What is Code?
by Rev. Rivka Gevurtz

Some of us older folks might remember the excitement of finding the decoder ring in our box of cereal as kids.  Others might recall geeking out and learning to write code for early computer classes.  But what is ChI’s Deep Culture Hive talking about in this new conversation on CODE?

CODE stands for Cultural Operations that Determine Entry.  On one level it is simply the cultural norms which the collective has adopted, and can be neutral or positive in nature.  However, in systemic oppression, how that translates are the many ways that segments of our community are denied entry into the privileges which enable access to jobs, homes, education, marriage, healthcare… the list goes on and on.  These are the unspoken assumptions that we don’t even think about. 

For example, if you are other than Christian in this country, part of the CODE that one comes up against is that the secular calendar is really the Christian calendar.  Not only are the legal holidays those of the dominant Christian culture, but it is not uncommon for events like the Run for the Arts (that many elementary schools have in the fall) to coincide with Rosh HaShanah, or worse, on Yom Kippur.  Many a youth have had trouble performing tasks on a test day that falls during Passover or Ramadan, due to late night seders or all day fasting respectively.

Another example is the right to marry, so recently won by queer couples.  Most heteronormative people are not even aware of the over 1400 rights and privileges they are guaranteed by virtue of their marriage license, but any queer person who has been denied hospital visitation of their beloved or prevented from adopting children knows this barrier all too well.

In August and September, ChI leadership (board, faculty, staff, and Hive members) participated in a series of classes through Edutainment for Equity.  Out of those classes, we determined to examine the Cultural Operations that Determine Entry (CODE) at ChI, and have begun to ask that question – what our codes are – at faculty meetings, board meetings and at our recent Town Hall event. 

One example that was voiced (in one of these gatherings) was that “ChI has a West Coast vibe.” That bit of CODE, when teased out, could have multiple meanings and connotations; good, bad and neutral, as well as the dialectical of both/and. When we consider this particular CODE, one thread might be interpreted as liberal elitism; another could be hippy-ish and lacking rigor, while at the same time noting that the state standards for many fields in California are actually so rigorous as to be accepted as The Standard for other states.  Still, another thread might be that California (and by extension ChI) is a place welcoming of diverse thoughts, beliefs, and peoples. 

What do you think?  What are the codes you can identify that are part of the fabric of ChI? What are the barriers created by the words we use, the traditions we enact; the assumptions we make? The more we understand ourselves, not only as individuals but as a collective, the more we can make conscious choices about how we interact with each other and widen our welcome.  The DC Hive is currently taking a deep look at everything from our admissions forms to our hiring practices, as well as our course content.  Currently, the Hive has three working groups exploring curriculum, language and financial access. If you would like to share thoughts about these areas of code, or simply want to add your own observation of a code in effect, reach out to our Deep Culture Specialist, Wren Ganin-Pinto, at wren@chaplaincyinstitute.org.

On January 20th, 2022, we invite current students to attend a student drop-in time from 12:00-12:30 pm, during the regular Hive meeting, to share your thoughts about how Chi’s codes impact your experience.

One way everyone can participate in exploring the impacts of ChI’s code will be through a new spiritual practice opportunity.  As has been shared in other announcements, our monthly contemplative service is moving from Sundays to a weeknight.  Beginning in the new year, we will be adding a practice to this service, similar to Catholicism’s Examen, focused on how we each understand our experience of CODE and social justice as spiritual people.

In that same vein, ChI has recently expanded the course materials and changed the name of the curriculum thread, Sacred Justice Ministry (now SJM, formerly Prophetic Voice & Social Transformation. PVST).  We’ve also added a new primer course for incoming students – Intro to Sacred Justice Ministry (SJM)  – which will be foundational to the later SJM intensive.  The next Sacred Justice Ministry intensive is coming up on Feb. 4-6, and we now have a special reduced rate for alumni, as continuing education, so that we are collectively understanding not only the overt systems of oppression but also these unspoken codes which impact all of us, (but especially those we serve).  Please consider not only joining us for this upcoming intensive but reach out to the DC Hive to share how you experience ChI’s codes.