The Evergrey — Meet the Seminarians

by The Evergrey

The Evergrey

August 14, 2018

It all started four days after the 2016 presidential election, when Seattle’s Eric Liu gave his first “civic sermon.”

“Many of you feel not just shocked but betrayed. Not just sad but grief-stricken,” Eric said then, sounding like a pastor in church. “So we gather today in search of a spirit of fellowship and common purpose.”

It happened at the first Civic Saturday — an event that responded to that urge to be in a room together, and connect to a civic purpose that seemed strained, confused, or shattered. People reflected and shared ideas. And there’s been Civic Saturdays in Seattle every couple months or so since.

“I’ll admit initially, words like ‘sermon,’ and [the idea of] Civic Saturday as an ‘analogue to church’ — in Seattle, in particular, it’s really provocative to use language like that,” said Kristin Leong, a former teacher who’s now the community engagement producer at KUOW.

But after Kristin went to a Civic Saturday herself, the language made sense. Americans aren’t just motivated by the issues they care about, she said, but by the personal principles behind them.

“No other time in my life have I seen people wanting that, and wanting political leadership to align with their values,” Kristin said.

Kristin and a fellow Seattleite — Tamara Power-Drutis — just wrapped a week of training in Citizen University’s new training program, Civic Seminary. One goal of the program? To pass on the skills and practice from Seattle’s Civic Saturdays and see what develops. Tamara and Kristin joined eight other “seminarians” from around the country to learn about American civic rituals, reflect on the ethical foundations of their beliefs, and practice delivering their own “civic sermons.”

“There’s been variations of disbelief, of anger, of urgency with forced optimism, and through all that, there’s a weight that everyone seems to share of too many battles being fought on too many fronts,” said Tamara, who was most recently chief of staff at Amplifier, a nonprofit design lab for political movements.

“I need my patriotism to be rekindled in the way that that can only be done by having a variety of perspectives and a variety of ideas and people in a room finding what our common ground is.”

What’s next for Kristin and Tamara? They’re working on some ideas, and we’ll keep you posted. If Civic Seminary sounds like something you’d be into, stay tuned. Citizen University will be recruiting new seminarians beginning in the fall and you can sign up to get notified here. As for Seattle’s next Civic Saturday (they’re all over the country now!), that’ll happen on October 20 at the Fremont Abbey.