The Theosophical Society in America

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Presidents Diary, February - April 2010

Betty BlandThe big news is Quest magazine’s new look! We hope you like it. Our long-time friend and designer Dan Doolin wanted to ease out of the art portion of his magazine responsibilities, and in our explorations we determined to enlist Drew Stevens as our art director and layout designer. Dan has been most faithful and reliable in offering his services over the last ten years and has produced some lovely magazines. I particularly have enjoyed working with him and will miss our close contact. However, as you can tell from this issue, we have a new and exciting look to offer you. As an innovative way to keep Quest art fresh and varied, Drew proposed that we feature a different artist for each issue. The artist will be selected by our committee to represent the current theme and will be invited to make comments that relate the art to the theme. We invite artists to submit proposals to Drew at questmag.art@gmail.com. Not only is the layout different, but thanks to bids with Royle, our new printer, we are able to feature four pages of color to highlight the art within the body of the magazine.

Thanks to a creative staff and an updated facility, the Rogers building is scheduled just about to capacity. There are a variety of programs almost every day of the week, for which we even have to juggle meeting space. In February our classroom was used as a polling place, and we are now offering our front lawn for kite flying. The February Hootie Hoo event (a local tradition in which people dance and call out “hootie hoo” to scare away winter), inaugurating the newly renovated kitchen and dining area—Nicholson Hall—brought out young and old community members to benefit the festivities and swing dancing instruction.

We also had an initial ribbon cutting for the first opening of Nicholson Hall in order to share the marvelous transformation of a formerly dark basement area into a versatile and welcoming space—all thanks to the bequest of Cleda Nicholson, Shirley Nicholson’s sister-in-law. The formal ribbon cutting will be held at the Summer National Gathering, when Carol Ward, Shirley’s daughter, will be here to do the honors.

February Board meetings survived winter’s bitter nips with only a few flight cancellations. Board actions were posted in the most recent Messenger, including a proposal for bylaw changes and, unfortunately, the process of beginning closure of the Orlando Lodge.

At the end of February we had a farewell lunch for Ruthann Fowler and Jeffrey Forth. Many of our staff have taken on added duties, as we have redistributed the workload. Marina Maestas is managing the Program Committee as well as the Library under a department called Educational Services and Outreach. Paula Finnegan has added program coordinator to her duties as managing editor of Quest magazine, and Pat Griebeler and Angel Hillard have additional responsibilities in handling customer services for the Theosophical Publishing House.

Staff members Dan Noga of Member Services and Chris Bolger, supervisor of the Technology department, received special recognition as promising young business people in Wheaton at the Chamber of Commerce Gammon Awards Banquet. Although it was a bitter snowy night, a number of our staff attended the banquet, adding to the growing visibility of the Society in the local community.

Of course everyone was saddened by Adele Algeo’s passing in mid-March. In recent months staff meditations always included both Adele and John as her health declined. Adele was such a special part of our community that her loss was deeply felt.

Coincidentally, considering that the Algeos were living in Athens, Georgia, I was scheduled to give a talk on the seven rays at the Atlanta Lodge the following weekend. The trip gave me the opportunity to meet with John Algeo for a much appreciated in-depth discussion. Although he wasn’t able to attend the Atlanta meeting, all went well. The Atlanta Lodge has had its difficulties, but some of the members, including president Jim Freas, are working very hard to develop its potential.

On March 31, DeLacy Sarantos, Juli Cesano, and Paula Finnegan represented the Theosophical Society at a Transformative Fair of Spiritual Resources in Chicago sponsored by Greenheart and the Center for Cultural Interchange (CCI). President and founder of CCI Emanuel Kuntzelman presented a one-man show about the life and work of G. I. Gurdjieff.

Unfortunately, in mid-April we experienced a break-in at our main building. The thieves split the screen in a ground-floor office and entered through an unlocked window. They encountered a guest early in their pilfering and left abruptly—which was fortunate; otherwise we could have lost much more. Our main losses were two crucial laptops: mine and Jeff Gresko’s. Since this was my only computer, you can well imagine the difficulties. Most of the information has been recovered through a very good backup system, but the setback in my work has been most difficult. We have just installed extra locking devices on all ground floor windows and are investigating additional security lighting and cameras.

David and I hosted a small dialog group at the national center for a few days in late April. Several of the group are TS members, but not all. The group of interreligious leaders with social and environmental concerns included the well-known theologian Walter Wink; Jim Forbes, former minister of Riverside Church in New York City; Glen Smith, a political communications consultant; and Julio Medina, founder and director of Exodus, a New York–based agency that helps prisoners prepare for a productive life outside institutional walls. Those who were newly introduced to the Society were greatly impressed and took a number of our informational brochures.

Our April conference, “Healing Our Religious Wounds,” did not attract the turnout that we had been hoping for, so we decided to shorten the event from three days to one and canceled a number of presentations. Nonetheless, our headline speaker, John Shelby Spong, former bishop of the Episcopal diocese of Newark, New Jersey, and best-selling author of such books as Here I Stand, Rescuing the Bible from Fundamentalism, and A New Christianity for a New World, was received with much enthusiasm. In the conference evaluations, one participant wrote, “Bishop Spong is the most courageous man of the cloth in America today. He articulates so well what others of us cannot put into words regarding the dark and light of religion.”

Not all of the staff was able to attend the conference, as some were participating in World Tai Chi–Qigong Day, which was also held on April 24. For the third consecutive year, the TS was a host site for this event. Joining groups in over sixty-five countries, our sixty participants added their energy to a global wave of healing that wrapped around our precious planet.

Just because we’ve earned our Earth Flag doesn’t mean we don’t have more to do. Recent activities emphasizing our commitment to the environment included an Earth Day staff grounds cleanup and a tree planting on Arbor Day (April 30). Mark Roemmich, David Bruce, Dan Noga, John Cianciosi, and Dan Smolla planted twelve trees this year, thanks to member donations. When you visit Olcott, look for the tags that acknowledge the donors and identify the species of tree. Joy Mills has a red oak with her name on it.