Fall Retreats: Together In Times Like These


our theme this year.




Resilience Through Civic Engagement…
In Times Like These
October 28
In times like these it is understandable why so many have given up on civic and political activity when it seems that the deck is stacked against the common good in favor of the wealthy and the powerful. Nevertheless, it is still true that the key to change is participation by the people at all levels of community-local, state, national and global.

In this workshop we will take a look at local and state situations in Oklahoma and nationally to explore the main barriers to vibrant and vital civic participation and how we might be inspired and committed to get involved in ways that connect our skills and passions for a flourishing life for all with what’s needed in our communities and world. We just might surprise ourselves when we see what we the people are capable of doing when we get engaged in creative, committed, compassionate ways. Mark Davies and Pat Hoerth will lead.

Mark Davies is the Wimberly Professor of Social and Ecological Ethics and Director of the World House Institute for Social and Ecological Responsibility at Oklahoma City University. Mark has published in the areas of Boston personalism, process philosophy and ethics, and ecological ethics. Dr. Davies serves on the United Methodist University Senate. He and his wife Kristin live in Edmond, OK, and they have two daughters.

His love of nature was cultivated in childhood hikes in the Wichita Mountains near Lawton, OK, home and summer visits to the Olympic mountains where grandparents lived in retirement.
A retreat leader and spiritual director, Pat Hoerth is co-founder and co-director of Turtle Rock Farm: A Center for Sustainability, Spirituality and Healing and a resident in the CommonWealth Urban Farm community in Oklahoma City. A United Methodist Deaconess, she is co-chair of the Oklahoma United Methodist Environmental Coalition and has served on the leadership team of the National Association of Deaconesses and Home Missioners. She teaches in the United Methodist Women’s Mission u and authored the 2016 Children’s Study on Climate Justice: God’s Extravagant Garden.
Her love of nature was cultivated in childhood on her family farm, on the Oklahoma prairie, which is now called Turtle Rock Farm.
9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Turtle Rock Farm in Town
1000 NW 32nd Street in the CommonWealth Urban Farm community, Oklahoma City

Retreat fee is $75 and includes lunch.

To register and pay by Pay Pal, click here. Or send a check to Turtle Rock Farm, 5900 CR 90, Red Rock, OK 74651. Include name of retreat, your name, address, phone, email address.

Resilience of the Human Spirit through Beloved Community…In Times Like These

November 18


In Times Like These-intensely divided around values-we experience isolation, confusion, overwhelmedness, loss and we long for beloved community. In this workshop, we will explore community: human, ecological cosmic. What makes for a beloved community? Where have we experienced it and where have we lost it? What happens to our human spirit without beloved community? And which comes first: the human spirit regenerated through community or community regenerated through human spirit?Using a variety of learning processes from a variety of sources, we will consider the human spirit, its needs and its capability to develop beloved community in these times. Mark Davies and Pat Hoerth will lead. (See bios above.)

9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Turtle Rock Farm in Town
1000 NW 32nd Street in the CommonWealth Urban Farm community, Oklahoma City
Retreat fee is $75 and includes lunch.

To register and pay by Pay Pal, click here. Or send a check to Turtle Rock Farm, 5900 CR 90, Red Rock, OK 74651. Include name of retreat, your name, address, phone, email address.

Resilience Through Community-based Economies…
In Times Like These
December 2
In times like these, billions of us have to accept our responsibility to life on Earth and change our lives in significant ways to offset as much as possible the damage done to our life together on the planet. We can choose to face this inevitability not through the eyes of loss but through the eyes of opportunity. Building new, innovative local economies will take sacrifice, empathy and loving kindness for all life. But this good human work holds the potential of bringing a rediscovery of true human community in our world as we form communities of resistance and resilience and regeneration.

In this workshop, we will see exciting and encouraging examples of regenerative economies for communities around the world and explore what may be possible in Oklahoma. Mark Davies and Pat Hoerth will lead.

9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Turtle Rock Farm in Town
1000 NW 32nd Street in the CommonWealth Urban Farm community, Oklahoma City

Retreat fee is $75 and includes lunch.

To register and pay by PayPal, click here. Or send a check to Turtle Rock Farm, 5900 CR 90, Red Rock, OK 74651. Include name of retreat, your name, address, phone, email address.
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The Power of Communication

(Remarks to Oklahoma City University Mass Communications students in Singapore, October 6, 2017) 

All of us in this room today have goals that we are pursuing. Some of us want to be broadcasters and journalists, some may want to be public relations specialists, some may want a career in advertising, some of us have goals of becoming better students, and some here who are teachers like myself may have the goal of becoming a better professor. In addition to professional goals, we have personal goals – we want to better sons and daughters, sisters and brothers, mothers and fathers, and better friends to each other. We want to be better persons. 

Communication is a means to an end, and effective communication will by definition be a more effective means to whatever end it is that we are pursuing. Good communication helps us to more effectively attain both our professional and personal goals in life. As students of communication, you are fortunate. You have an advantage over many other persons because you are studying the most effective means and methods of communication that are available to us in the world today. If you study communications well, you have an opportunity to literally be some of the most effective communicators on earth. I say that with all seriousness and without exaggeration. The skills and knowledge you are learning are helping you to be more effective communicators than the vast majority of people on the planet. You are becoming your generation’s professional communicators. 

As professional communicators you will be able to more effectively reach your own goals in life, and you will also be able to help others to more effectively reach their goals as well. In fact, as professional communicators, many of you will actually be paid money to help other people reach goals that are important to them. This can be a significant and even beautiful contribution to the lives of other people and your community. 

Given that all of you are digital natives, unlike people in my generation who are digital immigrants, you will have tremendous abilities to use a wide array of communication methods and techniques that were only the dreams of past generations. With your expertise and the means of communication available to you, the potential of the global reach and the global impact that you will have with your communication expertise can be truly significant and even world changing. 

Given the potential of the impact you can make with your communication abilities, I hope that you will recognize that with your skills and expertise in communication comes profound responsibility. Since you will be some of the most effective communicators of your generation, the goals and values for which you are communicating and the methods you use to communicate them matter deeply. 

If you communicate in ways that express the values of integrity, truth, and the well being of others; your communication expertise can be a force of tremendous good in your communities and in the world. If you clearly recognize your obligations of doing no harm to others, caring for and respecting the most vulnerable among us in our societies, and living on earth in ways that are sustainable and responsible for future generations; your communication expertise can contribute to solving some of the greatest challenges facing us all in the 21st Century. As the best communicators of your generation, you have a profound responsibility to use your gifts and abilities for the common good of all life. 

There is, however, potential for effective communicators to also do great harm through propaganda, coercion, manipulation, and the pursuit of goals that perpetuate systems and practices that are not good for us as a human family. Unfortunately, your expertise will be in high demand by those who want to use communication in ways that are not beneficial for the entire human family or for the world in which we live. Given this demand for your communication expertise by those who would use it to perpetuate their own power and control in this world, you have the potential to make significant amounts of money selling your expertise for these pernicious enterprises. You could likely get fairly wealthy in the process, but your integrity and the well being of your communities and the world would be poorer as a result of your choice. This is, I would argue, the most important moral decision that you will have to make in your professional careers. 

Effective communication can lead to more effective attainment of our goals, but if our goals are not good goals, if our goals and values have deep moral flaws, then effective communication unfortunately has the potential of bringing great harm to our world. 

As I reflect on the power of communication to influence social change in our world, it leads me to think of two of the most effective communicators of the 20th Century. Both of these persons were described as master orators. Both were able to mesmerize the crowds who heard them. When they spoke, those in the crowd would often react with spontaneous applause and cheers, crying out loud their support of what was being said. Both of these extremely effective communicators were able to motivate millions of persons to work for a different kind of future for their societies and for humanity. At the height of their influence, both of these communicators would sometimes speak to tens of thousands, even hundreds of thousands of people in the crowd. 

One of these two great communicators of the 20th Century of whom I am thinking was Martin Luther King, Jr. who used his amazing communication skills to inspire a generation and a society towards greater civil rights for all people. His words and actions continue to inspire billions of people all over the world to work for peace, human rights, and social justice. He won the Nobel Peace Prize, and in the United States, highways and byways and even a holiday are named in his honor. 

You may be asking, who is the other extremely effective communicator of the 20th Century of whom I thinking. His name was Adolf Hitler…. I think you get the point. 

The choices we have for how we use our communication abilities will likely never be as stark as the difference between King and Hitler, but we all will have moral choices that will make a profound difference for reaching the goals and expressing the values that are of vital importance for our human community and for the ecological community of which we are all a part. Your communication expertise comes with profound responsibility, and I hope you will use it wisely. 

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Who Will Protect the Environment from the Director of the EPA?


People make mistakes. Institutions make mistakes. Government makes mistakes. Mistakes can be forgiven, especially when there is admission of the mistake, a sincere regret for the mistake, and desire and commitment to correct the mistake and make sure it does not happen again. As fallible human beings, mistakes are an unavoidable part of our existence, but we learn from them, and we try to do better. We can forgive honest mistakes.

As we experience the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, it is not possible to respond to such a disaster without making mistakes. There is too much chaos, too much water, too much complexity, too many unknowns for everyone to get everything right in the rescue and recovery efforts. We rightly accept this as long as there are no signs of gross negligence or unwillingness to make corrections.  We pull together, we do our best, we care for each other, and we try to make things better as well as we possibly can. We can forgive honest mistakes

The recovery from Hurricane Harvey is complicated by the fact that the Houston area is the most significant fossil fuel and petrochemical hub in the nation. Not only does this lead to rising fuel prices and in some areas problems getting access to fuel as many refineries are closed, it also makes clean up and recovery efforts far more difficult and dangerous owing to the toxicity of the flood waters. In addition to the toxicity of the water, at the time of this writing a chemical plant is on fire owing to a power failure and lack of refrigeration for its volatile chemicals. Officials associated with the chemical facility have not yet been able to clarify how toxic the smoke from this fire may be. We also know that numerous toxic superfund sites in the area have been flooded, and we do not yet know fully the effects on the environment or public safety. 

Such a situation requires significant cooperation not only in the rescue and recovery efforts, but also in the monitoring of the toxicity of the environment – water, land, and air, and the potential health effects of this toxicity. It is for such a situation as this that we have the Environmental Protection Agency to do the independent and objective work of monitoring the environmental impact and communicating their findings clearly and effectively to the public for its health and safety.

It is precisely for a time like this, when a natural disaster is wreaking havoc on one of the largest petrochemical infrastructure sites in the nation, that we need a committed and trustworthy director of the Environmental Protection Agency to assess and address the detrimental ecological and health effects of this disaster.

Sadly, and hopefully not tragically, we have Scott Pruitt as the administrator of the EPA, a person who has proven time and time again in his tenure as Oklahoma Attorney General and in his short tenure with the EPA that he will do anything the fossil fuel and chemical companies want him to do. In the past Pruitt has very literally taken his cues from industry interests, and in some cases he uses the exact language they want him to use to argue their case for them. He has filed lawsuits against the federal government and against the EPA on behalf of their interests. He has worked very hard for them, and that is what has landed him the position he has today, not his concern for environmental protection.

I hope that Administrator Pruitt will do the right thing in relation to the EPA’s response to the environmental effects of Hurricane Harvey, but if past behavior is a prediction of his present and future behavior, I am afraid that what Mr. Pruitt says and does, especially in relation to the fossil fuel and petrochemical industry aspects of this disaster, will need to be monitored very closely. The problem is that the very agency that needs to be monitoring his words and actions is the agency he directs.

If Mr. Pruitt makes honest mistakes in relation to this disaster, I imagine that the people will be able to forgive him, but if he continues the willfully dishonest actions of his past as he responds to this complex disaster, he will not deserve the forgiveness of the American people, especially those who are most vulnerable to the toxic environmental effects of what is now officially the largest rainfall event in United States history. Honest mistakes can be forgiven, but dishonest and malevolent actions should neither be forgiven nor forgotten.

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The Wesleyan Covenant Association’s Breaking of Covenant

Humans are causing the Sixth Great Extinction on Earth, but the schismatic Wesleyan Covenant Association within the United Methodist Church is more concerned about discriminating against people based on their sexual and gender orientation than it is about addressing climate change and healing and restoring our world. This misdirected concern is a breaking of our covenant to care for the earth and to work for justice and dignity of all persons. 

As we propel ourselves into climate chaos and an increasingly unlivable planet for human civilization as we know it, the Wesleyan Covenant Association’s outcry remains “but the gays!” It is as if all that is wrong or right with the United Methodist Church hinges on keeping LGBTQ persons from full inclusion. Their primary reason for existence seems be the preservation of a form of Methodism that will continue to keep LGBTQ persons from full  paricipation in the life of the church. They ignore that which is causing the greatest harm while obsessing over that which causes no harm, thus clearly violating John Wesley’s principle of doing no harm.

Future generations of humans will not lament that our generation did not do enough to exclude and discriminate against persons who are LGBTQ, but they will cry out in anger in the midst of horrific suffering that we did not do enough to preserve a livable climate for a flourishing human community on earth, our only home. As the planet becomes more and more unlivable, future generations will rightly wonder why churches spent more time trying to control sexual and gender orientation than they spent working for social justice, ecological responsibility, and climate justice. 

The Wesleyan Covenant Association’s claims of broken covenant by LGBTQ persons and their allies in the United Methodist Church is an overt attempt to shame them to adhere to discriminatory principles. This use of the notion of covenant is an affront to the covenant of a Beloved Community that works for justice for all people and cares deeply for all creation. This covenantal shaming divides us rather than reconciling our relationships  with each other and the earth. 

For such a time as this, the world needs so much more from our churches than what the Wesleyan Covenant Association is offering. The whole creation groans in travail and cries out in hope for healing, restoration, regeneration, renewal, and reconciliation. It does not need yet another voice of exclusion and discrimination that denigrates the dignity and sacred worth of all persons. The world needs churches to be models for the healing of our human and ecological community, not places for misguided religious excuses for bigotry in the midst of the Sixth Great Extinction.

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In Times Like These…

In Times Like These

In times like these, we have to help one another.

If you are like me, you are depressed that we live in a country that could elect someone like our current president. You knew the United States was deeply flawed, but you didn’t think it was so deeply soul sick as to elect someone who is so horrible in so many ways to be President of the United States.

If you are like me, you see how greed, cowardice, and lust for power have so weakened the systems that should be a check on someone like our current president. You see the reality that the Republicans will likely do nothing to bring this national nightmare to an end and will do almost anything to prolong it as long as it is in their self-interest to do so.

If you are like me, you see expressions of racism, religious nationalism, sexism, xenophobia, and antagonism towards persons who are LGBTQ and Muslim that you thought you would never see at this level at this time in our national experience.

It is easy to be so overwhelmed by all this and to simply want to give up; maybe just tend to our gardens and take care of our friends and family and avoid the toxicity of the established environment. Yes, gardening and taking care of our friends and family should be part of our response. It is part of resistance to the current established environment. But we must also find a way of taking care of each other on a larger scale and in the larger community of our society.

Freedom and justice have never been won easily or without a struggle in the history of humankind. Perhaps we thought that our big national struggles on these fronts were in the past, but they are not. They are here right now. Now is our time to take care of each other so we can join in this struggle together.

It is natural to be down. It is natural to want to give up. But people and the planet are counting on us to pick up the mantle and join the ongoing and urgent struggle for freedom and justice in times like these.

In times like these, we have to help one another.


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Declaring Independence from Religious Nationalism

As I spend Independence Day weekend in New York City, I have been reminded of the tremendous diversity of our nation in what may well be the most diverse and international city in the world. I am reminded especially of our religious diversity as I walk down the streets of Manhattan and see persons from so many of the world’s religions and persons who see themselves as being part of no religion at all. 

Being in New York reminds me of the millions of persons who immigrated to America, many of whom came to Ellis Island just miles from where I am writing this, and many of whom came to escape various forms of religious oppression. In spite of this history, I have a deep concern that we as a country are on the brink of creating an American era of religious oppression if we continue down the path that our president wants to lead us in relation to our Muslim sisters and brothers, and if we continue to increase the fervor of religious nationalism that Trump has cultivated so effectively in his rise to power. 

Religious nationalism is neither good for religion nor good for the nation. There is nothing more toxic to human rights and social justice than the combination of religion and nationalism. When religion and nation see each other as instruments for their survival or expansion, true freedom is in peril.

Religious nationalism is an affront to the commandment to love our neighbors as ourselves and a barrier to building the Beloved Community. Religious nationalism is also an affront to the ideal of equal protection of all people under the law. A nation that turns its laws against people based on their orientation to religion is no longer a nation of laws, for it is no longer basing its laws on justice and the equal dignity of all persons. As Saint Augustine and Martin Luther King Jr. have reminded us, an unjust law is no law at all. 

Loving God and country is great, but if you think people must believe in God the way you do to be in our country, that’s not great, it’s just oppressive. The legacy of religious nationalism is oppression, violence, executions, wars, crusades, inquisitions, colonialism, racism, slavery, pogroms, and genocide. Do not forget this as Franklin Graham, Jerry Falwell Jr, and Donald J. Trump continue to lead the growing chorus of American religious nationalism.

As we observe the Fourth of July, may we turn away from religious nationalism and turn towards the vision of a country that strives to uphold the free exercise of religion for all people and the freedom of persons who identify with no religion as well. 

Patriotism is loyalty to the highest ideals and values of our country, not loyalty to a president who upholds neither and who uses a toxic combination of religion and nationalism to manipulate large numbers of people to gain, maintain, and expand his power. Freedom from religious nationalism is a central ingredient of our country’s identity and one of the many reasons so many have been drawn to the flame of liberty that has the potential to make our country as great as we hope it can be. 

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Not Here by Accident

How did we get here

We didn’t just get here by accident. By “here,” I mean:

  • a situation in which all three branches of the federal government are controlled by the large corporate interests represented by the Republican Party
  • a situation in which income inequality is greater than at any other time since before the Great Depression
  • a situation in which almost unlimited amounts of money can be used (often anonymously) to sway political processes
  • a situation in which our tax structure becomes evermore regressive and harmful to the poor and middle class
  • a situation in which laws are passed to make it more difficult to vote and in which some states are so gerrymandered that many seats in legislatures are practically permanently held by one party, while the politicians holding those seats often run unopposed
  • a situation in which unions have been decimated and the minimum wage is falling
  • a situation in which deregulation of financial institutions and industry in general has more momentum than protection of the environment, public health, and safety
  • a situation in which public schools are chronically underfunded, undervalued, and under siege by private corporate interests
  • a situation in which public institutions of higher education have gone from being almost fully publicly funded, to partially publicly funded, to barely publicly funded and thus more dependent on funding from the persons and powers that benefit from the established environment
  • a situation in which court appointments are blocked for political purposes with almost no negative political consequences
  • a situation in which insurance companies and healthcare providers are enriched by our healthcare system, while patients and their families are impoverished
  • a situation in which a greater percentage or our population is in prison than any other country in the world, with vast disparities in the incarceration rates for people of color as compared to those who are white
  • a situation in which women are underpaid and in which women’s healthcare is under-supported
  • a situation in which we treat drug use as a crime to be punished as opposed to a problem for both persons and communities that requires access to affordable and compassionate treatment
  • a situation in which a handful of corporations own most of the major media outlets and in which news is more often propaganda than not
  • a situation in which our religions, our race, and our places of birth are used to divide us (for the people and powers who benefit from the established environment know what will happen if we are not divided)
  • and a situation in which we are the only country in the world rejecting the global consensus of climate scientists that climate change is real and caused primarily by human activity.

No, we did not simply get here by accident. Our situation, our current established environment, is the result of planning, strategy, organization, and massive amounts of funding. It is the result of a major and well coordinated project of systemic transformation implemented by some of the most wealthy and powerful persons and corporations in our country and the world. Until we come to grips with the fact that we didn’t just get here by accident, we will likely never be able to recognize what it will take to move us from “here” to a future in which a more flourishing community is possible.

Moving from “here” to that more flourishing future will be one of the most difficult and challenging things we will ever do as a society, but it also has the potential to be the most life-giving, joyful, and world saving work that humanity has ever witnessed. One thing is sure – without this work for systemic transformation, the “here” we are now experiencing will only get worse. Our challenge, our mission, is to figure out how we are going to get from the “here” of our current established environment to the “there” of a more just, peaceful, participatory future. The good news is that the systemic change required to get there is possible.

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