Posted by: Roger Vincent Jasaitis | 05/20/2015

Memorial Day Meeting for Worship

Dear Friends,

Clover, photo by Nancy Jane Lang, copyright 2015For the past few years, we have honored Memorial Day with a Meeting for remembrance of friends and family. The Meeting will take place  4 – 5 pm, May 25th at the Meeting house.  Francie Marbury will anchor this Meeting, worship sharing time.

Please join us.

Posted by: Roger Vincent Jasaitis | 05/11/2015

Use your words not your teeth

The Day's Eye, photo by Roger Vincent Jasaitis, RVJart.com, Copyright 2013Right after the deciding vote in the Vermont House on public safety bill,S.141, I hopped on a jet for a weekend training in Tucson, Az. at the National Institute for Civil Discourse(NICD). The legislation that restricts firearms possession for violent felons and mentally ill individuals adjudicated as a threat, was on it’s way to passage, and I was on my way to join a small group of state legislators from across the US, to look at ways to promote more civil discourse.

Even before the shooting of US Rep. Gabby Gifford, in Tucson, the NICD, housed at Arizona State University, had begun efforts to bring more civility to public discourse. Rep. Gifford’s shooting galvanized those efforts.

Tragic shootings like Tucson’s or  Newtown,Ct, are not entirely why I voted for S.141, but it was part of my reasoning. I agree with the many who felt we can’t wait to address a changing national and state landscape. A landscape where Elie Wiesel’s words , “When our language fails us, violence becomes our language”, were becoming all too accurately prophetic. It was time to take a stand and do something.

It’s also time nationally, to take a stand, and act on the belief that civil discourse was becoming less and less prevalent. This is a threat to the the heart of our democracy ( or our republic version ) at a time when our democracy would do well to take an evolutionary step forward.

Civil process to address conflict ,even acutely sharp conflict, are a prime function of
government and our justice system. Yet, from sitting members of Congress calling our President a liar during his State of the Union to online bullying, heightened rhetoric has shaken our sense that conflict can still be addressed in productive ways.

The group that gathered in Tucson, was selected to be geographically and politically
diverse. East, West, North and South were represented, as were the two major national parties, and left, right and center of each. What we had in common was the shared belief that the status quo needed improvement.

As we got to know and share with each other, it was fascinating to hear what was going on around the country. In much of the West and Southwest, drought and water shortages are growing more acute. Water in Colorado feeds several of the states in that area and until this year, interstate water agreements precluded Colorado residents from collecting the rain water falling from their own roof. A bill passed this year now allows that, but the concern is other states will challenge it in the courts.
Minnesotans are equally challenged as we are in Vermont, to grow their telecom/ broadband infrastructure out into rural areas. And, in West Virginia, a legislator shared passage of a bill that can provide school children with three meals a day to address childhood hunger.
What I shared about Vermont, are stories are of civil debates on budgets at Town meeting, or whether to buy a new fire truck. However, on issues like Civil Unions/ Marriage Equality, and updating public safety laws around guns, the rhetoric can sometimes turn ugly. In most instances, we practice using our voices, and our ears, as well as our hearts and minds. In those other instances, though, sometimes the rhetoric can get away from us.

Alongside the issues, and the desire to do better, we also shared the sense that we are acting as a counterculture response to the status quo. A status quo we also agreed, that was fostered significantly by a media, hungry for sensation, as well as party affiliation that can get stuck beyond practical purposes.

While many decry the negativity in our social and political discourse, fact is, it can work. And, as any traveling salesman will tell you, as long as folks are buying, they’ll keep selling.

Challenging the political status quo and the media are daunting tasks, but we are convinced if the escalation of rhetoric continues, our political system is unsustainable. (An example of media skewing a story is how the local Tucson TV station featured our workshop, with the storyline, “Political Dysfunction!”). Bottom line is, we feel we can better get our work done for the American people without getting stuck on personalities, polemics and sensationalism.

So what does more civil discourse look like?
Here in Vermont, I remember stories of our own Republican Senator, the late George Aiken and his daily breakfasts with Democratic Sen. Mike Mansfield of Montana. That simple act of breaking bread can go far in bridging political divides. As important though, are opportunities to share our personal stories. As the old adage goes, the quickest way to build a bridge between two people is to share your stories. And, indeed, it works.

Our stories of struggle and triumph reveal our common humanity and can stop the demonizing of the “unknown other”. Whether it’s a difference because of race, color, creed or political persuasion, we are the same species and our survival depends on getting along better than we have.

Civil discourse doesn’t mean we agree on everything but that if we disagree, it isn’t taken as a threat to our very being. It’s also having both sides of an issue accept that disagreement doesn’t mean the other side isn’t listening – they just don’t agree.

Whether we think taxes should be raised or cut, we would do well to accept that both
perspectives rise up from a place of belief of what’s best for the state or nation.

We’re losing that sense. Left, right, conservative or liberal, our fears and labels are getting us stuck in place and are limiting our vision of helping our nation continue to evolve. Of being able to “see beyond our own backyard”.

We don’t have to let go of our core values or beliefs to accept another way of thinking. In the political arena, if compromise is needed to move an idea forward or
even part of an idea, it can be worth it. From my perspective, the key is helping things move forward and not staying stuck.
Now, those efforts to nurture the foundation of our nation and return civil discourse in the public arena are being organized by Tucson’s NICD (along with other groups in the US such as No Label). 26 State legislators, from around the country (including myself) have now been trained to offer workshops at state legislatures on keeping it civil. We will meet with seemingly disparate groups to sit, talk, break bread and share our stories about our common humanity. Finding common ground and appealing to ,as Lincoln stated, “…the better angels of our nature”, we will also remember our common love for democracy and this great experiment in democratic principles.

We can also put into practice the lesson I learned from the kindergartner I spoke with at a recent school visit. He shared that a practical lesson for the day he learned was, “Use your words not your teeth.” A good lesson for all of us, especially in the political arena.

Warts and all, I believe these United States still hold the greatest hope for how to move forward, in a civilized manner, into the 21st century. The NICD is laying out the intention and practice for how we can do better, starting at the state legislature
level and hopefully, feeding upwards to the US Capitol.

With those intentions and subsequent practice of these ideals, we can hold fast in the belief that democracy is still the best hope for the future. And, that civil discourse is at the heart of that path forward.

For more info about the National Institute for Civil Discourse, check out their website:
www.nicd.arizona.edu

Mike Mrowicki
Vermont State Representative
Windham4 District- Putney, Dummerston, Westminster
www.windham4.net      mmrowicki@leg.state.vt.us

Posted by: Roger Vincent Jasaitis | 05/06/2015

Friends of Woolman Hill

Hello Woolman Hill friends!

The Baltimore orioles are back in the maple trees, the pear trees have just begun blooming, and the daffodils are still holding forth. Spring is in full bloom!image003

As many of you may already have heard, Woolman Hill lost our dear friend and long-time Hill resident, Juanita Nelson, in March. At the end of this month there are opportunities to celebrate her powerful and inspiring life. More information about those opportunities and about Juanita can be found here: http://woolmanhill.org/2015/05/02/celebrating-juanita-nelson/.

It seems fitting, in conjunction with Juanita, to mention opportunities for joining efforts on three upcoming Woolman Hill volunteer workdays. We’d love your company and extra elbow grease on May 6, May 20 and/or June 20. There’s more information here:

http://woolmanhill.org/volunteering/.

The glory of spring will soon be turning into the abundance of summer… And the Hill has its own special beauty in each season… Come experience it for yourself… As always we welcome you for individual retreats, programs, group gatherings, midweek worship, or just a leisurely walk on the Ridge Trail…

Hope to see you here on the Hill soon!
Margaret

Margaret Cooley

Executive Director

Woolman Hill Quaker Retreat Center

107 Keets Rd, Deerfield MA 01342

413-774-3431

margaret@woolmanhill.org

www.woolmanhill.org

www.Facebook.com/WoolmanHill

Posted by: Roger Vincent Jasaitis | 04/30/2015

How to Help in Nepal

Greetings Friends,

Many of us would like to help the folks in Nepal, and are wondering just how best to do it???

Coincident to the earthquakes, there happened to be members of Friends Peace Teams running Alternatives to Violence Workshops (AVP) as the earthquakes were occurring.   I’ve been copied on several messages from an AVP acquaintance John Michaelis, a very active AVP facilitator from Australia , who was on the 5th floor of a shaking building when the quakes were occurring.  Fortunately he and the workshop participants were not injured.   John has been sending daily reports of the devastation and conditions in Katmandu.  John and others were scheduled to fly home last week, but are now dedicated to staying to offer whatever assistance they can.

The message below outlines the need.  While we individually may not be in a position to personally participate in relief efforts, Contributions to Friends Peace Teams http://www.fpt-awp.org/ are greatly needed and are a way in which Quakers and others might be able to directly help.  The lower right of their web page outlines ways of donating.

Peace

Alan Taplow Nepal


Below is the most recent communication from John:

I am still in Kathmandu where Subhash and I have been struggling to find most effective way Friends Peace Teams Asia West Pacific might further respond to the ongoing tragedy here.
We have discussed four different approaches:

  1. Choosing one badly damaged community that is disadvantaged such as an Untouchable or Dalit caste village or region, send volunteers there with immediately needed support such as food, water, clothing and materials for temporary shelter.
  2. Offering psycho-social counselling using AVP facilitators and others here who have that training..
  3. Providing support for finding homes for orphans
  4. Using our trained facilitators to offer Trauma Workshops for the many who have been traumatised.

After discussion we have narrowed our recommended focus to 1, 2, and 4. While the need for psycho-social counselling is real, it is relatively expensive because it is a one-on-one process. Trauma workshops on the other hand are effective and reach many participants. We have previously held trauma workshops in Nepal and have a number of trained facilitators here.
Supporting a community is the most urgent and we would like to act on this immediately. If funds are pledged we have limited money available in Nepal from concerned individuals so we can begin before the money transferred to Nepal.
We spoke today to Ram Paudel, one of our AVP lead facilitators and the the executive director of Children Nepal, our partner in the Pokhara district of Nepal. For the past twenty years, a primary mission of theirs has been to find new families for orphaned children . They target a maximum of three months to find permanent homes for each child.
Trauma workshops are cost effective although we must compensate facilitators for time and travel because they must take leave to go to the areas of need.Â
As we better understand the most immediate needs we may need to adapt to accommodate new information.
The life changing work done here and the relationships established in the past two months has been effective and greatly affirmed and appreciated and must continue. We will report separately on these events. We pray that the urgent support need for the earthquake tragedy does not detract from this.
We hope the need here will lead to significant empathy and financial support.
We would welcome your thoughts and suggestions a.s.a.p. If our approach is affirmed by FPT-AWPÂ we will send out letters outlining the need as soon as we can.
In friendship:

Subhash and John in Kathmandu

Subhash Kattel
John Michaelis
FPT-AWP Coordinators

Posted by: Roger Vincent Jasaitis | 04/26/2015

Community Conversation on Homelessness

Homelessness-Community Conversation 042315

Posted by: Roger Vincent Jasaitis | 04/24/2015

Vermont African American Heritage Trail Launched

Curtiss Reed Jr., the executive director of the Vermont Partnership for Fairness and Diversity, said the trail is intended to boost cultural tourism in the Green Mountain State and increase awareness of its track record of racial tolerance.

 
Reed will give a talk on Sunday May 3rd at noon at Putney
Friends Meetinghouse, Putney Vermont.

Recently, the Vermont Department of Tourism and Marketing opened an African-American Heritage Trail with several sites (including Grafton) of importance to black history in the state.

The trail brings visitors to Vermont museums and cultural sites where exhibits, tours, and personal explorations illuminate the lives of African Americans for whom the Green Mountain State was part of their identity.

Posted by: Roger Vincent Jasaitis | 04/24/2015

Culture of Militarism

War is not the answer,  detail of mixed media painting by Roger Vincent Jasaitis, RVJart.com, copyright 2015

War is not the answer

Friends, FYI:

Program on Militarism in Our Culture.

Can we talk about the fear so common in our country and the violence which often accompanies it? This question will be addressed at a community program on Thursday, April 30 at 7 p.m. held at one of the Gifford Medical Center conference rooms in Randolph.

Joseph Gainza of Marshfield, who led the American Friends Service Committee in Vermont for over 15 years and who founded Vermont Action for Peace, will give a presentation on one of the main ways of looking at other people, social problems, and even the planet itself, which has become a dominant pattern in the present culture of the United States today – a pattern which appears to have become so engrained in our American psyche that it is largely unnoticed, sometimes referred to as “militarism.”

Following the presentation, the evening will also provide an opportunity for people to come together to honestly discuss their views and questions.

Co-sponsors of the program are the Will Miller Green Mountain Veterans for Peace and the Randolph Peace and Justice Coalition.


You can listen to these WDGR shows any time over your computer or phone — “live streaming”.

 Here are the shows; roughly an hour each.  Hit the red circle on the show you want and just listen — any time.

https://soundcloud.com/search?q=gathering%20peace

 

Joseph Gainza
Vermont Action for Peace
Producer & Host – Gathering Peace
WGDR 91.1 FM WGDH 91.7 FM
www.wgdr.org

 

Posted by: Roger Vincent Jasaitis | 04/20/2015

Addressing Mass Incarceration

Dear Friends,unnamed-2

I’ve heard from many of you that mass incarceration is a deep concern for your meetings, so I’d like to invite you and your meetings to our national video conference call tomorrow, Tuesday.

Want to know more about federal laws concerning mass incarceration and racial justice? Friends Committee on National Legislation is hosting a nationwide video call this Tuesday, April 21 at 8 pm EST. Join Diane Randall and Tila Neguse to hear an update on what Congress could do this year to address mass incarceration, and how Friends can be involved.

To RSVP to the call and get details, email christine@fcnl.org.

Thank you, and I hope you can join us.

Sincerely,

Shannon Palmer
Program Assistant
Quaker Outreach

Posted by: Roger Vincent Jasaitis | 04/16/2015

Today is the day!

Dear Putney Friends,

Thank you SO much for the work you have done leading up to today’s vote. What a mountain we have climbed together!!

Today at 1pm the House of Representatives will debate S. 141 and then vote. I encourage you to join us at the Statehouse and bear witness. This is huge.

If possible, it’s best to come early so you’re able to take your seats at 12:30 (you can have lunch beforehand in the Statehouse cafeteria if you like). The Gun Owners of VT folks will be trying to turn out in force, so plan to be calm and respectful. Along those lines, if the vote does, in fact, go our way, it’s important not to celebrate outwardly in the chamber (applause, etc.) because we wouldn’t want it to seem like gloating. And anyway, if we’re successful, the most important thing will be to soak it in so that you remember at your core what your hard work can accomplish!

The House Judiciary Committee spent all last week taking testimony on S. 141, and this morning they are poised to vote it out of committee. This means that the bill will go straight to the House Floor for a full House vote as soon as Thursday, so it’s critical to call your reps and voice your support now!

If you aren’t able to make it in person today, call the Sergeant-at-Arms office at the Statehouse at 802-828-2228 or 1-800-322-5616.

It’ll take just minutes to leave a message for your representative encouraging them to support S. 141 to help keep guns out of the wrong hands, but it can make all the difference!

GunsenseVTEven if you know your representative is supportive, call them to say thank you. As we go into the floor vote, it is critical that representatives feel the support that exists for this bill in their district. If you’re not sure who your representative is, click here, and if you want more guidance about what to say when you call, click here.

Today is the day!
Ann

Ann Braden
http://www.gunsensevt.org/

Posted by: Roger Vincent Jasaitis | 04/14/2015

Beyond Conventional Wisdom

Spring Sunrise, photo by Roger Vincent Jasaitis, RVJart.comToday, I was struck powerfully by the fact that there are so many proverbs in scripture that express some lazy and erroneous conventional “wisdom” that we should question and reject. An example of this is the frequently repeated notion in Proverbs that if you love God and are faithful to the Spirit’s leadings, you will inevitably be protected from harm and suffering, avoid persecution, be prosperous, and enjoy nothing but good things in life.

The sacred stories offered in the gospels about the arrest, cruel torture, and humiliating public execution of Jesus as a rebel leader at the hands of the Roman Empire puts the lie to this very naive notion. While loving God and loving what God loves does open us to great joy, communion, and near endless gratitude, it does not protect us from suffering persecution or betrayal at the hands of others. In one of the gospels, even Jesus is reported to have said on the cross, “God, God, why have you forsaken me?”

Yet, the resurrection story of Easter says to me that we while we can suffer betrayal and persecution at the hands of others, we are not forsaken. We are not alone. We are not without divine love and spiritual resources. In fact, the message of the resurrection story to me is that evil can be evil, but it can’t kill the Spirit–and God’s Spirit always remains available to accompany us on a path that can deepen our joy, inspire our courage to challenge the corrupt ways of empire in the world (and in our hearts), and help us become much needed channels of divine love and healing so we are able to say in the midst of intense suffering and betrayal, “Forgive them, Father, for they know not what they do.”

To this, I would only add, “Forgive me, Divine Spirit in which we all live, move, and breath, for I so often do not know what I do and I so often miss the mark.” Blessed be.

Steve Chase

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