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December 2023 Newsbriefs


'Renewing Our Hope' is conference theme

The 2024 Eastern Washington Legislative Conference gathers multifaith and nonprofit leaders sharing insights on issues on the theme. "Renewing Our Hope for the Future" is the theme they will address in sessions from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m., Saturday, Jan. 27, both in person at the Spokane Valley United Methodist Church, 115 N. Raymond Rd., and on Zoom.

The first plenary includes young adults from Gonzaga University, Washington State University and the Peace and Justice Action League of Spokane.
A plenary panel exploring environmental justice and climate change issues includes Naghmana Sherazi of The Lands Council, Tom Soeldner of the Sierra Club and two others.

Morning workshops are understanding hate crimes with the NAACP, refugee/immigrants with the Washington State Immigrant Solidarity Network, health and environment with the Emergency Management of Spokane County, housing issues with the Tenants Union, Spokane Low Income Housing Consortium and Washington Low Income Housing Alliance, voting rights and indigenous issues.

Surrounding the hall during lunch, there will be 20 displays.

An afternoon panel features faith leaders including Gen Heywood of Faith Leaders and Leaders of Conscience, Sr. Pat Millen OSF of the Sisters of St. Francis of Philadelphia,  Karen Stromgren of Muslims for Community Action and support, and Rob McCann, CEO of Catholic Charities.

The final plenary offers briefings on issues before the legislature by Faith Action Network, Washington State Catholic Conference and Earth Ministry/Washington Interfaith Power and Light.

For information, call 535-4112 or email or

Fig Tree continues fund drive, sets benefits

As of Thanksgiving, The Fig Tree's 2023 Fall Festival of Sharing, which ran through the end of November, raised  more than $13,200 of its goal of $20,000 budgeted for sponsors by the end of the year.

The fall drive invites new sponsors and renewing sponsors to donate to support its mission of solutions journalism and resource connections.

The first months of 2024 The Fig Tree will focus on organizing and holding its Benefit Lunch in person from 11:30 to 1 p.m., Friday, March 8, at Cataldo Hall at Gonzaga University, and its online Breakfast-time Benefit from 7:45 to 8:45 a.m., Wednesday, March 13 on Zoom.

With a business plan like public broadcasting, The Fig Tree relies on the support of donors who give from a $20 basic sponsorship to a $2,500 underwriting gift.

Board of Directors members provided $4,000 in matching gifts to draw the first donors.

For information, visit

The Fig Tree plans to celebrate 40 years in Spring 2024 at the Benefit events in March and a Gala Anniversary Event from 5 to 8 p.m., Sunday, April 28, at the Cathedral of St. John.

"Sharing Stories: Empowering People" is the theme.

The Fig Tree will share articles on its history, journalism approach, volunteers and staff.

For the Gala, Karen Georgia Thompson, president and general minister of the United Church of Christ and a member of the World Council Central Committee, will share about the unique role of The Fig Tree in ecumenical communications.

The event will include interfaith worship, dinner and a panel of faith leaders discussing the unique role of The Fig Tree in strengthening communication, ecumenism and common action among the churches.

For information, call 535-4112 or visit

Fig Tree speaker heads national church

Karen Georgia Thompson was installed as general minister and president of the United Church of Christ (UCC) on Oct. 20 at Lakewood Congregational in Ohio. She is the first woman to hold this post.

Karen Georgia will be the featured speaker for The Fig Tree's 40th anniversary on Sunday, April 28, at the Cathedral of St. John in Spokane.

Merlyn Hyde Riley, WCC central committee vice-moderator and a pastor, offered a sermon celebrating Karen Georgia as someone called by God into leadership. 

"This is a historic moment in the UCC. God has called into leadership an African-American woman, someone from a group of people historically displaced, dispossessed and disenfranchised," she said.

"Given that oppressors usually believe it is in their interest to maintain the status quo, God is making all things new," she said.

"Barriers are broken down. Domination is set aside. False claims are exposed. Victims are made to conceive of new possibilities," said Merlyn. "The church must provide leadership for the transformation of our world, but transformation is not always quick or easy.

"This may often appear to be an impossibility," she said, "but we should remember that the same God who makes a wave in the sea and gives water in the wilderness continues to be with us."

Karen Georgia responded: "We are the church in all its manifestations. We are but a fraction of what it means and what it is to be the people of God."

For information, visit and watch for information on The Fig Tree's 40th anniversary.

Fig Tree receives Holy Names Sisters grant

The Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary U.S.-Ontario (SNJM) awarded a ministry grant of $3,885 to The Fig Tree for 2023-24.

They funded 40 proposals doing collaborative ministries that reflect their charism and values. That was 18 more than last year, with eight sisters and 10 associates partnering.

The total requests were greater than the amount budgeted, so the funds were apportioned.

The Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary have been a partner with The Fig Tree since its founding in 1984 by the late Bernadine Casey SNJM and Mary Stamp who worked together for many years as co-editors. Sr. Bernadine died in 2006.

Since then other sisters have assisted in different ways, including Mary Ann Farley SNJM, who served on the board, and Catherine Ferguson SNJM, who currently serves on the board, helps with development, volunteers at events, helps with editing and writes articles.

"We value our partnership in this ministry with the Sisters of the Holy Names throughout the years," said Mary.

"As we approach our 40th anniversary in 2024, we will be sharing more details about that relationship and how important the sisters have been in our existence and our sustenance," she added.

For information, call 535-1813 or email

Second Harvest seeks monthly donors

Because hunger doesn't happen only during the holidays, Second Harvest Inland Northwest invites the community to join Feed365, a hunger crusade to build a hunger-free community that provides hope for children, families and seniors by assuring nutritious food year-round.

Feed365 invites people to become monthly donors to create a reliable source of year-round funding for healthful, fresh meals.

Those who don't know where their next meal is coming from face uncertainty that can be alleviated by those who eat three meals a day every day.

Reliable monthly gifts are the lifeblood of many organizations, and Second Harvest is no different, said Shannon Kinney, philanthropy manager. 

"Consistent funding allows us to plan, schedule deliveries and pick up donated food, knowing we'll have the fuel to get us there. Consistent funding means Mobile Market free food distributions will serve neighbors in communities throughout Eastern Washington and North Idaho, rain or shine. Consistent funding means nutritious food gets into the hands of families turning to food banks for help," she said.

Feed365 provides consistent impact, convenience and efficiency. Monthly donations are a stable source of funding for programs across Second Harvest. There is no need to set reminders or mail in a check; contributions are automatic and convenient, managed through Second Harvest's website.

A reduction in administrative costs ensures a larger portion of gifts can go directly to support hunger relief programs, maximizing efficiency.

For information, call 252-6242, email or visit

Daffodils planted around synagogue

During October, members of Congregation Emanu-El and Temple Beth Shalom planted daffodil bulbs around the synagogue as part of the global Holocaust memorial project,  "Daffodil Project," reported Leah Berkowitz of the synagogue.

The Daffodil Project is committed to Holocaust and genocide education and awareness through action.

Across the world, synagogues, churches, schools, city parks and botanical gardens planted 861,000 daffodils so far in remembrance of the 1.5 million children who died in the Holocaust.

The yellow color represents the yellow stars Jews were forced to wear during the Holocaust and is the color of remembrance, Leah said. Daffodils are resilient, returning each spring with their bright color signifying hope, renewal and beauty. The daffodils also honor those who survived the Holocaust and went on to build new lives.

When they bloom in the spring they will send a message of hope and resilience so that people will act for a more just world today.

For information, call 747-3304 or visit or

Podcast addresses domestic violence

A recent Gathering for Good podcast through the Women Helping Women Fund highlighted Jemma Riedel-Johnson from YWCA, speaking about actions during Domestic Violence Action Month.

Her presentation is at

In addition, the Women Helping Women Fund provides scholarships to Spokane area women juggling the cost of tuition and childcare while they study at trade schools, in technical programs, or for associate or bachelor degrees at local colleges and universities.

Scholarships from $1,500 to $4,000 are based on academic merit, character and financial need.

The scholarships are named for Vivian Winston, who was a pioneer in social justice, who championed the cause of women and children, served as a member of Spokane's League of Women Voters from its inception in 1948 and was the first woman president of Spokane United Way in 1969.

Scholarship applications are open through Jan. 31, 2024, with recipients notified by early April 2024.

For information, visit

Riverkeeper announces leadership team

The Spokane Riverkeeper has announced its new leadership team, who begin in January 2024, retaining staff members Katherine (Katie) Thompson, and Jule Schultz, and adding Katelyn Scott.

The new co-leadership team model shares the roles filled by outgoing executive director Jerry White Jr. as Riverkeeper or Waterkeeper to protect the Spokane River.

Long-time program director, Jule, will assume the role of Waterkeeper and focus on connecting local communities to the Spokane River. He will lead the community science and salmon recovery programs, and manage the growing river cleanup program.

Katelyn, a practicing attorney, who grew up in the Greater Spokane area, will assume the role of water protector and manage the clean water defense and the river flow programs to guide the organization in an age of rapid climate change and threats from urban expansion. She will use her legal experience to leverage existing law to give the Spokane River a voice at the centers of power.

Katie, who is currently managing director, joins Jule, and Katelyn to form an executive leadership team.

A co-leadership team model will share executive decision-making to maximize the strengths of staff members as Spokane Riverkeeper provides leadership from a team to diversify the organization's skills, knowledge and perspectives.

For information, call 464-7614 or visit

Palouse groups present Fair Trade Craft Sale

Just Trade and the Interfaith Connection of the Palouse will present a Fair Trade Craft Sale and Benefit from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 2, and from noon to 3 p.m., Sunday, Dec. 3, at Simpson United Methodist Church, 325 NE Maple St. in Pullman. Crafts from around the world will include jewelry, baskets and musical instruments. Half of the profit will go to the English language instruction fund for refugees in Pullman area.

For information, email

Habitat dedicates home for family Dec. 7

Habitat for Humanity-Spokane will hold a home dedication from noon to 1 p.m., Thursday, Dec. 7, at 5617 E. Union in Spokane. Habitat will present keys for an affordable home to the Alshaar family and the home they helped build will be open to tour.

For information, call 534-2552 or email

First Presbyterian hosts Messiah Sing-a-long

The 2023 Handel's Messiah Sing-a-long at First Presbyterian Church, 318 S. Cedar, will be start at 5:15 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 9. A suggested donation of $10 is requested.

Reservations are required to join in the Sing-a-long Choir rehearsal from 1:30 to 2:30 p.m. Music scores will be available. The church has presented Handel's Messiah as a sing-along since 1910, except during the pandemic.

The conductor is church music director Derrick Parker. Soloists will be Heather Parker, soprano; Amanda Glover, alto; Joel Cummings, tenor, and John Frankhauser, bass.

For information, visit It includes a YouTube link for a livestream of this event.

Harmony Woods staff lead retreat on Dec. 9

"Into Divine Embrace: Letting Go into Your Unfolding" is a retreat from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 9 at Harmony Woods Retreat Center.

The retreat, co-led by Lindsay Daehlin, therapist and Reiki master, and Christi Ortiz, spiritual director and meditation teacher, will be a day of meditation, breathwork, Reiki attunements, QiGong immersion in nature and therapeutic practices.

For information, email or visit

Temple Beth Shalom celebrates Chanukah

Temple Beth Shalom will celebrate a community Chanukah at 5 p.m. on Sunday, Dec. 10, at 1322 E. 30th Ave.

There will be candle lighting, games for kids, adult socializing. They are hosting a drive for gloves, hats, scarves and socks for homeless adults. Reservations requested.

For information, visit

German Christmas Service will be Dec. 17

The annual German Christmas Service will be held at 3 p.m., Sunday, Dec. 17, at St. Mark's Lutheran Church, at 24th and Grand Blvd. in Spokane. The ecumenical service has been held at St. Mark's most years since 1998.

This service features the Concordia Choir singing traditional Christmas selections. The Scripture readings will also be in German, the language that Martin Luther spoke.

The Christmas message will be given in English by Edwin Weber, the pastor at St. Mark's.

Following the service, the German-American Society will serve coffee and cake at 25 W. Third Ave.

For information, call 747-6677.

Homeless Coalition recruits churches

Spokane Homeless Coalition invites faith communities to open their buildings to serve as temporary shelters during the coldest days/months. Staff would be by local service providers and volunteers.

The hope would be that participating faith communities could house 10-12 unhoused neighbors. Jewel's Helping Hands and the City of Spokane would handle insurance.

The goal is to keep homeless community members warm and safe, build community, make good use of buildings, collaborate with local service provider staff and volunteers, and maintain simple rules.

Options for participating include sheltering 10-20 people on coldest days/months, one week a month, allowing safe parking for others, provide food, volunteers, transportation or other basic resources to support other warming center sites.

For information on site set-up and operation, email
For volunteer and intake coordination, email






Copyright@ The Fig Tree, December 2023