Our February Board meetings resulted in the formation of a Board Visioning Task Force to explore the purposes of the Society, where we are, where we need to go, and to determine what action steps will move us in that directionâ€”in other words a long-term assessment with planning for the future. Mo Michel, district director from Pensacola, Florida and chair of the task force, will be working with Nelda Samarel, Chris Richardson, and new district director from New York, Lyn Trotman. Ultimately they will share their proposal with our membership so that all have the opportunity to provide some input. I will keep you posted on this important project.
Interspersed with my normal schedule during the last two months, I have made two quick trips to North Carolina and one to New York City for family business. While in New York, I had the opportunity to share some time with Jim Forbes, retired pastor of Riverside Church in New York. He and his wife, along with other friends, shared exciting conversations with me and David concerning activism for healing the racial divide, poverty, and the betterment of humanity as a whole. Although each of us approached this from our own perspective, we all saw our interest as an outgrowth of our spiritual paths. This was a joyful experience and I am still digesting the ideas and considering ways we can actively make a difference.
In late March, I spent a weekend visiting groups in the western states and speaking in Denver, Casper, and Salt Lake City where attendance at the talks ranged from ten to fifty. Each of the groups was gracious in hosting me and made an effort to create new interest in their area.
David and I attended the Chicago launch celebrating the upcoming Parliament of the Worldâ€™s Religions (PWR) to be held in Melbourne, Australia, in December 2009. PWR has been associated with Chicago since its inception in 1893 and its centenary in 1993. This festivity, held at Spertus Institute for Jewish Studies in Chicago, featured a film about the PWR and Australiaâ€™s program of reconciliation with the Aborigine people. In addition, the evening also featured special guests Kell Kearns and Cynthia Lukas introducing the Chicago premiere of Rumi Returning, a new documentary they produced on the life of the Sufi poet. We hope to add this excellent film to the Olcott Library. From our conversations with Dirk Ficca, the executive director, we determined that it would be a worthy project for the Theosophical Society in America to present a program at PWR 2009. We will see what develops.
During the month of April, we have had a noisy disturbance as the new fire alarm system, made possible by the Capital Funds Campaign, was installed. The workmen moved swiftly from office to office doing a professional job while respecting the beauty and character of the building. When they finally finish, all areas of the building will be protected with an up-to-code system that connects directly with the fire department. We appreciate the good work, but will appreciate it even more when it is finished and know the Rogers building, along with our irreplaceable library and Archives collection, will be safe in case of fire.
On April 16, we had a celebratory send-off for Glenda Gingras who will be leaving in May to live in Oregon near her daughter. Glenda worked for us for over seven years after her first retirement. She has been instrumental in developing our Archives department and then the Information Department. Ever involved and interested in all that goes on, she will be particularly missed by our community. We wish her a happy move.
John Gordon, a member of the English section of the Theosophical Society and president of the Blavatsky Lodge in London, gave a PowerPoint presentation about the evidence for Atlantis and its demise. We enjoyed having him visit Olcott, and hope the Milwaukee and Springfield lodges did as well. We feel a warm kinship with our cousins across the â€œpond.â€
The April Open Mic SoirÃ©e continued to provide a festive but relaxed atmosphere to encourage our local talent and raise some extra money for the library. Juliana Cesano, a volunteer worker from Argentina, teamed up with Lauren Lieberg for a first time duet. As a result of participation in their performances at Olcott, Just Another Bird has moved on to entertain at some local venues as well as our soirÃ©es.
Since winter lingered so long, we had to postpone our Earth Day and Arbor Day tree planting activities, however, inspired by the Earth Day focus, we added one more way to help our earth by putting into effect a â€œno-idleâ€ policy. Between our grounds mowers and several vehicles, there have been times when interruptions have left the motors idling. No more! Now our staff will make a point of cutting the engine in order to save on fuel and reduce emissions.
On the last Saturday of April, the Theosophical Society was one of the world-wide host sites for the tenth Annual World Tâ€™ai Chi/Qigong Day. In spite of the chill, clouds, and windy conditions, close to eighty enthusiasts gathered on the grounds of Olcott to be part of a global wave of goodwill and life energy. Gorgeous weather might have brought out more people but the participants were happy with their experience and, as is the case with these extracurricular activities, the event added new friends for Theosophy and our National Center.