Category Archives: Social Awareness

Reformation Day, A Reflection

In my previous post (which I realized was my hundredth!), I mentioned that I would share some thoughts regarding the sermon shared on the morning of Reformation Day in the Schloßkirche, the church where Luther nailed his 95 Theses. This post is that promised reflection.

The reverend preaching the morning of Reformation Day shared an interesting and concise sermon about Luther (I mean, it is the 500th anniversary, after all). His opening remarks about the relations between the Lutheran and the Catholic Churches caught my attention immediately. According to the reverend, the two are together coming to an understanding of justification by faith and not by works, in an attempt at ecumenism that will bring unity rather than the division that Luther never intended to cause. If that is true, wonderful; if not, I wonder what Luther would have to say about the conversations that have been held between the two bodies.

Another interesting aspect of the sermon for me was the idea of “releasing Luther” from the layers of tradition and misunderstanding that have developed over the centuries and to return to the roots of who this man was. Luther was then presented as a driving force in the socio-economic changes of his time and a clarion call of spreading love to those around us, to lift up the desolate as Luther did. This is the face of Luther that we need to see and share today.

With all due respect to the reverend, I do have a few challenging comments in regards to the last couple of points.

I do not doubt that over time Luther has been misunderstood and his platform for change misconstrued to serve the purposes of others who desired to use his name and cultural ties for their own gain and propaganda (for example, the 400th anniversary of the nailing of the Theses took place in the middle of World War 1 where the Germans used Luther as uniting factor to push their military agenda).

I also absolutely agree that reading authors of old for themselves and within their own context is extremely important. Too often we base our opinions on what other people have studied and not what we have studied for ourselves. Of course, not everyone has the ability to read medieval German, handwritten manuscripts, but reading a translation of Luther’s works rather than relying on the summarizing and quotation of scholars is already a great step in the right direction.

And social action is absolutely important, but from the Christian point of view it is not the whole story. To say that Luther was a social activist is fine (although he is famous for his anti-Semitic views, another reason why the German military chose to herald him during war efforts), but the reason he chose to live a life of service and education to his Christian brethren in the way he did was a result of a theological understanding. To present Luther as a social reformer alone, while much “safer” in today’s general post-modern society, does not fully depict the magnitude of Luther’s discovery. Social gospel, without the declaration of the gospel of salvation, is incomplete and cannot stand.

On a day as special as Reformation Day, wouldn’t it make more sense, instead of speaking entirely about Luther, to speak about what he had discovered from reading the Bible? Should not the focus be on the special message of Scripture that he “uncovered” that then led a revolution not only in how people understood their relationship with God, but also their relationship with each other?

I once read a fantastic scholarly paper on the study of theology. In it, the author claims that at it’s core, theology is the study of relationship. This is what the Reformers, like Luther, were seeking to understand in their study of Scripture.

The author continues by stating that if we were to simply continue promoting the work of the Reformers such as Luther, Calvin, Zwingli, and others, that we would actually be doing them a great disservice. If we want to truly honor the work of the Reformers, we would continue what they had begun; indeed, press forward with what those who had lived long before the official Reformation had started.

A continuous, personal search of Scripture and the seeking of its application to the life is the only way to truly celebrate the discoveries and honor the sacrifices of those who felt the high importance of knowing God and living for Him above all else.

While we can celebrate the works of great men and women who have had profound impacts on our planet and worldviews, often without the slightest intention of doing so, let us be careful not to venerate them as more than humans that allowed themselves to be greatly used by God.

Martin Luther wasn’t perfect—far from it. Neither are any of we. But we are all on a spiritual journey that, by the grace of God, will lead us to a deeper and greater understanding of who He is, how much He loves us, and how we can share that love to those around us.

Luther actually summarizes this thought well in the following couple of quotes:

“This life therefore is not righteousness but growth in righteousness, not health but healing, not being but becoming, not rest but exercise. We are not yet what we shall be but we are growing towards it, the process is not yet finished but it is going on, this is not the end but it is the road. All does not yet gleam in glory, but all is being purified.”

“A Christian is never in a state of completion but always in a process of becoming.”

As we have now entered into the 500th year since the Reformation is recognized has having officially started, let us all take the time to ask of ourselves, “How can the Reformation continue in us?”

When we do, and then ask God to do His good work in our lives, true change will take place in our lives and perhaps even in our communities.

Who knows? There may even be another Luther among us; perhaps it could be you.

Regardless of our wider role in the history of the world, we can all be assured of this: God loves you and wants a relationship with you. He has done everything that is needed to show you how much He loves you and wants you. He desires to save you by grace, through faith in His Son, Jesus Christ—all you have to do is accept Christ’s sacrifice on your behalf.

May we, like Luther, choose to stand firm in the Word of God and the love of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior.

May we choose to say, “I am Yours, save me.”

And may the coming days be filled with a true revival and reformation that will bring each of us into an ever closer relationship with our God.

To God be the glory. Amen.

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Colorado Adventures

Hi all,

It’s been a while, huh? Just a short post tonight. 

My mom is a forensic nurse (she deals with rape, domestic violence, and human traffiking victims) and was invited to come to an international forensic nurse convention in Denver, Colorado this week. I decided to join her. 🙂

  

Over this next week I’ll be posting about my adventures in the metro Denver area.  

  
Today we arrived in Denver about mid-afternoon and after settling in to our hotel, wandered along 16th street to enjoy the quaint atmosphere, the painted pianos, and some shopping. The discovery of the soup and salad shop, Zoup!, was a real treat.  

 
   
 

The greatest impression of the city, however, was not necessarily a positive one. 

There are tons of homeless people here. Many, many more congregated in sections and wandering around than I have ever seen in DC, NYC, LA, or even Niagara, NY, which looks much more destitute than Denver. Of course, there are many homeless people in these cities, but the sheer quantity of people we saw on the streets the moment we crossed into the border of Denver proper was shocking. 

If my mom wasn’t already going to have her days filled with events from the convention, I know she would be going around trying to see what she could do to help the homeless. It’s just… So sad to see so many people dealing with homelessness. 

-Wandering Minstrelette

Deutsche Orchestervereinigung (German Orchestra Union)

Some may have been wondering what I’m doing in Berlin. Despite the pictures and stories so far, it’s not simply a pleasure trip of exploring the city and neighboring countries – surprise! I’m actually here to work.

I may have mentioned sometime back that I am studying Arts Management at George Mason University. Part of the program requirements are that I have to fulfill a certain amount of hours participating in internships. There are many ways that those hours can be accomplished, but with my love for travel and desire to one day move overseas, I decided to maximize on the requirements and complete my internship hours abroad. If you remember my blog posts from last summer, I was in Niterói/Rio de Janeiro, Brazil for an internship (check out some of those stories here and here). There were still some credits I needed to complete and thus was born the idea to come to Europe. And boy, is it a different world from the US.

You see, in Germany, culture and the arts is viewed as an inherent part of its citizens’ identities. Thus, there is a strong point of view that permeates the nations arts and culture policies – the government should be responsible for supporting and promoting that which makes Germany German. Therefore, the vast majority of arts and culture organizations gain their primary funding from government sources, but not the federal government.

As a result of the two World Wars, there is a fair amount of distrust in the national level of government. The authority and responsibility, then, to disperse funds to arts organizations belongs to the state and local governments. In fact, when breaking how much level of government contributes, one can see that arts organizations tend to receive the greatest amount of their contributed funds from the local level of government (numbers are roughly: local-45%, state-43%, and federal-12%). This is beneficial in many ways, and lower levels of government would be more aware of the needs of a particular region and would have better knowledge of what to support and how. However, it’s not uncommon for some of these funders to feel overwhelmed or like they could use the money elsewhere.

Enter the DOV.

The Deutsche Orchestervereinigung (roughly translating into the German Orchestra Union), is a labor union that advocates and lobbies for the rights of orchestras and their musicians around the country. They work primarily with publicly (government) funded opera and symphony orchestras, although they also work with publicly funded chamber ensemble and radio orchestras/choirs. They act as the voice of the people in orchestras to orchestra management and funding government agents.

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When government officials threaten to shut down or merge groups in an effort to save money, the lawyers of the DOV come to remind them of the great cultural value these groups have to the region and the nation. These efforts were started in earnest especially after a study showed a 33% decline of publicly funded opera, concert, and radio orchestras from 1992 to 2010. Groups either have to seek ways to gain private funding (as arts organizations do in the US) or close their doors. The DOV’s position is that this is not good stewardship of these important cultural heritage. Remember, in Germany culture should be supported by the government. They have won many cases over the past several years and have dramatically slowed the decline of publicly funded orchestras around the nation. They were even responsible for helping the orchestral landscape of Germany to be recognized by the national chapter of UNESCO as an intangible heritage site this past fall and hope to achieve international status in the near future.

View of the Bamberg Symphony Orchestra in the congress hall in Bamberg (Bavaria), Germany. Photo from http://www.germany.info.
View of the Bamberg Symphony Orchestra in the congress hall in Bamberg (Bavaria), Germany. Photo from http://www.germany.info.

The new major battle they are now facing, however, is the potential trade agreement between the US and the European Union know as the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). Essentially, this pact would create the world’s largest free market sector between the world’s two greatest economic superpowers. ‘Barriers’ to imports and exports would be removed in order to increase commerce and standards of things such as health care, food, and energy use would most likely have to be leveled (meaning, they will end up being lowered rather than raised…).

This agreement could mean disaster for European cultures because, like Germany, the majority of EU member nation’s view culture as a government responsibility while the US is very much against that idea and chooses instead to have arts and culture funded by private donors and regulated by the free market. There is great fear that much of what is currently available to audiences would not be able to survive or be as easily accessible to the public if Germany had to put it’s arts sector on the open market.

Photo from http://www.wwf-jugend.de
Photo from http://www.wwf-jugend.de

Overall, TTIP doesn’t sound like a good idea for either party, no matter the side of the Atlantic. There’s a lot more to this idea and debate and I would encourage you to take some time to read about it and make your opinion known. Click here and here to learn more.

I’ve already learned so much from my time at the DOV about policy and international relations, as well as national support and promotion of the arts. I’m looking forward to what the weeks ahead have in store.

If you want to learn more about other things that the DOV is a part of or does, please check out their website which is mostly in German, but does have some English (part of my job is to expand on this).

So now you know – I’m not just here for fun. 🙂 I’ll be sure to write another update about the DOV or my wanderings soon.

Until then – bis später!

-Wandering Minstrelette

Checkpoint Charlie

Berlin – for a year my mind has been imagining what it would be like to roam the streets of a city that, in its current state, is technically only as old as I am. Of course, there are centuries of history all throughout the city but it obvious that the events of the 20th century are the most vivid and discussed. A city once glorious, then divided by the very physical manifestation of the Cold War’s tense relations and separatism in the form of the Berlin Wall, is finally reunited in 1989 when the Wall was torn down and a flood of families spilled over to embrace one another after years of separation. It was something I had often heard in my history classes in secondary school – after all, World War II is kind of a favorite subject for Americans, both for the tragedies and the heroism. Now I have been to where before I had only heard and could imagine. My understanding grew and I received a much fuller, larger picture.

  
Checkpoint Charlie (Checkpoint “C”), in the American Sector, was the best known crossing point between East and West Berlin during the Cold War. Here, many East Berliners attempted to escape into the west, at least 100 died doing so. Families were separated, unable to have any form of contact for many years.The Wall was tragic and terrible, “fencing in” the East Berliners with little hope for a brighter future.

Diplomats, journalists, and non-German visitors were allowed to pass on a one-day visa and had to exchange currencies before entering. Just before I left Washington, DC for Berlin, I had a conversation with a fellow church member who is part of my mom’s craft ministry. She told me that she had gone through while the Wall stood, and that it was one of the scariest thing she had ever done in her life. The faces of those who lived in the Soviet Sector were pallid and ashen faced, much like their buildings. It was overwhelming and depressing, and she was glad to soon be able to return to the other side once again.

Yesterday I stood in front of Checkpoint Charlie.

  
There was no sign of where the Wall used to be, the division had clearly been mended (at least in the physical sense). Parts of the Wall had been kept as keepsakes and memorials, the graffiti that originally showed displeasure and hatred for the separation it caused were now hung up as art. Pieces of the wall were for sale in all of the souvenir shops (makes you wonder if they are all real…). Portraits of sullen-faced young soldiers, enlarged by several times, were place before the checkpoint – an American face when walking by from the East and a Soviet face when walking by from the West. The Haus am Checkpoint Charlie Museum stood in the corner by the original gate, filled with photographs, video, and most importantly, stories that told of what life was like for the people of Berlin, of both sides, when the Wall stood.

  
  
It took several years for East Berlin to recover from its time under Soviet rule. Even today, there is a rather obvious difference in the style of buildings when one “crosses the border.” However, the stark contrasts of decades past no longer exist – people easily cross from one side to the other. Flourishing business have been placed in both sides and the standards of living have slowly become more equal. This is the 25 year anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall and by all accounts, healing has taken place.

And yet, a part of me wonders… While I understand the importance of remembering history and the events of the past, especially in the hopes of preventing the awful ones from happening again, I feel compelled to ask if true healing can take place when all that is talked about and displayed is the hurt. Rather like a wound that you keep checking on by lifting the band aid – it will take longer to heal this way than if you had just left it alone. While the Wall is physically down, I have to wonder if it still somewhat exists in the minds of some residents. Of course, I cannot give an accurate opinion of the state of affairs or how things have changed and improved over the 25 years of my and the unified city’s life.

What I hope and pray for is that the wonderful people of this city truly do receive healing from all that they and their ancestors suffered. May the lessons learned from this experience be remembered by the world, but not so discussed that we forget the progress that has been made since.

I look forward to more adventures here in Berlin as I learn more about this amazing city with all its history and importance. I hope you will join me as I write about my adventures – and feel free to leave a comment! I’m here for the next month, so I’m sure we’ll be discovering many things together.

Bis später – Until next time!

-Wandering Minstrelette

“How Many Loaves Do You Have?”

For the past several years, prayer has become more and more important in my life. Not to say that it wasn’t important before, but somehow I’ve come to better realize my great need of communion with my Heavenly Father and at the same time know the great power that comes from asking of God things in the name of Jesus. Sure, I’ve had plenty of times when I felt my faith was challenged or wondered if my faith was too small because my prayers weren’t answered as I expected or wanted them to be. But God used those moments to teach me what it really meant to have faith and trust in Him for all things. I’m slowly learning what it really means to pray and to be a prayer warrior.

This past week is a perfect example. My church does an annual Thanksgiving basket (box) distribution the Sunday before Thanksgiving, with church members donating food or money from almost a month prior. We even have our Pathfinder group (sort of like a co-ed version of Boy Scouts) go out into the neighborhood and drop off paper bags on doorsteps asking for people to leave non-perishable items the following week for pick up. The families that are selected for receiving a Thanksgiving box are vetted through a thorough process of investigation to ensure that we are helping the truly needy families of our community. Every year, the amount of families seems to grow, with the past couple of years rounding out at about 90 boxes that needed to be filled for families of various sizes.

Well this year, we approved 134 families from the community, ranging in size from 2 individuals to 10 plus pets. It was the most we had ever had to provide for. You want to know what else? This year we received the least amount of food ever donated. How were going to fill the need of the families to whom we promised a box full of supplies when we weren’t sure if we had enough supplies to fill the boxes? That’s when we knew we had to really start praying hard.

In an effort to improve my prayer life, I’ve recently been reading a book entitled, “The Kneeling Christian” by An Unknown Christian. It was recommended to me by a friend and I feel, going through it, that I still have so much to learn in regards to prayer. God wants us to pray, to pray for anything. When we align our will with the Father’s and seek for an outpouring of His power and Spirit in our lives, amazing things happen. Jesus promised us that anything we ask for in His name will be granted to us. Jesus also said that by the power of the Holy Spirit, we will be able to accomplish even greater things than He Himself! I can’t even imagine what that could mean! Of course, this is not so that we can boast in ourselves, but so that we may glorify our Father, Creator, and Redeemer. What this meant for me, this past weekend as volunteers joined together to do last minute preparations of the boxes, was that if we asked, God would multiply the food. He had done it to loaves and fishes – twice (Matthew 14; 15:29-39)! We knew and believed that He could multiply again.

Friday night came and our Adventurers (elementary aged children’s group similar to Pathfinders) came with their parents to “shop” for the supplies listed on a piece of paper in each box. Supplies were gathered from shelves that had been erected in one of the church’s hallways and carefully placed in the proper box. This was to ensure that each box was filled with the main necessities. Once each box was filled, the child would pray for the family it would go to and move on to the next box. Saturday night, some teens and adults came together to flesh out the boxes. Already we could see how God was working, because each of the boxes were slowly filling up. Then, just as we thought we were finished – we ran out. There were still 16 boxes that needed some supplies to be considered complete.

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Thankfully, donations from members of the church allowed one of our deacons to make an emergency grocery run to Wegmans on Sunday morning in order to have just enough to provide for those last few boxes. Four individuals ran the calculations, figured out just how much would need to be purchased to make sure everything was just right.

Sunday morning, a couple of hours before distribution, I was helping the deacon in filling in the last 16 boxes with the newly bought supplies. When we were done – there were still leftovers! Lots of leftovers! “How is this possible?” someone asked, “we had four people doing the calculations? How do we have extra?” We all smiled, because we knew the answer already. God.

The leftovers allowed us to add a little extra to some of the boxes meant for larger families – like that one family with 2 parents and 8 children. Or the other family with 4 adults and 4 cats. Or one adult and 5 children. I’m sure that what was added, although extra according to our calculations, ended up being exactly what they needed.

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At noon, we opened our doors to invite the members of the community who were expecting a box to come inside and wait for their turn to pick up their delightful array of non-perishables and produce. All the volunteers had a job. We had ladies checking names with addresses, our pastor welcomed them as they entered the room where all the boxes were lined up in numerical order, and we had young men and their fathers helping cart out the boxes (they became very heavy!) to each person’s car.

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My job? I had been asked to mingle with the community members while they waited for their turn and offer to pray with them. Mingling is not a problem for me, I’m not a shy person and yet… I became extremely shy about asking these people if they wanted prayer. I didn’t want to force it on them. What if they didn’t like it? I wondered. I don’t want to anger anyone… What if someone got mad at me…

I had suddenly become very inward focused – self preservation took over in a weird way. For the first half hour or so I stuck to speaking with the children and mentioning to the group that I was available for prayer, but not doing much more. Then this couple showed up from a neighboring church – a middle aged woman and her father – and said that they were here to pray with those who were waiting. You know what I felt? Threatened. This is my job! I thought. I quickly realized this was ridiculous and that even though it was my job, I wasn’t doing a very good job at it. So instead I relaxed and watched.

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These two made it look so natural – approach the person, ask their name, tell them yours, ask if there is anything they would like to have prayed about. I was astonished. I realized that my fear and timidness was ungrounded and silly. Slowly, I started imitating them, every once in a while joining hands with them and we prayed together for an individual or a group. I started to truly feel the blessings being poured out by our petitions.

Towards the end of our 3 hour distribution time, a woman approached me asking if she could speak to me. Noticing that she looked distraught, I walked her to the opposite end of the hallway where we had a little more privacy. “Jesus told me to come and ask you to pray for me,” she said. “Please, please pray for me.” This woman began to tell me deep rooted troubles and fears that haunted her daily, how she rarely felt safe, and that she had often thought about taking her own life. As she spoke, I kept praying silently that the Holy Spirit be present at that moment. When we finally started praying, both of us were shedding tears, asking for God’s protection and peace. I was later told by someone else that we had prayed for at least 15 minutes together. By the end, the woman seemed calmer. Things weren’t yet perfect, they may never be, but I believe the Holy Spirit was granting her peace within her heart. She thanked me for praying with her and went on her way.

I returned to the front of the hall where the father/daughter team were sitting, waiting for new attendants. My face must have shown how worn out I was, nearly in shock over what had just taken place, because they came and prayed for me to strengthen and encourage me. It was the first time in a long time that I felt I had actually done battle during prayer.

Being a prayer warrior takes practice. Patience. Willingness. Determination. Faith. You have to believe in the power of prayer, the power of the One the prayer connects you to. I caught a glimpse this past weekend of what it takes to be a prayer warrior and all I can say is, there is still much training to be done.

If you are a person of prayer, please whisper a prayer for my troubled friend, that she might find rest in the Lord. And for all the families who received Thanksgiving boxes, that when they left our church they were not only physically-filled, but spiritually filled as well.

-Wandering Minstrelette

Sacramento Region Performing Arts Alliance

I apologize for the lack of posting. School has certainly taken over my time. That being said, I figured I would share one of my school assignment, please let me know you think! Also, if there are any questions about references, please feel free to contact me.

There have been several non-profit organizations across the United States that have had a major difficulty regaining their footing after the economic recession of 2008; arts organizations in particular have struggled with recouping funds that would stabilize their activities and increase chances of survival. Over the years since the recession, many arts organizations have slowly built themselves back to their previous solvency and the future, while not worry free, looks hopeful. In Sacramento, California, however, two major performing arts companies only continue to struggle for a solution of how to keep their heads above water.

In early 2013, a merger between the Sacramento Opera and the Sacramento Philharmonic Orchestra was proposed in an effort to “cope with a challenging financial environment.”  Despite a steady and reliable flow of tickets sales, both organizations had been on the verge of closing. The orchestra, unable to achieve its fundraising goals in the 2011-2012 season, “made an appeal to the community for emergency funds to deal with a $150,000 budget shortfall.”  It seemed that the only option for survival for these medium-sized organizations was to combine their forces. In July 2013 a new entity, known as the Sacramento Region Performing Arts Alliance, was formed as an umbrella organization that allowed the opera and orchestra to retain their own identities while creating a means to foster more funds for the hurting arts organizations.

Recent behaviors since the merger and creation of the Sacramento Region Performing Arts Alliance have proven that they are living, in a way, from “paycheck to paycheck.” While in most cases unity does strengthen parties, it seems as if these organizations are two drowning swimmers trying to save each other when they have no means of being able to save themselves; both organizations could see the immediate symptoms, but not the underlying problems that are responsible for their situation.

Unrelenting financial struggles continue to permeate the thoughts of the Alliance’s leadership. Programs and seasons have been chiseled away at in hopes of saving money, in vain. The opera was about to appeal for a forgivable loan from the city in January of 2014 in order to fund their production of “Il Trovatore,” but were saved by the Joyce and Jim Teel Family Foundation who donated $500,000; the majority of the funds were used on the production.  To make the situation seem even direr, the combined budget for the opera and orchestra prior to the merger totaled to more than $2 million, but as of August 2014 the alliance only has about $131,000 in the bank for the entire 2014-2015 season.

It seems that the struggles over the past several years have only been enhanced by the lack of consistent executive leadership, most recently noted by the surprise departure of Robert Tannenbaum, an experienced executive director who had worked with European arts organizations for years,  after only about a year of service to the SRPAA. It was hoped that Tannenbaum would have helped created the master plan to lift the alliance from the miry clay, but apparently he was not up to handling the many financial holes and bickering board members of the organizations  and has moved to southern California where he is hoping to find work that “allows him to work directly with the arts and requires less day-to-day management.”

Board management has not been a reliable as one could hope for either. When the organizations melded together into one alliance, so did the board of directors.   With the mixture of personalities and wide-ranging networks, it was hoped that this merger would be a great benefit to the financial needs of the Alliance. The desired fundraising forces of such a union did not come to fruition, especially when it came to the realization that many of one organization’s audience members had no desire in financially supporting the other art form. Donors, unsure of what giving to the Alliance would mean for their funds, withheld giving which frustrated the efforts of the board in reaching their required goals. Besides difficulties with individual giving, the board has also been experiencing major frustration in the lack of corporate philanthropy coming from the city of Sacramento, an issue enhanced by the increased competition by other nonprofits for the small amount of funds being made available.  An additional issue that has added to the board’s frustration with the city is the still unresolved debate of whether to renovate and update the Community Center Theater, which houses the Sacramento Opera and Philharmonic Orchestra, or to initiate a capital campaign to create an entirely new and improved venue. Instead of making a decision, the city has chosen to focus its financial support on other arts organizations that are not necessarily municipal entities.

Jane Hill, interim executive director of the Philharmonic during the 2012-2013 season prior to the merger, viewed the orchestra’s financial troubles as a reflection of the value with which the city held the organization. “I don’t know if there is enough sentiment in the region that says we’re the state capital and we ought to have a professional orchestra here,” said Hill.  Sacramento, while being a rather wealthy city has developed a reputation for being a somewhat difficult region for receiving philanthropy, especially since the recession. “When you look at the skyline in Sacramento and then look at Modesto or Fresno’s, you begin to wonder, ‘What’s going on in Sacramento?’ ” [Larry] Gardner [president of American Federation of Musicians Local 12] said. “It sure looks like there is money in Sacramento, but it doesn’t seem to be going to the orchestra or opera company.”

With these numerous factors at play, it is apparent that the board needs to seriously reevaluate its leadership, fundraising strategies at both the individual and corporate level, and the organizations’ community relations. In a desperate move, SRPAA board president Laurie Nelson announced in early August that, “The fall season, at this time, appears to be off the table.”  Nelson decided that the best action to take was to establish a hiatus from production in which board members would spend an indefinite amount of time performing research to discover methods and create a viable plan of action as well as reaching out to the community in order to create a strong foundation on which the Alliance can build for the future. They hope to produce a plan of action in three months time, including whether or not performances will resume in the spring 2015 season.

Although cutting programs and entire seasons from an arts organization’s schedule is normally frowned upon, the situation of the Sacramento Region Performing Arts Alliance seems to be a unique case in which taking a hiatus is truly the best option. By removing the distractions of day to day trials and focusing the leadership of the organization solely on the foundation and survival of the companies, the SRPAA will be able to give the Sacramento Opera and Philharmonic Orchestra a fighting chance. The success of the hiatus, according to Nelson, depends on two factors: “whether new board members can be brought on, and to what extent it is established that the community wants to support the orchestra and opera company.”

Other members of the organization also support the decision to take a hiatus from normal production activities. Michael Morgan, music director of the Philharmonic, told Music News, “I think stopping now to reassess is exactly the right thing to do, rather than leave ticket holders and musicians in the lurch by promising something and then not delivering. I just hope this garners enough attention, while the organization is still viable, for a course correction.”

The struggle to be valued by the city of Sacramento and then finding sources of funds to reestablish the Alliance and its sub-organizations will most likely be a long and arduous journey for all involved. However, several members seem optimistic for the future and look forward to a stable, municipally run arts center.

A turn in events already seems to be taking place since the announcement of the hiatus. An unexpected windfall, a donation of $387,462, was made to the Sacramento Philharmonic Foundation, the funding and endowment managing body of the orchestra, in early September of 2014 by a former U.S. Forest Service worker.  The funds will not be shared with the Sacramento Region Performing Arts Alliance, but will hopefully be used to replenish the orchestra’s majorly depleted endowment, perhaps allowing them to return to the stage for the spring 2015 season.

After the years of struggling for survival, a step or two back from the playing field is the only logical decision to give the Sacramento Region Performing Arts Alliance a fighting chance at recovery. There are donors, as mentioned above, who want to support an arts organization they know and love; it is the Alliance’s responsibility to find and befriend these individuals. In this matter of sink or swim, it is hopeful that the Alliance will finally learn to swim. If the Alliance’s hiatus proves beneficial and the board of directors is able to fully regain the community’s awareness, relationship, value, and support, than there is little doubt that the Sacramento Opera and Philharmonic Orchestra will be able to not only continue functioning but to thrive.

-Wandering Minstrelette

enditnow

Domestic violence and abuse is a topic that most people are uncomfortable even thinking about, let alone openly discussing. People don’t want to dwell on it, pushing willful ignorance as if somehow by them not be aware, it doesn’t actually occur. There are, we must admit, those who were genuinely not informed about this issue and only need to have their emotions and intellects sparked in order to encourage action. Then there are, sadly, those who have survived or are currently going through physical, sexual, emotional, or verbal abuse, or even a concoction of them all.  These people, who so desperately need to speak or need to be heard, are the ones that often don’t or can’t say anything out of fear or if they do, people don’t listen.

In fact, according to local specialists in the field of abuse prevention and awareness, the future of the abuse victim highly depends on the first person they are brave enough to tell. Imagine, you’re being beaten or raped regularly by a family member and the person you chose to confide in, whom you thought you could trust, calls you a liar! What hope would you ever have of leaving now? Of escaping this prison of control?

If someone opens up to you about being abused, LISTEN TO THEM. They need your help, not your criticism.  They are in the dark and it is our job, as fellow humankind, to bring them into the light of hope and change.

Abuse happens to people of both genders, in all walks of life, of all ages, in all socio-economic backgrounds, and in every part of the globe. Often, it’s part of a culture, where displays of power are required to prove societal standing or some other need to show control of one person over another. It is a prevalent “cancer” that is not only debilitating, but killing individuals – mostly because those who could stop it look the other way.

The Seventh-day Adventist World Church has decided it’s time to take this problem head-on. The Women’s Ministries Department at the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventist has created a worldwide campaign against violence and abuse to women and girls.  It is a campaign that is taking churches, and their local communities, by storm, encouraging at last much needed conversations and awareness in this delicate, depressing, and desperately true subject.

Enditnow

In conjunction with other Adventist organizations, local churches, and their communities, the “enditnow” campaign seeks to “resolve this worldwide issue” by encouraging community education programs, special awareness services, and even the signing of a petition to the United Nations to create awareness at the highest levels of global society of the gravity of this issue and the attention it needs.

You can sign the petition here: http://www.enditnow.org/forms/35/form_submissions/new.

Although this program was created by the Adventist church, “all individuals, church congregations of every faith, social groups, schools, and businesses are invited to join” in this campaign.

You know, issues like this are often ones that seem very distant. It’s always someone else’s problem. It is much more likely to happen to strangers than anyone I’ll know and what are the odds of it happening here versus some other, more dangerous part of the world?

Let me give some perspective: One out of every six American women have been victims of attempted or completed rape in their lifetime. Think of six of your closest female friends. Do you understand?

Myself – I know four.

FOUR.

Four women. Four friends…

I choose to not stand by and continue to let that number grow. Join the enditnow campaign in ending the violence against women. Learn more about the United Nations petition, how to run a campaign in your church or community, or how to support this effort financially on their website: http://www.enditnow.org/. There you will also be able to find resources that can help you or a friend who is dealing with any form of abuse.

“All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing” (Edmund Burke). If we don’t do something, say something – who will? Let us not continue to turn our faces away and pretend as though we do not see, do not hear, and do not feel the pain of our sisters. It’s time to take action – let’s take action! Let’s end it now!

Allow me to make a postscript: Violence against men and boys is also a prevalent and growing problem in this world. Please keep in mind that these individuals are also in need of our support and prayers.

If anyone has any additional resources or hotlines they are willing to share, please comment.

-Wandering Minstrelette

(All quotes, unless otherwise noted, are from http://www.enditnow.org.)