Quakers in Politics Live Web Panel (March 22 2018)

Quaker Ranter (Martin Kelly) - Fri, 03/09/2018 - 7:46pm

Back last August, Greg Woods noticed that there were some Quakers running for U.S. Congressional seats. While modern-day Quaker politicians are not unheard of, they’re also not particularly common and it seemed like there was a bumper crop. The idea to interview them took on a momentum, even as we started to learn about more candidates. It’s grown into a Quakers in Politics Live Web Panel set to take place on Thursday, March 22nd at 3pm EDT. There’s six confirmed Quaker candidates and the event is co-sponsored by the Earlham School of Religion and Friends Journal. The moderator will be Earlham College President Alan Price.

The upcoming U.S. Congressional mid-term elections already have at least seven Quaker candidates for office. How does their Quaker faith inform these candidates’ desires to run for Congress? What advice would they have for other Quakers wanting to run for office in the future?

It’s a pretty interesting bunch and I’m looking forward to lots of good questions about the intersection of faith and politics in 2018.

Quakers in Politics Live Web Panel (March 22)

The upcoming U.S. Congressional mid-term elections already have at least seven Quaker candidates for office. How does their…

Friends Journal
Categories: Blogs

A Stunning Article About Blacks in (& Troubled by) White Evangelical churches

A Friendly Letter (Chuck Fager) - Fri, 03/09/2018 - 2:35pm

There’s a must-read in today’s New York Times: “A Quiet Exodus: Why Blacks Are Leaving White Evangelical Churches”

It is carefully reported, and digs deep. It takes a broad view, but focuses on a huge megachurch, “Gateway,” in the Dallas-Ft. Worth area.

The Gateway congregations are “integrated”; people of color have been worshiping there for years; pastors at two of its “campuses” are black. As Charmaine Pruitt, one longtime attender, told the Times: 

“This is what I need right now,” thought Ms. Pruitt, moved to tears when she first went to orientation programs at the church. Members who happened to sit near her at worship came to ask about her when she missed a service, and some came to her grandmother’s wake. One couple began to refer to her as a daughter.

The congregation is mostly white, but not entirely; the pastors at two of the six satellite campuses are black men. Church videos and promotional materials are intentionally filled with people of color. 

But recently, some there, and in similar churches, have become increasingly uncomfortable. 

Two events seem to have marked this discomfort: first was the 2012 killing of Trayvon Martin, followed by growing anger and protest of the killings of many more black people (mostly young males). These killings were traumatic to many; but the disturbing aspect to some Gateway attenders was the silence about them in the church.

A service at Gateway. It has six “campuses,” which pack in 31,000 weekly.

The second landmark was the 2016 election. As the campaign proceeded, there was anything but silence from the Gateway pulpit. 

The church’s founder and “Senior Pastor,” Robert Morris, preached about the election in August 2016. As the Times quoted him:

Robert Morris, Gateway’s founder& Senior Pastor.

  “We (in America) are going the wrong way,” he concluded. “We need to get involved, we need to pray and we need to vote.”

[Morris] never said to vote for Mr. Trump. But the implication in the sermon, and in the leaflets that [were] handed out at church, was lost on no one: that one must vote to uphold Christian values and that the Republican Party platform reflected those values. And Mr. Trump was the Republican candidate.

This sermon, and the previous silence, left Charmaine Pruitt, who had attended Gateway for some years, more & more uneasy:

Pruitt sent messages to several white couples she had befriended at the church, telling them she was going to take some time off. She had become uneasy at a church, she told them, that speaks of overcoming racism on one Sunday “and then turns around later and asks me to support” Trump, who she believed was “a racist candidate.”

One of the couples invited her to come to their house. Sitting in the living room over a plate of brownies, Ms. Pruitt explained to the wife how disturbed she had been by the clear inference from the pulpit that she should support a candidate whose behavior and rhetoric were so offensive that she could not bring herself even to say his name.
The woman explained that a Trump victory had been prophesied and handed Ms. Pruitt a two-page printout, which began: “The Spirit of God says, ‘I have chosen this man, Donald Trump, for such a time as this.’”

[NOTE: the full text of this “prophecy,” issued in 2011, is here, with “updates.” Here is an excerpt:

Mark Taylor, formerly a firefighter in Orlando, Florida. Now a self-proclaimed prophet.

The Spirit of God says, I have chosen this man, Donald Trump, for such a time as this. For as Benjamin Netanyahu is to Israel, so shall this man be to the United States of America! For I will use this man to bring honor, respect and restoration to America. America will be respected once again as the most powerful and prosperous nation on Earth, (other than Israel). The dollar will be the strongest it has ever been in the history of the United States, and will once again be the currency by which all others are judged.

The Spirit of God says, the enemy will quake and shake and fear this man I have anointed. They will even quake and shake when he announces he is running for president, it will be like the shot heard across the world. The enemy will say what shall we do now? This man knows all our tricks and schemes. We have been robbing America for decades, what shall we do to stop this? The Spirit says HA! No one shall stop this that l have started! For the enemy has stolen from America for decades and it stops now! For I will use this man to reap the harvest that the United States has sown for and plunder from the enemy what he has stolen and return it seven-fold back to the United States. The enemy will say Israel, Israel, what about Israel? For Israel will be protected by America once again. The spirit says yes! America will once again stand hand and hand with Israel, and the two shall be as one. For the ties between Israel and America will be stronger than ever, and Israel will flourish like never before.

The Spirit of God says, I will protect America and Israel, for this next president will be a man of his word, when he speaks the world will listen and know that there is something greater in him than all the others before him. This man’s word is his bond and the world and America will know this and the enemy will fear this, for this man will be fearless. The Spirit says, when the financial harvest begins so shall it parallel in the spiritual for America.

The Spirit of God says, in this next election they will spend billions to keep this president in; it will be like flushing their money down the toilet. Let them waste their money, for it comes from and it is being used by evil forces at work, but they will not succeed, for this next election will be a clean sweep for the man I have chosen. They [the enemy] will say things about this man, but it will not affect him, and they shall say it rolls off of him like the duck, for as the feathers of a duck protect it, so shall My feathers protect this next president. Even mainstream news media will be captivated by this man and the abilities that I have gifted him with, and they will even begin to agree with him says the Spirit of God.

[NOTE: the “next election” following this “prophecy” was that of 2012, which we will recall was won handily by Barack Obama. However, the premature chronology did not trouble the woman who gave it to Pruitt. As the Times reported]:

Barack Obama, the woman continued, should never have been president, since he was not born a United State citizen. The visit ended with the woman suggesting that Ms. Pruitt’s discomfort at the church was God telling her it was time to move on.

Ms. Pruitt never went back.

. . . Mr. Trump’s win, which one elder at Gateway described as a “supernatural answer to prayer,” generated a frisson of excitement at the church. Pastor Morris told the congregation that he was one of Mr. Trump’s faith advisers. The church was a sponsor of an inaugural ball in January 2017. . . .

Pastor Morris has since preached about race, However, his feelings about the current administration have not changed:

 “We were electing what we felt was the person who held the values that the church loves dearly the most. That doesn’t mean that he’s perfect. But I do believe after spending time with him that he really wants to learn, that he really wants to do a good job for all Americans. I really do.”

There are larger racial injustices in the country, he said, and those injustices need to be fixed — though not in ways that would enable dependence, he clarified, but rather to “give people a hand up, not a handout.” He noted the low black unemployment rate under Mr. Trump. The answer to racism lies primarily in the church, not the government, he said, and now that white pastors are waking up to the pain that black people have felt, it is in many ways a hopeful time.

“I think that there’s an anger and a hurt right now, and a fear,” he said, “and I think that people are going to get past that.”

There is now a team at the church focused exclusively on making the church more diverse. On the weekend before Martin Luther King Jr. Day, a 49-second video of excerpts from King’s “I Have a Dream” speech was played at worship services — “a monumental moment in Gateway church history,” one pastor said, the first time that the day had been acknowledged. . . .

For Charmaine Pruitt, this was too little, too late:

[Ms. Pruitt] had kept giving tithe money to Gateway for some months after she stopped going, but after learning about the inaugural ball, started donating to another church. On most Sundays she had stayed at home, watching services online.

Read the rest of this remarkable article.

PS.  One of Mark Taylor’s recent prophecies; find it on YouTube.

The post A Stunning Article About Blacks in (& Troubled by) White Evangelical churches appeared first on A Friendly Letter.

Categories: Blogs


Quaker Mystics - Tue, 03/06/2018 - 10:48am

Holy one, I love you

more than life itself

come, oh come to me


You pull me

as the moon pulls the sea

gentle, hidden, soft



I ache for your embrace

never enough

couldn’t be enough


My soul sags

mind weary

Heart hopeful

ever hopeful


To know you

hear you

be touched



The crickets and I

will sing this song

through the night

Categories: Blogs

Friends Journal on Israel and Palestine

Quaker Ranter (Martin Kelly) - Thu, 03/01/2018 - 1:45am

By the time this email newsletter goes out, the March issue of Friends Journal will have fully published. After such topics as “Conscience” and “Conflict and Controversy” we’re turning our attention to “Quakers and the Holy Land.” Should be a quiet issue, no?

Quakers and the Holy Land

Also, I wrote this month’s opening column.

Categories: Blogs

The not-so-ancient Quaker clearness committee

Quaker Ranter (Martin Kelly) - Wed, 02/28/2018 - 4:43pm

I could probably start a column of Quaker pet peeve of the day. I especially get bent out of shape with misremembered history. One peeve is the myth that Quaker clearness committees are ancient. These committees are typically convened for Friends who are facing a major life decision, like marriage or a career. Parker Palmer is one of the most well-known practitioners of this and gives the best description:

For people who have experienced this dilemma, I want to describe a method invented by the Quakers, a method that protects individual identity and integrity while drawing on the wisdom of other people. It is called a “Clearness Committee.” If that name sounds like it is from the sixties, it is—the 1660’s!

While it’s true that you can see references to “being clear” in writings by George Fox and William Penn around issues of early Quaker marriages, what they’re describing is not a spiritual process but a checklist item. By law you could only get married in England under the auspicious of the Church of England. Quakers were one of the groups rebelling against that. This meant they had to perform some of the functions typically handled by clergy–and nowadays by the state. One checklist item: make sure neither person in the couple is already married or has children. That’s primarily what they meant they asked whether a couple was cleared for marriage (Mark Wutka has found a great reference in Samuel Bownas that implies that the practice also included checking with the bride and groom’s parents).

One reason I can be so obnoxiously definitive about my opinions is because I have the Friends Journal archives on my laptop. I can do an instant keyword search for “clearness committee” on every issue from 1955 to 2018. The phrase doesn’t appear in any issue until 1969. That article is by Jennifer Haines and Deborah Haines. Here it is, the debut of the concept of the Quaker clearness committee:

We were challenged repeatedly to test our lives against our beliefs. We labored long over concerns raised by our belief in the way of peace. We agreed to urge that each Monthly Meeting, through a clearness committee or other committees, take the responsibility for working through with Friends the tensions raised in their lives by the Quaker peace testimony. To this committee could be brought problems created by draft or employment in institutions implicated with the military and the question of whether applicants for membership who find themselves in opposition to the peace testimony should be accepted.

The context suggests it was an outgrowth of the new practice of worship sharing. I did do a deep dive on that a few years ago in a piece that was also based on Friends Journal archives. Deborah Haines continued to be very involved in Friends General Conference and I worked with her when I was FGC’s Advancement and Outreach coordinator and she the committee clerk.

In the early 1970s the references to clearness committees continued to focus on discernment of antiwar activities. Within a few years it was extended to preparation for marriages. A notice from 1982 gives a good summary of its uses then:

Meetings for clearness, for friends unfamiliar with the term, are composed of people who meet by request with persons seeking clarity in an important life decision—marriage, separation, divorce, adoption, resolution of family differences, a job change, etc.

Notably absent in this list is the process for new member applications. The first use of the term for this process in the FJ archives came in 1989! Why did it take twenty years for the concept to be applied here?

Why does it matter that this isn’t an ancient practice? A few things: one is that is nice to acknowledge that our tradition is a living, breathing one and that it can and does evolve. The clearness committee is a great innovation. Decoupling it from ancient Quakerism also makes it more easily adaptable for non-Quaker contexts.

Worship sharing came out of the longtime work of Rachel Davis DuBois. I would argue that she is one of the most important Quakers of the twentieth century. What, you haven’t heard of her? Exactly: most of the most influential Friends that came out of the Hicksite tradition in the twentieth century didn’t develop the cult of personalities you see with Orthodox Friends like Rufus Jones and Howard Brinton. It’s a shame, because DuBois probably has more influence in our day-to-day Quaker practice than either of them.

Other links: This has turned into an awesome thread on Facebook (it’s public so jump in!). There was also a good discussion on worship sharing on QuakerQuaker a few years ago: When did Quakers start worship sharing? Back in 2003, Deborah Haines wrote about Rachel Davis DuBois for FGConnections, the awesome magazine that Barbara Hirshkowitz used to produce for FGC. I posted it online then, which is why I remember it; saved it, which is why I can link to it.

Caveats: Yes there were Quaker processes before this. On Facebook Bill Samuel quotes the 1806 Faith and Practice on the membership process and argues it’s describing a clearness committee. I’d be very surprised if the 1812 process had anywhere near the same tone as the modern-day clearness or even shared much in the way of the philosophical underpinning. I decided to pop over to Thomas Clarkson’s 1806 A Portrait of Quakerism (discussed here) to see how he described the membership application process. I often find him useful, as he avoids Quaker terminology and our somewhat unhelpful way of understating things back then to give a useful snapshot of conditions on the ground. In three volumes I can’t find him talking about new members at all. I’m wondering if entry into the Society of Friends was more theoretical than actual back then, so unusual that Clarkson didn’t even think about.

Categories: Blogs


Quaker Mystics - Tue, 02/27/2018 - 10:39pm

All creation

sings Your praise







waves reflect heartbeat of the universe

waterfalls thunder

streams babble and gush



their beauty



their majesty


Animals flow

with life force


People worship

in a thousand thousand traditions


Each bountiful community

loving each other

and You


Orchids don’t criticize daffodils


Wind doesn’t condemn water


Each reflecting glory


Where then do ugly words come from






Blind to relationships


We all are

beloved sister and brother

cherished companions


Part of me


I a reflection of you

You a reflection of me


Let us search

for a hymn

we can all sing


In glorious harmony


Praising God

as fittingly

as a flower

Categories: Blogs

Namesake of school in latest massacre had Quaker roots

Quaker Ranter (Martin Kelly) - Tue, 02/27/2018 - 8:33pm

When this latest school gun massacre took place in a school called Stoneman Douglas I only paused at the unusual name as I continued to read however many details of the horror I could stomach. But Stoneman Douglas was a person, an early environmental activist who helped raise awareness of the Everglades as a natural treasure. She might have gotten some of that gumption and care from her father, a Quaker from Minnesota:

The family found a community of Quaker friends in the small town, of which Stoneman Douglas wrote, “It may have been a ‘frontier town,’ but there was strict tradition to guide him, the tradition of ‘Yea and nay,’ the tradition of plain living and clear and independent thinking, and there were family stories to point up the stiff-backed breed. They may have been plain people but they were colorful.”
— Read on

Categories: Blogs

Weak politics

Quaker Ranter (Martin Kelly) - Tue, 02/27/2018 - 7:50pm

An unsigned post on the Quaker Libertarian group blog looks at postmodernism and weak politics.

As I see it, Quakers at their best have been about the work of the former for many years. And postmodernity offers a complementary philosophical and theological lens to Quaker faith and practice, even as it challenges our tradition to the extent that it makes universal claims, builds up its own dominant structures and narratives, and engages in oppression of others in the name of a greater good

Categories: Blogs

Belief (in anything) and belief (in nothing)

Quaker Ranter (Martin Kelly) - Tue, 02/27/2018 - 4:20pm

So Isaac Smith is back with the third installment of his growing series, “Difference Between a Gathered Meeting and a Focused Meeting” and this time he’s referencing two writers on Quaker matters, Michael J. Sheeran and yours truly.

In my previous posts, the distinction between gathered and focused meetings seemed connected to one’s religious outlook, and thus related to the divide between Christ-centered and universalist Quakers that has bedeviled our faith for centuries. But as Sheeran and Kelley argue, the more fundamental divide in the liberal branch of Quakerism is between those who seek contact with the divine and those who don’t.

My post is, as Smith puts it, “nearly fifteen years old,” which is about the length of a social generation. I’m not sure if I’m in a good position to pontificate about what has and hasn’t changed. Much of my Quaker work is with interesting outliers, either one-or-one or as part of a loose tribe of Friends who passionately care about Quakerism and are willing to go into the weeds to understand it. I have very little recent experience with committees on local levels.

One useful concept that I’ve picked up in the last fifteen years is that of “functional atheism.” This bypasses a group’s self-stated understandings of faith to look at how its decision-making process actually works. An organization that is functionally atheist might be full of very devout people who together still decide actions in a completely secular way. I would guess this has become even more the norm among the acronymic soup of national Quaker organizations in the last fifteen years. In that time a lot of bright ideas have come and gone which flashed briefly with the fuel of donor money but which didn’t create a self-sustaining momentum to keep them going long term. Thinking more strategically about what people are seeking in their spiritual lives might have helped those cast seeds land on more fertile grounds.

The Difference Between a Gathered Meeting and a Focused Meeting (3)

Bonus: the 14-year-old comments on my piece include some gentle whining about Friends Journal between myself and a regular reader at the time. Now that I’m its senior editor I’m sure there remains plenty to grumble about.

Categories: Blogs

QOTD: Patricia Dallmann

Quaker Ranter (Martin Kelly) - Tue, 02/27/2018 - 8:45am

“The mission of early Friends was to turn people to the light in the conscience, which would first of all show them where they’d missed the mark. If Friends today would turn our Society around, we must first turn ourselves around inwardly.” [Source]

Categories: Blogs

What is the Faith that Makes Resurrection Possible?

Micah Bales - Mon, 02/26/2018 - 2:00am

This is a sermon that I preached on Sunday, 2/25/18, at the Washington City Church of the Brethren. The scripture readings for this sermon were: Genesis 17:1-7, 15-16; Romans 4:13-25; & Mark 8:31-38. You can listen to the audio, or keeping scrolling to read my manuscript. (FYI, the spoken sermon differs from the written text.)

Listen to the Sermon Now

When I first read through the scripture readings for this Sunday, it wasn’t immediately clear to me how our gospel reading relates to the passage from Genesis. The story of Abraham and Sarah seems to be all about God bestowing unconditional blessing and abundance on two old people who had no hope at all for the future of their family.

The story of how God promised to make Abraham the father of many nations is one that, at first glance, seems very human and not supernatural at all. All of us want to leave a legacy. No one wants to see their name die out, to be forgotten by future generations. On its face, the story of Abraham and Sarah seems like a case of divine wish-fulfillment – a very human story with very human motivations. I can relate to it instantly.

On the other hand, there’s this story about Jesus and his hard-core insistence on embracing torture and death. In our gospel reading from Mark, Jesus rebukes Peter in front of all the other disciples. He says Peter’s mind is set on human things, rather than on the things of God. Jesus calls Peter “Satan” for his suggestion that Jesus should avoid the cross.

Peter and the other disciples didn’t believe in the cross. They didn’t believe in the path of self-emptying and dying to ego that Jesus was teaching them. Such things are incomprehensible to the human mind. Every one of us can understand a story about God granting new life, vitality, and progeny to an old man and his wife. Is it miraculous for an old woman to bear a child? Absolutely. Does it challenge our conception of the good life? Of who God is and should be? Probably not.

We want a God who guarantees our own survival and prosperity. We want a God who makes us fathers and mothers of many nations. Successful careers, happy families, public acclaim, and personal prosperity. We want the God of the good life, a God who promises joy, not suffering. We want the triumphant and generous God of Abraham and Sarah, not the whipped and crucified God that Jesus introduces us to.

But there is only one God. The God of the promise is the same God who endures the cross and invites us to walk in his way of self-abandonment. The God who provides us with a hope and a future is the same one who asks us to suffer for truth.

What is the relationship between these two faces of God? How do we reconcile the apocalyptic, bone-shaking God of Golgotha with the reassuring, sustaining God of the Promised Land?

For the apostle Paul, the answer is clear: It’s the resurrection. In our reading this morning from his letter to the Romans, Paul draws a clear line between the promise that God gave to Abraham and God’s act of raising Jesus from the dead.

Believe it or not, I find it easy to forget about the resurrection. I don’t know why, but I guess I’m a little more captivated by the fire and brimstone. When Jesus issues his challenge to the disciples, warning them about the suffering and persecution that he and his followers will face, that challenge seems like everything to me.

But the cross is not the end of Jesus’ story. The end of all the challenges that we face as friends of Jesus is not the grave, but victory. The message of Jesus one of life, truth, peace, and joy. As I mentioned in my last sermon, the very word “gospel” comes from the Greek term for a victory announcement. It is very good news.

From Genesis to Revelation, we discover a God who heals, guides, and protects us. God’s character doesn’t change. God was not first generous to Abraham and then hard-hearted towards Jesus. God demands the same thing from each one of us. He calls us into a kind of faith that brings us into conflict with the world as it is. And this same faith promises unconditional joy, growth, and wholeness as we choose to follow Jesus.

In our passage from Romans this morning, Paul teaches that God’s promise to Abraham wasn’t based on following a legal code. It wasn’t based on genetics, either. God promised that Abraham would be the father of many nations – not just his own biological descendants, but all those who share in his faith. It is Abraham’s faith made this promise from God possible. It is the righteous living that comes from faith that allows those who live in the spirit of Abraham to inherit the world.

I said that sometimes it’s easy for me to forget the resurrection in the midst of Jesus’ suffering. In the same way, I tend to ignore how much challenge and suffering Abraham and Sarah endured to receive God’s promise and blessing. Abraham and Sarah left home and family, wandering to an unknown land in the west. They did this on nothing more than a promise from God, that Abraham would be made into a great nation, and become a blessing to the whole world. Abraham and Sarah took an enormous risk based on a promise from a still, small voice that whispered in the night. Abraham and Sarah ventured out into the unknown. They took a leap of faith.

It all could have gone so badly. But God was faithful to Abraham and Sarah. Even when times were hard and they were on the run – even when Abraham got scared and did things like try to pass Sarah off as his sister! – God didn’t waver in preserving their lives and their marriage.

God was just as faithful to Jesus and his friends. Jesus suffered beatings, imprisonment, torture, and death on a cross – but on the third day, God raised him from the dead and glorified him. The faith of Abraham, the faith of Jesus, this faith has the power to birth children from the barren elderly and to raise the dead to life.

Before the resurrection, Peter and the other disciples simply couldn’t fathom how powerful this kind of trust could be. They couldn’t imagine how the path of pain and darkness could ever lead into the light. But after the resurrection of Jesus, the friends and followers of Jesus were filled with boldness, joy, and power. The apostles, who before the resurrection had been so clueless and frightened, found courage to share the good news throughout the world. They accepted the many challenges and hardships that came with this ministry. All but one is believed to have been murdered for their faithful witness.

In a world without the resurrection, this would seem a great tragedy. Why throw your life away when you could lead a safe and comfortable existence? But the faith of Abraham and Jesus teaches us a new way of living. Through the resurrection, we are rooted in the power of God, who is not constrained – even by death – in the ways that he blesses us.

We all have access to this resurrection power. Those of us gathered here this morning have been touched by his salvation. In large ways and small, we have experienced many spiritual baptisms into his death. We know darkness and suffering, the kind that requires trust to endure. We know the power of Jesus, through his Holy Spirit, which can raise us into new life.

We experience God’s call to yield ourselves, to embrace the challenges of righteous living. It’s a kind of life that draws us out from the mainstream culture and into the vibrant and risky counter-culture that is the kingdom of God. We know from experience and from the testimony of scripture that God calls us to take great risks. Through his resurrection power, God can overcome any adversity.

The world doesn’t understand this. Our own human minds can’t comprehend it. That is why Jesus rebuked Peter. He just couldn’t believe that Jesus was serious about submitting himself to death on the cross rather than leading a violent revolution to overthrow the Roman oppressors. Peter was only able to conceive of victory in the world’s terms. But in Jesus, God has revealed another way of conquering the world: with love, restoring wholeness and peace to the creation.

Most days, we’re just like Peter. We’re not capable of understanding God’s way of conquering love until we receive the faith of Abraham. We have to set our mind on the things of God, not on the human fears that hold us back from faithfulness.

There’s good reason for our fear. It’s rational to be afraid. Because God is calling us to a way of life that seems to threaten our very existence. As followers of Jesus, we’re called to surrender our wealth, our comfort, even our lives, to bless our neighbors and show love to our enemies. As the Lord Jesus tells us in our reading this morning:

“If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it.”

Jesus asks us, What does it profit you to gain the whole world – of comfort, wealth, status, and acceptance by worldly authorities? What does it profit you to gain the whole world and lose your life? What can you give in exchange for your life?

Only the God of Abraham, the God who raised Jesus Christ from the dead, holds that kind of power. The power of life. Our God will defend you and bless you in the presence of enemies. He will walk with you through the pain and darkness. He will give you victory through the cross of Jesus.

Through faith, Abraham was able to see this. Now, through the resurrection, we can, too. God is the master of life and death. We can trust him, even when his word is totally out of sync with the wisdom of the world around us.

What are the areas of your life where God is inviting you to embrace the faith of Abraham? What are the challenges that seem insurmountable? What is the death that you’re afraid of? What does it mean for you to live in the power of the resurrection?

Related Posts: Our Culture is Spinning Out of Control. Only One Thing Can Save Us. In the Ash Heap and By the River – There’s Only One Way Home

The post What is the Faith that Makes Resurrection Possible? appeared first on Micah Bales.

Categories: Blogs

Does Scot Miller Have the Answer to American Quaker Decline?

A Friendly Letter (Chuck Fager) - Wed, 02/21/2018 - 9:33am

Not all U. S. Friends Meetings are withering away; I live close to two of them (liberal unprogrammed) which seem to be thriving.

But many meetings are shrinking. Several formerly large yearly meetings, particularly in the Midwest & South, are now but shadows of their earlier selves. One of the largest among them, North Carolina, went entirely out of business in 2017, after 320 years.

In many other meetings, pastoral and non-, generational gaps are opening, with now elderly Baby Boomers more or less in charge, while their children’s and grandchildren’s generations seem to be missing or sparse in attendance.

Similar trends are evident in numerous other larger denominations. Church growth “experts,” pastors, debt-burdened seminarians, and others whose paychecks are at stake, are showing signs of panic. Surveys appear seemingly weekly, documenting, lamenting, wringing hands. Some with prophetic pretensions are issuing jeremiads, pointing fingers here and there (mainly at older folks, who are putatively “in power”) for having botched everything and brought on this debacle. But even with Boomers responding by dying off in droves, it seems to continue apace.

And like clockwork, Friends Journal in its February 2018 issue published a piece ominously titled,  “Can Quakerism Survive?”

One is tempted to smile at it. In this particular field –showing anxiety, gloom and near-despair about its future — Quakers have been far in the forefront among First World denominations (the way we believe we once were in the vanguard of all the important social reform movements). I have half a dozen such screeds on my bookshelf (see below for some details), and probably a few more that are lost in the overflow shuffle; it’s practically its own subgenre.

Both Friends Journal and the author, Donald W. McCormick, appear blissfully unaware of this, but the first big, deep tolling of the bell of impending Quaker doom came 159 years ago. That’s right, in 1859,  a committee of weighty London Friends, frightened by a downward membership trend, awarded a prize of 500 guineas (worth $25000 or more in today’s dollars) to Friend John Stephenson Rowntree, for his essay, Quakerism, Past and Present: being an inquiry into the causes of its decline in Great Britain and Ireland. (Online here.)

1859: A Tradition Begins

Rowntree’s essay was elegantly written, conversant with church and Quaker history, and moderate in his proposed remedies (mainly: loosen up on restrictions against “marrying out,” and for pete’s sake quit with the dorky-looking clothes.) His small book was widely read and discussed, and seems to have had some impact: marrying out soon become at east tolerable; and the old dorky duds faded away, replaced by newer dorky ones.)

Even more intriguing, though forgotten today, was the runner up volume, which was awarded, I think, two hundred guineas. It was  called:  The Peculium, an endeavour to throw light on some of the causes of the decline of the Society of Friends, especially in regard to its original claim of being the peculiar people of God, by Thomas Hancock (online here). 

Hancock’s analysis was the more trenchant, his proposal more radical: The Society of Friends was done, he concluded; it had completed its tiny role in God’s big plan. The only proper course for it now was to lay down its separate existence & all pretensions of “peculiarity,” then turn in a body to the one true Christian Church, namely the Roman Catholic. Well, Kyrie Eleison . . .!)

Compared to Hancock, Friend Donald McCormick’s 2018 suggestions — that meetings form outreach committees and start talking about all this — is pretty thin gruel. And a skeptic could point out that his reported “data” for this hair-on-fire piece comes from one local California meeting, and a single visit to its Pacific Yearly Meeting.

Meanwhile, today’s yearly meetings which have suffered the most decline (including the one which just folded) have talked about little else for decades, and made a plethora of “outreach” schemes (mostly called “evangelism”) an abiding centerpiece of their programs and budgets. All, by the way, to no avail.

So yes, things are changing among American Quakers. Some meetings seem to be coping with this pretty well. But what about the others? 

I don’t have any big rescue plans up my sleeve. But I do have a  suggestion: maybe it’s time to think outside the “outreach committee/evangelism-program/kidnap-the-Millennials-and-don’t-let-them-out-again-til-they’re-40” box.

I mean, outside. 

So who’s got some interesting outside-the-box ideas about building Quaker community in our present plight?

Scot Miller, with hat, in Flint, Michigan.

Scot Miller does. 

And if you’re in central NC this weekend, you can come hear them and talk to him about them. Saturday, Feb. 24, and then again on Sunday morning, when he’ll “bring a message”, both at Spring Friends Meeting in Snow Camp.

Listen. Think. Talk back. Argue if you want (like I do, but with interest).

Scot, multi-tasking with Derrida & Holstein, two of his favorite philosophers. . . .

Scot is from Michigan, in Barry County, a very red place smack in the middle of a triangular region with Grand Rapids, Kalamazoo and Lansing at the corners (plus Flint a bit further east).

Scot is a theological hybrid/outlaw: both Quaker and Anabaptist. He recently published a book, Gospel of the Absurd. And his big idea (which might sound “absurd” to some, is closer to Hancock than Rowntree, but  is still worth a closer look anyway). It comes down to saying Quakers should turn Amish.

Well, not quite. More Amish–ish.

Scot doesn’t have much patience with today’s “progressive” Christian [and Quaker] ideas and activism, especially not as a way of building community. And at Spring Friends Meeting He’ll explain why and offer a different perspective and plan.    Here’s a preview: You have to wade through a lot of seminary-jargon in his book, Gospel of the Absurd to get to the nub, but then his complaints about current progressive activism pretty much come down to this:   1. Progressive church activism is “Christian” (or churchy) in name only, and in fact usually derived from the same old politics of power, which are secular and often enough demonic. 

2. Its programs and campaigns don’t work well, which ought to be clear from the deepening mess of trouble we’re in. And

3. The other side, “anti-progressive” so-called “evangelicals,” is better at it anyway, in crude worldly power politics terms. Which may make them even worse “Christians,” but they don’t much care what Scot Miller, or thee and me think about that.

Okay, so that’s Scot Miller’s diagnosis of our plight. What’s this turning “Amish-ish” alternative about?

For starters, is it plain dress & no more “smart” phones or laptops? Shunning dissenters or “sinners”? Trading in our cars for horse-drawn buggies?    Almost; though he’d be willing to dicker some about keeping the cars, and even the phones & laptops. But otherwise, pretty close. Again, not quite Amish. Amish-ish. Like this: reform ourselves into autonomous but networked communities. 

Organize the community life around what the Amish call an Ordnung (often rendered “discipline” or rules); and “Gelassenheit,” which suggests an anti-individualist outlook of tranquil modesty and submissiveness to tradition and community. (The community will write its own rules; but they would be real rules, not suggestions or evasive, “Do we feel guilty enough about all the things we’re not doing?” queries.)

Since most  of the Amish groups’ ordnung & rules are unwritten, handed down orally and by practice from youth, Miller’s Amish-ish culture would differ from them by centering on ongoing group study & interpretation of the Bible, particularly the Gospels, and the figure of Jesus in them.

And in the world, this Amish-ish practice would aim to express the typically-ignored calls by Jesus for sacrificial behavior toward others: nonviolence, a giving up of “privilege,” and service to the poor, oppressed, forgotten, including Trump supporters and even white nationalists in the area. (Cf. “Love your enemies,” etc.)   But why on earth should any progressive throw over all that they’ve toiled so hard for to take up this new role?

Miller’s answer, in sum, is threefold:

1. Because Jesus said to, and while Miller is no fundamentalist,  he’s convinced that if we’re to take Jesus (and the Gospels) seriously, that’s what seriousness means;

2. Because such a stance yields a different understanding of the world, and our place in it, one which is more true and promising; and

3. Because action from the bottom and at the margins has more impact than we can perceive with our media-distracted eyes & ears, especially if we can factor in the work of grace.

[Besides the Amish, he says the Catholic Worker movement is another useful model for comparison and study.]   Scot’s own form of this kind of Amish-ish ministry is to run a small dairy farm in west-central Michigan, in the midst of what is popularly called a (very) “red” community; and to do work with addicts and poor people, many in Flint, Michigan.Besides chronic poverty, too many of whom even yet don’t have safe water for themselves or their families (i.e., are still forgotten).   Scot has an idea, a plan to expand this ministry by means of an agricultural community built around his farm, but with  extensions to other communities within reach. He’s looking for people to join in. He hopes it will be organized around a Quaker heritage.

Scot is visiting North Carolina the weekend of February 24-25 to talk about his proposal, the ideas behind them, and the book in which they are expressed.

Maybe he doesn’t mean for all Quakers to do this Amish-ish thing; maybe there could be an interplay between such groups and sympathetic Friends who still need (or want) to live in town. (After all, somebody’s got to eat all that kale.)

The discussion will convene at 10 AM Saturday, February 24, at Spring Friends Meeting, 3323 E. Chapel Hill-Greensboro Rd., Snow Camp NC 27349. (Directions here.) Lunch will be provided, and then discussion will continue afterward as long as seems in good order.

On Sunday, February 25, Scot will bring the message at Spring’s First Day worship, at 11 AM.

The sessions are open to the interested public. There is no charge, but interested persons are encouraged to let us know they are coming so we can plan for lunch.
Spring Friend Meeting, Snow Camp NC   Oh — and just in case you think I’m exaggerating about the succession of doomsday prophecies of Quakerism’s imminent demise, here are a few more I’ve run down:

James De Garmo, was raised Quaker in upstate New York, but later turned Episcopalian. In 1895 he published The Hicksite Quakers & Their Doctrines, in which he pronounced the end of the Hicksite movement, and gave it a kind of funeral in print (Then, in a second edition a few years later he admitted wit some amazement that he’d been mistaken, and the Hicksites were not in fact all gone, but were even then growing again. (His book is online here.)

Leapfrogging ahead, in 1970, an interbranch conference in St. Louis emitted a report entitled What Future for Friends? (Its forecast: cloudy skies and possible storms ahead.)

Then in 1986, the late Gordon Browne was asked to speak at the 300th anniversary celebration of two meetings with the same name, Middletown, near Philadelphia. Browne was a well-travelled official with the Friends World Committee for Consultation. His title was The Future of Quakerism, and his prediction: sunny skies.

Thirteen years later, almost a century since DeGarmo’s slightly premature obituary, a group at the Earlham School of Religion produced a thick report, Among Friends, A Consultation with Friends about the condition of Quakers in the U. S. Today, in 1999.

Its tales of deepening Quaker woe were fulsome and filled many pages (but sending our best and brightest to ESR seemed to be the remedy of choice). This one is not online but it is reviewed here.

Five years later, British Friend Bill Chadkirk achieved a kind of notoriety in the journal Quaker Studies, with a piece full of charts and graphs and jauntily titled,“Will the Last (Woman) Friend to leave Please Ensure that the Light Remains Shining.”

In his paper, Chadkirk says, “An accelerating decline in membership commencing in 1990 is identified. Trends are extrapolated to determine an end-point in 2032.” (The paper is online here.)  So if thee wants to be a British Friend, better hurry up — only 14 years to go, max.

But if thee don’t like these sketches of what awaits us, Friend, fear not — another one or more will be along presently. It may be the only sure thing about our future as Friends . . .

The post Does Scot Miller Have the Answer to American Quaker Decline? appeared first on A Friendly Letter.

Categories: Blogs

Answering the Call

What Canst Thou Say - Tue, 02/20/2018 - 1:00pm

Proceedings of the Ministers and Elders Colloquium — Part 1 — by Maurine Pyle

The Ministers and Elders Colloquium was held October 6-10, 2017, at the Cenacle Retreat Center in Chicago, IL, sponsored by What Canst Thou Say? The Proceedings was published February 17, 2018. It is available in hard copy on The WCTS editorial team decided to publish the presentations on this blog, one at a time. We hope to start a conversation. Please become a follower and make comments.

Maurine Pyle and Pam Richards were the organizers of this Colloquium, but both became ill as the day of the gathering approached. We began calling it “Holy Spirit Mischief.” So even though Maurine was not able to give her presentation, we have included it in the Proceedings.

My Childhood Calling to Seek God
Up the Magnolia Tree*

*Excerpted from my 1998 Plummer Lecture, Follow Me <>
Let your life be a story worth retelling, I always say. For me life is all about storytelling. Those ancient griots of Africa sitting around the campfire could recite all of the “begats” for their tribe, recounting tales of generation upon generation. I want to restore that storytelling tradition from a spiritual perspective, sharing the lessons I have gathered along the way.
At the heart of my story is my love for Jesus Christ and his love for me. That love has made all the difference. I was surprised and overwhelmed by his love. From the moment I embraced Jesus, my former life was overturned. My life was no longer my own. He said to me, “Lay down your life, take up your cross and follow me,” and I have been following ever since. This is a story about how I became a follower. Before that encounter with Jesus my first intention always was to lead, not to follow. And I started leading when I was very young.
My first kingdom was the magnolia tree in the front yard of my parents’ house in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. I loved its smooth branches and fragrant white blossoms. There were small cones filled with bright red berries and glossy green leaves with a fuzzy undercoating perfect for writing secret messages. Most of all I loved being held lightly, but firmly, in her topmost branches. I suppose my mother would have scolded me had she known I was up on the highest branches, but she was always too busy with her many children to spy on me. I was up so high I could see over the trees and look down upon the glistening lake below.
As the wind blew, her branches would cradle me, gently rocking me. Although I was feeling safe as can be, had folks seen me up there, they would have pointed out the obvious danger. But this experience became the pattern of my life—taking apparent risks while feeling perfectly secure. Even then I knew that I was truly safe. For it was there atop the magnolia tree that I first learned to speak to God, to hear gentle whispers in my soul. Visions and mysteries enfolded me. There was just blessed silence, the wind and me, and the magnolia tree.
I knew even then that I could not tell others what I had learned there. Even a child knows the dividing line between everyday reality and the divine mysteries. Maybe children especially understand. They keep their mystical secrets carefully concealed until the moment comes to reveal them. High atop the magnolia tree I learned to let the winds of God blow me wherever it would.
Up over my head, there’s music in the air,
Up over my head, there’s music in the air,
Up over my head, there’s music in the air,
There must be a God somewhere.
Who Am I?
My own story and my early religious life was grounded in the Cajun Catholic culture of South Louisiana. The Cajuns (i.e. Acadians) were French settlers who were forced by the British to flee from their homes in Nova Scotia in 1756, with many of them eventually ending up in South Louisiana. They have added spice to the American culture in their spiritual practices, as well as their famous cooking.
As a counterpoint to most of American culture, in my Cajun family we do not find it strange to hear reports of conversations with dead people or of messages from the saints. From early childhood, I knew that I could hear the voice of God speaking directly to me, telling me in which direction to go. This was not considered strange or dangerous in my religious culture.
As I was growing up, I kept searching for a way to answer the ever-present and insistent message to serve God. For a female growing up Catholic in those days, the call to service could be very troubling since the Catholic Church of the 1950s and 1960s was intensely patriarchal, a society largely closed to women. Only nuns could serve God. Anyway, I knew I wanted to be a mother; therefore, no religious path seemed open to me within the Church. As a young adult, I eventually left Catholicism quite angry over not finding acceptance of my gifts.
Later when I heard of the Quakers, I was delighted to discover their long history of equality for women. I resolved to locate their meeting houses and group members, which was not an easy task. They usually congregate in small groups that are often hidden, so my attempts to find them met with little success. Finally, it was through God’s serendipity that my path crossed theirs. In 1973, my husband and I were living in Maryland. We loved to wander the countryside looking for colonial buildings. One day we spotted a “chapel-of-ease,” a tiny Episcopal Church building where country residents in colonial times could worship when severe weather prevented them from going into town. As I approached the building, I saw a small sign which read “Welcome: Quaker Meeting.” The following Sunday, I joined their small silent worship group. The white-washed interior filtered a pure white light. In the pristine silence, I found my joy. I was home at last!
I had been looking for a place where a woman’s spirituality was respected. I joined the Liberal branch of the Religious Society of Friends in my twenties. What I discovered was that for the Friends, having a direct experience of God was normal religious practice.
At the age of 24, I was accepted into membership and made a lifelong commitment to the Quaker way. Many wonderful elders taught me by their example how to be a Friend. There was no catechism or instruction manual to guide me, only the elders gently guiding me along the path. I have been a Friend now for over 40 years, and it has been a richly rewarding lesson in how to live adventurously. Now I have become an elder whose role is leading young Friends on their adventures in spiritual development. In return, they teach me how to remain refreshed and connected to life in all its vicissitudes.
Among the Friends I found a spiritual community where I could respond to God’s beckoning. At age 35, I received a spiritual calling to become a minister, and finally was recognized by a Quaker meeting in Southern Illinois that released me to become a traveling minister at age 60.
My Spiritual Timeline among the Friends
1983—received a vision of the Cross of Joy.
1985—began hearing messages to “record my ministry.”
1985—met Louise Wilson at a Quaker Hill Consultation sponsored by Earlham School of Religion (sent by an elder of my meeting, Alice Walton, who recognized my calling and tried to bring it to acceptance at my post-Christian meeting).
1985—met Lucy Talley [Davenport] and formed a covenant group with Evanston Friends: Wilfred Reynolds, Lucy Davenport, and Annette Reynolds, which met weekly to pray together. We were all devout Christians.
1998—was asked to give the Plummer Lecture at Illinois Yearly Meeting which was a call to Friends to return to Christ. Clance Wilson, a returning elder to Clear Creek Meeting, heard my message and asked me to “become his minister.”
1998—went to Louise Wilson in Virginia Beach for confirmation of my calling into ministry. At that time, I was facing strong resistance to my being a “called Christian minister” in a post-Christian meeting. She assured me that I should go forward.
2003—was called to serve as clerk of Illinois Yearly Meeting (ILYM) during a period of organizational and building restoration.
2005—was called to serve as ILYM Field Secretary.
2008—resigned my membership in my Quaker meeting because of strong resistance to my Christian ministry.
2009—asked for clearness to become a member of Southern Illinois Quaker Meeting. I was graciously received into membership even though several attendees said that they were atheists. They recorded my ministry even though I had not requested it. Then I moved to Carbondale and entered graduate school [2000 – to date). I have traveled among Friends of all branches in America.
2013—was invited to be the plenary speaker at Ohio Valley Yearly Meeting in 2013. I met Pamela Richards who later became my constant traveling ministry companion.
2014—was invited to travel to speak at the Menucha Women’s Conference in Portland, Oregon. “Wilt Thou Go with Me on My Errand?” was the theme—traveling ministry. This conference of Unprogrammed and Evangelical Women of the Northwest have been meeting for years to bridge the cultural religious gap. Lucy and I spoke together of our experience with Louise Wilson and how each of us had found difficulties in bringing forth our ministries. Below, in brief, is what I said to the Menucha Women: I have named my story “Set Apart by God.”
I told them my life story. It concerns my receiving a leading in 1985 to become a called minister for Christ. I was then a member of an unprogrammed Quaker meeting where I faced another door that did not open to me.
“The time has come,” said God, “for you to come away and be alone with Me for a while.” I wrestled with this thought like Jacob with the angel. I was to be given a new name if I succeeded in this wrestling match with my God. Did I want to be renamed? I knew in my heart that I would be set apart from all that I had come to love in my life if I accepted the name of God’s Child. The path ahead was murky and uncertain and caused me to tremble with fear. At that moment, a brilliant light appeared showing me the way forward. It was Jesus, my guide and my teacher, leading me one step at a time. My fear began to leave me.
Then I told them about the challenges that I had encountered in recording my ministry and my encounters with Louise Wilson who encouraged me to keep going forward. I finally found an open door among Friends in Southern Illinois Quaker Meeting. Several people asked me for copies of my travel minute because they too were looking for a way to go forth, and it spoke to them of their own struggles to have their gifts acknowledged.
All around the conference room on the final day of the retreat I could hear the voices of Quaker women of all ages, all stages of life, singing with great joy and gusto:
Oh let us sing, sing till the power of the Lord comes down,
Oh let us sing, sing till the power of the Lord comes down,
Lift up your voice, be not afraid,
And sing till the power of the Lord comes down
2016—I was invited by my friend Mariellen Gilpin to attend my first WCTS Mystics Reunion in Chicago. At the end of the retreat, Michael Resman asked me to create a design for a Ministers and Elders Retreat. At the moment he asked me, I knew this would call forth all of my experiences as a Friend. I said, “Yes,” and immediately consulted Pamela Richards, my traveling ministry companion.

Categories: Blogs


Quaker Mystics - Tue, 02/20/2018 - 10:19am

My heart is full of joy

I revel in ecstasy

For God loves me

I carry that piece of god’s love

deep in my soul




God is in me

Never to be taken away or lost


A piece of the universe

hurtling through

Pulled by the spark within me

to that great conflagration

Thank you

oh thank you

my beloved

Categories: Blogs

The Road to Columbine – A True Story

A Friendly Letter (Chuck Fager) - Mon, 02/19/2018 - 11:14am

It was 1959 and I was a junior in high school when I discovered that my stomach muscles were unusually strong. Here’s how I found this out:

Justin, whose locker was a couple down from mine, came into the locker room, grabbed me by the shirt, slammed me up against my locker, and punched me in the stomach.

I don’t think Justin was angry at me when he did that, at least not especially so. He just felt like punching somebody, and there I was.

I had been punched in the gut once or twice before, and a couple other times hit there accidentally. The effect was always the same: it doubled me over in agony, unable to breathe for a moment or two. We called it, “having the wind knocked out of you.”

It was very scary the first time, until I realized I wasn’t going to suffocate, and every time it was painful.

But what happened that day was completely new, and it wasn’t clear who was more shocked by it,  Justin or me.

Me, then.

Somehow I knew what was coming when he grabbed me, and in the split second as he was shoving me against the locker door, managed to tense up my stomach muscles.

When the punch came, his big fist bounced off my hardened belly.

“Jesus Christ,” Justin said. “What’s this?”

He frowned thoughtfully behind his thick glasses, and then, deciding to take a scientific, experimental tack, calmly punched me a second time, harder.

My head and back thumped against the steel door, but his fist again bounced off my belly. My stomach hurt, of course, but I could still breathe, and stand. Justin had not knocked the wind out of me.

He shrugged and turned away. I had, in a limited but important sense, defeated him, at least for the moment.

Who knows how my stomach muscles got so hard? I wasn’t athletic, and had done no sit-ups or other special exercises. But I realized at once that if it could get that hard again, my sore belly could be an important survival tool.

The entrance, in the 1950s

Justin and I were cadets at St. Augustine’s, a Catholic military boarding school in western Kansas. It was 1959. At St. Augustine’s we went to church three times on Sunday, and twice every other day. We wore ROTC uniforms and marched wherever we went outside the building.

Despite all this, I liked it there. Why I liked it is a long story, having mainly to do with being from a large Catholic, military family and wanting to get away from home. St. Augustine’s was also Catholic and military; but it was far away from home, and that was enough for me.

Or at least, it would have been if I could figure out how to keep away from Justin. He was no taller than me, but weighed about twice as much, most of which was muscle. Rough-looking, with pimples and thick glasses, he was well-muscled, and he swaggered. He claimed to be a black belt in karate, and to have been in all kinds of rumbles and fights back home. I could believe this, although I also knew he bragged a lot.

“Be prepared.” How was I going to prepare?

What really surprised me was that he also insisted he was an Eagle Scout. Maybe he was just bragging about that too; but I didn’t doubt it then. I just puzzled over how he had fooled the scout leaders. How did he get them to see him as a person of upright character and all the other nice guy stuff that supposedly goes into achieving that highest scouting rank?

Anyway, Eagle Scout or no, Justin was a bully. More than a bully, really. That year I had begun reading some psychology books, and soon decided he was more like a psychopath, or maybe a sociopath, the kind of person who would kill somebody and never give it a second thought. He talked that way, and treated me and others that way too.

Actually, I didn’t think he might kill me, because he didn’t take me seriously enough. The gut punches were, for him, just fooling around. Even so, except for when I had to be at my locker, I gave him a wide berth, and he mostly ignored me.

My buddy Eddie was a different matter. Eddie’s locker was a couple down from mine, farther away from Justin’s. He and I were buddies for a lot of reasons, but one of the main ones was that we were among the few non-Catholic cadets at St. Augustine’s. This was no big deal for Eddie–he was raised Protestant and never gave it much thought. But it was a big deal for me, especially because it was very new: one reason I had been sent to St. Augustine’s was because there was no Catholic school near where my family lived.

But that year, besides reading psychology, I had also been plowing through some philosophy books, and soon realized I didn’t believe all this Catholic stuff they had taught me since before I started school. I decided I was probably an atheist, or at the least an agnostic.

I wasn’t ashamed of my new lack of faith; in fact, I often debated with other students about God, Jesus, miracles, hell, all that. The arguments were fun, but at the same time, this was very much a minority outlook at St. Augustine’s. So I was anxious to find some comrades: somebody, anybody I could speak plainly with, and Eddie was one of the main ones.

Eddie was tall, with a handsome face and dark hair which he frequently slicked back with a pocket comb, which was a cool thing to do in those days. And like Justin, he bragged a lot. He bragged about what a Romeo/ladykiller he was. He bragged about being a musician. And he also bragged about being tough, a fighter.

Maybe he was a Romeo; you could never be sure about that at our isolated all-boy’s school; and he was something of a musician, playing the saxophone quite seriously. But as far as being a fighter–well, that was mostly in his head. The fact was that Eddie was rail thin, and when he took off his shirt, there were huge patches of scar tissue all over his skinny chest. He had been severely burned as a child, and skin had been taken for grafts on his face and neck. I think the aftermath of those burns had also kept him physically weak.

Just the same, Eddie talked as if he was a veteran of all sorts of physical combat, in which he had kicked butt left and right. And he often swore he’d beat up anybody who tried to mess with him right here at St. Augustine’s. But the truth was that if it came to a fight, I could probably have beaten him myself, and I was no fighter.

None of this bothered me, because we were buddies; and it didn’t seem to bother most other cadets either, because it was easy to see that Eddie lacked the equipment to back up his bluster.

But everything about Eddie seemed to irritate Justin. I often thought about this. Was it Eddie’s smooth-skinned good looks, at least above his shoulders, that made Justin jealous? Or maybe his bragging just brought out Justin’s meanest streak.

Whatever it was  – I only know what I saw: The more Eddie talked, the more ticked off Justin got. And it didn’t take long to figure out that this meant trouble.


But Justin and his big fists were not all I thought about then. As the year at St. Augustine’s unfolded, I learned many things, and had my share of fun. Much of this was shared with Eddie, because our outsider status increasingly threw us together.

For one thing, while girls were mostly distant figures, they weren’t completely out of reach. In town there was a Girls Catholic High School, where the students all wore identical billowing blue dresses, and as time passed we each developed crushes on one or another of them. I admired a girl named Betty Lou, mostly from afar. Eddie did better. Because St. Augustine’s didn’t have a band, he was allowed to go into town regularly to play in the local high school band. There he found a girl named Marla, and actually managed to have a few dates with her. He swore they also did some serious making out – but I wasn’t so sure about that.

Then there was music. For Christmas my parents sent me a small portable record player, and I managed to get a single earphone connected to it. On it I played some big classical LP records I bought at a local supermarket for ninety-nine cents each. The earphone was tiny, and clipped over one ear. The sound was very tinny. But to me, tinny Mozart in one ear, was better than no Mozart at all.

Eddie’s fave. Not mine.

Eddie put up with my Mozart and Beethoven, but never quit trying to convince me that modern jazz, especially the music of Stan Kenton, was the greatest stuff ever written. I heard him out, but stuck stubbornly to my classical convictions.

By the time the snow melted and the leaves were returning, Eddie and I often took long walks in our limited free time, across the dark plowed fields next to the school grounds to the wooded creek beyond it, talking as always about all sorts of things. We chattered and argued about music, girls, and even religion, because I kept reading new books that raised new problems with various beliefs I had earlier taken for granted.

Before long we also talked about how all this reading was getting me in trouble with the priests who ran the school. They could put up with a few quiet Protestants around, but somebody like me, who had loudly abandoned their Catholic faith, was a real problem.

In fact, we soon heard out that one of the cadets I had argued with had reported me to Father Vincent, the Director of Student Life. I think my unbelieving notions scared him, as if they were a kind of virus and might be catching. And maybe he was right.

In any case, the goal of St. Augustine’s was to turn out good Catholics, not good atheists, and that’s what I was sure I was becoming. So one of these days, I announced, the priests would be coming after me.

Eddie said he’d stand with me when they did, and he was as good as his word.

One Friday afternoon we had to see Father Vincent to get permission to go into town after class. But Fr. Vince (as we called him), turned us down flat. Eddie’s grades, he said, were not good enough.

We knew there was more to it; for one thing, my grades were excellent

It was Eddie who lit the fuse: “Was there anything else, Father?” he asked.

“Yes!” Father Vince almost shouted. He turned to face me, eyes blazing, and said they were sick and disgusted about my disloyal debates with other cadets.

“It takes more humility than that to get into heaven, Fager,” he cried, and then preached at me for what felt like an hour.

I stood still, staring back at him the whole time, saying nothing, denying nothing.

This, I realized, was an important moment: confronting the Church which had raised me, and declaring my independence of it, even if only by my silence and a defiant stare. Eddie stood there beside me, echoing my quiet rebellion the whole time.

I could feel his solidarity. It’s not a small thing to stand with a friend who’s being told he’s going to hell, and I was grateful.

But what would happen next? I wanted to know. Soon a rumor circulated that they were planning to expel me from the school. Would they really do that? I still wanted to come back the next year and graduate from St. Augustine’s; I had more independence there than at home, and didn’t want to give that up. I had even ordered a school ring, gold with a red garnet stone.

Would the priests send me packing, and tell my parents their son was a vocal atheist? What would my mother, who was very religious, do to me if they did?

Eddie and I talked about this a lot on our walks. And he had an idea: “Don’t be a chicken about it,” he challenged. “Walk right in there and ask them. You’re not afraid of the priests, are you?”

Well in a way, yes; but in another way, no. So one afternoon I took his advice and went into the office of Father Abelard, the school’s President, and put it to him straight.

Father Abelard smiled kindly at me. “Oh no,” he said reassuringly, “nothing like that has been proposed. We haven’t even talked about such things.”

That made me feel better, and I was happy to go back to my tinny Mozart, and friendly arguments with Eddie about jazz versus classical, how even his Protestant God didn’t exist, and whether he really did make out with his girlfriend in town. We talked, and walked.

As the weeks went on, we also talked a lot about Justin. The current of antagonism between him and Eddie was rising, as surely as the creek after spring rains. The tension level when they were both in the locker room was palpable. What were we going to do about that? What could we do? What could I do?

Justin had tried his belly-busting punches on me a couple more times, probably just to see what would happen. Once he even called over a couple other big guys from a few locker rows away, to take their turns at this abdominal novelty.

All the punches hurt, but none of them could knock the wind out of me; I still can’t imagine why. But I had had enough. After that, the next time Justin grabbed me, I mustered all my courage and pushed him away.

“Stop it!” I shouted. “If you’re gonna beat me up, then go ahead and do it. You know I couldn’t stop you. But otherwise, leave me alone!”

To my surprise, after that he did. At least somewhat. He still threatened me, and bragged about all his fighting, but he mostly kept his hands off. After all, like I said, I wasn’t important enough to beat up seriously.

I wish the same could have been said of Eddie. But it couldn’t. This was as much Eddie’s doing as anyone’s, though. He taunted Justin from his locker, calling out over my head, branding him ugly and stupid, and said he wasn’t afraid, he’d take Justin on anytime.

Eddie made the mistake of baiting him one afternoon as I was coming in, and Justin went for him. They only scuffled for a few seconds, thank god, before some other guys pulled them apart and I pushed Justin back. He could have tossed me aside, but there were others crowding around.

Behind me, Eddie was shouting and cursing: “Put me down, damn it! I’ll clobber him! I’ll kill him! Put me down!”

I turned and saw that one of the basketball players had grabbed Eddie and was holding him about six inches off the floor, his fists and feet flailing the air like angry matchsticks. He was that lightweight. If it had been any other time, I would have burst out laughing, he looked so ridiculous.

But Justin shoved past me, and pointed a thick finger between the shoulders of the other guys between him and Eddie. “I’ll tell you who’ll kill who, you punk” he bellowed.

He pulled his hand back, made a fist, and smashed it loudly into a locker door, shaking the whole row and leaving a dent in the metal. “Like that.” He backed away and stalked out of the locker room.

The basketball player let Eddie down, and the other guys wandered off.

I was shaking. “Eddie,” I whispered, “let’s get out of here.”

We headed down the hall and out the door, going as far as we were allowed, to the plowed field, toward the creek. As we walked, watching out for muddy spots, a couple of things became clear to me: one was that Justin wasn’t kidding. He would want his revenge on Eddie, and it would be a bloody one. Another was that when the time came, I had to stand with him, just as he had stood with me in my face-off with Father Vince.

But how could I do that so it made a difference? Justin could flatten Eddie with one fist and me with the other; and where would that leave either of us?

Still feeling shaky, I spotted something in the grass by the creek. It was a length of two by four lumber, about two and a half feet long. It was damp from lying out there in the dew and rain, and that made it heavy. A notch had been cut out of one end, giving my hand a good grip on it, and it swung with a real heft to it.

I whacked it against a tree a few times. The blows were solid, tearing big gashes in the tree’s bark, and making my palm and fingers hurt. But I didn’t drop it. In fact, with each blow I felt stronger and swung harder, and harder at the tree.

And like an electric shock, an idea came to me.

This two by four was not just a piece of wood. It was an equalizer. Looking down at it, I stopped shaking. It could solve our problem with Justin: In my mind’s eye I could see how it would go down, as clearly as if it was actually happening:

I would walk into the locker room, and find Justin attacking Eddie. Really beating him up, smashing that smooth face he hated so much, or maybe choking him. Eddie would be gasping and bleeding, maybe flailing around, maybe unconscious.

As usual, Justin would hardly notice me, walking over to open my locker as if I was utterly oblivious to what was going on a few feet away.

But then I’d turn around, step quietly behind Justin and raise the two by four high over my head–maybe holding it with both hands.

There would be only one chance, I figured. One blow. One heavy stroke across the back of Justin’s skull, swinging with all the concentrated force of a year’s accumulated rage. I could almost feel the bone give way under the board, the way the tree bark had split and flown off in ragged, sappy chunks.

I turned from this vision to Eddie, there by the creek, and told him very calmly what I planned to do. He believed me too, even though he still thought he could take care of himself.

With that settled, all we had to do was smuggle this weapon into the building. He went ahead of me, to signal from the hall doorway when the coast was clear.

The two by four was too long to fit under my shirt, but its weathered color was close to the khaki of my uniform, so I just walked quickly down the mostly deserted hall, swinging it in time with my right leg. In a couple of long moments, it was in my locker, covered by an old uniform shirt.


After that it was only a matter of waiting and watching. Each time I came into the locker room and saw Justin, the palms of my hands began to tingle, as if they were ready to close around the hidden lumber. But I felt calm about it, and kept up my usual careful deference toward him, and I don’t think he ever suspected a thing.

At this point, it would be satisfying to say things worked out as I expected, that my knotty pine equalizer made the difference, saved the day in a final, maybe fatal confrontation. And there were days when I felt that moment was coming close.

But it never happened. The year ended in anticlimax: Justin’s folks came and got him a day or two early, or Eddie’s parents came to get him; I don’t remember which anymore.

Either way, that ultimate, climactic showdown was headed off more or less accidentally, by disinterested forces beyond our control. Or maybe it was the grace of that God I didn’t believe in.

George Washington brought the shocking news, and blew my cover.

Anyway, a few weeks later, back with my family, there was a showdown of a different sort. My mother called me to the kitchen table, where she dropped a stamped envelope in front of me.

I opened it. Inside was a letter, from Father Abelard. It said that because of my vocal unbelief, I would not be allowed to return to St. Augustine’s the next year. Having me around was too hazardous to the other cadets’ spiritual welfare.

“Well?” Mother asked grimly. “What about this?”

I looked at the letter again, then at her, and took a deep breath. Finally I said, “It’s true.”

She didn’t give up, of course. But that battle was lost; I was done with the Catholic church.

A few weeks later, a small package came in the mail. In it was my St. Augustine’s school ring.

At first I thought I should send it back. But looking at the red and gold, I began to wonder about many things connected with the year at St. Augustine’s, things I still wonder about:

What ever happened to Eddie, or Justin, neither of whom I ever saw again? Would my belly muscles still stand up to one of his punches; it’s been a long time. Did the priests go through our lockers that summer and find my two by four? If so, what did they make of it?

I also wonder, if that final crisis had come, what would have happened after I swung that two by four? Or, more recently, what if the weapon hidden in my locker hadn’t been a two by four, but an AR-15, or the 1959 equivalent? Would this story be written from a prison cell? Would it be written at all?

These are questions to which there can be no answers. But there are three things I do know.

The first is that I meant what I said to Eddie about what I would do with that piece of wood. I can still see myself swinging it in the locker room, almost as if it really happened.

The second thing is that as I looked at the red and gold band and wondered all this, the ring took on an entirely different, and much more important set of meanings than it had had when I ordered it.

I put it on, and have been wearing it ever since, for  over 50 years.

The third thing–but this came later–is that I’m not an atheist anymore.

Copyright (c) by Chuck Fager. All rights reserved.

NOTE: This is a true story; all the names have been changed except mine, Stan Kenton, Mozart, Beethoven & Kansas.

The post The Road to Columbine – A True Story appeared first on A Friendly Letter.

Categories: Blogs

Snow Camp & The Underground Railroad – Beyond Mythmaking

A Friendly Letter (Chuck Fager) - Fri, 02/16/2018 - 8:15pm

At Snow Camp we’re working at broadening the vision that created our acclaimed historical drama, Pathway to Freedom, to bring out more awareness of our practical connections to the actual Underground Railroad.

I admit, though, that sometimes I’m tempted to believe, as one prominent historian has argued, that the “Underground Railroad” (UGRR) is mainly a myth, spun into heroic proportions on legends, that serve mainly to puff up self-serving white people’s memories.

Salem Chapel, St. Catharines, Ontario CANADA: a terminus for successful UGRR journeys.

And surely there has been a lot of myth-making about it, feeding white rescue fantasies, which has deservedly been deflated by recent revisionist research.

But even after discounting the expansionist folklore, I haven’t been able to dismiss this saga — not since I visited this church, the Salem Chapel in St. Catharine’s, Ontario, only a few miles beyond the U.S. border at Niagara Falls.

The modest people of Salem Chapel are the descendants of many intrepid men and women who made this long and often terrifying  journey and succeeded. More than twenty such settlements of freed peoples’ were planted along the southern end of Ontario, stretching 250-plus miles from Buffalo to the lakeside city of Windsor, just a short ferry (or clandestine canoe) ride from Detroit. Many thousands of enslaved people showed the grit and stamina to start and finish their incredible journeys. (Many thousands more, truth be told, tried and failed, and usually paid a terrible price.)

Harriet Tubman statue, outside the St. Catharines school named for her.

Among the early worshipers at Salem Chapel was Harriett Tubman,. She led several parties there, and stayed on for most of the 1850s, when she was being hunted below the border. She returned south when the Civil War began, to undertake more exploits for the Union war effort.

Moreover, alternatives to the white savior UGRR plotline have been around for a long time, if too-long neglected. One of the best was also the earliest, by William Still of Philadelphia.

He had been a key figure in that city’s Vigilance Committee, which aided a great many successful slave escapes, and in 1872 he published the first detailed, documented account of his work and that of the Philadelphia underground.

Still’s  book is a landmark, and available free online, in full.) Further, Still’s view of the struggle was proudly Black-centered, as is evident right from his book’s title page:

Title page, “The Underground Rail Road,” by William Still, 1872.

Yet he was also forthright and even generous in acknowledging the active and sustained assistance his committee had from numerous activist whites, many of whom also took substantial risks. Among the white supporters, none outnumbered Quakers or former Quakers.

So William Still’s Underground Railroad was a Black initiative, built on and energized by the desire and action of the enslaved to break from bondage, but many were not entirely alone in the effort. And as Still’s 780 pages of dense text showed, there was plenty of joint initiative to recount.

The most complete recent history of the UGRR, Bound for Canaan by Fergus Bordewich, reflects a similar pattern, only painted on a much broader canvas: where William Still focused on Philadelphia; Burdewich points out that what was then called the “Northwest” (now the Midwest), was criss-crossed by an equally, if not more important group of UGRR pathways, particularly in Ohio, Indiana and Michigan, routes ultimately terminating in Canada.

These are rough reconstructions of the major eastern routes; many more went across the midwest to Detroit, at the western edge of southwest Ontario.

It’s about 700 miles from Salem Chapel in Ontario to Snow Camp, North Carolina —  as the Canada geese flocks fly; on the ground it’s many more. Hard miles, through forests, winding through mountains and crossing rivers, in all kinds of weather, hungry and hunted.  Here in Snow Camp, what we know of the UGRR is mostly folklore, but still it fits with these big-picture accounts, though with plenty of local twists.

For one thing, it’s right in the thick of a “Quaker hotbed” that was almost a century old in the years leading up to the Civil War, and which survived the fighting, despite losing many members in treks west, to Indiana and other non-slave states.

The big red area is our “Quaker hotbed” in the Carolina Piedmont. Snow Camp is at the tip of the yellow arrow. Greensbro, at the blue arrow, was the main “transfer point” for journeys to the north, toward Philadelphia, New York and Canada. Many escapees had to do much of the trek on foot.

This meant there were many potential UGRR sympathizers around Snow Camp– though they kept a low profile. After all, while the UGRR was controversial in the North, it was criminally illegal in the South: a number of white sympathizers were caught at it in the South and served long prison terms; more than one died in jail.

In this tense atmosphere, UGRR work was kept both secret and carefully compartmentalized: most participants only knew where the next stopping place was, and often were unaware of who operated it. The renowned UGRR tree near the Guilford College campus is a good example: nestled in a thick woods, which tree was it?

The woods near Guilford College. Now, let’s see: was it THIS big tree, or maybe THAT one over there? Or the one we passed awhile back?

Thus, if seized by the patrollers or the sheriff, “conductors” could give truthful (or nearly truthful), yet minimally informative answers.

So there are very few concrete records. (Levi Coffin, originally from Greensboro, described some of his forays in his memoirs– online here in full — many years after the Civil War ended and slavery was abolished.) Yet local historians at the Friends meetings near Snow Camp have long asserted that area Quakers were active in UGRR efforts.

Characters from the abolitionist novel “UncleTom’s Cabin” were adapted to fit larger social images. Here is a playbill, featuring runaway Eliza from the story, with her baby, crossing a frozen river pursued by hounds. Here is Eliza in another period illustration, crossing the river carefully garbed as a proper Victorian lady, and so fair of hue that who would suspect her of being “black”?

Even so, Quakers were a suspect minority as far as local authorities were concerned, on a subject which frequently evoked actual violence.  Thus habits of concealment, and what spies call “cut-outs” and “drops” were key tools for UGRR work in this area.

In addition to preparing the 25th season of Pathway to Freedom, the only ongoing play about the UGRR, we hope to soon be able to make use of our historic buildings and artifacts to illustrate the day-to-day reality of life in a seemingly quiet but inwardly turbulent slave society. Watch this space for more details as they develop, And we ask again that our supporters send donations soon, so we can meet the high expenses of season preparation. 

Donations are welcome via a secure online link here:
For regular mail, make checks to:
Snow Camp Outdoor Theatre
P. O. Box 535
Snow Camp NC 27349

PS. A reminder: our local auditions will take place at the Drama site [301 drama Rd., Snow Camp] on  Wednesday March 14, noon to 5 PM, and Thursday March 15, 3PM to 8 PM. Make appointments by email at:





The post Snow Camp & The Underground Railroad – Beyond Mythmaking appeared first on A Friendly Letter.

Categories: Blogs

An Infinite Number of Second Chances: Three Books About Life Between Lives

What Canst Thou Say - Thu, 02/01/2018 - 11:18am

Three Books About Life Between Lives recommended by Rhonda Ashurst and reviewed by Mariellen Gilpin for preparation for the May issue of What Canst Thou Say on the theme “Other Lives”

Journey of Souls: Case Studies of Life Between Lives. Michael Newton, Ph.D. Llewellyn Publications, Woodbury, MN. 1994.

Destiny of Souls: New Case Studies of Life Between Lives. Michael Newton, Ph.D. Llewellyn Publications, Woodbury, MN. 2000.

Many Lives, Many Masters: The True Story of a Prominent Psychiatrist, His Young Patient, and the Past-Life Therapy That Changed Both Their Lives. Brian L. Weiss, M.D. © 1988. Touchstone, an imprint of Simon and Schuster, Inc.

Michael Newton is a hypnotherapist who began interviewing people with severe pain issues without clear physiological causation. His books record snippets of his conversations/interviews with some of his patients, in which he explores their traumas in earlier lives to learn how to relieve physical ailments in their present lives. Along the way, he began to investigate what a soul’s journey is like between one life and the next. If one were to read Newton’s books expecting to explore his reasoning about whether and how one might have consciousness between a death in one life and a birth into the next, the reader will be disappointed. Newton’s objective is not an argument for the existence of souls based on his interview data, but socio-anthropological studies, if you will, which explore the structure and the milestones of a soul’s journey between lives.

Journey of Souls, first published in 1994 and revised five times by the 38th printing in 2017, focuses largely on the stages of a soul’s journey from one life to the next: first passing the gateway into the spirit world; then one’s homecoming party, so to speak, with others in our group of soul-intimates; our review of our learnings (or not) in one’s past life; choosing a new life and a new body; and the experience of rebirth. He also reviews the journey of a soul as it moves from beginner to intermediate and then advanced soul-hood over the course of many lives, many centuries.

Destiny of Souls, published in 2000 and reprinted 24 times by 2017, explores in some depth various aspects of a soul’s journey: the ways spirits connect with the living; forms and functions souls may take when they wish to stay connected to earth between lives; how souls may undertake to restore themselves between lives on earth; the group systems that souls may choose between lives; how souls undergo evaluation (not judgment and punishment) of their lives; the linkages between spiritual and human families, including reuniting with souls who have hurt us; and some specializations that advancing souls may choose (ethicists or nursery teachers, for instance); and finally, how souls are supported and guided in their choices of future lives.

Once the reader adapts to the lack of support for those of us thrown in at the deep end of Newton’s pool, we can notice that there is actually a great deal of support for souls during their lives between lives. The Universe, according to Newton, seems to understand that we are all in a process of learning how to do things better. There is much less emphasis in Newton’s universe on depicting the horrors of eternal punishment; much more emphasis on reflecting on one’s life and how we can do it all better next time, and the time after that. It is a universe with perhaps an infinite number of second chances; opportunities to do it better. One can hope in Newton’s universe, also, for an infinite number of opportunities to rest, reflect, think it over before trying again.

Many Lives, Many Masters: The True Story of a Prominent Psychiatrist, His Young Patient, and the Past-Life Therapy That Changed Both Their Lives. Brian L. Weiss, M.D. © 1988. Touchstone, an imprint of Simon and Schuster, Inc.

This book will provide some of the narrative background for the change in therapeutic methods and thinking one lacked when reading Newton’s works (see above). We can follow the developments when traditional psychotherapist Brian Weiss first interviewed Catherine under hypnosis, and stumbled on something he knew very little about: reincarnation and past-life memories. His scientifically-trained mind resisted, but he couldn’t deny the reality of his observations either. And, as her traumas in past lives emerged under hypnosis, Catherine’s lifelong anxieties and phobias began to diminish—sometimes disappearing entirely after just one session. As they continued to work together, she began to develop psychic abilities, among other things sharing some remarkable revelations about Weiss’s own family and his dead son. She was also able to serve as a conduit of information about life and death from highly-evolved spirit entities. Weiss’s style of questioning Catherine became much less conventionally therapeutic, and her pace of progress much more rapid. Weiss himself was no longer so fearful about his own death, although he continued to scrutinize carefully every new piece of information from their sessions together. Using past-life therapy, he was able not only to cure Catherine but begin an innovative and highly effective treatment modality.

One cannot help but reflect, upon reading Newton and Weiss’s works, how their views of a constantly-evolving human potential over the course of many second chances, many lives, fit with the more traditional psychological framework, which tends to assume that some diagnoses/labels, such as sociopathy for instance, may be organic in origin. Does such a label remain in place for a single soul through the course of many lives? Stay tuned for more information from later researchers.

Categories: Blogs


What Canst Thou Say - Sun, 01/21/2018 - 7:38pm

by Michael Resman

My heart is full of joy

I revel in ecstasy

For God loves me

I carry that piece of god’s love deep in my soul




God is in me

Never to be taken away or lost


A piece of the universe hurtling through

Pulled by the spark within me to that great conflagration

Thank you, oh thank you, my beloved


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