— Social Justice + Creativity = Faithful Fools Community Ministry

February 18, 2012 at 5:55 pm | Posted in Online Ministry | 2 Comments

While waiting recently for a flight to California, I tweeted: “Is there a bookstore in San Fran with a great poetry section?”  A response: “u do know that the city is The City of Poets? Whaddabout “City Lights?”

My heart had skipped a beat, literally.

How could I forget the beatniks? How could I forget the famous poetry room at City Lights bookstore?

A few tweets later:

“I’m here &

headed for verse


Up the stairs to poetry

I climb.


My humble behind

slides …………………into

a rock—–ing chair

once graced by derrieres

of famous poets.


Tweet out.”

Later, I decided to walk the seven stations of the beat (just kidding); off to the Haight-Ashbury I went.  Didn’t get there.  I landed in The Tenderloin. A couple of homeless old men drew my attention. I left them with whatever cash I had.

And then, I got lost.

But then, “I was found.”

I stumbled upon a purple building.

Faithful Fools!

Dear Fellow Members of My Church, the UU of Arlington, VA: Do those words ring a bell?  “Faithful Fools?”

For nearly five years one of them foolishly preached and lived in beloved community with us: Rev. Mary McKinnon Ganz.  She talked about this UU-founded community ministry for the homeless many times. Her relationship with the fools was one she repeatedly returned to for spiritual guidance.

A few members of our church, including me, encouraged her to give the subject a loving rest. (I think I’m sugar coating my account of the exchange.)

I regret it. Read more to find out why!


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  1. For many years I was very much of the Faithful Fool perspective and way of being. Not actually “sacrificing myself,” but putting such values and faith to the front in my life, over and over again.
    Of late, due to some wrenching experiences with that approach, I’m adding an additional perspective: the ecological, the systems approach, complexity theory–the effect my behavior may have on the whole organism of humanity on earth.
    I now see that I have to negotiate with others, to secure the conditions in which ALL of us can act on such values WITHOUT being sacrificed by self OR others.
    It’s a bitter lesson, with a lot of shame attached, but I think it offers real hope.

  2. Dear NewUU followers, I’ve updated this blog post with insights and comments from Sr. Carmen Barsody. First, I’ll correct a typo the FF is 14 years old and not 24. Meanwhile, I’ve clarified why I believe the effect of the FF is far greater than the 100s of people who have been part of its life and development. For every person who has experienced FF in person, the likelihood that they’ve carried those learnings forward is very high — especially true for the interns, lay leaders, and ministers who have been associated with it who then talk about it and practice the learnings in their ministries. It’s true of all the homeless and poor who have written poetry and played music for countless others because of their connection to FF. A recent indication of the impact of FF, especially to UUism, is the number of people who recently celebrated Rev. Kay’s 80th birthday. To me, FF represents the power of love and how far it can reach from just one individual’s actions. One last comment: FF does strike a very personal chord for me, one which I stopped talking about more than 30 years ago. I know what it is like to be left sprawled on street –not as a homeless person — but as someone who was left for dead and then only to be saved by complete strangers. Perhaps I’ll blog about this someday. For now I’ll leave you with this: what can go through a conscious mind that feels and senses the life all around it while it starts to slip away is that absolutely no one cares and a connection to life is very shallow, regardless of what our faith may say about how we are all connected. I have yet to experience a FF street retreat, but I will. I’ll know better then whether there’s a shared aspect to sleeping in the streets and nearly dying in the streets. But I suspect there is some truth to what I experienced and what living on the streets does to a human being.

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