At Desert Palm we are serious about the intersection of science, justice and spirituality. Over the past few years we’ve watched a documentary film series on the plight of Indigenous people around the world (On Sacred Ground); we’ve held a workshop exploring gender and sexual orientation (hosting a speaker from One Community); we’ve organized an Indigenous People’s Day celebration (in conjunction with the Arizona Faith Network); and we’ve participated in numerous actions (in Texas, and at the border near Nogales, and closer to home).
Desert Palm was the first church in the SW Conference of the United Church of Christ to become WISE, an acronym for Welcoming, Inclusive, Supportive and Empowered in relation to persons suffering with mental illness. Our Adult Ed process along the way included four presentations and a book group which read:
Blessed Are the Crazy, by Sarah Lund (a UCC Minister and one of the national leaders of the WISE movement, which is affiliated with the UCC's Mental Health Network).
In this historic moment of widespread awakening to systemic racism, another educational theme is systemic racism. Pastor Tom is currently participating in the UCC's national anti-racism training, Sacred Conversations (along with our SW Conference Associate Minister, the Rev. Dr. Barbara Doerrer Peacock). Material from this training often flows into our Sunday worship. Two powerful books we’ve read together as a congregation are:
The End of White Christian America, by Robert Jones. Robert came to Desert Palm for a Q&A session as part of his national book tour. Several of us are eager to read his newest book, White Too Long.
Tears We Cannot Stop, by Michael Eric Dyson. As an ordained minister, academic and public theologian, Dyson offers a series of powerful insights and delivers them as if he were preaching a sermon to an all-white congregation. This approach lends itself to a powerful expression and serves as a powerful call to the type of anti-racism work that awaits us should we choose to take the plunge.
Most recently we’ve been making an intentional effort to encourage participation with the lectures offered through ASU’s Center for the Study of Religion and Conflict. We try to host a zoom discussion for Desert Palm community that day or soon thereafter. Recent lecture topics have touched on racism, climate change, the fate of truth, and much, much more. To join one of our post event discussions, sign up for our monthly newsletter and weekly updates by contacting our Office Manager, Maria Deleon (firstname.lastname@example.org).
A major 2021 educational theme is the power of story. That’s the general topic of Pastor Tom’s dissertation through the Pacifica Graduate Institute, which offers doctoral degrees in Depth Psychology. Pastor Tom is on Pacifica’s CLIE track, which brings together Community Psychology, Liberation Psychology, Indigenous Psychology and Ecopsychology. Pacifica is known for its scholarship bridging psychology and religion, as well as its commitment to social justice. Tom’s project will explore the role of storytelling in relation to community mental health.