I have some totally amazing, wonderful and surprising news to share: I have fallen in love and plan to marry an amazing woman named Jill Shook in September. Because this will no doubt seem unbelievably sudden to most of you, we are sending out this joint letter to let you know of our intentions, and how this miracle happened.
Anthony: It seems auspicious that Jill and I met at the Palm Sunday Peace Parade in Pasadena—an event that draws together peace-loving Christians from all around the city. Since I am a full-time Quaker peace activist, I went to this event and met Jill, who seemed like a very interesting person (to say the least). We exchanged cards, then emails, and then had long phone conversations. We went to Venice Beach on our first date and it was magical. I then met Jill’s delightful mom and sister and was so welcomed and loved by them I immediately felt a part of Jill’s family. On my birthday (May 9), I proposed marriage to Jill at the Getty Villa and she accepted. It was the best birthday present I have ever received in my life!
Jill is everything I have been looking for in a life partner: a passionate, fun-loving Christian who cares deeply about peace and justice. Like me, Jill is a writer. She has written a book about how to help churches become involved in creating affordable housing for low-income families (see makinghousinghappen.com). She also walks her talk and lives in one of the lower-income parts of Pasadena, where she has done amazing work to help people in the community. Jill has a Masters in Biblical Studies from Denver Seminary and a Doctor of Ministry in Transformational Leadership for the Global City from Bakke Graduate University. She is environmentally conscious, drives a hybrid car, and her home is a charming model of green living, with a beautiful organic garden, fruit trees, and even chickens. (I won’t lack for free range eggs!)
A little about me. I am a writer, teacher, editor and peace activist. I have a BA from Boston University and a doctorate in British literature from Rutgers University. I spent a year studying at Pendle Hill, a Quaker center for study and contemplation near Philadelphia. For many years I taught English at various colleges and universities. I also edited books and a magazine for Quakers, did Soviet-American reconciliation work in the 1980s, and, and started a youth program for the American Friends Service Program in the 1990s, taking teen groups to Mexico for service projects. For twenty years I was married to Kathleen Ross, a wonderful Methodist minister, who passed away of cancer two years ago. (You can learn more at my blog at laquaker.blogspot.com.)
Just as I helped support the ministry of my wife of blessed memory, I look forward to helping Jill with her marvelous ministry. She also feels an affinity for my work as a Quaker peace activist, and I’m sure she will be of great help to me. I look forward to sharing my life and ministry with this amazing woman who is the answer to my prayers. Besides our commitment to God, peace, and justice and following the teachings of Jesus, we also have many fun interests in common. We love biking, camping, gardening, and traveling. And Jill is teaching me how to dance. I look forward to dancing with Jill at our wedding, and for the rest of our lives...
Jill: I feel that I have been kissed by God and given a totally unexpected and simply amazing gift in having met and now being engaged to Anthony. Getting used to the idea of saying that I am “engaged” is both scary and wonderful music to my ears (and likely a bit scary to the ears of you reading this). Yes, it’s been very fast, but very right and honorable and God-ordained in every way. When I told my mom she said, “God is smiling and the angels are rejoicing.” I am so happy I can hardly contain myself. I have dreamed all my life of being married but had little hope it would ever happen. My dad taught us to dream big, so as a visionary I can envision and make big things happen, but when it came to my personal life and envisioning marriage, I have not been able to see it—until now.
When I reflect on my life as a visionary, organizer, and catalyst, I am amazed at all that God has enabled me to do: starting a nationwide program for Food for the Hungry (FHI), taking teams from Berkeley to Harvard into developing nations to do work projects, living in Mexico for two of my four years with FHI; creating STARS (Students and Tutors Achieving Real Success), an after-school program out of Lake Avenue Church that has helped hundreds of low income students to succeed in life as well has help this 4,000-member church to have meaningful relationships across racial and economic disparities; and authoring and editing Making Housing Happen: Faith Based Affordable Housing Models, a book that features unique ways that a breath of denominations across the US have created affordability. I have also helped build several networks, one to address the gang violence by networking churches, the courts, schools and Pasadena City College to bring the Parent Project to hurting parents looking for answers to their sons and daughters entering gangs and a West-San-Gabriel-Valley-wide network called Family Promise: fpsgv.org. This network of 14 churches rotate hosting 3-5 homeless families in their facility for one week, with a day center where a full time social worker helps them find jobs and housing. It will open in June. I could go on with many other ways I’ve had the joy of participating in God’s work in the world. But you probably get the picture. My life has been about ministry with little time for marriage. But God is now saying, “It’s time.” My ministry with Missions Door will continue, but now I will have a partner. Though we come from unique theological perspectives, we can envision our ministries dovetailing beautifully, as we are both called to and gifted as bridge builders.
Anthony will be and already is a wonderful complement for my rather dyslexic ways, with his writing and editing skills and especially his ability to create humor from my creative blunders. From someone with such an intellect, I didn’t expect such delightful romance. I have heard, “I love you” in French, Greek, Latin, Spanish… it’s so much fun. What a huge gift from heaven! When I begin to feel overwhelmed with having to plan something that feels like too much, he jumps in and takes charge. I love it. I can relax. He is great with financial planning, quick to ask for feedback, he knows himself and what he wants.. and he wants me. Wow. I feel loved beyond measure by Anthony. When my mom and sister met Anthony they immediately fell in love with him.. they can clearly see why I too have fallen in love.
May 7th I had the joy performing a wedding for my neighbor. Before the ceremony in Laguna Beach I went to the ocean for one final practice. While sitting with my feet burrowed in the sand, God spoke deep into my spirit that Anthony is the man God intends for me. Two days later, when he proposed marriage on his birthday, I replied, with a shy confidence deep in my spirit, “Yes!” As I talk with friends about this unexpected miracle and how our gifts and strengths compliment each other’s so well, again and again God confirms that this is our intended path. I feel blessed beyond measure.
We are looking at a September wedding, but will have more clarity on this as we go through our premarital counseling. Then Anthony will be moving into my home in Pasadena. Stay tuned!
Yours in Love,
Anthony and Jill