Peace Literacy

This week’s note is coming from Steph Plourde at the Peace Literacy Training at Saint Joseph’s College with Paul K. Chappell.

It is difficult to pull out one piece to share, because all the content is so powerful. The piece I am finding most helpful is the understanding that every human being has the same basic needs: Purpose & Meaning, Nurturing Relationships, Explanations, Expression, Inspiration, Belonging, Self-Worth, Challenge, and Transcendence.

When I view human behavior through the lens of human needs (i.e. what human need is this person aiming to meet right now?), I foster curiosity, greater understanding, and deeper empathy. Further, it’s important for me to understand that when a person experiences trauma and these basic needs aren’t met they become distortions of the original need. For example, the unmet need of Expression becomes Rage; the unmet need of Belonging becomes Alienation. When these “distortions” manifest as aggression, we may rightfully see them as signals of distress. Imagine – seeing aggression as a signal of distress. How differently might we respond?

There will be much more to share after the training – including some incredible learning about metis. Don’t know what metis is? Neither did I… but boy, oh boy, is this a cool framework for understanding the muscles we need to develop in order to make good decisions and move forward into a peaceful future together.

Much love to you all,


Love and Courage in a Time of Change

Summer is in full swing and it is the 4th of July – I hope you are enjoying it in whatever way brings joy and happiness.

Rivera Sun

We had another amazing Sunday with our special guest Rivera Sun! From all the comments that I heard folks were enthralled with her and her message. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to get it recorded; therefore, there will not be a link for you to listen. This brings me to a request: If you or someone you know might have the talent and/or desire to hold this position, please direct them to us.

Rivera gave us the tools and the guidelines that will help us as ordinary people make extraordinary changes in the world. People around the world over the years have worked for justice, equality, and freedom by using the tools modeled by Jesus, Gandhi, Dr. King and others. She gave us strategies to apply in the coming months as we continue with the Nonviolent Action group and determine the nonviolent actions that we as a community can do together during the week of Campaign Nonviolence in September.

Along with her work, Fr John Dear’s and what we will be receiving from Paul K. Chappell in his week-long training in August (please give yourself the gift of being at that training), we will be poised to fulfill our vision of seeing a spiritually transformed world. Join us for this incredible adventure that will not only feed your soul but will make a difference in the world. Stay tuned!!!

I’ll close with a quote from Rivera’s The Dandelion Insurrection:

“We live in a pivotal juncture in time – a time when it is essential that we grow out of our adolescent, egotistical, and destructive ways, and blossom into the kind of people we have always yearned to be.”

Next week we return to the new series of talks based on the book Divine Audacity. See you then!

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

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

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