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Life Together: The Diomass Intern Program

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Monday, September 27, 2010

On the Justice Trail in Arizona, Part 2

Written by Ben Whaley, Sunday, September 26

Tucson feels different than Phoenix. First of all, it's a college town. Secondly, even though it's much closer to the border, it feels removed from the political hotbed that is Maricopa County, AZ.

I can honestly say I attended more college-football related events in the last 48 hours than I did in the whole of my university career. Yesterday our team of volunteers hit the University of Arizona campus HARD. We registered voters at an ethics forum in the morning (did you know the AZ legislature is trying to cut the funding of ethnic-studies programs across the state.. and at the same time claim they're not racist?), we swarmed the UofA food court, we went to the tailgating, and we hit the post-game crowd at the local college-bar strip. I bet I registered a couple students last night that didn't remember getting registered this morning...

In all that chaos, it's easy to feel like this is just a numbers-game. It is, really, a numbers-game. Staying connected to our motivation is more difficult here. In Phoenix it felt like the challenge was right in front of us. Here, there are seas of apathetic students. Tonight, we went to a park and for the first time registered a high concentration of picnicking Latinos. It was great to see large families out enjoying the relatively cool evening, and it felt good that even though many of them told us they were undocumented and couldn't vote they were still excited and happy that we were out specifically targeting the Latinos that could vote. It was good to feel connected to the warmth of the Latino community that I fell in love with in Salem... the warmth that led to my desire to come to Arizona.

On the note of folks just flat out telling us they're undocumented... I'm surprised at how many of them actually do just come out and say it. I suppose we're not the most intimidating bunch (a gringo chico speaking terrible spanish, a UCC minister in a collar, a soft-spoken Philipino, and a young woman with the heart and soul of a teacher) but I'm still curious about what brings people to be so open with that information. I imagine, with all the danger of crossing the desert, and the added danger of living in such a threatening community, being undocumented is something to celebrate indeed.

The word mojado - or wetback, a colloquial slur for someone who swam across the Rio Grande to get into the US - is sort of a joke when uttered on friendly lips. But tonight, Cornelio taught us another reason. He approached one man to ask if he was interested in registering to vote, and the man informed him, "No, I can't, I'm a mojado."
"Yo tambien," Cornelio replied, "Porque estoy sudando." 'Me too,' he said, 'because I'm sweating.'

It's true. In this desert, todos estamos mojados.

On the Justice Trail in Arizona, Part 1

Written by Ben Whaley, Friday, September 24

It’s no wonder tempers seem to flare so easily around issues here in Arizona. It’s hot. It’s hard to say anything else about my first impressions of Arizona. But have you ever heard the expression “where there’s smoke there’s fire”? I can tell you here it feels more like.. where there’s heat there’s fire. More than fire, an explosion.The logo of Promise Arizona (PAZ, the organization with which I'm volunteering to register voters in AZ) is a dove rising phoenix-like out of flame to symbolize the justice that will come after the struggle for immigrant’s rights here. But it's very clear to me that we're still in the flame.

Yesterday started early and brightly. As soon as we arrived, we were hooked up with Michelle (a fellow Boston-er) who's working on coordinating out of state volunteers for PAZ. Michelle has Boston connections to MIRA ( and SIM ( and knows the Massachusetts Immigration Rights scene well, so when I get back to Boston I'll definitely be emailing her for some perspective. She took us to lunch, we shared our stories of self, and then we got to work registering students to vote at a local community college. We had an awesome afternoon, registering votes at a ridiculously high rate (they tell you to shoot for getting one an hour and we got 8 in a half hour).

As the day died down at the community college (and after we were asked to leave by the friendly police officers), we headed to Ranch Market which is a supermarket chain in Phoenix. All the Ranch Markets have given permission for PAZ to come register voters in their stores, and it was soon clear why: 75% of their clients were Latino. They have a vested financial interest in immigrants staying in AZ.

This is when the day finally felt real, when the people we were registering began to take shape in my eyes. Many people I approached with my question "Excuse me, con permiso, are you registered to vote?" smiled and responded, happy that I was out doing this work. Many others showed wide eyes and shared nervous glances with their companions at being approached by a gringo with a clipboard. Their fear made me feel guilty - guilty for startling them, guilty for being a part and product of this country that is terrorizing them.

Others, still, seemed defiant of the state's new laws. I approached one woman and her daughter and when I asked, in my broken Spanish, if she was registered to vote, she laughed and fired something in rapid Spanish to her daughter. I didn't understand it, but the daughter told me "She can't."
"No problem," I said, "Someday soon I hope." The girl relayed this to her mother, who laughed again - a full, deep laugh - and said something else I didn't quite catch to her daughter, who looked hesitant.
"Dile, dile" the mother said, 'tell him, tell him.'
Finally the daughter said, a little sheepishly, "She says she's a wetback." We all laughed together for a long time right there in the aisle.
And then I said "Well... Bienvenidas."

Today, the work has been more difficult. We're told that Fridays are always hard days for voter registration campaigns, but I think we're all still feeling a little disappointed. We've been invited to leave a movie theatre and a grocery store. We went to a football game that wasn't actually happening. We tried a community college that was deserted on a Friday afternoon.

Voter Registration is not glamorous work. It's guesswork and luck and perseverance, so far, but it's also rewarding. Every completed form feels like a mini victory. Every new vote is a voice that wasn't being heard before. I only regret that there are so many voices that will not be heard in the election, voices that are proud and warm. But, like the woman in the supermarket, I have hope that if those voices are persistent they will one day be heard. And when they do speak, I hope this country gets to enjoy a long deep laugh in the supermarket aisle, a release after so much fighting and tension.

"Come, let us return to the Lord; for it is he who has torn, and he will heal us; he has struck down, and he will bind us up. After two days he will revive us; on the third day he will raise us up, that we may live before him. Let us know, let us press on to know the Lord; his going forth is as certain the dawn; he will come to us like the showers, like the spring rains that water the earth."
Hosea 6:1-3

A First Encounter with the Enneagram

Submitted by Laura Zeugner, September 24, 201

This past week in training, the Life Together program delved into the complex world of personality typing. We spent time with the Enneagram, getting to better know ourselves and our community members, and ultimately putting this knowledge to use through type- specific spiritual practices.

As a lover of personality tests, I was excited to begin working with the Enneagram’s 9 types of being. I quickly identified my type as well as a few of my peers’ types. But for some this was a difficult process- there were many who identified with multiple types or with none at all. I am sure there are still also those in our group who doubt the Enneagram’s accuracy or importance.

I, however, immediately saw the attributes of my type at work within myself and could easily relate them to my spirituality. As a type 4, or Individualist, I am ruled by my emotions and value identity and personal significance above all else. At my healthiest, I can be seen as imaginative, creative, and unique. At my worst I become filled with emotional turmoil and can turn to self-indulgence or self-harm.

It has always been easy for me to believe in God, perhaps because I live in my heart and not in my mind, like some of the other Enneagram types. Once I had an emotional experience of spirituality, I did not question or over-think it, but embraced it and refused to believe that something I felt so strongly could not be real or true. It is also easy to understand that, as a type 4, some of the biggest questions I have for God involve my own personal call. And as for my spiritual downfalls, they often fall into the categories of self-indulgence or moodiness and melancholy.

Our work with the Enneagram has been extremely eye-opening for me. Not only in regards to my own personality and spiritual journey, but for the whole community’s. It’s fascinating to watch other types discover their deepest motivations and fears, and see how these present themselves in their beliefs. I plan on continuing to research my type and to use the Enneagram to help strengthen my relationship with God.

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Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Remembering 9/11 along the Jesus Way

Submitted by Patrick Burrows, September 14, 2010

This past Saturday was the ninth anniversary of the tragedy of September 11, 2001. Everyone remembers where they were when the news of the events in New York, Washington, D.C., and Pennsylvania came across the airwaves. I was sitting in Mrs. Bowman’s 8th grade English class when our principal made an announcement in a choked voice that still stands as the only time I witnessed her emotions. For the remainder of the day, the entire school stared at the television, transfixed by the horror that was happening too close to home. For my generation, this moment in time sits as a pivot: that moment when suddenly, everything changed.

Last year, President Obama made a call to service in remembrance of 9/11 and of those who perished on that day. The Life Together program, in conjunction with the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts, organized its second annual day of service stemming from this call. We came to serve alongside our brothers and sisters from across Eastern Massachusetts, both inside and outside of the Church. Service in this way struck me as an act of radical protest. By serving, we protest against the violence and hatred of that day with humility and love–the opposite virtues–rather than with violence and hatred as some are wont to do. This is what Christianity is about: Love in the face of hatred and fear.

I had the privilege on Friday night of travelling with another intern to St. Stephen’s, Lynn to watch the premiere of the youth group’s short film, “I am Lynn”, which many of you will have the opportunity to see at Diocesan Convention in November. In it, I heard the youth of St. Stephen’s recount stories of violence and fear from their past that shook me to my very core. But the striking thing was not the fear, but the fact that these youth were able to stand up in the face of these horrific moments and show compassion, not only towards the people around them, but also on themselves as witnesses, survivors, or perpetrators. Though they would likely be hesitant to view it this way, the love I witnessed in these youth who have so much slated against them blew me away. Rather than buckling to fear, they counter it with love.

It strikes me, then, that three days after September 11, the Church celebrates the Feast of the Holy Cross. The collect of the day reads: “Almighty God, whose Son our Savior Jesus Christ was lifted high upon the cross that he might draw the whole world to himself…” quoting the Gospel according to St. John, 12:32. For first century denizens of the Roman Empire, the cross was the symbol of the most shameful, most horrifying way to die imaginable. But upon that cross, Jesus stretched forth his arms in a loving embrace, not bowing to the violence of that moment. And through that embrace, the symbol of the cross—once the incarnation of terror—has become the symbol of God’s saving act of love for us.

This is the Jesus way: to stand boldly in the face of terror, violence, and hatred and proclaim peace, humility, and love.

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