Opening Words from Sun. August 30 by Maxine Stone: “My Jewish Background”

September 1, 2020

I grew up in Newton, MA in a mixed community but mostly catholic.  It seemed to me that it was a mostly Jewish community because most of my friends were Jewish.  I was in a family of Reformed Jews and we went to Temple Israel.  In my memory, that was a big part of my life.  I went to Sunday School, carpooled with other Jewish friends, participated in Jewish holidays and events at home and at my temple…we called it a temple, not a synagogue. 


Opening Words from Sun. August 23 by Cathy Pickard

August 24, 2020

Earlier this month, Bob and I spent a couple weeks with our 3 1/2 year old twin grandkids in the Washington DC area. We hadn’t seen them since last December and were amazed at the changes we saw in them, especially in their language development.


Christine Floss, late member, honored by special journal issue

August 23, 2020

The late Christine Floss was a long term member of our Society.

“A special issue of the journal Meteoritics & Planetary Science (MAPS) honors the late Professor Christine Floss (1961-2018). The journal issue highlights Floss’s ongoing impact on the study of extraterrestrial materials as well as her lasting importance to the cosmochemistry and planetary science community.”

Read the announcement from Washington University’s Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences.

Opening Words from Sun. August 16 by Cy Henningsen

August 16, 2020


My name is Cy Henningsen. My pronouns are he / him / his, and I’ve been a member of the Ethical Society for 8 years.

Today I’d like to talk briefly about something near and dear to my heart – board games!


Update 12-Aug-2020

August 13, 2020

News about the Society in a video by Leader Dr James Croft.

News from the Board President Stephanie Sigala (September 2020)

August 12, 2020

It’s been almost six months since we met in person in the Ethical Society. Sometimes I feel ambivalent about Zoom but I am happy that it exists. We can at least see and talk to our friends, not to mention run the Society mostly seamlessly.

Now more than ever, we depend on our capable and conscientious staff to get things done. Right before our closure, the Board voted to approve two big and expensive projects. Thanks to our great Facilities Manager, Terri Arscott, both of those projects are a big success. The parking lot has been upgraded with better curbs, resurfaced paving, and colorful paint. It’s very pretty. (Gosh, I hope you get to see it sometime soon!) As I write, the new accessible bathroom in the office wing is nearing completion. Terri has spent many hours at the Society making sure that things were going right for these complex improvements.

Did I mention how much Zoom has changed our lives? Now ESTL Board meetings, AEU meetings and platforms, and new initiatives seem commonplace on Zoom. As Board President, “Zoom is my life,” and I can participate in many meetings without leaving my dining room. New to me are the Membership Pipeline meetings each Tuesday night and the monthly Reopening Planning meetings on Fridays. Ethical life now is a virtual beehive. You can’t see the bees but they are busy buzzing.

September is bringing young kids back into the building but not us. The Nursery School has created admirable guidelines for safe distancing, cleanliness, snack and play protocols, etc. Six pages worth! By the time you read this, the Nursery School’s fall semester will be underway. Unfortunately, we Members are still at risk, so our Fall Gathering scheduled for mid-September in Tower Grove Park has been cancelled. It seems likely that you are facing challenging situations with lost income, health concerns, and/or school age kids running amok, so it is doubly disappointing not to be able to talk and touch elbows in empathetic solidarity with you. The Society has a member relief fund. It is there to be spent when needed. Email me at with your questions.

Opening Words from Sun. August 9 by Joyce Best

August 9, 2020

Good Morning!

I have been asked to speak because I had given Kyle some of Steve’s philosophy books. We were pleased to have the books being used. I appreciate this opportunity to talk about Humanism and philosophy.

As Humanists we LIVE our values. We do not regularly recite them. But it is valuable to consider them.


James Croft: St. Louis’ leaders allowed politics to prevail over public health

August 7, 2020
Category: ,

James Croft, Leader of the St. Louis Ethical Society, published an opinion article in today’s Post Dispatch. It begins

The evidence is now clear: St. Louis reopened too early and too quickly. In recent days, coronavirus cases and hospitalizations have dramatically increased, and last week St. Louis found itself on a list of 11 cities called to task for failing to control the virus. As a result, St. Louisans — in both the city and the county — have been put at risk for illness and death. The responsibility for these failures lies directly at the feet of our political leaders, whose indecisive, reactive and muddled response to the pandemic imperils us all.

If the original link no longer works you can read an archived copy (PDF 200kb)

COVID-19 Statement (update)

August 5, 2020

Please note: We are closed to the public until further notice. Sunday Platforms and other gatherings will be held via Zoom. See the Calendar for event details.

Dear Community,

Dear Ethical Society of St. Louis Community, Today St. Louis County Executive Dr. Sam Page declared a state of emergency in St. Louis County as part of the effort to slow the spread of COVID-19 (sometimes called Coronavirus). As part of the County’s precautions, groups larger than 50 have been asked to stop gathering. Given that limiting contact with others is one of the best ways to fight the spread of the virus, and given that our building is used by a large number of groups and hundreds of people every week, we have made the difficult decision to hold Platforms virtually via Zoom and to cancel all programming at the Ethical Society until further notice. This includes Forum, Colloquy, meditation groups, and all other meetings. Our building is now closed to the public. We recognize that this is going to be difficult for many of our members. For some of us, the Ethical Society is our main source of interpersonal connection, a place we go to see friends, seek inspiration, and regenerate our spirits. This is why, while we will be closed for in-person meetings, the Ethical Society will continue to provide programs to help people find connection and comfort.

This is a scary and uncertain time. We don’t yet know the true extent of the virus’ spread through the St. Louis community, and the measures we must take to avoid infection could cause anxiety and loneliness. We want to assure you that the Ethical Society of St. Louis is still here for you: our staff our still working, James is available to talk and perform pastoral care visits, and we will do our best to continue to offer programming which helps us be human, together. 

Yours Sincerely, 
James Croft

Opening Words from Sun. August 2 by Andy Stanton

August 2, 2020

Good morning.

I’m Andy Stanton and I’ve been a member of the Ethical Society of St. Louis since May of 2017, which was shortly after my wife and I moved here from Northern Virginia where we’d lived for 45 years.


Opening Words from Sun. July 26 by Stephanie Sigala: “My Life as a Protester”

July 27, 2020

Hello to Ethical members across the country. It’s good to see you here. I am president of the Ethical Society Board and want to add my welcome to that of James. Right now, you are seeing me in my physical home, but James will work his magic and you will see me at my spiritual home:  The Ethical Society of St. Louis.

Stephanie Sigala at a BLM vigil at the Ethical Society of St. Louis

Opening Words from Sun. July 19 by Bradley Shutes

July 19, 2020

I allow my mind to wander while in the shower, and like many, I come away with “shower thoughts”. For example, do other people perceive colors as I do? Boiling water makes eggs hard but pasta soft and Jello neither. How does a “Do Not Touch” sign work in braille? Most importantly, why didn’t Lorraine recognize Marty from her past once he became a teen?


Folding@home – Ethical Society of St Louis group

July 12, 2020

Social distancing but want to take action to help defeat coronavirus? One way to do that is to join in the world wide distributed computing project Folding@home ( The project, led by Washington University researchers, runs complex computer simulations that model the building blocks of the new coronavirus in 3-D. This important work takes supercomputer power which is both expensive and hard to acquire. Folding@home overcomes this by having its users’ computers (around 5 million of them so far) work on small bits at a time then pooling their results.

You can read more about it on their web site and in a recent Post-Dispatch article. It runs when you are not using your computer so it does not slow it down or interfere with your use. The free software is available for Windows, Mac, and Linix. You can participate as an individual or as a group. There is an EthicalStL group (id 266591) already created. So, give it a look and join the team.

Opening Words from Sun. July 12 by Leader James Croft

July 12, 2020

This weekend a friend introduced me to one of my new favorite things: a series of fake posters of National Parks, created by artist Amber Share, which use phrases from internet reviews to humorously “advertise” the park. Here are some examples:

“Trees block view…and there are too many gray rocks.”

“No cell service & terrible wifi.”

“The only thing to do here is walk around the desert.”

“Save yourself some money: boil some water at home.”


Weekly Update 8-Jul-2020

July 9, 2020

News about the Society in a video by Leader Dr James Croft.

“While our building is closed our community is open. “

Weekly Update 1-Jul-2020

July 2, 2020

News about the Society in a video by Leader Dr James Croft.

“While our building is closed our community is open. “

Opening Words from Sun. June 21 by Jim Rhodes

June 27, 2020

Good morning everyone!

The theme this month is “Legacy” so I suggested to James that I give opening words on this topic on behalf of the Legacy Committee. For those who may not know what it is, the Legacy Committee was set up to manage the financial gifts that the Ethical Society has received over the years. These gifts have been in the millions of dollars and form a critical part of the financial structure of the Ethical Society.

It would take me a long time to enumerate these gifts, but I would just like to paraphrase from a recent email sent to me from our treasurer Steve Harris:

I think it would be useful to remind our members about the large amount of our annual operating budget (over 20%) that comes from money donated by former and present members over many years.  A short list of specific uses beyond the operating budget would include the Becker donation to revamp the HVAC system, the Rotkowski bequest to improve the audiovisual features in the auditorium, the Fisher bequest to buy the Boston upright piano, and the use of gift annuity money from over 20 people to build the family bathroom, among other things.

Steve Harris

The last time I gave opening words, I dressed as the grim reaper and tried to give a humorous pitch to remind people that we are all eventually going to die and so we ought to be thinking of the Ethical Society when we do our estate planning. I had no idea then of the coming pandemic and that we would all be meeting on Zoom instead of in person. This has been a stressful time for all of us and I personally really miss meeting with all of you in person instead of in this Zoom “room” that we now do.

I also realize that some people may have lost their jobs and hence their income, so this is also a financial disaster for probably at least some of you. But eventually the pandemic will be over with and hopefully things will get back to more or less “normal.” And the Ethical Society will still be here.

So, I wanted to briefly tell you all a little of what the Ethical Society means to me personally. Aside from the simple fact that I feel that the members of this congregation are some of the most intelligent and really the warmest group of people I’ve ever met, I really appreciate what the Ethical Society stands for and represents. For me, that includes a commitment to rational dialogue and concern for our fellow humans regardless of what race they are, their sexual orientation, or their ethnic background.

In short, the Ethical Society is dedicated to not only celebrating this life and enjoying what it has to offer, but it also represents a way of thinking that looks to the future and to what we all might do together to make the world a better place. My hope is that all of you will take a little time to consider what your legacy will be and how you might help to keep this community going in the future.

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.

Weekly Update 24-Jun-2020

June 25, 2020

News about the Society in a video by Leader Dr James Croft.

“While our building is closed our community is open. “

Opening Words from Sun. June 14 by Dara Strickland

June 24, 2020

My name is Dara Strickland, my pronouns are she/her. I’ve been a member at the Ethical Society for a year. Today I want to tell you about the Confederate monument in my hometown.

I want to make one thing completely clear: I hate this stupid statue. It’s a life-size Italian marble statue of a Confederate soldier on a giant obelisk in the town square in front of the county courthouse. It has a dumb nickname. The day it comes down like so many others are coming down in the past few weeks, I am going to drink champagne.

It’s not just important to press for the statue to come down, though; we have to remember how it got up there in the first place.

The Confederate monument was placed in my town in 1899 and it cost almost $85,000 in today’s dollars, all of which was raised by the United Daughters of the Confederacy. That’s an impressive amount by any standard, but UDC hadn’t been pooling their nickels and dimes since the war ended – it had only existed for 5 years at that point. In fact, the UDC or closely-connected groups put up more than 60 memorials like the one in my hometown in the first 20 years of the 20th century. Very few of these commemorate specific people or battles, and almost none of them are in cemeteries. The vast majority of them are in front of county courthouses where black citizens serve jury duty, pay their property taxes, and stand trial.

The UDC did much more than just put up these statues. It also focused enormous amounts of time and money into establishing and maintaining Confederate cemeteries, gathering oral histories, and publishing books that supported the Lost Cause narrative of the Civil War. If the deaths of those soldiers were noble, then what they were fighting to preserve – a lifestyle built on the lifetime enslavement of millions of people – must have been noble, too.

Rednecks didn’t put those statues up. Ignorance didn’t record and publish hundreds of first-hand accounts that glorified Confederate soldiers and the women waiting for them at home. Educated white women with access to wealth and privilege did this as a way to assert political power. They were so successful at it that we are still somehow debating whether the statues private citizens put up on public land to advance an unambiguous agenda of white supremacy should be allowed to stand.

As happy as I am that I will live to see the statue in my hometown come down, I don’t want it to be destroyed. I mentioned before that it has a dumb nickname, which is “Chip.” On the day it was put in place, it was damaged – a big chip of marble came off the front brim of the hat. Although the statue has been cleaned and restored many times, it has never been repaired or replaced. “Broken from day one” is particularly fitting not just for the whole Confederate monument concept but because of what my hometown, Franklin Tennessee, teaches about the Civil War.

The Battle of Franklin in 1864 is generally referred to in my town as the “five bloodiest hours of the Civil War.” That’s a weird thing that a lot of battle sites do, narrowing the scope of time so they have “more casualties per hour than Gettysburg” or are “the little Bull Run.” The fact is that 50,000 soldiers fought and a few hours later almost 2,000 of them were dead, another 5,000 too wounded to continue, and 2,000 more missing or captured. It wasn’t what you’re probably picturing from movies, with orderly lines of soldiers in a field shooting while the line behind them reloads. The battle was a chaotic struggle in the dark and most of the fighting was hand-to-hand with guns used more for their bayonets than their bullets. Almost all of the fighting was in the town itself.

As a public school student, I went every year, even in early elementary years, to the houses that were in the middle of the fighting. Volunteer guides talked to us not just about the movements of troops but about the experiences of people who were there. The battle was always presented to us as a disaster that happened to the people who lived in the town, both free and enslaved, and to the soldiers on both sides. The clear villain of the story was always John Bell Hood, the Confederate general who ordered his men to attack the entrenched Union army. It was something to be remembered but not celebrated.

It wasn’t until I got to college that I realized most towns with a similar history are not like Franklin. It seems there are very few Franklins thanks to organizations like the DAC.

But that’s what gives me hope, too. In the face of a systemic, organized, well-funded narrative that glorified a war in order to support white supremacy, in my town a different narrative won out. That dumb statue is still sitting in the town square in front of the courthouse, but the first thing that will be pointed out to you is the chip out of its hat.

As people, we may not be able to march or to donate money right now, but as humanists we can always hold space for and elevate the lived experiences of people who live under the weight of racism and police brutality. We can put our efforts into teaching the narratives that create Franklins; those that remark that the monuments of inequality are broken – and they always have been.

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.

AEU Statement on Supreme Court LGBT Discrimination Decision

June 18, 2020
Category: ,

The American Ethical Union (AEU) enthusiastically endorses the Supreme Court’s 6-3 ruling in favor of gay, lesbian, and transgender people’s right to work free from discrimination. This ruling is a long overdue affirmation of the Constitutional and statutory rights of millions of citizens as guaranteed under the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

The ruling written by Justice Neil Gorsuch was straightforward and unambiguous: “We must decide whether an employer can fire someone simply for being homosexual or transgender. The answer is clear,” Gorsuch wrote. “An employer who fires an individual for being homosexual or transgender fires that person for traits or actions it would not have questioned in members of a different sex. Sex plays a necessary and undisguisable role in the decision, exactly what Title VII forbids.”

The AEU has long called for equality regarding sex, gender, orientation, and identity, including: Reaffirming Support for Equal Rights for Lesbian, Gay, Bi-sexual, Transgender, and Queer People (2010); supporting Same-Sex Marriage (2004) and Legalization of Gay Marriage (1996); condemning discrimination against Homosexuals (in 1979 and 1972); and, calling for an end to Sex Discrimination (1971). This ruling moves our country one step closer to the day when the full dignity of LGBTQIA+ Americans is recognized in law.

We now call on the Department of Labor’s Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the Department of Justice to step up their defense of the rights just reaffirmed by the highest court in the land. The AEU calls on the Trump Administration, which recently moved to ban transgender people from serving in the military and backtracked on medical protections for transgender Americans, to declare its intention to enforce this important ruling. We stress that no assertion of “religious freedom” should be allowed to enable employers to evade or ignore the intent of the court’s ruling. Further, we call for full protections for LGBTQIA+ people in public accommodations, healthcare, and every area of US life.

This is a day to celebrate an important step forward in the protection of the rights of all in the LGBTQ+ community—but much work remains to be done. The American Ethical Union cheers the decision in R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes Inc. v. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and celebrates the work of the lawyers and activists who made this day possible. At the same time, we dedicate ourselves to the fights still ahead. Discrimination against LGBTQIA+ people is an attack on their inherent worth and dignity, and should be outlawed in every sphere of life. Ethical Humanists continue to fight for a world in which LGBTQIA+ people are wholly free.

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