Saturday, April 7, 2012

Happy Easter! A service of remembrance for Kathleen on Pentecost

Happy Easter! Christos anesti! Christ is risen! I have good news: there will be a service of remembrance for Kathleen on Sunday, May 27, at 4 PM at Walteria United Methodist Church. 3646 Newton Street, Torrance, CA
90505. click here for a map. 

May 27 is also the feast of Pentecost, the “birthday of the church,” a holiday that Kathleen loved because she dearly loved the church. You are warmly invited to attend. This will be the third year since Kathleen died, and went home to God.

In the Orthodox tradition, in which I was baptized, it is customary to have a special memorial for a departed loved one on the third anniversary of their passing.
When Kathleen and I were in Thessalonica, following in the footsteps of the Apostle Paul with Bishop Mary Ann Swenson and a boat load of Christians, we saw Greek women leaving a church and giving passers-by pieces of bread. We were curious and asked what this was about.

“This is what Greek widows do three years after their husbands die,” a Greek man told us. “They bake bread and gather at the church for prayer and to console each other. And then they leave the church and share their bread with everybody.”

Sharing one’s bread, the bread of grief and comfort, with the world: what a fitting way to remember and honor a loved one, especially during this special time of Easter, when we recall the suffering and rejoice in the resurrection of the one who shared his bread and his life with the world.

The best way I can think of to “make bread” and honor Kathleen’s memory is to start a fund in her name at Walteria UMC—a small, but mighty church she loved dearly.

The fund will help the homeless, and also the children at a school that was recently started at Walteria. This school was something that Kathleen dreamed about, and that Pastor Diane has helped make a reality with the support of the congregation.

If you can’t make it to the memorial, but would like to honor Kathleen, please feel free to make a contribution to this fund and let Pastor Diane know whether you want your donation to help the school or the homeless or both.

Kathleen loved children, and she loved the homeless. I’m sure she would be pleased by the idea of this fund.

I also think Kathleen would be pleased that I am married to Jill Shook, a “Free” Methodist woman who also cares deeply about children and the homeless.
To honor Kathleen, I’d like to share words from a sermon called “Beyond Our Fears” that she gave at Walteria UMC on the second Sunday after Easter in 2006:

We are a resurrection people! We feel the power of the life of Jesus flowing through us whenever we care for each other and work on behalf of peace, justice and compassion.
When the young people were demonstrating on behalf of fair immigration laws, Jesus was alive.

When there was an outpouring of donations and volunteers after the Midwestern tornados, Jesus was alive.

When a Christian shares their faith story with someone who has lost their way, Jesus is alive.
We celebrate Christ’s life among us as we worship and offer daily prayers of thanksgiving and concern for others.
We want our children to know Jesus as their Good Shepherd, and grow up to be loving and strong in the world. We long for our church to be a light of hope in the midst of our community. And we want to stand for values of openness, inclusion and welcome in a world where more doors are being closed. And we want to be people who have strength to face what is genuinely fearful in life; we don't want to be manipulated by the fear mongers of our age. We want to be ready to face the challenge to eliminate poverty, hunger and war, because we know it threatens all God's children, here and around the world.
Like the role of the Shepherd, what we Christians are doing here is not at the center of society. Being a Christian, making a commitment to the life of the Spirit of Jesus Christ in an age of anxiety, is not an easy or glamorous job. We are making a courageous commitment by saying that we believe in faith, hope, and love, because that’s how we’re going to make the world a better and safer place to live, day by day.
Yes, Kathleen, we are a resurrection people. We carry on your work, and we do it with joy, knowing that we do not do it alone. You are with us, and Jesus is with us, and the Living God is with us, guiding, encouraging and helping us….

Since Kathleen loved children, I'd like to end with an image of a child that Jill and I encountered on Palm Sunday. This little girl was part of the Palm Sunday Peace Parade and carried a sign that warmed our hearts. It simply said: "No More War."

I know that Jesus and God are smiling.... Happy Easter from Jill and Anthony.....

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Jill's book on faith-based affordable housing is finished!

After six months, Jill and I have finally finished revising Jill's amazing book on faith-based affordable housing models, and the manuscript has been sent to the printer. Alleluia!

This book was originally published in 2006 and features articles by a wide range of authors--mostly religious leaders and pastors--who have helped create affordable housing for thousands of low-income people. This is a story of Christianity-in-action that deserves to be more widely known. See

The book is especially relevant and important today when a clueless Congress is slashing budgets for affordable housing despite increasing need. Because of deregulation that led to the foreclosure crisis and the housing bubble, millions of people are losing their homes, rents are skyrocketing, and homelessness is on the rise. Yet politicians are not even discussing, much less addressing, this growing problem!

The good news is we know that faith-based affordable housing works. In researching the revision of this book, we learned that the foreclosure rate for those in faith-based housing was less than one percent--far below the national average. This fact explodes the myth that low-income home buyers were at fault for taking out loans they couldn't afford. The real culprits were big predatory banks who didn't bother to screen applicants and give them good financial counseling. When churches followed old-fashioned, responsible banking practices, first-time home buyers did not lose their homes or their equity.

Major policy changes  are needed, as this book makes clear in a chapter called "Hopeful Trends and Calls for Change."

I am excited that this book is coming out this year and will help churches and faith-based groups to "make housing happen" for those in need. I hope our elected officials will also get the message.

I am proud to be married to a woman who cares passionately about housing justice and is making a difference here in Pasadena and around the country with this important book.

One last concern: we are thinking of changing the subtitle of this book because we have learned that "housing" has negative connotations and conjures up images of failed public housing projects. (Successful affordable housing tends to be mixed income and smaller scale; concentrating poverty in huge projects doesn't work.) Housing advocates are now using the word "homes" instead of "housing" and we would like to incorporate that word into the subtitle. Currently the subtitle is "Faith Based Affordable Housing Models."

These are up for consideration for a possible new subtitle:
  • Faith-Based models of affordable homes.
  • Models of Faith-Based Homes for all Income Levels.
Which do you prefer?

Abstract for  "Making Housing Happen":

The growing housing crisis cries out for solutions that work. As many as 3.5 million Americans experience homelessness each year, half of them women and children. One in four renters spend more than half their income on rent and utilities (more than 30 percent is considered unaffordable). With record foreclosures and 28 percent of homes “underwater,” middle‑ and low-income homeowners are suffering.

Many congregations want to address this daunting problem, yet feel powerless and uncertain about what to do. The good news is that churches are effectively addressing the housing crisis from Washington state to New York City—where an alliance of 60 churches has built 5,000 homes for low-income homeowners, with virtually no government funding or foreclosures.

This book offers workable solutions with true stories by those who have made housing happen. Each story features a different denomination, geographic area, and model: adaptive reuse, co-housing, cooperative housing, mixed- income, mixed-use, inclusionary zoning, second-units, community land trusts, sweat-equity and more. It also offers powerful theological thinking about housing.
Making Housing Happen is about vision and faith, relationships and persistence. Its remarkable stories, such as turning a prison into affordable housing, will inspire and challenge you to action.

Jill's bio:

Dr. Jill Shook, author and "catalyst," works with churches and community leaders to bring about housing justice. She earned degrees from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo (BA), Denver Seminary (MA) and Bakke Graduate School (D. Min. in Transformational Leadership), led work teams from Berkeley to Harvard for Food for the Hungry to developing countries, started a church-based tutoring program, taught at Azusa Pacific and Bakke Graduate School, published articles (Sojourners) and gives workshops locally and nationally.