Steve and I are grateful to be here to celebrate 30 years of Francis Days, on this beautiful, sunny, chilly fall day, with trees still filled with green leaves and a few turning gold and red. Many willing hands helped to set up the chairs in a semi-circle against the back-drop of the surrounding forest. The sacred fire burns throughout the day. Buddhist monks arrive from the Peace Pagoda in their robes, chanting up the driveway to Francis House. They bring reverence and set the tone for the day. Gentle Hawk, a member of Worcester Intertribal Indian Council, sang a deeply moving Native American chant with his drum.
Over the years, we have returned from Haiti to Agape to add to our spiritual enrichment and to carry the love we receive back to our brothers and sisters in Haiti. So the circle continues.
“Choose life so that you and your children may live” (Deuteronomy 30:19)by Steve James
Having just left Haiti, we want now to celebrate with you, all that has been given to us. We come from a people suffering greatly at this time. We feel that for us in Haiti, all these years, Agape has been a life-giving bridge in so many ways, to so many suffering ones.
This is a most precious bridge because it is a bridge that has transported and sustained truth and love, authenticity and integrity. This bridge helps us to walk our talk of nonviolent love in this unconventional community called Agape-Haiti.
We come and stand in your presence
We come now and stand in your presence from the bleeding fields of Haiti. We come and stand in your presence from the suffering of so many in Haiti, from the injustice against so many in Haiti.
We are gathered around this tree of life that we and our children and the children of Haiti’s suffering and bleeding, may have life.
Steve and Nancy James are co-founders of The Agape Community and have been Baptist medical missionaries for over 35 years.
Frida and Liz
Being Rootedby Frida Berrigan
“I am particularly happy to be here with my mom and also to celebrate what would be Phil Berrigan’s 96th birthday. Today is about life and legacy and the work that you are all doing, especially in this holy ground of Agape.
I offer my perspectives on rootedness, not as an old person and not as a young person either, as I am reconciling myself to middle-agedness. I live with my family, my husband Patrick and our children Seamus and Madeleine, on the Connecticut coastline in New London. I am finding rootedness in our little garden, our tiny patch of Earth, its fecundity in need of care and attention. Growing up, our yard was tall and utilitarian. My Dad would bring the axe down on wood we had collected from the neighborhood. His suspenders would snap as the axe burrowed into the dense wood from a woodpile of downed telephone poles and limbs of trees from parks around the neighborhood.
People came to Jonah House where we lived in Baltimore from all over to learn about nonviolent resistance, Christian simplicity and gospel witness with my parents and the rest of the community.
If we needed flowers for our house church altar, my Dad and I would go out into the neighborhood early on a Sunday morning, and he would bring his pocketknife, and we would carve off blue blooms from the yards of greener, well-heeled neighbors. One man would yell and curse at us ad my Dad would yell back that that the flowers weren’t property.
My parents honed their own needs to a narrow point and taught us to be as pared down and unsentimental as they were. I appreciate that lesson. My parents never voted and my father would say that if voting mattered, it would be illegal.
So, when we’re teaching rootedness our own active, distractible children, I think of the way we talk about land. It’s the way we talk about community. It’s the way we help pick up trash along our streets.
Dan Berrigan always said know where you stand and stand there, and it took me awhile to hear that advice, but I finally listened.
Coming Full Circle with Lizby Suzanne Belote Shanley
Liz McAlister, the homilist at our wedding in 1980, has had profound influence on my life. Jonah House, co-founded by Liz and Phil, was the flagship community of The Atlantic Life Community in Baltimore of which Brayton and I and others in Ailanthus: A Nonviolent Witness for Peace, were members.
As Liz walked up the driveway with Frida I was full of emotion, realizing the years between our first meeting in 1978 and this moment in 2019, the trips to DC for arrests and Civil Disobedience, 40 years’ worth of treasures. Liz leaned into me and said, softly: “This land is so beautiful.” Frida was nearby in a colorful hat. I introduced Liz, with words from Daniel Berrigan comparing peacemakers “to goats” who hang on horizontally, “rope hangers, who dangle and sweat and fuss and even make it to the next ledge.” I turned to Liz, and quoted her brother-in-law: “Given the world, can I wish you and us, the next ledge.”
Just Pack It Upby Liz McAlister
First, I would like to think of Steve Kelly SJ, a Jesuit priest, a member of the Kingsbay Plowshare 7, still in jail because he won’t cooperate with any conditions of release.
I was released a few weeks ago, a total surprise after 20 months, no reason given…just “pack it all up.” I promised nothing although I was told to call once a week to let them know where I am. So we will see how it goes.