Saturday, July 24, 2010

The journey of love continues....

I've been on the road for six weeks, traveling nearly 7,000 miles across the USA, and am looking forward to sleeping in my own bed in Culver City, CA, tomorrow night.

I've written this reflection because it's been 14 months since Kathleen "graduated" and July 20 would have been her 58th birthday; and I feel as if Kathleen has been with me throughout this journey of love.

I've been traveling in the ministry since Memorial Day, sharing with Quakers my concern about the interfaith movement and the Parliament of the World's Religions (see

It's been a long, physically exhausting, but spiritually rewarding journey. During the past six weeks I've given presentations in San Jose, Phoenix, Flagstaff, Colorado Springs, Denver, Billings (MT), Sioux Falls (SD), Minneapolis, Des Moines, Pittsburgh, Princeton, Roanoke, Nashville, Little Rock, and at Intermountain Yearly Meeting in New Mexico and at the Friends General Conference Gathering in Bowling Green, OH. Next week I plan to give presentations at Pacific Yearly Meeting in Claremont, CA, inshallah.

During this amazing journey I have learned a lot about my fellow Americans by staying in people's homes and learning first-hand what was happening in their region. Everyone I went I have been treated with generosity and kindness, for which I am very grateful.

I have tried to reciprocate this kindness by picking up hitchhikers along my travels. From them, I have had glimpses of what life feels like to those who are not as fortunate as we are. A month ago, not far from Flagstaff, I picked up a student exploring the US by hitchhiking (as I did when I left college), but most of those I picked up were middle aged men who are the itinerant underemployed--men with limited skills and educations, who take whatever odd jobs they can find, and have no permanent address. Odd jobs are scarce, and the police don't take kindly to those without a fixed domicile. Few Americans pick up hitchhikers these days and few seem to take seriously what Jesus said in Matthew 25: "As you do to the least of these, you do for me."
I am glad I picked up these itinerant strangers: they have all been good company who made my long hours of driving more pleasant.

Speaking of the homeless, please hold in your prayers Melissa and Shaun, the homeless couple in Torrance who was very dear to Kathleen and who have adopted me as their "father in Christ." (See Melissa just celebrated he 33rd birthday and is in good spirits, despite her worsening disability. I'm sorry to report her wheel chair needs new treads, and Medical won't cover the cost ($120), so help is needed. If you feel led, send a card to her PO box: Melissa Earnhart, 1820 W Carson St. #202 PMB 116 Torrance CA 90501.

Despite these economically hard times, I have good news to report about the interfaith movement. There are many signs that America has become a more tolerant and religiously pluralistic society. Even in small communities like Billings and Sioux Falls, there are interfaith councils and activities. In Nashville, Tennessee, the "buckle of the Bible belt," there are over 10,000 Kurdish Muslims and they have plans to construct a mega-mosque. Some who cling to the "old-time religion" are resisting this change, but many mainstream Christians (including the Methodists and Quakers) are supporting the Muslims.


I find it encouraging that many heartland Americans are making a real effort to reach out to people of other faiths in the spirit of friendship and cooperation.

There were other levels to this trek besides my interfaith ministry. Kathleen and I planned to make a road trip like this one during in the summer in which she was diagnosed with cancer. We had hoped to visit national parks and Friends as we wended our way to Pendle Hill, the Quaker center where we met and fell in love, and where planned to celebrate our 20th wedding anniversary.

Since Kathleen shared my concern about the interfaith movement, I felt as if her spirit has been with me on this journey of interfaith. (I was also accompanied in spirit by a support group from my Quaker meeting, who kept in touch with me by email and phone, and held me in the Light, and for whom I am very grateful.)

One of the highlights of my trip was visiting Kathleen's father in Eminence, MO. I was deeply moved by the gracious and loving welcome I received from my father-in-law and his wife Edibeth. I also received a gracious welcome from Ginger Woods, Kathleen's room mate at Smith College. I stayed with Ginger and her family in Haverford, PA. It felt wonderful to be shown hospitality and love by those who loved Kathleen, and to realize that such love can deepen after a loved one passes to the next stage of existence. It is as if Kathleen's spirit is drawing us closer together!

I want to honor Kathleen's memory by recommending two books that have helped me this summer by providing evidence that there is life beyond what we know on this material plane of existence:

"Surviving Death" by Scott Degenhardt. Written in a popular style, but encompassing a lot of research, this book is based on actual cases of people who have had brushes with death, and helps us to understand what the next life may be like. This book was lent to me by a Quaker in Nashville who shares my conviction that this life is a prelude to eternal life. It addresses many important questions, including why there are so many religions. (The simple answer, according to one who had an after-death experience, is that multiple religions are needed because people have diverse spiritual needs and temperaments.)

"Continuing life: the evidence of the survival of death through mediumship" by Angela Howard, a British Quaker. Her book is also based on experiences of those who have been in contact with loved ones who have passed. The intro is by David Hodges, a British Friend who founded the Friends Fellowship of Healing (which has produced a number of useful pamphlets on spiritual healing, grieving, etc.). Hodges is a biological scientist and was a university lecturer for many years and he obviously takes psychical research seriously.

I am wondering if any of you reading this have had experiences with loved ones who have passed. I'd love to hear your stories, and may use them in an article/pamphlet I am working on.

I have felt in touch with Kathleen spiritually over the past year and often commune with her in prayer and meditation. I know that my life has been changed as a result of her spiritual presence, just as the lives of Jesus' disciples were changed by his death and resurrection. I have been led to continue Kathleen's pastoral work and serve as clerk of pastoral care in my Meeting--a role I have never played until Kathleen's death. I have become a better listener and more able to discern people's spiritual states and conditions. I attribute this new sensitivity and calling to Kathleen's abiding spirit, and to God's amazing grace.

The most memorable psychical experience I have had occurred a few weeks after Kathleen's death. I went to the DMV to transfer the title of Kathleen's Honda into my name alone so that I could sell it. I arrived early and was first in line so that I could avoid the crowds. When the DMV opened, I entered the nearly silent office and the black woman who was supposed to serve me was singing a familiar hymn: "This is the day the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it." Deeply moved, I sang along with her! When we finished, I told her this was the hymn that my wife and I had sung every morning of her cancer journey. We both fell into a moment of silent reflection and felt a spiritual presence that could only have been Kathleen's. As we went about our routine business, we began to share from our spiritual lives. The black woman told her about the challenge of being a Christian and working at the DMV--how hard it was sometime to be patient, loving, etc. I shared with her some of my challenges after Kathleen's death. It was as if we were both in church, not in the office of the DMV!

I have had other similar experiences that have convinced me that Kathleen lives on, and continues to inspire me and others to live in harmony with God's boundless love. I hope that you also feel the presence of those who have passed on but are willing to inspire and guide us, if we need their help.

Yours in peace and friendship,Anthony ManousosNew home phone: 310-889-0784Mobile: 310-755-4497 New address: 3817 Albright AveLos Angeles (Culver City) CA 90066-1161New blog:"The humble, meek, merciful, just, pious, and devout souls are everywhere of one religion; and when death has taken off the mask, they will know one another, though the liveries they wear here make them strangers."--William Penn.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Gene Hoffman, Quaker peace activist, rests in peace

My dear friend and teacher Gene Hoffman passed away this week. This was not unexpected, or even sad news, since she has been in the final stages of Altzheimer's and unable to speak or to recognize people for a long time. Nonetheless, I will miss her. I used to visit her at the Atzheimer's facility and her bright blue eyes were always radiant when she saw me, and I loved spending time with her, holding her hands and gazing into her luminous face and feeling her loving presence. She will always have a place in my heart.

Her son asked me to write an obituary for Gene, so I am including a draft here. It was drawn from the book of her writings called Compassionate Listening, which I edited.

Elinor Gene Knudsen Hoffman—Quaker peace activist, pastoral counselor, workshop facilitator, poet, columnist, author, actress, and mother of six children—was born in Los Angeles, California, on January 3, 1919 to Valley and Thorkild (“Tom”) Knudsen, who emigrated from Denmark in 1909 to found a successful diary business. On July 21, 2010, Gene passed away peacefully at an Alzheimer’s facility in Santa Barbara, California, where she had resided for six years.

Encouraged in the arts at an early age, Gene studied acting in New York and at the Pasadena Playhouse. She performed on the radio as well as on stage, and her acting career continued through the 1960s.

In 1942, Gene married Raymond Chamberlin Boshco, and bore him two children, Nikolas (1944) and Valley (1945). In 1948 she divorced Boshco in order to marry Hallock Hoffman, the son of a prominent businessman and Republican political leader, Paul Hoffman. Hallock resigned his commission as captain in the Air Force and became the associate regional director of the American Friends Service Committee. Much to the chagrin of their conservative parents, Hallock and Gene both became ardent liberals and pacifists.

Soon after the birth of their son Erik Thorkild (1950), Gene and Hallock discovered Orange Grove Quaker Meeting in Pasadena. When she and her husband were accepted into membership the following year, Gene remembers “dancing down the street, feeling exultant that I had joined so great a company of seekers, people of God. I felt that together Hallock and I would perform miracles.”

In the 1950s, she began writing a newspaper column and became involved in peace and social justice work. When she wrote a column favoring the United Nations, she was “fired” from the columnist job that her father had secured for her. Taking a strong stand on civil rights, Gene insisted that her children attend an integrated school in Pasadena—something that was not common for families of her background in the 1950s.When she published an article on her family’s experiences with integration, she was invited to become the first white columnist for the African-American newspaper, the Amsterdam News. Gene also took a controversial stand against the loyalty oath. In 1954, she became involved with a lawsuit against the city of Pasadena because it used a form requiring property owners to swear a “non-disloyalty oath.” Partly because of her family connections, her case attracted media attention, and Gene received hate mail from anti-communists.

During this period she also bore three more children: Kristian Robert, Nina Kiriki and Kaj Lathrop.

In the 1960s, Gene’s marriage to Hallock came to a tumultuous end and Gene had a nervous breakdown. Signing herself voluntarily into a mental hospital, she emerged with new insights that enabled her to become a pastoral counselor. She wrote a book about her experiences called Inside the Glass Doors.

During the 1970s, when her children were full-grown, Gene decided to devote herself full-time to peace activism. She traveled around the world to study the peace movement and spent a year as a student at Pendle Hill, a Quaker adult study center near Philadelphia.

An active Quaker and member of the Fellowship of Reconciliation (FOR) for over fifty years, she traveled dozens of times to the Middle East and the former Soviet Union during the 1980s and 1990s to do reconciliation work. In 1989, after American planes downed two Libyan planes, she went to Libya with an FOR delegation to meet with Libyan leaders. She has met with and listened to Palestinians and Israelis, and published articles, books, and pamphlets about her experiences, including Pieces of the Mideast Puzzle (1991) and No Royal Road to Reconciliation (1995). When Alaskan hunters and fishers and indigenous people came into conflict over hunting and fishing rights, Gene helped to arrange Compassionate Listening sessions through the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC). She has published over one hundred articles as well as books, poems and pamphlets and given innumerable workshops and talks about peacemaking. Her work has inspired numerous others, including Cynthia Monroe, AFSC staff person in Alaska, and Leah Green, founder of Mideast Citizen Diplomacy’s Compassionate Listening Project. Gene has been rightly called a “pioneer” in the Compassionate Listening movement, and has worked with such other notables as Adam Curle, Herb Walters, Virginia Baron, and Richard Deats.

In 2003, her writings were collected into a book called Compassionate Listening: the Writings of Gene Hoffman, Quaker Peace Activist and Mystic.

Gene summed up her approach to peacemaking as follows: ““The call, as I see it, is for us to see that within all life is the mystery: God. It is within the Contra [opponent of the Sandinista government in Nicaragua], the Nazi, the Africaaner, the Israeli, [the Palestinian], and the American. By compassionate listening we may awaken it and thus learn the partial truth the other is carrying, for another aspect of being human is that we each carry some portion of the truth. To reconcile, we must listen for, discern, and acknowledge this partial truth in everyone.” Dennis Rivers, a communication skills instructor from Santa Barbara, observed that Gene’s “calling was to carry pastoral counseling out of the pastor’s study into public life. What has energized her work over the years is the Quaker teaching that ‘there is that of God in every person.’” Judith Kolokoff, former AFSC regional director in the Pacific Northwest, said of Gene: “She is a real prophet. And she’s a remarkable facilitator. She has the capacity to bring out the very best of the truth in each individual.”

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Interfaith/Universalist Happenings at the Friends General Conference Gathering

I've had a long, but rewarding road trip in the ministry this summer, sharing with Friends from San Jose to Bowling Green, OH, the good news about the interfaith movement and the Parliament of the World's Religions.

I am pleased to report that the national Quaker gathering sponsored by Friends General Conference in Bowling Green, OH, had a strong interfaith/universalist component, even apart from what I was led to contribute. Before I describe what happened in my sessions, let me mention other significant interfaith activities at the Gathering.

Phil Gulley, the popular Quaker pastor and author from Indiana, gave a wise, folksy talk about Christian Universalism to several hundred Friends at the Elizabeth Watson lecture sponsored by the Quaker Universalist Fellowship (QUF). This talk was well received by liberal Friends, even those who have issues with Christianity. Gulley's warmth and inclusivity won hearts as well as minds and helped Friends to realize that Christians can indeed be enthusiastic Univeralists. As Phil made clear, "everyone is invited to God's party," including gays, atheists, humanists, and those of other faiths. This was of course music to liberal ears....all the more so since it came from an Friends United Meeting (FUM) pastor (see

Around 50-60 Friends went on a field trip to a famous mosque near Toledo. This mosque (which dates back to the 1950s) was the 3rd to be built in the USA and has been described as the "largest and grandest" (according to its website: It certainly presents an impressive sight when you see it rising out of the grasslands of Ohio. I didn't have a chance to go on this field trip, but I heard positive reports from those who went. I cannot resist adding that several years ago, when the Gathering took place in Amherst, MA, I was the first to take a Quaker group from FGC on a field trip to a mosque, namely, the Islamic Center in Western MA. I am very pleased that someone else is being led to take FGC Friends to a mosque, and that there is keen interest in Islam among Friends.

Friends of Jewish background met and made their presence known and felt at the Gathering in many positive ways. I felt especially enriched by my conversations with two Friends of Jewish background, Stanley Zarowin and David Bush. Stanley grew up as a Jew in Palestine (before it became Israel), and a few years ago published an interesting article in Friends Journal about a trip he took to Israel/Palestine with Fellowship of Reconciliation (see David recently went to Israel/Palestine with the Compassionate Listening Project and has written a report well worth reading. (He also wrote a pamphlet on non-theist Friends which was published by QUF.) I am pleased that Jews in our Quaker community are helping us to have a more balanced view of what is happening in Israel/Palestine.

During the week I gave five presentations sponsored by QUF and the Christian and Interfaith Relations Committee of FGC. The series was entitled "Expanding Our Spiritual Horizons through Interfaith and Intra-faith Encounters." Each session attracted from 15-30 Friends.

In addition to these sessions, QUF had a display with its many interesting publications (you can find downloadable copies at A couple of hundred QUF pamphlets were picked up by Friends, including all the ones by Sallie King and Harvey Gilman.

I also had numerous opportunities to engage in informal discussions about universalism and the interfaith movement in the dining hall and other places, including the "Contemplative Cluster" meetings that took place in my dorm. I received many positive comments as well as invitations to speak to Friends in Cambridge, Baltimore and other places... Perhaps I need to continue my travels in the ministry!

Here are some highlights of what happened during the formal sessions.

"God and Allah Need to Talk." This session focused on how the Abrahamic faiths—Islam, Christianity, and Judaism--responded to the post-9/11 world in creative, positive ways. I showed an upbeat video by Ruth Broyde-Sharone about interfaith seders that took place after 9/11 in Los Angeles, and we had a lively discussion about how to bring people of different faiths together. I stressed the importance of trust building and taking part in interfaith meals, celebrations, etc.

"Compassionate Listening and Mutual Irradiation: Quaker Ways to Deepen our Spiritual Awareness of Other Faiths." This session dealt with the challenges of interfaith work--how to deal with conflict, misunderstanding, etc. especially relating to Israel/Palestine. I showed a 12-minute video about the "Compassionate Listening Project" and we talked about how this technique works. We also talked about how prayer, ritual, celebration and worship sharing (interfaith cafes) can help to create safe spaces for what Douglas Steere called "mutual irradiation."

“Beyond belief: the future of fundamentalism and Quakerism.” I opened with the question: How can we share our faith and work with Friends and others who ascribe to a fundamentalist perspective? This led many Friends to talk about difficult encounters with fundamentalists, namely, how to respond in questions such as "Have you accepted Jesus as your personal savior?" or are made to feel that one is going to hell for not believing a certain way. I shared with the group what I have learned from James Fowler's book Stages of Faith and suggested that we need to be sensitive to another person's spiritual state or condition and try to see things from another person's stage of spiritual development. We also talked about how to respond to a fear-based religion by being grounded in love (not always easy!). I reminded Friends of the wisdom of Phil Gulley's words: it sometimes takes a "peak experience" (or therapy) to overcome the hurt caused by spiritual abuse in childhood. Being part of a loving, supportive faith community (e.g. Friends) can also help to overcome the trauma of spiritual abuse.

Rosemary Coffey suggested a helpful way to deal with questions such as "Have you accepted Jesus as your personal savior?" Respond with an open-ended question: "What does that mean to you?" (And be prepared to listen compassionately!)

Wendy Michener suggested using a technique known as LARA (Listen-Affirm-Respond-Add). Using LARA, one might say: "I see how believing in Jesus has saved many people from selfish and bad behavior (AFFIRMATION), and I try to live by Jesus' teachings (RESPOND), especially when he says to 'love your enemies.' That is the basis of our Peace Testimony (ADD)."

We didn't have time to go into much theological discussion, but participants in this workshop told me later that they found Sallie's theological responses to fundamentalism very helpful. To do justice to this pamphlet would require much more time than the one hour we had to discuss it.

Recommended readings: Sallie King, A Quaker's Response to Christian Fundamentalism (QUF, 2009) and Harvey Cox, The Future of Faith (Harper, NY: 2009).

“What is spirituality and why does it matter?” Friends in this workshop included non-theists as well as Friends who believe in God, Spirit, etc. I made it clear (and non-theists agreed) that non-theists can be "spiritual," though their definition of spirituality doesn't include the transcendent. I read Harvey Gilman's definition of "spirituality" as a kind of energy that binds people together in love. We talked about the importance of spirituality both as a personal and social experience: how spirituality helps us individually to get in touch with our inward life, and how it also helps us to connect with others at a deeper level, thereby building community. We tried to clarify the difference between spirituality and religion, and concluded that although both are very different, they are not necessarily diametrically opposed. Religion can help as well as hinder our spiritual practice. We also got into an interesting discussion about a psychological concept known as a "flow state" in which a person engaged in a task such as, say, playing basketball loses a sense of ego and becomes one with the game and how this relates to spiritual practices such as prayer or Zen meditation (see the work of Csíkszentmihályi). All in all, we had a rich and deep discussion about the importance of spirituality. I concluded this session by reading Walt Whtman's marvelous poem "Miracle," which was quoted in Harvey Gilman's 2009 QUF pamphlet, What is spirituality?

Why! who makes much of a miracle?
As to me, I know of nothing else but miracles,
Whether I walk the streets of Manhattan,Or dart my sight over the roofs of houses toward the sky,Or wade with naked feet along the beach, just in the edge of thewater,
Or stand under trees in the woods,
Or talk by day with any one I love--or sleep in the bed at night withany one I love,
Or sit at table at dinner with my mother,
Or look at strangers opposite me riding in the car,
Or watch honey-bees busy around the hive, of a summer forenoon,
Or animals feeding in the fields,
Or birds--or the wonderfulness of insects in the air,
Or the wonderfulness of the sun-down--or of stars shining so quietand bright,
Or the exquisite, delicate, thin curve of the new moon in spring;
Or whether I go among those I like best, and that like me best--mechanics, boatmen, farmers,
Or among the savans--or to the soiree--or to the opera,
Or stand a long while looking at the movements of machinery,Or behold children at their sports,
Or the admirable sight of the perfect old man, or the perfect oldwoman,
Or the sick in hospitals, or the dead carried to burial,
Or my own eyes and figure in the glass;
These, with the rest, one and all, are to me miracles,
The whole referring--yet each distinct, and in its place.To me, every hour of the light and dark is a miracle,
Every cubic inch of space is a miracle,
Every square yard of the surface of the earth is spread with thesame,Every foot of the interior swarms with the same;
Every spear of grass--the frames, limbs, organs, of men and women,and all that concerns them,
All these to me are unspeakably perfect miracles.
To me the sea is a continual miracle;
The fishes that swim--the rocks--the motion of the waves--the ships,with men in them,
What stranger miracles are there?

On Friday evening I gave a presentation on the Parliament of the World's Religion. Only ten or so Friends showed up (there were many other interest groups on Friday), but the presentation went well and inspired a thoughtful discussion. I was especially pleased that Steve Angell, a professor of religion at Earlham College, attended. He has been very involved in interfaith work and recently went with a delegation to Iran.

All in all, I am very pleased with how Friends are opening up to the interfaith movement and look forward to the next stage of my trip--sharing this concern with Friends in Pittsburgh, Princeton, Roanoke, Nashville, Little Rock, Amarillo, Albequerque, and finally (inshallah) Pacific Yearly Meeting. Three more weeks to go on this marvelous journey!