June 5, 2019

A year ago today we were in Seattle, visiting Pike Place, a short walk from our hotel.  My “iconic” photo there was not the famed Pike Place Fish Market featuring the famous fish toss, but the Gum Wall not far away, with a couple of kids having a good time (the young lady pointing out her contribution to the wall).  Generations of youngsters and gum wads under school desks come to mind here.  When the kids get to this long wall, it must be heavenly!

Gum Wall, Pike Place Seattle WA June 5, 2019

A year ago was a celebratory time for us – me, a survivor of heart surgery six months earlier; Cathy, a survivor of me!  AMTRAK heading to the Coast was a good idea.  But as we know, time passes quickly and other things interfere, as we all know from our own life experiences.  Memorial Day 2020 continued to change our lives, adding to the pandemic, and so on….

Later today (it’s Sunday morning, June 7, as I write), we go to Grandson Parker’s high school graduation, scheduled for 2:45 p.m.  Here’s how Eastview High in Apple Valley decided to do graduation this year.

Tomorrow Grandson Ted is 20.  They live nearby, but I haven’t heard of any backyard party.  Life is still in quarantine.

Then there’s the daily front page news, the end of the week of George Floyd’s funeral, and all that attends, all over the world.  We all have an opportunity to be part of the solution; I hope we take the bait, but it won’t be easy.  It is easier to blame.

Yesterday I took my spouse Cathy down to see Lake Street and Chicago Avenue south.  It was another beautiful day, all was quiet.  Hulks of most of the buildings that were destroyed by fire remain, most windows remain boarded over with plywood, there is the usual graffiti…but some awesome street art is now appearing to bring a little beauty back.

We couldn’t get all the way to 38th and Chicago where the murder happened on Memorial Day, but we got within a block.  People were gathered there.  All was quiet.

Today is the first day of the rest of our lives.  What are we going to do with it, and the days that follow?  It’s up to us.

Gum Wall Pike Place Seattle June 5, 2019

The story of the Gum Wall is interesting.  I have a link at the beginning of this post, but searching the words will come up with more stories.  We are all like that young lady, with our own space on the wall of humanity.  What is our design, our contribution, to be?

Seattle Pike Place area June 5, 2019

The neighborhood where Gandhi Mahal restaurant stood before it was destroyed by fire last week. Minneapolis Star Tribune page A12 June 7, 2020.  Gandhi Mahal was mid-block in the burned out block.  


BECOMING HUMAN: A LENTEN SERIES:  Along with about 50 others, I attended the first three of a planned six lecture series on this topic at Basilica of St. Mary beginning February, 2020.  Each talk was powerful.  The last three had to be cancelled due to quarantine, but the speakers, all faculty at St. Thomas University, put all of the six lectures on video, and Basilica and St. Thomas have made them available to everyone, and I’m passing along with permission.  The syllabus is at the end of this post.  I have not included the links or followup activities.  Here are the links to the talks themselves.

Week One: Dr. David Williard: Civil War to Civil Rights

Week Two: Dr. Jessica Siegel: The War on Drugs

Week Three: Dr. Amy Levad: Mass Incarceration

Week Four: Dr. Amy Finnegan: Defeating the “White Savior” Complex

Week Five: Dr. Michael Klein: Mobilizing for Social Change

Week Six: Dr. Kimberley Vrudny: The Blackness of God



Welcome to The Basilica of Saint Mary’s Lenten Series on “Becoming Human.” Though of course we wish we could have continued the series in person, COVID-19 made online delivery necessary. We hope that this “online portal” to the series provides you with some ofthe tools that will be necessary to engage in the work of transforming our communities.

The theory guiding this series is that the racial history we all inherit is dehumanizing for all of us, though it is dehumanizing for white folks in different ways than it is dehumanizing for people of color. The only way to “become human” is to confront the legacy of white supremacy and undergo a process of transformation, even conversion, to engage more humanely in the world, especially across the color line.

Key to this effort is learning the history of how white supremacy has been structured into the American legal system from its founding (week one), persisting beyond the era of Civil Rights especially through the “war on drugs” (week two), and leading to the contemporary reality of mass incarceration (week three). Learning the stages of development in racial identity can help to disrupt the “White Savior” complex, the tendency of white people to engage in efforts that are unhelpful at best, and patronizing at worst (week four). True social transformation can happen when there is a match between our unique gifts and the world’s need. As Frederick Buechner put it, “The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet” (week five). Since theology is a carrier, too, of white supremacy, learning about the Blackness of God might also help in recognizing the moral imperative behind this religious calling to engage in the work of social transformation (week six).

This series will echo the Christian cycle of creation-fall-redemption, starting with the theological idea that humans were created in the imago Dei, but fell into a sinful condition where persons, relations, and structures fail to function in the ways that God desires. Humans were created reflecting something of the divine life, but sin–especially the social sin associated with the domination of one over another–has diminished life, not only for people of color, but also for perpetrators. The final two sessions in the series will point to the hope that God is redeeming us from the condition in which we find ourselves. The series holds onto the hope that the Holy Spirit is at work in the world, enlightening us, empowering us, and encouraging us to resist systems of oppression, and to cooperate in the task of reclaiming our common humanity.

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