Dignity/Washington Board Retreat Notes
by Henry Huot, Dignity/Washington Board member
“Discovering ‘Jubilee’: Discerning the Call to Mission in the Holy Year of Mercy” was the guiding theme chosen by Dr. Tom Little for this year’s Dignity/Washington Board retreat, held on Saturday, February 6 at the Dignity Center. His questions were challenging, as in the following samples:
What is God asking of Dignity/Washington to be a sign of mercy?
What do we need to discover to keep moving forward to mercy, for ourselves individually, for our community, and for society itself?
What is it that each of us needs to do to be one with God, and to bring God’s blessing and mercy to society?
As Dr. Little explained, the Jewish practice of Jubilee, as found in Leviticus 25: 8-12, provides the foundation for this Holy Year of Mercy. It is intended to be a time of special atonement, of becoming “at-one” with God, who comes to heal the land with blessing and mercy and wants each of us to be healed, to be made whole and “one,” and at peace. “Jubilee” becomes a call to sketch and see God’s future as well as allowing the power of God to work.
It means that we intentionally become more mindful of God’s mercy, leave our past indifference and habits behind, and resolve to let God do what God wants with us, as happened to Jesus at his baptism in the Jordan, when he was declared God’s Beloved. From his baptism onward Jesus became a witness to all the merciful acts of God, including through and after his death when he descended in his resurrected state to rescue all who had died. So too for us, from our baptisms on, we become witnesses to God’s mercy and peace. It is a matter of saying: “Yes, we are the story of God acting in the world, the story of God’s love.”
It involves believing that Dignity/Washington is necessary in God’s plan for the greater good of our community and society. It requires dialogue, patience, compromise and reconciliation with those who are alienated with us.
All of the foregoing themes were made real through experiences that the participants shared through the facilitation of Dr. Little.
The retreat ended with members brainstorming and listing concrete activities for the coming year which will be further reviewed and prioritized for possible implementation.
Please pray for the D/W Board as it continues its leadership and service to our community.
Dr. Thomas Little is currently Pastoral Associate for Evangelization and Faith Formation at Our Lady of the Fields Church in Millersville, Maryland, and holds a Doctor of Ministry in Christian Spirituality. He was for five years until recently Pastoral Associate to Bishop Rozanski of the Archdiocese of Baltimore and in that position did Ombudsman work with parishes and other Maryland-based and related NFP and NGO groups, representing the bishop and Archdiocese in project management, issue resolution and enabling local project resolution and success. He is a long-time friend of Sr. Jeannine Gramick of New Ways Ministry. This was the third time he was retreat master for the Dignity/Washington Board in recent years.
Dignity/Washington Guest Speaker Series January-April
All presentations will be at the Dignity Center, 721 8th Street, SE Washington, DC 20003 unless otherwise noted
Action for Happiness Workshop (Saturday January 23; 3:00-5:00 PM)
NOTE: Due to the impending snow storm predicated on Saturday for the Washington, DC area, this workshop has been cancelled. Check in with us later for the new date.
Action for Happiness (http://www.actionforhappiness.org/) is a global movement of people committed to building happier and more caring societies. Redefining the meaning of progress, it brings together people who care less about what they can get just for themselves, and more about the happiness of others. Action for Happiness Washington, DC and Action for Happiness USA are part of that global movement.
The Ten Keys to Happier Living workshop equips participants with a science-based roadmap for boosting their own happiness, as well as the happiness of others in their lives. Participants will first examine their own personal understandings of happiness. Next, attendees will explore in participatory fashion 10 of the top science-backed practices for positively impacting well-being. The workshop concludes with a section devoted to identifying sustainable post-workshop actions, to transform individual areas and relationships in participants’ lives.
About the Facilitator
Michael Lennon teaches at the George Washington University’s Center for Excellence in Public Leadership. He also consults for DC-based organizations such as the World Bank, USAID, and ArtReach. His focus is on Positive Performance – the study of excellence in individual, community and organizational activities.
In 2013, Michael Lennon founded in Washington, DC the first US-based Action for Happiness group. Since then, the US Action for Happiness community has grown to more than 2500 members. Mr. Lennon was honored for his accomplishment by Lord Richard Layard in the British Parliament. Since becoming a student of the science of happiness, Michael Lennon often describes his life as “living a life of goose bumps” (2-7% of the time).
Out of the Box: Thinking in Postmodern Times (Saturday, February 20; 3:00-5:00 PM)
What is thinking? Is it merely a matter of a big memory to quickly find old answers to old questions that computer Watson used to beat its human competitors in Jeopardy. Or is it a matter of sophisticated algorithms, which Deep Blue used to beat chess grand master Garry Kasporov?
Thinking, the critical, strategic, mindful kind, is the capacity that, as far as we know, is unique to our species. It is what makes us human. And perhaps being human is what makes thinking possible. And thinking makes us wonder as we look out to our expanding universe and retreating stars and planets. We know that we are not the only intelligent creatures in the universe. There are some right here on earth. But are we the only thinking creatures?
Here I will explore what thinking is, how it relates to knowing what is, i.e. our science, and also to knowing what should be, i.e. our ethics and politics. I explore how thinking relates to the ongoing dilemmas of poverty, racism, and violence. I explore the possibilities of artificial intelligence and thinking machines. I explore thinking and the crises in education and in domestic and international politics. I explore thinking in art, in religion, in science, and the making of culture.
Most of all I explore why and how thinking is constructing our worlds and ourselves now and for our future. I won’t settle anything finally in these writings; but I do hope they help us to think. And to think critically. Thinking is not complete if it is not critical. And critical thinking is not complete if it does not achieve at least the beginning of universal empathy, cognitive infinity, and transcendent consciousness.
Many cultural observers say that we are moving globally beyond not only the premodern age of gods, spirits, divine laws, and other heavenly entities, but also the modern age of reason, natures, natural laws, and fixed realities. Does postmodernism, in challenging absolutes, condemn us to relativism without firm values and norms? I think not. In fact I contend that postmodern thinking shows the way to solidarity and an empathic world.
My objective is to understand thinking as a way to know who we are and who we want to be. My message is that the problem of humanity and our world is primarily due to the inability or refusal to think. Unfortunately those of us who have lost or given up this ability are the ones who recognize this least. We claim we know when we do not. We take positions, uphold beliefs, and maintain principles without questioning them, without readiness to disprove them, without opening ourselves to contradiction, that is, without thinking. Is there evil thinking? I would rather say that evil is the refusal to think, the holding of absolutes even when they lead to humiliation of and cruelty to others.
I contend that the issues we experience in politics, religion, and the economy, the problems we face in our communities, our nations, and our institutions are largely due to our lack of authentic thinking. There are many smart people, many people with great intelligence and knowledge, but if they have given up thinking (and indeed many have), we will neither survive nor thrive. Thinking is not only a special capacity. Thinking is an ethical imperative.
My talk Feb 20, 2016 to Dignity Washington DC is an introduction to a new book that will be soon published as Out of the Box: Thinking in Postmodern Times. This is an experiment in the philosophy of mind, in dialogue with evolutionary psychology and neuroscience. Participants will receive an eBook copy.
Outline of talk:
• Prologue: Two stories of the origins of human thinking (Eve and Pandora).
• A personal introduction to thinking.
• The evolution of symbolic behavior: categories and analogies.
• The making of culture: myth, religion, art, science, history, and philosophy.
• Consciousness as mystery, as empathy, as transcendence.
• Premodern, Modern, and Postmodern Thinking.
• Toward a Postmodern Myth and Ethics.
• Norms and values in postmodernism.
• Structure of Mind and Myth as a foundation for a new ethics.
• Good and evil in a postmodern era.
• Postlogue: Another story of the origins of thinking (Gautama).
Discussion: some possible topics:
• What makes thinking critical, strategic, mindful, authentic?
• How does thinking link to economic and political action?
• What is the relation of religious thinking to violence?
• Why is learning to think the goal of a liberal education?
• Eva: Can androids or other machines think?
Rolland (“Rollie”) Smith completed a master’s program in Social Ethics at the University of Chicago. As a member of the Jesuit Order, he received master’s degrees in philosophy and theology from Loyola University and Bellarmine School of Theology, Chicago. He was lead organizer of community organizations in Chicago, Toronto, and San Jose with the Saul Alinsky Industrial Areas Foundation, and executive director of community development organizations in San Jose, Hawaii, and Cleveland. Prior to retirement, he was director of the California Central Valley Field Office for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. He is presently volunteering in community organization and housing development in Washington DC through All Souls Unitarian Church and the Washington Interfaith Network. He continues writing in ethics and politics, and is currently writing a book on the philosophy of mind in dialogue with neuroscience entitled Out of the Box: Thinking in Postmodern Times.
Francis DeBernardo (Sunday April 10; St. Margaret’s, 7:30 PM)
What Did the Synod on the Family Accomplish for LGBT People?
Francis DeBernardo has served since 1996 as Executive Director of New Ways Ministry, a 38-year old national Catholic ministry of justice and reconciliation for LGBT Catholics and the wider Church community. He has conducted programs on LGBT issues and Catholicism in religious and secular settings throughout the United States. He has published articles in Commonweal, National Catholic Reporter, and American Catholic, and he is the author of Marriage Equality: A Positive Catholic Approach. He is the editor and main contributor to Bondings 2.0, a daily blog of news and opinion covering Catholic LGBT topics. He was the keynote speaker at the conference on religion and LGBT issues at the first World Pride event in Rome, Italy, and was a featured speaker at an interfaith conference at World Pride 2012 in London, England. In October 2015, he was given press credentials by the Vatican to cover the Synod on the Family in Rome.
Dr. Brenda Ekwurzel – (Saturday April 23; 3:00-5:00 PM)
The Scientific and Moral Imperatives for Global Environmental Activism
Brenda Ekwurzel is a senior climate scientist with the Climate & Energy Program at the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS). She is leading UCS’s climate science education work aimed at strengthening support for sound U.S. climate policies.
Prior to joining UCS, Dr. Ekwurzel was on the faculty of the University of Arizona Department of Hydrology and Water Resources with a joint appointment in the Geosciences Department. Her specialty is isotope geochemistry, a technique she has used to study climate variability in places as disparate as the Arctic Ocean and the desert Southwest. She has published on topics that include climate variability and fire, isotopic dating of groundwater, Arctic Ocean tracer oceanography, paleohydrology, and coastal sediment erosion. Earlier in her career, Dr. Ekwurzel was a hydrologist, working with communities to protect groundwater sources, at the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection.
She holds a Ph.D. in isotope geochemistry from the Department of Earth Sciences at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory and conducted post-doctoral research at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, in California.
A widely quoted expert on climate change, Dr. Ekwurzel has appeared on CNN, ABC News Good Morning America, the Fox News Channel and The Colbert Report, and has been cited by the Washington Post, USA Today, the Associated Press and Reuters.
Dignity/Washington Lenten Series: Choosing the Path of Compassion
Join Dignity/Washington at the Dignity Center on Tuesday evenings during Lent for a simple supper and discussion Featuring Karen Armstrong’s book: “12 Steps to a Compassionate Life”
Simple dinner and discussion each Tuesday in Lent (February 16 through March 22).
Sessions will begin with dinner at 6:00 and end by 8:30.
Join Dignity/Washington at the Dignity Center on the second and fourth Mondays of the month for Movie Night.
Click the link below to view the Movie Night schedule for January – June 2016.
NOTE: Dignity/Washington has cancelled Movie Night for Monday, January 26 due to the snow in the Washington DC area. We will reschedule the movie for another night
The Human Rights Campaign Receives Award for Assistance with Pope Francis Activities
On Sunday, January 4, 2016, Dignity/Washington presented the Jerry and Veronica Colfer Award to the Human Rights Campaign for supporting Dignity/Washington’s activities during the visit of Pope Francis and allowing the use of their lawn to display the D/W banner, one half-block from St. Matthew’s Cathedral.
We note special recognition to Lisbeth Melendez-Rivera, Latino and Catholic activities coordinator at HRC, who so deftly assisted us with logistics to make our presence occur. The Pope and many bishops in their buses saw us as they went by. The Human Rights Campaign is known for being the largest and arguably most effective voice of the LGBT political movement for many years. We’re proud to present them with this year’s Colfer award. Thank you Lisbeth and HRC! And congratulations!
About the Jerry and Veronica Colfer Award: Created in 2002, this award is named for Jerry and Veronica Colfer, the Chapter’s beloved supporters who were long time members of the community, provided funds for the mortgage when the Dignity Center was purchased, and made a major bequest to D/W in their estate.” It is presented to a non-D/W individual or group in recognition of special service to our community.
Again this year Dignity/Washington sponsored its annual Secret Santa gift drive that benefited thirty-one children at the Maury School on Capitol Hill. Gifts in the $30 price range were brought until December 6 to St. Margaret’s Social Hall where Santa’s helpers, Carl Spier and Tom Hardy, handled the collection.
Pick-up of the gifts by the children’s parents was slated at the school by December 18. Many thanks to the Dignity/Washington community for its generous response and to Carl and Tom for organizing this annual activity.
Dignity/Washington held its Annual Meeting on Sunday, November 15. A terrific meal immediately before the Meeting, prepared and served by members of the Board, created a time for sharing and community building. Reports from Treasurer Jake Hudson highlighted the financial health of the community, thanks to the generosity of contributors, and the need for continued support in light of ongoing operational costs and special upcoming projects.
President Dan Barutta promoted the Call to Ministry “Sign Me Up” campaign currently underway through the month of November, urging members to volunteer for nearly a dozen select long-term or time-limited ministries and activities. Community feedback appeared positive and welcomed through the many new ideas that were proposed.
The Meeting ended with a moving video production by member Tom Yates that presented most, if not all, of the year’s exceptionally memorable events and activities of this vibrant faith and service community.
Review the varied ministries and activities at Dignity/Washington by following the secure “Sign Me Up” link below.
Follow the link below to view a Scripps Howard Foundation video on Dignity/Washington’s LGBT community and its weekly worship at St. Margaret’s Church.
Dignity/Washington’s Vice President Vin Testa recently published an article in the Huffington Post about Dignity/Washington’s mission and weekly Eucharist. Click on the link below to read the full article.