Past Recordings of Adult Discussion Group

11 Aug 19: “The Happiest Places on Earth” by Frank Hanzel

Why are the people of Finland and Denmark so much happier than the people of most other countries, including the United States ? Using the findings of the 2019 World Happiness Report released by the United Nations, Frank shows the “happiness” rankings of the top 50 and bottom 20 countries. He then discusses the factors that scientists and economists believe generate this happiness.

4 Aug 19: "Countries of Our Ecumenical Prayer Cycle" by Sheila Troupe

Sheila began by stressing the importance of our understanding something about the various countries that we pray for each Sunday during our ecumenical prayer cycle. Today Sheila focused on three countries in central west Africa (using for each country a “Geography Now !” video on YouTube):
• Equatorial Guinea (
• Central African Republic (
• Cameroon (

28 July 19: "Comedy and Spirituality" by Patrick Rowland

Patrick is Sylvia Miller’s husband and is an improvisational comedian who studied, and then taught, improv at Second City in Chicago, and now teaches improv at Westside Comedy Central in Santa Monica. Today Patrick taught us some of the rudimentary skills of improv, using a cycle that begins with our creating a one-sentence story (often exaggerated) quickly in response to a topic suggestion, then our partner building immediately upon our story, which we then extend further. This requires that we listen carefully to the story being told by our partner, and then quickly build upon it.

21 July 19: “Intergenerational Worship” by Sylvia Miller

Sylvia states that church-going children need to develop relationships with not only other children in their church, but also with adult members. Otherwise, after high school graduation, they are likely to leave their church and not return. She asserts that for children to remain religious active after they leave home, they need to have developed a connection to the greater life of their church. Sylvia discusses possible ways to improve MBCC’s inter-generational communication.

14 July 19: "Prayer Consists of Attention" by Jim Burklo

Referring to the teachings of the French philosopher, Simone Weil, Jim Burklo begins by stating that God is love, and love is attention. Specifically, God is the attention that we compassionately focus on other people, on our own experiences, and on the world around us. How can we cultivate this attention in our lives ? Jim continues by leading us in exploring the spiritual discipline of attention.

30 June 19: Defending Immigrant Kids Without Parents (KIND)

“Kids In Need Of Defense” (KIND) is a nationwide non-profit organization that provides attorneys at no cost to represent unaccompanied immigrant and refugee children in their deportation legal proceedings. KIND ensures that no child stands in court alone. Many of these children are fleeing pervasive narco-trafficking, human trafficking, gang violence, and sexual abuse (rape, etc.) in Central America. Our speakers are two lawyers and a social worker from KIND.

23 June 19: The Changing Landscape of Gender Identity (Linda Reeves)

As documented by historians and anthropologists, the diversity of gender is a normal part of human experience across cultures and throughout history. This talk will explain the dimensions of gender identity and explore the reasons we are seeing more people identifying as something other than the sex they were assigned at birth. This is an opportunity to explore gender with new eyes and ask questions to better understand gender’s complexity. Our speaker, Linda K. Reeves, is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist specializing in working with LGBTQ individuals, couples, and families.

9 June 19: “The Meaning of the Mueller Report” by Alden Munson

Alden discusses the high points of the Mueller Report, which deals with Russian interference in our 2016 election and related possible obstruction of justice by our President. Alden then attempts to answer three questions:
• How did we get to this point ? (What made this interference possible ?)
• What does the Mueller report really mean ? (What implications ?)
• Where is this going to lead us ?

2 June 19: “Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood” by Dr. Najwa al-Qattan

Dr. al-Qattan is a Palestinian who was raised in Beirut and for the past decade has been teaching Middle East history at Loyola Marymount Univ. She explains that, excluding the army, the Muslim Brotherhood is the strongest political force in Egypt, and it also has strong popular support elsewhere in other Arab countries. It advocates for social justice, provides numerous social services to the public, and rejects many western values (a legacy of European colonialism). It has opposed all four of Egypt’s military rulers – – Nasser, Sadat, Mubarak, and now el-Sisi. Dr. al-Qattan describes in detail the brotherhood’s rocky relationship with these army rulers. She also discusses Arab Spring, and the differing impacts it had in the various Arab counties.

19 May 19: “Other Religions of India - Sikhism and Jainism” by Dr. Phyllis Herman

Our topic, “Other Religions of India – Sikhism and Jainism”, was presented by CSUN’s Dr. Phyllis Herman, an expert on India’s religions. Last Oct 21st Dr. Herman talked to us about Hinduism and Buddhism, and now she discusses two lesser-known religions that have nevertheless had a significant impact upon India. Sikhism with 25 million followers began around 1500 (A.D.) and is monotheistic, while Jainism with nearly 5 million followers is non-theistic and dates back to before the 8th century BCE.

12 May 19: "Fake News" by Rev. Matthew Baugh

America is currently a very politically polarized nation. One cause for this is that we are being bombarded with “news” from many sources that exacerbate our polarization. Some of these news sources are highly questionable and are, in fact, promoting their own special interests, rather than the public interest. How can we recognize the factually accurate news from a biased version ? Rev. Baugh gives us examples of this bias and shows ways and tools to recognize and bypass these biased versions and connect directly to authentic news sources.

28 Apr 19: "Mary, Mother of Jesus" by Julye Bidmead

Dr. Bidmead of Chapman Univ begins by describing the social conditions and the role of women in the very patriarchal society of first century Palestine, including in Nazareth. Then, using the New Testament, the Gnostic Gospels, and the Infancy Gospels, she discusses Mary (what little we know about her), including her virgin pregnancy and the social stigma associated with it.

14 Apr 19: "Our Evolving Community Colleges" by Carole Wenger

The topic, “Our Evolving Community Colleges” is presented from the specific perspective of Los Angeles City College by its Director of Alumni Relations, Carole Wenger. She explains that while some of the LACC students were attracted because of the low tuition cost or the proximity to their home, many other students were not yet ready to cope with the pressures of traditional 4-year colleges. Among their personal problems are homelessness, family problems, poverty, and illnesses. In many cases LACC students are able to soon move beyond these problems and to do well academically. Carole discusses the degree of support the LACC can provide to students with these problems.

7 Apr 19: "Why the Lack of Democracy in the Middle East?" by Dr. Feryal Cherif

Why are there so few democracies in the Middle East ? Our speaker, Dr. Feryal Cherif of LMU’s Political Science Dept, explains the major factors that make this possible. First, the petroleum wealth of many of these counties enables them to have little or no taxes and to also provide free public education and numerous no-cost services. Thus, governments buy the allegiance of their public. Leaders and their military have become very skilled at suppressing dissent. Further, the Muslim clerics are funded by the government, and thus are co-opted by the government. Also, there is no inherited tradition of democracy, so people must look outside their societies for examples. Dr. Cherif explains this in depth and discusses additional factors.

31 March 19: “Jewish Conquest of Ancient Canaan” by Dr. Daniel Smith-Christopher

Until the 1960’s the biblical explanation (books of Joshua and Judges) of the Jewish ascendancy in Canaan held widespread acceptance. Then two new theories were proposed, based upon new evidence including archeological discoveries, and have competed against each other and have mostly replaced the older biblical explanation. Dr. Daniel Smith-Christopher, Old Testament professor at LMU, explains both new theories, giving the arguments in favor of each.

24 March 19: “Jerry & Tatenda Johnson’s Return to Zimbabwe”

Jerry and Tatenda Johnson, who will return to Harare, Zimbabwe in April, discuss the current political and economic situation there, including the Nov 2017 military coup and the resulting changes. Then they discuss their upcoming return and explain their plans and goals for continuing to help street children in Harare.

17 March 19: "Empowering Muslim Women" by Meryem Ozer

The first half of this presentation is a Powerpoint discussion by Meryem Ozer about the how the Prophet Muhammad personally dealt with the gender issues of his time. The second half is a discussion by several Muslim high school girls from Pacifica Institute families about their career goals as they prepare for college and about the freedoms they enjoy in America (compared to Middle East countries) and about the occasional acts of intolerance they encounter.

10 March 19: "Blankets Of Love" by Cyndi Strand

Blankets of Love is a volunteer group of roughly 50 South Bay volunteers who create handmade (knitted or crocheted) baby blankets which are then donated to needy newborn babies. Our ADG speaker, Cyndi Strand, founded this volunteer group in 2016 in the aftermath of her son’s death due to drug addiction. In addition to explaining the efforts of the blankets of Love volunteer group, Cyndi discusses the role the group played in her path to healing after the loss of her son.

3 Mar 19: “Black Liberation Music Thru Song” by Kim Harris

Spiritual music of the 1960’s civil rights marches in the Deep South and the 1860’s underground railroad was sung with considerable emotion by Dr. Kim Harris. She frequently prompted the audience to sing with her. She is a professor of religious music at LMU, and holds a Ph.D. in Worship and the Arts from Union Theological Seminary in New York City. While pursuing her Ph.D. she composed “Welcome Table: A Mass of Spirituals” which is used at many black Catholic churches.

24 Feb 19: "Interviewing Sylvia Miller" by Rich Sundeen

On Feb 24th Sylvia Miller, our minister of faith formation starting last October, is interviewed by Rich Sundeen. Since both Rich and Sylvia attended seminary, Rich uses his expertise to explore the impact of her seminary experiences. Sylvia also discusses growing up in a very small town (population of 665) in the Ozarks of south western Missouri. She then talks about her career path, interests, life choices, and ideas about faith formation, especially for the youth of our church.