Plain in the city

A plain Quaker folk singer with a Juris Doctorate in his back pocket, salt in his blood, and a set of currach oars in the closet, Ulleann Pipes under his arm, guitar on his back, Anglo Irish baggage, wandering through New York City ... in constant amaze. Statement of Faithfulness. As a member of the Quaker Bloggers Ad Hoc Committee I affirm that I will be faithful to the Book of Discipline of my Meeting 15th Street Monthly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends.

Saturday, December 31, 2005

When We Are Divided by Jesus' Name?

There was a time, a few years ago, when my meeting was quite divided by Christocentric messages, and the reaction to them. We met, we spoke and less tension resulted. However, of late, this tension is back. Many Friends leave meeting angered by the notion that they are being proselytized to when Jesus or Christ is mentioned in meeting.

At times I refer to Jesus' ministry, and yet, I do not say that Jesus is the single path to God, or IS uniquely God born on earth, any more than each of us have the potential to be fully present to God within ourselves and others... but, I feel, as one who is drawn to Jesus' ministry, I must again pose the question, as I did in the past, what do we do, together, when the name of Jesus divides us.

Well, perhaps we who speak of Jesus might ask about what it means to not worship another God before Me. By creating a unique role of one man in salvation, are we perhaps inviting outrage? Historically, it is a fact, should we study the documents of the time, that Jesus was in fact a man. Could it be that we endanger the peace of meetings when we make an idol of him, an abstraction for God? I think most of us don't do that. But is that not the danger of paganism, my God is bigger than your God? On Amanda's blog, ( Best Stuff and Plain in my links ) Jeff Hipp proposes that we have to be careful of not alienating many Friends in Africa and other places. Yes, absolutely, but Quaker unity is not about numbers, it is about openness to the process of moving towards God. If we are driving others out of the peace and unity of God in the name of Jesus, what have we done, if not made greatly complex the process of coming to unity, and then, often we create divisions in our faith and what difference is there in our community of active love, than any other who war with whatever means for the ego of our abstractions...
I don't know. This is pure query... I really don't know. Let's labor together.

Thursday, December 15, 2005


After all, it is about a fellow with ADHD, who is known to everyone in his little community, and yet profoundly alone... thrown out of his little nest into a cruel NYC... how could I not love this film?


"I know, I was thinking the same thing, we have a lot in common, more than just bananas... "

Wednesday, December 14, 2005


Happy Birthday to thee
Happy Birthday to thee
Happy Birthday to thee...

In these days of so much, lets not forget to wish our fellow Blogonaut, Amanda (Best Stuff and Plain ) a joyous birthday!!!


Tuesday, December 13, 2005

We are all come to the well, now what?

I began this as a comment on Rob's blog, Consider the Lilies, and noticed a few places where I left a word out, needed to make a thing or two more clear, and the message seems to me, unfinished. So, here we are...
I've been thinking that much of what Jesus said, about how to live in the kingdom of God may have been changed by Paul's influence. This is not a slap at Paul, I think Paul is a part of the miracle of Jesus, but had different aspects of God to add in his interpretation of the events and lessons of Jesus' life. But, as some points, Paul's interpretations to make Jesus more of a Greco-Roman God figure, as sort of anti-Cesar, can remove our own responsibility by creating a magic Jesus. Jesus' original ministry speaks to our own role in making peace, and living in the kingdom of God in the here and now...
I was thinking, ( and writing to a Friend, in fact... ) of Jesus at the well, which I think, in its original telling, is not parable ( Crossin points that a lot of the "stories are parables, and some of the historical inaccuracies are intentional to make a point through parable, something that was not thought to be untrue at the time... ). But, I am sure that most of the core story of Jesus at the well is history.

The core story: Jesus comes to a well, shortly after parting from his time with John the Baptist ( likely a discipleship relationship which ends when Jesus is led to see the central Hebrew expression to be eating together, not ritual cleansing...) He comes to a well and finds a local, Samaritan woman. Sumatran Israelites did not worship in Jerusalem, but rather at Mt. Gerizim. Samaritan woman were considered to be impure, and their touch polluting by Judeans. Jesus says to this woman, "Give me to drink" she asks him how it is that a Judean asks a Sumatran woman for a drink, and he answers that those who drink this water, I give, will not thirst...but the water I give becomes one fountain welling up to give eternal life.

The division between the Jesus as a Judean, and this woman was such that, even if she were not a fallen woman ( so to speak ), her touch as a Samaritan was polluting. Jesus asks her to give him water rather than taking it from the well himself, am convinced that it was not the touch of Jesus that he is telling us, blesses the water with some magic of God's touch, it is the touch of the woman who, in the divisions of his day, makes the contact polluting. He is saying, that water, which is polluted by the interaction of people who are by custom and politic and religion divided, is made holy when those divided take that water from each other.

This view of peace making, living in a state of unity and peace, is so much more important in my understanding, than saying that water is blessed by some magic from God. It commands us to go where we are reviled, and sit with those our basic acculturation teaches us to hate, fear or despise, and take water from them, place ourselves in their care. How like what Tom Fox and his friends have done, this is. I am so frightened for their pain, and their families fears, but I am also so sure that they are not thirsting, but as Jesus said to the person who asked, when is the kingdom of God to come, and he said, it is here and now... they walk in the peaceable kingdom with certainty.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

An Open Letter to Congressman Duncan Hunter

Dear Friend, Duncan Hunter,
Congressman for the 52 district of CA.:

It might not surprise thee to learn that I am not in unity with thy idea that war can change the world. My reading of the long history of war on this planet has been that change happens in spite of war.

I must point to one quote in thy speech on US Policy in Iraq, on 12\6\05, which I found to be troubling. You said "if we do not change the world, the world will change us." This is clearly a turn around on a famous quote from a young member of the Religious Society of Friends, commonly known as Quakers. This young man was standing a peace vigil, with a sign in midtown New York during World War II. A man asked him if he thought he would change the world by his witness. "No, but I will not be changed by the world."

We Quakers, did not let the world change us when, in England we were killed for our faith. Mary Dyer, who gave herself over to be hanged in Boston in 1660, when our faith was outlawed, who said, "Truth is my authority, not authority my truth, did not let the world change her. The Friends who did not take Pennsylvania from the original people by force of arms, unique in the American experience, did not let the world change them. The Friends who risked life and property to conduct escaped Africans north to Canada upon the invisible rails of the underground railroad, did not let the world change them. The Quakers who shared prison cells of fear and torture with our Amish and Mennonite and Brethren brothers, during World War I, when our objection to military service was not recognized in the United States, we did not let the world change us. In a world of violence, we have not asked for or accepted the false protection of violence, we will not be changed by a world at war.

These are some of the many acts of courage that saves liberty. Liberty does not live in a clearing maintained at the cost of the lives of others, it lives in a heart that recognizes that truth is authority. That is what Benjamin Franklin meant when he said that a nation which trades liberty for security deserves neither. This war has cost this nation liberty and cost many people their lives.

As I write this, I worry for the lives of the CPT members held in Iraq, including a co-religionist of ours, in Tom Fox, we Friends join many praying for the lives of innocent and guilty alike in Iraq and other places that suffer from the blindness of war.

I ask that, rather than turning the words of brave pacifists around, thee might seek to understand them in their original meaning...

War may be able to stop hearts, but it can never change hearts.

Thyne in the light,

Lorcan Otway

Religious Society of Friends
also known as Quakers

Saturday, December 03, 2005

From Chuck Fager

-----Forwarded Message-----
Sent: Dec 2, 2005 12:15 PM
Subject: Free Tom Fox! New Website & ACTION Steps

Dear Friend--

We are Quakers and admirers of Tom Fox, kidnapped in Iraq with three other
peaceworkers on Nov. 26. Please join us in taking action aimed at helping free
them, safely and soon. Joining together through the web, we can keep their
plight and innocence before the world, and their captors.

To this end, we have put up a new website: _

We believe that the most help those outside Iraq can be to these prisoners
is to make clear to the world, and especially their captors, that they were in
Iraq NOT as spies, military contractors, or even missionaries, but as
unarmed advocates of peace, justice, and reconciliation.

They have done no wrong, and deserve to be free and safe. We call on their
captors to let them go, now.

If you agree, here are the specific steps we advocate. Time is of the

1. Visit the website: _www.freethecaptivesnow.org_
( There you can sign a special petition page, aimed at the captors.
You can also link there to Tom Fox's Iraq blog.

2. Hold a public vigil or prayer service focused on the call, expressed in
your own words, to release the captives, end the occupation and stop torture.
Join with like-minded groups, and invite the media to attend and report on
your action.

3. Write to newspapers, call in to radio shows, and tell them of the
innocence of these peaceworkers and your support for their immediate release.
Mention the website!

4. Send emails to the feedback pages of media such as Al-Jazeera, Al Arabiya
and other major national and international media, especially in the Gulf
region (any other links??), repeating the call to free the captives.

5. If you are part of a group or church with a peace and justice emphasis,
ask them to join this effort in whatever public way is appropriate to their

6. Let us know what you are doing.

7. VERY IMPORTANT - Pass this message on! Tell your friends about the
_www.freethecaptivesnow.org_ ( website,
petition, and action suggestions..

With your email help, we can quickly reach supporters of peace and justice
throughout the world. Together our voices can make a powerful chorus for
freeing the captives and ending the war.

As this urgent effort continues, we'll be updating the site. They have done
no wrong, and deserve to be free and safe. We call on their captors to let
them go, now.

Thank you and Peace,

Chuck Fager & John Stephens

An Open Letter to our Brothers holding Tom Fox and other CPT members in Iraq:

Dear Brothers in the one God:

It is early morning in America. I am a Quaker and I am trying to find words to stay your hand. I can only say that hatred is blind and love is unconditional.

Many people from our nation have come to your nation in blind hatred and killed innocent people. Tom Fox is not one of these people. He came to your nation with all his human fears, because his love was unconditional. He came to ask his own people not to kill you. He came not to judge you, innocent or guilty, but to say live together in peace and find a better way. He did not come to change your government, but to change our own people's hearts towards you.

He came to your country in the same light that Rachel Corrie went to Palestine to stand in the way of Israeli tractors destroying Palestinian homes. To spare Tom Fox and his companions is to show the Israeli people that it was wrong take the young life of Rachael Corrie.

I ask you to stay your hand, because we will still love you, no less or no more, if you break our hearts by taking the life of these good people who love you.

I ask you to stay your hand because you can. When you stand before your God, next to the American who wore an army uniform, next to the one who drove the tractor that killed Rachael Corrie, and our God asks each of you, why have you taken the lives of innocents, what difference will there be in your answer? When, some day, and I pray after a long life of loving works, Tom stands before our God and is asked why he placed his life in your hands, I think you know his answer. Because hatred is blind and love is unconditional.

"Whoever has saved a life, it will be as if he has saved the life of all mankind" (Quran 5:32)

Gods love and mercy to thee

In unmovable Friendship

Lorcan Otway

A member of the committee of Ministry and Counsel for the New York Quarterly Meeting
of the Religious Society of Friends
also known as Quakers.