Edwidge Danticat

Edwidge Danticat

2018.08.07

Literature and Life

 

This series about authors and their favorite books began by my reading a quote about if someone really wanted to be a good writer, they first had to be a good reader.  John Cheever, a celebrated writer of novels and short stories from New England once remarked “I can’t write without a reader. It’s precisely like a kiss—you can’t do it alone.”  One can, of course, write, but without it being read, it often seems like wasted energy.  There is the old adage that the difference between a good writer and a bad writer is that the good writer perseveres and the bad writer simply quits but one still does hope, at some point, to have their work read. 

 

Cheever also defined art as the triumph over chaos.  I think perhaps this is one of the reasons our featured author today began to write although she described it this way:  “Whole interaction between the storyteller and the listeners had a very powerful influence on me.”  Born on the island of Haiti, Edwidge had a life that was a bit chaotic.  Haiti gained its independence from France in 1804 only to see itself sold to Americans.  It has a history of tyranny and neglect and many seem to have forgotten it most of the time.  Edwidge moved to New York at the start of her teen years after being raised for ten years by an aunt and uncle.  French is the national language of Haiti but at home she spoke Haitian Creole, a conglomeration of words from 18th century French with influences from Portuguese, Spanish, English, Taíno, and West African languages.  Moving to be with her parent in New York was nice but also very isolating.  Literature became her escape and comfort.

 

Edwidge Danticat wrote a story about her immigration experience for New Youth Connections, a citywide magazine written by teenagers entitled “A New World Full of Strangers”. In the introduction to “Starting With I”, an anthology of stories from the magazine, Danticat wrote, “When I was done with the [immigration] piece, I felt that my story was unfinished, so I wrote a short story, which later became a book, my first novel: Breath, Eyes, Memory…Writing for New Youth Connections had given me a voice. My silence was destroyed completely, indefinitely.”  Danticat went on to graduate from Bernard College in NYC and then receive masters’ degree in creative writing from Brown University.

 

It is therefore not surprising that she lists Marie Vieus-Chauvet’s book “Love, Anger, Madness” as a favored and influential book on her writing.  Written by an exiled Haitian writer one year before Danticat was born, the book is actually a trilogy – three stories that reflect the American invasion and economic control of Haiti, Haitis troubles from the occupation, and its own internal struggles. Each story has a character that finds refuge in art, struggles to overthrow dominant forces, and battles for integrity against the devastation of war in a corrupt state. Oppression cuts across class and race lines. The dramas are large and small, and the villains are not always who you think they are.  It is easy to understand the book’s appeal to Edwidge Danticat who once remarked “The past is like the hair on our head …You always have this feeling that wherever you come from, you physically leave it, but it doesn’t leave you.”

 

Three themes are prominent in the writing of Edwidge Danticat: national identity, mother-daughter relationships, and diasporic politics.   It might seem like this are applicable to only her native land but diasporic politics affected the African slave trade as well as that of the Sephardic Jewish people after the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem in 70 ACE.  Great literature crosses time and space, uniting us all and both Danticat and her influencing Marie Vieus-Chauvet write such literature. 

 

Edwidge Danticat has given us a picture book, a young adult novel, and five other books in addition to her short stories, essays, and work as an anthology editor and guest contributor for such publications as “The New Yorker” and “The Washington Post”.  The busy mother of two daughters has been known to say the greatest gift one can give a writer is time and she eagerly seeks to connect literature and life.   “We need literature because we wouldn’t fully know ourselves without it.  We need good literature to be fully human.”

 

 

 

Mark Twain

Mark Twain

2018.08.06

Literature and Life

 

Few writers have failed on so many things and yet made all those failures successful as Mark Twain did.  He apprenticed as a typesetter and printer and then turned to mining.  He penned a story he heard in a California bar with the unlikely name of “The Celebrated Jumping Frogs of Calaveras County”.  It became a worldwide sensation, published in both English and French.  Mark Twain became known for his wit and his satire in prose and in public speaking gained him the friendship and support of American presidents, European royalty, fellow artists and writers, as well as industrialists.  He would earn a fortune and then just as easily lose it.

 

Mark Twain is perhaps best known for his “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer” so no one should be surprised that among his favorite books he listed “Le Morte d’ Arthur” by Sir Thomas Mallory.  Twain took the tales of King Arthur and spun them into the story of an American lad with a little of his second favorite book, “The Arabian Knights” thrown in for good measure.  Another successful and noted American author, William Faulkner< called Mark Twain “the father of American literature” while many others consider him the greatest humorist the United States has ever had.

 

Mark Twain was born Samuel Langhorne Clemens on November 30, 1835 and his life was not an easy one.  Three of his siblings died before reaching the age of twelve and when Twain was eleven years old, his father also died.  He himself dropped out of school at age twelve to work, later educating himself at the public libraries he would frequent.  His one goal in life was to become a steamboatman.  “Pilot was the grandest position of all. The pilot, even in those days of trivial wages, had a princely salary – from a hundred and fifty to two hundred and fifty dollars a month, and no board to pay.”  Twain considered the pilot’s job the most important of all as  the pilot had to “get up a warm personal acquaintanceship with every old snag and one-limbed cottonwood and every obscure wood pile that ornaments the banks of this river for twelve hundred miles; and more than that, must… actually know where these things are in the dark.”

 

Mark Twain did become a steamboat pilot although it took him two years to earn his pilot license.  His pen name came from the leadsman’s cry for a measured river depth of two fathoms (12 feet), which was safe water for a steamboat.  Twain worked as a pilot on the Mississippi River until the second year of the War Between the States and then joined his brother in the Nevada Territory.  In 1867, a local newspaper funded his trip to the Mediterranean aboard the Quaker City, including a tour of Europe and the Middle East.  It was on this trip that he met a young man and, upon seeing a picture of his sister, fell in love at first sight.  He later married the man’s sister.  The lived in New York state, Connecticut, and then Europe.  Mark Twain died in New York City after the death of two of his daughters and his beloved wife. 

 

Twain was born two weeks after Halley’s Comet’s closest approach in 1835.  In 1909 he remarked upon this:  “I came in with Halley’s Comet in 1835. It is coming again next year, and I expect to go out with it. It will be the greatest disappointment of my life if I don’t go out with Halley’s Comet. The Almighty has said, no doubt: ‘Now here are these two unaccountable freaks; they came in together, they must go out together’.”  Twain was a great friend of Nikolas Tesla and the only surviving film of Twain was taken by another scientist, Thomas Edison.  Twain also financed a girls’ science club in NYC. 

 

In recent years the works of Mark Twain have been subject to censorship for his brilliant use of the colloquialisms of the period.  I understand how several derogatory terms would be painful but I personally feel that serve to further educate us and exemplify the inequities that existed.  Such knowledge could, if utilized, prevent future discrimination and continued politics that encourage such. 

 

Upon hearing of Twain’s death, President William Howard Taft said: “Mark Twain gave pleasure – real intellectual enjoyment – to millions, and his works will continue to give such pleasure to millions yet to come … His humor was American, but he was nearly as much appreciated by Englishmen and people of other countries as by his own countrymen. He has made an enduring part of American literature.”  He wrote of the common man, used humor to unite the different social classes, and through it all, was as much a knight of the round table of the world as any that ever graced the world in literature and in life.

 

 

 

 

An Unstoppable Spirit

An Unstoppable Spirit

2018.07.13

Pentecost 2018

 

Malala Yousafzai is a Pakistani education advocate who, at the age of 17, became the youngest person to win the Nobel Peace Prize after surviving an assassination attempt by the Taliban. Born on July 12, 1997, Yousafzai became an advocate for girls’ education when she herself was still a child, which resulted in the Taliban issuing a death threat against her.

 

Yesterday Malala turned twenty-one and celebrated by helping girls in Rio learn how to stay in school and overcome violence in the world around them.  This is not an unusual occurrence for Malala, though.  Her thirst for knowledge had led her down a path that even a horrendous attack could not stop.

 

Nine months after being shot by the Taliban, Malala Yousafzai gave a speech at the United Nations on her 16th birthday in 2013. Yousafzai highlighted her focus on education and women’s rights, urging world leaders to change their policies.  Yousafzai said that following the attack, “the terrorists thought that they would change our aims and stop our ambitions, but nothing changed in my life except this: weakness, fear and hopelessness died. Strength, power and courage were born.”

 

t Malala Yousafzai’s 2013 speech at the United Nations, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon pronounced July 12th – Yousafzai’s birthday – ‘Malala Day’ in honor of the young leader’s activism to ensure education for all children.  “Malala chose to mark her 16th birthday with the world,” said Ban. “No child should have to die for going to school. Nowhere should teachers fear to teach or children fear to learn. Together, we can change the picture.”

 

Malala Yousafzai was born in Mingora, Pakistan, located in the country’s Swat Valley, on July 12, 1997. For the first few years of her life, her hometown remained a popular tourist spot that was known for its summer festivals. However the area began to change as the Taliban tried to take control.

 

Yousafzai attended a school that her father, Ziauddin Yousafzai, had founded. After the Taliban began attacking girls’ schools in Swat, Malala gave a speech in Peshawar, Pakistan, in September 2008. The title of her talk was, “How dare the Taliban take away my basic right to education?”

 

With a growing public platform, Yousafzai continued to speak out about her right, and the right of all women, to an education. Her activism resulted in a nomination for the International Children’s Peace Prize in 2011. That same year, she was awarded Pakistan’s National Youth Peace Prize.  Malala and her family learned that the Taliban had issued a death threat against her because of her activism. Though Malala was frightened for the safety of her father — an anti-Taliban activist — she and her family initially felt that the fundamentalist group would not actually harm a child.

 

On October 9, 2012, when 15-year-old Malala was riding a bus with friends on their way home from school, a masked gunman boarded the bus and demanded to know which girl was Malala. When her friends looked toward Malala, her location was given away. The gunman fired at her, hitting Malala in the left side of her head; the bullet then traveled down her neck. Two other girls were also injured in the attack.  The shooting left Malala in critical condition, so she was flown to a military hospital in Peshawar. A portion of her skull was removed to treat her swelling brain. To receive further care, she was transferred to Birmingham, England.

 

Once she was in the United Kingdom, Yousafzai was taken out of a medically induced coma. Though she would require multiple surgeries—including repair of a facial nerve to fix the paralyzed left side of her face — she had suffered no major brain damage. In March 2013, she was able to begin attending school in Birmingham. 

 

In March 29, 2018, Yousafzai returned to Pakistan for the first time since her brutal 2012 attack. Not long after arriving, she met with Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, and delivered an emotional speech at his office.  “In the last five years, I have always dreamed of coming back to my country,” she said, adding, “I never wanted to leave.”  During her four-day trip, Yousafzai visited the Swat Valley, as well as the site where she nearly met her end at the hands of the Taliban. Additionally, she inaugurated a school for girls being built with aid from the Malala Fund.

 

n October 10, 2013, in acknowledgement of her work, the European Parliament awarded Yousafzai the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought.

In April 2017, United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres appointed Yousafzai as a U.N. Messenger of Peace to promote girls education. The appointment is the highest honor given by the United Nations for an initial period of two years.

Yousafzai was also given honorary Canadian citizenship in April 2017. She is the sixth person and the youngest in the country’s history to receive the honor.  Also in 2017 she was accepted as a student at Oxford University, continuing her education in spite of still being targeted by the Taliban.

 

Malala continues to advocate and encourage world leaders to spend their money on books instead of bullets and military budgets.  “The shocking truth is that world leaders have the money to fully fund primary AND secondary education around the world – but they are choosing to spend it on other things, like their military budgets. In fact, if the whole world stopped spending money on the military for just 8 days, we could have the $39 billion still needed to provide 12 years of free, quality education to every child on the planet.”

 

Immediately after the attack on her in 2012 to yesterday’s celebration, Malala has urged action against illiteracy, poverty and terrorism:  “The extremists were, and they are, afraid of books and pens. The power of education frightens them. They are afraid of women… Let us pick up our books and pens. They are our most powerful weapons.” 

 

 

 

 

 

Eat It – Part Three

Eat It – Part Three

2018.07.10

Pentecost 2018

 

This is the third and last segment of my post about eating and how we can make a difference by eating.  The first part centered around how we can help ourselves, be our own hero in our own lives by eating responsibility.  The second featured a wonderful organization called Dining for Women.  Today, we are going back to college  and focusing on a college pre-med student.

 

Columnist Jillian Kramer wrote about today’s woman making a difference in a January issue of Food and Wine Magazine.  “Fourteen-year-old Maria Rose Belding skirted past the block-deep line of hungry people, and launched another box filled to the brim with expired macaroni-and-cheese into the dumpster. It wasn’t the first time she’d tossed food into the trash at this particular food pantry—Belding had begun volunteering at the Pella, Indiana location when she was just 5-years-old—but this time was different: this time, she was really, really, really angry.  “I remember really thinking: how have we not done better than this?” [Belding explained to Food & Wine writer.] “And it was really frustrating because it was very clear there wasn’t someone to be mad at—it didn’t appear that someone had screwed up and that’s why we were in this situation. The donor who gave us all of that macaroni-and-cheese had done so out of the very best of intentions. The food pantry director had worked incredibly hard trying to move it and place it within other communities and organizations. The volunteers had done everything they could do. I was so angry, but there wasn’t an easy person to get mad at.”

 

The fourteen-year-old knew there were other hungry people who would have jumped at the chance to eat the food being discarded.  She wondered at the lack of communication between food pantries serving this demographic and was frustrated by it.  Kramer’s article continues:  “The tech-savvy teen figured there had to be some sort of online communication system on which food pantries could communicate with one another about their stock—a system that her local pantry simply had to sign up for. She searched and searched—and found nothing. 

 

“I thought it was real because I would watch [the pantry director]—who is a saint of the woman—make so many phone calls to landlines, and she would get calls back weeks later to try to move this macaroni-and-cheese,” recalls Belding. “It was so incredibly inefficient, and I remember standing there going, but we have the Internet. But we have the Internet.”  Five years later  a fellow college student Grant Nelson, Belding helped her create MEANS, a nonprofit communications platform for emergency food providers and donors.

 

After three years, MEANS has reached people in 49 U.S. states and territories, and boasts some 3,000 users and partner organizations. The organization has recovered 1.6 million pounds of food, food that has reached hungry people instead of over-crowded dumpsters headed for the garbage dump.  Let those numbers sink in and think about how they have impacted living, breathing people and crime statistics.

 

“We get everything from fresh vegetables to 5,000 pounds of pizza sauce in individual one-ounce packets,” Belding says. “There are so many stories where you just go: what? How did this happen? But we are so grateful that it ends up with us [MEANS] and more importantly, the people who need it.”  They even had a donation of 42,000 pounds of milk that MEANS staff had to help relocate.  They were successful and the milk went to grateful recipients.

 

Quoting again from Jillian Kramer’s article:   “Belding, now 22, runs the organization full-time—while attending American University to one day become a doctor. Her staff is also impressively young: “We are 16 to 25 [years old], we’re from a host of different backgrounds and gender identities and races and religions and socio-economic backgrounds,” says Belding. “But one of the things that we all have in common is the same kind of sense of …  a collective dumbfounding that hunger is still such a prevalent problem and how we have so much food waste, when this is so, so solvable.”  If you are interested in joining MEANS—or know someone else who is—you can visit the program on its website, call the staff at 202-449-1507, or email hello@meansdatabase.com.”

 

Pentecost is a season during which the ordinary can become extraordinary.  As I mentioned in Part One, one of the most ordinary things many people do is eat and it benefits everyone when we turn that ordinary meal into something extraordinary.  Maria Belding and her staff, like the members of Dinging for Women we discussed in Part Two of this blog post are using food to offer a hand up, not just a hand out.  Life is all about making choices and you can turn your ordinary meal into a super-charged extraordinary gift to your health by making wise choices and then turning those choices into effective actions.  That will make you our hero for tomorrow!

Eat It – Part Two

Eat It – Part Two

2018.07.10

Pentecost 2018

 

Dining for Women is a global giving circle dedicated to transforming lives and eradicating poverty among women and girls in the developing world. Through member education and engagement, as well as the power of collective giving, Dining for Women funds grassroots organizations that empower women and girls and promote gender equity.  Most of its members are not wealthy, donating around $35 USD, the amount they might spend dining out at a restaurant.

 

Dining for Women celebrates the power of the individual to see an injustice and act to change it; to see need and act to fill it. Dining for Women’s members are deeply involved in the grantees the organization supports and the problems they seek to address. The education component is equally as important as their fundraising.  The collective-giving model is proving that small contributions, aggregated together, can make a huge difference. This is especially true in the most impoverished areas of the world, where some subsist on less than $1.25 a day.

 

Former First Lady, US Senator, and Secretary of State Hilary Clinton stated when discussing Dining for Women:  “The efforts that Dining for Women have undertaken … all across the country over the past 13 years provide a powerful example of how individual acts of giving, when aggregated, can make a deep and transformational impact.”

 

Their website explains how the idea of eating a meal can help someone on the other side of the world become a reality.  “Dining for Women chapters meet on a regular basis – most monthly – and share a meal together. It may be in someone’s home, in a college cafeteria, an office break room, a church hall, or a local watering hole. Members share camaraderie and learn about that month’s featured grantees through videos, educational documents and presentations, and free and open discussion. Funds raised each month go to fund the featured and sustained grantees, as well as support the entire mission of Dining for Women.”

 

You see today’s woman making a difference is really a group of women, those in Dining for Women chapters all over.  By sharing a meal, they are making the world a better place for all of us.  The organization’s grant selection committee vets scores of organizations every six months, ultimately choosing 12 a year to whom grants of up to $50,000 are awarded. The process is strenuous and organizations must meet stringent selection criteria to move along in the process. Once selected, organizations must provide regular progress reports and updates as part of our monitoring and evaluation process.

 

Why do they do this?  “We don’t just give money, we invest in futures. The organizations and projects we support educate girls, teach women a skill, help develop markets for their products, and fight the prevalent gender inequality in the world. We give a hand up, not a hand out.  We fund grass-roots projects in education, healthcare, economic and environmental sustainability, safety and security, leadership and agriculture. These projects are aimed at improving the living situations for women and their families, by providing the tools they need to make changes in their lives, in their communities and in their children’s futures.”

 

Something that most of us do three times a day can become the means by which others eat, improve healthcare, create jobs and increase education.  Through their years of grant-making, Dining for Women (DFW) has done amazing work to support on-the-ground projects in more than 40 countries with 150+ grassroots organizations. This work has been guided by a simple truth: investing in women and girls can pull whole families, communities, and even countries out of extreme poverty.

 

DFW members will advocate for policies that align with our mission of empowering women and girls in the developing world and promoting gender equality. Our advocacy efforts will encompass a range of U.S. funding and legislative initiatives — from support for gender equality in the U.S. foreign aid budget, to specific policy areas such as protecting girls’ access to education, preventing violence against women, or advancing women’s role in peace and security. We also expect to support policies that make it easier for nonprofits to operate and be effective.

 

This movement is a big, non-partisan tent. DFW’s grant-making brings together people from across the political spectrum, and advocacy will do the same. The need to advocate for ending extreme poverty and ensuring gender equality transcends political affiliations.  After all, we all live together on our planet and what benefits the world ultimately benefits the individual.  Tomorrow we will conclude this three-part blog post and go back to college.  Stay tuned!

If You Love Me – Lizzie Chantree

“If You Love Me…” – Lizzie Chantree

2018.07.09

Pentecost 2018

 

Doing a series on women who have made a difference often becomes a historical exercise in biography.  Today’s featured woman, though, is alive and well and living in 21st century England.  Moreover, she qualifies for this series on several levels.  Her name is Lizzie Chantree.

 

Today is the world launch of Lizzie Chantree’s novel “If You Love Me, I’m Yours”.  I received an ARC – advanced reader’s copy – and found it to be a delightful read.  In fact, I plan to order several copies for a local book club.  Chantree’s newest novel is a great book with relatable characters.  Love’s course seldom runs smoothly and we all have our own baggage that we bring to any relationship.  This book acknowledges both of those facts in a delightful yet meaningful way without being pedantic.

 

Lizzie Chantree is an award-winning inventor and author who started her own business at the age of 18 and became one of Fair Play London and The Patent Office’s British Female Inventors of the Year in 2000.  [Her invention was a spray that stopped hosiery runs, often called ladders.]  Chantree discovered her love of writing fiction when her children were little.  Her titles include “Babe Driven”, “Love’s Child”, “Finding Gina”, “Ninja School Mum”, and today’s release with Crooked Cat Books, “If You Love Me, I’m Yours”. 

 

Chantree is a Creative Mentor and as mentioned before, an award winning inventor (BFiY), as chosen by Fair Play London and The Patent Office.  Her paintings have been exhibited and sold across the U.K.  She is also a judge of Shell LiveWIRE’s Grand Ideas Award.  Additionally, she is the host of a creative networking hour on Twitter: #creativebizhour Monday evenings 8-9pm (GMT). Her Twitter handle is @Lizzie Chantree.  Creative businesses, writers, photographers, and designers share and offer advice and support to each other.

 

When asked about the hardest thing in becoming a published writer, Chantree responded:  “The hardest thing is how much time promoting your work takes.  It’s sometimes difficult to fit in writing hours alongside marketing commitments. I am lucky that I really enjoy talking to readers, but giving author talks and having book launches makes me quake! Standing in front of people and talking about my work is not my natural environment. I’m happiest with a pen in hand and notebook on the table.”

 

Chantree considers an optimistic nature to be paramount in achieving success.  Readers of this blog will know I agree with that!  “I’m a very positive person who is full of ideas. I write books to hopefully make people smile, as I became an author after my own child was unwell for seven years and I needed a career change to be at home with her. From this dark time blossomed a completely new career, so it’s never too late to try something different. I’m also fascinated by people and love to hear about their lives and experiences.”

 

Life often throws us a curveball or two or twenty.  How we respond is the key to personal and professional success.  This is reflected in Chantree’s new book.  The characters are not perfect and how they navigate around their curveballs and imperfections makes for a delightful and satisfying story, complete with a surprise twist at the end. 

 

Chantree follows the advice she writes for her characters.  “The best piece of writing advice I was given was that you can’t edit a blank page. Get those words onto paper and you can change them later. If the page is empty, there is nowhere to go. With life in general, I would say try and be kind to yourself. Everyone gives so much of themselves to others, but if you don’t look after yourself, there will be nothing left to give.”

 

A cancer survivor herself, Lizzie Chantree lives with her family on the coast in Essex and spends her creative time in her rooftop studio. Her energy and creativity are proof that, although women often wear many hats in the 21st century, one really can live life to the fullest and share their energy with others, making the world a delightfully better place for all.  After all, if you want to love your life, you’ve got to own it.  The universe is speaking to us and echoing the title of Chantree’s new release:  “If You Love Me, I’m Yours!”

 

Preview of this book:

‘If you love me, I’m yours…’

Maud didn’t mind being boring, not really. She had a sensible job, clothes, and love life… if you counted an overbearing ex who had thanked her, rolled over and was snoring before she even realised he’d begun! She could tolerate not fulfilling her dreams, if her parents would pay her one compliment about the only thing she was passionate about in life: her art.

Dot should have fit in with her flamboyant and slightly eccentric family of talented artists, but somehow, she was an anomaly who couldn’t paint. She tried hard to be part of their world by becoming an art agent extraordinaire, but she dreamed of finding her own voice.

Dot’s brother Nate, a smoulderingly sexy and famous artist, was adored by everyone. His creative talent left them in awe of his ability to capture such passion on canvas. Women worshipped him, and even Dot’s friend Maud flushed and bumped into things when he walked into a room, but a tragic event in his past had left him emotionally and physically scarred, and reluctant to face the world again.

Someone was leaving exquisite little paintings on park benches, with a tag saying, ‘If you love me, I’m yours’. The art was so fresh and cutting-edge, that it generated a media frenzy and a scramble to discover where the mystery artist could be hiding. The revelation of who the prodigious artist was interlinked Maud, Dot and Nate’s lives forever, but their worlds came crashing down.

Were bonds of friendship, love and loyalty strong enough to withstand fame, success and scandal?

 

 

No Limits

No Limits

2018.07.06

Pentecost 2018

 

“Power, as human beings exercise power, to me means the ability to change: the ability to change oneself, the ability to change one’s community.  And the positive use of power is transformation of self and community toward a high ideal, toward a healed world.”  This quote by Katherine Jefferts Schori speaks to the topic we are exploring this month of personal power and to the needs of the world today.

 

Of Irish ancestry, Katherine Jefferts Schori was born in Pensacola to Keith Jefferts and his wife Elaine Ryan. Jefferts Schori was first raised in the Roman Catholic Church. In 1963, her parents brought her, at the age of eight, into the Episcopal Church (St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church, New Providence, New Jersey) with their own move out of Roman Catholicism. Her mother converted to Eastern Orthodoxy a few years later and died in 1998.  She attended school in New Jersey, then earned a Bachelor of Science degree in biology from Stanford University in 1974, a Master of Science degree in oceanography in 1977, and a Doctor of Philosophy degree in 1983, also in oceanography, from Oregon State University. She is an instrument-rated pilot.  Both her parents were pilots.  She married Richard Schori, an Oregon State professor of topology, in 1979. Their daughter Katharine is a captain and pilot in the United States Air Force, continuing the family tradition.

 

Jefferts Schori earned her Master of Divinity in 1994 from the Church Divinity School of the Pacific[3] and was ordained priest that year. She served as assistant rector at the Church of the Good Samaritan, in Corvallis, Oregon, where she had special responsibility for pastoring the Hispanic community as a fluent Spanish communicator, and was in charge of adult education programs.  In 2001, Jefferts Schori was elected and consecrated Bishop of Nevada. The Church Divinity School of the Pacific gave her an honorary Doctor of Divinity in 2001. Seabury-Western Theological Seminary in Evanston, Illinois awarded her an honorary degree in 2007, as did The University of the South in Sewanee, Tennessee the following year. (Most Episcopal seminaries award an honorary doctorate to alumni who become bishops.)

 

The Episcopal Church met in General Convention in Columbus, Ohio, in June 2006.  Bishop Jefferts Schori was elected to serve a nine-year term as Presiding Bishop by the House of Bishops, on June 18, from among seven nominees on the fifth ballot with 95 of the 188 votes cast. The House of Deputies, consisting of deacons, priests and laity, overwhelmingly approved the House of Bishops’ election later that day. She was the first woman primate in the worldwide Anglican Communion and the 26th Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church as well as the 963rd bishop of the Episcopal Church.

 

For the past thirty years, Presiding Bishops have traditionally served a fifteen year term, presiding over three General Conventions which are held every three years.  Jefferts Schori announced on September 23, 2014, that she would not seek another term as Presiding Bishop. On June 27, 2015, the General Convention elected Bishop Michael Curry of North Carolina as the 27th Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church.  In 2017, Bishop Katherine began serving as assisting bishop in the Episcopal Diocese of San Diego.

 

Diana Butler Bass, an independent scholar and expert on U.S. religion and author of eight books, including “Christianity After Religion” wrote of Bishop Katherine Jefferts Schori:  “In the 21st century, with declining numbers who identify as part of mainline religion, church elections are mostly a matter of inside baseball and of no great consequence to American society. Yet this cannot be fairly said of Jefferts Schori’s tenure as the head of the Episcopal Church. In the last decade, the denomination became a sort of a laboratory in which to observe cultural and religious change.

 

“The first and most obvious fact about Jefferts Schori’s tenure is that she is a she. As the only female head of an Anglican national church, she was subjected to innumerable indignities, the most noteworthy of which was a 2010 order by Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams that she not wear a mitre (the hat worn by Christian bishops to symbolize their spiritual authority) when preaching in an English cathedral.”  [It should be noted that most recently when giving the homily at the wedding of Prince Harry and Megan Markel, the current Presiding Bishop Michael Curry did not wear a mitre.]

 

Bass continues:  “Jefferts Schori proved a tough leader, determined to protect the church, employing her resources to quell dissent and maintain church law. As a result, the Episcopal Church lost far fewer members than had been predicted and won almost every court case brought against it.”  It should be noted that the Episcopal Church is one of the oldest religious institutions in the U.S.A.

 

The basis for the gospels included within the book known as the Holy Bible is that love has no limits.  The tenure of Bishop Katherine Jefferts Schori proves, as Bass concludes, that finding such on earth is difficult.  “Jefferts Schori’s tenure also points to the complex and intertwined realities of women’s and LGBTQ rights. Her opponents exercised the same tactics of discrimination against both her and Gene Robinson. Each was (often grudgingly) recognized as a bishop, but faced constant challenges to their leadership on the basis of gender or sexual identity. They were excluded from meetings whenever possible, sometimes forced to sit separate from groups, forbidden to wear symbols of their rank in certain places, and disallowed from performing the sacraments – practices of segregation resembling those often employed against African Americans – and functionally intimating that Jefferts Schori and Robinson were somehow unclean or spiritually unacceptable.

 

“Such overt discrimination demonstrates that while sexism, homophobia and racism are not identical, they prompt the same response from those who fear losing power or privilege, including within the religious community. In a comment that applies to too many American organizations, Bishop Susan Goff of Virginia said the Episcopal Church continues to suffer from “deeply ingrained structural and institutional sexism.”  Having a woman presiding bishop does not eliminate sexism – and electing a bishop who happens to be gay does not end homophobia. The Gordian knot of equal rights for all has to be untied as a whole, not as its individual threads.”

 

As we move forward we need to see the world as “we” and not a competition between “them” and “us”.  There can be no limits to our efforts to make the world a better place for all.  To quote Bishop Katherine once said:  “See the encounters of Jesus’ life as windows into possibilities for yours.  Accept the invitation to go or strive to go through the narrow door.  Choose between life and fear, for the unengaged life is truly not worth living, and has no possibility of salvation or abundance.”