Monday, June 7, 2010

AFCU 2010 Symposium:

The AFCU 2010 Symposium could not have a more timely unifying theme. The theme is: Educating for the Care of Creation: Contemporary Verses for the Canticle of the Creatures. For the last 50 days Americans and the world have been watching the consequences of our thirst for cheap oil unfold in the Gulf of Mexico. The scenes of animals struggling to live, too tired to even be frightened by humans, is heartbreaking. All of a sudden people who minimize the destruction of ecosystems, who question global warming, are paying attention. That is because it is in our backyard and because it reflects a suffering that cannot be ignored.

CNN BP wildlife cleanup

However, the most current example of our callowness toward creation is not the exception. All around us the earth is crying out. The Amazon River Delta is losing trees, soil, and diversity every day at a staggering rate. Each day we are warned of yet another species of animal or plant life that faces an uncertain future. Nations are preparing for a world in which the wars and security concerns are focused on food sources, water and the large migrations of peoples. All of this due to dramatic changes in the climate.

Deserts are expanding, glaciers are melting, oceans are rising and islands are disappearing. This symposium calls us back to caring for creation, of recognizing our relationship/s with creation. It is the right time for this symposium.

Perhaps the BP oil spill has energized us because we are tired of one region of our nation suffering so much. Perhaps it is because it will affect so many different types of industries and ways of life. Perhaps it is because the death of so many birds, marine mammals and turtles demand a response. Perhaps it is because “extinction” and “forever” all of a sudden seem comprehensible.

Global Warming is affecting animals and habitats

For four days 22 Franciscan colleges and universities will meet at the campus of the University of Saint Francis, Fort Wayne. We will explore “Caring for Creation” from the sciences, the arts, theology and the humanities. We will explore our obligations to our fellow creatures as the benefactors of a generous God. We will not focus on Francis of the birdbaths. We will focus on Francis in relationship. It is only by recognizing our relationship with God and with all of creation that we may begin the very difficult and important task of caring for a hurting planet that we have hurt.

St. Francis of Assisi/World Animal Day by EVOLVE! Campaigns

So, let us begin four days of talking, listening and laughing on the shores of Mirror Lake. Let us find time to be alone, to give thanks, to assess our own relationship with the web of life. Et us enjoy the campus, the food, the fellowship and the city of Fort Wayne. Then let us go home to our respective schools and communities and model what it looks like to be brothers and sisters with creation.
Peace and all Good,

Sunday, June 6, 2010

AFCU 2010 Symposium and Downtown Fort Wayne

So, two days out and the AFCU 2010 Symposium attendees will begin to descend on fort Wayne Indiana. Now to be honest this is not the tourist attraction of the world or even the Midwest for that matter. Still we have a few structures that are gems and only a few minutes from the USF campus.

In the center of downtown and only blocks from Headwaters Park is the Allen County Courthouse. The building is impressive from the outside, even with the current scaffolding. The courtyard lawn highlights the structure. Across the street is the more modern City-County Building. However, it is inside that is truly a thing of beauty.

The courthouse was built in 1902. It is an incredible example of the then popular Beaux Arts movement. This is a building that looks classical, colorful and due to renovations, it looks sparkling. Looking up from the first floor to the dome is breathtaking. The building is a must see for any brief visit to the city.

The city has a limited skyline. However, one of the skyscrapers is a wonderful example of last century art deco. This is the Lincoln Tower Building. The building was the first skyscraper in the state. The building was began a month before the Wall Street crash of 1929 and completed in 1930. During the Great Depression it was famous for its 312 foot limestone exterior with gold highlight trim. The building was influenced by the Tribune Tower in Chicago.

While visiting the tower take time to visit the soda fountain in the Tower building. This is an authentic soda fountain with sandwiches, malts and real fountain drinks. If you like fountain food you might also consider stopping at Cindy’s Diner.

A number of the attendees may stay at the Downtown Hilton. The hotel is across the street from the Cathedral and the Botanical Gardens. It is connected to the newly expanded Grand Wayne Center. The Grand Wayne Center has 50,000 square feet of rooms for every type of event. square feet The Grand Wayne Center's north and south fa├žades feature 1,830 floor-to-ceiling exterior windowpanes with two exterior waterfalls. The windows look out at the new Parkview Field. The Grand Wayne is only blocks away from the newly expanded Allen County Public Library.

Across from the Grand Wayne Center is the Embassy Theater. This is a restored theater palace that was an active vaudeville site. The theater is an incredible jewel. Chandeliers, wall hangings and a magnificent pipe organ will take visitors breath away. The theater was built in 1928 and can sit 2,970 people. It is the home of visiting Broadway Shows, the Fort Wayne Philharmonic Orchestra and numerous local and regional shows.

The Parkview Field, across from the Grand Wayne Center is brand new. It opened last year. This is the home to the San Diego Padres minor league team, the Tincaps. The field and the team are huge successes. They have brought life back to the center of the city. Hotels and restaurant all cheer the increased flow of people to the city.

Before heading back to the campus you might want to note the Starbucks downtown. Now I am not interested in promoting chains. However, this coffee shop took the art deco McManon Tire shop that was to be torn down and restored it. It is a great setting to have coffee and make new friends.

Finally, when crossing over the St,. Mary’s River make sure to look for the Perfection Bakery billboard. The brad has been “pouring” out of that loaf since the 1950s.

So, while Fort Wayne may not be the architectural center of the Midwest it does have some true points of interest. Along with the museums, diversity, history and houses of worship the Fort really is an interesting place to send some time in.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

The 2010 AFCU Symposium at The City of Faiths

Well, in a matter of a few days faculty, staff and students from 22 Franciscan universities will be coming to Fort Wayne to attend the 2010 Association of Franciscan Colleges and Universities Symposium. I already mentioned that they will be gathering at “The City of Churches.” However, in recent years Fort Wayne has garnered yet another nick name. The Fort is also known as “The City of Faiths.” For a religious tradition that honors the unique dignity of each individual, a tradition that inspired three interfaith services in Assisi and a tradition spanning back to Francis and the Sultan that encourages Catholic-Islamic dialogue this again seems like the appropriate setting for such a symposium.

Besides the traditional Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant Churches in the area there is an active community of peace churches. Near the Michigan border, in La Grange County, are large Amish communities. These are not monolithic but rather reflect a number of different Amish traditions. The Mennonite Service Committee is headquartered in nearby Goshen Indiana. Brethren Churches are active in northeast Indiana. Finally, the Society of Friends has a long tradition of active support of civil rights. This dates back to the areas involvement with the Underground Railroad and the Suffragette Movements.

On the south side of the city is the Unitarian-Universalist Congregation of Fort Wayne. This is a unique building that looks like a big wooden tent that is welcoming to everyone. The Congregation is a place of natural beauty. Growing up to the ceiling is a large tree, right in the sanctuary. The art consists of local leather and paint mosaics honoring all religious traditions. The church has a memorial garden and the land touches the St. Mary’s River section of the River Greenway.

Part of the church is leased to the local Hindu community. They are busy building a free standing Hindu Temple. However, in the meantime the Fort Wayne Bhajan Society has an alter in the UU Church and worship takes place in a room that can be seen from the UU sanctuary!

Right next door the UU church is Congregation Achduth Vesholom. This is an, friendly Reform Synagogue. It is in fact the oldest synagogue west of the Allegheny Mountains. This is a center of both informal and formal learning for Reform Jews of all ages. It is a congregation that is actively involved in the larger Fort Wayne community. It si also a place of culture and art.

On the southwest side of the city is Congregation B’nai Jacob. This is the Conservative synagogue. While the traditions differ it is also a welcoming congregation that values its larger community ties.

There are two Islamic houses of worship in the city. The Islamic Center, est of downtown, is often home to Muslims from Asia and Africa. Both communities actively participate in inter faith activities. At this time neither centers websites are active.

The Islamic followers in Fort Wayne come from around the world. They include citizens from the Balkans, Chad, Sudan and Somalia. They include Afghanistan and Pakistan and students from the South Pacific.

The Buddhist community also reflects diversity. There are at least six different Buddhist Temples in Fort Wayne. One is Sri Lankan. Others are Burmese, Thai and Northern Asian in background. All welcome visitors from other faith traditions.

Many of the members of the non-Christian faith communities are immigrants or descendants of immigrants. However, some are refugees. The organizations that help the refugees adjust to American culture include Catholic Charities, the Community Resource Center for Refugees and The Reclamation Project.

So, when you come to Fort Wayne, know that the world welcomes you to “The City of Faiths!”

Friday, June 4, 2010

AFCU 2010 Symposium at the City of Churches

Almost three hundred folks from 22 Franciscan colleges and universities will be meeting at the campus of the University of Saint Francis Fort Wayne next week. They will be attending the Association of Franciscan Colleges and Universities 2010 Symposium. It seems only appropriate that the symposium be on USF’s campus. The campus is a beautiful blend of trees, birds, critters and building and the theme is about Caring for Creation. It also seems appropriate that they will all be meeting in Fort Wayne since one of the city’s many nick manes is “The City of Churches.”

For those folks who are driving through the downtown area they are sure to notice the many churches of various architectural styles standing proudly. These were the ethnic and religious anchors of an earlier time. They are still active “flagship” churches of their respective denominations.

In the middle of downtown, across from the botanical gardens and kitty corner from the Hilton is the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception. The Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend has co-cathedrals, the other is in, well, South Bend. The Cathedral sits in the middle of the Cathedral Square. This includes the McDougal Chapel, the Chancery, the Cathedral Center and the rectory. This is a recently renovated and beautiful church. It has a history connecting it to the Miami Nation, French North America, German immigrants and the early history of Indiana. Today it is a diverse church. Some of the attendees will take of tour of this beautiful building.

Only a few blocks east is St. Mary’s Parish. This was a magnificent gothic church but alas a bolt of lightening destroyed the building. The fire however did not destroy the church. The church was rebuilt. While it is now a modern structure it is what it does that is so special. This simple church is loaded with mission to the poor. St. Mary’s Soup Kitchen, Ava Maria House, and Matthew 25 Medical and Dental Clinics are only a few of their many missions.

Two blocks north of the Cathedral is the Archbishop Noll Center. This building houses “Today’s Catholic” the Catholic Bookstore, the Cathedral Museum , diocesan offices and the bishops offices.

However, this is the City of Churches not “the Little Vatican!” A very modern looking church is the Fort Wayne Street United Methodist Church. The straight lines, beautiful window and light interior make for a calming place to worship. It is also an active church with many missions.

Behind the Cathedral rises the stunning St. Paul’s Evangelical Lutheran Church. This is a huge church. It is the second oldest Lutheran church in the state and the largest Lutheran Church in the nation. The church was placed on the National List of Historic Places in 1982.

Going west the visitors will come to Trinity English Lutheran Church. At a time when the city had a very large German population the name indicated that these Lutherans would have their services in English. The church may look familiar to some visitors. That is because of the distinctive architectural style of the church. The church was destined by the architect who designed the cadet chapel at The United states Military Academy at West Point.

Just west of the church stands Plymouth Congregational Church. This is a very active church that often works with other denominations. Every year the church hosts a Reconciliation Service on the weekend of Mart Luther King Jr.’s birthday. The service is attended by most denominations and is a moving, inter-faith service.

In the same area stands First Presbyterian Church. This is the oldest continuously running congregation in the city. It has an active Korean congregation. It is famous for it’s art gallery and it’s music program. However, it is best known for its theater. This is a church with a social conscience but also a church that expresses its appreciation to god through the arts.

Further west is the Trinity Episcopal Church. It stands out with it tall, narrow steeple. Many of these churches competed to have the tallest steeple in the Summit City. The church was a pioneer church. It was built in the Greek Revival style. While it ministers to youth and the poor it is also known for it music ministry. The church houses an extensive archive of Indiana Episcopal history. One of its ministers, Dr. Steve Crain also teaches theology at the University of Saint Francis.

The city is the home of Concordia Seminary. It is also is the home to three denominational headquarters: the Fundamentalist Baptist Fellowship Association, Missionary Church, INC., and Fellowship of Evangelical Churches.

The symposium attendees may notice that Fort Wayne is a diverse city. That is reflected in the churches. The Cathedral is multi-ethnic. Many of the areas Catholic Burmese attend the Cathedral. St. Peter's Catholic Church is a German church. The Stations of the Cross are written in German, it is home to the initial liturgies each year for Germanfest. St. Patrick Parish is home to three distinct congregations. Services are said in English, Spanish and Vietnamese.

The city is home to St. John Chrysostom Antiochian Orthodox Church, Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church, St. Nicholas Orthodox Church of Fort Wayne and St. Mary’s Romanian Orthodox Church. Yep, we are the City of Churches. If the symposium attendees are looking for one more thing to see, one more place to worship or simply want to appreciate beuty in unique settings, well, then they came to the right place.