tuesday morning in September! But where are we?
• September 6: Oak View, CA
We awake at Casa Anna Schultz, the home of Ched Myers and Elaine Enns. It’s been a full two days of reflection, dreaming and humorous banter. The four of us participate in a Skype call with sojourners from Saskatoon, Canada and Philadelphia. We begin to organize logistics of the upcoming Bartimaeus Cooperative Ministries Fall Institute, which we will help staff the weekend of October 14-16. The focus: Canada’s historic Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
• September 13: Laguna Beach, CA
• September 20: Detroit, MI
• September 27: Saskatoon, SK
Carnival de Resistance, a traveling arts carnival and ceremonial theater company performing at the intersection of ecological justice and radical theology. Here’s Tom’s short review of it on RadicalDiscipleship.Net.
If you want more details and passion, here's the bonus journal entry from Lindsay (buckle your seat belts):
Tommy ran hard to get a majority of the bulk of the work of moving done, while I tended to the finer details - i.e. sorting through what was so meaningful we had to find a way to take it with, and/or what of our "life" we could say goodbye to and either give away or donate. It feels like a huge weight lifted to have done a thorough inventory and purge of our possessions, but also a deep grief…. the work of moving is HARD… and proved to be an important piece in this leaving and transition from our Beloved D.
We had a tender moment saying goodbye to each room of our apartment. Tommy even shed some tears as we read aloud the note of gratitude we left for our landlady, Vicky - without whom our move (and entire experience of living there) would not have gone so smoothly, amicably and hospitably… quite a contrast to the landowner in our previous rental situation in SoCal - the absentee kind who somehow has all the power and callous detachment to milk you for all your worth when you leave, even though you never have a face-to-face conversation the entire year you live in his house and he never fixes anything when it's broken... just adds it to the nen-negotiable, outlandish bill he will charge you at the end… Beloved Detroit, we will miss you on so many levels.
Anyhow, long story short, we trekked to Minneapolis and stayed there 3 nights. We saw our Carnival de Resistance friends, and got to see their incredibly animating and inspiring carnival and shows. It was all very life-giving (especially for these two tired souls!)… but we also left tired. We're both so at capacity - as Tommy would say, "Our dishes are done" - and it's hard to take in much more stimulus - even good stimulus - at the moment…
We then trekked it x-country to Saskatoon in Saskatchewan, Canada - which is where we are now - and have been for 4 nights - staying in the most beautiful, peaceful, aesthetically-pleasing basement apartment, one Tommy found thru Airbnb for an unbelievable rate of $41/night. We knew we would need some space of our own to recover for awhile.
This is where we will now be until NEXT Friday - able to cook, eat healthy, be in a routine, read, write, sleep, play, go for runs, go for walks, take in the beauty of the river, and the prairies, and the cool Fall weather... as well as take advantage of Apple TV!!! We don't have a T.V. (thus, the fun novelty!), and we discovered a new series we are BOTH really into (no small feat!) called Community. (Thank you Sarah Thompson for the introduction!). It, along with this time of respite on the Canadian prairies, is proving to be good medicine: lots of lightness, laughter, rest, down time, permission to go quiet, grieve, reflect, breathe, cease all our producing and striving, and be present to all that is around, behind, within and before us.
Floods of contentment, and much to be grateful for.
Sending buckets of love from the Canadian prairies...