How and Why Do We Listen?

In a recent edition of NCR (National Catholic Reporter) I read and reflected on the article below. I’m including the entire article as well as the link. The article was written by Sr. Joan Chittister. Some of you may like her writings, others dislike them or others may be indifferent. I was thinking about authors that I read, or choose not to read and asked myself why? Am I willing to question my own thoughts and feelings about certain topics? Or, am I comfortable with the writings of those who agree with me? What might I learn from those who have a different point of view?

I was speaking with a friend who asked, “What might I learn from someone that I disagree with; if I listen with an open heart?” So, I asked myself, “Do I listen with an open heart? What exactly is an open heart?” I remembered that in our community we talked about listening with the heart. What does that mean? I found an interesting article by Lolly Daskal: The author gives the benefits of truly listening.

Generally, at this time of the year, we begin to think about New Year’s resolutions. What if we were to resolve to listen with the heart, really listen? What would we learn from one another? How would this impact our relationships with each other? With our Church? With our political leaders? How will we listen in 2020?

Decorum in differences must be reclaimed
It’s time for our biases to grow

“We find comfort among those who agree with us, growth among those who don’t.”
That statement stopped me in mid-flight.

Here I was on a search for modern virtues in a world that had turned upside down only to find out, thanks to writer and cartoonist Frank A. Clark, who gets credit for writing this, that the virtues taken to match it would also need to be equally upside down. Otherwise, how was it ever going to be understood in a social climate such as this? Or to put it another way, how much growth is there in continuing to do what doesn’t work?

The culture of the immediate past taught that to be good you had to learn to be affable, amiable, friendly. But now, in this society, friendly is a lost art. We swear at people with abandon, berate them while we sing about them and call it music, demean them at will, even in public print.

We insult and mock and rage at everyone and everything and call it the democratic process while we watch government become less and less credible, less and less “democratic” by the day. Civility, once a trademark of a congressional system, is now a distant memory. Frustration, depression, anger and enmity live on where rational debate and public respect are meant to hold the country together at its highest level. Congressional committees and hearings are now just a cheaper version of World Wrestling Entertainment.

At the same time, our biggest mocker — The Mocker-in-Chief himself — scolds people who call him out, too, for their lack of gentility without so much as the grace to blush. And he does it in public, on television. He does it at White House Rose Garden press briefings. He does it as a staple of American democracy everywhere — in public debates and personal interviews. And that takes gall indeed.

Point: In the parallel universe we’re living in, personal harangues are beginning to be commonplace, the philippic is back in style. Worse, the normalization of insult may be a far worse effect than any single invective can ever achieve. Or as Alexander the Great is believed to have said, “Remember, upon the conduct of each depends the fate of all.”

Clearly, the Clark idea was right: There’s not much to be learned from those who agree with us. We just go on our merry way, trashing people at large, attacking both friends and competitors, berating our own best thinkers.

We’re living in a fun house built on ego, no holds barred, where Congress itself is muffled, debate is contained, and thought is suppressed.

Where, I wondered, is the growth that comes from disagreement in a situation where our leading public servants deride, deny and demean their counterparts, all the time doing nothing whatsoever to move the country forward and move the presidency back to a level of nobility, respect, civility and rationality again?

And then I figured it out. We need to meet one bias with another. Bias, I figured out, was a very necessary virtue in a period of the worst kind of biases I have ever seen in all the years I have saluted the flag. Decorum in differences must be reclaimed.

The truth is that our biases are what make us who we are. Now, however, our biases come under the rubric of “America First” and “Win, Win, Win” in a global world. Right now, in a world of biases rife with racism, sexism, poverty, internal division and the new autocracy, we need to rethink and rename, assert and define our biases. We must define what we stand for and insist on the legitimacy of claiming them.

We must reassert the kind of biases that once made America great and must now remake the country into what it says it is.
I suggest four biases to right the ones that are plaguing us now:  We must have a bias for America. Which means for all of America — in all its colors, stripes, tongues, origins and needs. “White privilege” must be extended to every American however new, however unlike the historical character of an earlier population they may be. Ideals, not color or ancestry, must be the character that binds us.

We must have a bias for diversity. We are not here now to maintain a long-gone Anglo-Saxon world. Every decision-making process in the country, every committee and commission created, must remake itself to embody and reflect the colors, genders and backgrounds of the entire population. How else shall all the ideas, all the talents, all the perspectives of all the strains of us be heard? How else shall we all become the fullness of what we say we are — equal citizens of the United States?

We must have a bias for openness. Alvin Toffler in his groundbreaking book, Future Shock, warned us about the shriveling of the inventive system. He predicted, in fact, that it was possible that change as an element of life would become so fast in a technological world that people could, in effect, be swamped by the very developments designed to advance the human enterprise.

People, Toffler argued, would find unrelenting change depressing, sometimes impossible to keep up with, to manage. If you have ever heard yourself say something like, “When computers first came on the market, I did pretty well with them. But now there are so many new programs and processes, I just can’t keep up anymore,” you yourself may be dangerously close to that point right now. Then, the options shrink to two: We either give in or drop out.

To counter that kind of social disassociation, we are fast becoming subjects of expert experts, a class unto themselves, an echo of Plato’s philosopher kings. This small class of specially educated, highly talented and single-minded doyens are designed to keep all the systems running, operating at maximum, continually spawning their own upgrades.

The problem, of course, is that if technicians become the “kings” of society, who and what will be its soul? From what well, if any, will our values come? What will be the basis of our ethics in a future in service to the “cloud?”

Then, only the humanity of humanity and its inner star can possibly save the kind of civilization that must transcend the technical, the military, the economic, the classist, the sexist, the racist. To find our North Star again, only paeans like the Constitution, the Magna Carta, the Gospels and the Abrahamic tradition can possibly guide us back to our best selves. Otherwise, all our values will give way to what works rather than to what ought to be done for the sake of humankind.

Only the bias of openness to every dimension of life, to human needs and human concerns, to human institutions and human participation in them, can possibly enable us to grow in a world such as we now face.

Finally, we must have a bias for non-partisanship. Any society in which half its representatives can be muzzled and locked out of that society’s major decision-making process mocks the very democratic system itself. The decision of the Senate to block the ongoing confirmation of Supreme Court justices on the authority of its slim majority makes the notion of “representation” bogus. Clearly, that society is in a state of collapse, however much it touts its so-called democracy.

That, I believe, is the political brink upon which we are perched right now. When one man can stop discussion on vital issues, can control a party to such a degree that progress depends on the behavior of one more Republican than there are Democrats or vice versa, that republic is no longer a republic.

On the contrary, watching the U.K. Parliament refuse to allow a new prime minister to simply disregard the input of the entire legislative body has been a refreshing — a hopeful — moment in modern politics.

From where I stand, the question is only whether the United States can save its own famed checks and balances system to do the
same here. It will take a bias for America, a bias for diversity, a bias for openness to the ideas of others, a bias for a commitment to non-partisanship.

If only we are not too far gone already to even hope for such a thing. But if not, then what kind of a future will we have as we go on pledging the flag while we fail to realize that it has stopped flying?

[Joan Chittister is a Benedictine sister of Erie, Pennsylvania.]
If you have comments, please contact Sr. Pat –

Regional Luncheons Are A HIT!

Regional Luncheons Are A HIT!

The Vermont Ecumenical Council: Network of Christian Cooperation organized two regional meet & greet Luncheons on October 24-25, 2019.  Our goal here was to start the conversation where none existed and to foster better cooperation where ecumenical groups were already working together.  This was a GREAT SUCCESS!

At Trinity Episcopal Church in Shelburne VT a group of eleven local pastors, religious, Christian ministries and church leaders gathered for a simple meal and to discuss what Christian cooperation looked like in their own circles.  We shared our stories, our struggles and our hopes for the future in a way that helped us understand each other better.  Conversation and understanding is always the first step towards cooperation!

The next day a group of us gathered around a pile of ribs, veggies and two cakes!  We met at the Springfield Family Center – a food shelf, day shelter and community center serving the greater Springfield VT area.  This location was significant because it is already the fruit of Ecumenical cooperation in that area.  An alliance of Churches in the Springfield area have been working together for years, helping the community, raising awareness for social justice and feeding the hungry.  A shinning example of what this kind of cooperation can do for our towns and state, the VECNCC looks forward to extending this model throughout Vermont.

These two gatherings, although having very different dynamics, were exactly what they needed to be and showed us what they could be.  The Vermont Ecumenical Council looks forward to coordinating more of these events in the future.  If you are interested in hosting such a gathering, please email us at or call Ryan at 802.233.9603.

Neighbors Helping Neighbors in Disasters

Neighbors Helping Neighbors in Disasters

This past week there has been significant flooding in Vermont and volunteers are needed to help people pick up and clean up after the storm.  Typically this involves clearing out fallen trees and helping to clean out the mud and debris from flooding in homes.  If you are willing to give some time this weekend contact your church’s disaster response coordinator or our VOAD president, Rick Cochran <>

The number of people needing help and the towns where they live are – 2 in Starksboro, 2 in Huntington,1 in Enosburg, 1 in Richford, 1 in Fairfax, 1 in Jeffersonville, 1 in Rutland City, 1 in East Montpelier.

Several areas of Vermont have VOAD or COAD – Community Organizations Assisting in Disasters that coordinate volunteer efforts in their area of the state.  Chittenden county does not have a group to coordinate their volunteers in disasters and so the state VOAD would like to help them organize a group to be prepared to respond to future disasters.  Churches have typically formed the backbone of volunteer response and are are great source of leaders.  If you or someone you know of is willing to serve on a coordinating committee, please contact Rick Cochran <>.  You can get more information about VOAD’s at .

Christians- Maybe This Is What It’s About

Worth reading – not just for All Saints Day! So much to reflect on!
If you’re not on Richard Rohr’s list, you may be glad to read this and sign up.
Church: Old and New
If We Were Christian November 1, 2019
All Saints’ Day

A Circle expands forever
It covers all who wish to hold hands
And its size depends on each other
It is a vision of solidarity
It turns outwards to interact with the outside
And inward for self critique
A circle expands forever
It is a vision of accountability
It grows as the other is moved to grow
A circle must have a centre
But a single dot does not make a Circle
One tree does not make a forest
A circle, a vision of cooperation, mutuality and care
—Mercy Amba Oduyoye [1]
Hospitality is the practice that keeps the church from becoming a club, a members-only society. —Diana Butler Bass [2]
Practical, practice-based Christianity has been avoided, denied, minimized, ignored, delayed, and sidelined for too many centuries, by too many Christians who were never told Christianity was anything more than a belonging or belief system. And we only belonged to our own little club or denomination at that! Some of us were afraid to step foot into a house of worship across the street for fear of eternal punishment. Now we know that there is no Methodist or Catholic way of loving. There is no Orthodox or Presbyterian way of living a simple and nonviolent life. There is no Lutheran or Evangelical way of showing mercy. There is no Baptist or Episcopalian way of visiting the imprisoned. If there is, we are invariably emphasizing the accidentals, which distract us from the very “marrow of the Gospel,” as St. Francis called it. We have made this mistake for too long. We cannot keep avoiding what Jesus actually emphasized and mandated. In this most urgent time, “it is the very love of Christ that now urges us” (2 Corinthians 5:14).
Quaker pastor Philip Gulley superbly summarizes how we must rebuild spirituality from the bottom up in his book, If the Church Were Christian. [3] Here I take the liberty of using my own words to restate his message, which offers a rather excellent description of what is emerging in Christianity today:
1.   Jesus is a model for living more than an object of worship.
2.   Affirming people’s potential is more important than reminding them of their brokenness.
3.   The work of reconciliation should be valued over making judgments.
4.   Gracious behavior is more important than right belief.
5.   Inviting questions is more valuable than supplying answers.
6.   Encouraging the personal search is more important than group uniformity.
7.   Meeting actual needs is more important than maintaining institutions.
8.   Peacemaking is more important than power.
9.   We should care more about love and less about sex.
10.  Life in this world is more important than the afterlife (Eternity is God’s work anyway).
If this makes sense to you, you are already participating in evolving Christianity. Do read it several times. It only makes more and more sense.

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                       Shared by Sr. Pat McKittrick, SP

Women the Vatican Could Not Silence

There has been a lot of discussion lately about women in Church and Society. If you were unable to listen to the livestream on November 2, 2019 – You can do so now.

Voices of Faith along with the School of Religion in Trinity College presented a public conversation to overcome the silence on issues that influence Catholics today and must be openly discussed, “for the future of an inclusive, egalitarian and harmonious Church.” Former President of Ireland, Mary McAleese and feminist nun Sister Joan Chittister (Both women have experienced attempts by the Catholic hierarchy to silence their voices) courageously, and respectfully shared their views on the many issues facing our Church today and possible solutions for change.

Are you familiar with Voices of Faith? Visit their website:
What is the vision? A prophetic Catholic Church where women’s voices count, participate and lead on equal footing with men. Their mission: To empower and advocate for women’s leadership in the Catholic Church.

The values that guide their work are (taken directly from their website):
INCLUSIVE – We want to include and hear women’s diverse voices and bring them to the forefront.
RESPECTFUL – We are respectful of all people and seek constructive solutions.
INNOVATIVE/BOLD – We believe women are an innovative and bold solution the many problems the Catholic Church is facing in a 21st century world.
OPEN/HONEST – We seek open and honest dialogue on an issue where varied opinions exist.
UNAPOLOGETIC – We are unapologetic about our vision and mission.
FAITHFUL –We are women and men of faith.

Let us work together to make our Church strong, just, and prophetic in today’s world.
For further discussion, please contact Sr. Pat McKittrick, SP –




Regional Networking Luncheons

Regional Networking Luncheons

The VECNCC would like to invite you to one of our regional networking luncheons scheduled for October 24-25, 2019. 

The VECNCC is a diverse network of Christians in Vermont working together to serve the common good through public worship and prayer; acts of mercy and care; and loving prophetic witness for peace, justice, and the integrity of creation.  We are the largest network of Christians in the state.

We feel that the Vermont Ecumenical Council’s focus this coming year should be helping establish regional Christian networks, starting a line of communication in these areas if one doesn’t exist, and supporting these regional networks from our state-wide partnerships.

On Thursday October 24, 2019 individuals, Pastors, Church and Christian Ministry Representatives and the like will gather to share a free meal and discussion at Trinity Episcopal Church, 5171 Shelburne Rd, Shelburne VT from 12-2pm.


On Friday October 25, 2019 individuals, Pastors, Church and Christian Ministry Representatives and the like will gather to share a free meal and discussion at the Springfield Vermont Family Center, 365 Summer St. #333, Springfield VT from 11am-1pm.


Each regional meeting will host only the first 20 persons that register for either location, so we ask you check your calendar and RSVP as soon as possible online at



Racism in America & Why We Should Care: What Is Vermont Doing to Combat Racism? Sept. 19

Racism in America & Why We Should Care: What Is Vermont Doing to Combat Racism? Sept. 19

How far have we come as Americans in fighting racism? In the “Racism in America & Why We Should Care” forum series, we wish to create a safe space where we can speak openly and honestly as people of good intent who seek the best for each other and our nation as we confront the racial divisions of our past and present with the hope of reconciliation.

Each forum is a potluck gathering where we invite you to share a dish along with your thoughts.

First Meeting and Topic:

What Is Vermont Doing to Combat Racism?

State Senator Debbie Ingram (Chittenden County)
State Attorney General TJ Donovan
Major Ingrid Jonas, Vermont State Police

Recommended Reading: Act 54

Thursday, September 19, 2019 @ 6:30 p.m.
Good Shepherd Lutheran Church
273 Vermont Route 15, Jericho, Vermont

Download the flyer

Demonstration at Smith and Wesson Headquarters to End Gun Violence, September 13

An Invitation from the Episcopal Diocese of Western Massachusetts

Teens! People of Faith! Everyone!
Tired of Gun Violence? So are we! JOIN US!

4:00 – 5:00 p.m.

Headquarters of Smith and Wesson
2100 Roosevelt Avenue, Springfield, MA

Enough is enough!

We are asking gun manufacturer Smith and Wesson to be an industry leader in solving the scourge of gun violence in our cities and communities.

Questions or info:

Download the flyer

Faith Unleashed: Women’s Retreat at Rock Point November 15-16, 2019 – Registration Now Open!

Faith Unleashed: Women’s Retreat at Rock Point November 15-16, 2019 – Registration Now Open!

Faith Unleashed: Women’s Retreat
Friday, November 15 – Saturday, November 16, 2019
Rock Point Center, Burlington, VT

4:00 p.m. Friday, Sign-in begins
6:00 p.m. Friday, Dinner
5:00 p.m. Saturday, Retreat ends with Holy Communion

Please join us for a delightful weekend in God’s Word!

All Registrations require a $50 non-refundable deposit.

Early Bird Registration (before 10/25/19) subtract $30 from price listed below.

Registration Rates after 10/25/10:  1 Room – $170; Shared Room – $140; Commuter (No room) – $95

Click here for the event flyer and registration form.

Beth Greer and Pat Hobbs (pictured above) will come together to lead us in our women’s retreat, not only in the teaching of God’s Word, but in worship and songs of praise. They are Christian speakers and have participated in international missions for many years. Beth also has an incredible singing voice and leads in worship and praise wherever she goes. Both Pat and Beth love the Lord Jesus deeply and love teaching from God’s Word – delivering messages of love, hope, and victory! If you have any questions, please contact Darcy Jewett at 802-985-2067 or

Colchester Priest to Lead CDSP Continuing Education Opportunity

Colchester Priest to Lead CDSP Continuing Education Opportunity

Church Divinty School of the Pacific (CDSP) is now accepting registrations for The Way of Jesus: Toward Christological Liturgy, September 16 – November 4, 2019. The course instructor will be the Rev. Dr. Robert K. Leopold, interim priest at St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church, Colchester.

From the CDSP Website:

This course will help students examine their own personal and corporate spiritual and liturgical practices and the ways in which they are connected to the life, ministry and teaching of Jesus. Southside Abbey a non-traditional church in the Episcopal tradition co-founded by the instructor, will be used as a case study.

The Rev. Dr. Leopold has served in many, varied contexts. At a resource-sized parish with an endowment he was integral in building one of the largest young adult groups in the Episcopal Church. In the gritty south side neighborhoods of Chattanooga, he and a team started Southside Abbey: a non-traditional church in the Episcopal tradition. He has served internationally in the Anglican Church of Canada, in Ottawa’s Chinatown. In addition, he has taught classes at Sewanee’s School of Theology on missional ministry and the changing Church. As a Fellow with Episcopal Church Foundation, he has travelled around the Episcopal Church and Anglican Church of Canada in search of missional expressions, serving as coach, cheerleader, storyteller, and convener. He currently lives in Vermont, where he serves as interim rector while he finishes a Master’s Degree in Storytelling.