Dear Friends of Agape,
Here at Agape, fall is a joyous season, the completion of the banquet of summer’s harvest. As we move through November, the Agape woodlands are still strewn with acorns of our towering oak trees.
The five of us living at Agape turn our wary gaze to perilous uncertainties: the upcoming cold weather, accompanying the harsh realities of a spiking COVID-19 and election strife. Before the election, we began an ongoing public vigil in the Town of Ware. We have continued the vigil amidst the chaotic pathos of a defeated president who unites his angry base, inciting more division as he contests election results and refuses to concede.
(Pictured: Agape’s Banner at Polling Place in Ware, MA)
Our banner reading: “God’s Peace Heals All Divisions,” expresses our desire to resist such unstable forces by girding ourselves with the timeless prophecies of Paul’s letter to the Ephesians: “…grow strong in our God… for it is not against human enemies that we have to struggle but against the principalities and the ruling forces… master of the darkness of this world” (Ephesians 6:10-20). Together with other peace communities we learn again the necessities of nonviolent resistance.
Our Faith is in the Streets
On election day we unfurled our Agape banner at the Ware, Massachusetts designated voting site. We came as peacekeepers, not campaigners. For weeks prior to the election, we were in contact with other faith-based groups and conflict de-escalating teams, including “Protect the Vote,” imagining ways to keep the peace should violence break out. Formation and training in Christian non-violence serves us well as we face a potentially destabilizing political future.
Our Summer Volunteers Save Us
Agape’s annual June workdays gather people to join in outdoor homesteading, good conversation and community building. However, with the onslaught of COVID-19, we had to ask ourselves: “How can we maintain a community life and be open to hospitality without putting visitors at risk for the virus?” Julie Bradley (Agape’s new office manager and friend of 40 years), her son, nephew, and partner, Aleem, rose to the occasion and spent the day hauling and splitting wood along with fourteen-year-old Isaac LaDue and the Anderson family from upstate New York.
Through social distancing, wearing masks and meeting outside, we have welcomed small groups to pray and commune at our fire pit. A small men’s group from Springfield, consisting of several Christian ministers, including friends Bill Toller of Just Faith and Patrick Murray of Nehemiah Ministries joined us on Veteran’s Day. Good friend Steve Tumolo and his wife Julene spent a weekend in the Hermitage.
Chloe Haydel Brown and Ellen Guerra, best friends since childhood in Indiana, volunteered for a month as WWOOFers. They brilliantly kept our garden humming as they put up almost a year’s worth of food. In Agape’s chapel, Chloe presented expert yoga classes for enlightenment and for sore muscles. Together, Ellen and Chloe provided inspiration, along with lively, conversational gift of presence.
A First- St. Francis Day Zoom
On October 3, 2020, over 100 people came together to celebrate Agape’s 31st annual (and first ever virtual) St. Francis Day entitled “Becoming Anti-Racist to Build Beloved Community During COVID-19 and the 2020 Election.” We transplanted the experience of Francis Day into the digital realm, opening a space for building community through deep listening, prayer, reflection, small group conversations and an evening session of poetry and song. In the morning session we listened to Sr. Melinda Pellerin, SSJ, a member of African-American Women Religious, Rev. Jonathan Betts (J.B.) Fields, an African-American preacher and poet, Julie Bradley and Edgar Hayes, a member of Agape’s Mission Council. These participants shared poignant narratives of fear and anger, about growing up Black in inner city neighborhoods. Steve and Nancy James related their experiences as white missionaries in Haiti, and Jeanelle Wheeler reflected on her college life at Brown University and her experiences of racism as a white student and teacher.
October’s Full Coronavirus Calendar
Katya Freitas, recent graduate of Hofstra University arrived in early October for a two-month volunteer stint joined by a return visit from Brayton’s boyhood friend, Barry Winkelman. Together with Jim Robinson, and Agape core member, Dixon George, they kept the daily rhythm vital with prayer and homesteading on the land, closing up the garden, getting in wood for winter heat and supporting our evangelizing work in the Agape office.
Jim is a Mission Council member and recent PhD grad in Theology from Fordham University who is immersing himself for three months in the community’s rhythms of prayer and work while writing on ecology, community life, and nonviolence.
(Pictured: Barry, Jim, and Katya After Stacking Hermitage Wood Pile)
Dixon George, a resident core member of Agape, at age 72, was baptized in our local Catholic Church, St. Aloysius, by his spiritual director, Fr. Tom McMurray SJ. Brayton, Jim, Suzanne, and Sr. Jane Morrissey served as baptismal and confirmation sponsors. It was a holy and mystical day.
(Pictured: Brayton, Suzanne, Dixon, and Father Tom After Baptism)
Just before the hard-killing frost we delivered bags of final veggies to Christina’s Place, in Springfield, MA, a transitional housing shelter for women and children. With food shortages at places of refuge for the poor, Agape members hope to solidify more efforts for food distribution to assist those in financial extremity.
Agape Is Always In Need
For 32 years, we have relied on our beautiful forest companions, trees of many varieties, to whom we are wedded body and soul, to provide wood heat exclusively in all four of our buildings.
Having warmed thousands of people in Francis House for all these years, we discovered in late summer that our entire system needed to be replaced, upgraded, and made more efficient.
The replacement of all stoves and chimney flue systems comes at a steep cost: $20,000. Despite the steep financial investment at this time, we decided to continue to invest in wood heat as our primary heat source for the next 20-30 years. Wood is a carbon neutral fuel and the greenest heat available for the 6000 square feet of Agape buildings. The heavy toil required to heat by wood is a major yearly effort as we put up about twelve cords of wood a year.
(Pictured: Fire Safe Workers Installing the Chimney Flue)
Thoreau writes in Walden, “Wood warms you twice, once when you split it and again when you burn it.” By burning wood and not burning oil, gas, or coal over 32 years, we estimate our savings to be $200,000 while significantly reducing our carbon footprint.
We come to you, our donors, Servant Song subscribers and loyal sustainers, will hearts full of gratitude for your past generosity: Will you please help us continue this Agape Community witness to a green community and simple lifestyle moving into uncertain climate change times? May we together “stand fast with truth as the belt around our waists” and with zeal, propagate the “gospel of peace” as our footgear.” (Ephesian 6:14-16).
In the love of Agape,
Suzanne and Brayton