Ecology meets theology. “Saving Place, Saving Grace” is the story of a Trappist monastery’s struggle for reformation of their home by embracing an intense sustainability initiative. Witness the monks’ land stewardship, contemplative prayer, and work ethic that shapes the core of their community, Holy Cross Abbey in Berryville, Virginia.
An old definition of a monk is “Amato loci,” lover of a place. In 2009, the University of Michigan did a yearlong sustainability study of Holy Cross’ 1,200 acres on the banks of the Shenandoah River and embraced a land management plan. Now most of the 1,200 acres have been put into a conservation trust. Can faith communities and agricultural interests find common ground? Is there a balance between working the land and consecrating it?
By Rose Marie Berger
Introduction to “Wade Through Deep Water” presentation held at the Festival Center in Washington D.C.
In the Roaring Twenties, the WWI war profiteers were enjoying unprecedented prosperity, while rural landholders were losing their farms to debt and moving into the cities looking for work. The war had displaced millions of refugees who also were pouring into the cities.
Along with immigrants came the Chinese exclusion act of 1923 and National Origins act in 1924. With the rise in urban population came the “modernization” of the city, the rise of tenements, streets for automobiles, and rudimentary cisterns and sewers. The Roaring Twenties are also sometimes called the Jazz Age. And Jazz captured the frenetic, complex energy of a city in the way that Mississippi delta blues never could.
In March 1923, Robert Frost published a poem in The New Republic titled “A Brook in the City.” In it creates a snapshot of the once solitary farmhouse nestled into fields swallowed by new urban sprawl. Frost meditates on the stream that used to identify the watershed in that place.
A BROOK IN THE CITY by Robert Frost
The farm house lingers, though averse to square
With the new city street it has to wear
A number in. But what about the brook
That held the house as in an elbow-crook?
I ask as one who knew the brook, its strength
And impulse, having dipped a finger length
And made it leap my knuckle, having tossed
A flower to try its currents where they crossed.
The meadow grass could be cemented down
From growing under pavements of a town;
The apple trees be sent to hearth-stone flame.
Is water wood to serve a brook the same?
How else dispose of an immortal force
No longer needed? Staunch it at its source
With cinder loads dumped down? The brook was thrown
Deep in a sewer dungeon under stone
In fetid darkness still to live and run
And all for nothing it had ever done
Except forget to go in fear perhaps.
No one would know except for ancient maps
That such a brook ran water. But I wonder
If from its being kept forever under
The thoughts may not have risen that so keep
This new-built city from both work and sleep.
Tonight we gather with members of Holy Fool Arts as they present “Wade Through Deep Water,” a Ceremonial Theater event “tracing the soggy footprints of a people through the wombs of the Red Sea and Jordan River to birth an Exodus thirsting for collective liberation. Come near to hear the voice of water’s lament as told by Miriam, Moses’ sister, and John the Baptist—two of God’s prophets whose water-logged lives kept them swimming in transformation.”
But before this ancient narrative can well up in our own, we have to learn about where we are. Here at the Festival Center on Columbia Road in Washington, D.C. we are guests in the watershed of our country’s largest estuary, the Chesapeake Bay. The bay was formed 35 million years ago when a speck of stardust was flung from the hand of God into Delmarva peninsula, punching a hole that slowly filled with water. For 10 million years, the estuary spread. It sprouted rivers—the Anacostia, the Susquehanna—in the fissures opened in rock by melting ice. Twenty thousand years ago the Anacostia settled into her riverbed, creating this watershed, this basin of biotic relationships (see Brock Dolman).
For more than 10,000 years, Native peoples have created thriving societies along the Anacostia and her tributaries: the Powhatan, the Piscataway, and the Nanticoke.
The Piscataway had about 8,500 members in 1604 when the English arrived. Within 100 years only 300 remained. And they remain still. We give honor here to the Tayac family to Chief Billy, Gabrielle, Sebi, and the community. The Piscataway Nation continues to offer prayers for the Cheseapeake bay, for Anacostia river, for the streams and tributaries. They serve as sacred water protectors here.
These rivers, like this city, were weaponized during wars—the Revolutionary War, the Civil War, and World War II—with bases and armories built on their silty backs. Until 125 years ago, this city was known for its artesian springs—like Rome today There were more than 50 public wells and hundreds of private springs that provided fresh water.
Here on Columbia Road we sit on Lanier Heights, the very western edge of the Lower Anacostia watershed. This neighborhood is held in the arms of two abandoned and buried tributaries—Reedy Branch and Moore Spring.
All the wells and springs were backfilled in the 1920s. A system was devised to divert water from the Potomac for public use.
Only in the past 10 years–with the pressures of climate change–are we reversing the way this city uses water and looking at how to revive and protect our underground streams. The most stunning example of this is the project to return the Broad Branch tributary that has been piped in and concreted over back to the surface in a process called “daylighting.”
As Robert Frost wrote, “No one would know except for ancient maps / that such a brook ran water. But I wonder / If from its being kept forever under / The thoughts may not have risen that so keep /This new-built city from both work and sleep.”
This is where we are. Now we ask: What does it mean? I hope these underground streams will delight and disturb your dreams.
“That our receiving may be like breathing: taking in, letting go. That our holding may be like loving: taking care, setting free. That our giving may be like leaving: singing thanks, moving on.”–Jan L. Richardson (Wisdom’s Path)
“Our communities of discontinuity aren’t rearranging pews on the Titanic. We are striving for what Parker Palmer calls “circles of trust.” In short, we pledge ourselves to resistance and recovery. We actively resist red-state austerity dreams, blue-state mediocrity memes and neoliberal prosperity schemes.However, until we take our own inventory and commit to the long process of inner healing, we simply project our own predatory ways on to them. They become convenient scapegoats. Meanwhile, nobody really gets saved. We keep drowning spiritually andemotionally, just stubborn great whites devouring those most dear to us.”–Tommy Airey, “Intimacy and Inner Work“
Two recent articles (see below) document what land defenders fighting the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines have been reporting anecdotally: they are being aggressively surveiled and treated like enemy combatants, not Americans. As Sojourners publisher Joe Roos said during the Reagan era, “The real goal of most domestic surveillance is political control. The suppression of domestic political dissent and the containment of social change movements lie more at the heart of our government’s intentions.” And Bill Wylie-Kellermann reminds us that “In truth, [surveillance] is an ancient tactic of the powers, one with which Jesus contended and coped.”
Wylie-Kellermann continues, “An eye for surveillance material in the New Testament is a little like paranoia; it begins to stare back at you from every page. In a recent re-reading of the four gospels, I counted easily more than 40 instances where Jesus or his followers are being watched, watched for, or sought. Add to that some 25 or more references to plottings against him and his friends, and you begin to get the creeps. At the point in John where Jesus himself is accused of being “paranoid” (7:20), we can take sympathy. He has good reason to be. In general, the gospel of John (so often revered as the least political) appears to have the most abundant material on surveillance. There we are granted a dramatic view most privy to the counsel of the authorities, and there the actions of Jesus in response are most versatile and conscious. Of the synoptics Luke is the most explicit about the plots: “So they watched him, and sent spies, who pretended to be sincere, that they might take hold of what he said, so as to deliver him up to the authority and jurisdiction of the governor” (Luke 20:20). These agents do deliver. At the trial those political charges are brought, with a host of witnesses to back them up.”
There is nothing new under the sun and our authentic witness for the integrity of creation continues to provoke responses in the Powers That Be. So, beloved, be “wise as serpents, and gentle as doves.”–RMB
“As people nationwide rallied last year to support the Standing Rock Sioux’s attempts to block the Dakota Access Pipeline, a private security firm with experience fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan launched an intrusive military-style surveillance and counterintelligence campaign against the activists and their allies, according to internal company documents.
Its surveillance targets included everyone from Native American demonstrators to the actress Shailene Woodley, along with organizations including Black Lives Matter, 350.org, Veterans for Peace, the Catholic Worker Movement, and Food and Water Watch. The records label the protestors “jihadists” and seek to justify escalating action against them.
The activities of the company spanned, but were not limited to, the four states through which the pipeline passes: South Dakota, North Dakota, Iowa, and Illinois. The documents also show that its surveillance efforts continued after the breakup of the Standing Rock camps this winter, including at ongoing pipeline protests in southeastern Pennsylvania, Iowa, and South Dakota.
The internal documents from the firm, called TigerSwan, take the form of situation reports, or “sitreps,” prepared between September and April for its employer, Texas-based pipeline developer Energy Transfer Partners. The records detail a range of tactics that experts from the American Civil Liberties Union, National Lawyers Guild, and Electronic Frontier Foundation say would likely be illegal if conducted by law enforcement. …” Read more here.
“… The situation reports also suggest that TigerSwan attempted a counterinformation campaign by creating and distributing content critical of the protests on social media.
The Intercept is publishing a first set of TigerSwan’s situation reports from September 2016, which describe the company’s initial operations. We are also publishing two additional situation reports dated October 16 and November 5, along with PowerPoint presentations shared with law enforcement that correspond to the same dates. The names of private individuals whose actions are not already in the public record, or whose authorization we did not obtain, have been redacted to protect their privacy. The Intercept will publish the remaining situation reports in the coming weeks.
In addition, The Intercept is publishing a selection of communications, obtained by public records requests, detailing coordination between a wide range of local, state, and federal agencies, which confirm that the FBI participated in core Dakota Access-related law enforcement operations starting soon after protests began last summer. Finally, we are publishing two additional documents, also in the public record, that detail TigerSwan’s role spearheading Energy Transfer Partner’s multipronged security operation. …” Read more here.
Are you looking for Peace Team, Active Bystander and Nonviolent Intervention Training?
What you’ll learn: In this training, participants learn skills for nonviolently interrupting vio lence and discrimination, hate, intolerance, intimidation and harassment. They learn de-escalation skills, documentation skills, intervention and disruption skills, protective accompaniment, peace team and unarmed peacekeeping skills. Role-playing is often an essential part of the training process.
When to use this training: You see verbal abuse happening on the subway, or in line at the grocery store. You live in an area where discrimination and intolerance is visible and vocal. You are going to a situation where there is likely to be hate crimes, verbal abuse, active discrimination, or tensions around difference that could lead to violent and abusive situations.
Materials for Nonviolence & Active Bystander Intervention Trainings Want to learn how to de-escalate hate speech and harassment and better understand what it means to (safely) stick up for your neighbor with compassion and resolve?
Take 32 minutes to complete the following self-study on the basics:
Go Deeper in Nonviolent Civil Resistance and Active Bystander Intervention Want to learn more about the broader social movement for civil resistance to injustice and how to build stronger, more inclusive, democratic communities?
People of the Way remain committed to a peculiar allegiance and a distinctive conviction: that all violence, of every sort, is a form of evangelism for the Devil. Those who stand by this claim get no extra cookies nor receive special privilege. Pride is excluded from the armor of faith, and boasting is limited to the promise that loving enemies is the only fruitful way to lasting peace, in imitation of the one who refused the option of a militarized angelic rescue from the crucifier’s grisly work. (cf. Matthew 26:53)
We make this profession of our faith even knowing that we ourselves are not immune from the lust for vengeance. As César Chávez, the great practitioner of nonviolent struggle for justice, said: “I am a violent man learning to be nonviolent.” Indeed, we are given the grace to confess our bloodlust precisely because we stand in merciful submission to the promise of life that is to come.–Ken Sehested
New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu gave a historic speech at Gallier Hall on Friday, May 19, 2017 as the final of four Confederate monuments was taken down. So ended a process Landrieu began in 2015, when at his request the City Council declared the monuments public nuisances. The speech is excerpted below with a link to the full text. Below that, Martin Marty compares Landrieu’s speech to the Hebrew prophets. And below that, Southern historian Malcolm Suber of #TakeEmDownNOLA critiques how Mayor Landrieu subverted a much larger city-wide process aimed at taking down all such statues, not a representative four.
From Mitch Landrieu:
“The soul of our beloved City is deeply rooted in a history that has evolved over thousands of years; rooted in a diverse people who have been here together every step of the way – for both good and for ill. It is a history that holds in its heart the stories of Native Americans – the Choctaw , Houma Nation, the Chitimacha . Of Hernando de Soto , Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle , the Acadians, the Islenos, the enslaved people from Senegambia, Free People of Colorix, the Haitians, the Germans, both the empires of France and Spain. The Italians, the Irish, the Cubans, the south and central Americans, the Vietnamese and so many more.
You see – New Orleans is truly a city of many nations, a melting pot, a bubbling cauldron of many cultures. There is no other place quite like it in the world that so eloquently exemplifies the uniquely American motto: e pluribus unum – out of many we are one. But there are also other truths about our city that we must confront. New Orleans was America’s largest slave market: a port where hundreds of thousands of souls were bought, sold and shipped up the Mississippi River to lives of forced labor of misery of rape, of torture . America was the place where nearly 4000 of our fellow citizens were lynched, 540 alone in Louisiana; where the courts enshrined ‘separate but equal’; where Freedom riders coming to New Orleans were beaten to a bloody pulp. So when people say to me that the monuments in question are history, well what I just described is real history as well, and it is the searing truth. ….”
Read the rest of the speech here.
From Martin Marty’s commentary “Memorial Day, Mayor Landrieu, and the American Future”:
“Let me compare Landrieu’s genre to the forgotten language and intentions of the ancient Hebrew prophets. Landrieu addressed his city as “a people.” So did the prophets, like Jeremiah, revered in and beyond Judaism and Christianity. Landrieu was defending the decision and act of taking down the city’s four most prominent icons—the prophets would have called them “idols”—in the form of statues commemorating long-revered General Robert E. Lee and lesser Confederates who defended the enslavement of American blacks. The expressions of others before the removal of the statues were not always eloquent or healing: defenders of the statues and representatives of what the mayor would call the “Cult of the Lost Cause” often rallied with shouts or whispered with threats.
As the statues were being lifted up from their platforms and lowered to the ground, Landrieu—not to his or anyone’s surprise—was the subject of death threats. Yet, like Jeremiah, he spoke of “a future and a hope.” His speech exemplified Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s definition of prophecy as “hope projected backward.” In a time of bitter divisions in New Orleans and throughout the nation at large, Landrieu spoke not as a great denunciator, but as a great enunciator of directions for his contemporaries to take. Unmistakable was his identification with his great city, to some of whose many assets he referred in terms that a tourist bureau could envy.”
Read the rest of Martin Marty’s commentary here.
Malcolm Suber’s commentary in the Lens critiquing Mitch Landrieu’s approach:
“The two-year struggle to take down the white supremacy statues (which is really the culmination of a decades-long struggle for removal by the Black community) revolved around whether these statues were on land belonging to the city. State and federal courts ruled that these were indeed public lands belonging to the citizens of New Orleans. The courts further ruled that the city could do whatever it desired to statues present on public lands.
Mr. Mayor, it’s not what you say, it’s what you do.The mayor’s attempt to present the future of these former monument spaces as a done deal seems to be an attempt by Mitch to preclude any other voices and opinions from being heard. Take ‘Em Down NOLA calls for a series of town hall meetings where we solicit what residents want to replace these monuments with.”
Read the rest of Malcolm Suber’s commentary here. And listen to On the Media’s Bob Garfield interview Malcolm Suber here.
Parshat Behar begins: “G-d spoke to Moses on Mount Sinai . . .” There is a well-known Midrash that explains that Mount Sinai was the lowest of all the mountains, and so G-d chose it to teach us a lesson in humility: If you want to be a vessel for the Torah, you must feel yourself to be lowly and humble.
This, however, leads to the question: If G-d wanted to teach us a lesson in humility, why give the Torah on a mountain in the first place? Wouldn’t a valley be a better representation of humility?
The answer is that we need both: the greatness of a mountain, but the humility of Sinai.
This dichotomy is expressed beautifully in the Parshah itself.
One of the main mitzvahs featured in the Parshah is the Yovel (Jubilee). Every 50 years, the figurative reset button is pressed. All Jewish slaves are set free, and all land that was sold since the previous Yovel is automatically returned to its original owners.
What is the point behind this reset? Why did the Torah institute such a mechanism, where all transactions become undone and everything reverts back to its original status? … —Sholom Kesselman (www.chabad.org)
Catholics and others around the U.S. have an opportunity in May to write to their local Catholic bishop to encourage them to teach and preach on active gospel nonviolence. This is part of the global outreach offered by the Catholic Nonviolence Initiative to support the Catholic Church in re-centering Gospel nonviolence in Catholic life and faith.
Social concerns committees, diocesan social justice directors, youth groups, and individuals can host letter-writing events in May at churches, coffee hours, prayer groups, and other key gatherings.
Write the bishop of your diocese in May. (And you don’t have to be Catholic to join in. See bottom of post.)
Instruments of Reconciliation: A National Campaign to Amplify Active Nonviolence in the U.S. Catholic Church
Three suggested dates below in the month of May have been chosen in the United States to ask Catholics and other concerned Christians to share their hope for greater teaching and commitment to active nonviolence with their local bishop and invite him to affirm active nonviolence as the “nucleus of the Christian revolution” by:
1: Sharing and speaking about Pope Francis’ World Day of Peace message broadly within their diocese, seminaries, and other ministries
2: Concretely committing to an initiative to scale-up practices of active nonviolence within his diocese.
As Pope Benedict wrote, “For Christians, nonviolence is not merely tactical behavior but a person’s way of being, the attitude of one who is so convinced of God’s love and power that he or she is not afraid to tackle evil with the weapons of love and truth alone. Love of one’s enemy constitutes the nucleus of the ‘Christian revolution.’”
We want to support our Bishops in their efforts, like Pope Francis, who pledged the assistance of the church in “every effort to build peace through active and creative nonviolence.”
Some dioceses – such as the Archdiocese of Chicago – are already experimenting with a commitment to a culture of nonviolence and practical steps to greater active nonviolence to address tensions and crime within the diocese. Pope Francis wrote them a letter of encouragement.
May 3 is the anniversary of The Challenge of Peace: God’s Promise and Our Response (1983), the Bishop’s pastoral letter.
May 8 is the birthday for Daniel Berrigan (b. 1921) and Sophie Scholl (b. 1921).
May 20 is the Feast of Austrian conscientious objector and martyr Franz Jagerstatter who was beatified by Pope Benedict XVI in 2007.
What if I’m not Catholic and I want to participate? Thank you! The Catholic Nonviolence Initiative welcomes support from all people of good conscience who want to see greater teaching from the Catholic Church on effective and active Gospel nonviolence.
You do not need to be Catholic to ask you local Catholic bishop for greater teaching on this. Search for your Catholic diocese’s web site to find the address of the local Catholic bishop.