Opening Words from Sun. August 19 by Kayla Vaughan

August 19, 2018

Good Morning. I want to talk about the Ethical Society’s One Read. You may live in a community that has done this. We have announced plans for the Ethical Society’s One read in the last several programs. I am very enthusiastic about both the concept and the book that has been chosen.

All of us who participate in the Ethical One Read will be having the same experience. Reading the same book is community building. It will give us something in common with other members here. Many of us have been coming to Ethical for a long time and know a lot of people; and that is a very comfortable place to be. But it can inhibit us from meeting members we do not know or rarely talk to. Others of us are newer members. It can sometimes be hard to initiate conversation or feel included. Hopefully, we will all welcome the opportunity to have conversations about this book with others, whether we know them or not.

Reading it will put us on equal footing and provide the basis for exchanging ideas and getting to know one another better. Ethical Humanists do not have the go-to One reads that other religious communities have— the Bible for Christians, the Koran for Muslims, the Torah for Jews, etc. But everyone knows that Stories are how we transmit culture, explore values and learn about life’s hard choices.

The book that has been chosen for the One Read is no simple parable. It is a rich and complex memoir which explores both suffering and personal redemption. It is a dramatic story of a woman who saves herself by saving others. Regardless of the reader’s life experience, the book will evoke powerful memories, allowing the reader to empathize with the author’s suffering, shame , guilt and ultimately, her successes and triumphs. It touches the reader deeply.

Becoming Ms. Burton is also a very cogent introduction to the prison industrial complex which has arisen in the U.S. in the last 30 or so years. Reading this book provides the reader with an education about mass incarceration and why it is now at a crisis level.

You are about to hear a very moving platform. I admire Samantha and Krystal very much for being willing to share some painful, personal stories. Their willingness to be vulnerable and self-revealing is a testament to their trust in this community. Their trust in us is a gift. I hope it will motivate you to read the book, come to discussions, and inspire random conversations with strangers here, waiting to become your friends.

NOTE: The ideas and opinions in this post do not necessarily express the thoughts or opinions of the Ethical Society of St. Louis or its leadership.

Art Show – Sharp Shooters

August 15, 2018

What happens when a group of women artists get together to discuss their photography and critique new work? The Sharp Shooters happen!

This group of dynamic women – Nancy Bridges, Anna Harris, Jo McCredie, Marion Noll, Marianne Pepper, Erica Popp, Joan Proffer, Naomi Runtz, Valerie Snyder, Barbie Steps, Kay Wood and Barbara Zucker – comprise a contemporary salon, an assemblage of talented artists, who have been meeting and exhibiting their work together in the St Louis area since 2009.

Coming together with different backgrounds and viewpoints, the Sharp Shooters share a great sense of camaraderie. Their animated discussions are always lively and focus on improving their personal visions. They travel together and individually, exploring the world around us – dedicated to creating photographic art.

The Sharp Shooters are excited to display their favorite pieces of diverse work from the past years, pulled from their years of many shows at local art galleries and universities.

The exhibit will open on Friday, September 21, and run through Sunday, October 28, in the front lobby of the Ethical Society of St Louis. A reception will be held on Sunday, September 23, from 12:30 PM to 2:30 PM.

Listing of all Art Shows.

Art Show – Bernard Ranford

August 15, 2018

The works of Bernard Ranford will be exhibited at the Ethical Society upstairs gallery from August 5 through September 18. A reception will be held Sunday, August 5 at 12:30 in the foyer.

This month’s art exhibit features works done by member Alan Ranford’s father in the period between from 1908 to 1922. It mainly displays his love for the sea. As a youth, he spent several summers crewing on a sailing barge carrying coal and gravel between the English port of Bristol and ports along the North coast of Devon and Cornwall. He took photographs and made sketches and later, at home in Malvern in the Midlands, he would compose them into the scenes that are exhibited. Some of the other works were done while attending Art School, others were sketched on the backs of any paper at hand.

He spent much of the Great War working in an armaments factory after being invalided out of the Army. Back home after the War, while working in his Dad’s business, he studied art and the piano with hopes of a career as a concert pianist. He really was that good. When my grandfather got cancer and died, the business was found to be greatly in debt and bankruptcy was recommended. He decided the debts had to be paid so his art and the piano career were set aside. He played his piano on Sunday afternoons, the only time he took off, but never again practiced his drawing skills. He died during an operation at the age of 63.

Listing of all Art Shows.

Opening Words from Sun. July 8 by Trish Cowan

July 8, 2018

In Buddhism, the Four Noble Truths state that desire and attachment are the cause of all suffering — and the only way to end suffering is to overcome desire and attachment. When I first learned that concept, it really spoke to me. For years, I’d craved a way to end suffering – specifically, my own. I was intrigued by the idea that the Buddha had been able to disconnect himself from relationships and earthly desires and had found a way to Enlightenment. That peace sounded really nice.

But the lifestyle that the Buddha prescribed was not for me. I just couldn’t commit. Although I was drawn to the idea of disconnecting, I had too much of a tendency to engage. Once I had children, as most of you can relate to, my attachments became less about me and more about them and their wants and needs.

Opening Words from Sun. July 1 by Roy Overmann: “Desire for Money”

July 1, 2018

I want to pose a question for Americans to think about. First, I want to give you some information:

The six wealthiest Americans are:

  • Jeff Bezos 110 billion
  • Bill Gates 70 billion
  • Warren Buffett 60 billion
  • Mark Zuckerberg 60 billion
  • Koch Brothers 120 billion

Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates and Warren Buffett together have more wealth than the entire
bottom half of the country combined.

One Book, One Ethical Society

May 25, 2018

The Ethical Society of St. Louis End Racism Team invites you to participate in a community-wide reading of Becoming Ms. Burton: From Prison to Recovery to Leading the Fight for Incarcerated Women by Susan Burton and Cari Lynn.

Based on the One Book concept promoted by local libraries and communities, we encourage members and friends of the Ethical Society to read the book over the summer and then participate in book discussions and other community activities during the late summer and early fall. The End Racism Team’s goal is to promote learning and community engagement on an issue that affects so many on a local, regional, and national level. Susan Burton says it best herself, “Telling your story is transformative. For both the storyteller and their audience, a new bridge to understanding is created.”

If you wish to participate, please complete reading the book by September 16.

Use this link to receive a 20% discount from Left Bank Books.

Questions? Please reach out to members of the End Racism Team at

Opening Words from Sun. May 13 by Michelle Simkins

May 13, 2018

Good morning. When I was asked to do opening words today I didn’t quite realize what I was agreeing to at the time . May’s theme is grief and sorrow and today is Mother’s day, and unfortunately for me those topics are intertwined. 7 years ago this month my mom passed away after losing the battle against pancreatic cancer. I wasn’t sure if I should even talk about this since my mom’s passing is still a tough topic for me to talk about even 7 years after, but given the day and circumstances I decided it was something I wanted to do.

Art Show – Joy Wade

May 7, 2018

Jolly Rancher by Joy Wade

My work is an extension of myself. It is a non-verbal language that reaches out and connects with people. I have been passionate about the human figure since childhood. I paint because I have to. It is what keeps me grounded.

I pull images from experiences, society, and basic human needs, desires, and dreams that are timeless. Each subject is personal in both selection and execution. My work strives to convey human yearnings and stories, and I exhibit them in a distinctive century old stylistic aesthetic; the subjects are often framed within the context of their daily lives and sometimes I bring attention to subjects I think are often overlooked.

I love working in different mediums, which has developed my mix medium style, a technique of blending mediums such as acrylic, watercolors, color pencils, and sometimes paper (skins). A graduate of Saint Louis University, with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Studio Art and Media Innovation, I have exhibited in many solo and group shows in the Mid-West, and my work has been published in national and independent magazines.

Joy Wade’s exhibit will open on Friday, 8 June, with a reception from 12:30 to 2:30 on 10 June. The exhibit will be hanging through 16 July.

Listing of all Art Shows.

Art Show – Harvey Salvin

May 5, 2018

Painting has been the core of my creative process and purpose, even though I followed a path that led me to choose stained glass design for the majority of my career.  Previously I was dedicated to being a young painter with promise under the German Expressionist Karl Zerbe at the Boston Museum School of Fine Arts (BMSFA).  The Korean War intervened, and after 2 years of service, I completed my 5th year of study, a serious painter, intending to go to Europe. My ticket to Europe, the GI Bill, necessitated a change of study to stained glass.  After three years at the Edinburgh College of Art, punctuated by three summers in the Art Museums of Europe, I found I was enraptured equally with painting and glass.

It was the 1960’s and the Revival of the “lost art” of stained glass.  Fate stepped in and I received numerous commissions and a secure teaching engagement at the BMSFA lasting several years. I initially met with opposition from the stained glass establishment in Boston after my first installation, a majestically scaled 50-foot high window in nearby Norwell, Massachusetts.  This did not deter me. I continued with a number of monumental installations in New England and Great Britain.

Nevertheless, painter I remained in my heart and soul.  This proved to be a great complement to my stained glass design, which was received as “a fresh approach.”  As I continued work in glass, my thoughts of returning to painting were nurtured.  Throughout my career, I was keeping good company, if only in my imagination, with the painters I so admired.

The long space between my life as a stained glass designer and now as a painter was a time of transition, merging the energy and assurance gained in glass design with all the subtleties of painting.  I broke my long “fast” two years ago to enter a painting for the first Art St. Louis show “Maturity and Its Muse”, and surprised myself, simultaneously, accepting an opportunity for a solo exhibition of 54 paintings at Kirkwood Community College in Cedar Rapids, Iowa in November 2016. I wish for those who come to see the work of my quiet years to find satisfaction, a quiet voice, and a change of pace.

Harvey Salvin’s exhibit will open on Thursday, 10 May, with a reception from 12:30 to 2:30 on 13 May. The exhibit will be hanging through 3 June.

Listing of all Art Shows.

Pageant of Plastiques

April 23, 2018

In honor of Earth Day, the Sunday Ethical Education for Kids (SEEK) program presented a Pageant of Plastiques fashion show, which featured accessories crafted from plastic and this slideshow full of plastic facts.

SEEK students challenge you to use less plastic and use your imagination to re-use the plastic you’ve already got.

RFT names the Society a place “way more beautiful than you’d expect”

April 14, 2018

The River Front Times has named the Ethical Society of St. Louis as one of 19 St. Louis Places That Are Way More Beautiful Than You’d Expect.

Read more about our Clayton Road building.

Opening Words from Sun. April 8 by Treasure Shields Redmond: “Why A Black Woman Named Fannie Lou Hamer Matters Now More Than Ever”

April 9, 2018

Who was Fannie Lou Hamer?

When one thinks of the millions of souls lost during the transatlantic slave trade, the missed potential immediately jumps to mind. All genocide robs us of the few geniuses that each culture produces. At the beginning of the previous century the pernicious system named Jim Crow served as another sort of genocide in the U.S. A genocide of potential. Many scholars have written of the number of lynchings during Jim Crow, perhaps the most famous one being Ida B. Wells’s A Red Record. Along with the incomprehensible loss of life, however, are the people who lived, but not really. The ones who weren’t fortunate enough to die. Those who lived believing a system that counted them as less valuable, less competent, less human; that this system was right, godly, and, (maybe worst of all), unchangeable.

Board Nominees – 2018

March 17, 2018

The Nominating Committee members – Cathy Pickard, Ellen Wilson, Judy Kulczycki, and Cy Henningsen – are pleased to submit to the Board and to the membership the following nominees for the Ethical Society Board of Trustees:

Amanda Verbeck – President-Elect

Amanda Verbeck

Amanda is an artist, printmaker, and small business owner at Pele Prints. She joined the Ethical Society in 2015. Since then, Amanda has been involved in many groups and projects through out the Society, including the Young Ethicals, Branding Team, Diversity Task Force, Aesthetics Group, Evolution Exhibit, Lay Leadership Development Committee, and more. The community and people at the Society have become an integral part of her life, and excited about the prospect of serving the Society in a major leadership capacity

Christine Floss – Secretary

Christine Floss

Christine first learned about the Ethical Society when her daughter, Amanda Stadermann, participated in SEEK’s Coming of Age program, and she joined as a member in 2008. A geochemist by training she is currently a research professor in the Physics Department at Washington University, studying the origin and evolution of our solar system. Christine has served on the Board in multiple roles, including as President, Secretary and Trustee-at-large. She is entering the second year of her current three-year term as trustee.  If approved by the membership, the upcoming year will also be her second as Secretary.

Matthew Hile – Trustee

Matthew Hile

Matthew retired as a Research Associate Professor Emeritus from UMSL’s Missouri Institute of Mental Health. He and his wife Allison have been members since 1982. Over the years, he has served on Ethical Education Committee (member and Chair), Program Council (member and Chair), the Board (member), Personnel Committee (member), the Leader Search Committee (Chair) that selected Kate, and the Governance Task Force (Chair) which created our current governance structure.  In 2016 he was honored to be a recipient of the AEU’s Anna Garlin Spencer award for outstanding long-term volunteer contributions to the Ethical Society of St. Louis.

Note:  Ethical Society By-Laws allow for additional nominations to the Board, via petition.  Members in good standing may be nominated to open Board positions by written petition, signed by at least ten active members and filed at the Society office at least 30 days prior to the Annual Membership Meeting (May 15, 2018).  If the nominee-by-petition is running to be an officer of the Board, the position must be specified.

Post-Platform Reflection: James Croft’s “Get Angry, Make Change”

March 15, 2018
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I was raised in New York City during a recession, and it often seemed like an angry place, at least in public. I recently read that New Yorkers smile less than people in any other city in America. I have spent a lot of my adult life trying to learn to be less angry and less defensive. I read stoic philosophy and practice mindfulness meditation and seek to be a calm and peaceful person. And I believe that to the extent I’ve succeeded at this, it’s helped me be a better Ethical Leader.

So I was challenged by James’s Platform “Get Angry, Make Change,” and his argument that “it is heat that allows us to bend the iron of the world. Hot hearts make change, not cool heads.” I have often wondered at how to ensure that calm does not mean apathetic, and peaceful does not mean inactive. At the same time, I believe that the most effective change is brought about by a hot heart ruled by a cool head, or at least that the two need not be in conflict. I think anger can be great and even necessary in the gas tank, but I worry when it’s sitting in the driver’s seat.

James referenced psychologists who differentiate between anger and rage, with anger being a motivator of positive action and rage being a blinding emotion that causes people to lash out. This reminds me of what I read a couple months ago in The Book of Joy, in preparation for my Platform Address “Is Comparison the Thief of Joy?” The book is a set of discussions between Bishop Desmond Tutu and the Dalai Lama, two men who maintain joyful outlooks on life despite seeing and experiencing great hardship. They differentiate between what we might call “righteous” anger, which is anger on behalf of others that motivates us to fight injustice, and what we might call “self-righteous” anger, which is more about our own egos.

There are also tactical considerations with anger and its use and expression. There is a difference between being motivated by anger and expressing ourselves angrily.

I took to heart James’s call that we should “try to become more comfortable with the anger of others–particularly the anger of women and people of color, who are often subject to damaging stereotypes when they allow themselves to show anger.”

Yet a practical problem with angry rhetoric is that it whips up those who already agree with us but alienates those who don’t. And anger is almost always met with anger—so if anger is motivating, then making our opponents angry also motivates them. And then you have a fight rather than dialogue, debate, or negotiation.

I’m really not sure how I feel about anger, to be honest. Maybe James is right and sometimes you need to have a fight to have any change at all.

James shared several videos of people who had lost loved ones to gun violence; their anger was palpable, and contagious. And indeed their anger has reignited a movement that might turn out to be even more powerful than the weapons industry. I certainly hope so.

James Croft quoted in Clayton Patch article

March 15, 2018

James Croft, Outreach Director, was quoted in the Clayton Patch article Clayton High School Students Stage Walkout Over Gun Violence.

James Croft, outreach director of the Ethical Society of St. Louis — part of the American Ethical Union — has lobbied for stricter gun laws, and called the rise in student activism encouraging. Such civic engagement, he said, is important to the development of young people into responsible adults. Croft holds a doctorate in human development and education from Harvard University.

“Young people have a right to autonomy,” he said. “Some people are concerned about young people leaving their schools and classrooms to participate in these protests. But my perspective, as a former high school teacher, is that it’s extremely important as part of their civic education to actively participate in the political process. It’s profoundly educational to participate in walkouts like the ones happening today. I believe it is so important at this moment for young people to make their voices heard.”

He said the best way for students to learn autonomy is to create something of value in their communities, and he praised the efforts of students at Clayton High School and elsewhere in working toward that goal.

“What these students are doing is trying to change the society in which they live, a society in which they have a stake but not a vote, so they’re coming up with creative ways to bring attention to the issues that are important to them,” Croft said. “I think that demonstrates a high level of maturity, and I think it is to be respected and supported.”

(Archived copy)

SEEK Parent Talk Slideshow on Regulating Emotions

March 13, 2018

School Psychologist Shannon Davis discussed the ways we can cultivate healthy emotional regulation skills in our children during a SEEK Parent Talk on Regulating Emotions March 4, 2018.

She addressed the following questions in the below slideshow: How can we recognize our kids’ triggers, avoid power struggles, coach kids to cope with strong, negative feelings, and work with our kids’ educators to provide appropriate support? What are schools’ protocols for de-escalation and reporting their interventions when kids’ explosive feelings become challenging behaviors?

She was gracious enough to share her slideshow.


Opening Words from Sun. March 11 by Brian Vandenberg: “Why Me?!”

March 11, 2018

“The fault, dear Brutus is not in our stars, but in ourselves, that we are underlings." 
This famous line from Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar wisely advises that we are not doomed by
the heavens, but by ourselves. I would like to add a corollary– -that how we regard the stars can
doom or liberate us; that our lives are deeply affected by our cosmology.

Consider: “Why me?!”

Post-Platform Reflection: That Uppity Theatre Company’s “Playhouse Emissions: Climate Change Theatre”

March 8, 2018
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Climate change is an urgent problem, yet so many people remain in denial or have crossed over into despair—and the result of both of these emotional states is inaction. I’ve read, heard, and seen a lot of presentations on climate change, and even though I’m an avid environmentalist, frankly I find it hard sometimes to get up the energy to go to yet another climate change event—Will I learn anything new? Will this change anything, or will I just feel more depressed afterward?

So I was excited last fall when the Ethical Society of St. Louis had the opportunity to host a climate change theatre and action evening, part of a coordinated international event to use the power of creative performance to educate and motivate people in a different way. And I was thrilled when That Uppity Theatre Company and Ashleyliane Dance Company agreed to do a slightly shorter version of that evening as a special Arts Festival Sunday Platform.

Unfortunately if you weren’t there in person, you missed two powerful dance pieces, but you can still experience the short plays through the podcast. I think many of us can identify with the characters, from the activist with the bumper crop of bumper stickers, to the gardener freaking out over the changes he sees in his own backyard, to the woman trying to figure out how to balance desire for a simple treat with the environmental impact of all our consumer choices. As a fan of science fiction, I found the futuristic plays to be particularly powerful, especially the little girl who could not even imagine having enough water to immerse her whole body in—That could be the real future of many places if global warming is allowed to continue.

But the play that left me with the most urgent questions is the final one, in which our future ancestors view the last surviving Homo Sapiens in a zoo or reserve. They find us cutely primitive and reassure us that they understand we did the best we could. I found that forgiveness kind, but false, at least so far. I wish we were currently doing the best we can. Instead, most of us are falling far short of making real efforts to cut our energy consumption and to insist that companies and governments make the necessary changes to reverse climate change. Hopefully, science and politics will be joined by more creative responses such as climate change theatre to help move more people on a deeper level, so that one day our ancestors, whether Homo Sapiens or something new, can truly say we did our best.

Post Platform Reflection: Kate Lovelady’s “Love Stinks”

March 6, 2018
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Kate’s Platform Address on Sunday, “Love Stinks,” drew our attention to the negative aspects of love. She reminded us that love can be unbearable, insufferable, painful – it isn’t always chocolates and roses. Our love can be unrequited; we may never find love; there are challenges in every loving relationship, so even if we find love, we can find it difficult; love is sometimes insufficient to sustain a relationship; it is terrible to lose love, given the vulnerability love requires; sometimes we are bad at loving others, and sometimes we are loved badly. Love can be as upsetting as it can be uplifting.

It may seem depressing to dive with such enthusiasm into the downsides of love. There is a tendency, in our culture, to recoil from anything which might complicate our picture of “positive” emotions. So many of our cherished cultural stories about love exalt it as the perfect union of two people, the best possible achievement in life – when in truth, a perfect relationship is impossible, and there are many routes to happiness, some of which do not involve love at all.

That’s why I appreciated Kate’s perspective on love so much. It’s important to keep love – and other goals our culture sets up for us – in proper perspective. The stories we tell ourselves about love can be overwhelming and impossible to achieve, which makes us nervous and miserable. Having a realistic outlook enables us to meet love face to face, and have more reasonable expectations for our relationships.

This is a typically Ethical Humanist approach to things: we try to avoid putting anything on too high a pedestal, keeping our view realistic and honest. I look forward to Kate’s future Platform Addresses, “Laughter Sucks” and “Joy Isn’t All It’s Cracked Up To Be!”

Art Show – M. J. Goerke’s

March 5, 2018

M. J. Goerke

M. J. Goerke is a versatile and distinguished mixed media artist. Well known in the St. Louis artist community and the national art scene, Goerke is active in many organizations. She teaches for UM/SL and does artist in residence programs and workshops in the book arts for The Artists Guild, Foundry Art Centre, local colleges and schools to name a few. The winner of many prestigious awards in every category that she has done, she was the Best of Show Winner in 2000 for the prestigious St. Louis Art Fair. and the Peoria Art Fair the same year. She was a major winner of  a top awards in Salute to The Master in Illinois, seven times! She also has won top awards at the St. Louis Artists Guild, Art St. Louis, The Foundry Art Centre in St. Charles, Greater St. Louis Art Association, Peoria Art Guild, Ohio Street Fair in Columbus Ohio, Best of Show at Feast Chesterfield Arts.

Goerke is no stranger to many accolades in the art community. She has work in many collections across the country and Europe including Monsanto, Ohio State University Library, Fact Finder’s, Bonhomme Presbyterian Church, C.J Thomas Insurance Company, Federal Reserve Bank, St Louis Post Dispatch, Psychological Associates Des Moines, Iowa, Sylvan Learning Center, The International Museum of Collage, Mexico, Artcolle Museum in Sergines, France. Her work is in private collections in the United States, Canada, Japan, Australia, Mexico, France, England and Russia ( In the Russian Embassy).

Well respected for her work as well as her opinions of the art scene, she has curated book shows and juried exhibits. and worked on installations locally and out of town. A founding member of Thirteen Squared, a collaborative of women artists, who raise monies for the local art scene. She volunteers her time and knowledge to the community earning her the respect of local artists as well as some national artists. All this and she produces large volumes of work. A true renaissance woman.

M. J. Goerke’s exhibit will open on Friday, 27 April, with a reception from 12:30 to 2:30 on 29 April. The exhibit will be hanging through 4 June.

Listing of all Art Shows.