The New Sanctuary Movement Comes to My Neighborhood

img_3225“No one leaves home unless home is the mouth of a shark.”
― Warsan Shire, Teaching My Mother How to Give Birth

Given the current divisive atmosphere and mean narratives, I feel compelled some evenings to share information and inspiration on topics other than poetry, which support our shared ideals.

In a courageous and compassionate move two faith organizations in my neighborhood just announced that their congregations have voted by overwhelming majorities to give physical sanctuary to vulnerable neighbors, the kind of move that has growing support across the United States under the banner of The New Sanctuary Movement, a movement with historic roots in human sanctuary (as opposed to spiritual sanctuary) in England, 600 A.D. This latest revival is a renewal of the 80s Sanctuary Movement in the U.S.

In the 1980s faith organizations were responsible for transporting and sheltering some 500,000 escaping the violence in Central America. Hundreds of congregations sheltered refugees and moved them to the U.S. and Canada.

Why give sanctuary: 

The Rev. Ben Meyers minister of the Unitarian Universalists of San Mateo states: “Our Unitarian Universalist principles call us to affirm and promote the inherent worth and dignity of all people; to seek justice, equity, and compassion in human relations, and to create world community with peace, liberty and justice for all. We commit our values to action as we work with other people of faith and moral conscience congruent with these principles and this purpose.  Deportation of our neighbors and the breaking up of immigrant families in our communities are among the most compelling social justice issues of our time.  Standing together on the side of love, our faith communities can make a real difference.”

and …

The Rev. Dr. G. Penny Nixon, senior minister of the Congregational Church of San Mateo says: “Each week we gather in our beautiful sanctuary to remember who we are as a people of faith who follow the teachings of Jesus. For us, providing refuge means opening that sanctuary as a “safe place” to those who are an integral part of our community, and providing a haven for families to stay together.” –The Rev. Dr. G. Penny Nixon, senior minister of the Congregational Church of San Mateo


I do not represent either of the churches featured here this evening nor speak for their ministers and congregations, but this story is compelling. I hope that by featuring their justice efforts other faith organizations that haven’t picked up the banner will do so. If your synagogue, church, temple or mosque is not in the process of becoming sanctuary, then please consider initiating that conversation. If you are the leader in a faith organization or a professional journalist who would like more information, contact the ministers at clergyhousingsummit2@gmail.com or contact me via direct message on Facebook or thepoetbyday@gmail.com and I’ll be happy to connect you.

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When a prompt strikes a cord . . . Jamie Dedes and/or/Is the Feminine Divine by Gary W. Bowers

Poet and Artist, Gary W. Bowers

Poet and Artist, Gary W. Bowers

Gary Bowers (One With Clay) is one of our triple-threat poets: poetry, art and humor.  Words like “quick-witted” and “pithy” come to mind. He is adapt at combing his talents and this is a post he created, which I will cherish. It’s always nice to be acknowledged and Gary is particularly kind to me. Thank you, Gary! This is sweet and clever. There’s a lot more of Gary’s poetry, art and unique style to be enjoyed on Gary’s blog,where he often acknowledges other creatives. Recommended. J.D.


Jamie Dedes is alive, though she was given but two years to live in a prognosis delivered before the end of the last century. She credits her son and “an extraordinary medical team” for her continued existence. Though I don’t know her well–I don’t even know how many syllables are in her last name, much less how to pronounce it–I would venture to add that Moxie also has something to it.

For she has Moxie in abundance. She cares enough about poetry and its practitioners to have created and maintained an outstanding resource-blog called THE POET BY DAY, which connects poets via showcased poet exemplars, essays, links to items of interest to poets, her own poems, and on Wednesdays, those springboarding challenges known as prompts, which are invitations to write about a specific thing, or on a certain theme, or some other limiting, focusing factor.

And it was a week ago Wednesday that I responded to one such prompt. This one:

Write a poem, a fiction or a creative nonfiction piece telling us how you envision a feminine God or about the feminine side of God. What might S/he be like? Does/would such a view change the way you feel about yourself and the world? Would it change the world? How? You don’t need to believe in God or in a feminine aspect of God. This is an exercise in imagination not faith. Have fun with the exercise and if you feel comfortable, share the piece or the link to the piece below so that we might all enjoy.

For some reason this prompt struck a chord and got me going. I don’t know if there is a Supreme Being. I have certain feelings but I don’t trust them, being a rationalizer and wishful-thinker. A much more intelligent man than I am, Stephen Hawking, envisions a cosmology that, in the words of Carl Sagan in his introduction to Hawking’s A Brief History of Time, gives “nothing for a Creator to do.” In other words, Hawking’s universe has no need for a Creator.

But if there IS a Supreme Being, it makes sense to me, since the Supreme Being brought us all to be, that since that Being birthed us all, that She be a mother. And so I took a weird word from a conspiracy theory about our 44th President, Barack Obama, for a title, and was off to the races imagining God as Mom:

*****

birther

o god
thou residest betwixt r and t

god s be thy name
birther of us all
mixmistress of galaxies
crecher of clusters
ovulatrix of ylem

thy mother’s care is in the dew
thy admonishment is in the don’t
and when we want to play in the woods of reckless fun
thou respondest “we’ll see”
which almost always means “fat chance”

thy human smartalecks speak of heat death
it is merely a pause
in thy menopause
and soon thou’lt bake us cosmic cookies again

thanks for Ever
y
Thing,
maman

*****

Sure was fun to write, and oddly, bouncily, spiritually uplifting. Things just seemed to naturally occur: the Heat Death of the Universe resonates with the “hot flash” of menopause–hey how bout that, menoPAUSE–perhaps prelusive of the Big Crunch and the next Bang–and double up on “baking us cosmic cookies” with us being some of the cosmic cookies She bakes–and Everything with the y, possibly the Spanish “and,” joining Ever and Thing–and the French word for Mama, maman, slightly hinting at both “amen” and “ma MAN.” Wrote it first, realized it later. Could it be that She helped? Fun to think so.

I posted “birther” in the Comments section of Jamie’s post, and she replied that she loved it and wanted to include it in her following-Tuesday post. I happily agreed, and supplied a photo and my poet’s curriculum vitae at her request. She published my and three other poets’ responses to her prompt last Tuesday, and I was proud and happy enough to be in such august company that I put a link to her post on my Facebook Timeline.

As fate would have it, the next day was Jamie’s Birthday, and it was there I learned about her “Sixty-seven Years on the Razor’s Edge.” You can too, and I think you should. HERE is a link.

One thing I’d left out of my poet’s biography was the fact that my specialty is Acrostic poetry, i.e. poems where the first and/or last and/or midstream letters of the poem form words. In my gratitude to Jamie, and wanting to show off a little of this weird skill, I composed and illustrated a birthday acrostic for her, thus:

jamie-dedes-02222017

Here are the words of what may be the first birthday-occasion, acrostic, limerickal, end-words-all-rhyme-or-nearly-so poem in human history:

Jamaica may thrill, undenied,
And Nawlins is burstful with pride;
MARVEL at, though, who’s hied
In the clouds with her stride,
Energetically shifting the tides.

Thanks again, Jamie, for Ever y Thing!

… and thanks again to YOU, Gary!  J.D.

© 2017, words, artwork and photograph, Gary W. Bowers, All rights reserved


sonjabenskinmesher2011Another triple-threat talent, Sonja Benskin Mesher‘s (sonja-benskin-mesher.net), responsed to last Wednesday’s Writing Prompt, which was hosted by Michael Watson (Dreaming the World, On the Arts and Healing in Difficult Times). Sonja’s bio is HERE.

.the first time.

when was the first time.the first
time it was noticed that some one
was helping.

kindness.

the first thought on the sentiment there.

the beauty of it all.

it has been said before. that hate and anger
bring hate and anger more.

it may be the brains’ addictions.

we stopped by tescos and thought of you all.

here is a photo of one man who helped another man.

sbm.

© Sonja Benskin Mesher


51u0fnastll-_sx309_bo1204203200_The recommended read for this week is Ted Kooser’s The Poetry Home Repair Manual: Practical Advice for Beginning Poets.  There’s so much I like about this manual.  For one thing, Ted assumes that if you are a heavy-duty reader, you already know quite a bit.  After all, one of the best ways to learn to write is to read. He operates on the moral principle that if you have a gift then you have the obligation to offer something by way of giving back. He says, “I hope I won’t exhaust your patience” and he doesn’t. He assumes that our ultimate goal is to reach others and to move them, so there is a great deal of emphasis on the relationship between the poet and her reader. He discusses our job as poet – not money, not fame – but “to serve the poems we write.”  This perspective makes reading and working with Ted Kooser’s The Poetry Home Repair Manual an refreshing guide to the poetic terrain for both budding and experienced writers interested in creating work that is fulfilling and truly artistic.

By shopping at Amazon through The Word Play Shop and using the book links embedded in posts, you help to support the maintenance of this site. Thank you! (Some book links will just lead to info about the book or poet/author and not to Amazon.)

The WordPlay Shop offers books and other tools especially selected for poets and writers.

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HEADS-UP SAN MATEO, CA: Justice Action Mondays, Flash Advocacy

Rev. Benjamin Meyers, Minister, Unitarian Universalists of San Mateo

Rev. Benjamin Meyers, Minister, Unitarian Universalists of San Mateo

Rev. Ben Meyers and the Unitarian Universalists of San Mateo invite San Mateo residents to join in the creation of an open, drop-in community space where people can come together in a supportive environment to make our voices heard.

Justice Action Mondays: Flash Advocacy!
Mondays, 5:30 – 6:30 pm, Beck Hall, Unitarian Universalists of San Mateo, 300 E. Santa Inez Ave., San Mateo, CA  94401, Phone: 650 342-5946, Office Hours: Tu – Fri 10-5

This Week: The focus is on writing thank you notes to journalists and legislators who are challenging Trump’s falsehoods and investigating Russian involvement in the election. Cards, stamps, snacks and conversation provided. Do drop in for a fun hour of solidarity and activism!

A distribution list will be created to keep you informed of the topic each Wednesday.


Who are the Unitarian Universalists?

UU San Mateo

UU San Mateo

Unitarian Universalist congregations are filled with caring, open-minded people. Our faith encourages you to seek your own spiritual path. Our congregations are places where people gather to nurture their spirits and put their faith into action by helping to make our communities—and the world—a better place. We are committed to spiritual growth and transformation.

500px-Flaming_Chalice.svgPrinciples and Sources

There are seven principles which Unitarian Universalist congregations affirm and promote:

  • The inherent worth and dignity of every person;
  • Justice, equity and compassion in human relations;
  • Acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth in our congregations;
  • A free and responsible search for truth and meaning;
  • The right of conscience and the use of the democratic process within our congregations and in society at large;
  • The goal of world community with peace, liberty, and justice for all;
  • Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part.

Unitarian Universalism (UU) draws from many sources:

  1. Direct experience of that transcending mystery and wonder, affirmed in all cultures, which moves us to a renewal of the spirit and an openness to the forces which create and uphold life;
  2. Words and deeds of prophetic women and men which challenge us to confront powers and structures of evil with justice, compassion, and the transforming power of love;
  3. Wisdom from the world’s religions which inspires us in our ethical and spiritual life;
  4. Jewish and Christian teachings which call us to respond to God’s love by loving our neighbors as ourselves;
  5. Humanist teachings which counsel us to heed the guidance of reason and the results of science, and warn us against idolatries of the mind and spirit.
  6. Spiritual teachings of earth-centered traditions which celebrate the sacred circle of life and instruct us to live in harmony with the rhythms of nature.

These principles and sources of faith are the backbone of the UU religious community.

UUSM is

  • a Welcoming Community
  • a Beloved Community in the spirit of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
  • a sanctuary congregation and active in the American Sanctuary Movement

41lynkwoe1lRELATED:

the flautist wears a shaman’s headdress, a poem

img_3350

gone mad, gone mad
but for the flautist in shaman’s headdress and
the first violinist wearing a necklace of skulls,
praise the intuitive, the holy, the gentle chanting
of the faithful …

defy the bassoonist 
blowing brazen notes over Syria
and the cellists hidden in caves; succour the sad sweet
violins of Aleppo and Palestine crying salt tears
for their lost lands, pulses weakening and there’s
that drummer who 
down-beats from North Korea

China harps on the fumes of its discontents,
the Ukraine is loud with crashing cymbals
and the snap pizzicato of Russian preying,
while the angel of Germany hosts a symphony,
or tries to, & here in America parties are discordant

[the price of order is dictatorship
the price of democracy is chaos]

politicians out of tune, sections out-of-order,
oligarchs charge themselves with theatre management

poor acoustics preclude hearing the chorus …
. . . and all the world’s a stage,
the men and women are not mere players

“As Democracy is perfected, the office of the President represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people.  On some great and glorious day, the plain folk of the land will reach their heart’s desire at last, and the White House will be occupied by a downright fool and a complete narcissistic moron.”  H.L. Mencken, The Baltimore Evening Sun, July 216, 1920

© 2017, poem and illustration, All rights reserved


The recommended read for this week is Ted Kooser’s The Poetry 51u0fnastll-_sx309_bo1204203200_Home Repair Manual: Practical Advice for Beginning Poets.  There’s so much I like about this manual.  For one thing, Ted assumes that if you are a heavy-duty reader, you already know quite a bit.  After all, one of the best ways to learn to write is to read. He operates on the moral principle that if you have a gift then you have the obligation to offer something by way of giving back. He says, “I hope I won’t exhaust your patience” and he doesn’t. He assumes that our ultimate goal is to reach others and to move them, so there is a great deal of emphasis on the relationship between the poet and her reader. He discusses our job as poet – not money, not fame – but “to serve the poems we write.”  This perspective makes reading and working with Ted Kooser’s The Poetry Home Repair Manual a refreshing guide to the poetic terrain for both budding and experienced writers interested in creating work that is fulfilling and truly artistic.

By shopping at Amazon through The Word Play Shop and using the book links embedded in posts, you help to support the maintenance of this site. Thank you! (Some book links will just lead to info about the book or poet/author and not to Amazon.)

The WordPlay Shop offers books and other tools especially selected for poets and writers.

THE WORDPLAY SHOP: books, tools and supplies for poets, writers and readers

LITERATURE AND FICTION oo Editor’s Picks oo Award Winners oo NY Times Best Sellers