Faith in Mystery

“Faith is a place of mystery, where we find the courage to believe in what we cannot see and the strength to let go of our fear of uncertainty,”

Brene Brown

This spring has brought transitions into our community like a whirlwind of air on a spring day.  It ushered in change that will soon bring about flowers of life, songs of spirituality, and community growth.  On April 1st 2018, the Interfaith Center for Spiritual Growth senior minister unexpectedly departed from our community. Following a grieving and regrouping period of two weeks the ICSG Board hosted a weekend of peace circles at ICSG. Two talented and trained mediators guided community members in attendance to speak earnestly and openly about their human experiences, hopes, and dreams for the ICSG community.

Our community spoke of the trust they invested in creating a space of emotional safety over the previous ten months. They spoke of the painful challenge of the previous three weeks of seeking the opportunity in disguise for ICSG to become more than it had been before.

The idea for the community convening developed on April 3rd. Comfort and clarity became priorities for the board when the pleasant and jovial norms of Sunday Service announcements were broken on the second and third Sundays.

Synchronistically Khristian Speelman and Layla Ananda – professional conflict resolution facilitators – reached out separately to offer their skills of holding safe space for our community to share the experience of participatory healing.

Layla created an altar of rose quartz and a single candle in the center of the circles. Khristian opened the first circle with a prayer for open heartedness, intentional presence allowing healing and moving forward.

Our wireless microphone became our spiritual talking stick. Each person had the mic for three minutes to explain what they were processing, what was most important moving forward, and what they need or want to offer for our community to heal.

Between the forty humans on Saturday and the sixty humans on Sunday exquisite care and respect for the integrity of ICSG became apparent. Two specific themes stood out: our spiritual family and home and spiritual activism.

Spiritual Family and Spiritual Home is a feeling of the power of the collective and the individual. It includes everyone’s point of view where we learn and grow together while sharing spiritual presence. It is a feeling of full hearts no matter how things go in the outside world. It is a mirror of the divinity within each of us. It holds space for studies, celebrations, spiritual experiences, and fellowship.

Spiritual Activism at ICSG needs continued support and acknowledgment. Activism takes many forms and looks different for each person. We are called to activism. We are challenged to surrender unto Love by all of our exchanges with one another. Being present in this community is a tremendously profound amount of work. The world needs more love and at ICSG we are able to expand our ability to be more loving. Internal activism is healing our own inner pollution by asking ourselves such questions as what is my opportunity for change today? We hope to inspire and draw many more people with energy to do what it takes to heal this world. To walk in the mystery, extending Love to All That Is, and having faith that we are not alone in this world.  

Thank you Khristian Speelman and Layla Ananda for creating the peace circles with intention of engaging our spiritual community.

“And while I stood there, I saw more than I can tell and I understand more than I saw; for I was seeing in a sacred manner the shapes of all things in the spirit, and the shape of all shapes as they must live together like one being”

Black Elk, Wichasha Wakan Oglala Lakota.

 

-Mary Alice Truitt

ICSG Board Chair

Heart & Soul

Heart & Soul

Rev. Annie Kopko

 

We begin with an excerpt from The Butterfly Effect by Andy An- drews.

There are generations yet unborn whose very lives will be shifted and shaped by the moves you make and the actions you take today. And to- morrow. And the next day. And the next.

Every single thing you do matters. You have been created as one of a kind. On the planet Earth, there has never been one like you …and there will never be again. Your spirit, your thoughts and feelings, your ability to reason and act all exist in no one else. The rarities that make you special are no mere accident or quirk of fate. You have been created in order that you might make a difference. You have within you the power to change the world. Know that your actions cannot be hoarded, saved for later, or used selectively. By your hand, millions—billions—of lives will be altered, caught up in a chain of events begun by you this day. The very beating of your heart has meaning and purpose. Your actions have value far greater than silver or gold. Your life… And what you do with it today …matters forever.

So how do we live, knowing this is true? We live consciously, gently, respectfully, purposefully, grateful and considerate of all things, per- ceived and not perceived. I call this leadership. And if you do not think you are a leader, think again. Everything you do, say, feel, and think matters and has consequences. We are in relationship with all living beings. Each of us pays attention to another.

So how do we live knowing we will die?  We live lovingly, knowing that what we do, think, and say fulfills a destiny we planned long before this lifetime.

We live consciously, knowing that what we think matters. We know we have the power to create change all around us.

We live deliberately, knowing that what moves us affects everyone. The love we give is the love we live.

We live with purpose, choosing what we love, and following that star.

When we love ourselves enough to choose happiness, we lift up our- selves and everyone who comes in contact with us. Happiness is not a goal, it is the way to live.

We may as well do this for ourselves and others, to honor our spirit. No one else can do it for us. That is why I write, it makes me happy and moves my life in positive ways that I don’t even know.

We are not our pain, but painful opportunities will present themselves to us, because we are spirits that have bodies. There are negative experi- ences in abundance in the world around us. When we sit up straight and take some deep breaths, we feel better physically and mentally. We might even choose to resist getting involved in our own opportunities for drama, and we automatically create the will and courage that it takes to face and embrace anything and everything.

It takes a lot of love, beginning with loving ourselves. There are a few things I recommend:

  • There is no need to judge everything you do or do not do. You are perfect in your imperfection. Let go expectations and open to unexpected inspiration.
  • Forgive yourself and others. We are all doing our best. Connect with your inner light. You have deep within unrec- ognized resources. Acknowledge the presence of your soul power and possibility. You can use this power, but first you must recognize, and accept it, then use it to heal your past.
  • Respect all people and their choices. What is most yours is your choice of your attitude. Do not let your own negative attitude or the attitude of another be your prison. Nourish your soul with beauty around you. We try to keep flowers in our house all the time.
  • Eventually everything must be given up. Letting go releases us to the self organizing power of the universe.

Don’t you want to see what is possible? I love the last part of this poem.

 

 The Summer Day

by Mary Oliver

I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down,

Into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,

How to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields, which is what I have been doing all day.

Tell me, what else should I have done?

Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?

Tell me, what is it you plan to do

With you one wild and precious life?

 

Snapshot of Associate Minister Annie Kopko of the Interfaith Center in Ann Arbor.

 

 

 

 

by Rev. Annie Kopko 

Gender Jam Begins at ICSG!

Contributed by Robert Fagerlund
What is Gender Jam, you ask? It is a regular meeting group to provide a nonjudgmental, supportive, not scary forum to discuss and share on gender issues, social sexual roles and expectations, women’s issues, men’s issues, LGBTQ issues, straight issues, and any other related topics. There will be no agenda, no predetermined topic or issue. Conversation will arise from whatever attendees wish to talk about. This will be open to everyone in the community. Attendees participation in sharing or commenting is not required. No one will ever be “put on the spot” or made to feel uncomfortable about speaking or about not speaking.
The first Gender Jam will be on Tuesday, March 13 from 7:00–9:00p. Come on and check it out! Gender Jam is free. Donations to the Interfaith Center will be accepted. 
To get the conversation started, here is a message from Rob Fagerlund, the creator of the group:
Feminism is the best thing that ever happened to men.
Why do I say that? One thing feminism set in motion (and I mean long ago, at least as far back Susan B. Anthony and the other nineteenth century feminists who fought for women’s rights) is a challenge to destructive and oppressive gender roles and expectations for everyone.
And no, the feminist struggle is far from over. But that’s not really my focus here. I would like to make a few observations about feminism and men.

Continue reading Gender Jam Begins at ICSG!

Messages From Joe

Hello Interfaith Family,

If you have not yet been to a service during which we are graced with Joe Johnson’s words, then I am happy to be introducing you to him through our blog. ICSG got connected to Joe through a new member of our community, Holly Honig-Josephson. Holly works with an organization called Humanity for Prisoners that provides a variety of problem-solving services for incarcerated persons in Michigan to alleviate suffering beyond the just administration of their sentences. Joe is one of those people and Holly met him through this work.

During their communications, Joe shared with Holly some of his spiritual insights and expressed his interest in being connected to a spiritual community, which led Holly to speak with me. Since then, via the prison email system, I have been sending Joe the topics for Sunday talks and he sends his reflections to be shared during open mic. This has been a truly inspiring experience for me, as I am always amazed by his reflections. I often reflect that he should have my job! Recently, because of its importance and profundity, I included a part of his message during my talk on The Great Turning. Below are some of the powerful messages he has shared so far. Maybe one day we’ll make a book, Messages From Joe. Enjoy.

Introduction

Allow me this opportunity to introduce myself. My name is Joseph Johnson, I’ve been incarcerated for 37 years for a mistake that I made as a teenager. I along with my codefendant robbed two youths who were pushing an Ice Cream cart selling ice cream of $27.50 and some ice cream. For this I was sentenced to serve a parolable life term. My codefendant was sentence to 6 Months county jail and 5 years probation. I do not give this information expecting sympathy because what I did was wrong and I’m being held responsible and accountable for my actions.

I want to first thank Pastor Lauren and Holly for making this opportunity to communicate with you all possible and I’m so humbled to have this opportunity to reach out to you from where I sit. It furthers my belief that the strong arm of the ALL is most powerful.

Continue reading Messages From Joe

Visioning for Interfaith

By Rev. Annie Kopko

scrabble tiles spelling the word vision, to represent the interfaith center's visioning processThis is Part I of a four-part report on the Visioning process for the future of Interfaith. This process is led by a co-creation team and consists of four events of discovering, dreaming, designing and finally delivering for our beloved community.

We have set a timeline for community visioning for Interfaith this next year 2018, which is our 20th year as an interfaith spiritual community.  We should be very proud of what we have created together, and in order to keep a strong community, every few years we need to revisit our vision for our future.  2017 was a year of profound and exciting change, with the retiring of our senior minister senior Dave Bell and the hiring of our new senior minister Lauren Tatarsky.

Everyone is welcome and encouraged to participate in each of these events, held on Saturday mornings in 2018 from 10 a.m. to noon.

Part 1—Discovering and Appreciating the Best of “What is” (already completed)

Part 2—Dreaming and Imagining “What Could Be” Jan. 20, 2018

Part 3—Designing and Determining “What Should Be” April 21, 2018

Part 4—Delivering “What Will Be”  Date: TBA

Part 1 of our Vision took place on Saturday Nov. 18, 2017. Sixteen of us took part in the process. Our task was to find out what we do well, what do we value, what do we want to keep.  The following is a synopsis of what we shared at this gathering.

What we do well is offer a spiritually welcoming and inclusive community that gives each of us opportunity for spiritual growth and awareness. We do this primarily through our Sunday services, which are our profoundly creative opportunity for accepting, supporting, and celebrating one another on our shared journey.  Some of our favorite ways we do this is with the Namaste greeting, our meditations, readings, and especially open mic.

We know that involvement creates empowerment. Showing up happens to be important.  It is a profound act of service both to ourselves and for each other. We have a chance both to listen and to be heard.  We have a chance to love and be loved, support each other, and find a way to accept our own power for healing ourselves and others.  This is the way we heal the world.

What never ceases to amaze me (but of course makes perfect sense) is how showing up on Sunday can help to manifest positive outcomes in our lives and work.  This is how: we find acceptance of all spiritual paths; we see that expressing spirituality here at Interfaith is practice for outside; we are more confident in uncomfortable conversations; we are teaching our children by our example; we teach each other the same way.  We seek and find expanded awareness, entertain unlimited possibility, and truly find a spiritual home through community

 

Celebrations and New Beginnings ~ Welcoming Senior Minister Lauren Tatarsky this Sunday

In a historic passing of the baton, the Interfaith Center for Spiritual Growth will install Lauren Tatarsky as our new senior minister during this Sunday’s celebration service at 10:45 a.m.  Friends and family, old and new, are invited to meet Lauren and celebrate with us on this joyous occasion! Lauren will receive her ordination as an Interfaith Minister during the installation, and we will carry the festivities into a potluck lunch following the service.

Lauren was very warmly received by our community in March, when she hosted a Saturday workshop entitled, “Sharing Spiritual Experience: Connecting to Divinity Inside and Out,” followed by a Sunday talk, “Waking Up to Life: The Journey Toward Inner Knowing and Our Divine Purpose.” At our March Quarterly Conversation in Community, we announced the overwhelming decision by our membership to select Lauren as our new senior minister. In addition to the community vote, Lauren was the ministerial team’s unanimous preference to succeed Dave. On hearing the vote, founding minister Dave Bell  expressed his joy with tears of gratitude. “I’m very grateful for the hard work of the Search Committee and absolutely delighted with the choice of the congregation. I couldn’t be any happier about turning over the reins to Lauren.”

Lauren, 29, moved to Ann Arbor last summer from Denver and began attending Sunday services at the Center upon her arrival. She holds a Masters degree in Spiritual Guidance from The Institute of Transpersonal Psychology and a B.A. in Peace and Conflict Resolution from American University (Summa Cum Laude). Her post-graduate education experience focused on interfaith and interspiritual studies, with an emphasis on spiritual psychology and what it means to engage in a life of spiritual growth. She was raised Reform Jewish and spent time living at an ashram where she received training in yoga, meditation, Hinduism, Buddhism and Ayurveda.

Lauren describes herself as a Spiritual Eclectic, engaging in diverse spiritual practices that include contemplative meditation, visualization, nature walks, dream analysis, free form dance, and yoga. As a hatha yoga teacher, she values the mind-body-spirit connection and enjoys helping others experience the emotional and energetic aspects of their humanity as portals to their deeper selves as well as their connection with the Divine, Mother Nature, Spirit, the Universe, God, Goddess, True Self.

Prior to committing herself to spiritual work, Lauren spent many years as an activist in low-income communities working on issues of poverty, race, environmental justice, and healthy food access. She has traveled to 20 countries, mostly in the developing world, with numerous agencies and non-profits working for human rights and environmental justice. Most recently, she worked with inner-city youth in Denver, CO, promoting their empowerment and access to opportunities. Lauren is a lesbian and a LGBTQ advocate.

The next few weeks will be full of ways to honor this transition (including Dave’s retirement party on the 17th!). We hope to see you all in the coming weeks. Here are a few more things to add to your calendar for this time.

An Invitation ~ Letters to Lauren June 4th

In an effort to connect with each of us and get to know us better, Lauren will be collecting personal letters this Sunday (June 4) from anyone who would like to write her. It is not a requirement, only an invitation! Feel free to bring your letter with you on the 4th, or use the paper and pens we provide during the potluck after the service.

These letters are confidential (Lauren will be the only one reading them) and the topic is wide open! What would you like your new minister to know?

Ideas include: What’s going on in your life right now? What do you want Lauren to know about you as a person? Tell her about your spirituality? What does the Center mean to you? What does Lauren need to know about ICSG? What is your vision for our future?

All Aboard for Dave’s Retirement Party, Saturday, June 17th

We’re having a Retirement Gala on Saturday, June 17, from 6-8pm to honor our beloved founder and fearless spiritual leader, Dave Bell. We will celebrate Dave’s nearly 20 years of service to the Center, with light refreshments and a short program at 7pm. As anyone who was at Dave’s last Sunday talk on May 28 knows, we will have some great fun.  If you have not had an opportunity to share your good wishes and gratitude with Dave and Judy, now is the time!

Please note: Dave has let us know that in lieu of gifts, donations to the ICSG building fund in his honor will be happily accepted. For more information contact Sally @734-646-1349.

June 25th “Eat and Greet” with Lauren

Lauren invites everyone to a second June potluck after the June 25th service, to get to know her better in both formal and informal ways. She is planning  for 2 hours, 12:30-2:30. Friends old and new, please be sure to join us for this special opportunity! 

New Challenges, New Beginnings

by Senior Minister David T. Bell

A snapshot of founding minister Dave Bell, who attended the New Seminary in New York and founded the Interfaith Center for Spiritual Growth in Ann Arbor, MI.
David T. Bell

It is amazing to realize another year is about to unfold. There are quite a number of things that we would change about the year of 2016. Perhaps we should have enlarged the flash paper for the Burning Bowl service. 🙂 But seriously, we know that even as we feel resistance to what is occurring in the world, our true mission is to be the bringers of light. As bringers of light, it does not serve us to grumble and complain, to shake our heads in disbelief, or to express anger and frustration.

Every being, including those whom we might see as misguided or even evil, are expressions of divinity. As such, we cannot spend our time finding fault or criticizing them. The difficult task is to hold them in light, while finding ways to ensure that harm does not befall those who may be the subject of prejudice, if not out right hatred.

This will not be easy. Whatever actions we choose to take, anger should be left behind. As Jeshua said at our Christmas morning service, anger is never justified. He specifically said that his actions in driving the money changers from the Temple were not a result of anger.

There is no way that I or anyone can anticipate what situations will arise in the next year, or the next four years. What can be said, emphatically, is that guidance is available.

When faced with the opportunity to take some action, always pause a moment and ask for guidance.

Jeshua, the Holy Spirit, or your guardian angels will absolutely respond. Pausing a moment before acting is also a wonderful way to allow momentary anger to dissipate. So let us remember that we are the Bringers of Light as we ring in the New Year.

Ministerial Search Observations

The Ministerial Search Committee has been doing yeoman duty in attracting our next spiritual leader. They have established a working protocol that has served them well and they are sticking to it. I am optimistic that we will have a difficult choice to make amongst the excellent candidates. We will see how it unfolds.

Judy and I are heading for Florida toward the end of January. We are leaving a few days early so that we can scout out a new place to hang out. Our beloved Anna Maria Island has become too crowded and way too expensive. We still plan to be snow birds after I retire, but not Florida residents. I will be flying home for the month of March and we will both return to Michigan again in mid-April.

Blessings to all,

Dave

Opening our Minds & Hearts to the LGBTQ Community

by Rev. Annie Kopko, Associate Minister
Snapshot of Associate Minister Annie Kopko of the Interfaith Center in Ann Arbor.
Associate Minister Annie Kopko

We want to be a community that will “Welcome the strange, not just the stranger.”

The ministers at our beloved Center have been discussing this ever since Rev. Delyth and I attended a workshop last September. This workshop was organized to help faith communities come together and learn how we can become more inclusive and welcoming of LGBTQ individuals.

LGBTQIA = LESBIAN, BI-SEXUAL, GAY, TRANSGENDER, INTERSEX, OR ASEXUAL

As a follow-up to what we learned at the September workshop, our Center will welcome Rev. Dr. Julie Nemecek to speak at the Sunday service on January 15.  Reverend Julie is both an ordained Baptist minister and one of Michigan’s leading voices on transgender issues. She has worked with many churches on becoming an open and affirming church (inclusive of LGBTQIA people).  Continue reading Opening our Minds & Hearts to the LGBTQ Community

This is the Time

Here is challenge as well as some words of encouragement for everyone in the turbulence following the presidential election. May the challenges facing us all serve our collective awakening.

There are three parts to this post:

1) A video of the Sunday service with guest speaker Rev. Holly Makimaa.

2) A copy of the text Rev. Holly quoted at the end of her talk, “Now is Your Time” by L’Erin Alta.

3) A spiritual reading given by member Carol Bardenstein, “We Were Made for These Times” by Dr.  Clarissa Pinkola Estes:

Sunday Service with Interfaith Minister Holly Makimaa

“Now is Your Time,” by L’Erin Alta

If you ever felt called to be a healer, a teacher, a salve for the people, now is your time to come forward.

If you are a word weaver, or a light worker, or a lender of ears, now is your time to come forward.

If you have been hiding medicine in your pockets, behind your eyes, beneath your tongue, waiting for the ‘right’ time to share it, now is your time to come forward. Continue reading This is the Time

Embodying Higher Consciousness in Turbulent Times

post-election-spirituality resourcesHow do people on a conscious spiritual path embrace our spiritual power in a time of great fear and divisiveness?

What is the middle way, between falling victim to fear on the one hand, and spiritual bypassing on the other?

Here are two perspectives from wise American teachers:

  1.  Marianne Williamson, author of Return to Love and Healing the Soul of America  (1998), speaks on wise engagement as citizens in a democracy, from the point of view of A Course in Miracles, here. This talk includes a challenge for New Thought people to take a hard look at the temptation to avoid difficult topics by judging them as “negative.” She says now is an opportunity for “girls to become women and boys to become men” in our spiritual lives. (video)
  2.  Tara Brach, spiritual director at the Insight Meditation Center in Washington, DC, suggests how we can “Play a Greater Part,” in a post-retreat talk here. (audio)

Continue reading Embodying Higher Consciousness in Turbulent Times