Building Houses of Hope
Martha Gallahue, Leader
Ethical Culture Society of Essex County, National Ethical Service
Friday afternoon's segment of the 97th American Ethical Union (AEU) Assembly was called "Building Houses of Hope." Leaders Mary Herman (Washington), Jone Johnson Lewis (Northern Virginia), Amanda Poppei (Washington), Catherine Bordeau (Brooklyn), and I, Martha Gallahue (Essex) used an interactive multi-media approach to lead the opening plenary session titled "Architecture: How Do We Want Our Societies to Be?" Singing together, we opened with "We will build this house with the strength of our arms, with the love of our neighbors we will build this house…" Then we invited participants through a cooperating learning process to re-vision their Societies both from both a dynamic and a structural perspective.
Mary suggested that our founders could only visualize what they hoped for in Ethical Culture. Today, we can re-vision from the perspective of 136 years to craft Societies that embody hope for those who will inherit the future Movement. Those who follow us will see from our efforts that we cared about them, that we met successfully the challenges of our day. She quoted Chicago architect, Daniel Burnham (early 20th century) who stated, "Make no little plans; they have no magic to stir men's blood and probably will themselves not be realized. Make big plans; aim high in hope and work, remembering that a noble, logical diagram once recorded will not die."
The following questions were asked: "What would your Society look like if you were to build it from the beginning? What elements would be needed? What are the values to create an ethic of care, an ethic of service?" Participants broke the big questions into key topics including religious education, caring community, social action, governance, etc. In small groups, they used colored pens, magazine images, and informal conversations to build poster boards. The elements that emerged were Societies: where all the parts work together; with deep listening throughout the community; where spaces without doors exist; where members seek the good of the whole; and the community is joyful, welcoming, outreaching, and growing.
After the panel, five workshops were offered. They were: "Making Choices for Societal Well-Being" with Joy McConnell (Asheville) and Martha Gallahue; "Gather Together! Planning Dynamic and Welcoming Platform Services" with Amanda Poppei and Bart Worden (Westchester); "Bringing Both Heart and Mind to Society Finances" with Jone Johnson Lewis; "Adios to Burnout with Society Volunteers" with Mary Herman and Catherine Bordeau; and "What Is the Best and How Do You Bring It Out?" with Andra Miller (New York). Each of these workshops provided interactive opportunities to flesh out the larger themes that emerged in the plenary. Facilitators appreciated the creative cooperation from participants who brought a broad spectrum of inter-societal diversity. For the afternoon, we became 21st century architects together!
The National Ethical Service luncheon featured former Governor David Patterson as the main speaker, introduced by NES President Jackie Pope. She spoke of Patterson's innovative policy toward dismantling the Rockefeller Drug Laws. After his talk, Jackie invited Dr. Phyllis Harrison Ross and outgoing AEU President Jennifer Scates to present Governor Patterson with an AEU Award for outstanding service during his tenure as New York State Governor.
L-R: Andra Miller (New York), Phyllis Harrison-Ross (New York), Gov. David Patterson, Law'nence Miller (AEU and New York), Jennifer Scates (former AEU President)
Immediately preceding the luncheon, Martha Gallahue, Leader, stressed how National Ethical Service has contributed to the movement over the years. First, it was the first AEU group to promote inter-societal cooperation and the first publisher of the Dialogue. Second, as an affiliate founded by the women of Ethical Culture, it was the first group to mainstream women of Ethical Culture into leadership at the White House, the United Nations and our Movement itself. Third, as the religious humanist voice at the United Nations, where it engages in many multi-faith coalitions, it is a founding member of the Faith and Ethics Based Network for the International Criminal Court (ICC). The ICC is the international cornerstone for humanizing criminal justice as demonstrated by its commitment to end the death penalty and to building the Victim's Trust Fund. At this time, over 134 countries have signed onto their support of the Court which has ended impunity for the most egregious crimes against humanity, including genocide, crimes of aggression and the use of rape as an instrument of war.
Kay Dundorf, NES Treasurer, presented a financial statement for both The Rose L. Walker Fund and National Ethical Service. Other Executive Council members are Lucile Kleiman (New York), Kurt Johnson (Ethical Society Without Walls), Sylvain Ehrenfeld (Bergen and International Humanist Ethical Union), and Sharon Pope (New York).View more photos from the AEU Assembly here. Videos will be posted on the AEU website.