Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Goodbye and Thank You Phoebe Snow

So with the death of Phoebe Snow we have lost not only a great voice but a great person. Here was a soulful voice, a woman of courage who had finally made it. With the release of “Poetry Man” she was on her way and then her life changed. Everyone‘s life changes but she made decisions that would have consequences for the remainder of her life. She was 24 and making some monumental decisions.

Phoebe Snow: Poetry Man

Phoebe became pregnant. When her daughter, Valerie Rose was born the baby suffered extreme brain damage. Phoebe was advised to have the child institutionalized and told the baby would only live three years. Phoebe would have none of it. She took her baby home and tended to her musical career as best she could.

That meant Phoebe toured when she could. It meant she took her magnificent voice and did background music for commercials. That meant she became a single mom of a special needs child and she did not regret it.

It is easy to talk about the dignity of all life, Phoebe actually lived those values. She actually would not have thought of it as a difficult thing to do. As she often stated, she was simply in love with her daughter. Her daughter had limited hearing, she was legally blind, and she could not talk. However, her daughter was able to use her body to communicate her wants, needs and feelings. Observers described Phoebe and Valerie Rose as having a very special relationship.

So Phoebe sang and toured the world. She made an appearance with a singer named Linda Ronstadt and they became fast friends. And Phoebe worked at her music. One day she noticed that her daughter liked opera so Phoebe began to sing opera. That may have been what kept her voice so pure over the decades.

Linda Ronstadt, Phoebe Snow - It's In His Kiss 5-19-1979

Valeria Rose was only supposed to live three years. She lived to be 31. When she died she left a hole in Phoebe’s life. It was Linda Ronstadt who got Phoebe back out singing and back into life. Phoebe would dedicate each concert to her daughter but it was an act of thanksgiving and not an act of mourning. She knew how blessed she had been to have her time with her daughter.

People Get Ready

Then at age 61 Phoebe left us. We were blessed to have Phoebe Snow in our lives. It is not simply her voice and her music that touches us. Lots of musicians can do that. It was the simple act of loving courageously and loving without end that demands our attention and our thanks. Good bye Phoebe and thank you for an art and a life so rare.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

The Masks We Wear: Michael A. Dickman

Each year the School of Creative Arts hosts its Student Exhibit. This year was the 35th exhibit. They are wonderful exhibits because it is so easy to see how students grow as artists in four short years. This year I was excited to attend because Michael A. Dickman was organizing a little performance art called “Masks.” His work was to reflect the fact that we are surrounded by people wearing masks, persona. It is not just “them”, “we” wear masks in public.

Michael has been fascinated with public presentations of self. Last year he had an exhibit at the USF library of 50 faces. He is an observer of people. Last year he joined us for an Alternative Spring Break trip to Chicago. We worked at Emmaus Ministries. As we participated in our Immersion Night he clearly observed and noted ways of being.

SOCA Student Exhibition 2011: Faces in the Crowd

So I went to the exhibit. The sad news is I did not get much video. The opening was jam packed with people. I could not easily video folks. The good news is that it was full of people. It was a great exhibit.

SOCA Student Exhibition 2011: Seeing the World Through a Mask

I watched Michael’s group gather. They put on their masks and then joined the visitors at the various exhibits. It was interesting to watch elaborate masks and simple masks, feathered masks, colorful masks and monochromatic masks appear among the crowds. It was interesting to see Michael, the observer, be transformed into the one being observed.

Book Launching of “Streetwalking with Jesus”

Joshua Kent’s art installation Saturday evening was wonderful. Sunday morning I was looking forward to going to church with Nik Burkhart, however, that was not to be. I did so many chores in the early morning I ran out of time. Besides, I had papers to grade. At 2pm I caught up with Paul and Aubrey Goodell at the Emmaus Ministries offices and we were off the burbs for the book launching party.

John Green had been writing ‘Street Walking with Jesus” for a long, long time. I think Origen helped John with the first draft! So this was a big deal. The forward was written by Francis Cardinal George who has been a consistent and important supporter of Emmaus and the guys. I was looking forward to the event. Besides, I wanted John to autograph my copy.

We arrived early to help with the set up. Paul worked the inside and Aubrey and I posted the signs all over the place outside. Paul was not his to-the-point concise self. Instead he began to give us long drawn-out instructions on how to hang the posters. I turned to Aubrey and said not to worry, once we were outside he wouldn’t know where we hung them. Aubrey liked that approach and we got to work. Working with Aubrey was one of the best parts of the day. She is funny, animated, and very interesting.

Afterward we came inside. The room was huge, a school gymnasium. There were refreshments, art, music and people. Oh there were people. There were volunteers and board members, members from Uptown Baptist Church and friends and supporters of Emmaus Ministries. Before the launching formally started the Emmaus video was shown. Johnathan Hancock, the Executive Director of Emmaus is a great guy. He is supportive of the guys and staff and he is a man of faith. Still, seeing him on the big screen, I was impressed with how big his head was!

Book Signing for "Streetwalking with Jesus"

I liked the poster/exhibit for E.M. While I am not a fan of the use of the word “prostitute” because I feel it labels a person and ignores everything else about them, I still liked the poster exhibit. I liked it because it asks the reader to look at themselves. It asks them to consider who Jesus and the early Christians associated with. It asks the reader to consider who they are to walk with and how are they to treat others.

Booking Signing for "Streetwalking with Jesus"; Would YOU be a…

The book launching began with a blessing and comments by Francis Cardinal George. His commitment to Emmaus Ministers and his affection for the Greens was evident. While he is one of the busiest people in the Midwest he still stayed for the entire event. I was pleased to have a few moments of time with the cardinal.

Book Signing for "Streetwalking with Jesus" : Francis Cardinal George

John Green then spoke. This was his day. The book is really a history and a reflection. It guides the reader as they figure out what their ministry is. John is such an admirable guy. When I think of all the guys, volunteers, interns, students and staff that were touched by the work of John and Caroline I am humbled. He is the reason I cannot simply say ‘someone should do something.” It is clear we are that someone, one person can make a difference.

Book Signing for "Streetwalking with Jesus" : Deacon John Green

I enjoyed hearing John talk about the process of writing. I enjoyed hearing the history of Emmaus Ministries. I enjoyed hearing about his relationship with the cardinal.

John Green Telling a Story and then Reading a Story

The launching was an inclusive experience. We got to hear about the stories and illustrations in the book. At the tables volunteers were all sharing their favorite Emmaus Ministries stories. Most importantly, we were all buying copies of the book!

Book Signing for "Streetwalking with Jesus" : Stories Told with Words and with Pictures

Finally, after all of the talks and video clips people went to the table to have John and the Cardinal sign their books. While that was happening we enjoyed a short concert by GreenChoby. GreenChoby is a folksy group composed of Caroline Green (john’s wife) and Mike Choby.

Booking Signing for "Streetwalking with Jesus" ; GreenChoby

So that was my extra special visit to Chicago. Business, friends, art and a book launching. Not too shabby! My prayer is that John’s book helps Emmaus Ministries grow in the number of supporters and volunteers it has. I pray that it helps people discover what they are being called to do. In the meantime, I just spent the weekend with artists, authors, musicians and friends!

Joshua J. Kent’s Installation at Back Room Projects

I had an opportunity to go back to Chicago. I needed to coordinate a presentation Doug and I were planning to give at the International Christian Alliance on Prostitution in May. While I was in Chicago I also walked down to Alternative and had a meeting about some training for a possible youth group in the Fort. It was a productive day. However, since I was already in Chicago I had a few perks I could not ignore. I stayed with the Kaio Community which was just wonderful. I attended the installation of my Kaio Roommate, Joshua Kent’s exhibit at Back Door Projects. Finally, on Sunday I attended the book launching party for John Green. That included time with Cardinal George. Clearly this was a great weekend.

I had my weekend all planned out. I would have my meeting with Doug and then Alternatives. I would go out to dinner with Bethany, do outreach with Emily and visit the Pilsen neighborhood with Whitney. Then I would go to Joshua’s installation and attend Nik’s church on Sundays. I planned on have some time with each member of Kaio. Well, that at least was the plan!

I did go out for dinner with Bethany and I did do outreach with Emily. I worked in the Ministry Center on Friday so that Whitney could help Josh with his installation. Then Saturday, instead of going to Pilsen and visiting the National Museum of Mexican Art with Whitney I again worked the Ministry Center. This allowed Nik, Emily, Bethany and Whitney to again work on the installation. I really did feel like that was my contribution to Josh and it made me happy to be able to help in this matter. So I spent Saturday cooking a Thanksgiving meal complete with 16 pound turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy and cranberries. I got to spend time with the guys which is always wonderful.

Saturday night was the installation. Joshua has spent 12 hour days installing his exhibit. Each of the Kaio members helped. This was a big event. The exhibit was at Back Room Projects on Troy Street. Back Room Projects was the creation of Jennifer Hines, a local Chicago artist and curator. She used the back porch room of her house to highlight the work of a new artist each month. Joshua’s exhibit was titled, “I have sat and watched each second blossom into existence.”

The opening was very nice. Artists and supporters were there. We spent time drinking Spanish wines and discussing art. However, the focal point obviously was the installation. We would all wait and then enter, one person at a time, and spend quiet time in the room. The ceiling was covered with flowers from cemeteries. The flowers and foliage draped down the walls. The room was dark and quiet and there was a meditation stool available for those who wanted to meditate.

I was able to film in the room. However, lets be honest, I am not a film-maker. I am a guy who has an on and off button on a camcorder. I could not compensate for the dark room. Still, the video captured a glimpse of Joshua's dream.

I have sat and watched each second blossom into existence

Now the flowers were not from grave sites that were newly decorated. Josh did not violate anyone’s mourning. Josh went to cemeteries around the country and gathered artificial flowers that were being thrown away so that the grounds could be taken care of. Josh had been collecting these artifacts for ten years.

Climbing Up the Walls of the Installation

I was looking forward to the installation. Josh was my Kaio roommate. The art in our room was about death, dying, passing, having lived. It was not morbid, there was no decay, this was not teen-slasher art. Rather, his art reflected an existential approach to the world. Well, his installation continued this approach.

In the room were the flowers and foliage of grave sites from around the nation and from various time periods. Thousands of flowers were on the walls. They were hung not by 9 thousand ink dots as stated in my video but rather 3000 glue dots. While the artifacts were meant to mark a person’s sorrow and remembrance they had been transformed. Walking into the room was like walking into a rain forest. The room was lush, full of color and shadows and full of life. This was a room of hope and promise and a room that shared of promise of lives being remembered.

I have sat and watched each second blossom into existence: the installation

Doug was the first person I heard talking about lying on his back on the floor just looking up at the ceiling. During my second time in the room I made sure I did that. The canopy was powerful, it pulled you into it. It was like looking at a Jungian painting. Mandelas, sand and pollen circles, medicine circles, and galaxies all came to mind. The room, the installation felt both cosmic/universal and uniquely personal. However, that is not unlike the experience of death and dying and it is not unlike existential moments of clarity.

Lying on the Floor Looking Up at Joshua Kent's Creation

I loved the whole evening. I again got to met Luke Larson, always a special occasion for me. I spent time talking with Jennifer Hines. She told me about grief and mourning in California. She also told me about the history of art galleries in the Pilsen neighborhood. I got to watch Joshua, dressed dapper as usual, greet and interact with his admirers. It was a wonderful evening and I was glad I was able to be a part of it.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

MLK Day 2011 at USF: Part II In the Community

MLK Day is always a big day at USF. In the morning I attended the gathering and worship service. I then observed some of the on-campus activities. In the afternoon I drove to some of the sites to see just what our students were doing. There were far more sites than I could have possibly visited. It was good to see the impact we were having.

The first visit was to one of my favorite agencies in the city, The Center for Nonviolence. I often have speakers from the Center in my classrooms. What they do is very consistent with our Franciscan values. So I was pleased to find out we were helping to restore heir floors.

MLK Day 2011: USF at the Center for Nonviolence

Not far from the Center is the St. Vincent DePaul resale shop. It was great to see a team of Sisters, faculty and students working together. I kept wondering if they would come over and organize my closet?

MLK Day 2011: USF at St. Vincent DePaul

Next I drove over to the Associated Churches of Fort Wayne. This large ecumenical group takes care of the nuts and bolts of caring for the poor. Our students were busy working in their food bank.

MLK Day 2011: USF at Associated Churches Food Bank

This was a larger team. They worked in an assembly line. They were focused, cheerful and I am told, very productive.

MLK Day 2011: USF at Associated Churches Food Bank (student interview)

My last stop was at the Love Community Center. This was a large organization. It was a automotive repair school, training for wood working, classes for adults and children, a church, parenting classes and job skills courses.

USF had been coming here for years and they were appreciated. Today they moved the computer lab to make room for new program. It is amazing that one day of service can have such an impact.

MLK Day 2011: USF at Love Community Center Computer Training Program

Consistent with Dr. King’s work toward peace-making our group “Just Peace” sponsored a film for the evening. I attend. The film was an artistic documentary titled “Little Town of Bethlehem.” It addressed the issue of Israeli-Palestinian relationships from a unique perspective .It was sad and yet hopeful.

So, a day of work, service and peace-building. That is a great way to honor Dr. King and a great way to begin a term.

Little Town Of Bethlehem: Official Film Trailer

MLK Day 2011 at USF: Part I On Campus

It was exciting and strange to begin my academic teaching year in January. However, the nice thing about the Spring term is that one week into it is Martin Luther King Day. It is a wonderful way to be reminded of how much service our students do for their community. I think the idea of the day being “a day on not a day off” and being designed to be a day of service is inspiring. Our faculty and staff spend the year planning activities. The students get involved and finally on the day we have students all over the city making a difference. That is pretty cool and a great way to begin the term.

This year was no different. We started the day off with an assembly and a time of worship. It reminds every body why we are here and what makes this holiday different from the others.

"Here in This Place", MLK Day 2011 Service at USF

The worship service was not intimate. It was held in Gunderson instead of North Campus or the Campus Ministry building. Still, it was well organized, well attended and the students did a good job of leading the service.

MLK Day 2011 at USF: Worship

Afterward student, staff and faculty broke into service teams. Some of the projects were on campus and many were in the community. One project on campus was the making of blankets. I ws surprised how organized, methodical and yet cheerful everyone was.

MLK Day 2011 at USF: Making Blankets

The focus was not just on service, it was on community. To that end, having activities that could involve as many people as possible was important. One of those activities was an art project for youth led by USF students. It was popular and fun and some of the art looked pretty darn good!

MLK Day at USF 2011: the generations

Finally, it was a holiday. That meant fun was in order. So while lots of folks worked some also shot hoops. I mean, what is a holiday without either football or basketball?

MLK Day 2011 at USF: shooting hoops, well, it is a holiday!

A Christmas Daycation Part II

After lunch and a break we went to Andre’s favorite place in the city, the botanical Gardens. I like it because of the waterfall and the fact it is across the street from my church. He likes it because for a young child it is like entering a fantasy-land.

The main hall has a display that is changed each season. Sometimes it is a butterfly farm, other times a story book theme. This season it is Santa’s Workshop. I‘m guessing that with all those elves working look hours to make all those presents Santa’s workshop never smelled at nice as this one!

Fort Wayne Botanical Gardens Christmas 2011: Santa's Workshop

I like the tropical habitat. When I take Tai Chi I often begin my warm-ups in this room. What a great place for medication in motion. The kids love the waterfall and the fish pond.

Fort Wayne Botanical Gardens Christmas 2010: The Tropics

Afer spending time in Arizona nobody is ever going to convince me deserts are not fascinating! I love them and I especially love the cacti and succulents.

Fort Wayne Botanical Gardens Christmas 2010: The Desert Country

After playing in the humid tropics and the dry heat of the desert the kids needed to cool off. So we went outsides to play! During the spring and summer the courtyard is a beautiful outdoor garden and café. It is a great place to eat, to be at for concerts and to view city fire works. Today it was an excuse for the kids to play in the snow.

Fort Wayne Botanical Gardens Christmas 2011: Outdoor Courtyard

The view of the skyscape is nice in the yard. The baseball field, the cathedral, and the Hilton all demand your attention.

Fort Wayne Botanical Gardens Christmas 2011: The Trojan Horse

So the kids played outside while Cathi and I tried to stay warm. They spent time going down a slide. Just the thought of it makes my backside cold!

Fort Wayne Botanical Gardens Christmas 2011: Andre and Trinity
So that was our Daycation. It was a nice way to get back in touch with the sights and sounds of the city. It was great to spend time with the kids and even better hearing Cathi laugh. The day also reminded me of just a few reason of why I like this city so much. It was good to be home.

A Christmas Daycation in the Fort

When I got home there was so much to catch up on. However, there were also people to see. Two of those people were my great-great-niece Trinity and my great-great-nephew Andre. Cathi suggested we spend a day in the Fort just visiting a few of our museums. It sounded good to me.

So we gathered up the kids and off we went. Our first stop was to one of my favorite museums in the city, the African African-American Museum. They have wonderful displays, great collections, impressive archives and the friendliest staff.

African African-American Museum in Fort Wayne

I like the African Room and all the information on the crossing. The kids liked the hands-on aspect of the displays.

African African-American Museum: Inventors

I also like the room dedicated to African-American inventors. The profiles are all drawn by local talent and the list of inventions goes on and on. We spent time in each room. Our guide was this wonderful man full of facts and stories.

Next we went to the Fire Fighters Museum. It is across the street from the library and close to the baseball field. The museum is great. The kids loved all of the old fie trucks.

Fire Fighter Museum Fort Wayne

Trinity as a Fire Fighter

However, they particularly liked dressing up as fire fighters!

Andre as a Fire Fighter

The museum is next to the Allen County Public Library. This is one of the kids favorite plces to visit. Thelibrary shows movies, hosts concerts, has a world famous geneology department, a great Licokn collect and stuff for kids. Boy do they have stuff for kids. The have a huge play room, a computer lab, and lounging areas for young patrons. So when we saw the library from the window of the museum we knew we would be visiting soon.

View of the Allen County Public Library for 2nd Floor of Fire Fighter Museum

As we got ready to leave we took a last look at all of the old equipment, the trucks, communications systems, and the medical response equipment. This is one cool little museum.

Emergency Response Vehicles at Fire Fighter Museum

So we took a break from museum hoping. We spent some time playing at the library, we went out to eat. We rested and then it was on to the next stop!

Going Home, Yes, Going Home

I completed my sabbatical at Emmaus Ministries on December 17. I found myself thinking often about military families. I was never in any danger. My time away from Cathi was only four months and I could talk to her daily. Still that was the longest we had been apart since 1974! I found myself really empathizing with all that military families go through. My separation was just an inconvenience and the result of a wonderful experience. Trusts me, I was packed and waiting anxiously in the office for Cathi to pick me up.

Now, for sure I was not looking forward to leaving my friends at Emmaus and Kaio. I was afraid my life in the Fort was going to be boring. I did not want to say good bye to Kodi. Never-the-less, I was ready to be back home.

We did not hit the road right away. First we did a little shopping. Cathi said she knew she was in Chicago when the grocery store had a parking garage! Next we drove to our niece’s house for a visit.

This was to be our Christmas time with Cathi’s side of the family. We started the sabbatical off visiting our nephew Josh. It seemed appropriate we end the sabbatical at his sister’s house. Originally the plan was to visit with Erica, Bert and their three daughters, Nora, Olivia and Emmie and spend the night. However, I was too anxious to get home. We had a great visit. We ate together and then we hit the road.

Part of what made the visit so nice was that it was clearly transitional for me. I was leaving street ministry to reentering my life. That became clear while sitting at Erica and Burt’s house and being entertained by their daughters. This was not he serious stuff of the last four months. This was the stuff that made life such a joy.

The Hade-Rodriquez Dance Company

We watched Nora, Olivia and Emmy dance, sing, fall over and argue with one another. It was a joy to see them take their performance so seriously.

Delicate Flowers Dancing

At the end the girls gave us each a “program” that they signed and kissed. Cathi still has hers. So tht was it. Shortly afterward we were on the road. Not much longer and we entered Indiana. It was a wonderful, rich four months. There will be so much to process while adjusting to “normal” life. There will be so much more to do related to the sabbatical. However, for now all I had to think about was going home to my family, my cats and my turtle Brother Leo.

The Troika Prepares

Yep, nothing helps you get back to reality more than family and kids.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Orientation and Faith

I went to Chicago to integrate my training in psychology and pastoral counseling. I went to learn and to net work. I also had an additional goal of using my personal time as a pilgrimage. I was going to worship in a variety of ethnic churches that represented the diversity and scope of the Church, the Body of Christ. I worshiped at churches made up of Assyrians, Copts, Roma, Norwegians, Chinese, Native Americans and Africans. I also attend the houses of worship of other faiths. This included Vietnamese and Tibetan Buddhists, Moslems and Jews. Between my work at Emmaus, teaching at Adler and my pilgrimage my time was full. I was not looking for yet another focus. However life is not that simple and I was introduced to yet another journey, I was to visit GL BT churches and churches that welcomed GLBT Christians.

I taught “ Introduction to Adlerian Psychology” at the Adler School of Professional Psychology on Mondays. After class I would attend Mass at St. Peter’s in the Loop. One Monday I walked over to Daley Plaza. Across the street was the Chicago Temple. It is a church of the United Methodist Church. It is the tallest church above street level in the world. I walked over for a tour. I have already described the church and my experience there. However, on my way out of the church I was reading material about the UMC and discovered that it was a welcoming church. It had made the decision to be inclusive and accept homosexual members into its congregations.

The Chicago Temple: United Methodist Church

It made me think of our guys. Many of our guys were raised in the church and have strong religious convictions and yet feel unworthy of attending churches or unwelcome to attend. Some feel the invitation is conditional, the condition being they become straight. I wondered how their spiritual needs were being met. I decided to attend a GLBT church.

This was not an impulsive decision. When I first came to Emmaus Ministries I was afraid they would be homophobic. As usual, the clash between my training as a psychologist and my Catholic faith presented me with some challenges. APA is clear, it views conversion or reparative therapies as ineffective and possibly unethical. However, the APA acknowledges that some homosexuals with strong religious convictions may feel so strongly about their sexual identity that they cannot be happy as a self-accepting gay man or lesbian. In those situations being a non-practicing homosexual may be viewed as preferable to self-hate or participating in treatments that are viewed as ineffective and possibly heterosexists. Emmaus Ministries is clear that it is consistent with Catholic teaching on homosexuality. It believes marriage is between one man and one woman. It believes that homosexuality is inherently disordered. It also believes that homosexuals cannot be discriminated against and that gay men and women must be treated with respect.

For me, the way I was able to navigate this very real challenge in views was to watch the workers and volunteers at Emmaus in action. Their love was not conditional. The guys could change or not change, they could continue to hustle or they could stop. None of that stopped the workers and volunteers from caring about the guys. Additionally, there was a clear understanding that we are all disordered or in varying degrees of brokenness. That being the case we were called upon to care for the guys and take care of our brokenness. Still, I was curious to see how our guys who identified as gay men found places to practice their faith.

The first church I went to was in the Center on Halsted. The Center is the largest GLBT community center in the Midwest. It is huge and offers a variety of services. It also provides a home for the Metropolitan Community Church.

Center on Halsted Roof Top Garden

The MCC church is in the theater of the Center on Halsted. What most of the members have in common is being outside the mainstream of society. The members are mainly gay, lesbian, transgender and questioning folks. What they also have in common is a Christian background and faith. However, they come from various Christian faith traditions and the service reflected this. The service included elements of a Catholic Mass or at least high church Protestant, of Evangelical traditions, as well as charismatic.

People actively participated. They supported one another. They prayed and sang and laughed. The congregation appeared to welcome upper and middle class members as well as the poor and homeless. It was clearly a faith community and home to many people.

Metropolitan Community Church of Chicago: altar

After the service I met with a number of members. They readily welcomed visitors and allies. I then met with one of the pastors. Like the other ministers at the church the reverend had attended seminary. He was ordained and left a mainline church to meet the needs of “his people.” He was compassionate and very likable.

Interview with MCC Minister

One evening I got a call from some former Kaio folks who invited me to go with them to Roscoe’s. Roscoe is a big GLBT bar on Halsted. I walk past it all the time on outreach but had never been inside. I asked why they were going. They were going to hear Tony Compolo speak. It turns out that Roscoe participates monthly in a program called “Living in the Tension.” It is a program in which folks of differing viewpoints are brought together to find areas of common ground while not denying heir real differences.

On this particular night Andrew Marin was sponsoring the event. Andrew was a conservative Evangelical Christian who had three friends come out to him. He responded by praying and listening and then developing a ministry that brings conservative Christians and members of the GLBT community together to finds ways to listen to one another and respect one another.

Andrew Marin discusses his book, "Love is an Orientation"

I was impressed with the work Marin and the Marin Foundation were doing around the country and in Boystown. Then Tony spoke. He is a retired sociology professor and a Southern Baptist. His search for finding common ground has turned him into a lighting rod, people either respect him or they hate him. I was very impressed.

Campolo: Christians & Gay Rights

So I spent an evening at Roscoe. I was in a big gay bar with a disco ball over my head, a free beer in front of me and surrounded by gays and conservative Christians all talking about Jesus. Yep, it was clear I was not in Fort Wayne!

Next I decided to attend a church that was not exclusively or even predominately GLBT. Rather, I wanted to attend a church that was welcoming, to all members. I went to the Urban Church. The Urban Church is a United Methodist seed church. It is in the Spertus Museum of Judaica. The church includes straight and gay couples, families and definitely hippsters. The service was moving. The ministries the church is involved in is impressive. The church had two ministers, one straight and one gay.

United Methodist' Urban Village Church

I found the church to be very friendly. It was also focused on living your faith in community, or “faithing’ on the streets by caring for the poor. It would be a mistake to dismiss this church as simply trending, it was a church with substance. Clearly a Christian with a traditional reading of Scripture would have problems with this approach. However, hopefully they would also be aware that there is a need being filled here. After the service I met with one of the ministers. Again, I found him welcoming, authentic and open to dialog.

A Blessing from Urban Village Church

Emily, my adventure partner in Kaio and I then went to Lakeview Presbyterian Church. I had always wanted to go to this church. It was this massive wooden church that dominated a corner. We saw it whenever our outreach walks took us to Broadway. It was across the street from the Salvation Army Officer Training School. It was in the heart of Boystown.

The church was welcoming, to everybody. It was part of an association of churches that made a point of being welcoming. However it’s focus was on Jesus and on Jesus in action.

Lakeview Presbyterian Church

We watched a Skype interview with a member serving in Africa. We were told about the candle display in the front of the church. Every time a youth was killed in Chicago a candle was lit to remember him or her. Today another candle was lit. As we said our prayers and sang our songs a photo of the young man was projected onto the sanctuary wall, he became real.

Lake View Presbyterian Church II

After the service Emily and I lingered a little and spoke with a few of the members. However, it was a busy place and we also had busy schedules. Emily and I walked back to Uptown while discussing finally getting inside this beautiful church. We spoke of the balance of caring about and acting for social justice and of having time simply to worship. Seems to me both are important and the experience of worship would be empty if either were completely missing.

Lake View Presbyterian Church: outside

I also taught at Adler. One day a student approached me and invited me and the Kaio community to attend an event at the school during the evening. Two student groups, the Adler Jewish Union and Adler Pride was sponsoring the showing of “Paragraph 175.” It was a documentary of the Nazi attempt to rid itself of its homosexual citizens. It was a powerful movie and it showed the ultimate price of intolerance. Afterwards the Kaio community processed what it had watched. I thought of the film often as I continued my new pilgrimage.

I took a detour from the churches and visited Congregation Or Chadesh. I had been to other synagogues in the city and I attended a Jewish Drum Circle. However, this was different. This was a GLBT synagogue.

Congregation Or Chadesh II

I described my visit to Or Chadesh earlier in my blog. This was one of two Jewish congregations targeted by terrorists in Yemen. It was also a reminder of how powerful the need to belong is and how this need was met in this congregation. I was there during the International Transgender Day of Remembrance. That meant I learned even more about the price of intolerance. It also meant I got to see a supportive congregation in action. If my time was not running out I would have visited this congregation again. It was a powerful way to celebrate the Sabbath.

It Gets Better -- Adler School

So my journey continued. I was very aware that I lived in a conflicted world. I taught at a university that unequivocally supported Catholic teaching on homosexuality. However, that teaching also meant an unequivocal stand against discrimination and an emphasis on respect. That included not letting gay slurs pass in classrooms, that meant providing a forum for training for staff, students and faculty on issues related to gender, sexuality and respect.

I was doing my sabbatical at a place that also endorsed Catholic as well as other mainline denominational teachings about homosexuality. However, again, there was nothing black and white about the approach. This was not a place that “Loved the sinner and hated the sin.” Instead it was a place where the workers attended to their own brokenness, articulated their positions on homosexuality when asked and when appropriate and simply loved and served their brothers.

Finally, I was teaching as an adjunct instructor at the Adler School of Professional Psychology. This was a school that had experienced a transformation addressing this subject. Adler had described homosexuality as neurotic behavior. I spoke with Kurt Adler, Alfred’s son. He explained that during his father’s days in Austria homosexuality was a crime and Adler’s position actually was more humane. Today the president of the school is openly gay, there is an active Pride Group. It is also a school that consistently attracts clergy because it is a value-laden school.

I was reminded of Andrew Marin who did not call for Christians or members of the GLBT community to abandon their positions but rather to actively listen, to stop yelling and to search for areas of common ground. That seems very reasonable to me.

As my time was running out in Chicago I found a twofer. I went to an Arabic-speaking Lutheran church in Edgewater. It was a great experience. However, I also learned that the church was using the space of Immanuel Lutheran Evangelical Church. This was a welcoming church. So I went back for a Lutheran service and to tour the church.

Immanuel Lutheran Evangelical Church

I know my friends in the Missouri Synod would have problems with this church. I suspect they would also acknowledge that a need for belonging, for having a place at the tale is being met. The church is not neutral on its position toward its GLBT members. It states “Grace is for everyone or it isn’t Grace.” That is a pretty bold statement.

Immanuel Lutheran Evangelical Church: Chapel

The service seemed very familiar. Much of it reminded me of the liturgy I participate in. Again, the focus was on the Good News and not hugging a rainbow or emphasizing a social issue over theology. What that meant in action however is that faith that says we are to love one another is lived in doing just that. There was no talk of abomination just of loving fellow children of God.

I spent my free time going to ethnic churches and GLBT churches. However that did not mean that I stopped attending Mass. So occasionally I would find myself on Sunday evening looking for a Catholic Church to attend. The University of De Paul was my default church. However I found out that Our Lady of Mount Carmel had services on Sunday evening at 7 PM. I had always wanted to attend this huge Catholic Church in Lakeview.

Our Lady of Mount Carmel: Chicago

Imagine my surprise when I walked in and there were about 450 gay and lesbian Catholics participating in Mass. The service was beautiful, the music grand and people were happy, often moved to tears. During the Lord’s Prayer everyone came together and held hand as they recited the prayer. There was an a real sense of enthusiasm and belonging.

More of Our Lady of Mount Carmel: Chicago

After the service we all met for coffer and snacks. I had so many questions. The group was not part of the local church but rather used it, for the past 20 years. This was AGLO or “Archdiocese Gay and Lesbian Outreach.” AGLO has been meting for 22 years. There was been over 200 Masses celebrated. Members participate in the choir, as Eucharistic Ministers, as lectors and they lead retreats. The archdiocese provides ten priests who rotate throughout the year. Both Cardinal Bernardin and Cardinal George have celebrated mass with AGLO.

I was confused as to why this group was acceptable when Dignity was not. It turns out the group started as a Dignity group. Following the position articulated by Pope John Paul II the church stopped recognizing the group and stopped allowing Mass to be said. After a long negotiation, in which the members resigned from Dignity AGLO was formed. It is recognized as a ministry to the Catholic GLBT community.

Finally the last church I attended was St. Peter’s Episcopal Church for World AIDS Day. By then I was no longer surprised at all of the mainline churches that had struggled to find a way to meet the needs of its gay and lesbian Christians. I did find myself thinking of Andrew Marin and Tony Campolo often. I agree that real respect cannot come in the form of people denying the teachings of their faith to accommodate others. There must be an effort to then look beyond this for common ground. If we are called upon to love one another than surely this must be worth the effort. So that was my additional, unanticipated pilgrimage.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Santa Lucia Day 2010 in Andersonville

During my last week at Emmaus I was tired and really ready to go home. During the previous couple of weeks I had spent a 10 hour day being in extra on a movie set. I attended a fantastic Christmas party. I finished teaching at Adler. I was saying good bye to the guys, finishing my work at the Ministry Center and with outreach.

So I was more than ready to go home. I missed Cathi and I missed Kerri, my colleagues and the Fort. Still, I kept feeling like I should have one more adventure, see one more sight. The problem was I had no energy so it looked like I was not going to doing anything special with my last week in Chicago. Thanks to Laura Eppler I was wrong.

I was walking around the offices on Tuesday when Laura looked up and simply asked if I would want to join her and Joel after work and go to Andersonville to watch the Santa Lucia Day Parade. Laura’s voice was like music. I love Andersonville, a neighborhood that I often walked to. I loved it’s Swedish history and traditions. I loved all of its varied ethnic foods, its yuppy bars and I loved watching Muslims, Assyrians, LGBT folks and hipsters all share the same neighborhood. Most of all, as a good Norwegian-American who had been to Italy I loved the idea of a holiday that is celebrated in all of Scandinavia but honors the patron saint of Sicily.
This was great. I didn’t have to walk there, I didn’t have to drive. I didn’t even have to think, all I had to do was show up at Joel’s car. I said I was tired! Best of all Emily my adventure partner was joining us.

So we arrived shortly after our staff meeting. We all met at the Swedish Museum. The young girls came out with their white dresses and candles in their hair. Actually for the outdoor portion they had candles with light bulbs, a good, safe choice! I have seen huge, elaborate parades in Chicago. This was not one of them. This was a small, village parade. It consisted of girls walking down the street sings and neighbors following. It was simple and beautiful.

Santa Lucia Day Parade in Andersonville 2010

While the evening was just beginning it was winter and already dark. There was enough snow on the ground and chill in the air to imagine the parade taking place in Sweden, or, better yet, Norway.

Santa Lucia Day Parade in Andersonville 2010 II

It was a simple parade. We walked two blocks south on Clark Street, crossed the street and then walked north. Midway the girls stopped and sang “Silent Night.” They then proceeded to Foster Avenue, crossed the street and head back south to the museums. The parade was simple but for me very moving. It reminded me of my father and of Norwegian parades in Humboldt Park. It reminded me of foods, aromas, Yogi Yorgessen , and straw ornaments. I had always wanted to attend this parade and now thanks to Laura, here I was.

Santa Lucia Day Parade in Andersonville 2010 "Silent Night"

After the parade we all went inside the Swedish Museum. This is a fine small museum that spans the Swedish immigrant experience. It has the clean straight wooden lines and white walls that remind me of my family’s homes in Norway. As we waited for the concert to begin I spotted the most content child I had seen in a long time. Clearly this child could be a poster child for Christmas gatherings!

Santa Lucia Day in Andersonville 2010 : The Christmas Child!

The main room was dark and then all of the Lucias walked in singing. Te official Lucia had a wreath of lit candles in her hair. It was magical. I felt like I was meant to be exactly where I was at.

Santa Lucia Day in Andersonville 2010: Concert

The girls sang and I gawked at the room. People walked up stairs to the second floor of the museum. Cider and gingerbread was being placed on the table for us. This was a major Swedish signing group. Having spent time at the Norwegian memorial church I appreciated how important choral societies were. However, tonight was special. This was their last concert. There would be other Santa Lucia Day Parades and celebrations but this group would cases to exist. I was glad I got to hear them.

Santa Lucia Day in Andersonville 2010: The Last Concert

When the concert was over the young children gathered for an informal concert of their own. There parents supported them and it was a a special moment.

Santa Lucia Day in Andersonville 2010: Children Singing

After the concert, the tour and our cookies it was time to call it a night. My time in Chicago was running out. However, I no longer felt guilty for wasting time. I had one last experience, one last adventure and it was a good one. I was ready to begin to pack up my clothes, artifacts and notes. Thanks to a wonderful evening in Andersonville I was now ready to go home. Thank you Laura and Joel.

Never Ending Training Story at Emmaus Ministries

One of my concerns about returning to Emmaus after having completed my field study there was that I would not learn anything new. Boy was that off target. My sabbatical, thanks to the commitment of Emmaus Ministries to their staff, was one of constant training. The subject matter changed, the location changed but the commitment to service and to learning never diminished.

The training started as soon as I got to Chicago. The entire staff, ministry, administrative and the Kaio Community all drove up to Lake Geneva Wisconsin for a three day retreat. We were the guests of two volunteers and they provided us with two houses to stay at and they feed us fantastic food.

The retreat was multi-faceted. It included team building exercises. For some of the exercises we broke into small groups to get to know a few members more intimately. These exercises were important because they fostered a sense of shared identity to the administrative, ministry and Kaio members. It would have been easy for Emmaus Ministries to foster a silo mentality with the three groups, plus volunteers, board members and the guys all focusing on tier own needs. These exercises made sure that did not happen.

The retreat also provided a time for the sharing of the story, the history of Emmaus Ministries. This was perhaps one of the more important functions and yet at times one of the more tedious tasks of the retreat. I love history and I want to hear the narratives that make individuals and organizations unique. However, that requires a degree of organization and editing. At times I felt we were going to hear about where Emmaus bought their first roll of scotch tape or book of stamps. Still, even without editing I found myself putting today’s Emmaus Ministries into a co next, it helped me understand where I fit in.

This is a minister and prayer and worship was a big part of the retreat. That included learning contemplative prayer at the local Catholic Church and worshiping at t local Protestant church. The shared worship, the food, the learning, the self-disclosures and the beautiful location contributed to a perfect way for Emmaus Minsitres to team build and begin a new year.

Welcome to Lake Geneva, Wisconsin!

Once we got back to Chicago our training continued. Some of it was training in the Ministry Center. That included learning how to log a guy in, write goals and journal,. It also included learning about the weekly schedule and the many exceptions to that schedule. We learned how to run the clothing closet, stock the pang try, follow health codes when cooking. We learned how to clean the Center from doing laundry to washing floors, dishes and bathrooms. We learned about prayer and worship in the Ministry center. This included the use of the chapel, prayers before meals, readings, group and Bible study time. We learned what occurs in the administrative offices and how we could support the staff.

Finally we had a weekend of training at Emmaus. The training was also for new volunteers. We learned about boundaries, unconditional acceptance while remaining true to our faith. We learned about all of the different ministries that make up Emmaus Ministries. The training included folks from Wheaton College, Moody Bible Institute, Trinity Seminary, local churches and the director of Emmaus Ministries in Houston.

Emmaus Ministries volunteer spotlight: Rex Slagel

During all of the training the significant contributions of the volunteer pool was emphasized. It would be difficult for E.M. to accomplish all that it does without the volunteers.

Center on Halsted: Roof Top Garden

The Kaio Community attended a lecture at the Center on Halsted. The lecture was the public sharing of research on HIV/AIDS in the community. While this might have been an unlikely place for members of Emmaus Ministries’ to find themselves, it in fact provided useful information on the rising rates of the infection among MSM population. It was also a very nice night out. After the lectures we all had a light meal and spent time talking to peers on the roof top garden over looking Halsted Street.

Center on Halsted

Center on Halsted

The first Monday of each month is The Day of Prayer. During that time the Ministry Center is closed. All the staff meet in the Ministry Center. They pray. They pray for one another, the men, the ministries, the volunteers and supporters. They share a meal together. They are reminded why they are doing what they are doing. Occasionally it also becomes a time for additional training. Joshua Kent lead us in relaxation and contemplative prayer. Bethany Wilson taught a number of different styles of prayer. Whitney Merrill and I gave talks on substance abuse and addictions.

Lennette at Emmaus Ministries

I also sought out additional training. I contacted the Night Ministry. This is a ministry that in fact provides services all day long. They provide food, medical screening and case management to homeless throughout the city. They go out to the neighborhoods in their distinctive ministry truck. They also work with Alternative Families and Youth programs and the Howard Brown Youth Center to assist homeless youth. I attended their orientation training for new volunteers. It was very organized and actually had a modular program for introducing the many ministries. This was an inter-faith ministry that was also a welcoming ministry. I was impressed with the scope of their services and their commitment.

Night Ministry (Chicago)

I also signed up for training with Inspiration Café. This is an agency was started by a woman who saw a need. She started by giving food to the homeless. Eventually she developed a food service training program. In 13 weeks the workers become eligible to obtain a license in food services. Besides the training center on Wilson and Broadway they have two beautiful cafes in the city that serves wonderful meals to the public. The training was very professional and again highlighted a variety of services to the homeless.

TrueNorth - Inspiration Cafe :60

I think what I liked most about Inspiration Café is that it reminded me of Emmaus Ministries. In both cases it was a services that was developed by one person who saw a need and decided that somebody should do something and so they did!

Inspiration Café (Uptown, Chicago)

A number of the Kaio Community and one of our guys also attended the Midwest Regional Conference on HIV and STDs in Springfield Illinois. This was a major conference with attendees from around the state. We learned so much while there.

I attended a workshop on “House Culture.” This referred to the “families” in New York that consisted of you gay men rejected by their own families. They then joined “Houses” that participated in “Vogue” competitions. This was a combination of martial arts, runway modeling and break dance. It was sometimes in drag and it required discipline. What was important here was that the “Houses” were meeting a social need that the larger community was not meeting.

Paris is Burning edit - A W.NINJA TRIBUTE

We learned about programs for people coming out of prison. We learned about the needs of migrant workers. We learned about new medical regimes. However, we were constantly reminded that HIV is not just one more STD, it is not simply a chronic disease that can be managed. It is still a disease that kills.

While I was there I made sure I attended Mass at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception. The last time I was there was when I was visiting my mother-in-law for the last time. The Cathedrals was about to be closed for renovation. I wanted to see the renovated Church and I wanted to say a prayer for Margaret. The church was beautiful.

Cathedral of Immaculate Conception Springfield: upper windows

Finally, on our way out of the city we stopped and toured the State Capitol. That was a nice way to end a special time in the city of Lincoln and Obama.

Illinois Capitol: Senate Chambers

Finally, while I was on sabbatical I traveled to Wabash Indiana to attend the Day of Healing conference sponsored by the Wabash Friends Counseling Center. It was a great conference consisting of 1000 Christian counselors and clergy. I gave a talk on needs assessment modeled after Emmaus Ministries.

So, while I was concerned that I might only be doing “more of the same” in fact the training was extensive. I feel I have a better appreciation of street ministry, counseling the homeless and providing a holistic-based service by networking with others. I receive far more raining than I ever could have hoped for!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

My Kaio Community

My time at Emmaus Ministries was highlighted by living with the members of the Kaio Co0mmunity. Kaio consists of interns who have completed their undergraduate degrees. The members are people who have responded to a call to serve the men of Emmaus. The interns receive room and board, a bus pass, health insurance and $20.00 a week spending money. In return the interns give a year of their lives. They work in the Ministry Center, outreach, the prison ministry and they do office work. They do the exotic such as meeting men on the streets in the early hours of the morning or attending unusual training. They do the mundane, cooking, washing floors, delivering food. However, they also live in community.

The Kaio Community is in the same building as Emmaus Ministries. This year the community consisted of five members not counting myself. Bethany Wilson was a strong-willed, goal directed young woman from Wisconsin. She was an anthropology major. Bethany did a mission trip to Africa. Emily Manting was a psychology major from Michigan. She was considering graduate school in social work. She was in love. She was a phenomenal outreach worker. Emily was also in charge of the prison ministry. Bethany was my worship partner. If I was going to Taize or to an ethnic church and Bethany had the time she was right next to me. Emily was my partner in exploring the city. Emily was a quiet adventurer but an adventurer never-the-less.

Baha'i Temple of Chicago : Bethany and Emily

Whitney Merrill was a chemical dependency counselor from Indiana. She had spent two years in Mexico. She was my outreach partner. Whit was smart, funny and street smart. We did a training session together. I really enjoyed working with her. She called me “Carlos” and I liked it.

Nik Burkhart was a second year kaio Arts intern. The Art interns did everything everyone else did. However, they also had 40% of their time set aside to create urban art. Our apartment was full of Nik’s art. One night all of Kaio went to “Sacred Space” a local gallery to view Nik’s art. Many of the Kaio members also attended “Buy Art Not People” a fund raiser and consciousness raiser related to human trafficking. Nik was one of the main planners of the event. Nik was also from Michigan and had also served in a mission trip to Mexico.

Kaio Night at Sacred Space to View Nik’s Art

Joshua Kent was the other Kaio Art member. He graduated in performance art from the Art Institute of Chicago. Josh was my roommate and my friend. He was also a workhorse. Josh performed in a play while I was there. The Kaio community was part of the audience. Josh submitted a play he wrote to a number of sites for possible production. At the time of this writing his play has been accepted and will be produced. Josh also worked with unusual materials. This included flowers from cemeteries. These were flowers that were about to be thrown away. Josh created a full-room piece that included thousands of flowers and foliage. It took the material of mourning and transformed it into life, celebration and rebirth. His installation of this peace was scheduled for the spring of 2011. Finally, Josh was the class act of the group. He could go to a resale shop and come out dressed fashionably; he was the gourmet cook and the decorator.

Kaio at Lincoln Square to View Nik’s Art

As an intentional faith community we prayed together. We trained together. We ate together. We hardly ever had the same schedules. At times our jobs required us to leave the city. So it was not unusual for only three of us to be at Kaio at a time. However, no matter how often we were together as an entire group we made time to do things together, to share meals and we celebrated whenever we were reunited.

Bethany and Joshua at Kaio

Kaio was a talented group. Besides the two artists many of them were musicians. Bethany played the keyboard and the violin. Whit played guitar as did Nik. Josh and Emily sang. I listened!

Kaio Jamming

The community was ecumenical. Josh and I were Catholics. Nik had Mennonite roots. Bethany came from an Episcopal background. Whit and Emily were also Protestants. Each week we had “Kaio Night.” During that time one person would make a meal, another lead us in prayer and another lead us in a group activity. We also had a “Prayer Closet” This was a utility room that seconded as a place for prayer and meditation and not infrequently naps.

Nik Talking About Buy Art Not People

Near the end of my stay at Kaio they had planned a Christmas party. I found out that is was to also serve as a good bye party for me. I did not want that and tried to get the party canceled. They ignored me. That was good because they pulled off one of the best parties I have ever seen. Emily made these wonderful hand-made invitations. Bethany, Whitney and I deconstructed the tree so it could then be decorated. It was a long tedious project. The tree was beautiful and decorated with ornaments from Bethany’s childhood. Josh planned the meals. Bethany planned side projects such as a site for making small gingerbread houses. I thought that was the dumbest idea I have ever heard of, however, people really liked it. Everyone decorated the house. That included handmade paper chains hung from the ceiling, tin punctured candle luminaries, and ornaments. The place was turned into a holiday wonderland.

I was awake most of the night before the party. By 4 AM I was up and ready to be an extra in the movie “Contagion 2011.” I worked all day. By the time I got home I was exhausted. The party started, the party was packed with people. I however was exhausted so I went down to the M.C. and took a nap. That was a good idea because I was able to return refreshed and appreciate what a wonderful party the Kaio community had pulled off. The food was unique and fantastic. The guests were happy, the sights and sounds almost too perfect to be believed. And then in walked Luke Larson, I finally met Jim and Judy Larson’s son. Because of Jim I was at Emmaus. So we called Jim and Judy in Thailand and talked to them for a while. Who could have predicted that?

The members of the Kaio community were my friends and family for four months. They were a diverse group of young adults, dedicated people of faith who choose to give a year of their lives to serving the men of Emmaus Ministries. I had many wonderful and life changing experiences during my sabbatical in Chicago. None however equaled the blessing of living, working, praying and playing with the members of the Kaio Community.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Kaio Community, E.M. and the 2010 World AIDS Day Service

World AIDS Day is an important day for anyone who does outreach, works with the homeless, youth or works with folks who participate in survival sex. So when I was on sabbatical I made plans to attend a city-wide, ecumenical service at St. Joseph Parish Catholic Church. I was also looking forward to seeing one more magnificent church. St. Joe’s is the 2nd oldest church in the city. I was looking forward to commemorating this important day and be a religious tourist all at the same time. Well, that was not to be.

Turns out one of our guys was to be a key speaker at a World Aids Day service at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church. I had always wanted to visit that church. We all referred to it as the “Red Door Church’ for obvious reasons. Well, the wait was worthwhile. It was truly a magnificent church. However, first we had to calm the nerves of our special speaker!

The speaker came to talk to me the morning of the service. His navigator or assigned Emmaus Ministry Center staff was not available, she was home sick. The speaker, we will call him “Martin" was a nervous wreck. He had never spoke before an audience before, much less such a large audience. He was afraid that he would be judged or worse, not interesting. As he had a cathartic moment I apologized that Lennette, his navigator was not here. Well, he gave me a reality test. He point out that E.M. was a ministry and therefore I was an urban minister. If that is true he asked, than why did I not have faith that God meant for Lennette to be home today and that I was supposed to be available to him? That made perfect sense. He was falling apart I was responding be being a dispassionate, stoic Norwegian. Instead of joining his emotional stew I remained calm and we problem-solved. Lennette is great at nurturing, letting people know how much she cares. I was good at being an analytical problem-solver. He pulled “Martin” together, gave him a game plan and sent him on his way.

That evening the Kaio community arrived for the World AIDS Day Service at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church. The church was beautiful. The service was unique. I had never heard of speech choirs. The service consisted of an oratorical service with liturgy in which we all participated. It moved us from fear, to despair to hope. It was wonderful. The service was entitled, The Number of our Days: an Oratorio for Speech Choir. In the middle of the service Martin spoke. He shared his story of fear and despair and than of finding himself and a caring community. It was a unifying speech and many people were clearly moved.

The service was also co-sponsored by Bonaventure House. Bonaventure House is an Alexian program for people living with HIV. It is a program that is providing vital service to the Lakeview area of Chicago.

The program was wonderful. Afterward the Kaio community joined the rest of the congregation for drinks and conversation in the study. It was a great way of re-energizing our batteries to continue working with folks living with HIV. I am glad I finally walked inside the “Church with the Red Doors”!