Thinking Outside the Box
– Pat McKittrick, SP
Have you ever wondered why our Church is in the state it’s in? Maybe the old solutions don’t work in today’s world. What can we do? How can we help build our Church communities? Do we know our Church History well enough? Where were the women in earlier days? How are they called to use their God given gifts/talents today? How can we support them?
I’d like to suggest a recent article by St. Joseph Sr. Christine Schenk “Let’s use the title ‘co-worker’ for laypeople in parish leadership”. Sounds like equity.
Be sure to follow the links that are included in the article. You’ll find them enlightening.
Also, since we’re staying home more during these Covid times. Why not check out Future Church? https://www.futurechurch.org/
Last week, I participated in a prayer service for the Feast of St. Phoebe. It was life-giving. Also, if you’re interested in Faith Sharing you can participate on Sunday and Wednesday evenings at 7PM.
I’ll be participating in the “Making Sense of 2020: Being Church Today.” Hope you’ll join me. See details below.
MAKING SENSE OF 2020: BEING CHURCH TODAY – Tickets to FutureChurch’s 30th Fall Event are now available!!!
Please join us as FutureChurch commemorates 30 years of inspiring work, boldly confronts new challenges, and embraces emerging opportunities with hope as we work together for a more just, more inclusive Church and world. Our VIRTUAL event will feature resentations from:
- Dr. Cecilia González-Andrieu, Ph.D.
- Professor Bryan Massingale, and
- Professor Doris (Wagner) Reisinger,
… all charismatic activist-scholars who will help us “make sense of 2020” and look forward toward a brighter, more just, more inclusive future for all.
We want you to know just how deeply grateful we are for your past support of and participation in the work and mission of FutureChurch. Together we are making a difference! And we hope you’ll join us as we host our 30th Annual Fall Event online via Zoom across two remarkable evenings — October 22nd and October 27th at 7pm Eastern Time.
We are Catholics who embrace the ministry of deacons, witness the gifts of women for this ministry, hope that our Church receives these women.
WHY CHRISTIANS SHOULD CARE
The “War on Drugs” has been a bi-partisan effort spanning several decades that is one of the key components of “systemic racism” and anti-blackness in the United States and elsewhere. The roots of the War on Drugs lie in Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s administration and the Marihuana Tax Act of 1937, but it did not become a comprehensive program until Richard Nixon’s Controlled Substances Act of 1971. This War then led to the mass incarceration of many Americans, but disproportionately black males through the strict enforcement and sentencing requirements of the Reagan administration, as well as Joe Biden and Bill Clinton’s “Crime Bill” in the 1990s. Incarceration rates doubled between 1980 (501,800) and 1990 (1,148,700) and doubled again by the year 2000 (1,937,400).
Mass incarceration, however, is not the point of this essay. Rather, I wish to focus here on how Christian values are directly opposed to the motives for the War on Drugs. First, it should be noted that strict “Prohibition” of mind-altering substances is not an Orthodox position. Indeed, we use alcohol, the substance rated as the most dangerous in terms of cumulative personal and social harm, as part of our most sacred rite, the Eucharist. And Orthodox paschal celebrations are typically full to the brim not only with beer and wine, but also vodka, ouzo, and arak, all of which have their origins in predominantly Orthodox cultures. Strict prohibition has its origins in Protestant temperance movements, many of which had strong anti-Catholic and anti-Orthodox biases.
And where America’s failed experiment in alcohol prohibition ends, the War on Drugs, and its racist and un-Christian underpinnings, begins.
Cannabis was for the first time made a federally regulated substance in the United States in 1937 due to the efforts of Harry Anslinger, the first “drug czar” in the history of the U.S. government under FDR. Anslinger had three primary motives for making cannabis regulated (and nearly illegal). The first reason is because he had been the head of alcohol prohibition enforcement, and the repeal of alcohol prohibition meant he was out of a job unless there were new prohibited substances. The second reason is because he teamed up with corporate interests (namely the Hearst media corporation and DuPont) in order to propagandize against hemp in order to aid synthetic fibers like nylon coming into manufacturing dominance.
Both of those reasons are bad enough and are related to systemic racism in both the economy and law enforcement. But his third reason, the one that concerns the subject of this article, was that he was a committed racist and eugenicist. A true opponent of “pro-life” causes, he ardently supported forced sterilization of “undesirables” to prevent their reproduction. Directly related to this, he was also a proponent of the “white genocide” conspiracy theory, believing that measures must be taken to enforce white racial purity.
Completely missing from Anslinger’s motivations was public health—the main reason many Christians were successfully propagandized to believe was the purpose of the war on drugs. This is evident in that he (1) is on record saying that cannabis was harmless, until alcohol prohibition ended (see above), and (2) he consulted 30 pharmacists on the subject and 29 out of 30 told him there was no public health risk. (It is worth noting that the 29 represent a 97% consensus, the same percentage as the consensus on anthropogenic climate change). Anslinger destroyed the records of the 29 and kept only the one dissenter in his files.
Anslinger then rebranded cannabis with the term “marijuana” in government documents in order to portray cannabis as a scary Mexican substance coming over the border to corrupt American (specifically white American) youth. He also argued that prohibitions on cannabis were essential to maintaining white supremacy and racial “purity.” Here is Anslinger in his own horrifying words:
Reefers make darkies think they’re as good as white men.
There are 100,000 total marijuana smokers in the USA, and most are Negroes, Hispanics, Filipinos and entertainers. Their Satanic music, jazz and swing, result from marijuana usage. This marijuana causes white women to seek sexual relations with Negroes, entertainers and any others.
Colored students at the Univ. of Minn. partying with (white) female students, smoking [marijuana] and getting their sympathy with stories of racial persecution. Result: pregnancy. . . . Two Negros took a girl fourteen years old and kept her for two days under the influence of hemp. Upon recovery she was found to be suffering from syphilis.
Despite Harry Anslinger’s racist mania leading to the regulation of cannabis, the United States (and the world at large) did not attempt to heavily criminalize substances for decades after Anslinger’s Marihuana Tax Act in 1937. Harvard professor Timothy Leary (despite his personal failings, which were many) became an ambassador for the ways many so-called “drugs” could be genuine medicines for a host of diseases and disorders resistant to conventional therapies. Leary even succeeded in getting the Marihuana Tax Act declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in 1969.
In response to Leary’s victory, the deeply racist and extremely paranoid Richard Nixon. began the War on Drugs by lobbying for and signing into law the “Controlled Substances Act” of 1970. Through political pressure, the implications of this legislation was forced on most of the world in 1971.
Nixon’s racism is well documented, but I will focus on one harsh truth about him that should be especially relevant to pro-life Christians. When the Roe vs. Wade ruling was handed down about by the Supreme Court, Nixon was indeed disturbed and voiced his opposition to abortion both publicly and privately. However, Nixon did believe that there were some instances where abortion was necessary. Most Christians in the pro-life movement would not be deeply scandalized to hear that rape, incest, or the mother’s life might be considered as one of these exceptions. But Nixon’s privately expressed primary reason was driven by a similar concern for racial purity like Anslinger’s. In Nixon’s own words, abortion was sometimes necessary, “for example, when you have a white and a black.” (Nixon is recorded saying this behind the scenes on the infamous “Nixon tapes.”)
Did Nixon’s racism tie into the “War on Drugs” and the Controlled Substances Act? His disgraced advisor John Ehrlichman (who spent time in prison for the Watergate break-in) had this to say to a reporter in the 1990s:
You want to know what [the War on Drugs] was really all about? The Nixon campaign in 1968, and the Nixon White House after that, had two enemies: the antiwar left and black people. You understand what I’m saying? We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or black, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin, and then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities. We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did.
(It should be noted that Ehrlichman’s family has disputed this quote arguing that their father wasn’t himself racist. This is an odd objection, however, given that Ehrlichman is clearly disgusted with having been a part of the administrations actions.)
The War on Drugs was created and perpetuated for explicitly racist reasons. It has undeniably played a prominent role in propagating a systemically racist society with astronomical and disproportionate incarceration rates and felony convictions (and felons are stripped of core constitutional rights!). It is not based in the science of public health. And it is incumbent on we Christians who are concerned with the perils of substance abuse to put forward alternatives to mass incarceration rooted in genuine Christian values and restorative justice.
Rico Monge is an associate professor in the Department of Theology and Religious Studies at the University of San Diego.
VT Christian Music is initiating a monthly Christian Music Online Series.
2nd Wednesday Night of the Month – 7pm via Zoom
First show will be August 12, 2020 – featuring Hannah Dawber – https://hannahdawber.com/https://www.facebook.com/events/912416545920039
The Vermont Racial Justice Alliance, in partnership with the New Alpha Missionary Baptist Church will be live streaming the second annual FirstAfrican Landing Vermont Commemoration on 22 August 2020, from 2:00 PM till 6:00 PM. Our commemoration culminated last year with Governor Scott proclaiming the 4th Saturday of August First African Landing Day in Vermont! This invitation only, live streaming event will be safety and security monitored for masking and social distancing. All personnel on sight will be required to submit to contact-tracing enabling protocols. You can see the lineup here.
Live Streaming Event: https://www.facebook.com/pg/
This event serves to recognize the 401st anniversary of the landing of the first Africans in English-occupied North America at Point Comfort in1619. Though this second annual African Landing Day Commemoration does not celebrate the circumstances surrounding the arrival of the first Africans to our shores, the commemoration serves as a marker in history that shines a light on the incredibly powerful 401 year journey, and offers some hope in the continued struggle to dismantle the systems of oppression created by the original sin.
We’re excited to be returning to do this event for the second year. All proceeds for the event this year will go to the Building Fund of the New Alpha Missionary Baptist Church, the only church in Vermont that worships in the African American tradition! Our goal of $100K is achievable with your help sponsoring this event. You can choose from three options of sponsorship.
Bronze – For a $1000 sponsoring gift we’ll publicly name your organization as a sponsor.
Silver – Offer a $2500 sponsoring gift and we’ll publicly name your organization as a sponsor and make space for your organization’s banner on the event site.
Gold – With a $5000 sponsoring gift we’ll publicly name your organization as a sponsor, save a seat for you at the event (you’ll be contacted for coordination) and make space for your organization’s banner on the event site.
If you are interested in gifting any other amount or a personal gift, we’ve also created a place for you to give and support this work here. Thank you for partnering with the Vermont Racial Justice Alliance and New Alpha Missionary Baptist Church in this 401-year commemoration of the First African Landing!
Our July guest speaker is Mary Farley — Development Director of North America, Intelligent Careers Group / Founder, FarLake Consulting
Mary will be presenting: “Crossing Communication Barriers By Leading with Love”
Vermont Catholic Professionals was established in 2018 as a networking group to create fellowship of professionals that also share values of the Catholic faith. The purpose of Vermont Catholic Professionals is to join Catholic men and women and others with shared values from the business and professional communities to encourage intellectual discussions, to foster professional and faith-based relationships, and to inspire service and charity to the community in Vermont. Vermont Catholic Professionals will be hosting quarterly networking events which offer networking, refreshments, and a professional development speaker that is relevant to the business and professional communities here in Vermont.
This virtual event is a Zoom meeting. Register here — https://us02web.zoom.us/webinar/register/3415916286903/WN_7YE8H5QMRF-MlHnDNqevjA
On July 7, the 40 or 50 people who had been meeting twice each day for 17 weeks to pray with the bishop of Vermont on Zoom dubbed themselves the Green Mountain Online Abbey, and resolved to carry on without her.
Not that Bishop Shannon MacVean-Brown was going anywhere. Participants would still sometimes see her smiling at them from one of the Hollywood Squares-like boxes on their computer screens from time to time. But she had sensed for several weeks that the online community she had nurtured over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic was ready to continue on its own, and so she relinquished daily liturgical leadership to a newly assembled rota of others.
“I didn’t expect to start a congregation,” Bishop Shannon says. “In an emergency situation you gather and you pray together. I thought well, we can do that. I just wanted to be able to bring people together to remind them—and myself to a certain extent—that we are still the church and we have these things that define who we are, and that can help us remain who we are.
“Within two weeks, though, I thought, ‘This is good. I want to keep this going.’”
Like several dioceses across the Episcopal Church, the Diocese of Vermont began offering online worship on Sundays as the pandemic took hold. This has been especially important in dioceses with small isolated congregations that might not have the resources or broadband access to host worship on their own. Unlike almost any other diocese, after offering her first service on Sunday March 15, the bishop followed up with Morning Prayer at 8 a.m. and Compline at 8 p.m. the following day.
The group hasn’t stopped meeting since. The only deviation in the schedule occurs on Sundays when Morning Prayer with a sermon is held at 11 a.m. As the church’s calendar moved from the middle of Lent to the far side of Pentecost, a community that seldom dips below 40 people coalesced around each service with regular members in Manhattan and New Hampshire and Sunday visitors such as the bishop’s parents in Detroit and a friend of hers in Portugal.
The gathering met a need enhanced by the pandemic, but with deeper roots, participants say. “Everything was falling away, but here was an opportunity to pray, and it just immediately grounded us,” says Wendy Buhner of St. Martin’s Church in Fairlee, who attends services with her husband, Chris, from their farm in Newberry. “Living in Vermont, you often have to drive a great distance to be with people. To be able to turn on your computer and see people and say these prayers, it has been profound. My spirit misses it when I don’t show up.”
The bishop’s decision to use Zoom rather than Facebook Live as the platform for services has proven essential to the community’s development because participants can see one another, interact on occasion, and access the service by telephone, even if they lack cellular service or an internet connection.
“As much as some people pooh-pooh and shy away from Zoom as though it is not good enough, well if that is all we have we have to make it good enough,” Bishop Shannon says. “For us, it has been really life giving because it gives us a chance to pray together and share our concerns with each other.”
Merv Horst, a Mennonite in Manhattan, heard about the service from a friend and found the formality of Episcopal liturgies appealing. The interactions among participants seemed a bit stiff at first, he says, but gradually that began to change.
The Rev. Margaret Mathauer, a vocational deacon at All Saints Church in South Burlington who has led services several times since the bishop stepped away from that role on June 30, says the first signs of connection among members were simple waves, and then brief conversations before and after the service.
“It just sort of happened organically, and I think there is such beauty in that,” says the Rev. Mary Taggart. She has succeeded the Rev. Kathleen Moore, a transitional deacon who recently left the diocese for a call in Erie, Pennsylvania, as the primary organizer of the services. “I am not a big computer person, but you almost forget you are on Zoom when you have been doing it for a long time. It becomes almost second nature.
“My sense is that there are a number of people who live alone, and even though they may be members of a parish that is faithful and checking in with them, they just are craving connection.”
That is true of Mary Gladden, a member of Holy Trinity Church in Swanton, who participates in the services every day by telephone from the Hawk’s Nest Senior Housing in St. Alban’s. “The most basic piece is I can look forward to speaking with somebody twice a day, whether I have guests or not,” she says. “I always feel my church family is my second family, and this has just added to my second family.”
One of the bright spots of her pandemic was the day fellow parishioners Wallace and Natalie Good brought her to their home so she could see the faces of people whose voices had become so familiar to her, she says.
Over time, Bishop Shannon says, it became apparent to participants that worshiping online was not the isolating experience that many Christians feared when the pandemic began. “A church building gives you a sense of intimacy,” she says. “But it is not the same level of intimacy as seeing someone’s bedroom, seeing their pillows behind them. I am pretty sure I have seen people in their pajamas as this thing has gone on. I was surprised by the intimacy that we reached sort of quickly. When somebody was not there, you noticed.”
Mathauer says participants’ trust in one another manifests itself most strikingly in intercessory prayer. “People have some pretty specific things they pray for during the intercessions,” she says. “To the point where sometimes I think, ‘Whoa, I don’t think I’d have the courage to say those kinds of things.’”
In more than four months together, the community has accompanied one member through a spouse’s heart attack, and another through a family member’s mental health crisis. It has prayed with members marooned by the pandemic in distant hotel rooms and prayed with them again when they finally arrived at home.
“Some people have it harder than I do,” Mary Gladden says. “That’s a good, fine thing; to pray for someone else.”
The community has also shared each other’s learning experiences, including Horst’s deepening curiosity about Anglican liturgy and theology and the bishop’s introduction to spring peepers, the small chorus frogs that increasingly supply the background music to compline now that the weather is warmer and participants have taken their computers outside.
Domestic animals have also helped bring the group together. Frequent appearances by Moore’s two cats “gave permission” for other members to introduce their pets, Taggart says. One Sunday Bishop Shannon’s dog, Detroit, spotted a deer in the midst of her sermon with predictably disruptive results. But perhaps no animal earned quite the notoriety as the Buhners’ rooster, Red.
On Father’s Day, Chris Buhner was reading the grave words of the prophet Jeremiah when Red commenced a steady stream of commentary. And though Buhner carried on with a mostly stiff upper lip—”I have become a laughingstock. Everyone mocks me.”—eventually he broke down.
On Wednesday, July 1, someone other than the bishop led a weekday prayer service for the first time since the community first gathered. It was the most visible of several changes.
For the first 17 weeks, the bishop had put together liturgies relying entirely on the Book of Common Prayer, reasoning that it was the book those who could not join the service online were most likely to have in their homes. But as a proponent of expansive language with an interest in other spiritual resources, she was eager to employ other resources including Enriching Our Worship, the New Zealand Prayer Book and St. Helena Breviary. The opportunity arose when Wallace Good offered to provide printed orders of service to attendees who can’t follow the service texts online.
The bishop, who had been consecrated less than six months before the pandemic struck, was also keen to find a way to use Zoom for the parochial visitations that the pandemic kept her from making in person.
Beginning on June 21, she began “visiting” parishes, by asking the host parish to construct the liturgy and provide readers, music and other elements of the service. The bishop still preaches, and the entire diocese is still invited, but the focus is on the host parish.
Most of the Green Mountain Online Abbey plans on remaining through these transitions.
“People talk about getting back to normal,” Wendy Buhner says, “but I feel we have been transported to something different. And how to sustain that … it is part of my spiritual practice.
“I couldn’t have asked for a more profound summer.
Theology on Tap is a lecture and discussion series focused on living our Catholic faith. Young adults ages 18-39 are invited to bring their favorite brew and join in!
Register here: https://us02web.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZckdeutqDkpHNOp7d4htweBP2UeIdIJvO83
Date: July 16
7:00 pm – 8:30 pm
- Event Tags:
IS YOUR CHURCH COVID-SAFE?
A FREE document designed to help clarify key safety measures and protocols that are important to everyone’s protection, and are in adherence with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines. It is a tool to help you and your leadership team with the planning and preparation needed to be able to offer church and events safely and confidently.
Two separate polls show that Americans are relying more on their faith to help persevere through the coronavirus pandemic.
The Pew Research Center, in a survey released April 30, showed that nearly one-fourth of all Americans say their faith has grown stronger during the pandemic, while only 2 percent said it had grown weaker.
Catholics, according to Pew, are very much in line with the overall survey results. Among Catholic respondents, 27 percent said their faith had grown stronger with 2 percent saying it had gotten weaker. In addition, 63 percent said their faith had not changed much at all, and another 7 percent said the question was not applicable because “I am not a religious person and this hasn’t changed.”
A poll by Fordham University released April 28 showed that Americans are being helped by their religious or spiritual faith during the pandemic, and the more often they go to church, the more they feel it has helped.
For those who go to church regularly, 68 percent said they have been “helped a lot,” and another 22 percent said they have been “helped somewhat.” For those who say they go the church frequently, 41 percent said they were helped a lot, with 45 percent reporting they had been helped somewhat. Even a majority of those who say they rarely go to church said faith has helped – 23 percent a lot and 32 percent somewhat.
Among all respondents, 35 percent said they have been helped a lot and 29 percent said they had been helped somewhat, while 34 percent said they had not been helped.
There may be a touch of irony in the polls’ results as significant percentages of Americans are reporting their faith has helped get them through a tough time yet they are unable to attend worship services. The Fordham poll showed 38percent of Americans are attending less frequently, while 56 percent report no change. Just over a quarter are watching services more online or on television now than before the outbreak.
Regular churchgoers reported the largest attendance drop-off, with 67 percent saying they are attending much less often, 4 percent attending somewhat less often and 19 percent reporting no change. To compensate, 55 percent said they are watching online or televised services more than usual.
In the Fordham poll, 62 percent of Catholics said they had been helped at least somewhat by their faith. By comparison, 95 percent of evangelicals reported they had been helped at least somewhat, and just over three-fourths of mainline Protestants reported the same.
Pew’s numbers found that African Americans reported the biggest increase in faith at 41percent, compared to 40 percent for Hispanics and 20 percent for whites. Older Americans likewise found their faith increasing, as nearly 30 percent of all Americans ages 50-up reported increased faith. Women’s numbers were nearly twice as big as men’s, 30 percent compared to 18 percent.
Monika McDermott, Fordham professor of political science, told Catholic News Service that her students in a public opinion and survey research certification program had designed an entirely different poll before the coronavirus started shutting down much of U.S. society. “We met over Zoom and worked remotely” to put together the new survey, she said.
One key finding was in asking who has been guiding respondents personally through the crisis. “Public health officials got the highest rating on that, which is not surprising,” McDermott said. “We also found that state governors were fairly important,” but “not the federal government, and we found that enlightening.”
McDermott added: “We found people are social distancing. We asked about their daily habits. They are avoiding large places so they could be avoiding people who come within six feet.” But one key finding, she noted, was that the “emotional and economic burden is really falling on African Americans from this virus.
She said, we asked them questions such as: Are you still required to go into the workplace, and are you exposed to the virus and do you know people who have died from it? “The numbers are tremendously different if you’re a black American. And those are shocking numbers.”
“There are two completely different communities that are experiencing this in completely different ways,” she said.
Claire Gecewicz, a Pew researcher, said, “It’s a real unique moment in time that we’re in right now. The vast majority of people have lived in a pandemic” — so unique that “this is a question we’ve never asked before.”
Noting some of the demographic differences, Gecewicz said, “What we know from prior research, women tend to be more religious than men. You could make the connection that women are more likely than men to say that their faith has gotten stronger, but our research would suggest, in terms of the racial breakdown, blacks are more likely than white and Hispanics to say their faith has gotten stronger.”
African American survey respondents were the only group that didn’t report at least 90 percent of their churches having closed; their figure was 79 percent. The overall church-closing number was 91 percent, including 95 percent of Catholic churches.
The Pew poll was conducted online with more than 10,000 respondents, and has a margin of error of plus or minus 1.5 percentage points. The Fordham poll, conducted by phone with 1,003 respondents, has a margin of error of 4.3 percentage points.
— Mark Pattison
Photo Credit: CNS/Jason Redmond, Reuters –
For Catholics, Holy Week is the culmination of the liturgical year. It contains the three holiest days of the year – the Sacred Triduum – when Catholics celebrate the Lord’s Paschal Mystery – His Passion, Death and Resurrection. Holy Week offers us – through an intense time of prayer and devotion – a way to participate in the Lord’s saving work. The Triduum begins on Thursday with the Evening Mass of the Lord’s Supper and ends on Sunday evening with the celebration of Easter Vespers (Evening Prayer).
“Holy Week is particularly sacred for Catholics, and the closing of all the churches [because of the COVID-19 pandemic] makes it challenging for many of us to celebrate the Sacred Triduum while in isolation,” said Burlington Bishop Christopher Coyne. “That is why my staff and I have created multiple Holy Week engagement opportunities on digital media as a way to unite us all until our doors can open again and we are able to celebrate the Eucharist together with an abundance of gratitude and joy.”
Holy Week Schedule
Palm Sunday, 10 a.m. Mass — diocesan live-stream
Holy Thursday, 7 p.m. Mass — diocesan live-stream
Good Friday, 3 p.m. Solemn Celebration of the Lord’s Passion — diocesan live-stream
Easter Vigil (Saturday), 7 p.m. Mass — diocesan live-stream
Easter Sunday, 10 a.m. Mass — Diocesan Live-stream
For worship aids and additional resources and activities visit: www.vermontcatholic.org/holyweek