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Monday, April 09, 2007

Every community needs to consider its soul

Mary Barber wrote this story "Author wants to help Jackson find its soul" for the Jackson Citizen Patriot yesterday, Sunday, 8 April 2007. Posting permission is pending. Thomas Moore's workshop is scheduled for this weekend in Jackson, Michigan. Check the Barque: Thomas Moore sidebar for details.
"Every community has a soul, says Thomas Moore.
And getting in touch with that soul can be uplifting -- particularly for a place like Jackson, where factories are being closed and residents are increasingly nervous about the future.
Moore, the theologian and author whose 1992 best-seller, Care of the Soul, sparked a lasting public discussion, will come to town this weekend. Moore has published 14 other books on the topic, and several authors such as John O'Donohue (Anam Cara) have followed suit.
"Really what I'm after is to try to get people to imagine the place as having a soul, as having an identity and some depth," he said in a telephone interview from his New Hampshire home.
"It's a blessing to have someone of his stature come here," said the Rev. Jim Heg-edus, pastor of First Presbyterian Church. "I'm excited."
Nancy Angelo, director of the Cottage Retreat Center, said she believes Moore's message will make a difference to Jackson as it deals with unemployment, changes in the economic base and other challenges. The Cottage Retreat Center is bringing Moore here.
"I heard him speak in Portland, Ore., 12 or 13 years ago, and that has stayed with me," Angelo said. "He has an empathy for Michigan and for Jackson. He said yes almost immediately."
The Rev. Jay Cummings of St. John's United Church of Christ said he has read several of Moore's books and watched a DVD of his speeches. He wants to attend both of Moore's appearances here.
"When I went to hear him before, I was thinking more of myself and my church," he said. "I think I'll get something new out of this (from the perspective of helping the community.)"
He said Moore is an expert at helping people identify where they're really at in their lives and finding solutions.
"You walk into a room sometimes and you feel the atmosphere of the people ... you get a sense of the spirit. Maybe there's a quietness, a somberness or joyfulness," he said. "It's the same with a community, if you look for it."
Moore said he knows Jackson is struggling and plans to tour the city before his Friday night lecture.
"A town loses its spirit and its identity, and then people say 'What's happened?'" he said.
Angelo said she hopes this will help Jacksonians recognize their own responsibilities in what happens to the community as a whole.
"I think it begins with each person looking at their own life and how it connects to the exterior life," Angelo said.
Moore said people can create depth in their lives simply by paying attention to basic, constant factors such as home and family.
He'll talk about that in "Creating Everyday Potentials" at 8 p.m. Friday at the Baughman Theatre at Jackson Community College.
"When I talk about caring for the soul, I mean that in very concrete ways, not just meditating off in the woods somewhere," said Moore, who grew up on the east side of Detroit in a working-class family. His father, 94, a former plumber, will come with him to Jackson.
Moore said he'll talk about specific issues, such as marriage, raising children, and devoting time to friends. When people take care of themselves and pay attention to fundamental issues such as home, family and friends, he said, they can create a better community.
Community will be the subject of his workshop, "Being Creative in Times of Change: Loss, Transition, New Beginnings," from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Saturday at the Jackson District Library, 244 W. Michigan Ave. "With the economic problems, you need something to create a new identity, so people keep their optimism," he said. "I think this community really has taken some hits."
But Moore's "practical insights" can help the community and its leaders recognize that "you can have a spiritually thriving, challenging, enjoyable life in the midst of change."
"A place really needs to not just be made into a functional place," Moore said. "A lot of our towns are beautiful." He said he is delighted to hear that Jackson is working to incorporate artists and art into the community through the River ArtsWalk and the Armory Arts Village.
Talking about soul, identity and aesthetics might scare off those who are more practical-minded, he said. He does focus on physical issues, from transportation to architecture.
"But I don't speak for the practical details, because there are plenty of people doing that. ... My job is to address things that people normally ignore. If you don't have these other intangible things, you end up with a lot of social problems," he said.
"It is a practical thing, ultimately. If you don't nurture your soul, it doesn't just sit there -- it complains."
©2007 Jackson Citizen Patriot

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