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The pursuit of equality; Rudy Nickens, Director of the Black Repertory Company

February 4, 2007

Rudy Nickens is an experienced facilitator, educator and entrepreneur, with a strong background in cultural diversity, business management and community development. Currently, Mr. Nickens serves as Executive Director of the St. Louis Black Repertory Company. Prior to this position, he was vice president of St. Louis 2004, a civic organization created to act as a catalyst for community development. While with St. Louis 2004, he worked on initiatives related to Workforce Diversity, Zero Tolerance for Hate and the Ceasefire Program to Reduce Youth and Gang Violence. Since 1993, Mr. Nickens has taught in the School of Communications and Media Studies as a member of the Adjunct Faculty of Webster University and lent his skills as an educator to Planned Parenthood of St. Louis as well as the National Conference of Community and Justice.

For the past 20+ years, he has consulted, educated and trained several local and national organizations in the areas of workforce diversity, leadership development, cultural competence and conflict resolution throughout the United States, Africa and the Caribbean. Mr. Nickens continues to be very active in the community serving on various boards including Diversity Awareness Partnership, Missouri Restorative Justice and Black Leadership Roundtable, The Institute for Peace and Justice and SSM Health System.

Giving and growing; Kate Lovelady, Leader

January 28, 2007

This Sunday is the kick-off to our yearly pledge campaign. I feel fortunate to have an excuse to talk about money every year, because money is one of the most fundamental yet hard-to-talk-about aspects of our lives. In our culture, almost every decision we make, every minute of the day, is related to money whether we realize it (or like it) or not. Money can ruin and save lives, build and break relationships, feed and destroy communities. How do our unconscious feelings about money affect our ethical choices? How can we change our attitudes toward money so that however much or little we have, our money can be another way we bring out the best in others and in ourselves?

Love: Its mysteries, myths and broken promises; Rebecca Armstrong

January 21, 2007

If we live our lives unaware of the greater forces that frame our existence, we are like little fish in a vast ocean being swept along by the tides. In no area of contemporary life is this limited vision more apparent than in the institution of marriage, where more than half of those who ride this wave are dashed upon the shoals of disappointment and defeat. This talk will be a beacon of hope for those tempest-tossed souls, as the deeper currents that carry the yearnings of human hearts are explored and much that was murky is made clear.

Rev. Rebecca Armstrong invites you to sail with her on a journey of discovery through the origins of romantic love and its relationship to Eros, Agape, Marriage and Divorce. You will see its effect upon the western imagination and its stormy intersection with the women’s movement and capitalism. Along the way we will catch glimpses of the eternal love energies embodied in the gods and goddesses of myth, fairytale and popular literature. The love promise that can be kept and never broken is the far shore towards which our journey leads us.

Your guide Rebecca has been traveling the world for more than 40 years as a singer, storyteller, minister and mythologist. Her parents, George and Gerry Armstrong, were well-known folksingers and welcomed many talented bards to the family home including the famous mythologist, Joseph Campbell, who became a close friend. Rebecca worked for the Joseph Campbell Foundation for 12 years representing Campbell’s work to a worldwide audience. She co-founded an interfaith group called Friends of Compassion and was honored to take a group to India where they met with the Dalai Lama. In her work with the Parliament of World Religions she had the opportunity to be the opening act for Nelson Mandela and has met with other extraordinary people all over the world.

America’s unfinished business; Dr. Martin J. Rafanan, Executive Director National Conference of Community and Justice of Metropolitan St. Louis (NCCJSTL)

January 14, 2007

While St. Louis has achieved success at some level in addressing racial polarization and other issues of bias and bigotry related to human identity, in no area can we claim to have fully created the inclusive society envisioned and championed by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The St. Louis we all believe in and have helped to build is still an imperfect place, in spite of great progress made in the past generation. Access and opportunity are not equal for all. As we imagine the equitable society of which we dream, hard work, moral strength, and dedication to purpose are not yet the only requirements for fulfilling the American dream. As we look to the future, how can each of us become the empowered leaders that make the dream a reality?

Ordained by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America in 1978, Dr. Rafanan ministered an African American congregation near O’Fallon Park on the northern part of the city for nearly 20 years. There he was “trained” by his parishioners to be aware of the structural impact of racism and to understand how cultural representations, public policies, and institutional procedures interact to maintain racial hierarchies that produce disparate and negative outcomes for people of color in the City of St. Louis.

As director of NCCJSTL, he has had the opportunity of increasing the size and scope of the organization’s work in St. Louis, collaborating with community leaders to develop new training programs and community initiatives that empower leaders to change institutions and transform community.

First Amendment Sunday; Kate Lovelady, Leader

January 7, 2007

The First Amendment–particularly the rights of freedom of speech, freedom from government-established religion, and freedom to practice religion– is one of the most important and controversial parts of U.S. law. The Ethical movement has long been a player in the struggle for these rights, both as one of the influences that created the ACLU and as a minority religion in one of the most publicly religious countries in the world.

Ethical Culture philosophy suggests that diversity and the ability to listen to views with which we disagree are requirements of ethical living.

But what are the limits of First Amendment rights, and what are the responsibilities that go along with these rights? Where are the lines between censorship, tolerance, and encouragement? This Sunday we’ll look at first amendment rights and controversies as they relate to our ethical growth, our Ethical Society, and our nation.

Ethics begins in the home; Curt Collier, Leader of Riverdale-Yonkers Society

December 10, 2006

The goal of ethical religion is not to instill a set of beliefs, but to foster the development of ethical personalities: people who feel connected to all of life and to others, and who strive to bring out the life-affirming qualities in others. But how does one do this? How do we elicit the best from our children? This talk explores the origin of ethics within a human heart and how to create a home environment that allows ethics to blossom.

Curt Collier is a graduate of the Humanist Institute and the Post Graduate Center for Mental Health. He is completing a Doctorate in Ministry (ABD) from Hebrew Union College. He is the founder of Just Matrimony, promoting marriage equality for gays and lesbians, and served as co-Mentor for the Humanist Institute and the Humanist in Leadership Training programs. Curt has traveled extensively promoting Ethical Culture and was credited for founding the Ethical Society of Austin, Texas. Curt is Adjunct Faculty with the University Studies Department at Hofstra University. He has served on several committees for the American Ethical Union (including the Assembly Committee and the Leadership Training Committee) and has served on faculty of the Lay Leadership Summer School. Curt enjoys traveling and his plays have appeared on several stages in the New York area. He was a recipient of a grant from the Bronx Council of the Arts for his play Yeats: Mad as the Mist and Snow, and his play Displaced Moments was performed off-off Broadway.

On solitude and community; Bob Greenwell, Leader Mid Rivers Ethical Society,

November 26, 2006

Americans are desperate for community. They are flocking to conservative churches that have mastered the art of providing meaningful and plentiful small groups. Meanwhile the mainstream liberal Christian denominations, tied to traditional forms of large (and anonymous) gatherings on Sunday, and each follower left to his own devices the rest of the time, have been dwindling in membership. But community is not all that a human being needs. A person needs a degree of solitude as well. However, just as there are substitute and fake forms of community that do not fulfill in the long run, so there are substitute and fake forms of solitude as well.

Bob Greenwell is Leader of our offspring Mid Rivers Ethical Society, which began accepting members in January, 2004. Their membership now stands at 40. Bob has an M.Ed. in counseling, is married to Kathleen, and is the proud grandfather of four. He has known solitude from his Catholic seminary days (eons ago!) and his Siddha Yoga meditation. He has known community from family and from the Ethical Society.

Infinite Interrelatedness; Kate Lovelady, Leader

November 12, 2006

Felix Adler defined spirituality as awareness of our “infinite interrelatedness.” A few weeks ago, we explored our emotional and imaginative awareness of our interdependence with each other and the natural world. This Sunday, we’ll look at philosophical theories and beliefs. Ethical Culture’s assertion of universal human worth grew out of a long discussion in philosophy about human nature: How are we different from other animals? Are we more than material beings? On what can we ground our beliefs in worth and dignity and human rights? Adler’s struggle with these issues will lead us to perhaps the hardest question in ethics: What is our ethical responsibility to others? How do we live with that sense of responsibility and use it to inspire us?

“If men talked about only what they understood, the silence would become unbearable.” – Max Lerner ”

“Love the animals, love the plants, love everything. If you love everything, you will perceive the divine mystery in things. Once you perceive it, you will begin to comprehend it better every day. And you will come at last to love the whole world with an all-embracing love.” – Fyodor Dostoyevsky

Parenting at the speed of the internet; John Hoad, PhD, Leader Emeritus

November 5, 2006

At the request of our Leader (Kate Lovelady), John Hoad is addressing guidance on parenting. John’s qualifications include raising five children and enjoying five grandchildren. But are these qualifications out of date as we move into the Age of the Internet? Just as many of us could not help with New Math when it became standard, can we help our children face the growing frontier posed by new technology? Or are they out beyond us? The American Association of Pediatrics has recently called for some good old-fashioned playtime for our kids, and less regimentation and less devotion to video games. What are the values that abide that each generation needs to learn to build an ethical world? How can we address the Confucian challenge that there be a thread of values that runs from the individual through the family, through the nation, to the laws of the universe?

Dr. Hoad is a Leader Emeritus of the Ethical Society of St. Louis, having served 1980-1994. He lives in Charleston, SC, where he and his wife, Karen, have a practice based on her work as a hypnotist and his as a lifetime coach. John is a native of Barbados and previously served as a Methodist minister and seminary president in the Caribbean. After retirement from the Society, he served with Provident Counseling of St. Louis and as a visiting preacher for Emerson and Alton Unitarian churches.

Principle centered parenting: Dropping out of the new “gerbil race”; Tim Jordan, MD

October 29, 2006

The rat race to “keep up with the Joneses” starting in the 1950s was about “things,” i.e., homes, cars, appliances. The “gerbil” race today is about children: getting your kids in the “right” school, on the “right” select sports teams, building the perfect resume. Kids are growing up too fast, being treated as adults, and are stressed out and overextended. Dr. Jordan will lay out the costs to kids and families due to these extraordinary pressures and he will inspire parents to take control of their families’ lives, parenting from the principles and values important to them.

A nationally known speaker and educator, Tim Jordan, M.D., has dedicated his career to helping children and families. As a key media consultant, he has appeared on national and local television and radio and hosted the weekly radio show “Families First.”

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