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Imagining abundance: Ethical giving and growing; Kate Lovelady, Leader

January 29, 2006

One thing that separates successful institutions and movements from unsuccessful ones is the ability to talk straight about money. We often feel confused, conflicted, and guilty about how and how much we make and spend. Our discomfort with the topic keeps us from looking squarely at how we’re spending and what we’re really getting for our money. But if we’re unclear about the role of money in our lives, we’re easily manipulated into a cycle of unsatisfying purchases and equally unsatisfying charity. How can we move away from a defensive view that emphasizes scarcity and competition, and toward a view that recognizes the unprecedented abundance that now exists, and the power each of us has to make a difference?

Truthiness: the Vatican and the gay response; Sam Sinnett, DignityUSA

January 22, 2006

A panel of linguists recently decided that the word that best describes 2005 is “truthiness” — the quality of stating concepts one wishes or believes to be true, rather than the facts. While some Americans would relate that to current U.S. political issues and the war in Iraq it also describes the increasingly virulent statements of the Vatican, the pope and many US Roman Catholic bishops related to Gay/Lesbian/Bisexual/Transgender (GLBT) issues. The Roman Catholic hierarchy may well be the most powerful anti-GLBT voice in the world with religious and political influence far beyond just Catholics. DignityUSA has long offered a counterbalancing voice must sought after and respected in the media, particularly in the USA but in other English speaking countries as well. DignityUSA, its local chapters and members publicly dissent from Catholic Church teaching that homosexual sexual orientation is objectively disordered and that gay and lesbian relationships are inherently evil. For this public dissent DignityUSA is in exile, not officially allowed to meet on Catholic Church property.

Sam Sinnett is a native Saint Louisan who is currently the national president of DignityUSA, www.DignityUSA.org – one of the oldest national gay and lesbian organizations – for gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender (GLBT) Catholics. DignityUSA works for respect and justice for all GLBT persons in the Catholic Church and the world through education, advocacy and support. Sam grew up in Saint Louis, attended high school here and is a graduate of the Catholic Jesuit College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, MA. He was married for over 18 years, has 3 children, came out as a gay man late in life, is currently divorced / single. He has recently appeared on or been quoted in our local press and media on Channels 2 and 4 and KMOX radio.

Where do we go from here? Malik Ahmed, of Better Family Life, Inc.

January 15, 2006

Malik Ahmed will develop the theme, “Where Do We Go From Here?”, an address delivered by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in 1967. His presentation will examine how today’s African American community is still challenged by many of the same menacing forces that were highlighted by Dr. King over 38 years ago.

Mr. Ahmed will highlight the inequality that persists in keeping many members of the African American community oppressed, evidenced by rising health costs, unemployment, poor education and racist institutional practices. He will conclude his address by urging the need for the continuation of the civil rights struggle. In Mr. Ahmed’s opinion, the new focus of the movement should be on the internal development of the African American family. Mr. Ahmed passionately believes the organization he founded in 1983 – Better Family Life, Inc. – offers a new and progressive initiative in the goal of uplifting the Black masses. BFL’s job training program for the chronically unemployed has graduated over 2,000 adults and has a 12-month job retention rate of 80%. The program received the Governor’s Award for the Most Innovative Training/Workforce Program in 2000 and the Cultural Competency Award in 2001, both from the East-West Gateway Coordinating Council of Governments. In 2002, BFL opened its third job training site. Under Mr. Ahmed’s leadership, BFL has developed youth, cultural arts and housing down payment assistance programs to serve low to moderate income residents throughout the metropolitan community. In 2005, BFL purchased the former Ralph Waldo Emerson School in St. Louis. The organization is currently in a capital campaign to raise $4 million for renovating the site as a cultural center and museum.

Malik Ahmed holds a Bachelor’s degree in Economics and a Master’s degree in Public Administration/Policy Analysis. Prior to his involvement with BFL, he was a registered representative of The Moneta Group, a financial planning firm. He serves on several community and civic boards of directors.

It’s not easy bein’ green; Kate Lovelady, Leader

January 8, 2006

“Bein’ Green” was sung by Kermit the Frog on Sesame Street when I was young. The message of the song is that we should resist those outside voices telling us whom we should be, and instead develop the unique gifts we each have to offer. One of the first steps in ethical development is becoming comfortable with ourselves, so that we can be active participants in society and so that we don’t feel threatened by those who are different. Since I started following a vegan diet a couple of years ago, however, the phrase “It’s not easy being green” has developed yet another meaning for me. For my installation Sunday, I’d like to share some of the personal experiences and lessons I’ve learned from becoming vegan—particularly, what it teaches me about becoming comfortable with ethical choices, and what being different from many of my friends and family teaches me about “bringing out the best in others” when you disagree. Many folks join Ethical Societies seeking the fellowship of like-minded individuals, yet we can only be a vital Ethical Society if we also recognize, respect, and welcome the many ways in which we are different.

Ethics Lost to Fear; Redditt Hudson

October 9, 2005

Where ethics provide a guideline that is eminently humane regarding our decisions about how we will live with ourselves and others, adherence to this guideline requires, at some point, an inventory of self, an inventory of community, and ever larger groupings relative to the ethics of each and our individual contribution to the ethical fabric of them. To some extent we have forsaken a commitment to ethical living in the following way – we have allowed fear, for too long, to make us hesitate to act on our ethics, and our inaction has hurt us all.

Redditt Hudson is the Racial Justice Associate for the American Civil Liberties Union of Eastern Missouri. A former St. Louis police officer, he left the force in 1999 and devoted himself to addressing issues of police misconduct and to searching for ways to improve police-community relations. He has a significant history of work on issues critical to the social, cultural, and economic well-being of African-American communities and is especially concerned with the well-being of youths. In the past, he worked with serious juvenile offenders at the Hogan Youth Correctional Facility and provided them with alternative constructive choices to help them modify their behavior prior to community reentry. Redditt Hudson has held positions with the St. Louis Emergency Children’s Home and Better Family Life Incorporated. In 2000, he founded Project Peace, an organization which addresses issues of accountability and responsibility for students in high schools and in communities.

Mr. Hudson attended University City High School and graduated from St. Louis University where he also played basketball. He is currently enrolled in the Criminology program at the University of Missouri – St. Louis. He is married and the father of four.

Translating Jesus for Today; John Hoad, Leader

October 2, 2005

Several Ethical Leaders have given high praise to the Jesus of history. Among these are Felix Adler himself, David Muzzey, and Horace Bridges. What they did, and what John Hoad proposes to do, is to get back past the ecclesiastical Jesus and the evangelical Jesus, and attempt to describe what it must have been like to meet with the historical Jesus and feel the impact of his revolutionary teaching, and then to translate that into modern language and concepts. John has been a student of the Gospel story for over fifty years, and will crystallize out the essentials, as he sees them, of the impact of Jesus. This is a vision of the Humanist Jesus.

Dr. John Hoad is a native of Barbados. He studied in England and Europe to become a British Methodist minister. He served in Guyana and Jamaica. In Jamaica, he became President of the United Theological College of the West Indies, from 1968 to 1972, when he came to the United States to pursue a Ph.D. in counseling at Princeton Theological Seminary. He was a professional counselor in Princeton and then in Saint Louis. From 1980 to 1994, John was the Leader of our Ethical Society. He and his wife Karen moved to Charleston, South Carolina, in 2002.

Truth is the holy grail; James Hoggard

September 18, 2005

Knowledge is important. More knowledge is available to us than to any previous generation. What is the best way to sort fact from fiction? Why is that important?

Rational thinking and observation help us learn the nature of reality. Sadly, this is not always the approach taken, even though the application of science is so obvious in almost everything that distinguishes our modern age. Many people believe that certain propositions that were decided in more primitive times should not be subject to reexamination. The speaker believes truth is paramount, that it is always tentative and the best means at our disposal should be employed in its pursuit.

James Hoggard received degrees from college and seminary in pursuit of the career of Christian minister. After serving in that capacity for 13 years, he left the ministry and turned his hobby of tinkering with automobiles into a new career. He operated Hoggard’s Car Place in St. Louis for 25 years, before retiring in 1998. He joined the Ethical Society of St. Louis in 1976.

Remembrance: The anatomy of a memory, Don Johnson, Leader

June 12, 2005

Individual memory and collective memory are necessary for our individual and cultural identity. To remember is to bring alive again the past, as well as move us toward a future. To remember is to re-participate. If our lives are to have a coherent meaning, memory will be at work in us. With no sense of personal or social history, the fabric of our lives unwinds and disintegrates.

The Dance Of Relationships; Don Johnson, Leader

May 8, 2005

Relationships of all kinds are like a dance. Some faith traditions, such as Hinduism, emphasize the interrelationship, richness and beauty of all of life. We must have within us the knowledge of what makes relationships succeed, be attentive to the movements of the other persons and fill our relationships with spontaneity and richness.

“Let us be grateful to people who make us happy; they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.” – Marcel Proust

How much is good enough?; Anne Klaeysen, Leader Long Island Ethical Society

April 24, 2005

Ethical Culture founder Felix Adler’s early idealism was, to a large extent, superceded in the following century by philosophies of naturalism and pragmatism. What does that transition really mean to most of us? Some faith traditions root their authenticity, and base their practices, on authoritative tests. Ethical culture faith rests on a combined study of philosophy, ethics and science. From whence come our religious authenticity and authority? On what basis do we form our traditions and practices? Leader Anne Klaeysen examines the shift from an ideal or perfectibility to a concept of wholeness and asks the question: “How much is good enough?”

Anne Klaeysen is Leader of the Ethical Humanist Society of Long Island. She is a graduate of the Humanist Institute and holds Masters degree in German from the State University of New York at Albany and Business Administration from New York University. This spring Anne will complete work towards a Doctor of Ministry from Hebrew Union College in New York City.

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