Nenana Wellness Coalition
June 30, 2015
The Nenana Wellness Coalition is an alliance of representatives from various organizations, government agencies, community groups and individuals that meets weekly to discuss, evaluate, coordinate, consolidate, celebrate and help implement plans for improving the wellness and quality of life in Nenana Alaska.
We had 20 participants today: Bonnie Reed, Kat McElroy, Harriett Borst, Miles Martin, Gayle Rayme, Amie, Elijah, James, Evelyn, Sam and Paul Verhagan, Maryellen Robinson, Jeannie Bennet, Rebecca, Emily and William Troxel, Mary & Drew Alexander and David Poppe. We enjoyed spicy pasta and meatball casserole, mixed green salad and sliced cheese with Ritz crackers for lunch.
WELCOME followed by the READING OF MISSION STATEMENT: By this week’s chairperson, Tim Horn.
PRESENTATION OF AGENDA AND CALL FOR MODIFICATIONS: No changes to the agenda as presented.
APPROVAL OF MINUTES: Posted on the WIN link at http://www.railbelt.org and submitted electronically to the WIN e-list.
INTRODUCTION OF GUESTS: Mary introduced her grandson Drew who is in Nenana visiting her.
Discussion on WIN Agenda Format: Starting in January, WIN removed the prayer and the pledge of allegiance from our agenda by consensus opinion after several months of discussion. This decision was to be revisited in three months time, however we are only now getting around to having that discussion. Due to time constraints, it was decided that today we would limit discussion to the matter of prayer and would explore thoughts and feelings about the pledge of allegiance for next week. The chairperson reminded us that we are all here to practice unity and wellness to the best of our collective abilities and that nothing said should be construed as criticism or complaint about another, and to not make suppositions abo0ut one another. We did a round robin, with each person speaking in turn, limited to a few minutes each.
Miles said that he believes that spirituality is very much a part of wellness, but having said that he is not in favor of having formal prayer as part of our agenda process unless we can figure out a way to ensure that it feels inclusive to others. He is concerned that having formal prayer may be off-putting to people who do not practice prayer or for whom for whatever reason formal prayer is uncomfortable. Kat said that she continues to maintain that prayer cannot be mandated nor prohibited. It is her personal belief that prayer is a private internal thing, not an external practice. She is neutral as to whether WIN continues with no formal prayer or decides to institute some manner of prayer or formal spiritual practice into the agenda. Harriett asked if the state senate still opens with prayer. Hearing affirmation, she indicated that if the senate still opens with a formal prayer, her thought is that she would like to, also. Gayle said she doesn’t have a problem with WIN opening with a prayer. She said she herself is not a believer but she isn’t offended by other’s prayers. “It can’t hurt,” she said. Sam said if the group wants to open with a prayer, he thinks that they should. “I think it is an important part of wellness.”
Evelyn said she thinks prayer helps people focus. She also feels prayer is an important part of wellness. She spoke in favor of specific prayer, if we know of issues that are problematic or people who are in need. “Prayer creates unity,” she opined. “Prayer is a part of our life, our family, our community, our nation.” Paul said that although he has been unable to attend WIN meetings the past few years, he and his family do read the minutes and try to stay connected to our activities. He shares Miles’ concerns that prayer not create barriers between people, understanding that people have the right to believe as they see fit. “Different people may pray differently,” he said, and he would like to see a spot for that to happen. Jeannie said, “Personally, I am a pray-er, but I realize not everyone feels the same.” She indicated that WIN would ask for volunteers, “But, usually,” she said, “It would end up always being the same few people who would volunteer to lead the prayer.” She indicated that she would like prayer or a spiritual moment or moment of silence to be part of the agenda.
Rebecca said, “As we are such a diverse group, I would maybe rather see a moment of silence in respect for those who dislike formal prayer.” Amie said her thoughts have already been accurately portrayed. She is grateful for the discussion. She said she feels that as a people and as a nation, we need to be respectful of differing beliefs. She favors letting people chose. She said that personally she feels that unique needs brought forth in prayer can be helpful. She referenced what Evelyn had said about holding in prayer specific people who would want prayers or situations. Elijah said that he understands religion and politics to be particularly sensitive topics but he does feel it is important to discuss. “No one should be forced to ever do anything that goes against their beliefs, “ he said. “I am respectful. I can listen to people who believe differently than I do and I can still hold to my own beliefs. But,” he added, “I think it is important to have a specific spot to ask for blessing and guidance. If you are not a believer, it doesn’t hurt. Our nation was founded on the concept of freedom OF religion, not freedom FROM religion.”
Maryellen said, “Honestly, when we stopped (having prayer on the agenda), it felt to me like something was missing.” However, she likes the idea of a moment of silence if that works. “No matter what, we can’t please everyone,” she cautioned. She indicated she is ambivalent, she likes the mission statement, our casual chitchat, she liked the prayer because it helped us come together as a group and “get into the moment.” Mary said, “I love the diversity of this group. I have no problem with prayer, or with a moment of silence. “WIN is about our faith,” she said, “Faith. That’s wellness to me.”
Bonnie said, “I think we need something. I’m okay with a moment of silence.” David said that he had been thinking about this while he was milking. In AA and Alanon, which he has attended for years, “We open with a moment of silence and a common prayer. People who do not wish to participate in this do not have to. If you don’t care to pray, that’s fine.” He indicated he was in favor of at least a moment of silence. Tim closed the round of remarks by saying it seemed that there is a consensus that spirituality is important. “We suspended the prayer portion of the agenda,” she said, “Because it was felt it had become ritualistic.” The process of leading prayer became limited to just the few willing to offer a prayer. “It seems to be part of our culture that meetings in Nenana open with some manner of prayer.” She suggested that perhaps we should consider having a roster people could sign ahead if they are willing to lead us in prayer, or a moment of silence, or as has been suggested “A moment of Spiritual reflection.” She suggested Bonnie as the keeper of a roster, as Bonnie is almost always at our WIN meetings.
Concerns were expressed. Miles asked about newcomers or visitors at our meetings, might they feel slighted to not have an opportunity to provide a prayer or lead the moment of silence. Rebecca said WIN meetings are so fluid, an official roster might impede our spontaneous participation, which she sees as a strength. Perhaps an informal roster would be more in order. Paul indicated that from the origin of WIN, the intention was to have the meetings as loose as possible, unrestricted, informal, less rigid. Sam asked about people who might be shy or too embarrassed to ask to lead. It was decided to create a space on the agenda and to have people at the meeting to offer up a prayer or a spiritual moment and to revisit this issue Tuesday, September 1st.
The matter of the pledge of allegiance will be on the agenda next week. Tim asked if there were people who might not be here next week who felt they needed to have input on this today. Elijah said he likely will not be here but wanted to say he feels the pledge is important. “People don’t have to say it if they don’t want to but it should be part of the meeting agenda.” David said he recites the pledge at public meetings, “Because I have been that well trained. But I don’t believe WIN should have the pledge. We are not a government meeting.” He said that at this time our nation has done so many things that are illegal, extreme rendition, torture, holding prisoners with no charges, invading foreign nations with no declaration of war, he is uncomfortable saying the pledge. Sam said he agrees, “The government has done unconstitutional things, but the pledge isn’t to the government, but to the flag, the nation.” Discussion to follow Tuesday, July 7th Noon-2 PM. Be there or be square.
WELLNESS THOUGHT: Live and Let Live
Paul: They have survived the wildfires so far but it did trigger an inspection of the family’s emergency preparedness process. Some of the clothes for the kids they pulled out of their Get Gone bags are way outgrown, so if nothing else, the fire scare will have spurred an update of their safety measures.
Tim asked if Paul would be willing to do another presentation on Emergency Preparedness. August 4th was agreed upon.
Amie: They found out that their next baby will be another boy, and they will name him Kenneth. James took his first step, at a family gathering, so received a round of applause from all for that effort.
Don’t forget the July 4th Veteran’s Appreciation pancake breakfast, 9-10 AM,at the Civic Center, open and free to all in the community.
Elijah: Benno Cleveland with the Alaska Native Veterans will give a short talk and presentation at the breakfast.
Maryellen: The Prevention Carnival went really well on Saturday. There was a good turn-out. Tons Of Fun were a little late and slow getting set up so they were still rushing around as the first participants showed up. She and Christopher were pretty tired at the end of the day. But everyone had a good time. The kids really enjoyed the water balloon fight. She will be working next on Smoke-free Business education.
Mary: Yesterday was beautiful. Such a nice break after weeks of smoke from the fires. Drew went flying yesterday with Grandpa Wes, and was really excited to see Nenana from the air. The first Farmer’s Market will be in July at the Recreational Center.
Bonnie: No lunch at the Senior Center ion Friday, due to the July 4th holiday.
Tim: Book Club will be meeting Monday night, 7 PM, to discuss A Hole in the Heart, most likely at Karen Harvey’s as they are back now from Ireland.
Wednesday, July 15th, 7 PM, they will have a musical devotion at the Baha’i Center.
Miles: The garden is doing well. He has a banana tree that is going to make bananas. His kiwi vine is huge and is making kiwis. He also has a plum tree and an apple tree.
Kat: Is also all about the garden. She has three grand-kids coming down this week; they will be here thru the 4th to enjoy our festivities.
Jeannie: Gospel Fest Friday and Saturday, basically 1-8 PM, with a free pulled pork dinner Friday night at the Civic Center.
David: Had a fox cruising his hen house today, which he scared off. He has moved the cows into deep grass pasture and they are happy there. Farm work is keeping him just massively busy.
Evelyn: Awesome summer working in the garden. They put in a fence and have been landscaping the back yard. Her sister is visiting. They went to Chena Lakes and had a really good time.