04 May 2023

May shorts

Among the high points of our four weeks in London and vicinity: visiting friends in Weybridge and Cambridge; seeing the musical Ain't Too Proud at the Prince Edward Theatre; getting to know the work of St. Olav's Norwegian Church in the Docklands area (and buying Kvikk Lunsj chocolate wafer bars, a favorite since childhood, at the church); visiting St. Paul's Cathedral and St. Giles in the Field; exploring the older streets of Spitalfields; and attending the sessions of Britain Yearly Meeting.

St. Olav's Church.
Edible nostalgia. Souvenirs of St. Olav's.
Getting a signed copy of Quaker Shaped
Christianity from author Mark Russ,
during Britain Yearly Meeting 2023.

In the olden days, pre-COVID 19, a trip overseas was a good reason to assume that normal engagements, such as committee meetings and guest speaking opportunities, would be put off until after we're back. Not any more. I participated in three committee meetings on Zoom and one on Microsoft Teams, and seven online meetings for worship, at one of which I was the speaker. (Update: Here is that sermon.)

I'll say more about Britain Yearly Meeting in a later post. For now I'll just note that it was wonderful to read part of Sierra-Cascades Yearly Meeting's greeting to Britain Yearly Meeting on the floor of a meeting for business. One of the world's newest Quaker bodies was greeting one of the world's oldest. When I read Sierra-Cascades co-clerk Norma Silliman's words "We recommend Johan and Judy to you without reservation," I couldn't help adding, "This is very reassuring, actually." Friends were amused. The clerk responded, "We welcome you without reservation."

About two months ago, I began noticing that my right eye and my left eye were not getting along very well. My left eye saw things normally, but the vision in my right eye was obscured by a big fuzzy area in the center. It was as if my left eye was patiently dragging its partner along for the ride, but not getting much cooperation.

After consultation, I was given a surgery date of May 10. On that day, as I've been told, a membrane will be peeled from the center of my right retina, after which I will have to spend some time not doing any detailed work with my eyes. I may have to keep my head facing down for several days. For the first time in nearly twenty years, I may be posting little or nothing here for one or more Thursdays.. For my daily journal (something I've been keeping since 1968), I may make audio notes to transcribe later.

My eyesight is supposed to improve gradually over several months, though it may never be as good as before this problem started. As soon as I can, I'll re-read John Yungblut's Pendle Hill Pamphlet, On Hallowing One's Diminishments.

The constant heartache of the war in Ukraine goes on and on. Many of us are praying daily for the people most directly affected, and for an end to the bloodshed. Among the organized prayer events, the weekly Ukraine-related meeting for worship under the care of Friends World Committee for Consultation, Europe and Middle East Section, continues to gather online every Tuesday at 1:30 p.m. London time. To get the Zoom link to join this meeting, see the information on the EMES calendar

I'm among those who are also praying for the people of Russia. Here's an article that will help explain why: "'It's Stalinist logic': Three experts explain the escalating nature of Russia’s political repressions." Today, TV Rain's midafternoon news program was dominated by the newest round of repressions: arrests and searches connected with an award-winning play now accused of approving terrorism; a third raid in a month on Russia's leading anti-torture NGO; Yabloko Party's leader in Vologda, Nikolai Yegorov, detained and accused of discrediting the Russian army for posting peace messages online. All in one day. 

Another disheartening development: about a week ago, the Sova Center, which focuses on racism and nationalism in Russia, was ordered closed by a court in Moscow. These developments constantly remind me that there is no effective due process in wartime Russia, and the Constitution has lost any legal force.

(While rejecting "whataboutism" and any hint of equivalence, I hope that the USA will see the suffering and the international damage to our moral authority caused by our own cases of repression, even when courts may eventually grant relief. One example: arrests based on alleged election-law violations in Florida.)

Another awkward case for the USA: Abu Zubaydah at Guantanamo Bay.

Is there a pattern of discrimination against racial justice advocacy at some Christian colleges and universities? Jemar Tisby on the case of Julie Moore and Taylor University. (Taylor's student newspaper, The Echo, includes some partial responses from the university.) Friday update: Kristin Du Mez adds commentary.

Among the news I heard at Britain Yearly Meeting: the upcoming closure of Woodbrooke Quaker Study Centre as a venue and residential facility—although Woodbrooke's research, educational, and publication programs will continue. I began writing this blog during my academic year at Woodbrooke, 2003-2004, where I gathered the resources preserved here: Evangelism and the Quaker Testimonies.

Speaking of St. Olav, here's a Swedish-Norwegian train pilgrimage I'd love to take.

And speaking of eyes, here's Nancy Thomas on eye contact.

YouTube has a goldmine of soul and blues videos in Rachel Cummings' posts of the 1966 television program The !!!! Beat. A sample: Barbara Lynn's version of "What'd I Say."

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