Thursday, December 5, 2019

Advent/December 2019 Newsletter

Art illustration of elderly woman surrounded by stars

Artwork by Brian Kavanagh  | Advent/ December 2019 | 3308 East 12th St. Kansas City, MO

All Is Grace
By Eric Garbison

It was Fall 2017 when we asked her to live with us. Winter was coming, she was new on the streets, and we were worried she wouldn’t survive. We never expected her to say “yes”, but to our surprise, she did.

She introduced herself as “Grace” but we never figured out her real name. Even after two years of asking, sometimes pleading, she kept her story secret. At one point, I confess, it even became a kind of game: me trying to coax her into divulging her identity and her sending me on numerous rabbit trails. While we were never quite certain how to parse out fact from fiction, I suspected her stories  held kernels of truth—her truth. Like mixing the pieces of two puzzles together, these stories became her new one.

We are not social workers, but we did try to get her connected to resources, taking her to the Social Security office and to appointments.  If anything, Grace’s story exposes the complications of real destitution. Like most, she didn’t just “choose” to be homeless. She was not mentally and socially able to navigate life on society’s terms, so she lived it on hers.

Grace was complicated for me. At times, we would enjoy small talk around a favorite song or movie she recalled. I’d smile about the way she wrapped a T-shirt around her head or turned a sweatshirt into a skirt. She had a quirky sense of humor, giggling at her own jokes and inviting us to join her in one of her dinner concoctions.

But to come clean, by year two I was mostly impatient. Accepting Grace for herself was a challenge. On many occasions I’d struggle with my attitude. How much of her quirkiness should we put up with? Didn’t stove burners left on and doors unlocked pose a threat to all of us? Wasn’t I supposed to be better at this by now? At some point I just settled for knowing she did deserve to be safe, to be housed—to be welcomed.

Then, on one muggy day in June, Grace left… after two years of living with us. She stomped out the door, frustrated that we asked her to clean her room. She didn’t go far. We saw her around the neighborhood, occupying the steps of a nearby church or sitting in front of the fountain at the park.

She is still homeless.

If you haven’t figured it out yet, this isn’t a “success” story, at least by today’s measures, and it's not the story you usually tell in a support letter.

So why tell it?

Dorothy Day once wrote, “The older I get, the more I meet people, the more convinced I am that we must only work on ourselves, to grow in grace.”

It can be a struggle to see Christ in our neighbor or to call our efforts loving when we simply feel obligated or stuck. But at some point you know it's not a matter of fixing some problems, knowing some fact or believing a truth; it’s accepting the gift of the other, where they are and where I am. “It is most surely an exercise of faith for us to see Christ in each other,” Day writes, “but it is through such exercises that we grow and the joy of our vocation assures us we are on the right path.”

I must accept that this is how God’s love for us, and our love for God and others, works itself out in real-time. Coming on 14 years, I am still learning.

Friends, we hope that you see that the work we do is no different from the spiritual journey we are all on.  It's not a grocery list of measurable successes that outweigh the failures.  It's encountering people like Grace in the day to day and recognizing in it a meeting with the mystery of God’s grace.

We attended a Poor People’s Campaign training on fighting white nationalism and ways to resist racism in our community .  Left to right:  Chris S., Leanna, Michael, Samantha, Gunther, Lydell, Chris St., Joe, Angie, Jenny, Hanna, Micah, Eric, Steven, Kate, Chris O. Leonard Zeskin (speaker), Tony, Curtis

Thank You!

For 14 years, your generosity has  sustained us. Thank you!  Donations go to the hospitality, activism, spiritual life, homestead and maintenance. While live-in members benefit from housing and food, nobody gets income and we don’t pay war taxes. We work elsewhere  for personal expenses. Monthly costs include: ave. water bills $274 (20 showers a day, 6 loads of laundry, 200 cups of coffee, dishes for 70, cleaning), food & shower items, (see Needs List), homestead (seeds, straw bales, chicken feed, etc.), maintenance, vehicle expenses, and home insurance.

Graph showing Cherith's Brook budget from January to October was $59,103 and their Gifts amount was $36212
This year’s unforeseen costs included, purchasing 2 new furnaces and central air for our cafe, replacing or repairing 3 freezers, and renovating the house kitchen. We are grateful for the two churches that helped with some project expenses! And yet, we find ourselves low on funds at year’s end. This month, we will pay property insurance, taxes, and solar panel rental. We live very simply and spend carefully, knowing that you have entrusted us with these gifts. Please, consider Cherith Brook for your monthly giving in 2020. We are thankful and look forward to the next 14 years, trusting in God’s provision.

House Notes

In last year’s Christmas letter, you read Butch Dobbins’ story. He came to live with us after his house burned. Butch has worked hard to pay off debts and buy a car. He happily shares housing with family now.

Two years ago we began hosting a group called the Elder’s Circle.  How do we recognize organic leaders in our community? How do we call, nurture, and respect the gifts and skills of those personally impacted by poverty and racism? We are moved by their growth. They are building unity across divisions and breaking down power dynamics.

Twice a year we partner with the Center for Conflict Resolution to offer a class which focuses on: resolving conflict peacefully, Restorative Justice, trauma awareness, and alternatives to violence. Congrats to Michael, Samantha, Emily, Jerry, Chris, Jamie, Angie, Butch, Elston, Diana and Lois for their certificate!

In 2011 we installed a 10 kW  solar panel system on the storefront. Our commitment to the environment translates into saving 2-3 trees monthly!

We’ve spent the fall reflecting on the letter to James. The main theme is summarized in 2:6, “you have dishonored the poor. Is it not the rich who are exploiting you?” Like Jesus’ sermon on the mount, James centers Jesus message in the call to fight poverty, embody equality, and claim our freedom in Christ.

We Are...

A small community of welcome, living in an amazing multi-racial, multi-ethnic neighborhood in Kansas City. Though historically dis-invested, under-employed, and over-policed, we were welcomed into this Beloved Neighborhood and have encountered God’s abiding love. We hope to contribute by living an integrated life of nonviolent love modeled after Jesus and infused with the Spirit. We share food, clothes, showers, garden, and sanctuary with those who struggle materially, while they bring their gifts, skills, faith and friendship to the table. We fight for economic justice, against racism, and a militarized culture. Table- fellowship, prayer, singing, study, activism, and solidarity are important spiritual practices in our pilgrimage toward the Divine Life. We are part of the Catholic Worker movement but inspired by many other movements, prophets, saints, and holy fools.

Monday, July 1, 2019

Summer 2019 Newsletter

There & Back Again
By Micah Chrisman

Dorothy Day once said, “We must talk about poverty, because people insulated by their own comfort lose sight of it.” One thing is clear in the U.S., poverty, racism, militarism, ecological devastation and other critical issues are plaguing our communities whether we choose to see them or not. And since society is constantly telling us to climb the capitalistic ladder at any cost—even at the expense of the poor and disenfranchised—it’s no wonder many in our society choose to forget those who suffer and insulate themselves from the community pain on their way “up”.

My name is Micah Chrisman and I first came to Cherith Brook four years ago as a summer intern. During my time away, I worked for Communities Creating Opportunity doing antiracism and community development work, then the KCMO Health Department as their Digital Communications Coordinator. I felt God’s calling to downsize my life and resources, to live in solidarity with those on the margins and use my communication and organizing skills for advocacy, which is why I returned to Cherith Brook.

What drew me to Cherith Brook then and now is our servant leadership approaches to justice work. Rather than serve the house-less and impoverished with top down, bureaucratic strategies, we come alongside those who are suffering and find community driven pathways to build people power. For example, in June we sent nine community members directly impacted by racism and poverty as Missouri Delegates for the national Poor People’s Campaign Moral Congress summit in Washington, D.C. There, we held a 2020 presidential forum where candidates like Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, Joe Biden, and Kamala Harris had to answer direct questions from disenfranchised people across the country. They also attended workshops such as, “Organizing the Poor and Homeless”, “Disability Rights”, “Ecological devastation”, and more.

On the last day, some of the delegation were invited to a congressional hearing on Capital Hill before the Budget Committee. Our very own Lois Swimmer stood with other advocates who testified before legislators about the social inequities affecting millions across the country. They spoke of the 144 million people in the U.S. who are in poverty or are low-income. They spoke of access to untainted water, clean air, and safe, livable communities. Those closest to the issues shared their stories about racism in the workplace, low wages, voter suppression policies, lack of affordable housing and poor living conditions, as well as healthcare access and so much more. Despite living and struggling through these real life issues, they had the audacity to rally for love and justice, to use these experiences and say “No more!” With this knowledge, we plan to continue the work in leadership development and community organizing to address issues in Kansas City.

At Cherith Brook, we believe in empowering the voices of those affected by systems of oppression. When paired with the rest of our intentional community life rhythms—like breaking bread together, offering showers to those on the streets, sharing our garden harvests with our neighbors, and praying for and listening to those who suffer from trauma—we  all  experience reconciliation and wholeness. Rather than insulate myself from my neighbors and their issues, Cherith Brook has shown me how to live out the Gospel of Christ by practicing exactly what He preached: radical self-transformation that produces love through community. You and I are part of that community, whether we realize it or not. This self-transformation is a lifelong journey for those of us who come from economic means, but it is the journey Christ has called us to take.

Cherith Brook at Poor People's Campaign, D.C. Moral Congress event. From left to right: Marty, Micah, Christopher, Quianya, Chris S., Tammy, Dr. Rev. Liz Theoharis, Lois, Angie, and Charlotte.  

House Notes
by Eric Garbison

Summertime at Cherith Brook is increasingly enchanting—junior roosters finding their voice, honey bees and soldier flies in chorus, goldfinches dining on sunflowers, native insectaries exploding with celandine poppy, bee balm, coneflowers, culver’s root, duck’s romp in the water buckets, berries that pucker your lips and pecks of plump blackberries, gentle breezes carrying fragrances of lavender, anise hyssop and white sage, garlic braids hanging in the cafe, the pungent smell of compost - all awaken one’s awareness of the Divine Presence. All is grace.

Personalism is a rich concept we often use in the Catholic Worker way and it's alive and well here. While individualism or libertarian philosophies also focus on “freedom,” personalism better mirrors the gospel claim that freedom comes in community; so we take personal responsibility for the needs of those in our sphere of life - neighbors and strangers, outsiders and enemies. And freedom in Christ does not isolate or idolize self-reliance; it weaves together the fabric of our lives.

In the Spirit of personalism many come putting their faith in action - mending old fences, unscrambling the pantry, scrambling eggs, cleaning windows, tending beehives, organizing for activism, facilitating learning, pruning pears, listening to the lonely, welcoming a stranger, cleaning fridges, sharing jokes. Perhaps this is what Pentecost means—God’s impartial love organizing us into a new social fabric. Included in this season’s good work is a major remodel of the house kitchen, replacing an aged furnace and installing two 1500 gallon water tanks for rain collection. In gratitude we continue to receive this abundance shared trust.

There is a surging new leadership among our neighbors and guests. The monthly Poor People’s Campaign meetings grow month by month, now averaging 25. And the level of commitment has matched it - “The meeting is this week, right?” “I’ll be here early to set up.” Can I get another copy of that article to reread?” “I’ve invited my friend.” Pray that we contribute to the growth of Jesus’ Freedom Church of the Poor, that “new and unsettling force” for social change. And pray that we stay the course by “deepening the leadership of those most affected by poverty, homelessess and systemic racism.” Gentrification is already bullying our community in the Northeast. Homeless in camps, out of the way and inconspicuous, are constantly harassed We already know that the city lacks significant number of units for affordable housing and that shelters are at capacity and as described by guests as chaotic, violent and degrading way to live. Why do we continue to blame the poor instead of address the causes?

Corporate developers seem to have their hands in the pot of limited resources. Just imagine what our neighborhood could do with the 17 million dollar welfare parking lot of the “Two Light” lofts, supposedly “affordable” at $1200 a pop in the entertainment district. Jesus said, when you enjoy your prime parking spot and entertain yourselves to death, “you’ve already received your comfort”. The kin-dom of Abba is for the poor, the hungry, the suffering. (Luke 6:20-26) This fight is bringing together many disparate groups in deeper solidarity.

We’ve added a Bible Study using a participatory, liberative model. It reminds us that where we read—both in our personal experiences and social context—enrich and enliven the sacred text. This fall we will explore James’ letter that claims the “high status of the poor” as “God’s chosen” in this kingdom on earth. It challenges the “low status” of the rich naming their oppressive practices. And it and speaks to us from the angles of hope and praxis.

Micah Chrisman and Kate Schulte recently moved. Micah has introduced himself above. Kate comes
to us after several years at L’Arche communities, including Chicago and Bangladesh. The charism of those communities is a joyous compliment to us, seeing in people with disabilities the gifts of joy, presence, love. Kate will be living in discernment with us in the next few months. Butch,whose house burned last October, has helped with projects, maintenance and car repair and hopes to have his own place this fall.

Diana is home for the summer and teaching at a Freedom School in Kansas City Kansas. One more month before she heads back to college. Henri always seems to wake with a smile for work, and has found a tribe among coworkers at the warehouse.

Jodi taught both ESL and GED this past spring and finds deep fulfillment. I have served on the Missouri’s Committee for the Poor People’s Campaign and nurturing leadership in the Elder’s Circle. We enjoyed a staycation knowing the summers together are becoming rarer for the Garbisons.

 Love and gratitude from all of us to all of you.

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Summer/Ordinary Time 2018 - Cherith Brook Newspaper

Check out our new Summer/Ordinary Time 2018 newspaper, out now!

The Cherith Brook Catholic Worker Newspaper for the summer of 2018. Read more for updates on our communal life, hospitality work, and efforts with the Poor People's Campaign.
You can view our newspaper embeded below or view and download a copy of the newspaper on a separate page by clicking here.

If you're on our postal mailing list, you should recieve a paper copy soon. If you're not on our mailing list and wantus to send you a copy, click here to subscribe to our mailings.

Summer/Ordinary Time 2018 - Cherith Brook Catholic Worker by Cherith Brook Catholic Worker on Scribd

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Special issue: Lent 2018/Poor People's Campaign Newspaper

Check out our special Lent 2018/Poor People's Campaign newspaper, out now!

This special issue of the Cherith Brook Catholic Worker Newspaper is focused on the work of the new Poor People's Campaign. Check out what our friends and guests are hoping for with this campaign. The newspaper also features an original stamped art piece by Virginia Davis, an article by Ben Parker Sutter and a book review written by Grace Parker Sutter of Always With Us by Rev. Dr. Liz Theoharis.

You can view our newspaper embeded below or view and download a copy of the newspaper on a separate page by clicking here.

If you're on our postal mailing list, you should recieve a paper copy soon. If you're not on our mailing list and wantus to send you a copy, click here to subscribe to our mailings.

Poor People's Campaign Special/Lent Newspaper 2018 - Cherith Brook Catholic Worker by Cherith Brook Catholic Worker on Scribd

Monday, March 19, 2018

Garbison Court Case Verdict: Not Guilty on All Counts

It was tempting, after the events of this year, to reconsider the expressions of hospitality offered here at Cherith Brook. We refuse to succumb to that temptation! Now, more than ever, we are committed to welcoming our friends who come each day for healthy food, clean clothes and a hot shower.

We will continue to offer this address as one folks can use. Close to 100 people use Cherith Brook as their address. Having an address is a way for our homeless friends to benefit from housing and job opportunities, medical resources, parole/court correspondence, family connections, etc. Having an address is an important part, in US systems, to prove your existence, your humanity. We will continue to offer these and other expressions of welcome that don’t compute to systems of fear and oppression.

We were overwhelmed by the support at court two weeks ago. By some counts we were at 120 and by others, we were at room capacity, 150. Thank you for your ongoing support of us personally and your concern and commitment to justice in all forms.

In the end, we were found not guilty on all counts. Even with the outcome at the trial, we knew the truth. Either way, we were not defined by the verdict of this case. Instead we hope and pray that the trial exposed and shed light on the absurdity of the actions by police—the aggression and violence toward our particular community this past year and in our neighborhood.

You journeying with us—standing with us—made the trial and the past 6 months bearable for us as a family. Your solidarity with us helped us heal. Your presence with us bore witness to the strength and hope we have for change. Let’s continue to stand up for people who do not have the resources and support yet experience this kind of treatment on a regular basis.

Thank you to Jeremy Ruzich for these taking these photos and making them available to us and to you.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Update on Garbison Court Case

Dear Friends,

On a Thursday night in May of 2017, the police converged on Cherith Brook looking for a “spotted suspect” near our house. It included about six officers with weapons drawn and circling the house. It was very dramatic and alarming. Although the officers did not find the person they were looking for, they arrested a shower friend of ours who receives his mail here and coincidentally, had prior warrants.

A similar situation played out on Thursday night, September 21, 2017. After our regular community meal in the cafĂ©, Eric and Jodi were at the house playing cards and celebrating Ana’s birthday. At around 9pm, the police beat on the door. Eric stepped out the front door to where he was surrounded by three police officers on the porch and several police officers walking around the yard.

The police officers said they were looking for one of our shower friends, who they said was needed as a witness. Eric cooperated and answered all questions regarding this person. He cooperated by calmly stating that yes, we knew this person and that no, he did not live at this address.

As this was happening, Henri came home from high school robotics practice in his truck. As Henri pulled into the driveway, a cop emerged from behind the back fence. The cop approached the vehicle, pointing a flashlight and gun at Henri.

After watching from the window, Jodi came out on the porch. Things got loud and confusing. After demanding to know why the officer was detaining Henri and why they were including him in their investigation, Eric and Jodi tried to get a closer view.

Both were arrested without explanation. In the process, Jodi was slammed to the ground by an officer. The officers would not give them a clear reason for why they were being detained and arrested. They spent the next 24 hours in jail. Both were charged with two counts of resisting arrest.

We had some form of law enforcement here four times in six months in 2017. This includes officers coming into Jodi and Eric’s home through an unlocked back door without permission and searching their upstairs apartment. Not all the incidences are related, but half of them were negative. The cumulative experience has left an impression.

We are letting you know about this for a couple reasons. Besides the obvious need for support and care, this draws attention to the pattern of extreme police presence and aggressive response in our community. We know new officers are trained in the Northeast, making these situations more common and often more emotionally and physically charged than might be otherwise. We understand that this is not new to those in poor communities and communities of color.

We have lived here over 10 years and the intensity of it is new for us. It has caused us to worry more about our safety as well as the treatment of our friends and guests. As a community we have met with lawyers to advise us about our rights in these situations and to help us establish a script. We have also created new protocol for responding to different scenarios and in both public and personal spaces.

Eric and Jodi were not willing plead out and will be going to trial on Friday, March 2 at 1:30pm. Many of you have asked how you can help and/or offer support. We welcome anyone who could be present at court for support and witness that day.

Eric and Jodi also met with Internal Affairs to file a formal complaint on two of the incidents with the Police Department. It was a long morning of interviews that included the entire family.

We ask for special prayers for Jodi, as she has been alone in several of the recent experiences. She is still working through the experience of being slammed to the ground. Continue to pray for any in our neighborhood who have experienced this situation without the support, social collateral, and financial means to do something about it.

We have been thinking much lately of the words of French pastor, Andre Trocme, who wrote, “The duty of Christians is to resist the violence directed at our consciences with the weapons of the Spirit. We appeal to all our brothers and sisters in Christ to refuse to cooperate with violence … To love, to forgive, to show kindness to our enemies, that is our duty. But we must do our duty without conceding defeat, without servility, without cowardice."

Now that we are past the initial shock, our prayer is to move forward with this kind of conviction as we stand with resolve in God's work of hospitality.

Please continue to pray for us.


Cherith Brook Community