The formation of the Washtenaw Area of Michigan Call to Action was initiated in July, 1996, to explore the possibility of forming a local group. Several people came together to talk about why we wanted to meet and what needs we had that were unmet in our respective parishes. Giving people time to tell their stories proved to be very important to everyone and quite necessary. It was apparent early on that we were a grieving people, grieving over a church that isn't but should be. We took a few months to just share stories and let people uncover (and discover) their feelings, thoughts, convictions and visions concerning our church. We also talked about what we would want in a local group. Two things surfaced as goals: visibility and community. Soon enough we started working on visibility through public works such as having an information booth at the Ann Arbor Art Fair (every July more than 1/2 million people attend from all over), and having "Call to Action" in big letters along with names of parishes on a billboard in front of a home under construction through Habitat for Humanity. Community began to evolve as we became acquainted with one another. Call to Action's focus is on community because that's what we believe keeps us together and nurtures our growing as a group.

After months of trying different formats and discussing what authentic leadership means, we settled, at least for now, on a format that seems to work for us. Every month, we gather on the last Sunday afternoon at Genesis, which is a shared facility between Temple Beth Emeth and St. Clare Episcopal, in Ann Arbor to: (1) have a progressive and inclusive liturgy with a theme and accompanying dialog; and (2) have a potluck meal and just visit with each other. Occasionally, speakers give presentations on various peace and justice issues, either within the hierarchical church or in society.

The progressive and inclusive celebrations are "home grown," that is, developed by those who volunteer to design the liturgy for that particular gathering.  Some past themes:

  • "The Last Supper of Jesus, a Human Story of Hope and Trust" (using Michael Morwood’s thoughts);
  • "Maintaining Sanity in an Insane World" (using Eckhart Tolle’s thoughts);
  • "Isaiah:  Shout Aloud and Sing for Joy - The Liturgy will focus on Joy!”;
  • "Root Causes of Migration and How We Can Help";
  • “Lasagna: The Great Story”; “The Gift You Are:  Dream of a Better World”;
  • “Without Buddha I Could not be a Christian” (book by Paul F. Kniter);
  • “Feed the Hungry, Following the Example of Jesus”;
  • “What is the kingdom of God? Is it central to the teachings of Jesus? What did he mean?”;
  • “Just who, exactly, is my neighbor when discerning ‘What Breaks Your Heart’?”;
  • “Spirituality of Meister Eckhart, Medieval Dominican Mystic”;
  • “Be Still and Know that I Am (Drawing on the Quaker tradition of silence)”;
  • “The End of Ego, an Important Element of Spirituality”;
  • “After Religion, Spirituality Endures”;
  • “The Entire Cosmos is the Habitat of God, the Sacrament of God”;
  • “Humanity's Search for Meaning”;
  • “Liberation Theology – Ayer y Hoy”;
  • “How Jesus saw himself and his mission -- as opposed to how Paul, and later, Christianity, saw him.”;
  • “Is My Comfort Zone Holding Me Back?” - How do I leave my comfort zone to love radically and live faithfully?  Is this what the Gospel writers were trying to convey?;
  • “I curse You God for this day. I thank You God for this day” - A discussion on suffering.  Why do bad things happen to good people?

The potluck is never planned out with regard to who will bring what and we always have a great diversity of food and plenty to eat. We consider it a continuation of our Eucharistic sharing. Community is built in this. We also have mini-rituals if the occasion calls for it. For instance, a member, Eileen, was traveling to El Salvador for the commemoration of Archbishop Oscar Romero's assassination. Everyone stood in a circle and asked Eileen to tell us one hope and one fear she had about traveling to El Salvador. We then presented Eileen a rock, talked about how Jesus called Peter a rock and how we can be rocks for each other too. Everyone passed the rock around the circle blessing it and Eileen for her journey. We gave Eileen the rock and told her it was her prayer rock and it was a way she could take us with her. She did. It's these types of acknowledgements of steps in people's lives that people never get at a parish. We've had special gatherings for members whose spouses/partners passed away.

It really is easy to start a local group. And we do need to practice being church because people are grieving the institutional church and need a spiritual forum – the parish seems to be a religious forum only. We believe CTA should help people learn how to envision a progressive and inclusive community where ideas on spirituality and justice can be freely expressed and shared.