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February 2017 News Reports

Gospel Explosion marks its 20th year

Whitworth University presents the 20th annual Gospel Explosion Celebration on “The Heavens Declare the Glory of God” at 7 p.m., Friday, Feb. 10, in Sealy Mudd Chapel.

Stephy Nobles-Beans, coordinator for diversity, equity and inclusive ministries at the Whitworth Chapel, invites area churches to participate in Whitworth’s recognition of African American History Month.

The event features a concert by the Exceptional Praise Gospel Choir Club at Whitworth and choirs from area congregations.

The Gospel Explosion began in 1997 to bring together Spokane’s churches and Whitworth to promote diversity and unity on campus and in the community.

For information, call 777-4568 or email

Fig Tree planning annual Benefit Breakfast, Lunch

“Beyond the News: Creating Community” is the theme for The Fig Tree’s 2017 Benefit Lunch on Friday, March 10, and Benefit Breakfast on Wednesday, March 15, in Cataldo Hall at Gonzaga University.

The Fig Tree marks 34 years of publishing this year, sharing news of people who are making a difference because of their faith and values, and connecting people in the caring community through the annual Resource Directory.

Lunch speakers will be Mable Dunbar, director of the Women’s Healing and Empowerment Network; Scott Cooper, director of Parish Social Ministries with Catholic Charities of Spokane; Anne Salisbury, a long-time Fig Tree volunteer in Coeur d’Alene, and Pat Millen OSF, former director of St. Joseph Family Center and a Fig Tree Board member.

Breakfast speakers will include Dia Maurer, who has associated with The Fig Tree over the years in leadership roles with Partnering 4 Progress, Transitions and Habitat for Humanity;  Rusty Nelson, retired director of the Peace and Justice Action League of Spokane; Dean Lynch, the president of the new Spokane County Human Rights Task Force, and Freda Gandy, executive director of the Martin Luther King Jr. Family Outreach Center.

The speakers will share their insights on the value of The Fig Tree in their varied roles in the community.

The planning committee is still recruiting people to host tables of eight guests.  Hosts donate $100 to cover the cost of the meals for their guests, who are invited to come and hear The Fig Tree story and donate to help cover the costs of publishing the newspaper and directory.

Organizers are still recruiting hosts with the goal of having more than 30 tables at each event.

“Last year we raised $30,400 through these benefits.  This year we seek to reach a goal of $50,000 to help us build our capacity and involve additional writers, editors and online media communicators,” said editor Mary Stamp.

This year, we have the services of Austriauna Brooks as an intern from Whitworth University.  She will help with the promotional video, writing articles and assisting with online presence through social media.

“We continue to offer training for writers and editors as a way to involve new people,” said Mary.

The Fig Tree began publication in 1984 to cover religion in the region.  It’s mission includes connecting diverse people, sharing their stories to build understanding and see how lives intersect with justice and ethics issues, she added. 

Being published monthly gives writers and editors time to offer reflection and encourage dialogue, she said.  The goal is also to help individuals and groups network, pool ideas and resources, and join in common action locally and globally.

The Resource Directory connects people and builds awareness many ways the faith, nonprofit and civic communities serve.

For information, call 535-1813 or email

Advent Lutheran distributes 11 grants

Advent Lutheran Church in Spokane Valley recently distributed $9,332.  Half went to outreach programs and half to Evangelical Lutheran Church in America congregations and programs.

The Fig Tree and annual Resource Directory were among 11 2016 recipients. The distribution to The Fig Tree was $1,000.

The church has given grants from its endowment fund in all but one year since Advent Lutheran formed from a merger of Christ Lutheran and Good Shepard Lutheran five and a half years ago.

“The amount we distribute depends on how well the fund does on the market,” said Matt Larson, pastor.

This year, their investments earned enough so they could distribute 5 percent, he said.

In addition to The Fig Tree, other recipients were the Washington State University and Eastern Washington University Lutheran campus ministries, Wilbur Lutheran for youth music ministry, Celebration Lutheran in East Wenatchee for youth ministry, Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary for student scholarships, Widows Might in Spokane Valley, ALC Child Center for the playground, Lutheran Community Services for the refugee program and Advent Lutheran Youth.

For information, call 928-7733.

Crisis Nursery celebrates its 30th year

The Vanessa Behan Crisis Nursery, a local nonprofit dedicated to shaping the future of Spokane by keeping children safe and strengthening families, celebrated their 30th anniversary in January.

It is also marking a record-breaking year in 2016.

In 1987, when the nursery opened its doors, 427 children were served.  In 2016, the center cared for 5,214 children.

The program evolved from the story of Vanessa Kay Behan, a Spokane girl who died from child abuse injuries at the age of two.

The news of her death outraged the greater Spokane community, including the Vanessa Behan Crisis Nursery founder Bill Bialkowsky and a group of business people who resolved to provide intervention for children who were at risk of abuse or neglect.

After five years of research and raising funds, the Vanessa Behan Crisis Nursery opened on Jan. 9, 1987. Since then nearly 92,000 children have found refuge there.

For information, call 535-3155 or visit

Spokane River Forum plans H2O Breakfast

The Spokane River Forum is planning its annual H2O Breakfast from 7:30 to 10 a.m., Friday March 17, meeting at the Lincoln Center, 1316 N. Lincoln St., to hear H2O keynote speaker Craig Mackey.

Craig is co-director of Protect the Flows, the Business Voice for the Colorado River.  He will discuss goals of managing water resources affecting the Spokane River and the Spokane Valley Rathdrum Prairie Aquifer.

He will discuss how a community can embrace growth while accommodating future water resource needs.  His efforts cut across public, private and nonprofit sectors with innovative partnerships and solution-oriented approaches.

The forum presents the Spokane River Cleanup, Upriver Scrub and volunteer opportunities.

For information, call 535-7084 or email

Peace and Justice Conference is Feb. 24 to 25

“Rise Up and Resist” is the theme for the 8th annual Peace and Economic Justice Action Conference, Friday and Saturday, Feb. 24 and 25, at the Unitarian Universalist Church, 4340 W. Ft. Wright Dr.

There will be a Friday evening social time and the conference Saturday will be from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., with three education action workshop sessions with a choice of seven workshops each time and a keynote speaker at lunch.

It’s an opportunity to connect with people who are working on the various issues related to peace and justice.  It is planned by the Peace and Justice Action League of Spokane.

For information, call 838-7870 or visit

Faith Partners offer trafficking workshop

Faith Partners is offering a multi-faith workshop on “Faith Communities Respond to Human Trafficking” in the Spokane Region, with an emphasis addressing the commercial sexual exploitation of adults and youth.

It will be held from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., Monday, March 6, at Providence Health Care at Providence Holy Family Hospital’s Health Education Center, 5633 N. Lidgerwood St.

Many faith-based projects on human trafficking arise where religious communities seek to assist victims of this human rights violation.

The mission of Faith Partners, a Spokane-based collaborative between social service agencies and faith representatives, is to support the faith community in responding to domestic violence, sexual assault and human trafficking. 

Project partners include YWCA Spokane, Women’s Healing and Empowerment Network and Lutheran Community Services Northwest. 

The workshop will increase awareness and understanding of human trafficking in the region and explore strategies to address the needs of the victim/survivors. 

Participants will receive current information on research and best practices, and will share ideas on how faith communities can respond in an effective, compassionate and informed manner.

“The faith community has a profound impact on its members, therefore it is imperative that we work together to respond to the issue of human trafficking in Spokane County in order to improve the quality of life for all citizens,” said Mable Dunbar of Faith Partners and director of the Women’s Healing and Empowerment Network.

Debbie DuPey, state certified victim advocate and educator with Lutheran Community Services, will give an overview of human trafficking in the region, basic advocacy for survivors and local resources. 

Marian Beaumier, who has been involved in education and social work in the Spokane area for 30 years, will lead an interactive experience and give a keynote address to help participants understand the impact of trauma on victims and explore the concept of trauma in informed care.

Marian has taught at Gonzaga University, coordinated adult faith formation in Catholic parishes, offered clinical social work in a community mental health agency and served as clinical director for a nonprofit agency.  She believes that respect for each person’s right to dignity and self-determination is paramount. 

Competent service coupled with respect leads to healthy progress, she pointed out.

The workshop will end with a multi-faith panel including representatives from Christian, Buddhist, Islam and Jewish traditions who will offer participants information about how their own communities are responding.  Mable will facilitate the panel discussion.

For information, call 323-2123 or email or visit the Faith Partners Facebook Page.

Habitat recruits churches for Building on Faith in February

Part of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s (MLK) dream was for people to move from rat-infested slums and to open doors of opportunity through home ownership.

Habitat for Humanity-Spokane will offer opportunities to volunteers to help build homes on Saturdays, Feb. 4, 11, 18, and 25. Volunteers from area congregations will partner with Habitat-Spokane in “Building on Faith.”

That program is an opportunity to work with people in other congregations in shifts from 8:30 a.m. to noon or 12:30 to 4:30 p.m. to help build a Habitat house.

Fund development and marketing manager Angie Funnel said that the Building on Faith work days  “provide a tangible opportunity to act on faith.”

As people engage in helping build a house, they gain a new understanding of poverty housing.  Working side-by-side with the future homeowners, they see them as real people and partners, she said.

“Getting to know people in need of housing creates an urgency to respond,” said Angie.

As with all its projects, volunteers also help eliminate poverty housing in other countries, because Habitat-Spokane sets aside 10 percent of the money it raises locally to cover the cost of building houses in other countries, where construction costs are lower.

Angie said a sense of community develops as people work together to build houses.  Friendships grow in congregations and the community.

“Many congregations experience spiritual renewal when they build a house.  Lives are changed.  Often new families join a church and the congregation sees new purpose,” she said.

The commitment to sponsor a house includes praying about the project, raising money and recruiting volunteers. 

As a partner with a congregation, Habitat-Spokane provides a lot, screens the family, gives construction supervision and direction, does legal work for closing and processing a mortgage, and offers guidance and resources to help the church organize and promote the project.

On MLK Day, Habitat-Spokane dedicated a home for Lanny, Bill and Christopher Anderson because decent, affordable housing is part of Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream for justice.

The Andersons lived in a lower South Hill home with ventilation and infestation problems, because it was what they could afford. 

Habitat-Spokane is an ecumenical ministry collaborating with 30 Spokane County churches.

For information, call 534-2552 or visit

Shalom Ministries continues to serve meals to homeless

Shalom Ministries continues to serve breakfast at 7:30 a.m., Mondays to Thursdays, and dinners at 4:30 p.m., Mondays and Tuesdays, in the Central United Methodist building at 518 W. Howard.  A sale is pending to a church that plans to continue it at least two years.

The Shalom Pathways program offers case management and benefits for the core team of homeless volunteers who are clean and sober. They can stay in the lounge during the day and access services.

For information, call 455-9019 or visit