Using Zoom for Society Events

March 24, 2020

Many of our events and groups are now being hosted on the free video chat platform Zoom. To join us use our permanent meeting code

Ethical Society Zoom meeting code 384 422 5785.

(That’s ETHICALSTL spelled out on a phone.)

  1. Download and install Zoom (free download) on the computer, smartphone, or tablet that you want to use. You can find it on
  2. Test your microphone and camera (if you wish to use it) to make sure everything works.
  3. Enter the meeting code into Zoom 384 422 5785

Want more assistance? Watch how to use Zoom for Ethical Society programs on Youtube

Opening Words from Sun. March 22 by Cy Henningsen

March 22, 2020

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

First I’d like to thank Mayor Krewson for her leadership during this difficult time. On March 12th the Mayor ordered the Water Department to stop all water shut-offs until at least May.  On March 12th I wasn’t sure COVID-19 was going to be anything at all, but the Mayor had the foresight to realize how large of an issue this was going to be and made sure we have the water needed to wash our hands, a key way to slow the spread of COVID-19, as well as having water to drink and cook with and everything else.  More recently both Spire and Ameren have announced they have also stop shutting off utilities and Spectrum is offering free internet access to all students in St. Louis.  All of these efforts are major changes for larger organizations and signs that we can pull together during this challenge. 

Now, switching hears entirely, Opening Words is often a time for members and friends of the Society to reflect.  A month ago I turned 40. People asked me what I thought about that, and generally I gave a non-answer of, “Oh, it’s fine” or “No big deal.” But there was a feeling in me, something which was making me feel uncomfortable. I sat with the discomfort and realized what it was – the idea that the best part of my life might be over. That it was all down hill from here.

I’ve thought about it more though and decided this is the wrong way to think about things. Rather, at least for me, it is better to focus on various aspects of my life, and what I am making better in my life.

When I was a teen I could hike for half a day, and besides getting rather sweaty, I was fine. Now, I find a 30 minute to an hour hike is about my limit where I am still enjoying the experience. But that doesn’t mean I can’t hike – I just have to plan shorter ones.

Long gone are the days when I eat all day and not gain a pound [pat belly]. But, I am much better at cooking now that I used to be – and while social distancing is causing many changes for everyone, it’s giving me time to cook more, and that I’ve been enjoying.

Relationships – oh a big one – unvoiced assumptions – I had no idea they were so harmful. I know I’ve been mad at past partners for doing or not doing something I never even told them about. Telling those you care about what you’d like sounds so simple – but it’s taken me a very long time to realize how necessary it is. And how sometimes you have to ask what partners’ wants and needs are when you realize they are upset, but don’t know why.

So yes I am 40; and perhaps the best part of certain aspects of my life are behind me. But the best parts of so much more are still ahead – and there will always be things I can get better at, always be groups that can use my help, always things I can enjoy.

Focus on those things you want improve my friends, and the best days of your life are always ahead of you.

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.

Second Leader Search Update

March 19, 2020

Dear Ethical Society members,

Right now, every one of us is in the midst of coping with the effects of the coronavirus. The circumstances are changing rapidly, and the impact on our daily lives is immense. It is my sincere hope that you are all well. The pandemic is central in all of our minds, but there is still work to be done. With that said, I wanted to send an update regarding our Second Leader search. 

As you know, a group of dedicated Society members has been actively searching for a new Second Leader over the last several months. This task force has done AMAZING work! After reviewing applications and conducting interviews, they came to the Board with an excellent candidate recommendation. With unanimous support from our task force, Leaders, and Board members, I reached out to the candidate to discuss next steps. Unfortunately, having such a highly qualified candidate meant they were in high demand. We were not the only congregation to express interest, and they decided to accept a position elsewhere. 

I know this is disappointing news for all of us, especially right now. It can feel disheartening to go through such an extensive search and not have it end with the position filled. Even if the outcome isn’t what we hoped for, we feel good about the steps that were taken and the process as a whole. Thank you to everyone who worked so hard on this search!

So what happens now? The March 29 candidate Platform address and Board forum will not happen as planned, and the Special Member Meeting on April 19 has been cancelled. For now, we will conclude this search, and we will take steps to explore options in the interim before starting another search. In the longer term, we have some time to take a deep breath and regroup. As we know more, we will let you know.

Our goals remain the same. We want to continue to have strong Leaders in our community. We want the transition of Kate’s departure to go as smoothly as possible. We want to make sure the needs of our congregation are met. Know that we will continue to support each other as a community, and together we will make it through!

All the best,
Amanda Verbeck
Ethical Society Board President

Skeptics Community of St. Louis Says ‘Stay Skeptical, Stay Safe’

March 19, 2020

Twenty-five years ago Carl Sagan used “Science as a Candle in the Dark” as the subtitle to his best-selling book, “The Demon-Haunted World.” Dr. Sagan encouraged us to look to science for guidance, to use the evidence it presents to inform our decisions, and to question claims – especially those that are extraordinary in nature. As the emergence of the 2019 novel coronavirus causes drastic changes to the lifestyle and livelihoods of people around the world, the undersigned science-based organizations of St. Louis urge everyone to turn to science for answers to their questions, and for treatment of the disease. While medical doctors may not have all the answers about this new virus, the ones they do have are based upon the evidence at hand, and offer the best measures to protect ourselves and our communities.

Times like these make us vulnerable to extraordinary claims, especially those which promise illness prevention, hold out hope of miracle cures, offer financial assistance, or weave insidious stories about the virus’ origin. In order to protect ourselves from manipulation, it is important to remember Dr. Sagan’s words of wisdom: extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. Pandemics have occurred throughout human history and do not require a conspiratorial explanation. While the ability of asymptomatic carriers to transmit the virus is unusual, it is not implausible. Be wary of statements claiming to know the reason “why” this virus emerged, or which suggest that it was manufactured as part of a conspiracy. Scientific evidence has proven that viruses can be transmitted from animal to human and that viruses mutate, which is what allows this transmission to occur – no conspiracy required.

In addition, conspiracies about “Big Pharma” and “Big Medical” abound in our social media feeds, in advertisements, and on websites. These conspiracies erode trust in medical and scientific experts, often leading people to embrace “miracle cures” that claim to work for COVID-19, but do not. As we navigate these challenging times, be certain to ask for the evidence required to prove the claims you hear. Even asking yourself “Is this too good to be true?” can go a long way toward preventing the medical and financial scams that are sure to arise throughout the next few months.

To protect yourself and your family, we advise turning to science to light your way in the dark. Consult the information provided by the World Health Organization (WHO), the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), your local health departments, and your primary care doctors to make informed decisions regarding your and your family’s health. We are all hoping for a quick end to this scary and uncertain time, and it is tempting to reach for the first “solution” offered, even if there is no evidence to support it. But remember the words of Carl Sagan: “Skepticism enables us to distinguish fancy from fact.” We need facts now, not fancy. We will all be safer if we stay skeptical.

The Skeptical Society of St. Louis, Missy Rung-Blue, President,
The Ethical Society of Saint Louis, James Croft, Outreach Coordinator  
Skepticon, Lauren Lane, Founder & Executive Director,  
March for Science – STL, Brian Carthans, President,  
Ethical Society – Mid Rivers, Sarah Vehige, Board President,
The Rationalist Society of Saint Louis, Kathleen Kelly, President
350 STL, Ken Denson & Rita Fitzjarrell, Co-Leaders,

UPDATE – Art Show – Jim Rhodes

March 18, 2020

The Society is currently closed do to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, thanks to the artist’s generosity, the show has been made available on the internet (

Jim Rhodes is a local amateur photographer who has been taking photographs since the early 1970s. His favorite subjects for photography include animal and nature photography, people, and travel in both color and black and white.  His current major interest in photography is doing portraits in a formal setting. Most of the photographs in this show were taken with a digital camera although a few where scanned from old 35mm color slides.  Jim uses a Pentax DSLR with various lenses and, for editing, he uses the Adobe program Lightroom.

Jim is a retired environmental engineer who worked for the Missouri Department of Natural Resources up until he retired in 2014.  He is originally from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania but he also lived in Virginia between 1985 and 1987. He has been an active member of the Ethical Society since 1991. He is married to Stephanie Sigala and they live in Webster Groves.

This show will run from March 13 through April 26, with a reception on Sunday, March 15, 12:30 to 2:30.

Proposed Bylaws Changes – 2020

March 13, 2020

Greetings from the Board Governance Committee!  We have two proposed bylaws changes for the membership to review and vote upon at the Annual Meeting on Thursday, May 14. For your reference, the Bylaws and the Society Policy Manual are both available on the website at

Replace “Executive Leader” with “Ministry Team Leader”: Sections 2.1, 2.4, 4.2, 4.3

The Ethical Society Policy Manual and the Bylaws have differing naming structures for the exact same position.  According to the Bylaws, Kate Lovelady is the “Executive Leader;” according to the Policy Manual, she is the “Ministry Team Leader.” The Governance Committee recommends changing the Bylaws language from Executive Leader to Ministry Team Leader, so that the job title is consistent throughout the Society materials.  The Board proposes changing the wording in all four places in the Bylaws where an Executive Leader is mentioned: Bylaws Sections 2.1, 2.4, 4.2, and 4.3.

Members Vote Out Trustees: Section 5.4

The Bylaws do not have a mechanism for Society members to remove Trustees from the Board.  The Ethical Society supports democratic principles and, as such, should have a way for the membership to remove Trustees, if needed. The Governance Committee recommends adding this language to Section 5.4:  “In addition, an Officer or Trustee may be removed by a two-thirds vote of the Active Membership attending a regular membership meeting or Special Membership Meeting, called either by the Board or by 15 Active Members of the congregation.”

Please share your thoughts or questions with our Governance Committee Chair, Krystal White, and come prepared to vote on these two proposed Bylaws changes at the Annual Meeting on Thursday, 14 May.

COVID-19 Statement

March 12, 2020

Please note: We are closed to the public until further notice. Sunday Platforms and other gatherings will be held virtually.

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 (see below) 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. These programs include: 

  • Today (3/13) at 6 pm there will be gathering on Zoom for members and friends who either have any questions about our policy or about what we will be doing going forward. Joining a Zoom meeting requires you either to download the Zoom program on your computer, tablet, or phone, or call in with a phone number we will provide. Please follow the instructions at this link to get set up or, if you’d like assistance, email James Croft ( or Louise Jett ( Our permanent meeting code is 384 422 5785 – that’s ETHICALSTL spelled out on a phone.
  • Starting this Sunday (3/15) we will be replacing Platform with an online gathering. This Sunday, Platform will be livestreamed on our Facebook page, Just follow that link, a bit before 11 am, and you can watch Platform as usual! You do not need to join Facebook in order to watch the livestream, but you will need to join Facebook and create a profile to comment if you wish.
  • Following this Sunday, we will be trying to provide numerous ways for people to continue to connect with each other online, including regular hangouts just to chat, and pastoral care opportunities to discuss how people are feeling. Most of these will probably involve Zoom, so please get set up as soon as possible if you’d like to join us. Again, follow the instructions at this link to set up Zoom, or email Louise or James.

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, Kate and James are still 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, 
Kate Lovelady and James Croft

Opening Words from Sun. March 8 by Linda Locke

March 9, 2020

Salaam wuallakum!

Ahh, some of you know how to answer that. Let’s practice. When I say “salaam wu-allakum,” you respond, “Wu allakum salaam.”


Opening Words from Sun. February 23 by Ellen Wright

February 23, 2020

I come before you today a bit ragged as it is the day after the Youth Group Dinner dance. The teens of our community selected a theme, formed committees, made plans and executed those plans to create a space for fantasy, food and fun. Every year a different group of people learn together what it takes to pull off such an event. They try things they have never tried before, reach out of their comfort zones, solve problems and collaborate. This is my favorite part of dinner dance.


Opening Words from Sun. February 16 by David Brown: “Ethical Society Adopted Refugee Families”

February 16, 2020

Last Sunday’s Platform Speaker was Anna Crosslin, President and CEO of the International Institute of St. Louis. She told of the Institute’s work helping immigrants and refugees learn how to live and prosper in the St. Louis area with a goal of making good U.S. citizens of them.

For the last three years, some of us from the Ethical Society have volunteered at the Institute as a group representing the Society or as individuals. I want to tell you about one of those volunteer efforts.


Opening Words from Sun. February 9 by Ray Preston

February 9, 2020

Playing: The Beatles “All You Need is Love.”

Don’t get me wrong.  I like this song. I really like this song.

I like John, Paul, George & Ringo.


Opening Words from Sun. February 2 by Amanda Verbeck and Krystal White

February 3, 2020

A: Good morning. I’m Amanda Verbeck, your current Board President.

K: And I’m Krystal White, this year’s Past President. President-Elect Stephanie Sigala is downstairs in the kitchen, getting things ready for our pledge lunch today!  


Wizard of Oz Silent Auction

January 29, 2020
Category: ,

Do you have something you can contribute to our silent auction? A time-share you are willing to share one time, a talent you are willing to offer lessons in or contribute objects from, baskets, artwork, gift cards, a business that can make a contribution? Something I have not mentioned but you are willing to contribute.

The Youth Group is sponsoring a Silent Auction during our annual dinner dance on February 22, 2020. We are continuing this fundraiser as our effort to contribute back to the society for the money they have budgeted for our participation in YES. The funds we raise go back into the general budget.

The funds from the society are used to help offset the cost of the YES conference. Those costs can be very significant, especially for families with 2 or more children in the group.

We will greatly appreciate your contributions. If you have something you wish to offer please contact us at

Opening Words from Sun. January 19 by Stephanie Sigala

January 19, 2020

As some of you know, I am the Pledge Chair for 2020. Don’t worry. I am not going to nag you about increasing your pledge. I want to talk a little bit about inspiration today.

Every so often I feel burned out. There are days when life is the pits and I am a cranky witch. Hard to believe, isn’t it? When that happens on Sunday, coming to Ethical is my cranky witch antidote. I don’t have kids so every Sunday I get my weekly dose of kid cuteness with the kids who say the Core Values. And the Core Values themselves are something that really inspire me. I know you have them memorized, right? This is a test.


Art Show – David Ottinger, Jane Linders, and Christine Ilewski

January 8, 2020

David Ottinger

In a speech from the spring of 2016, I tried to sum up the essence of what I feel every artist tries to accomplish. I stated, “Only that which redefines the definition of the word has any chance to become that which it pretends to define.”

It is certainly no simple task to change the definition of a word. However, every great artist throughout history has done just that. Jackson Pollack, Camille Pissarro and Leonardo Da Vinci changed the definition of painting. Donatello (Donato di Nicocolò di Betto Bardi) and Donald Judd and Kara Walker changed the definition of sculpture. David Octavius Hill and Edward Stieglitz and Cindy Sherman changed photography.

As a student I was enthralled with two topics, art and psychology. At times I try to bring the two together in the same conversation. Though I taught Figure Drawing, Painting and Art History for decades, I am still enchanted with the idea of bringing psychology and painting together in a way that tries to define the moment when an individual makes a decision or comes to a realization about a dilemma or idea.

It is the search for that indefinable idea that intrigues me the most and of course, is the most elusive.

Jane Linders

Jane Linders is an award winning photographer whose prints are in numerous national and international collections.   Linders has exhibited her work everywhere from her home town in St. Louis to the Smithsonian Museum in Washington D.C.  She is a tireless imagemaker who mines the oddities of roadside America.

After several years of traditional photography, I began to experiment with infrared photography because I enjoy the otherworldly quality of the image.  My photos are not an in-your-face kind of intensity, but a gentle, matter of fact, I am here and I have always been here kind of statement, that builds the more your look at my image.    Infrared photography broadened my photographic notions and expanded my creativity.  I like how beautifully infrared light is reflected and absorbed by different surfaces.  This non traditional photography allowed me to capture traditional subjects in a novel and interesting way. My major influence is the work of William Eggleston, who creates art from commonplace subjects and finds beauty in the banal and mundane.  

Christine Ilewski

Christine Ilewski lives in Alton, IL. She received her BFA from the Univ. of WI-Eau Claire, did masters work at Lindenwood Univ. and SIUE where she completed K-12 teaching certification. She taught in the U-City school district. She has been the Visting Artist for Liquitex for 20 years, bringing a materials and methods workshop to university campuses around the midwest.

Her studio work is primarily acrylic with multiple mixed media elements. She describes her current work: “My work has always been “personal.” My work has reflected my experience as a woman, a mother, a wife, a sister, a daughter; a domestic, intimate life. Landscape has almost always been the background to my narratives, but in my most recent work it seems to have become my center…a place of reflection, a still point from which everything else revolves. These landscapes are bubbling up from a subconscious stream, a “river” of relationships. With a studio overlooking the Mississippi, the mighty river runs through all my work. “

She is also the founder/director of the nonprofit Faces Not Forgotten ( , a memorial project of portaits of young gun violence victims. Christine was awarded the 2013 Critical Mass Stimulus Grant for this project and has exhibited the project throughout St. Louis and the campuses of UMSL, Rutgers, Northeastern and Blackburn universities. BBC America did a piece on FNF in 2017.

Her studio work can be seen in the IL state Artisan shops, the Museum of Contemporary Art, New Harmony, Ariodante Gallery NOLA and many private collections.  618-806-6747

This group show will run from January 26 through March 9, with a reception on Sunday, January 26, 12:30 to 2:30.

Opening Words from Sun. January 5 by Kyle Nienhaus

January 5, 2020

Good morning. So, my family has been coming here since we’ve been a family; since we just got married, we started coming just after that; since we had Lorelai, and Kate has been our leader the whole time, she’s one of the reasons we came and we stayed and we love this place and when we heard she was leaving at the end of May were crushed, of course. But we’re very happy that James is going to be our new Leader, of course. Along the same lines I’ve been, about since we started coming here, working on a book, a philosophy book, hopefully, about Humanism and as I’ve been working on it I found this little passage I thought reminded me of Kate and what it means to be a Humanist Leader. It’s from my guy, Friedrich Nietzsche, you all know that… … Thank you.”


Happy winter cheer by Rich Feldenberg

December 17, 2019

This year the Winter Solstice will happen next Saturday. There is evidence that Celebration of the Winter Solstice goes back at least 12,000 years.  The celebration of its significance probably extends considerably further into the past than that. Long before any of the modern religions existed, our ancestors recognized this time of year as important and worthy of respect. It is the day with the shortest period of daylight and the longest period of darkness. At winter solstice, long gone are the days of planting and harvest, of sun and warmth.

It’s not hard to imagine that in ancient times winter would have posed a huge threat to the survival of the entire community.  

Before a scientific understanding of the cycling of the seasons, it may have even seemed uncertain that things would ever warm and brighten again.

This might be a good symbolism for mid-life, as well. As a mid-life speaker, I can attest the feeling that the earlier days of Spring and Summer are memories–Growing up in the neighborhood, days at school, first jobs, raising small kids.

But mid-life is really an opportune time to look ahead. We know that as the Earth continues to orbit the sun, the daylight does come back and the cold days start to warm. By mid-life we have learned many valuable life lessons, and that gives us a huge advantage moving forward. We can choose to live better moving forward, make better choices, and have a better understanding of what things are really important.

One anonymous saying goes: “Instead of asking what was I thinking?  Breathe and ask yourself the kinder question: What was I learning?” This next year I’m looking forward to learning lots of new things, growing as a person, and showing love for my family in new ways.  

An anonymous source says this about the Solstice, “the winter solstice can be a beautiful reminder that we are all part of something larger, and that life is always changing and renewing.”

Happy Winter Solstice!!

Rich Feldenberg wrote these words to share some thoughts at Good Cheer (our winter festival) as the mid-life speaker in our Stages of Life question, What are you looking forward to next year?

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.

Opening Words from Sun. December 8 by Jim and Aidan Jordan: Accessibility at the Ethical Society

December 8, 2019

The reason Aidan and I first came and became members of the Ethical Society was that participating in Boy Scouts of America troop was not working for him and a friend told me that an alternative scout troop was forming that would probably be more inclusive and accommodating.

SEEK Core Values include: “Every person is important and unique; Every person deserves to be treated fairly and kindly.” The Ethical Society “Statement of Purpose” published on the plaque in the Foyer highlights “Supporting people through the stages of life”. Providing an accessible and supportive place is inherent in the concept of “Supporting one another through the stages of life” & treating all with dignity, respect, and kindness.


Ethical Society Considers Evolving Notions Of The Hero Ahead Of Star Wars Release

December 5, 2019

Jame Croft was interviewed today on St. Louis On the Air about his lecture “Star Wars and the Hero’s Journey

“We can learn so much about ourselves and about our culture,” Croft has said, “by exploring how heroism is portrayed in movies like ‘Star Wars’ – including how notions of what heroism is, and who can be considered a hero, have developed over time.”

If the program is no longer available on the NPR site you can listen to this archived copy.

Opening Words from Sun. December 1 by Travis Williams

December 2, 2019

Good Morning.

I’ve been a member of the Society for 6 years, my son Rush is turning 3 on Thursday, and today I’m celebrating my 1 year wedding anniversary to my amazing wife Trish.

I don’t know what my life would be like without this welcoming home. I came here after losing my wife Kelly and daughter Genevieve in child birth 7 years ago. I had heard of you all from my neighbor Carol across the street and read up on what to expect as a visitor on your website.