Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Our discussion turns to non-violence and peacebuilding

In this post: Conversation continues Feb. 15; A satisfying January for the Initiative; Profound thoughts about what we do.

Conversation continues at Feb. 15 Interfaith meeting

Steve Green and others at our Jan. 18 Interfaith Action Initiative monthly meeting.

When we decided that we would make the topic of our Jan. 18 Interfaith meeting a discussion of the tragic violence last December at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn., we did not know what to expect. Would anybody attend? What would we talk about?

We need not have worried, for 21 people attended and we had plenty to talk about. Some people told of terrible experiences of violence, including gun violence, others spoke about the silence of many religious leaders on guns and violence.

The discussion was so powerful that we decided to continue it at our meeting on Friday, Feb. 15, at 10 a.m. at the First Baptist Church of North Adams. All are welcome. (Please use Eagle Street entrance).

At this meeting we will focus on what we can do to build a more peaceful community and focus on non--violent problem solving. 

More of those who attended the Jan. 18 meeting.

A satisfying January

Weny Krom, at left, speaks to the community outreach workers during their visit to the Friendship Center on Jan. 31.

January was a very busy and successful month for the NBIAI. In addition to our great discussion at our Jan. 18 meeting, we welcomed a group of volunteers and accepted many food donations on the Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service in Northern Berkshire on Jan. 21. 

As you can read elsewhere on this blog, our Jan. 27 Interfaith Service for Mental Illness and Understanding at New Hope Methodist Church was a great success, with more than 40 people attending. Readings, candellighting, and powerful testimonies created a memorable event that will be presented again.

On Jan. 31, we welcomed for the second year community outreach workers from the Northern Berkshire Neighbors program of the Northern Berkshire Community Coalition, led by Wendy Krom and Annie Rodgers. 

Two of the visitors were Fran Bersai and Rich Davis, two of our stalwart volunteers. Rich gave a tour of the pantry to his fellow outreach workers in training. Mark Rondeau and Al Nelson helped welcome the visitors and informed them about the Interfaith Initiative and what else it does.

The Friendship Center Food Pantry continues operating at high-efficiency. We adjusted in January to the loss of our great friend and food distribution director, Mark Lincourt, to a broken arm he suffered from slipping on ice. Thanks to Dan Bird for stepping up to drive the van back and forth from Pittsfield to pick up our food each Tuesday.

Mark is doing well in his recovery, and we look forward to seeing him back at the Friendship Center soon.

The pantry now has more than 1,200 member families in North Adams, Clarksburg and Florida. On five Wednesdays in January we had a total of 757 household visits, an average of 151 per week. Our average was 104 visits in our 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. session and 47 in our 4 to 6 p.m. session.

We will observe our second anniversary of operation on Feb. 23. Astonishing!

Profound thoughts about what we do

In the 1940s, African-American minister and scholar Howard Thurman started an interdenominational church in San Francisco called the Church for the Fellowship of All Peoples. More than just interdenominational, this church brought people of many different races together. This in the U.S. during the Second World War!!!

Here is what worked for Thurman and his wife, Sue: “a profound conviction that meaningful and creative experiences between peoples can be more compelling than all the ideas, concepts, faiths, fears, ideologies, and prejudices that divide them; and absolute faith that if such experiences can be multiplied and sustained over a time interval of sufficient duration any barrier that separates one person from another can be undermined and eliminated. We were sure that the ground of such meaningful experiences could be provided by the widest possible associations around common interest and common concerns.”

Thurman’s church did this through a wide variety of spiritual, artistic and service activities.

And this, “And around all of these and other activities, one basic discovery was constantly surfacing — meaningful experiences of unity among peoples were more compelling than all that divided and separated. The sense of Presence was being manifest which in time would bring one to his or her own altar stairs leading each in his own way like Jacob’s ladder from earth to heaven.”

(“With Head and Heart: The Autobiography of Howard Thurman,” pg. 148)

The second thought I encountered more recently and comes from Jesuit priest Fr. John Kavanaugh, who passed away recently:

“I am convinced that if Christians, Jews, and Humanists penetrate to the depth of their commitments, longings, and beliefs, if they enter that depth with a painful honesty and an integrity open to the fullest mystery of their human personhood, they will find themselves, at the bottom of those depths, indelibly and eternally brothers and sisters.”

(“Following Christ in a Consumer Society” pg. 130)

Hope to see you at our Interfaith meeting Feb. 15!

God Bless,


Volunteer name tags hang on hooks at the Friendship Center.