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Stories and Music to Move Us:
Diverse Portrayals of Standing Up and Speaking Up

2018 CFT Gathering Saturday Evening Program

Presented by Jennifer Higgins-Newman, Paula Trimble-Familetti, and John Saxon

Piano KeyboardOur stories are powerful and important. Change is made through storytelling. Stories can move hearts and minds in profound ways. Martin Luther King Jr. famously said: “Let us realize the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” This moral universe is filled with diverse people, each of whom offers a unique and complex personal narrative that, when combined, makes up the arc of the moral universe. And change is what bends this arc.

In this plenary presentation, we invite the audience to hear several powerful and diverse stories—from our own community—about standing up and speaking up. As Womanist theologian Monica Coleman puts it, “making a way out of no way” to move the world toward justice. After we hear these stories, John Saxon will invite the audience into a time of contemplation as he plays an improvised “piano reading” based on the story told.

bell hooks wrote, “Once you do away with the idea of people as fixed, static entities, then you see that people can change, and there is hope.” Ultimately, this presentation will invite the audience to contemplate diverse and complex personal narratives and can, one by one, move our world to become more just. For the world to change, we need to know people can change—that is where we can find our hope in such a time as this.

The Presenters

Jennifer Higgins-NewmanJennifer Higgins-Newman recently finished her Master of Theological Studies degree at Vanderbilt Divinity School in Nashville, Tennessee, focusing on the intersection between religion, gender, and sexuality studies. In 2014, she was the first recipient of the Nancy Hardesty Memorial Scholarship, and she attended her first gathering in St. Louis that summer. She is an activist for social change and currently works as a Content Creator for The Public Interest Network, where she writes to inspire people to take action for our environment and in the public interest. Jennifer is also an avid debater and now volunteers regularly with the Boston Debate League. When she’s not doing any of those things, you can find Jen at Beacon Hill Friends House, running book groups and other “Quaker learning” events, or spending time with her spouse.

Dr. Paula Trimble-FamilettiDr. Paula Trimble-Familetti is a passionate advocate for women’s rights, inclusive language, and biblical literacy. She holds a B.A. in Religion from Chapman University, an M.A. in Religion from Liberty University and a Dr. of Ministry in International Feminist Theology from San Francisco Theological Seminary. She has taught Women in Religion and Women’s History classes at Chapman University. Her book Prostitutes, Virgins and Mothers: Questioning Teachings About Biblical Women was released in 2014 and earned a gold medal in Bible study.

John SaxonA native Texan, John Saxon’s early loves were math and the piano. He earned two mathematics degrees, intending to teach, but ended up making a career in computer programming instead while continuing piano study on the side. John’s mathematical bent loved the axiomatic approach to the Bible of his boyhood Seventh-Day Adventist faith, but close scriptural study eventually meant parting ways with inerrancy and, for a time, faith. In the meantime, John’s intuitive side began breaking through at rare moments with trivial bits of foreknowledge, troubling his analytical world view. An honest attempt to study and understand it led him to clairvoyant training with Naomi Horii in 2005, an ongoing healer’s apprenticeship with Michael Tamura, and a reaffirmation of faith.  John’s clairaudience gradually emerged, and he began giving “piano readings,” improvisational piano performances that reflect the energy of the intended person or community.