Spiritual Exploration Committee Expands Programming To Year-Round Offerings  

Plymouth members will now have the opportunity to enjoy Spiritual Exploration classes throughout the year.  Starting in May, the Spiritual Exploration Committee is introducing a new term that will run through August.  The next term will go from September through December, and a third term will run January through April.  The committee hopes the change will provide more options to meet seasonal and intergenerational needs.

Classes scheduled to kick off the Spring/Summer term include

  • “The Color of Law:  A Forgotten History of How Government Segregated America,” presented by the Racial Justice Initiative, and related to an April Zoom presentation by Richard Rothstein;
  • “Pilgrimage to the Lake of the Isles,” presented by the Plymouth Contemplatives and led by Emily Jarrett Hughes;
  • “Forest Bathing,” a series of monthly walks presented by Johanna Schussler, Certified Forest Therapy guide with the Association of Nature and Forest Therapy Guides and Programs (ANFT);
  • a book study presented by the Racial Justice Initiative on “When They Call You A Terrorist;”
  • two Zoom classes and a nature walk led by David Astin, entitled “The Spirit of Nature:  What Gifts Does the Spring Bird Migration Bestow?” and;
  • a book study lead by Rev. Beth Hoffman Faeth based on Sarah Griffith Lund’s “Blessed Are Crazy: Breaking the Silence About Mental Illness, Family, and Church.”


More details will be available in early April.  Visit the Plymouth web site under the menu option “Explore.”  If you have ideas for future programming, please feel free to seek a Proposal Form by contacting any member of the Spiritual Exploration Committee, including Jan Rabbers, Anne Fabel Cheatham, Bonnie Janda, Joan Thompson, Diane Boruff, Linda Seime or Seth Patterson.


Plymouth Film Club: Kiss the Ground

See the movie on your own; join us for discussion April 18!
Guest hosted by Plymouth’s Climate and Environmental Justice group 

Plymouth Film Club Discussion April 18 of Kiss the Ground, guest hosted by Plymouth’s Climate and Environmental Justice Committee
by Jan Neville and Richard Jewell

Plymouth Film Club is offering a discussion of Kiss the Ground (2020, 84 min., documentary, all ages welcome) Sunday, April 18, 12:30-1:30 pm on Zoom. Guest host Plymouth CEJ–Climate and Environmental Justice committee–chose the film.

Seth Patterson and organic farmer Emma Homans will facilitate the discussion. Please view it on your own before the discussion: see options below.

What if a simple solution existed to help balance our climate, replenish our freshwater supplies, and feed the world?

In the beginning of Kiss the Ground, the film’s narrator, actor Woody Harrelson, states, “Earth–it’s a great place to live, but when it comes to the future of our small planet, there is so much bad news…. The fear that we are headed for a cliff puts most of us into a state of paralysis. But what if there was another path? This is the story of a simple solution, a way to heal our planet. In fact, the solution I am talking about is right under our feet, and it is as old as dirt.”

Kiss the Ground documents how we can grow our food using a method that builds and protects our precious soil. It restores our ecosystems instead of destroying them. It absorbs carbon dioxide safely back into the ground, rather than releasing it to destroy the atmosphere. “Regenerative agriculture” is the key. A farmer, an agronomist, a scientist, a government expert, and others show us how we can help rehabilitate the Earth.

Critics call the film “passionate” (TV Guide), “compelling” (SF Chronicle), “innovative” (People), and “groundbreaking” (Awards Daily). The New York Times says it “inspires a rare feeling of hope.” The LA Times declares it “Earth’s climate savior.” The film also has won four awards and four nominations at recent film festivals.



You’ll immediately receive the discussion’s link. (If you’ve never used Zoom, join us 10 min. early to download the simple, safe software.)


Trailer/Preview: https://kissthegroundmovie.com (2½ min.)

Full movie free online: https://vimeo.com/528990233. Password: kiss

Subscription: Netflix (by subscription), Vimeo (subscription + $1)

Purchase DVD: Walmart ($7), Target ($16), et al.

A Conversation with the Congregation

Please join the Deacons on Sunday, April 11, at 11:30 a.m. for a “Conversation with the Congregation” to learn about how Plymouth Church might implement the recommendations in the report: “Advancing Plymouth Church 2019-2022: A Visioning Document from the Growth Task Force.” Lynn Moline, the chair of the Growth Task Force, will give an overview of the report and the possibilities it presents. We will discuss the proposed Marketing/Communication Task Force and will invite your ideas for fostering growth.

As you listen to Lynn’s presentation and discuss among each other, we want you to consider these questions:

  • In which areas do you think Plymouth has the greatest potential for growth?
  • What are some things you think Plymouth should do to foster growth?
  • What are you personally willing to commit to in that effort?

Please Join here at 11:30 April 11, for this one-hour Zoom session.

The Deacons and Leadership Council are eager to hear your response to the Growth Task Force’s report and your ideas for bringing it to life. We look forward to being with you in virtual community!

A Conversation with the Congregation

Please join the Deacons on Sunday, February 21, at 11:30 a.m. for a “Conversation with the Congregation” to hear what we’re working on and to solicit your thoughts on what Plymouth Church should be doing in the coming months. We will reflect on:

Moderator’s Midyear Report

  • Our exploration of the history and use of our real estate
  • How the Purposes of the Church inform our work
  • Resources we use to ground our work in our spirituality
  • Our involvement with saying farewell to Paula and welcoming DeWayne
  • Our discussions of what it means to be antiracist

Congregation’s Thoughts and Questions

  • What resources that Plymouth currently provides are giving you spiritual sustenance these days?
  • Are there Plymouth activities that you thought were important (pre-COVID) that you find you aren’t missing?
  • What has COVID taught us about what is important at Plymouth?
  • How can we grow into an authentic community with one another?

The Deacons are eager to hear what’s on your minds and address your questions. Our conversation will be less about reports by the presenters and more about what you have to say. We look forward to being in virtual community with you!


Register Here

The Changing Definition of the Racism Problem

by Hazel Lutz, a member of the Racial Justice Initiative

The last century’s format for addressing the problem of racism defined it as a problem of the actions of racist individuals. Certain individuals were viewed as  a cancer, so to speak, on an assumed, largely healthy society. Society-wide efforts to address racism focused on the removal of segregation signs; education, or re-education, of individuals; busing for educational equality and some government programs to give people living in poverty a “leg up.” The goal of equal opportunity was draped in words and phrases like “tolerance” and “getting along with each other.” Equal opportunity programs and the social safety net of government programs created during the War on Poverty, however, have slowly lost funding, been altered or closed down altogether through the last six decades in response to the attacks of politicians who blame the victims of racism and economic oppression for their situations.

The 21st Century format for viewing the problem of racial inequality has broadened the focus to include not just bigoted individuals, but the whole structure of our society; its history; American White culture; and the hearts and minds of every individual. Now we are looking at a societal problem — systemic racism. This is defined as racial prejudice + power. The overwhelming proportion of people occupying the positions of authority in government, businesses, churches, schools, colleges, museums, NGOs, etc. are white. They make decisions based upon assumptions and methods of evaluation originating in their European cultural heritage. The cultures of people of color have little chance to influence important decisions about our American life. In fact, the dominant white culture of our society’s leaders consciously, but more often unconsciously, work against the interests of people of color.

Do Not Avert your Gaze

Along the Way Published 02/12/2020
by Rev. Dr. DeWayne L. Davis

In the age of cellphones and social media, it has never been easier for people to film and capture live images of arguments, violence, and disasters occurring in real-time. From the murders of unarmed Black people by law enforcement to confrontations over wearing masks in public places to the violent insurrection at the U.S. Capitol by extremists attempting to prevent the certification of the U.S. Presidential election, we have been made witnesses to the violent underbelly of our culture, politics, and law enforcement.

While we have known that such dangers have always been present around us, thanks to viral video clips, we are no longer allowed the benefit of plausible deniability about white supremacist violence or misconduct by law enforcement. Viral video clips are revealing some inconvenient truths about us. These truths are creating discomfort and anxiety that will only grow as we see more.

But we cannot avert our gaze.

The rise of viral videos is a form of truth-telling that is not easily denied. Clips of law enforcement violence against unarmed Black people; rallies of angry mobs with cheering insults and invectives aimed at women, immigrants, and people of color; and armed white supremacists overrunning legislative houses are telling truths that shatter our myths of exceptionalism and unimpeded progress that we’ve relied on to assure us all is well.

In the Gospels, Jesus’ ministry was all about seeing and truth-telling. He did not look away, rationalize, or accommodate the poverty, injustice, and dispossession of the most vulnerable around him. He did not avert his gaze from people’s suffering at the hands of the elites and the empire. On the contrary, the Gospel writers recount stories of him stopping at the scene of suffering, directly intervening in the most tragic of circumstances, and confronting the dangers of his culture and time to serve even when it was dangerous or inconvenient. Jesus did not avert his gaze from the ugliness around him, nor did he hide from the truth about the injustice and violence oppressing the people.

I know the violence we are seeing throughout social media is unsettling and traumatizing. I do not advise seeking it out as a matter of practice. However, we should not be willfully uninformed or unmoved by what is going on.

I suspect that much of the anxiety, resentment, and uncertainty many feel about race, law enforcement, and the pace of cultural and political change arises from the loss of innocence that comes with the exposure of the extent of the hate and violence plaguing vulnerable communities. But we need more truth-telling if we are ever going to confront inequality, white supremacy, and disenfranchisement. We cannot look away from the oppression, exploitation, and domination that distort personhood and rob people of their dignity.

I know it hurts the eyes, but do not avert your gaze.


This is Us, But We Will Be Better

From the Minneapolis Downtown Interfaith Senior Clergy

One thing that all Americans can agree upon during our fractious time is that American society is in crisis. Recently, we have often heard the phrase “this isn’t us.” A look at American history, however, reveals that this is indeed us. On this Martin Luther King, Jr. weekend, may we face the disease of white supremacy. As the American author adrienne maree brown phrases it, “things are not getting worse, they are getting uncovered. We must hold each other tight and continue to pull back the veil.”

The human religious impulse in its many manifestations is centrally about connection: connection to the sacred; connection to the earth; connection to our human family.

This is central to the mission of the Minneapolis Downtown Interfaith Senior Clergy.

In the face of the worst of human nature, our religious traditions insist upon hope. After all, the word “crisis” comes to us from the Greek, meaning “a turning point in a disease.” Our national illness is plain to see.  We are today in crisis, but we can make it a point of turning toward good.  The antidote is compassion and connection.

We invite the religious and those without religion to join us in our common purpose of making this nation what Americans have long dreamed it can be.

Signed, the Minneapolis Downtown Interfaith Senior Clergy,

Dr. Hamdy El-Sawaf, Rabbi Marcia Zimmerman, Rev. Dr. DeWayne L. Davis,  Rev. Jia Starr Brown, Rev. Dr. David Breeden, Imam Makram El-Amin, Rev. Dr. Tim Hart-Anderson, Father Kevin Kenney, Rev. Judy Zabel, Rev. Dr. Laurie Pound-Feille, Rev. Peter Nycklemoe, Rev. Jen Crow, Rev. Justin Schroeder, Rev. Paul Lebens-England

The River and The Wall

Plymouth Film Club Discussion Feb. 7 of
The River and the Wall, guest hosted by Plymouth IWWG, RJI, and Sunday Forum
by Richard Jewell

        Plymouth Film Club is offering a discussion of The River and the Wall (2019, 97 min., documentary) Sunday, Feb. 7, at 12:30 pm on Zoom. Plymouth’s IWWG–the Immigration Welcoming Work Group –chose the film. IWWG, Plymouth’s  Racial Justice Initiative, and Sunday Forum are guest hosts.

Beth Faeth and Joan Thompson, both travelers in Plymouth’s recent Border Trip to Arizona, will facilitate the discussion. The film is appropriate for all ages; please view it on your own before the discussion (see options below).

Presidents have been talking for many decades about building physical barriers between Mexico and the U.S. to better control immigration. President Trump decided to do it big. Though multiple administrations from both parties have been involved in building border fences, under President Trump the process was accelerated.

In 2018, five friends decided to bike, hike, boat, and ride horseback 1200 miles to see “The Wall” along the Rio Grande in Texas. Their filmed journey is a gorgeous testament to the beauty of this “Grande” North American river, as well as a telling story of a partly-built Wall that divides not just the people of two nations, but also U.S. ranchers, park visitors, and citizens from the river.

The five friends start in El Paso. We see the rugged beauty of the Rio Grande and environmental issues in building the Wall. As the friends descend into the Lower Valley of the river in more heavily populated areas, they learn of other issues: immigration, ranchers’ access to land, and U.S. citizens access to state parks and national wildlife refuges.

The Hollywood Reporter calls The River and the Wall “visually stunning and politically sharp.” The film won three awards, one of them at the internationally famous SXSW Film Festival. Conservation filmmaker Ben Masters recruited a National Geographic explorer, an ornithologist, another conservationist, and a river guide for the trip.

Join us in watching The River and the Wall on your own and then discussing it with Plymouth members Feb. 7.  Watch a 2-min. preview/trailer at https://theriverandthewall.com or a 4-min. “teaser” at  www.youtube.com/watch?v=XtB5KmrdMtY. The entire film is available as follows:

(Note: some services may require a subscription): Amazon Prime, iTunes, Netflix, Starz (7-day free trial), Tubi, YouTube, Vimeo

BUY (Some of these let you buy and watch online): Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Best Buy

To join the discussion, click on https://us02web.zoom.us/j/89339693168 at 12:30 pm on Sunday, Feb. 7. If you haven’t used Zoom, yet, show up ten minutes early to download its simple, safe software. We will look forward to seeing you for this very topical discussion about an excellent film!

“OUR DISCONTENT”- A Book Review by Richard Jewell

The Racial Justice Initiative invites you to read this review, written by Plymouth member Richard Jewell, of Caste, The Origins of Our Discontent, written by Isabel Wilkerson.

Pulitzer Prizewinning author Isabel Wilkerson’s Caste: The Origins of Our Discontent explodes the myth that we are a classless society. The American Prospect calls this book “the missing puzzle piece of our country’s history.”

        Caste argues that the United States has a clear and uniquely defined caste system: Blacks here serve as Nazi Germany’s Jews and India’s Untouchables. She acknowledges terrible treatment of Native Americans and, in the past, Latinx, but she presents her fascinating stories, histories, and statistics primarily about African Americans. Her writing is not intellectually difficult to follow, especially with notes, bibliography, and index consigned to the last ninety pages. However, reading Caste can be an emotionally fraught journey.


In its first part, Wilkerson reveals the construction of caste in America, its eight “pillars,” and its thoroughly embedded “tentacles.” In doing so, she productively compares the U.S. system to those of the Nazis and India. The Nazis copied U.S. Jim Crow policies to implement their extermination of Jews and others. And Blacks and India’s Untouchables historically have much in common, as she found by traveling there. Wilkerson, never sensationalist, also lays out stories of Black hangings, burnings (sometimes alive), whippings (commonly followed by salt washes), mutilations, rapes, and murders, some continuing now.

The latter part of Caste is about the present. Wilkerson recalls a few of the more severe indignities she has experienced as a well-dressed reporter-scholar navigating the white professional world. She summarizes how the Obama presidency and Blacks’ economic rise have created an existential panic among some whites threatened by not having a Black caste below them. She contrasts the mindsets of upper-caste controlling whites and economically rising Blacks by quoting Patricia Hill Collins: “Knowledge without wisdom is adequate for the powerful, but wisdom is essential to the survival of the subordinate.” Wilkerson adds statistics showing how middle-class Blacks have the poorest health among whites and BIPOCs (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color), simply from daring to rise: the result, she says, of caste-related stress.

Will the United States, she asks, have an identity crisis as it moves, by the 2040s, toward an inversion of white vs. BIPOC demographics? Will white elites redefine “whiteness”—as they once did for lower-caste Irish, Italians, and other immigrant groups—to maintain Blacks as the bottom caste? She ends on a hopeful note by exploring a personal example in her final chapter, “The Heart Is the Last Frontier.” She says that someday a caste-free world may be possible. However, she adds, severe growing pains lie ahead for all.

More: IsabelWilkerson.comTime Magazine, and National Endowment for the Humanities