Tuesday, January 7, 2020

Chance Encounter: Good News About Connecting with God

(One of my goals for 2020 is to notice and amplify the diverse ways people share the Good News.)

Three years ago, in Berkeley, CA, I was working with members of a community organization made up of faith communities on a "Remember Our Names Black History Month Prayer Vigil."

We were setting up our materials -- banners, displays, literature -- in Martin Luther King Jr. Civic Center Park, opposite City Hall in Berkeley. Two young men came up and started talking with us -- I supposed they attended the high school that is next to the park. We were partly grateful to be able to engage these young men in conversation about the purpose of the important event that we were preparing for -- never too early to start promoting! -- and we were partly distracted by the need to get everything set up before the main event began.

"Remember Our Names Black History Month Prayer Vigil"
(Photo: Mark Coplan)

As I worked to drape banners over a low wall and secure them in place, one of the young men talked to me. The first things I noticed about him was that he was smoking, he was dressed head to toe in some team colors, and he was a white guy. He was talking about some musician he liked -- some "rapper something" -- who had been on TV the night before and he was really relishing the glow of that event. He said that he, himself, had made a point to wear that performer's signature clothes -- he pointed to his hat, his shirt, his pants, and his sneakers. I have to confess that I thought this was a little silly -- he was so happy to be communing with the rapper guy in this way, and I didn't even recognize the name he kept mentioning.

I tried to listen respectfully, but I also remember thinking, "Hey, I'm trying to hang a banner here! I can't seem to figure out a place to tie it down. Did you notice that I could use a little help?"

But instead of coming to my aid, the young man pulled out his phone and says, "Here, I've got it on video, just watch this!" So here I am, an old white guy standing in the middle of a park squinting at this little screen on a phone being held by this young man all dressed in red and smoking a cigarette, listening to rap.

Now, as someone who is endlessly trying to get people to watch stuff that I think is interesting, I felt the irony of this situation. Here was someone who was trying to change my world by showing me this important video, and all I wanted to do was pry myself loose and finish hanging the banner.

(And anyway, didn't he see how important this vigil was that we were preparing?)

*     *     *

That night -- for reasons that I can't quite explain -- I remembered this exchange, and I wondered about that video. I wondered what had felt so meaningful to him. I remembered that it was a video of the previous night's Grammy awards, and so I searched for the video of "some rapper."

This is what I found: a performance by Chance the Rapper at the 59th Grammy Awards ceremony.

Please take a moment to watch ChancePerform on Vimeo.

Chance the Rapper: "The first is . . . . "

I wasn't expecting to hear these words:

The first is that God is better than the world's best thing

God is better than the best thing that the world has to offer

Magnify, magnify, lift it on high

 . . . and . . .

Exalt, exalt, glorify, descend upon the earth with swords

I wasn't expecting the camera to pull back, the stage lights to go on full, and white-robed gospel singers flanking the stage, singing and swaying exuberantly, doing a full-blown rendition of "How Great Is Our God."

"How great . . . is our God . . . "

Most of all: I wasn't expecting to see the huge crowd of music industry VIPs attending the Grammy ceremony joining in -- standing and waving their arms in unison as the choir sang.

And I wondered: who would dare choose to perform this song at that event in front of all those people?

And I thought: this is what it means to spread the Good News!

(You can read the full words here.)

*     *     *

Chance the Rapper's Grammy performance of "How Great is Our God" made me think about a lot of things. I thought about going to a friend's church in Chicago and seeing how that congregation used praise music like "How Great is Our God" to create a completely different feeling than I was used to during worship. I thought about other times, when we've incorporated popular music in our own worship, and how great the response was to that. But most of all I thought about the enormous power of music of all kinds to enable us to connect with God, and I wondered why I wasn't doing more to contribute to that. And I decided to change that.

*     *     *

And when it was all done, I realized that what had happened was that the young man all dressed in red and smoking a cigarette had run across me in the park, and had taken the time to give his testimony about a message of Good News that was life-changing for him, and that he hoped would be life-changing for me.

And it was.

Monday, January 6, 2020

Good News for 2020: "Fear not!"

A symbol of early Christianity: ichthys

During the Service of Lessons and Carols at St. John's UCC on Madeline Island yesterday, one of the readings had to do with the coming of John the Baptist. "Don't be afraid, Zechariah!" (Luke 1:13) Suddenly, I was reminded of something that happened years ago.

"Oh yes!" I thought. "The woman in Madison . . . . "

At an antiwar conference in Madison, WI, I sat next to a new acquaintance before one of the conference sessions. I noticed she wore a circular pendant with the outline of a fish. I recognized it as a Christian symbol, but I hadn't thought of her as a particularly "churchy" person. I was curious about what the pendant meant to her, so I asked her to tell me about it.

"It's a symbol of early Christianity," she told me. And then she added, "You know, for me, of all the things Jesus said, the most important is this: 'Fear not.' He says it in about 20 different situations." (See, for instance, Luke 12:32)

And at that moment, I realized she had seized a moment to testify to the Good News to me -- a person who may not have struck her as particularly "churchy." Years after

I was reminded of this moment during the Service of Lessons and Carols at St. John's UCC on Madeline Island yesterday. "Don't be afraid, Zechariah!" (Luke 1:13) "Oh yes!" I thought. "The woman in Madison . . . . "

Last night, my son sent a text with a sketch my 2-year-old granddaughter made.

Fish by Clem

Coincidence? Perhaps . . . .

(One of my goals for 2020 is to notice and amplify the diverse ways people share the Good News.)

Related post:

The Children Are Waiting

Saturday, January 4, 2020

Nuclear Power: a Snare and a Delusion for Illinois

(Originally published in October, 2014, as "Chicago, IL: Zero Carbon AND Zero Nuclear!" on the Zero Carbon Chicago blog.)

Just about every day when I open the newspaper, I see a full page ad from an interest group called "Nuclear Matters" suggesting that -- Good News! -- we have the solution to global warming and it's good, old nuclear energy!

Nuclear Matters lobbying campaign

It's very important -- for people in general, and for people who live in the Chicago area in particular -- to understand how vital it is at this moment to stand up against the possible resurgence of the nuclear energy industry.

"Nucleonics": Science is our friend

I was a high school student in the '70s, and was very proud to be able to not only study physics as a junior in high school, but to take an special advanced course called "Nucleonics" -- focusing on nuclear physics -- when I was a senior.  The course had been designed by a wonderful teacher in our school, Gertrude M. Clarke.

"Nucleonics" required us to do something very challenging: use the tools of science, including math and statistics, to understand phenomena that we couldn't see. This included labs involving the measurement of low-level alpha and beta emissions, as well as thorough study of the issues involved in epidemiology of radiation-induced sickness and disease.  My final project in the "Nucleonics" course involved measuring resistance to gamma radiation over the course of several generations of fruit flies.

Henry Moore, Nuclear Energy
This bronze sculpture on the campus of the University
of Chicago stands on the spot above Chicago Pile 1,
where Enrico Fermi and colleagues carried out the world's
first successful atomic chain reaction in December, 1942.
(Image from Philosophy of Science Portal)

Today I live in Chicago and from time to time traverse the spot where the very first atomic chain reaction was carried out by Enrico Fermi and his colleagues --  an event that was of tremendous interest to any student of "Nucleonics." When I look at the Henry Moore sculpture on that spot, I wonder if we as a society have really come very far in our understanding of the issues since that time.

Reflecting back over the years, what seems to me to be most significant about what I learned in "Nucleonics" is that there may be abundant scientific information on radiation and its effects, but of equal or greater importance is the difficulty that the vast majority of people have in visualizing what this information really means in their lives.

Illinois' special status: Nuclear Energy U.S.A.

Didn't know you were surrounded, did ya?
Chicago area nuclear plants (NEIS)
A case in point: according to the Chicago-based Nuclear Energy Information Service, "Illinois is by far the most nuclear state in the United States . . . . Illinois was also home to the first commercial power reactor . . . one of the first commercial power reactors to close prematurely . . . . ComEd’s two large PWR reactors in Zion, IL also had to close prematurely . . . . We also have the first and only commercial storage facility for high level waste . . . Besides the 3 plants which closed prematurely, Illinois currently has eleven operating nukes – far more than any other state . . . etc. etc."

Does the average person living in Chicago have any idea about the degree to which they are surrounded by nuclear plants here?

In recent days there was a release at a nuclear facility in southern Illinois. (See "Metropolis Radiation Site Emergency — Leak of Toxic Uranium Hexafluoride")

Chicago people need to know what we're up against. The company that calls the shots on energy in our neck of the woods, Exelon, has been trumpeting its role as a nuclear energy operator. (See "Exelon, politics and Illinois' low-carbon future" by Julie Wernau in the Chicago Tribune, August 15, 2014: "'What Exelon is suggesting here is, put all your eggs in the nuclear basket and just trust Exelon,' [said] Lee Davis, executive vice president and regional president for NRG Energy's east region" ) Put that together with the "Nuclear Matters" lobbying effort, and its clear that people in Illinois are going to continue to be exposed to more, not less, nuclear plant risk. Unless we do something about it.

"Our Whole World": The Magnitude of the Risk

I was a college student in 1979 when the partial meltdown at the Three Mile Island nuclear plant occurred.

I'm embarrassed to say that my clearest memory of that time was a comedy skit on Saturday Night Live. ("President Jimmy Carter (on call-in show): Hmm. Sounds to me a lot like a Pepsi Syndrome. Were there any soft drinks in the control room?") I'm coming to realize that often comedy is used to cover our distress about the direst emergencies in our society.

Map of radiation levels in 1996 around Chernobyl
(map scale is about 300 miles across)
I was a young father attending to a new baby boy when the Chernobyl meltdown occurred.  I think the vast majority of people in the U.S. failed to grasp the magnitude of that disaster, though it wasn't lost on people in Europe (especially Germany).

I recently watched a short film called The Door that made me realize, "My city could become off-limits -- a ghost town -- if there was a nuclear accident here!" (I strongly recommend this film for anyone who is having trouble imagining the potential impact of radiation on their own life.)

Today, right now, people in Japan continue to cope with the radiation release that occurred when the Fukushima nuclear plant melted down. It is startling that people in the U.S. can disregard this experience!

In 2011 and 2012 there were a pair of excellent conferences held at the University of Chicago -- The Atomic Age -- that illuminated the connections between all these issues.  The Atomic Age's website has an ongoing archive of related information.

Despite all the available information, people have a very difficult time properly assessing the risk to which they, themselves, are exposed!

People who are part of the movement to create a "Zero Carbon Chicago" also need to be part of the movement to safely put Illinois' nuclear era behind us.

Related posts

It's not immediately obvious how Chicago and Illinois can move quickly to get electricity in a zero-carbon (and zero nuclear) manner. But here are a few initial thoughts . . .

(See What If Chicago Started to "Think Different" About Electricity? on the Zero Carbon Chicago website)

There is a great deal of expertise in our society in assessing -- and insuring against -- risk. (At least of a certain kind.) At the same time, we all have personal experience of the prevalence of "risky behavior." I wonder if we need to do more to try to imagine the true consequences of our most risky behavior  . . . .

(See Stop engaging in risky behavior)

Other related links

October 29, 2014 - "Exelon behind pro-nuclear website in Illinois" by Julie Wernau in the Chicago Tribune: "Exelon Corp. has stepped up lobbying in its effort to have state legislators reward the company's six nuclear plants in Illinois for producing electric power without emitting greenhouse gases. Three of the plants could be closed because of competition from cheaper forms of generating power."

Thursday, January 2, 2020

The Woman at the Well and the Woman at GLIA

(Originally published in November, 2019, as "The Woman at the Well and the Woman at GLIA"  in the newsletter of St. John's UCC on Madeline Island, The Lighthouse.)

Braving stormy waters en route to Mackinac Island. The bridge connecting
the U.P. With the rest of Michigan is visible in the background.

On the day we were driving across the U.P. to Mackinac Island for the GLIA (Great Lakes Islands Alliance) conference, I was also trading messages with some UCC colleagues in other parts of the country about Bible readings that will be coming up in Lent 2020. One of those readings is one of my favorites: the woman at the well (John 4:5-42).

At the heart of the story is an encounter between Jesus and a Samaritan woman. Their interaction is remarkable because, under ordinary circumstances, it would never have taken place: at the time of the story, Jews and Samaritans simply didn't talk to each other. And, after all, why should they? The Jewish world had everything it needed. What could possibly be gained by talking to someone from "outside"? In the story, Jesus suggests that part of the answer has to do with gaining access to something he calls "living water."

GLIA 2019 Islands Summit
When we arrived at Mackinac, our first activity was dinner with all the other conference particiapnts. Naturally, I scanned the room to find the other people who had come from Madeline Island, because that's who I wanted to eat with. Then a little voice inside my head said, "You should go sit with someone you don't already know!" I ginned up my courage and went to a table that still had several empty seats and said, "May I join you?"   

I was welcomed to sit down, and my dinner companion and I had a very nice conversation. It turns out Madeline Island and Bois Blanc Island have a lot of points in common. Of course, there were also moments when something she said reminded me of the distance between us. ("Whoa -- only 50 residents in the winter? That seems . . . extreme . . . !")

I'm a great believer in the power of literature to help people connect, so naturally, the conversation turned to the topic of the books we liked. We found we both loved Louise Penny. (We even cooked up an idea for a murder mystery series centered on Great Lakes islands!) Then she mentioned A Gentleman in Moscow. I pointed excitedly to Rachel, and said, "She's reading that book right now and thinks it's fantastic -- "

"Couldn't stand it!" my dinner companion interjected. "Made no sense. I have no idea what was going on in the book. Awful!"

Oh well . . . apparently our literary tastes has both similarities and differences!

Amor Towles, A Gentleman in Moscow

We met up again two days later in the workshop I led. Our group discussed the possibility of a GLIA-wide reading activity. "What if people on islands all across the Great Lakes chose to read a particular book, and then talk about it together?" The workshop generated a lot of enthusiasm. People came up with lots of ideas about how to use such an activity to connect with people on other islands, and beyond. It occurred to me that here was a group of people, each of whom lived in a place endowed with nearly limitless resources -- especially water -- and yet they were expressing a yearning for something more. They wanted to connect.

Woman: Get your own water from the well, and when you're gone I'll get mine.
Jesus: Why are we talking about the water from the well? Why not talk about living water?
Woman: Living water? Where can I get that?

The upshot of the workshop was that about a dozen people agreed to be involved in trying to carry the idea forward so people living on islands stretching from Madeline Island in Lake Superior to the Lake Erie Islands near Toledo can connect with each other.

At the final meal of the conference, I yielded to my temptation to find a seat away from everybody else and sat alone munching on a hamburger. My friend sought me out and said, "That workshop was really good! I'm looking forward to seeing what develops." She turned to go, paused and then turned back to say, "But please: no Gentleman in Moscow!"

Noticing Nature at St. John's UCC on Madeline Island

(Originally published in October, 2019, as "Getting to Know Joe Scarry"  in the newsletter of St. John's UCC on Madeline Island, The Lighthouse.)

The wetland area in front of St. John's.

I enjoyed many beautiful late-summer days on the grounds around the parsonage and church, clearing brush and becoming familiar with the flora and fauna. I find the marsh between the parking lot and the lake to be especially interesting: the ebbing and flowing of the water there seems to encourage a fascinating variety of wildflowers and other plants. I have had many conversations with passersby about the things growing there. The conversations about just one type of flower -- tansy, those bright yellow wildflowers that look like little buttons -- could provide the material for a whole separate article!


During my days living in Chicago, I volunteered with a stewardship group that looked after a bird sanctuary on a section of the beach near Montrose Harbor. We were led buy a tremendously knowledgeable, and uniquely sensitive, naturalist named Leslie Borns. Our particular responsibility was an area of "pan dune" which, because of the specific geography and hydrology of the area, supported a variety of wildflowers that appeared in few other places in the region. It was also home to many birds, and (I have learned) this past season has even been host to a nesting pair of piping plovers.


I think my Chicago experience makes me look at the St. John's lakefront marsh and think, "There is a lot happening here; I should look closer."

One thing I've noticed this summer around St. John's is the variety of birds. Here's what I've written down since June: yellow-headed blackbird, cedar waxwing, American redstart, yellow warbler, Swainson's thrush, pileated woodpecker, and sharp-shinned hawk. This is, of course, in addition to the complement we have been observing since spring arrived: chickadee, red-winged blackbird, grackle, starling, goldfinch, blue jay, woodpeckers (downy and hairy), northern flicker, dark-eyed junco, northern shrike, mourning dove, purple finch, pine siskin, sparrows (white-crowned, chipping), brown thrasher, brown-headed cowbird, Baltimore oriole, hummingbird, rose-breasted grosbeak, and others.


Just this past week, a major report was released reminding us that there have been huge reductions in the numbers of many bird species in North America, and that those that have been reduced the most depend on the kind of habitats that people tend to fail to retain and protect. (See "Decline of the North American avifauna," Science, 19 Sept 2019.) One interesting finding is that the greatest decreases have been related to grasslands and boreal forest species; wetland species are actually doing slightly better than in the past.

Yellow-headed blackbird

This fall, Pastor Rachel is talking about "call." As I look at the natural areas surrounding St. John's, I wonder . . . . For sure, I think God wants me to notice them, to pay attention. And . . . is there a "call" in there somewhere? I also wonder: if there's a "call," is there also a "commandment"?


I not sure where these wonderings will take me. But I'm confident that the months ahead will be filled with even more amazing things to notice here.

The Mind of an Immigrant to Madeline Island

(Originally published in May, 2019, as "Getting to Know Joe Scarry"  in the newsletter of St. John's UCC on Madeline Island, The Lighthouse.)

Joe Scarry in Berkeley

Can you remember what first stimulated your interest in Madeline Island?

Well, we were definitely both *curious* when we heard about this island in Lake Superior that you could only reach by ferry. I knew something about the Great Lakes, having lived in Chicago for 20 years; and I could picture coastal, and even island, communities, having visited many of them growing up on the East Coast. I think what really captured my imagination was learning that Madeline Island is the traditional spiritual center of the Ojibwe people. That felt very, very significant to me.

Why was that significant?

I guess it's because it seemed like something I would want to learn from. Think about it: Madeline Island is about the size of Manhattan. I've spent a lot of time in Manhattan, I love New York, and it's thrilling to see what happens when a place is treated as a center of finance, commerce, international trade, entertainment, fashion, culture, architecture . . . and yet . . . . I think there is also the potential for it to be thrilling when a place is treated as a center of spiritual life.

And what have you found since you've been here?

I'm just beginning to learn. But in the few chapters that I've had a chance to dip into so far -- the chapter called "Ice," and the chapter called "Sky," for instance -- I'm beginning to get some inklings.

I have high hopes for the upcoming chapter called "Wildflowers"!

Purple Coneflowers - done years ago with my daughter who stipulate at the
time that I indicate on the drawing "drawing by Alanna, coloriong by Daddy."

It sounds like you connect with your spiritual life through Nature?

That's one of the biggest ways for me. I need time and space to focus attention beyond some of my usual hangups -- things like ego, control, fatigue. There's nothing like watching a sparrow to help me get a new perspective on things.

Music is another way. There are certain pieces -- especially "Quartet for the End of Time" by Messaien -- that really transport me.

How does your spiritual life connect with the rest of your life?

You know, it's funny but now that I'm 60 I can pause and look back and say, "I've done a lot of stuff in these years - where did the time and energy come from??" And sometimes I think, "Wow - there's a whole stretch of years that I was running around like the Energizer bunny, and to what end? I wish I had been a little more prayerful about what I was intending. I could have put that time and energy to much better use!"

I often think of the carpenter's maxim, "Measure twice, cut once." So these days I'm trying more to be willing to look around me and say, "Somehow all of this came into being. In the overall scheme of things, nothing I'm doing is so important that I can't take a little extra time and ask, what might I do that could make a difference in this Creation?"

And what might you do?

Mitri Raheb, Faith in the
Face of Empire: The Bible
Through Palestinian Eyes
Well, I think a lot about -- and feel a lot of tension around -- Jesus' proclamation that the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand. I believe very strongly that he meant, "I'm not talking about the run-of-the-mill, political, Caesar-as-boss type of Kingdom. This is something really new, where everybody lives a full life, fully loved." And I've been very inspired of some people like Mitri Raheb, in Bethlehem, who talks in Faith in the Face of Empire about how Jesus' "organizing strategy" involved giving attention to everybody, even the most "marginal" -- in fact, especially the most marginal.

So part of it is Jesus' simple-and-difficult (simple to hear, difficult to follow) command: "love one another."

And I think he meant it in real terms -- "love the disciple 3 seats down the table from you, even though he chews with his mouth open" -- and not just in general terms of "I love humanity."

At the same time, I really struggle: don't we also need social justice? Doesn't that require us to work for social change? Don't we need to be involved in politics?

C'mon -- "love one another" -- what's so hard about that?

Well, maybe it's just me, but I have to work at it. I mean, I *like* people. And I *get along* with people. (I ADORE my granddaughters!) But after giving it a lot of thought, I've come to the conclusion that the instruction really is to *love* people -- and not just my granddaughters -- all the time. And there are so many of them!

And I think what Jesus would say is, "... so work at it!"

I see your point - that'll keep you busy. Does that leave time for politics?

As I say, I'm really not sure how much Jesus cared about politics. As I sit here right now, I feel convinced that there *are* *some* things that call for taking time and energy and working on. It's becoming pretty clear to everyone that climate is one of them. I think nuclear disarmament is another, because if we mess that one up, there will be no tomorrow in which to practice Jesus' commandments.

Okay, thanks for sharing these thoughts. So I'm guessing, as Pastor Rachel's partner, you've got some strong opinions on a few subjects. Can I ask: what's your favorite bird?

I've gotta say cardinal: on a good day I can imitate their call well enough that they will whistle back and forth with me!

Favorite ice cream flavor?


Have I missed anything?

How about favorite musical genre? I'm very into classical music these days, but there is a special place in my heart for The Beatles -- definitely the inspiration for the band that I played with in high school and that gave me some very happy days.

But *that's* a story for another day . . . .

Church Activities to Repudiate the Doctrine of Discovery

(Originally published in April, 2019, as "News From St. John's" in the Madeline Island Gazette.)

Delegates from the 218 congregations of the Wisconsin Conference of the
 United Church of Christ (UCC) met in Wisconsin Dells on April 5-6, 2019.

Rev. Rachel Bauman and Joe Scarry recently attended the 57th Annual Meeting of the Wisconsin Conference of the United Church of Christ. On April 6, 2019, the Conference voted overwhelmingly in favor of "A Resolution of Witness: Repudiation of the Doctrine of Discovery."

The Doctrine of Discovery and its impact on Native Americans has been a central theme of this winter’s Soup Suppers at St. John’s. Many Christian denominations and faith organizations across the country have also been examining the Doctrine of Discovery and exploring the injustices and negative impact it continues to have on Native American lives.

What is the Doctrine of Discovery?

Pope Nicolas V issued several Papal Bulldums (Bulls) in the 1400’s authorizing and justifying the destruction, killing, and appropriation of lands of Native Americans. These Bulls served as the theological foundation for what became the tragic genocide of American Indians and were regarded as legal rationalization for invading America and debasing American Indians.

From the Resolution of Witness:

"In June of 2013, the 29th General Synod, supported and passed the resolution to repudiate the Doctrine of Discovery. This Doctrine authorized the genocide of Native Peoples and the theft of Native Lands. The Indigenous Peoples were told that God has declared that the Pope rules all people, regardless of their law, sect or belief. This includes Christians, Moors, Jews, Gentiles, or any other sect. The Native Americans were to come forward of their own free will to convert to Catholicism or ... “with the help of God we shall use force against you, declaring war upon you from all sides and with all possible means, and we shall bind you to the yoke of the Church and Their Highnesses; we shall enslave your persons, wives, and sons, sell you or dispose of you as the King sees fit; we shall seize your possessions and harm you as much as we can as disobedient and resisting vassals."

The principle provisions of the resolution are that Wisconsin Conference of the UCC "upholds and affirms the repudiation of the Doctrine of Discovery" and "declares and confesses that the doctrine has been and continues to be a shameful part of the United States and our Church's history."

What happened at the Wisconsin Conference Annual Meeting?

First, it was reported that 91 out of 218 congregations in the Wisconsin Conference had, over the previous 12 months, engaged in exploration and discussion of the Doctrine of Discovery. This surpassed the required 30% threshold that had been established to bring the resolution before the Annual Meeting. [View UCC Wisconsin Conference Doctrine of Discovery study resources.]

Second, we watched a video from the previous annual meeting, in which a member of the sole Native American congregation in the Wisconsin Conference, Larry Littlegeorge of Hocak UCC, introduced the resolution.

Third, there was general discussion on the Resolution. Numerous people spoke out strongly in favor of the Resolution. There were several notable threads of concern voiced:

* that passing the Resolution might require the Wisconsin Conference to "give back" property -- e.g. congregational real estate and/or church camps

*that the Conference should only pass the Resolution if it takes seriously the significant work, over a long period of time, that will be required to honor it

Fourth, general discussion was followed by a vote overwhelmingly in favor of the Resolution.

What Comes Next?

The Resolution of Witness calls for the Wisconsin Conference to:

* "join with ecumenical partners to explore ways to compensate American Indians, Alaskan Natives, and Native Hawaiians for the lands and resources that were stolen and are still being stolen and which are now the United States of America"

* seek educational materials from UCC entities (Justice and Witness Ministries (JWM) and Council of American Indian Ministry (CAIM))

* encourage member congregation to use such materials and "to pursue actions that may arise from their studies"

* call upon the United States government to repudiate the Doctrine of Discovery.

What is St. John’s Doing?

St. John's is working to get connected with others in the Conference who will be carrying forward the work mandated in the resolution.

There will be a two-day immersion experience with the Ho-Chunk congregation (Hocak UCC) on June 7 and 8, 2019.

St. John’s continues conversations about ways to increase awareness about the ways the Doctrine of Discovery negatively impacts all indigenous people and encourage local, state and federal governments to repudiate the Doctrine of Discovery.

If you want more information and want to become involved in taking action, contact St. John's UCC on Madeline Island.

(Supplemental to the article above, the following information was published in May, 2019, as "Understanding History" in the newsletter of St. John's UCC on Madeline Island, The Lighthouse.)

The Resolution of Witness states that “the 29th General Synod, supported and passed the resolution to repudiate the Doctrine of Discovery.  This Doctrine authorized the genocide of Native Peoples and the theft of Native Lands. The Indigenous Peoples were told that God has declared that the Pope rules all people, regardless of their law, sect or belief. This includes Christians, Moors, Jews, Gentiles, or any other sect. The Native Americans were to come forward of their own free will to convert to Catholicism or ... with the help of God we shall use force against you, declaring war upon you from all sides and with all possible means, and we shall bind you to the yoke of the Church and Their Highnesses; we shall enslave your persons, wives, and sons, sell you or dispose of you as the King sees fit; we shall seize your possessions and harm you as much as we can as disobedient and resisting vassals."

The principle provisions of the resolution are that Wisconsin Conference of the UCC "upholds and affirms the repudiation of the Doctrine of Discovery" and "declares and confesses that the doctrine has been and continues to be a shameful part of the United States and our Church's history."

If you would like to learn more about the Doctrine of Discovery, we warmly welcome you to join us  on the last three Tuesday mornings in June (June 11, 18, 25, 2019). Each session will include a short video followed by conversation about the Doctrine, its continuing impact for Native Americans and African Americans, and how we, at St. John's, might respond to what we are learning. All are welcome!

Resource list for  Doctrine of Discovery learning sessions held at St. John's UCC on Madeline Island.

Day by day, visitors to the Wisconsin Conference booth added the names
of their congregations to the poster sharing the news of the resolution
repudiating the Doctrine of Discovery.

(Supplemental to the article above, the following information was published in July, 2019, as "An Update from Milwaukee" in the newsletter of St. John's UCC on Madeline Island, The Lighthouse.)

The UCC General Synod 2019 was a great experience, and particularly fulfilling for me because of progress made on projects to which I am deeply committed.

I had the opportunity to work together with Larry Littlegeorge (Hocak UCC, Black River Falls) on follow-up to the resolution repudiating the Doctrine of Discovery passed recently by the Wisconsin Conference.

Larry and his colleagues have plans to launch an entity to work on legal issues that stem from the Doctrine of Discovery, working in covenant with a range of UCC bodies.

A fascinating profile of Larry Littlegeorge and his work on the Doctrine of Discovery was published during the synod.