A Reflection in the Advent Season on World Forum 2007

by Helene Swanson

Side road off of Route 4 near Edwardsville, IL  Photo Credit: Helene Swanson

Side road off of Route 4 near Edwardsville, IL Photo Credit: Helene Swanson

Inspired by Rev. Thomas Momberg’s sermon and refreshed by those I welcomed me at Holy Cross Episcopal Church, West Memphis, AR I now make my way to Little Rock where I will drop by the Clinton Presidential Center.  I have been reflecting on the Advent Season and what has moved me forward in my ministry in promoting the passage of the Equal Rights Amendment.  Many have helped in so many way – one person who comes to mind is Dana Curtis.

Back in late 2006 I took a job working for Dana assisting her in her thriving mediation practice. Dana is an amazing woman and brilliant lawyer. At the time I was not familiar with several concepts. Dana introduced me to mindfulness and stillness where I observed her make the time to take the time for her daily mediation practice and how vital her mediation practice was to her work mediating cases for large organizations. Meditation is another word for prayer time. I came to he right before her move from the flats to the houseboat community in Sausalito. I assisted in a number of small projects of no consequence. But not only did she have a profound influence on my spiritual growth her organization Rockrose Institute did as well. Rockrose Institute was founded by Dana Curtis, Maya Ramsey, Rebecca Westerfield, and Justine Durrell and they successfully brought the concept of dialogue to the world table. (Thank you beautiful women of wisdom.)

As her assistant I attended the conference Justice, Religion, and Conflict Resolution – 2007 World Forum. Rockrock Institute retained Mark Garzon to facilitate the conference. Mark is a consultant who trains our US Congress and United Nations delegates from around the world in the art of dialogue so that all are empowered to more fully participate in conversations.

At World Forum 2007 I was privileged to Eli Wiesel, noble peace prize recipient and Jewish survivor of the Nazi death camps, former Secretary of State Madeline Albright under the Clinton White House Administration, and former Dean of Grace Cathedral The Very Rev. Alan Jones. They spoke to us before each workshop in order to put things in their proper context. The conference was well attended with over 600 world leaders. We had numerous daily breakout groups at the end of each workshop and were given tools to help facilitate change for the common good. Most broke off to address issues of the day. I became a member of the Wisdom Team with Maya’s husband Craig. And walked away with an approach to life that has empowered me to work through many difficulties and I hope to share the gifts given with others.

Then again at the 2008 Lambeth Conference I learnt how the Anglican Communion is using Ubunto and Continuing Indaba to develop and intensify relationships by drawing on cultural models of consensus building for mutual creative action.

So why do I embrace dialogue (see theological and social device http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dialogue), well primarily because debate is an outdated modality. Debate, simply put is a win or lose format. I’m right you are wrong, my way or the highway, us vs. them, equates to someone walking away hurt and unresolved, so the fight goes on. The small voice is overpowered and if one is lacking in resources or a power they are not heard. So if the monied, resource ladden or larger group dominates those who are disadvantaged are not heard. When one is not equal none are equal – we all lose.

Where as in dialogue the concept of Ubunto is employed. Dialogue is where feelings, beliefs, and facts have equal consideration. Ubunto, an African word for community and comes from the tribal practice where all come under the tree to express themselves all voices are heard equally to address concerns that affect all.

I have encountered many angry folks who are fear based driven and in their attempt to control others scream to intimidate and quiet them or mute the voice of another by minimizing them as lessors. These controlling methods are working under a broken modality. Instead I will continue to embrace all and work with all.

Off of Route 40 in Arkansas Photo Credit: Helene Swanson

Off of Route 40 in Arkansas Photo Credit: Helene Swanson

It is my hope and pray that by following utilizing dialogue that the voice of wisdom be heard.

In recent months, I have come to see just how important it is to utilize the dialogue format in moving the United States of America to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment and include the ERA in the US Constitution. Both those who are con, against the ERA and those who are pro ERA have valid points whether they be fear based or factual, and all need to be heard for positive resolution to end ongoing discrimination. Sexism, Racism, and Anti-Semitism – Anti-God are interconnected.

It is my hope and prayer that by utilizing dialogue that we at Katrina’s Dream can bring both sides to the table to be heard so that we can dispel the myths thereby demonstrate the need to end discrimination and violence against women.

So in the months to come and I continue this pilgrimage across the USA, I hope to demonstrate to others how to use the dialogue driven methods to bring women, men and the LBGT community to be welcomed at the table and unite under a common cause, Equality for All. In short, the Equal Rights Amendment is “All for All”.

And so in this advent season where we eagerly await the coming of the child who fulfills prophesy and empties hell I share with you my dearest friends my Ubunto Birth Song for the Equal Rights Amendment dedicated to my beloved William Gaines Swanson who so love Christ.

Come one, come all, come children of God

Come one, come all, all for all

Time now to heal, time to restore, time for love

All now equal, under the heavens, under the law

Come one, come now, come all

Nativity Scene in the town square in Carlinville, IL  Photo Credit: Helene Swanson

Nativity Scene in the town square in Carlinville, IL Photo Credit: Helene Swanson

Be sure to click on the links they help you to become familiar with the ministry of Katrina’s Dream and those we work to promote the full inclusion of women in the Church and in Society and other Social Justices Issues

Love and Light in Christ,

Helene de Boissiere Swanson