This event will be facilitated by Rev. Jacki Belile, an American Baptist minister and spiritual life coach who is a member of the Treasures of Uptown team. Jacki has been teaching and coaching on forgiveness for twenty years and is the author of the forthcoming book Forgive for Life: Finding the Way Forward.
On October 26, we had the first presentation in our Treasures Tour series featuring the different faiths in the Uptown community. Initially we had advertised that the discussion about the Unitarian Universalist faith would center on the principle of “Reason” but presenters Rev. Jean Darling of Peoples Church and Margaret Shaklee of the Unitarian Church of Evanston became a “tag team” giving alternate bits of historical information tracing the interplay of “head” (reason) and “heart” (intuition) in the separate developments of the Unitarian and Universalist churches and their merger in 1961. The trend towards “reason” was a reaction against some churches who asked their members to blindly follow the decrees and interpretation of church authorities. The principle of reason recognizes that each individual needs to think out for themselves what makes sense and question any blanket assumptions. In America there was also the trend towards “intuition,” for people to be aware of their own experiences of the spiritual that may be beyond rational analysis, as seen in the Transcendentalists of New England in the late 19th century.
Among the topics that stimulated discussion with the Baptist, Buddhist and Baha’i attendees was how ceremonial rituals give moments of “non-rational” experience interspersed with the usual explanatory elements of church services such as readings and sermons. In the Unitarian Universalist service there is the “lighting of the chalice” – candle sitting in a wide, shallow cup is lit to symbolize the brightness of wisdom and the warmth of community (see the photo below). Unitarian Universalists have experimented with rituals from other faith traditions with varying results. Rev. Jean said even the singing of hymns is controversial among UU members – she remembered that at one church where she interned, one woman would stand with arms folded in protest during the singing. She and Margaret joked that UU members fall behind in singing to the music because they’re reading ahead to the next verses to see if they agree with the words.
The Unitarian Universalist churches have been continually evolving since the 1961 merger and into the 21st century. Margaret and Rev. Jean shared some of the UU pamphlets to give us a sense of the open and welcoming spirit of their faith where each individual’s approach to spirituality is respected. Whatever their past religious experiences, the UU Church tries very hard to make it's members feel a part of the spiritual community that it has created. The theme of social justice also runs strongly through the activities of Unitarian Universalists – just as they were early on in Chicago history involved in feeding, housing and educating the poor, UU members today participate in many campaigns supporting equality and justice around the world.
Our Spiritual Beans interfaith discussion group seems to be doing well in its new location. We're enjoying digging in to the food and our tasty topics. Last month's topic was "Angels and Demons". Here's a video clip of Jacki Belile from Living Well Ministries sharing her take aways. The quote she references from Richard Rohr is below.
" These are systems like oppressive governments, penal systems, legal systems, military systems, economic systems, and all the other systems we create to control disorder and violence. They ordinarily have a complete life of their own. These can, of course, be good too; but when you worship them, when you let them have total power, when you refuse to critique these systems, they can wreak the greatest havoc in history—and they consistently have. Any system that says “bow down and worship me” (Matthew 4:9) is always diabolical, whether it be church, state, the military, or “the market.”The devil’s secret is camouflage. The devil’s job is to look very moral! It has to look like we are defending some great purpose or cause, like “making the world safe for democracy” or “keeping the bad people off the streets.” Then you can do many evils without any guilt, without any shame or self-doubt, but actually with a sense of high-minded virtue. Evilmust disguise itself as good, says St. Thomas Aquinas, and until Christians start understanding that, their capacity for “discernment of spirits” (1 Corinthians 12:10) remains very minimal. They are easily duped and always misled by such devils."
July's discussion topic: The Great Cosmic Scales
More on our facebook page.
After meeting for the better part of a year at Inspiration Kitchens, we've moved our monthly Spiritual Beans interfaith discussion groups to Golden House Restaurant and Pancake House.
The folks at Inspiration Kitchens are going to more of a fine dining format and weren't able host us at our usual time for coffee and conversation anymore. But, we're lucky enough to have several options when it comes to local restaurants, and Golden House is one of our favorite local institutions. Great deals on tasty diner food, plus it's not just a restaurant it's also a pancake house! (Not exactly sure what the difference is but that can't be bad, right?)
A little bit of trivia: Golden House was one of the shooting locations for the 2011 movie The Dilemma. Vince Vaughn and Winona Rider got a booth by the window for their scene (see below), but you don't have to be a movie star to get a good seat at Golden House.
We've had our last few monthly meetings there and it's become our new home. So stop on by on the last Saturday of the month at 4:00 for some good conversation and comfort food. Check the events on our facebook page to see what our upcoming topic will be and come join the conversation!
Yesterday's Spiritual Beans discussion group had a great turnout for the topic of "Politics and Religion". It was just in time for the elections, and also the beginning of a series of taboo topics that is sure to generate some more great conversations.
Next up: Money. As we gear up for our annual holiday shopping sprees, let's talk about money and religion. What's the connection between your faith and your wallet? Check the calendar for details.
And stay tuned for January when we'll warm up with a hot topic: Sex.
Have an idea for another taboo topic? Let's hear it!
On October 6th, Treasures of Uptown welcomed autumn with Borderbend at Peoples Church, and participated in the Chicago Calling Arts Festival.
There were readings from some of our Treasures of Uptown regulars (Margaret Shaklee, Jacki Belile, Patti Nakai, Seth Fisher, and Jean Darling), original poetry by Allan Johnston, and music by Saalik Ziyad, Jon Hey, Joe Vajarsky, Dan Godston, and Anthony Poretti.
More, including audio, here.
And the festival is still going on for a few more days, so it's not too late to check out some of their other events if you hurry!
On Tuesday the 17th, a group from McCutcheon Elementary school was at Buttercup Park for a gardening project and a group of us from Treasures of Uptown went along to help out. We were lead by Anna from SGA and PC from Buttercup Park Advisory Council.
There was a lot of weed pulling (and a lot of water- drinking because of the heat).
Fruits of our labor. Can you spot the strawberry?
Anna and a few of our Treasures volunteers. Thanks to all of our Treasures, coordinators and volunteers alike!
On July 6th we were able to play a small role in helping out with the Jewish-Muslim Bike Ride put together by the Jewish-Muslim Community Building Initiative and The Chainlink.
We started off downtown at the Downtown Islamic Center where we were treated to a breakfast of bananas and baklava...
...as well as a beautiful mural of the 99 names of God, and a little history. DIC was started in 1976 to provide a place for downtown Muslims to hold their daily prayers and has grown steadily since. It was interesting to find out that the center is also used as a place of prayer by Christians and people of other faiths who live and work downtown.
Our fearless/tireless leaders told us how the ride came about and explained the rules of the road before we all saddled up and started our ride as the media looked on. (The ride made ABC 7's evening news and there was also an article in the Trib. On Islam, New City, Chicago Religion News, Uptown Update and others all had coverage as well.)
Our next stop was Anshe Emet, where Rabbi Abe welcomed the whole sweaty horde of us with open arms. (Actually, not that sweaty - the weather was perfect.) We were given some pretty interesting history and a quick Q&A session along with some much appreciated chilled water.
Final stop: Picnic in the park near Montrose Harbor. The only hitch in the whole ride was that we were expecting about 40 riders and got about 60. So we were a little light on food at the end of the line and didn't have time to stop at American Islamic College or Temple Sholom. But there's always next time. In fact, the next ride is scheduled for September 9th. So mark your calendar now and stay tuned!
On June 10th The Buddhist Temple of Chicago welcomed other members and friends of Treasures of Uptown into their home for Faith: Alive in Action, a discussion of ways in which social service is informed by our faiths and philosophies.
Our panelists were (from left to right) Serena Chen Low from Apna Ghar, Rev. Jean Darling from 2 Li'l Fishes, and Carol Goldbaum from Ezra Multi-Service Center. Panelists spoke about the connection between their work and their faith and how those connections came about, then we broke into smaller discussion groups and did the same. Good conversation, good company, and some pretty good snacks too. Thanks to everyone who attended and a special thanks to our panelists!