18 July 2013

Canadian shorts

On Sunday, Judy and I worshipped with River of Life Friends Church in Post Falls, Idaho. This was our third visit to this meeting. We appreciated the thoughtful questions that followed our sermon, and we look forward to more correspondence with those intrigued by our account of life and service in Russia.

Yesterday we visited Spokane Friends Church's midweek meeting and presented a program on our experiences in Russia. Again we felt very much among old friends--and again we loved the perceptive questions that the evening's participants asked us. I was happy to show them a copy of the brand new edition of Power of Goodness, of which I brought 21 copies with me to the USA. Twenty of them have gone to Friends International Library's Janet Riley in Sandy Spring, Maryland. The other copy is traveling with us to Friends churches this month and next.

New edition of Power of Goodness was published by Friends International Library and printed by Groznenskii Rabochii in Grozny, Chechnya.


In between Sunday and yesterday we had a mini-vacation in British Columbia. We stayed at the Red Shutter Inn in Rossland, a ski lodge that was, in this off-season time, nearly empty, and very calm. Our most constant companion those two and a half days was a large, very friendly cat named Reed.


During both full days of our visit, we spent most of our time in Castlegar, about a half-hour drive away. Our ultimate destination was the Doukhobor Discovery Centre, but on our first day we ended up just exploring the town and hiking on the Merry Creek Interpretive Trails. The weather was perfect.


On Tuesday, we finally visited the Doukhobor Discovery Centre. It was a fascinating glimpse of the tradition of Russian "spiritual Christianity," part of the specifically Russian equivalent of Western Europe's Protestant Reformation. Doukhobor theology seems similar to Unitarianism in the West, but clothed in a rural and communitarian simplicity. Despite important differences with Quaker faith and practice, it's not hard to imagine why Friends were eager to work with Lev Tolstoy to help the Doukhobors find a new land--Canada--that would be more receptive to their ethic of nonviolence than Tsarist Russia, particularly after the famous Arms-Burning of 1895.

Doukhobor Discovery Center. Below: Communal building (over Tolstoy's shoulder); lower level of exhibit hall.


During this period of uncertainty and tension in US/Russian relations, I confess that there was some sense of relief in spending a couple of days in Canada.



During our days off, the relentless parade of discouraging news from the courtrooms of the USA and Russia continued. For example, the mobile Web site of the Washington Post had headlines on these two stories simultaneously:

1) U.S., Europe condemn jail term for Putin opponent.
2) Judge says genital searches can continue at Guantanamo Bay.

It's as if the two countries are competing to mock justice. Force-feed and grope prisoners at Guantanamo Bay on this side of the ocean, while on the other side, a judge who did not permit a single defense witness (except for prosecution witnesses whose testimony actually helped the defense!) can sentence a Russian political maverick to five years' imprisonment. A whistle-blowing Russian lawyer is convicted posthumously of tax fraud, as an American judge refuses to remove "aiding the enemy" from an American whistle-blower's long list of charges. The work of Amnesty International, urging the same standards of justice everywhere, is as important as ever. And I've not even begun to plumb the depths of grief over Trayvon Martin's death and the howling demons of racism still roaming the land.



Koozma J. Tarasoff tells about a new video on Doukhobors still in the former Soviet Union.

Reactions to the Navalny conviction: "Frighten and be frightened." "...Shocked but not surprised." (Note comments.) "Final curtain on a tragicomic trial."

"...No idea of charges, handcuffed to a bed..."

Responding to Trayvon Martin: "Our renewed call to suffer together."

A New Testament scholar from Pune, India, experiences a "challenging visit" to Bethlehem.

"A short history of the gathered meeting." (With important links.)



Jean-Rene Ella, a one-man barbershop quartet, and "Elijah"...

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