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Report from Englewood

Posted on Wednesday, July 5, 2006 at 10:23AM by Registered CommenterMarshall Massey in , | CommentsPost a Comment

My original itinerary, based on the idea that I’d be walking an average of fourteen or fifteen miles per day, had me arriving in Englewood, Ohio, at the north edge of Dayton, two days after leaving Richmond, Indiana — which is to say, the evening of July 2. It was another full day’s walk from there into Dayton proper.

Accordingly, I’d asked to meet with Englewood Friends Church (Indiana Yearly Meeting [FUM]) on the evening of Sunday, July 2, and with Dayton Friends Meeting (Ohio Valley YM [FGC]) the following evening. But this soon proved to pose problems for both those communities: too many of their members would be absent for Fourth of July festivities.

When I found that I’d be taking a car, and only walking as my ankles permitted, this brought more flexibility. And so we adjusted the schedule.

Thus, Charlotte and I set out from Richmond on the morning of July 1, a hot steamy day, committed to be thirty-three miles down the road in Englewood that evening, so that we could meet with Englewood Friends the following morning, before their worship service. My feet were in improved condition, allowing me to walk with Charlotte for half-mile to full-mile distances at four or five points along the way. But there was no way either of us could walk the full distance!

jul 01-02.jpgWe agreed to skip the portion of the walk through urban Richmond, and begin where the highway entered open country. We’d then do our best to cover the next fourteen or fifteen miles of the journey, from Richmond to Lewisburg, Ohio, at a walking pace, covering as much of it as we could on foot. I’d hope to return and cover at least some of the remaining distance a day or two later.

There was a subtle shift in the appearance of the land, from the far side of Richmond to this section of Ohio. The mix of tree species in Indiana had produced very dark-looking woods, trees that cast nearly black shadows. Here, owing I presume to a different mix of species, the woods looked lighter from a distance. It felt like we were entering a new stage of the journey!

About half-way to Lewisburg, our route diverged from U.S. Highway 40 onto a back road, initially only a lane-and-a-half wide. Here was true loveliness — as so often happens when the road grows narrower.

Charlotte was beginning to blister in earnest on one foot, and I breathed a silent prayer of thanks that this was the last day she’d planned to be walking with me. Had she been committed to walking further, I believe she’d have run into much the same sorts of problems that I myself encountered at the end of my own first week on the road.

We broke, briefly, for lunch at a truck stop half-way to Lewisburg, then returned and concluded the walking part of the journey. Then, as we drove in from Lewisburg to Englewood, the countryside changed from rural to exurban, with short strips of custom-built homes for commuters, followed by palatial subdivisions of oversized country-club homes (“McMansions”) for the post-Reagan upper middle class. The country-club subdivisions. on rolling hills with numerous trees overshadowing greensward, would have made a pleasant walking journey, but they made me uneasy, because of the wasteful destruction of the area’s original biotic community — and also because of the breach of responsibility to the world’s poor. I also noticed that there would have been nowhere to replenish our water supply that whole distance!

We spent the evening at the Englewood Friends Church’s pastor’s home, nestled among trees on a bluff above a river, where we had a chance to meet some of the more active members of the church over dinner. Our called meeting for discernment, the following morning, was held at the church building, a charming century-old structure with a wonderful spiritual energy, originally built by the German River Brethren. Fourteen members of the meeting were present.

A Friend began by observing that we get involved with hot-button issues like global warming but forget about less glamorous issues like the polluting of the Great Lakes. He said, “I want to go back to passages like Genesis 1, where it speaks of ‘dominion’ over the earth: ‘dominion’ means ‘taking care of’. God gives humanity dominion so that humanity can do His work in His stead.” He added, “I don’t know how we can make a statement to the world about care of the Earth; it’s easier to make a statement about peace. It’s never been a concern before, and we have no tradition about it.”

A Friend observed that there’s a connection between the peace testimony and the environment: we should be at peace with the Earth and in a nonviolent attitude toward it; we should not be warring with it.

A Friend observed that we’ve gotten away from simplicity; we’re caught up in capitalism, in consumerism. It’s hard to get back to simplicity; we may need queries.

A Friend said that Friends should remember the interconnectedness between people and the Earth. God made humans of the dust of the Earth.

A Friend observed that we’ve built our society on industries that degrade the environment, but there are people who go to work at those places. Any statement criticizing those industries, he said, needs to contain a concern for those workers.

A Friend said, “Our mission as Friends is to seek truth. I wonder what is true about topics like global warming. I feel Jesus is crying for those who are pulled right and left, trying to understand what is truth. On the Net we can find things that support any number of opinions.”

A Friend spoke of Shelley Newby, a Friend who walked last year from Richmond to Washington D.C. for peace. The Friend said, “She wanted to walk for something, not against something, but every ‘for’ implies some ‘againsts’.”

A Friend said, “I believe there’s an answer, and a place where we can come together. There are people who know. The task is finding these people.”

A Friend said, “I hear John Woolman saying, ‘Let love be the first motion’ — before taking any political stance, asking, ‘What’s the loving thing to do?’ That touches on caring for people and caring for the earth. ‘What am I as an individual doing? What else could I do?’ There’s education, action and prayer that need to be included in the response.”

A Friend said, “There is no separateness from the Earth. We are of the Earth; we were given the responsibility to care for it.” He said there are two questions: “What else should I do?” and “Why should I care?”

Another Friend added, “Yes, ‘Why should I care?’ We don’t see the impacts in our own lives, but we’re connected to those who come after us.”

A Friend spoke of how Francis of Assisi preached the gospel to the birds. If we were preaching to the trees, he asked, what would we say? And if they preached to us, what would they say?

A number of the messages shared in this meeting for discernment found their way into the worship service that followed — in the sermon, the hymns, and spontaneous ministry. It was evident that these were heartfelt concerns.


Englewood Friends. Charlotte and I are standing with the church’s pastor in the back row.

After the worship service came potluck, and Charlotte’s husband arrived from Chicago to take her on to a family vacation in New England. Her company had been wonderful, but her departure reminded me that, ultimately, this journey was my own. I said my farewells, and headed down the road to Dayton.

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