Walking In Circles: How a Spiritual Leading Called Me to Civil Disobedience

Rob Levin

Rob Levin

Guest Speaker Rob Levin

— For Quakers, a ‘leading’ is a sense of being called by God to undertake a specific course in life. A leading often arises from a concern. What does your faith call you to do in the world? How do you discern when you are following God’s path, or following your own ego? (And what if it’s some of both?) What kinds of fears and doubts hold us back when we feel impelled to turn our faith into action? Explore these and other questions with Portland Quaker Rob Levin. This workshop promises to provide more questions than answers, but it’s in the questions where the richness of life lies. Learn more

Message from Rev. Pat Bessey:

I know you can relate to this — someone comes into your awareness and although you don’t know them you have an intuitive thought this is someone who has a powerful message to share. Back in early December I got an email from Rob Levin telling about a vigil he was organizing that would take place on December 11 called 196 Rounds: A Walking Vigil for Climate Hope. I received subsequent emails that piqued my interest in this man and reached out to him to ask if he would speak to our community of his experience. I want to share one sentence from his email when he accepted my request: ”I had a powerful faith experience, and I think I have something useful and interesting to share with others.”

After hearing him speak yesterday we concur that he has a great story of faith — and doubt — to share with us. He walked to the edge of the cliff, jumped and found a solid landing place. He is not advocating that we get ourselves arrested for civil disobedience; however, he is advocating for everyone to follow their individual call. There were many take a-ways from Rob’s talk and one that I really liked was what he called his Clearness Committee. This was a group of Friends that he confided in and shared his ideas and listened to their thoughts on his ideas. He said “I wanted to know if I was really crazy or that this could be a good idea.” I hope you are intrigued enough to listen to Rob’s complete message.

The calendar moving forward has some fun things for all of us. On April 22 we will have Dennis Warner doing sermon and song at the 10 a.m. service. Dennis performs in over 100 cities each year as an Americana/Folk/Acoustic musician and his passion is teaching kids about the negative effect of bullying and the positive effects of recognizing our connectedness with each other. Beads on One String is what he will be sharing with us.

On Sunday, April 29 is our Unity God Talent show. This is the opportunity for talented people in our community to entertain us. Thank you, Elizabeth Peterson, for organizing this and designating the love offerings to our Kid’s Cottage. They have a wish list of items they would like to have in their new space. Here are a couple of things on the list: a new table that has a surface that is also a chalk board, and a large-screen TV so they can watch DVDs and YouTube videos to complement their curriculum.

Stay tuned for more to come…

This coming Sunday I will be starting a new series on I of the Storm. The first week is focused on “One Presence and One Power.” See you then.

You are a blessing in my life.
Rev. Patricia Bessey

Walking the Way: Following the Nonviolent Jesus

Easter Sunday Message by Rev. Pat Bessey —

Easter as always is a very special day on the Christian calendar. And, since every Sunday at Unity of Greater Portland is special, we make Easter a little more special. A great big thank you to Bonnie Dalrymple, Christine Wolf, Jaclyn Ashla, Patti Lacombe and Randall Sawyer who helped to make it special by acquiring and preparing the flowers for the flower ceremony.

Easter was early this year, and now our focus turns to Spring and hopefully warm weather. It also is the time to think of the earth, planting and new life. For the calendar at Unity of Greater Portland it is the Season of the Earth. We introduced this season in 2016 with speakers and classes, and last year we expanded with planting of flowers, vegetables and added raised gardens. We had fresh vegetables for our Sunday lunches and with excess that was available for folks to take home. This year we would like to again have vegetable gardens and flowers; however, we need a strong team to make it successful. If you are interested in joining this team and being in for the long haul which means the planting, watering, harvesting and turning the stalks back into the ground in the fall, then please contact us. Both Anna Richie and Ginger Dowling are on board to help again this year, and they learned a lot of valuable information to bring to us from doing it last year.

Our guest speaker next Sunday, Rob Levin, is an attorney and Quaker who organized a walking vigil for climate hope in December. Rob brings the Season for Nonviolence to its conclusion and kicks off the Season for the Earth. He recently led a nonviolent demonstration and was arrested for civil disobedience as he and other pro-solar demonstrators stood up against Central Maine Power. He will be speaking on how this has led to a spiritual experience for him. Following the service, Rob will conduct a workshop called “Walking in Circles…When is a Leading a Leading?” A question in his description of the workshop grabbed me and might you as well… here it is: “What kinds of fears and doubts hold us back when we feel impelled to turn our faith into action?” This might be a question on your heart, and we are offering you the opportunity to explore how your faith might be calling you into action by attending the Nonviolent Action Group at 2:30 p.m., following Rob’s workshop.

Every Sunday, Unity of Greater Portland hosts A Course in Miracles discussion group at noon, facilitated by Matt Purinton. On that note, we are happy to announce that Jon Mundy, publisher of Miracles magazine and author of books focused on A Course in Miracles, will be back with us on June 3. Mark your calendars!

As you can see, there is a lot happening at Unity of Greater Portland, and we hope you take part in many of the events — and maybe even consider inviting your family and friends to join you.

You are a blessing in my life,
Rev. Patricia Bessey

Walking The Way: Continued 2

Sunday Message by Rev. Pat Bessey —

We are in the week that changed the world! Over 2000 years ago the nonviolent Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey to fulfill the scripture from Zechariah Chapter 9: 9 – 10: “Rejoice heartily, O daughter Zion! Shout for joy, O daughter Jerusalem! See, your king shall come to you; a just savior is he, meek, and riding on an ass, on a colt, the foal of an ass. He shall banish the war chariot of Ephraim, and the war horse from Jerusalem. The warrior’s bow shall be banished, and he shall proclaim peace to the nations. His dominion shall be from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth.”

So Holy Week begins with a peaceful march on Palm Sunday. Peace is a beautiful gift to have in life, and it is particularly treasured by those who have known violent conflict, war, famine, disease and poverty. I believe that peace is a basic human right for every individual and all people. The nonviolent Jesus was the Prince of Peace.

Jesus also was the embodiment of Love. Love for others and respect for their rights and their human dignity, irrespective of who or what they are, no matter what religion – or none – that they choose to follow, will bring about real change and set in motion proper relationships. With such relationships built on equality and trust, we can work together on so many of the threats to our common humanity.

Violence begets violence, as we witness every day on our television screens, so the choice no longer is between violence and non-violence; it is nonviolence or non-existence as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr said. For me nonviolence has my vote over non-existence, so what am I going to do to ensure there is a place for those coming after me? As I told folks on Sunday, I feel compelled to keep nonviolence in front of you through education in various forms: Sunday talks, classes, by bringing in people like Fr John Dear and Rob Levin, a Portland attorney who will be sharing with us on April 8 how a spiritual leading called him to Civil Disobedience.

Because of Fr. John’s recent visit, a group met this past Sunday to discuss this exact issue and to look at what is percolating within folks regarding nonviolence and to start the conversations to address some of the violence using nonviolent methods. This group will be meeting again on April 8 at 2:30 p.m. if you want to join them. It is through coming together as a community that we deepen our nonviolence, our faith and trust in God and our compassion for others, even those who would harm us.

When Jesus rode into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, he was revealing that the reign of God is in stark contrast to the reign of Rome and every other political system that seeks triumphant victory by influencing people through violence and coercion.

The Gospel of Jesus subverts the politics of violence because the Gospels are the politics of humility, service, forgiveness, and a nonviolent love that embraces all people, but especially those we call our enemies. He called it “The Kingdom of God.”

The politics of Jesus makes sure everyone has daily bread, it seeks to forgive debts and sins, it avoids the temptation to commit evil against our neighbors, and it calls us into a life of forgiveness. Wherever personal or political systems use violence, power, and coercion to be triumphant and victorious, Jesus beckons us to follow him into a different kind of politics – into the Kingdom of God that lives and dies by love, service, and forgiveness.

Join us this Thursday evening for our Holy Thursday service at 7 p.m. and Sunday for our Easter services, which include our flower service at 10 a.m. The children will have a great Easter service as well at 10 a.m.

You are a blessing in my life,
Rev. Patricia Bessey

P.S. An update on Rev. LeRoy: He is home and other than being weak is doing well…thanks so much for the prayers, cards, calls, text messages, gifts…you were our rock during these long five months. It is his intention to be at the 10:00 a.m. service this Sunday.

Jesus and the Way, the Truth and the Life of Nonviolence with Fr. John Dear

Sunday Message by Guest Speaker Fr. John Dear —

Fr. John Dear

Fr. John Dear

Rev. John Dear is a long-time activist, priest, author and lecturer. He served for years as the director of the Fellowship of Reconciliation, the largest interfaith peace organization in the U.S.

John has traveled the war zones of the world, been arrested some 80 times for peace, led Nobel Peace prize winners to Iraq, recently visited Afghanistan, and given thousands of lectures on peace across the U.S. He recently helped draft Pope Francis’ Jan. 1, 2017 World Day of Peace message on nonviolence.

He is a co-founder of Campaign Nonviolence and the Nonviolent Cities Project. He has authored 35 books, including: The Beatitudes of Peace and The Nonviolent Life. He has been nominated many times for the Nobel Peace Prize, including by Archbishop Desmond Tutu.

Message from Rev. Pat Bessey

Wow – what a weekend with Fr. John Dear! I want to give a huge shout-out to Steph Plourde, who managed all the pieces to bring forth a successful weekend and to those who worked closely with her: Jan Strout, Christine Wolf, Maria Lundy, Pat Bartke and Jack Seery.

There is a saying you might have heard and it is the 5 Ps of Success: Proper Planning Prevents Poor Performance. If you were at any of the events this weekend, you could clearly see the 5 Ps in action.

On Saturday at Saint Joseph’s College, we hosted 100+ folks who came to hear Fr. John. Having heard from many, they were not disappointed. Fr. John opened with this story about Martin Luther King Jr… Standing before the jammed crowd at the Mason Temple in Memphis the night before his death, King linked his life wisdom with a pithy and resounding appraisal of our global predicament: “The choice before us is no longer violence or nonviolence,” he said. “It’s nonviolence or non-existence.” This was the theme throughout the weekend, and he was ever encouraging us to be the people who reject non-existence as an option.

He invited us to ask ourselves a series of very provocative questions, including:

  • How is my life a journey out of the culture of nonviolence?
  • How do I fulfill my vocation as a peacemaker?
  • How am I violent? How have I supported the culture of violence?
  • Where does nonviolence challenge me most?

Fr. John shared many of his own personal stories and how he became a follower of the nonviolent Jesus. On Saturday the theme for the day was from his book The Nonviolent Life and it was delivered in three sessions. Session 1 was on being nonviolent to self; Session 2 addressed nonviolence to others; and Session 3 was about getting involved in a grassroots movement or starting one.

On Sunday Fr. John took us through the Beatitudes in his afternoon workshop. Again, he stressed that Jesus was the first nonviolent person and teacher and invited us to study the Beatitudes, if we study nothing else. It is quite well known that for 45 years, twice a day, Gandhi spent two hours studying The Sermon on the Mount and living the Beatitudes to the best of his ability.

Next Sunday, March 25 at Unity of Greater Portland, we are hosting an opportunity for those who attended one or both days of Fr. John’s workshops to come together and share our thoughts and ideas on how to move forward with trainings and activities that promote nonviolence. It will begin at 3:30 p.m. and end at 5 p.m., and refreshments will be provided. Please let us know if you are planning to attend so we can plan accordingly.

Next Sunday is Palm Sunday and we will be taking the journey into Jerusalem with Jesus. You will have an opportunity to participate in a Spiritual Baptism and to Walk the Palms at the 10 a.m. service.

You are a blessing in my life,
Rev. Patricia Bessey

We are thrilled to share the videos of Saturday’s workshop, courtesy of filmmaker Regis Tramblay. We are so grateful for his service.

Walking the Way

Sunday Message by Rev. Pat Bessey —

I am guessing that many of you reading this are under a winter storm warning as another nor’easter is showing its mighty force. Please be safe – don’t be out in it unless it is absolutely necessary.

This past Sunday Patti Lacombe and Amy Cousins were instrumental in organizing a way for those in the service to send notes to Rev LeRoy expressing their thoughts to him. He read every one of them and he was so happy to hear from you.

Speaking of Rev LeRoy, we have a tentative diagnosis that he has an autoimmune disease and at this moment we don’t have a way forward. We appreciate your continued prayers – stay tuned.

Fr. John Dear

Fr. John Dear

The message on Sunday came from the book Walking the Way, written by Fr. John Dear (by the way, you still have time to register for his workshop). This book is a Lenten Journey of Gospel Nonviolence to the Cross and Resurrection.

I opened the talk with this paragraph from the first page of the introduction from Fr. John: “The more I wake up to the radical life of Jesus, the more I decide to throw my lot with him all over again. I continually find myself choosing not to follow any politician, celebrity, or religious leader but to keep myself focused on Jesus and follow in his footsteps even thought I am not sure where they lead. Though I do not know the outcome or the end of the journey, I am sure that this conscious focus on the nonviolent Jesus gives my life ever-new meaning and inspires me to continue to work for justice and disarmament in the world, whether or not I’m able to make a difference.”

Dear very clearly respects the work of Mohandas Gandhi. Here is what he has to say: “Gandhi taught that Jesus was the greatest practitioner of nonviolence, that his teachings offered humanity a new vision for the coming of a new, nonviolent world, and that Jesus’ nonviolence demanded practical, political action. Gandhi could not understand how any Christian could support war or violence of any kind, given the track record and teachings of the nonviolent Jesus. Christians are required to put down the sword and seek first the kingdom of God, Gandhi believed. To him, that meant dedicated, committed, active nonviolence in the footsteps of Jesus.”

Jesus at Herod’s Court, by Duccio, c. 1310

Let’s look at the nonviolent Jesus. Jesus was a movement organizer who speaks out, who trains his disciples to be nonviolent, builds a campaign and acts. Whoever shows the slightest interest in his mission is immediately invited to join his campaign. Remember his call to those who showed interest was “Follow Me.” He was about growing a movement that spread far and wide, a movement of nonviolence that would keep moving. This is our call: to walk the way of peace with him.

Jesus makes the decision to turn toward Jerusalem, sets his face toward the holy city, and starts working. Here is what Fr. John says about this decision: “At some point, all of us who claim to be followers of this person need to change direction and set off with him toward the center of government, empire and religion, with the announcement of God’s nonviolent kingdom at hand. Jesus is going to confront the world systemic injustice head on, and he’s taking us with him.”

I hope I have given you just enough to pique your interest to listen to the entire talk.

Join me this coming Sunday as we continue the walk to Jerusalem with Jesus.

Just a reminder: Take a moment right now and register for Fr. John Dear’s all-day event on March 17 at Saint Joseph’s College.

You are a blessing in my life,
Rev. Patricia Bessey