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Emmanuel Lutheran brings ''Home' discussion to One Book Project

This fall Emmanuel Lutheran Church is once again a community partner in the One Book Project 2021.

We join sponsoring agencies Kern County Library and CSUB's First Year Experience Program in inviting all of Kern County to read "A Dream Called Home: A Memoir" by Reyna Grande and to discuss its powerful themes.

On Thursday evening, Emmanuel will offer a virtual interfaith panel discussion: "Faith•ful Home: Home as viewed by World Religions."

Each year, Emmanuel's One Book team approaches the themes of the chosen book from a faith-based perspective, shining light on the ethical and spiritual questions the book raises. In her book, Grande starts her memoir as a teen immigrant with few resources in an unfamiliar country and charts her quest to become a college graduate and a writer. Along the way, she reaches her lifelong dream, a true home, in both a physical and emotional sense. Some themes of the book are immigration, assimilation and the concept of home, whether brick and mortar, a cultural ideal, or a spiritual precept.

This year's panelists will share a brief reading or story from their sacred writings to use as an illustration and starting point to talk about the concept of home in their faith tradition. Panelist Alan Salazar, a Chumash and Tataviam tribe elder and storyteller, expresses the powerful hold one's physical home can have, explaining: "In our Tataviam and Chumash creation stories they state we were created here in our homeland. Whether it was the Sky People or Hutash, the Mother Earth Spirit that made us, we were created here in Tataviam or Chumash territory. This is my home. I was born here, I will die here."

Panelist Rev. H.T. Calhoun, pastor of Bakersfield's 135-year-old Mt. Zion Missionary Baptist Church, speaks passionately of the role of the church in community life: "The church has historically been the center of life for the black community. On Sunday, the principal, the doctor, the storekeeper and their families all gathered there."

An altogether different view will be explained by Hindu panelist Dr. Anil Mehta, who tells us, "The Lord says in the Bhagavad-Gita, 'My devotee has no home.'" Dr. Mehta is the president of Chinmaya Mission Bakersfield and has taught classes on the Bhagavad-Gita and meditation for over 20 years.

Panelist Rabbi Jonathan Klein of Temple Beth El will share the complexity of the concept of home in the Jewish faith tradition.

Dawn Wilder, Emmanuel's pastor and the panel's moderator, has expressed her enthusiasm about the program's distinguished panel of faith leaders and the opportunity to gain understanding from them about their faith and their community — our neighbors in Kern County.

The public is invited to join Thursday's Zoom discussion, which starts at 7 p.m. Participants, who can register up to an hour ahead of the program at emmanuelbakersfield.org, will have the opportunity to ask questions and add to this interfaith conversation. The discussion will be available later via Emmanuel Lutheran's YouTube channel linked on our website and Facebook page.

Kristie Coons is a congregant of Emmanuel Lutheran Church.