Rumble over Rosary at Brook Village

High Rise in the Dead of Winter

Humanists of RI posted a Facebook link to ABC 6 News– there’s a rumble over the Rosary at Brook Village—

It was a religious battle at a retirement home in North Providence. Seniors at Brook Village say they were banned from praying the rosary in common areas, but the company that owns the property is now saying the whole thing was blown out of proportion.

Every Monday morning, for the last 14 years, Nancy Davey has watched the same Catholic television show. She and a few others pray as they watch it in the community room at Brook Village.

“You know, we are not hurting anyone,” Davey said. “We sit there in front of a television. We have our rosary. We don’t say a word.”

Brook Village happens to be my old visiting nurse territory. It’s not exactly a ‘retirement home’. It’s a high-rise tower where tenants share laundry and community space, but mostly stay in their apartments. Not all of them are old, but it’s subsidized for elderly and disabled.

These places are physically very nice, but often isolating. When people do get social, disputes break out and grudges are held, often as not. Tenants retreat into their own space to avoid the other tenants they aren’t talking to. Honestly, this nurse thinks that human kindness is so precious in these places that she would almost recruit for the smoker’s group that hangs outside by the ash tray.

I have no doubt that, as Brook Village management says, the whole thing was blown out of proportion, and the management staff are popping Tums and wishing everyone would chill.

Some of my best friends are atheists, like Steve Ahlquist from Humanists of Rhode Island. He goes to my church. (If that sounds strange, let me tell you about First Unitarian some time.)

I have worked in places where, with no doubt good intentions, religious people created an environment that shut out those of us who didn’t believe. If your spirituality is not the majority, and you depend on your paycheck, you take a real risk in coming out as pagan.

I once worked in a nursing home, where a nice group of kids came to sing Christmas Carols, and ended with an altar call to bring all these unsaved elderly to Christ. I know they meant well, but some of those folks were Jewish, most were lifelong Catholics who shouldn’t be conned into renouncing Papism in their last days. My Christian family had no idea why I found this offensive.

Rather than trying to ban religious expression– which is impossible, I would like to see a policy of tolerance and respect for all our diverse beliefs, and non-beliefs. It might be hard to write into policy, but there’s a difference between using a common space and dominating it. You feel when you are in the presence of bullies though it’s hard to define exactly how you know. Maybe it’s a matter of time and space.

I’ve been around people who play religious TV stations, it’s as soothing as nails on a chalkboard to me, so I can understand how someone would not want to hear it in the common space. But at a reasonable volume for a limited time I could put up with it.

I would encourage the management of Brook Village not to be frightened of controversy, and to encourage the tenants to use the community rooms for activities, and to be good referees so that the rooms are accessible to everyone and no one group pulls a coup and takes over the space entirely. That’s a tough job, but I know that the building management could teach the UN a few things about negotiation and peacemaking, and I know they’re up for it.
[the picture is Centerdale Manor, twin building to Brook Village, they share a parking lot off the Centredale Rotary]

They Dump, We Pay

I’m on the road today, taking a break at the Liberty Elm. Not much time, but I’ve been on the intertubes late at night when I’m too tired to write, and there’s a little item from the back pages of the ProJo that caught my eye, back on July 27.

This is in my visiting nurse territory. The two elderly high-rise buildings on the end of Smith Street (you will have trouble finding because it’s off the Centredale roundabout) are built on contaminated land. Although I have not seen any three-winged geese or giant mushrooms in the little green patch alongside the parking lots, I do think it’s a shame that un-named persons left behind something as nasty as dioxin. Look up Agent Orange to learn more about how dioxin persists in the soil and water, and what it does to people.

The agency’s investigation found the highest levels of contaminants at a location along the river, just off Smith Street, where two apartment complexes are now in operation. Those complexes are Centredale Manor and Brook Village.

The site was a hub of activity for a former chemical company and a drum recycler, which polluted the area with dioxins during a period from the early 1940s to the early 1970s.

Soil at the main site contained levels of dioxins, PCBs, pesticides, metals and other pollutants that were in excess of environmental standards, according to the EPA.

Most of the contamination was in soils just below paved or capped areas; soils at deeper depths contained less pollution, according to the EPA.

Go to to read
and weep about the cost of the cleanup, and the pollution levels downstream from the little marsh behind the buildings. I have no idea how long that stuff persists if not remediated, but I have seen buildings come and go. A site for elderly housing today could be needed for families with children tomorrow. It would be a bright future if the grandkids could step on the grass.

This was just a little spot on the back pages of a slow news day. Citizen Pete in the comments asks why the Providence Journal doesn’t publish the names of the businesses that dumped all this stuff in the water. Good question.

And, oh yeah, I remember why I posted on this topic. Republican candidates are attacking the Environmental Protection Agency. Well, North Providence has this little remembrance from the good old days before regulation to clean up and pay for. Think of how much money we could have saved with prevention, and how careful the dumpers would have been if they had to pay for the mess.