House Journal 2016

January 9th, 2017

The House has been more active than usual—its seems like a renaissance of activity at the Center for the Working Poor that includes more centering prayer activities, collective social outings, and board games. Over the last year, we have had some major coming and goings.

Rebekah Berndt, who was our secretary for our Centering Prayer, and a leader in many things at the house, has moved on since last summer. After a month spent at a convent of Trappist nuns, she found a job as travel nurse in Washington State, closer to our friends that have new Monastic community, and an amazing community oriented/social justice oriented yoga studio in Tacoma. It was a sad farewell for many in our community, as Rebekah was always known to be one of our best cooks for communal meals, and a respected spiritual director in our community.

We also gained and lost in the last year, Nicole Sahabian. Nicole was known for an amazing capacity to dance for hours and hours and also her laughter and joy and curiosity about the life of the Center. She left to pursue a job in Washington and become a student of ecology at Santa Cruz.

Pam Hope is in her second year in the community. Pam was an instant great fit in our community. She already had experience living at a Catholic Worker community in Orange County, and she is a fundraiser for our former financial sponsor and partner—CLUE (Clergy and Laity United for Economic Justice).  Pam is very, very nice, and a caretaker by nature. Her biggest fault is that she says yes to so much of the tasks that make the community run, whether buying cleaning supplies, or doing more chores, and cooking. In general, this is still a very respected trait among us, as well as within the community. She founded an amazing non-profit that provides housing and transitional support for impoverished and often-homeless single mothers, and children. She has been very active in planning fundraising events for a variety of non-profits, including the most recent CLUE breakfast, which Paul Engler had a book table at, and was attended by many in our extended community.

Sara Kurtz joined our community this year. She was a longer-term member of our centering prayer group. She works as a therapist for an amazing recovery center for addicts in Los Angeles that uses something called the social model of recovery. She has for a good part of her life been deeply interested in and experimented with the vision of intentional communities, spirituality, prayer, healing, and social justice. So the moment she came to the Center she was so curious and happy to experiment with a new way of life at the community. She has become more and more of a leader in the community, planning almost weekly community events, is the secretary of our centering prayer group and has invested in doing some educational and protest activities around racial justice, the current election, and The Relational Center’s Civic Engagement Programs.

Alex Stevens continues to work at Nation Builder, and helps social justice groups improve their capacity to use the Internet to help organize. We recently found out that he is quite good at many board games, especially with his charade game. Trust me, you want him on your charades team.

Paul Engler has been on book tour, speaking at 14 different cities in the last year, traveling over half of his time over the last year. After the election of Trump, he has traveled to emergency strategy meetings with different social justice groups trying to protect immigrants and workers.  He is still active in doing community organizing, “momentum trainings”, and Ayni trainings, and travels for these events.

Judi Esber, lives in our satellite apartment 2 blocks away, with her fiancé Brandon. Judi has lived at the Center on and off over the last 10 years, but has returned from 5 years in Philly, working as an organizer UNITE HERE, for low wage hotel and restaurant workers.  Judi was known for being “the best housemate we have ever had.” She has always brought so much joy and a deep sense of community to the Center.  And she has come back with this incredible energy, even though she lives a few blocks away, she created a way to be part of community by cooking one of our 5 night a week communal meals, and being very active in our Centering Prayer community and social activities.

Brandon is now part of our community too. Paul instantly connected with his frugal nature and love of nature and hiking. Brandon just got a new job teaching students at architecture school, fancy stuff with computers and machines that I cannot explain here. Anyway, he is universally liked—actually I can’t find anyone to testify against him, except that he is so nice, that it makes us all look less nice. He also unlike most of us, has secret talents to fix things, and we are hoping to exploit it for the community’s good.

Since Trump’s election, there has been a tremendous amount of meetings, film showings, and support groups at the Center, in addition to our weekly Centering prayer meetings. The Center endorsed and supported an emergency community meeting held at Occidental, in which about 200 people showed up to strategize how we are going to respond to the Trump administration. We are continuing to build our community— if you are interested in getting involved, feel free to come every Monday at 7:30pm for our Centering Prayer Group.

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