Hero of the Faith - Dolores Huerta

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Alivia, Daughter #2, and I had the honor of hearing Dolores Huerta speak last evening. At 80 years young,  She spoke for two hours without sitting. She is still a force of nature to be reckoned with. She started as the co-founder of the United Farm Workers Union, but has consistently broadened that civil rights work to work on behalf of the full range of human rights.

They say that Ginger Rogers did everything Fred Astair did, backwards and in high heels. Dolores did everything Ceasar Chavez did while bearing ELEVEN children!

The mother of eleven is Pro-choice. Her daughter was present and thanked her mother for using her name and not just referring to her as Choice Number Eight!

She said that Ceasar (whom she gave all his due) wanted to boycott Potatoes in '65.  She talked him into grapes instead.

She admonished the young women in the audience to be bold in proclaming their own ideas. "Who came up with the slogan - Si Se Puede - That would be Dolores Huerta!" And she reveled in the applause. She admitted scolding Mr Obama a bit for stealing it, but it was clear she like the man, yet thinks we need to stay on him.

She added to our knowledge of The death of Matthew Shepherd. "Do you know that his killers went right back into town and tried to beat a couple of Mexicans?"  "You can't say that you are for rights for Latinos and not be for rights for GLBT folk. The people who are coming after those folks are coming after you. It is all the same fight."

She talked about economics and Supports Occupy. She thinks that the title of "consumer" is a dehumanizing insult.

If there was some class of human rights she failed to talk about, I missed it.

She took Questions for long time after speaking. When pressed on African Amercan rights, she spoke about the genocide of African Americans. And noted that if you lock a man in prison he can't procreate which decimates a population.

From a young man: How do you talk to people who disagree violently without and don't seem to want to listen?
DH : Keep at it. It takes time. At least seven times. And tell Stories. Your own and other peoples stories. This is the only thing that works.
She several time referenced her own Catholicism. 
When a young woman asked her what she should do when she is working for equality and seems to keep on bumping into opposition from people of faith.

DH: "Pray for them, and keep working"



Never underestimate the prayers of a mother - Part 2

Bernice and Orville were very happy and in time brought forth the boom-requisite three kids. Boy, girl, boy.  My parents started every day together, early, in the kitchen praying for us by name. I remember it as the edge of my dreamworld.  Their hopes, dreams and prayers for us were that we would know Jesus and serve Him.

Here we are on Easter Sunday 1964. Note my brother's Bible and my purse. We are both sporting "perfect attendance pins"  given out by the Sunday school. I cannot read the number on my brother's pin, but I guarantee you it is a number within a year of his age. We did not miss church, and when on vacation we went to Sunday School and brought a note from that teacher.
 I always knew what my mother hoped for me - Pastor's wife.  She hoped to send me off to the Wesleyan Methodist School, Marion College in Marion Indiana. I remember her comparing and contrasting for me the lives of missionaries and pastors. And while she would have surrendered me to the mission field if that was God's will, she trained me for the parsonage. Potlucks, music, Sunday School teacher.  She had me by her side in Women's Missionary Society meetings when they met in our living room. I was still in grade school, but she had me practice taking minutes. I was teaching Sunday School as soon as I was in high school. When the Men's Quartet from Marion College came round doing recruitment she talked to me about the relative merits of the young men - she was partial to curly haired tenors. I am quite sure, that thinking it or no, she was offering me up to God as the sacrifice for her disappointment she had given her own mother.

The kindest thing my older brother ever did for me was to be way too smart to go to Marion. Off to Purdue and the sciences for him, and my chance to look asunder as well. My mother didn't know it but I was apostate at the time and had no intention of getting any where near a pastor, parsonage or church if they could be avoided. I was planning a career in law or politics. I ran as far and as fast as I could. I married a rather wild young man right out of the Navy. I made sure he was not a believer of any sort before I took up with him. I went to St John's and studied the classics. I thought I was safe from my destiny.  My mother was seriously disappointed in me. Then through odd circumstances I ran smack dab into the Living Christ. How He got me is a whole nother story, but got I was. 

And I kept trying to go to law school. And I was thwarted twice. But I ended up taking my two daughters to church, and my mother was appeased.

Then I started preaching, at first, mostly against my will. I fought. But I eventually surrendered to a call to the ministry of my own. I went off to Seminary. My mother could not have been more surprised. My Grandpa Hubbell was 90, but was pleased as punch. Named for me some female preachers that he had always admired. Willed to me his pulpit Bible over all his children and grandchildren. 

My mother died only a few years after her aged father. She did not live to see me called pastor. But she did hear me preach once. She was encouraging. She said she hoped I would still sing some times, but that I should not let them know I could sing before they heard me preach. 

I have pastor'd four churches, and preached in many dozens of them and in several countries. I have occasionally called down fire. I have kicked the Devil's butt. With others, we built a church from scratch.

My marriage lasted 30 years, but it's foundation was never really all that solid. But it made two beautiful daughters for whom I tried not to have agendas. 

Then I found love again. Christ-centered love. A foundation of ministry at the core. And I have been very happy.  But after seven years as pastor of Freedom Friends Church, I needed a break. I was given permission by God and community to step back.  And lo and behold, my beloved stepped forward. And she is the pastor now. And I know she will be an excellent one, because she is called, and equipped and readyand way less rebellious than I.

And... I am the pastor's wife. I surrender.

And somewhere out there in the universe I can hear my mother chuckling. And I can hear her say "Orville, I told you so." 



And now for some relevent family history

subtitle: NEVER discount the prayers of a mother! - PART ONE

That's my mom.  On the the left.  Walking away. I think this picture is from the summer 1950. My mom is about 23 and seven years from becoming my mom. I have no idea who took this picture. I do not know the young man on the right, but I have a pretty good idea. (doesn't look like he's doing too well does it?)  He is a fellow student at CEI - that is the Chicago Evangelistic Institute.  It was the premier training school for ministers in the Holiness tradition. My mom was sent their by her parents.  Here they are - about ten years later.
  Formidable people. Gentle but strong. Grandpa Hubbell was a WWI vet and a preacher when he wasn't delivering the mail. Took the churches that could not afford a full time pastor. Preached revivals. Grandma, a preacher's daughter, supported him. People of one Story and one Book - The Book.  People with only one plan.  Serve, and raise children to Serve. If they had any doubts no one knew it. My mother was their second daughter, and the most promising in some ways. She was bright, did well in school. She could sing like a bird and played piano and any other instrument she set her hands to. She had an early and sincere desire to serve the Lord. She was modest but not shy. So they sacrificed to send her upstate to study at CEI. With one real purpose.  Become equipped to teach, and sing and pray at the highest level and find herself the best young preacher and marry him.

She studied. She excelled. She went on a mission to the third world country called Appalachia (which terrified her mother).  She had piano recitals. And she dated (such as was allowed) every handsome young preacher they had - and rejected them all. And then refused to come back down to Southern Illinois. She got a job in the secretarial pool of a large hospital. She got an apartment.  She learned to take dictation in shorthand. She could type 100 words minute without errorTrolling that pool was a handsome young shark of an x-ray tech. A roller-skate dance champion. A mostly heathen. My dad. And she went out on a date with him, and he was smart enough to go to church with her, and she saw through him, and married him anyway. And her parents were appalled, and confused and disappointed in the extreme.

But mom and dad were happy. Real happy.

To be continued.


My Dear Evangelical Friends

And you are my dear Evangelical Friends...
And my Alma Mater, GFU

You mailed me a beautiful, expensive, multi-page, card stock brochure for your Selah Women's seminar this week. I can see how hard you are trying to appeal to a broad spectrum of women - I am a fan of ecumenism. I see you talk about women in ministry - women like me.  Thank you. I see you are trying to nurture and edify women. Important work.

But when you try and do that, and you include language  that talks about "Real women in pain" and links "domestic abuse, eating disorders and same sex attractions"  you fail at your goals.

Yes, I am attracted to Alivia, but its more than an attraction, it is Love.
It is not "painful," it is delightful.
I am not stuck, I am free.
Our love is not abusive.
Our love is not an addiction.
Our Love is not a disorder.
Our relationship is dedicated to Christ and the building of his kingdom, just like yours.

So with my warm regards, I send my regrets.




The Eighth State of the Church Report

The State of the Church Report
Freedom Friends Church, Salem Oregon
For 2011
To Friends Everywhere:

Our Life is love, and peace, and tenderness; and bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, and not laying accusations one against another; but praying one for another, and helping one another up with a tender hand.
Isaac Pennington

In the spring of this year we took these words by Isaac Pennington as our Shared understanding of our ministry.  This understanding  is both aspirational and accurate. We are attempting to live into this. There will always be room for greater depth, but, by the grace of God, it is a good description of the actual culture of our group.  For this we are extremely grateful. It is our prayer that we make this our first, foremost and possibly only measure of success. 

We represent 22 households.  If all of us were together on the same Sunday, (a thing that has not yet happened) there would be 38 of us. 20 of those 38 are full members. We range in age from 3 months to 84 years.  Our only gap is school aged children, with which we have not yet been blessed.  This year is the first year that we have not added a new member, but we have several new attenders and hope for next year.  We have great diversity in culture, theology, class, education, food preferences and politics. 

We have large “webbed feet” meaning our footprint on the World Wide Web is significantly larger that our physical footprint.  We continue to meet on 13th street in Salem, and we enjoy our rented space.  We have one standing committee, and this year, one task force.  We meet once a week and host one lively inclusive AA group that is almost the same size as the church.  On the Web we have a very active website with 2673 page visit this year mostly not by us (  We keep track of each other on Facebook and through a Google group e-mail list.  Our Forum is mostly used as an archive at this point. There are 3600 references to us on Google.  We feel very attended to by the wider world.

We made a third printing of our Faith and Practice this year, and they continue to go forth. Ten of them went to Europe this spring. 
Our worship is full of grace and liberty. New comers, even first time attenders, often feel free to speak. We worship through spoken gratitude, prayer, and expectant listening. We have good long stretches of deep listening, but it is a rare Sunday when no message rises out of the silence.  This year we did an experiment with the 5th Sundays. Two of them were completely unprogrammed, and two of them were fully programmed including prepared preaching.  Derek Lamson and sometimes with Ruba Byrd of West Hills Friends in Portland were regular musical visitors.  This experiment reminded us of how much we like our regular semi-programmed style of worship, but it also was refreshing and educational, and helped us keep our worship fresh.   When we attend to our monthly business, we do it straight out of the waiting worship on Sunday morning. Our business continues to be brisk, lively, peaceful, and to the point. We had a sweet but sparsely attended Good Friday Service. Many of us take up the cross every day, we are a people perhaps more in need of a resurrection theology than an atonement theology.

We take seriously the witness that all are ministers. Almost everyone speaks to the things we hold dear, in and out of meeting. Everyone has the opportunity to love, bear, forgive and pray. Many of our folks do very serious Kingdom building work in the world. We have an unusual number of public Gospel ministers for a meeting our size.  Sarah Hoggatt  traveled in the ministry to Europe in the spring, attending the Europe and Middle East Young Friend Conference. Ashley Wilcox did some eldering and visited Capitol Hill Friends in Washington DC.  Vail Palmer spoke at Reedwood Friends and continues his work on writing on Friends and their use of the Bible.  Peggy Parsons presented the 2011 Weed Lecture at Beacon Hill Friends House in Boston, and the topic was “Freedom Friends Church and the remixing of Quakerism” (published and available). 

We also are learning how to rest our ministers. Alivia Biko took a sabbatical from being an officer of the Meeting in 2011, and will lay down her weekly music ministry at FFC in 2012.  Peggy Parsons will be on sabbatical from Pastoral ministry in 2012.  Ashley Wilcox took up presiding clerk in 2011. She has brought sensitivity and an attention to good order to the meeting and we appreciate her ministry.  We do not have a deep bench for officers, and have to trade hats sometimes, but we are committed to loving those who serve by making sure that we do not burn them out.  For instance, Sarah presided over the business meeting once and the pastor took minutes once - we are versatile, flexible and willing.   We took a month off from business in the summer to rest everyone. We have appreciated Tim Magee and Deb Lamp for their care of the meetinghouse in 2011, others will take that up in the new year. We have been grateful to the Margaret Fell Fund and others for helping our ministers travel.

Our finances are stable.  Despite hard times we are just almost making our expenses from within our own group. We continue to be grateful to the Friends of Freedom Friends who are making up the small difference.  About 82% of our budget goes to pay the rent. But we do have savings, and for another year we have not needed to  deplete them.  We sent a donation off for relief after the Joplin Tornado last spring. God and God’s Friends are good.  

Highlights of the year were our 7th Birthday in March, and our very first BABY! Evelyn Ayla Malmsten was born in October and dedicated to the Lord by her mother in meeting for worship in December. That was joyful!
In our traditional candle light Christmas Eve service, Evelyn “spoke” to us and reminded us that Christ came as a babe, and that as much as we desire to be like Him, He also wanted to be like us, in all our weakness and frailty. 

We accept this and live into it as best we can.

January 8, 2011
Peggy Senger Parsons for Freedom Friends Church