Town Hall Forum: Climate and the Future of the Planet

by Tane Danger, Director, Westminster Town Hall Forum

In 2021, we launched a new way of choosing topics and speakers for the Westminster Town Hall Forum. First, we decided to pick themes for our spring and fall seasons, allowing us to connect each of the talks. Then we asked the Forum’s advisory board, evenly comprised of Westminster and community members, to take the lead on deciding those themes.

The advisory board’s charge is to select themes that reflect a pressing issue for our community and world. Then they help curate specific topics and speakers under that theme. The goal is to help ensure the voices and issues at the Forum reflect the interests and concerns of our entire community.

For our spring 2022 season, the advisory board selected the theme of “climate and the future of the planet.” They have directed the Forum to put together a set of speakers who will discuss how climate change will intersect with long-standing challenges of economic inequality, racism, and international cooperation. At the same time, our speakers will talk about climate solutions, adaptation, and a positive path forward.

Our first speaker in the climate series this spring will be Katharine Hayhoe, the Chief Scientist for The Nature Conservancy where she oversees the global climate advocacy and adaptation work. Her new book, Saving Us: A Climate Scientist’s Case for Hope and Healing in a Divided World is a candid look at the science of climate change and what can be done about it.

Dr. Hayhoe will speak at the Westminster Town Hall Forum Monday, January 31, at noon. The talk will be available online only through the Forum’s website. The talk is presented in collaboration with The Great Northern Festival and their “Climate Solutions” series. The remainder of the Town Hall Forum’s spring 2022 season will be announced in February.

(Photo credit: Ashley Rodgers)

Belonging to a Beloved City: Spirituality and Theology for Our Urban World

by Mark VanderShaaf, Member, Adult Education Council

Martin Luther King’s vision of “beloved community” was informed by both Christian theology and secular spirituality. Although his vision encompasses all aspects of society, it is particularly relevant in the cities where most people now live.

This winter, I will teach a short course exploring potential spiritual and theological contributions to a “beloved city,” beginning with two sessions considering how two recent transformations in the Twin Cities Area – riverfront redevelopment and light rail line neighborhood changes – can be regarded as well-aligned with a Christian ethos. The remaining four sessions of the course will provide a closer look at the relationship between theology and urban issues. They will include an overview of the major urban issues of our time and will consider the work of the English theologian Timothy Gorringe, an Anglican priest and Exeter University professor who has produced the 21st century’s most comprehensive theological interpretation of our urban world – a component of his wide-ranging theology of culture that is both sophisticated and accessible. His interpretation includes a powerful articulation of social ethics appropriate for a “beloved city.”

The course will be held at 6:30 pm on Wednesdays, beginning on January 19 and continuing through February 23. The course requires registration, with a maximum of 25 participants and in-person attendance encouraged, but with remote learning also provided. Register to attend through Realm.

Exploring Redemption, Reparations, and Repentance

Liberty Community Church and Westminster will welcome the Rev. Anthony Jermaine Ross-Allam for our annual joint celebration of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday weekend. Ross-Allam served as associate pastor at Liberty and Oak Grove Presbyterian Church before becoming a doctoral candidate in Social Ethics at Union Theological Seminary. He describes his research as focusing “on the social ecology that inspires, justifies, ignores, rewards and excuses extralegal violence against AfroAmericans after Emancipation.”

With Presbyterian Church (USA) CoModerators Ruling Elder Elona Street Stewart and Rev. Gregory J. Bentley, Ross-Allam is co-leading Restorative Actions, a grass roots voluntary initiative for predominantly white churches, individuals, mid-councils, and agencies of the Presbyterian Church (USA) as well as other ecumenical partners and affiliated organizations to return benefits accrued to them directly or indirectly because of systemic inequities. As Westminster is supporting the Minnesota Council of Church’s recently launched 10-year truth, reparations, and education initiative it is good timing to hear from Ross-Allam.

Recently Rev. Dr. Alika Galloway commented, “Anthony’s discourse about reparations is long overdue theologically. He is on the cutting edge regarding the marriage of reparations, theology, ethics, and justice. His work is redemptive and calls for regarding reparations as an act of repentance. As Christians we are called to repent for and make right ancestral ills; especially those whose legacy is still alive today. It’s a journey that as Christians we must take seriously, thoughtfully and prayerfully.”

In addition, the Rev. Ross-Allam’s research resonates with the themes explored in the Social Justice Forum and Adult Education this year. Westminster’s Social Justice Forum is focusing on the theme Diving Deeper Together So All Will Flourish and Adult Education is exploring the theme Building the Beloved Community: Construction, Restructuring, and Repair.

Rev. Ross-Allam will lead the annual joint workshop, Saturday, January 15, at 10:30 am online only (please note, this is a change as of January 9) and preach at Westminster’s morning worship services, Sunday, January 16, online and in person.

Engaging Our Neighbors Experiencing Homelessness

By Suzanne McInroy, Director of Communications

In the last year, Westminster leaders began to envision adding a staff role focused on safety for everyone engaging with the church, whether they enter the building for worship, an event, or seek shelter on church grounds. But finding someone with just the right combination of skills took some time. And then Patrick Bayle applied for the job.

Patrick has lived experience with homelessness and addiction. In 2003 he began a recovery journey and, since then, completed two degrees from Augsburg University and spent 15 years serving the community, and especially those experiencing homelessness.

“I have a mission, I have a need to help people who experience the brutality of homelessness,” Patrick explains, “because it is a very difficult way to live. And I don’t think we should treat our brothers and sisters in our society the way we do just because they cannot plug into the economic grid.”

In his first two months at Westminster as Building Hospitality and Safety Manager, Patrick has provided shelter resources to many of the individuals sleeping outside Westminster’s doors, connected interested individuals to Hennepin County housing case managers, and addressed unhealthy behaviors on the church grounds that were a concern. His next steps are to communicate more with Westminster members about homelessness and work with the already-existing efforts focused on affordable housing.

“Waking up on the concrete is a really tough way to live,” Patrick says. “And if I can give someone just a little bit of a notion that somebody sees you and somebody cares about you, that’s a real honor and fills my soul to be able to look somebody in the eye and say, ‘I see you and I want to help.’ That’s really the best part of my job.”

In this interview, hear Patrick’s passion for this work, plans for his new role, and his hope for the future.

 

 

Westminster Announces a New—Yet Familiar—Director of Stewardship

Westminster is excited to announce that Kelsey Crouch-Dodson has been named the new Director of Stewardship. Church leaders began an extensive search for the position after Mary Hess announced her retirement this summer. Kelsey is well known at Westminster and currently serves as a Ruling Elder of Session, Stewardship Co-Chair, and as the Christian Vocations Team Committee Chair.

“Kelsey brings to this role a combination of good professional stewardship experience, creative energy, and knowledge of our congregation that will help Westminster continue its strong tradition of generosity,” said Senior Pastor Tim Hart-Andersen.

Kelsey’s professional experience in development work includes working for Baylor University in Waco, Texas, and The ALS Association in Minneapolis. Currently, Kelsey works as a Senior Decision Science Coordinator at BWF, a fundraising consulting firm that advises clients in higher education, healthcare, and the nonprofit sector on philanthropic strategies.

Born and raised in Texas, Kelsey attended Austin College in Sherman, Texas, and moved to Minneapolis in 2015 with her husband, Taylor Crouch-Dodson. The couple welcomed their first child, Rowan, this past year.

“It is truly a blessing to serve a community so near and dear to my heart. I look forward to deepening my connections with the congregation and building on the established legacy of stewardship at Westminster,” said Kelsey.

Kelsey will begin her new position December 1. The November Session meeting will be her last one as an elder as she shifts to her staff role.

Highlighting Our Community Partner Grant Recipients – November

Greater Minneapolis Community Connection

Greater Minneapolis Community Connection (GMCC) was founded in 1905 as Greater Minneapolis Council of Churches. GMCC is building on its legacy of responding to community need by focusing on food access, youth development, and community well-being. GMCC coordinates the Minnesota Foodshare program and at the height of the pandemic, GMCC addressed disruption of food supply chains and collaborated to deliver culturally sensitive prepared meals.  GMCC supports Minnesota Venture Farms, a Black, Indigenous and People of

Color led food equity initiative. GMCC supported internet access when schools had to go virtual learning and began GeniusLabs@GMCC to build STEM skills for youth. GMCC, in partnership with local mosques, is helping to ensure access to the COVID-19 vaccine and accurate vaccine information.

Our Saviour’s Community Services

Our Saviour’s Community Services (OSCS), located in the Phillip’s neighborhood, has two program components: housing and an English Learning Center (ELC).  OSCS housing programs include 24 shelter units for men and women with a 24/7 setting;  transitional housing serving 10 women who have experienced homelessness and domestic violence; and long-term permanent supportive housing for more than 100 residents living with mental illness, physical disability, or substance use disorder.  Because of a long history of systemic racism affecting housing availability, OSCS’ housing programs disproportionately serve Black, Indigenous and People of Color.  Annually the ELC serves 150 to 300 refugee and immigrant adults representing more than 25 countries offering classes in English, computers, math, and citizenship. Due to increasing food insecurity in 2020, ELC began providing culturally specific food to participating adults and families.

 

 

 

Fair Trade Gift Fair Returns

by Alanna Simone Tyler, Associate Pastor for Justice and Mission

Westminster’s 2021 Fair Trade Gift Fair on Sunday, November 21, will feature sustainably sourced and fairly-exchanged goods from a variety of vendors. The fair will begin at 9:15 am and run until 12:45 pm, with a break for worship from 10:30-11:30 am.

Through fair-trade arrangements, craftspeople and farmers are empowered to preserve their traditions and create better lives for their families and their communities. Global Mamas, founded in 2003 by six Ghanaian women, is one of the 2021 participating vendors. Their mission is to “create a life of prosperity for women across Ghana by creating and selling handmade fair-trade products.” Currently more than 300 Ghanaian women earn a livable wage through Global Mamas. When the pandemic disrupted their business, the talented women, affectionally referred to as “the mamas” produced close to 20,000 protective masks. This fall their Minneapolis-based staff generously donated colorful child-sized masks to St. David’s Harman Center.

Westminster did not host the fair in 2020. We are excited to again provide the opportunity for the Westminster community to purchase beautifully crafted goods. Each time we buy fair-trade goods, we help promote livable wages, skills training, and sustainable business development in support of our siblings around the world. The fair is free and open to the public so please invite your family and friends. To learn more email act@wpc-mpls.org.

A Tribute to John August Swanson

by Dr. Rodney Allen Schwartz, Director, Westminster Gallery and Archive

The art of John August Swanson can be found throughout the Westminster Gallery and building. His bright and colorful images appear to glow from within. The process for printing these serigraphs is a technique that is a cross between a stencil and a silkscreen. Transparent and opaque, matte and glossy, the inks are printed as small dots that become luminescent to our eyes.

John is a life-long resident of Los Angeles where he was born to a Swedish father and Mexican mother. His father spent much of his life on the streets, and John often searched for him. The artist Sister Corita Kent found John and became his mentor. Together they created graphic art that demonstrated against war and advocated for the ordinary person through a variety of social justice themes.

While John’s primary body of work is his Biblical images; his work also featured musicians, acrobats, and the circus. Later in his career he returned primarily to his early social justice focus and has produced many graphic posters. The Westminster Collection is fortunate as John has gifted us with a complete set of these posters.

The Westminster Collection of John’s work has also grown with the recent gift of several serigraphs given in memory of John C. Salzsieder. Loaves and Fishes, Wedding Feast, and Take Away the Stone can be viewed in the hallway connecting the sanctuary and the Westminster Gallery.

I am sad to report that John died on September 23 after a short time in hospice care. May his gentle and loving spirit live on in the beauty of his art.

Westminster Welcomes New Artist-in-Residence

by Kenneth, Vigne, Associate Director of Music

Westminster welcomes Katherine Parent as our Artist-in-Residence for 2021-2022. Katherine is a Twin Cities-rooted visual artist and musician. Her work explores themes of the mystical, healing, and racial and ecological justice through play with paint, textiles, recycled materials, and music. Katherine has worked as a visual teaching artist with many local church and community groups. She believes that making art can be a sacred group experience; a way to work together with our hands while opening up challenging conversations, and a healing space of playful spiritual resistance for people of any age.

As a musician, Katherine is a lifelong choral singer who studied with the Seattle Girls Choir and St. Olaf Choir. She now writes and performs as a singer/songwriter and enjoys collaborations with artists from multiple genres, from Irish traditional music to protest chants to hip hop. She is a 2021 Cedar Commissions artist at the Cedar Cultural Center. She has a PhD in history from Luther Seminary, with a focus on religion and racism in Minnesota.

Highlighting Our Community Partner Grant Recipients – October

Comunidades Latinas Unidas En Servicio 

Comunidades Latinas Unidas En Servicio (CLUES) is a first-time Westminster Community Partners grant recipient. CLUES is Minnesota’s largest Latino-led non-profit, founded in 1981 by and for Latinos. Its purpose is to ensure the advancement of social and economic equity and well-being for Latinos in Minnesota. Program areas include Health and Wellness, Arts and Culture, Economic Empowerment, and Advocacy and Community Engagement.

The grant from Westminster specifically supports the initiative of “Avanzando Juntos” (Advancing Together). The culturally responsive, research-based program assists first generation Latinx students to achieve success in their first year and gain the tools and support necessary to graduate college in four years. It includes workshops, community-building, mentorships, and support. Learn more about Avanzando through College.

© Westminster Presbyterian Church | 2022