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Opening Words from Sun. January 24 by Krystal White: Why am I a Teacher?

January 24, 2021
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I have a story to tell.  A few years back, a student noticed a Washington University banner I had in my classroom.  After learning that I had both my undergraduate and graduate degrees from this great school, he looked simultaneously impressed and befuddled.  He cocked his head and asked “No offense, Ms. White, but if you have a degree from WashU, why would you become a teacher!?”  The answer is simple: teachers change lives.  Specifically, teachers changed my life.

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Sunday Mornings at the Ethical Society

January 17, 2021
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While our building has been closed during the pandemic, I wanted to take the opportunity to review our programs and get to the root of why we do what we do. What does the Ethical Society exist for, and do our programs achieve those goals? It’s good to return periodically to questions like these, to gain clarity around major decisions and to inform any changes which might be made. So, with a team of members and staff, I led an examination of our Sunday morning programming. We spent months looking at each program we offer on Sundays (especially Platform) asking what it is for and why we do it that way.

In our discussions we identified three core goals we hope our Sunday mornings will meet each week:

We want members and visitors to learn something new.

We want to inspire people to lead better lives.

We want to help people connect with others, building meaningful relationships.

Learning, Inspiration, and Connection: these are the three goals of Sunday mornings at the Ethical Society. But do we always achieve them? We felt that we almost always help our members and friends to learn something new; we often provide inspiring programming which encourages you to think about how you are living; but we don’t always do enough to connect our members with each other. Connection stood out as one of our most important goals – a major reason people join our community – but also the one we felt we could work harder to acheive.

How to promote more connection? After much discussion, I concluded that the current schedule of Sunday mornings hampers our ability to bring our members – and particularly new visitors – into relationship with each other. Having a pre-Platform Forum downstairs, followed by our main community gathering in Platform, followed again by a late coffee our when many people wish to leave for lunch, means that many people miss out on opportunities to connect with others on Sundays. So I came up with a proposal: why not flip the timing of Forum and Platform, so that Platform happens first (starting at 10am) followed by a menu of options focused on helping members build relationships?

There are many potential benefits to this proposal:

Members and visitors frequently express their desire to stay longer to connect with other members, but feel they have to leave at 12 to get lunch, it being so late. By moving Platform earlier we enable more people to stay and build connections with others after the main program.

This change enables post-Platform programs to offer a space for deeper discussion of the topics raised in Platform. Currently, many members express the desire to dig more deeply into the ideas Platform raises, but cannot either because they have to leave, or because we offer no dedicated space on Sunday to foster such discussions. This could provide a more cohesive Sunday morning experience.

Programs like Colloquy and Forum could benefit from increased participation, as people will receive an explicit invitation to attend them at the end of Platform. New visitors will attend for the “main event” and then be enticed to stay longer for another program.

By hosting post-Platform discussions in the Auditorium (instead of the Hanke Room as presently) we avoid some major problems with the current schedule. We often lose many people when shifting the speaker from the Auditorium to the Hanke room, leading to low turnout. Also, the post-Platform discussion often starts late, as many people wish to engage the speaker in discussion right after Platform. Finally, we make better use of our building: the Auditorium currently sits empty during Forum, while under the proposed new system the Auditorium and Hanke Room are used for meaningful programming simultaneously.

Congregational growth research suggests that while 11am used to be the overwhelmingly popular start time for congregational gatherings, that is no longer the case, and has not been for a number of years. One survey of 1,649 churches in 2015 found that the majority of churches held their gatherings at a time other than 11am, and that services with start times between 9:30 and 10:30am were most popular.

This change would also require changes to the SEEK program. I consulted with Kat (our SEEK Director, who supports this proposal), and we both see potential benefits to the SEEK program of this change:

Placing Platform first improves the flow of our children’s experience on Sunday mornings. Currently children are dropped off downstairs, do an hour of programming, then are taken up to Platform, then are brought back down again. This breaks up their experience and hampers the creation of a consistent learning environment. With the new timings, parents can bring their children straight to Platform then, when they are brought downstairs they will transition straight into SEEK programming until 12pm.

We are also proposing to flip SEEK programming so that the formal Ethical Education component happens first (after kids are brought down from Platform), followed by the workshop component (which is more like structured play). This means that the ethical education section will still have the same amount of time as before, and will occur without many adults in the Becker Room, while the workshop will act as a “treat” after the ethical education component is completed. Kat and I feel this revised experience more closely mirrors what young people are used to in school, in which more formal educational experiences precede less formal ones. We hope these changes will maintain the content and quality of our SEEK program, while making it easier for our staff to create a positive and structured learning environment.

This is a significant change, which is why I am proposing it well ahead of reopening, so we can collect the thoughts of the community. The proposal to try this rearranged schedule has already received the unanimous support of our staff and of our Board, and there is an all-Society Forum on Zoom on the 29th January at 7pm to discuss this with the membership – one of many opportunities you will have to express your thoughts in the months ahead.

These proposed changes were developed after taking into consideration many weeks of work by staff and members in various teams and committees. I hope they will enable our community to reopen our building confident that we have taken our enforced closure as a chance to review what we do and why we do it. I believe that we should make programming decisions – including decisions about when we gather as a community – based on deep reflection about our mission and goals. I think these proposed changes would make our Sunday morning programs flow better; would offer new opportunities for members and visitors to connect with each other; would make better use of our building; and would enable us to connect our programming in a more conscious and thoughtful way.

James Croft, Leader, Ethical Society of St. Louis

Opening Words from Sun. January 10 by Adam Bowen

January 12, 2021
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I grew up in a small church in Southern California called Shepherd of the Hills. I think it’s one of the most important influences in my life, even today. I never actually believed in anything, but that wasn’t unusual: Shepherd of the Hills belongs to the United Church of Christ, and just like Ethical Humanism, there is no creed. We might talk about different things when we’re together, but your beliefs are your own. Community was the most important part of our experience. We all came together with different beliefs and different religions—even if some of us more closely identified with the idea of non-belief.

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Climate Action Now! – Stick a Fork in Food Waste!

January 10, 2021
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Food waste

The problem of food waste and what we can do about it.

Presenter: Maggie McCoy, Education and Volunteer Coordinator | EarthWays Center of Missouri Botanical Garden
mmccoy@mobot.org

Presentation slides (pdf)

Presentation audio

Additional resources from Maggie McCoy

ACTIONS – Reducing food waste

CAN! materials

These materials have been prepared by the Society’s CAN! (Climate Action Now!) team. This post and its links do not express or imply an endorsement by the Ethical Society of St. Louis or its leadership.

AEU on the events of 6-Jan

January 7, 2021
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This statement first appeared on the American Ethical Union web site. If you would like, read it there.

Dear Friends and Members of Ethical Culture, 

Yesterday, we watched in shock and horror as a violent mob attacked the US Capitol, forcing their way inside and occupying areas of the building for hours in an attempt to disrupt the certification of electoral votes submitted by the states. By the end of the day, 4 people were dead, 52 members of the seditious mob were arrested, and 14 police officers were injured. It took the assistance of many additional federal law enforcement personnel and the National Guard to remove the attackers from the Capitol and clear the way for the Joint Congress to resume its work.

Fortunately, the Joint Congress was resolute and refused to let the interruption derail our democracy, working through the night to certify the electoral vote counts for all of the states. However, this episode was an attack on democracy itself, instigated by a sitting president whose actions have severely undermined respect for and trust in the very system that put him in office. 

Mr. Trump has shown only contempt for the democratic process and is a danger to our country.  People who are in a position to remove Mr. Trump from office ought to proceed in haste as this president has repeatedly shown readiness to incite violence and mayhem, and also continues to demonstrate an obsession with the electoral results to the seeming exclusion of other national concerns. Our democratic system of government must be protected from his influence.

As Ethical Humanists, we are called upon to repudiate the anti-democratic tendencies that have gained an unwelcome foothold in public life. Our country will need us to elicit the best from one another and ourselves in the months and years to come.

A Statement About the Recent Act of Sedition

January 6, 2021
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The following was written by Ethical Society of St. Louis Leader James Croft.

Terrorists stormed the US Capitol today in an unprecedented act of sedition after receiving verbal support from the sitting President. For hours violent mobs prevented Congress from performing its legally-necessary democratic functions, causing havoc as they smashed windows, occupied the House and Senate chambers, and caused at least one person to be shot to death. This was nothing less than an attempted coup, and one that for a short time was successful. Our elected representatives were forced to hide under desks and don gas masks as American citizens terrorized them in the very heart of American democracy itself.

While the scenes today are appalling they are not entirely surprising. These grotesqueries are the predictable conclusion of a presidency that has, at every turn, encouraged the growth of dangerous right-wing extremism. Trump, ahead of the presidential election, repeatedly refused to say he would support a peaceful transfer of power should he lose. He has repeatedly used the pulpit of his presidency to incite his supporters to refuse to accept the legitimate results of the election. He has lied incessantly about supposed irregularities in the election. Just hours prior to these shocking events he encouraged his supporters to march on the Capitol and, after they had taken over the Capitol building (and in the very statement in which he belatedly called on them to leave) he restated the false claim that this election was “stolen.”

Trump is not solely responsible for today’s events, however. The political forces which have given rise to today’s treasonous insurrection have been building for many years, facilitated at every turn by complicit politicians. Continuous attempts to restrict the franchise through gerrymandering and voter suppression; repeated opposition to any expansion of the welfare state to limit the deleterious effects of huge inequalities of wealth; an anti-political nihilism which has prevented any meaningful reform in nearly any area of politics; the courting of the worst parts of the human psyche, including racism, sexism, nationalism, homophobia, and anti-scientific conspiracy-theorizing for political gain – all these cynical acts of democratic vandalism have placed the very experiment of American democracy under threat.

As Leader of the Ethical Society of St. Louis, I deplore today’s assault on democracy and the political poison which provoked it, as inimical to the Humanist values our community promotes. We in St. Louis stand in solidarity with the Washington Ethical Society, the Northern Virginia Ethical Society, and the Baltimore Ethical Society, which are much closer to these frightening events than we. We pledge to continue our work to oppose the sinister political forces which are seeking to undermine US democracy and work for the day when Americans can be confident that their wishes, as expressed through the ballot box, will be honored, and all people’s rights and liberties upheld.

– James Croft EdD, Leader, Ethical Society of St. Louis

Opening Words from Sun. January 3 by Lance Finney

January 3, 2021
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Happy New Year!

We’ve finally made it to 2021. There’s a lot that we could say about 2020, though there are some who think we shouldn’t.

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Join Us for the 2020 International Relations Lecture Series

January 2, 2021
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The Tuesday Women’s Association of Ethical Society and the American Association of University Women present the 2020 International Relations Lecture Series.

Each meeting will begin promptly at 10:45 a.m. the second Tuesday of the month, January to April, on Zoom. The public is cordially invited. There is no fee, but all contributions are greatly appreciated.

The 45-50 minute lecture will be followed by a question and answer period. Attendees are invited to bring lunch and to stay and discuss the day’s topic.

Series Calendar

January 12 at 10:45 AM – Freedom of the Press – Speaker, Dr. Yong Volz

February 9  at 10:45 AM – Reparations To Redress Historical Injustices – BLACK HISTORY MONTH – Speaker, Dr. Stephen Graves

March 9  at 10:45 AM – Artificial Intelligence Ethics & Regulation – Speaker, Dr. Anshuman Singh

April 13  at 10:45 AM – Historical Heritage & Racist Art – Speaker, Dr. Akiko Tsuchiya

You can follow the International Relations Lecture Series on Facebook and Twitter.

Opening Words from Sun. December 13 by Andy Stanton

December 13, 2020
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Good morning!

This is the time of year when most of the world has celebrations. Whether they are religiously based or a way of getting through the darkest time of the year, the winter solstice. When I was a child, my family celebrated Hanukkah, where we lit candles and exchanged presents. I was aware that most of the country engaged in the far more elaborate celebration of Christmas, but that was foreign to me and something I could not not comprehend. As I became an adult I stopped celebrating Hanukkah and was quite content with attending my office holiday party, and that’s it. However, when I married someone who enjoyed Christmas celebrations and we had our daughter, Christmas became an important part of the month of December, although we did not celebrate the religious aspects of it. And, to my surprise, it’s something I’ve learned to enjoy.

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Opening Words from Sun. December 6 by Christian Hayden

December 7, 2020
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My mother always professed a strong belief in education and an open desire to afford me the best educational opportunities. Her dream for me, before I was born, was that I would be a Harvard graduate. She worked tirelessly, transferring me from my local school, to a gifted program that required me to travel to another school deep in Brooklyn. When I was in fourth grad I tested very well on a standardized test that allowed me to be tested more to get into an academic program, which helped facilitate low-income and minority students admission into private schools in NYC.

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Opening Words from Sun. November 19: “Recognition” by Sharon Poe

November 29, 2020
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Recognition is a word with many meanings:

  • The act of accepting that something is true or important, or that it exists, such as accepting the results of an election.
  • The act of accepting someone or something as having legal or official authority, such as accepting that a new administration has the right of access to security briefings.
  • The state of knowing who or what someone or something is because of previous knowledge or experience, such as our previous experience with our President-Elect.

I didn’t intend to get all political with this topic, really. It just happened. Recognition on a personal level is where I intended to start, so I’ll do that now.

There are many forms of personal recognition:

  • On a grand scale, such as a Pulitzer or Nobel Prize.
  • Recognition on an employee level, such as bonuses or good evaluations. Our illustrious speaker Liz Croft, otherwise known as James’ Mum, will speak on that later.
  • On a much more personal level, recognition can be a look that says, “I see you, I know you, I accept you.”

We all need to be recognized. It’s not a matter of pride, selfishness, or immaturity. Human beings, from the earliest moments in or lives, need affection and respect from everyone around them, which is where we find recognition of ourselves as people. Our parents and or family are the first social circle responsible for giving us recognition, respect, and affection. If we are recognized and respected, our self-esteem and confidence grow to allow us to function in the world. If we don’t find hat initial loving support in or families of origin, we need to search for it in other places as we mature, or we will be stunted in our personal growth.

Just as we accept recognition it is also essential to know how to offer recognition to others: “I value you as a person I appreciate you and believe in you. I know what you are capable of and I respect you for that. You are a part of my life.”

Just as receiving positive recognition gives each of us a boost in confidence and self-esteem, it is equally important to turn that around and give recognition to others:

A sincere compliment for a job well done. A heartfelt birthday wish. A warm thank-you note. Since it is hard to smile at each other through our masks, we need to practice the Tyra Banks: “Smize,” smiling with our eyes. A ”Smize” and a thank you to the person who checks you out at the grocery. A phone call to a friend to say, I miss you.” A letter! Yes, we can still write letters! Any means to say, “I see you, I know you, you are important to me and to this world.”

Thank you.

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.

SiFi Book club reading list

November 25, 2020
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Below is a list (updated regularly) of book the group has read and discussed.

TitleAuthorMonthYear
Ancillary Justice (Imperial Radch #1)Leckie, AnnJul2021
Project Hail MaryWeir, AndyJun2021
How Long ’til Black Future Month? Jemisin, N. K. May2021
Metatropolis: The Dawn of UncivilizationScalzi, John Apr2021
DawnButler, Octavia Mar2021
A Memory Called EmpireMartine, ArkadyFeb2021
A Window Into TimeHamilton, Peter F.Jan2021
Winter WorldRiddle, A. G.Nov2020
Downbelow StationCherryh, C. J.Oct2020
Quantum SpacePhillips, DouglasSep2020
The Long EarthPratchett, TerryAug2020
To Be Taught, If FortunateChambers, BeckyJul2020
Nemo RisingJoyner, C. CourtJun2020
And Shall Machines SurrenderSriduangkaew, BenjanunMay2020
The Player of GamesBanks, Iain M.Apr2020
Best of All Possible WorldsLord, Karen Feb2020
Do Robots Dream of Electric Sheep?Dick, Philip K.Nov2019
The Tea Master and the DetectiveBodard, AletteNov2019
Mote in God’s EyePournelle, Jerry & Niven, LarrySep2019
Once & FutureMcCarthy, Cori and Capetta, Amy RoseAug2019
Old Man’s WarScalzi, JohnJul2019
ArtemisWeir, AndyJun2019
The Calculating StarsKowal, MaryApr2019
BintiOkorafor, AnediMar2019
Long Way to a Small Angry PlanetChambers, BeckyFeb2019
The MargaretsTepper, Sheri S. Jan2019
The Human BlendFoster, Alan DeanNov2018
The Sirens of TitanVonnegut, Jr. KurtOct2018
Six WakesLafferty, MurSep2018
The Stars My DestinationBester, AlfredAug2018
All Systems RedWells, Martha Jul2018
MoonwarBova, BenJun2018
Sea of RustCargill, C. RobertMay2018
Startide RisingBrin, David Apr2018
Trading In DangerMoon, ElizabethMar2018
Snow CrashStephenson, NealFeb2018
KindredButler, Octavia Jan2018
The SparrowRussell, Mary DoriaNov2017
BlindsightWatts, PeterOct2017
CitySimak, Clifford D.Sep2017
The Moon is a Harsh MistressHeinlein, RobertAug2017
I Sing the Body ElectricBradbury, RayJul2017
The DispossessedGuin, Ursula K.Jun2017

Spreadsheet with all books.

Climate Action Now! – The Climate Casino, Financial Incentives to Lower CO2 emissions

November 13, 2020
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How incentives such as a carbon tax and a market-based cap and trade program work and what we can do to get them adopted.

Presenter: Jim Rhodes,
Missouri Department of Natural Resources environmental engineer (retired)

Presentation slides

Presentation and Q&A

ACTIONS – Financial Incentives to Lower CO2

CAN! materials

These materials have been prepared by the Society’s CAN! (Climate Action Now!) team. This post and its links do not express or imply an endorsement by the Ethical Society of St. Louis or its leadership.

Opening Words from Sun. November 8 by Nellie Brown

November 12, 2020
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Good morning. Thank you for allowing me to give opening words today. I am currently in San Antonio, Texas, having been placed on active duty back in late March to support the military’s Covid-19 response. While I have been down here at Fort Sam Houston, my team and I on the Surgeon’s Staff are alternately amazed and jaded by what the year 2020 has thrown at us. So much of it is interconnected. Spill over zoonotic events arise when humans and the messy wilderness get too close. Hurricane seasons seem to be getting crazier as our dependence on fossil fuels can’t be controlled. Wildfires seasons and vector borne disease vulnerability seasons keep expanding and I help map the overlap of the current St. Louis encephalitis range with the wildland fires that service members are fighting in California.

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Climate Action Now! – Introduction

November 10, 2020
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Ready for  action to combat climate change? Climate Action Now! (CAN!) is an Ethical Society team whose mission is to build and support a community dedicated to addressing this global issue

Monthly meetings will feature a knowledgeable speaker discussing an aspect of climate change and will include 3-4 recommended actions participants can take related to that topic. A variety of actions will be suggested, ranging from individual behavior changes to collective political action. Information about the meetings and the suggested actions are posted on the Society’s website.

The Zoom ID for the meetings is: 444 367 1640

The organizing group are not climate change experts; they need and welcome your suggestions, involvement, expertise, and feedback.  Please email the group with your input CAN.EthicalStl@gmail.com.

Please join us.

Rachel Jones
Matthew Hile
Bob Pickard
Cathy Pickard
Brian Vandenberg

CAN! materials

These materials have been prepared by the Society’s CAN! (Climate Action Now!) team. This post do not express or imply an endorsement by the Ethical Society of St. Louis or its leadership.

CAN! Solar Power

October 28, 2020
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Solar panels

Resources and actions for our Solar Power presentation.

Presenter: Eric Schneider,
Director of Business Development
StraightUp Solar
straightupsolar.com

Presentation and Q&A recording

Solar power related actions:

Other CAN! materials

These materials have been prepared by the Society’s CAN! (Climate Action Now) team. The links in this post do not express an endorsement by the Ethical Society of St. Louis or its leadership.

Ethical Society named as a “Great Humanist Group”

October 9, 2020
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Wiki.ezvid.com has named the Ethical Society of St. Louis #2 in their list of the 5 Great Humanist Groups Promoting Progressive Values. Included with us are the American Ethical Union, the British Columbia Humanist Association, the Humanist Society of Greater Phoenix, and the Black Skeptics Los Angeles.

Kate’s Farewell Drive-by

October 5, 2020
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Kate Lovelady, Leader

After 15 years as Leader of the Society Kate Lovelady retired in May of 2020. Because of COVID we have been unable to come together as a community to thank her for her service.

Kate ‘s farewell celebration is finally here! While we can’t safely have the farewell lunch we originally planned, we can have a socially distanced drive by parade to celebrate her time with us. Plan on driving your car, bicycle, or motor scooter to the Ethical Society parking lot between 10:30a-11:30a on Saturday, October 31. Kate will be happily ready and waiting to receive your well wishes as you pass by her perch. There might be a line, so please be patient when you arrive. We will do our best to keep everyone moving. Feel free to make festive signs and decorate your vehicle for the occasion. The event will be held rain or shine. Questions? Reach out to Amanda Verbeck at amandanv530@yahoo.com.

Opening Words from Sun. September 20 by Don Beere

September 20, 2020
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This month’s theme, Reflection, led me to reflect, on reflection. For me, the best tool for reflection is analytical mediation, an approach in Tibetan Buddhism. I bumped into applications of this practice when, forty years ago, I read Time, Space and Knowledge by Tarthang Tulku, a Nyingmapa lama. Over the next twenty years I used TSK books in my classes and wrote six book chapters relating to its ideas. I found it intriguing, illuminating, instructive and challenging. I share this approach to reflection should you want to try it.

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Opening Words from Sun. September 13 by Kat Weir

September 16, 2020
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Hi! I’m Kat Weir, Director of Education here at the Ethical Society. In typical years, you can find me at the helm of our Sunday Ethical Education for Kids, or SEEK, programming. But, as we all know, this is anything but a typical year.

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