Nenana Wellness Coalition
July 7, 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, masticate and help implement plans for improving the wellness and quality of life in Nenana Alaska.
We had 15 participants today: Bonnie Reed, Kat & Leon McElroy, Miles Martin, Amie and James Verhagan, Evelyn Verhagan and three sons, Jeannie Bennett, Mary Alexander, Virginia Young, Tim Horn and Steven Poppe. We enjoyed taco soup, mixed green salad with fresh beets, sliced cheeses with Ritz crackers and walnuts with raisins for lunch.
WELCOME followed by the READING OF MISSION STATEMENT: By this week’s chairperson, Jeannie Bennett.
SPIRITUAL MOMENT: Lead by Jeannie Bennett
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: No new guests this week.
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. Last week we discussed the issue opf the opening prayer and the consensus was we would have a “spiritual moment” at the start of each meeting. Tim again agreed to moderate discussion as we addressed the issue of having the pledge of allegiance as part of our agenda. She emphasized that as our common goals have always been wellness and unity it would be important during our discussion to be able to hear one another and not project our thoughts or feelings onto what others may say.
Miles spoke first. He indicated that he feels it is important to keep politics of any sort separate from our group process. He feels the pledge represents part of the federal government and ought not have anything to do with our community meeting.
Virginia said she agrees basically with Miles sentiment, that the WIN meeting is on a local level, we represent no governmental entity, she is comfortable not using the pledge during the WIN opening.
Mary: Said that she agreed wholeheartedly with the previous sentiments. She feels that enough has been said about this topic.
Steven indicated he doesn’t feel as a visitor to WIN that he has any say in the matter.
Evelyn said she doesn’t think the pledge indicates loyalty to any specific government. She sees it as a pledge to the principles embodied therein. “I have a great love for the principles of the pledge and the people who have supported those principles.” She feels the flag is a symbol of that and the pledge an affirmation of those principles.
Jeannie: Agrees with Evelyn and with what Elijah said last week, that it is a pledge of allegiance to our founding fathers, to those who have fought for our freedoms.
Bonnie: Agrees with what Jeannie and Amie said. She is happy she was born here and she doesn’t see the pledge as being to the government. She likes to say the pledge.
Amie: What she has been thinking about and feeling, she has been reviewing what the words of the pledge mean to her. It is an affirmation. She affirms her allegiance to the principles of the pledge.
Kat: Feels that our nation was founded upon a lie. We say we stand for freedom, liberty, equality. But our nation was founded on genocide and slavery. “Until our nation comes to term with this lie,” she believes, “We are doomed. Until some manner of truth and reconciliation process takes place, we will always be acting out this lie.” She sees reciting the pledge as an example of hegemony. She won’t say the pledge.
Tim: Felt last week that our group had consensus that spirituality is part of the culture of our community so holding a place on the agenda for prayer or a moment of silence or however we want to act on that “Spiritual Moment” seemed easy. She wants to have spirituality and diversity both honored. The pledge, on the other hand, strikes such deep feelings both ways, she questions if we should include it. She feels she would like to continue without the pledge and we can revisit the issue in the future if we feel a need to.
Further discussion ensued. Virginia did some research and thought it interesting that the pledge was written in 1892 but was not adopted in any official capacity until 1942, by Congress, in the midst of WW-II. She mentioned various changes over the years including adding the words “…the United States of America,” and later “…under God…” Some nations require people to carry state issued ID cards, she said, but in USA the pledge has taken the place of an ID card, if you don’t or won’t say the pledge, you are under scrutiny and suspicion. Miles said he agrees, adding, “Just reciting a pledge is meaningless. The question is how do we live up to the beliefs and ideals we claim to stand for.” He sees the pledge as divisive, “We want to focus on what we can do.” Evelyn said, “Yes, we have to strive to live up to it. As we recite the pledge, for me,, it makes me want to strive each day. I believe that is the way we build a nation, first as individuals, then our families, then our communities and finally our nation. It is building blocks. I can live in a world of pessimism or optimism.” Jeannie said, “Everybody has their own beliefs. We all want to respect that. I don’t think it is necessary to have the pledge as part of WIN; I don’t have a problem with not having the pledge here.” Virginia said there is so much diversity in our meetings, she feels it is important to honor that. Kat expressed concern that not having the pledge can become a problem as well, due to the polarization that manifests around highly charged issues. She likened it to “Doomed if you do, doomed if you don’t,” because people’s feelings run so high. Virginia said she feels it’s good to have discussions like this, good to be able to express “upsetedness,” safely. Tim said it was interesting to her when the issue of prayer was mentioned on the Nenana Community Face Book page, how assumptions were made about our process by people who were not aware of the many discussions WIN has held exploring these issues. “If people are not here, they can’t understand (that process).” An informal poll was taken with seven saying don’t have the pledge, two saying keep the pledge (and two absent as they had left to meeting early).
Miles said he feels the pledge doesn’t allow for exploration of differing views. Virginia suggested perhaps leaving the pledge open from week to week, depending upon the chairperson, what they wanted. Amie indicated she feels having to revisit the decision weekly would create ingoing tension. She suggested perhaps polling the members of the WIN e-list to get a wider view. Virginia suggested perhaps polling over the next four weeks. Then came the question, would people who come every week get to “vote” multiple times, a Weighted Poll, as many WIN members are only occasional attendees. Tim interjected that we had done this previously when the question of prayer and pledge were initially questioned as part of our agenda. “We called it a Survey, rather than a vote.” She suggests the consensus seems to be to follow local culture, to express spirituality but avoid politics. We are free to revisit it at any time.
WELLNESS THOUGHT: Grow old along with me; the best is yet to be.
UPDATES/ANNOUNCEMENTS: (We actually had announcements/updates before discussion to allow for late-arrivals.)
Bonnie: Our community has had three deaths close together: Vern Wise, Anna Starr and Cecil Knutsen. This is Roger Knutsen’s father; in a very short time he has lost his mother, his sister-in-law and now his father. Per Marilyn, a pot latch for Anna is scheduled for Saturday.
Kat: Have had four teens under my rood all week, a lively household. This afternoon she is taking a pig to slaughter at MidState Meats for Liz reeves’ sister’s wedding.
Miles: First Saturday Market will be this week, 8 AM-2 PM, at the Rec Center. Cost of vending there is 10% of sales; tables available for rent or bring your own. He harvested his first zucchini of the season, a beauty! They went on a river outing, “Caught a pike the size of a sardine. Saw baby ducks and an eagle in nest with a baby eagle.
Virginia: Harvested 4,000 peonies. Her whole family was here for Fourth of July weekend and helped out with harvest. Her daughter’s sister-in-law is visiting from Bulgaria and they will be touring her around.
Leon: Painting signs for the Farmer’s Market. Hung them up all around town.
Steven: Has been busy making hay with Bill Spencer.
Evelyn: Has posted photographs from the Veteran’s Appreciation breakfast and the Fourth of July activities on the Community FB page.
Tim: Nenana book club is reading Saturday, by Ian McEwan.
Friday they will celebrate The Martyrdom of the Bab, at Tim’s house, 1 PM.
July 15th, at the Baha’i Center, the will have a musical devotion, 7 PM.
August 4th, Paul Verhagan will be presenting on Emergency Preparedness.
Jeannie: Gospel Fest went well. They served 148 plates of food at the Friday evening community dinner. Everyone enjoyed the music, Open Mike was especially well-received.