How do you make arts venues accessible to people who might want to visit, but can’t afford the price of admission?For six years, one marquee answer has been the Culture Pass program. Through it, Phoenix-based Act One has offered thousands of Valley residents, especially young families, seniors, veterans and members of the military, an opportunity to expand their knowledge and enjoyment of the visual and performing arts.Act One provides K-12 students and teachers from Title 1 schools in Maricopa and Pima counties with little or no arts programming the opportunity to attend a live performance or visit a museum through a comprehensive field trip program. A collaboration between Act One and public libraries and arts and cultural institutions, Culture Pass offers library users Valleywide free admission for two people to participating cultural institutions or theater performances. Library patrons select the venue or performance from the display at their local libraries and have seven days to visit the venue or reserve their tickets. The Culture Pass program, however, does not include engagements such as special exhibits at the Heard Museum or Phoenix Art Museum. “The performances passes are available for specific performances, and the details vary from performance to performance,” said Geri Wright, Act One executive director.All the Valley is a stage
The Supreme Court has legalized marriage between two people of the same sex in all states. There is equality before the law. What a profound blessing.The Stonewall Riots took place just months before I was born. Forty-six years ago, men and women were routinely arrested for drinking or dancing together. In many places, in my lifetime, people like me were labeled “criminal.” We were invisible — or worse — in conventional culture.For the first time in my life, I’m fully human in the eyes of my country. The next generations of gay men and lesbians will never know any different. I am overjoyed for them.Even in my joy, I remember the many who didn’t live to see this day: those who led tortured lives, pretending to be what they were not; the pioneering few who risked everything to create a new possibility; the honorable many who lived lives that were good and worthwhile, but lacking complete humanity because an important component of the human condition — loving commitment — was unimaginable. Today, I remember my brothers who died, who became the silver platter on which this grand right was acquired. Their suffering and strength brought homosexuality into mainstream consciousness. I remember my gay and lesbian aunts, uncles, sisters and brothers who, like me, came out to family and friends uncertain of the response. This road was paved by our peril. I salute all who canvassed and lobbied and protested and donated, all who knew that keeping silent meant death. I thank the allies who struggled with us mightily. They did not take their own privilege for granted; that is precious and exceedingly rare.To those Men in Power — officers, judges, senators, clergy — who told us we didn’t deserve what they claimed for themselves: No longer can you promote your own dignity at my expense. You may no longer cloak your bigotry in the Constitution. You must find a new way to buttress your worth in the world. This is the lesson of the Exodus: The fully-realized individual will not be kept down.We understand that this will be difficult for some. Change always is. We’ll have to work things out, and we’ll do so as we always have: together. Society will get used to it and be better for it. No member of the clergy will be required to marry any couple that he or she doesn’t want to. True liberty never requires the suppression of others’ dignity.
For a little over eight years we lived near Montreal, in Canada’s predominantly French-speaking Province of Quebec. Clearly the ability to communicate is key to our daily interactions, and a vital part of our life in the world, and our life in Christ. Some people are linguistically gifted and others aren’t. If you’ve ever traveled abroad then you know how frustrating it is if you can’t make yourself understood or understand what others are trying to say. I was blessed to have the opportunity to join a language class where we could all improve our ability to understand French (in this case), and converse more fluently. The emphasis was on practice, and the words that made the palms of my hands instantly sweaty were “Imaginez-vous!” This prompt, to imagine ourselves in some situation or other, was designed to give us the opportunity to talk about what was going on, describe the scene, the people, or the activity. Imagining the scene wasn’t a problem. Finding a way to express all that I wanted to say was much more difficult with my limited French vocabulary. So let’s skip the sweaty palms, and move straight on to imagination!Just a few weeks ago, we transformed our sanctuary into Everest base camp for our annual Vacation Bible School. It’s always a lot of fun, and I learn just as much from the children, as the children learn about God and our Lord Jesus. I really love spending time with children because their imaginations are so brilliant and present as they live in the moment. Just a few simple props transform our time and space into a glorious and beloved bible story. A balloon is the gateway to all kinds of new and exhilarating games, and an introduction to lots of new friends. Children hear and embrace God’s awesome truth in the wonder of their imaginations in a way that adults sometimes struggle to do. No wonder Jesus was eager for the children to come close to him, as Luke tells us (Luke 18:16-17), “But Jesus called for them and said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs. Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it.”In a week of fast-paced and jam-packed fun I’ve experienced, once again, how close we can all be to God through the joy of our imaginations, and the wonder of seeing like a child. With the summer heat and humidity wearing us down, let’s give ourselves permission to spend a little time seeing the world with the same awe as a child again. Hint: that’s not the same as being childish. Here are some ideas. A coloring book and crayons only cost a couple of bucks at a dollar store, or get a pack of balloons. Finding something to play with at home is completely free. Get out that squirt bottle and cool off in a fun game; find that old jigsaw puzzle or board game tucked away in the cupboard; doodle more; make some salt dough (the Internet has lots of easy recipes), add some food coloring and do a little sculpting. The possibilities are as endless as your imagination. As children of God, we sometimes take ourselves much too seriously and forget how to live in the moment. So take time out and play. Then reflect on how it feels to be a beloved child of God. Does it feel good to let your imagination have free rein? To create something – anything – just for fun? Or just to laugh and feel carefree for a while. Ask yourself what’s stopping you from being in the moment more often? What needs to change in your life so that you’re free to be a playful, imaginative, creative, beautiful, yet vulnerable child of God?I’ve heard it said that God has no grandchildren, and it’s true. We’re each called by name, into our relationship with God in Christ Jesus, and into the body of Christ. The choice to be a child of God is yours to make, and yours alone. Our faith isn’t dependent on what our parents or friends believe. It’s our choice to make. Our Lord asks us to share the Gospel so that every new generation is given the opportunity to make their choice. So here’s our end of summer challenge: Imagine how you will change the world as a child of God.• The Rev. Susan E. Wilmot is Vicar at St. James the Apostle Episcopal Church, 975 E. Warner Road, Tempe. Reach her at email@example.com or at 480-345-2686. Visit www.stjamestempe.org.