Third Sunday of Advent

Reflection: Joy

By Gary Ashbeck

“A people which seriously calls God alone its ruler must become a true people, a community where all members are ruled by honesty without compulsion, kindness without hypocrisy, and the kinship of those who are passionately devoted to their divine leader. When social inequity, distinction between the free and unfree, splits the community and creates chasms between its members, there can be no true people, there can be no ‘God’s people.’”

Gates of Prayer Meditation and Reading #40, gender-neutral language added

We are now in the third week of advent. The theme for the week is joy. The readings for this week are going to be more upbeat. In the first reading from Zephaniah, we are not disappointed. “Shout for joy; sing joyfully.” We get one week of singing and dancing in the course of our Advent work, to reflect and then set out to practice the work we are called to do.

I’ve been watching a lot of documentaries on Ernest Shackleton lately. He was a British explorer who led three expeditions in Antarctica. His expeditions were known as heroic failures. He managed to successfully get his expedition team out of many tough situations, like being adrift on an ice floe for a year, but ultimately wouldn’t be able to achieve his goal of reaching the Pole. One thing he did to keep morale up was for his crew to celebrate everything they possibly could. Every birthday, every anniversary, any reason to have a party would be celebrated. It’s one of the things I remember about my time living at Jonah House. We always had reasons to celebrate. Just gathering together was sometimes all the reason we needed to be joyous. This week is our excuse to celebrate, be joyful, because the messianic promise will soon arrive.

Today in the Gospel reading we have John the Baptist giving a sermon. Again, the subject matter is what we have been talking about, the lessons of Advent: forgiveness, justice. John preached of a societal change. He also gets us in the mood to be joyful. His good news gives the people an idea that maybe he is the one, but he says he is nothing compared to what is coming. He gives the people hope that soon their wait will be over.

Henri Nouwen taught that while happiness is dependent on external conditions, “joy is the experience of knowing you are unconditionally loved and nothing—sickness, failure, emotional distress, oppression, war, or even death—can take that away.”

This joy, as I keep reading in different sources, is one of knowing we are created and loved. In this idea of joy coming from unconditional love there are a couple of different elements. Unconditional love requires forgiveness because we all are going to miss the mark at some point. If God gives us unconditional love, then to follow God’s example, we must give unconditional love. Forgiveness is what we are called to as Christians.

Anthony DeMello writes that what pleases God is not that we worship God, but that we allow ourselves to be transformed by God. God would be more pleased by your loving than by your adoration.

Forgiveness is letting go. You must let go of your feelings of hurt and anger so that you are not consumed by it. Grudges interfere with joy. Letting go is difficult in forgiveness. This doesn’t necessarily mean let violators go unpunished, but that is where truth and reconciliation come in. That is another big topic that I won’t cover. A murderer should be forgiven but also face consequences that hopefully can help create right relationship again.

There is also just letting go from this world. The world does not revolve around death and taxes. The real world is our web of relationships. There are so many arrows in our world that will distract us from God. We must let go. It seems like much of the world is an intentional distraction. We are perpetually bombarded by advertisements to try to persuade you to want things your really don’t need. We are focused on social media that research has shown actually causes people to feel more depressed and detached rather than give them the community they tell us it will bring. I believe that here you will find letting go is freedom.

In letting go you can also pause to be able to hear your own body and maybe hear God. Remember the story of Elijah waiting for God, and after thunder and earthquakes God comes as a little whisper of a breeze. That is where quiet prayer and meditation come in.

And there is still another letting go. Read the newspaper or watch the news. It’s hard to experience joy when faced with what is happening to God’s people around the world. They are also just as blessed by God. This is where another joy can come. If you go back to what Henri Nouwen said, joy is also freedom. Nothing to lose. There are a few times in my life that I can describe as joyful. Some of these experiences have been in deep community experiences where the people I have been with have shown absolute unconditional love and understanding. The other experiences are when I allowed myself to completely let go and take a risk out of love. These would be direct actions. Some of the most profoundly joyful experiences I have had were when I had fully thrown myself, full body, into spreading God’s message.

Now, this can be a dangerous statement. There are people who take it too far, fanatics (and some would label me one), but I think it’s obvious that despite what they say, they are following more of their own ego in ministry rather than presenting God’s message, and are therefore damaging to God’s people and to creation. I think there is a litmus test and I’ll give an example to explain how I feel where those litmus tests may lie.

My trial for my SOA action was two months after the action. It was very difficult for me because I was one of three who had refused bail, but I was separated from the others in jail and for trial. I was physically in bad shape from the jailing. The marshals were messing with me pretty badly and I had spent one of the days in a 40-degree carport in a t-shirt with them telling the jail they were on their way to pick me up and never did. When I finally presented my case in front of a judge, I knew he was going to convict me and give me a maximum sentence, so I felt the freedom to present my case as to why I trespassed, and really exposed my most vulnerable self to the court. I was convicted and hauled back to the jail. I returned to my bunk in what I can only describe as ecstatic joy. What made me the most joyful was that I regretted nothing I said, and felt it was delivered in the most loving, respectful, compassionate way that I possibly could. I felt it was devoid of ego and done really as a prayer. I felt that my witness was strong and possibly transforming to those watching. It may have affected the judge in some fashion because he had not fined me, but only sentenced me to prison. I also felt the freest I ever had. It was almost like I was flying. I have had other experiences where I felt I had gotten pulled into an ego battle with a judge or regretted a statement I may have made, but on this occasion, I really felt I was only a medium channeling a message of love. It is also a very dark place to be experiencing such elation.

This is where I believe the litmus test is. Acting out of a love and compassion that is respectful and without injuring another party, and without focusing on your own personal suffering as the end-all be-all of the witness. This is where the “I love the sinner but I think they should be jailed, killed or marginalized in some way” type of Christianity fails the test. This is where the abortion clinic bombers will fail. I think deep down we know it too. I once was on trial for attending a silent vigil and the police decided to arrest us because they didn’t want us there. In trial the police concocted a story about us screaming and yelling at people because a silent vigil is never going to give the impression of a threat to anyone’s public safety. It was necessary to prove that our conduct was disorderly, which was the charge. After it came out that it was a silent vigil and there had been no reason to arrest us, the judge acquitted us.

It seems that the idea of joy in this third week is a natural progression of transforming ourselves for the messianic promise. Joy is letting go of ourselves and the world, transforming ourselves, and participating in the promise. This is where I want to leave it for us to discuss.

What is joy?
Is joy freedom?
How do we or could we let go?
How do we experience joy in our lives?
How do we let go and be transformed by God?
How do we build stronger, more joyful communities?


Second Sunday of Advent

Reflection: Love

By Gary Ashbeck

“Nothing will happen unless people like us believe in God’s promise and base our lives on it’s fulfillment”

Taken from The Times Discipline, by Liz McAlister and Philip Berrigan

As we begin the second week of advent, we are to continue to await fulfilment of the messianic promise that Jesus is bringing. John the Baptist is appearing to us in the gospels this week. His mission was as forerunner. He had people look inward into their souls and repent for their sins and change their ways. People flocked to him in the desert. As a symbol of renewal John would baptize. He also called out people who abused power to an immoral end. Herod and religious leaders were his biggest targets. Herod was his biggest target but it took some time for Herod to finally execute him, and he did so trapped by his ego. He held him in prison for some time and would even go listen to him. In Mark 6:20 It is reported that Herod feared him knowing John to be a righteous and holy man.

The theme for this week of advent is love. We are called to love. We will learn through the scripture how much of Jesus messianic vision was focused on love. His whole sermon on the mount where we get our beatitudes from is focused on how we are supposed to show love. His focus repeatedly is also on the poor, oppressed, the underdog of society. Love is the tool for the messianic promise to take root.

Jesus not only implored us to love but showed love in a variety of different ways. He healed people. He also acknowledged the existence of some people breaking down social class structures. He violated the cleanliness laws to bring humanity to others teaching us that the law was made for people, not people for the law.

In the readings this week both the first reading and the gospel use similar phrasing. “ever lofty mountain shall be made low and that the age-old depths and gorges be filled to level the ground” “Prepare the way of the lord, make straight the paths, every valley shall be filled and every mountain and fill shall be made low. The winding road shall be made straight and the rough ways made smooth, and all flesh shall see the salvation of god.

These phrases are sandwiched with repeated phrasing “the peace of justice” and “his mercy and justice”. I don’t think these readings are a call for land development. They seem more in line with another form of evening things out that is the messianic promise.

Frequently the high and mighty and the arrogant are called out in the bible as sinful. When a king is appointed over Israel it is not without a warning of how power corrupts. Repeated kings despite starting out on a positive note ended abusing power in their positions. Part of the sermon on the mount a reversal of class structure is preaching.

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.”

The scriptures also show that the very first Christian community that formed after Jesus left the earth was a community of shared resources. The rich step down and the poorer are lifted up.

This is the messianic idea of love. Love everyone, enemies included. Bring them into your community and circle. Treat everyone and every need as holy. I am reminded of a mural in Washington DC that states something like if you look down on someone have your hand outreached to help them back up.

Without love, justice cannot come. Without justice peace cannot come. With a lack of love in our hearts, with an idea in our heads that a race, class or type of person unlike ourselves is inferior, Jesus messianic promise cannot produce fruit.

So how does that work in the real world? I have a couple examples. One is theoretical and one is a life experience. 15 years ago, I started studying economics as it related to trade. This was the time when a lot of attention was being placed on free trade which was pushed by both parties but we were finding examples where it was not democratic, predatory, and undermining of economies to the benefit of large companies and also shuttering the little guys companies as well. One theory presented by Robin Hahnel a professor of Economics at American university was very interesting. After much research he concluded that the best way for globalized trade to work was to provide an unequal advantage to smaller weaker economies in an effort to stabilize, and grow that economy where then they would no longer need that advantage. Then instead of one economy growing at the expense of another, both economies would grow. The larger economy would be taking the burden but that economy would be able to take the difference short term adding incentive to grow the smaller economy as quick as possible so to lessen the burden. It is essentially filling every valley and every mountain shall be made low.

I started with “Nothing will happen unless people like us believe in God’s promise and base our lives on its fulfillment”. John the Baptist’s life was based on Gods promise to be fulfilled.

Years ago, when I was in jail in Georgia, I had made a conscious decision to stay out of the commodity trade and to give without expecting anything in return. I did have the privilege of being able to get as much money placed in my commissary account because people all over the country were offering me help. I considered that to also be a trade that benefited the jail so I stayed out of that as much as possible too. The currency was the honey bun and you could purchase things from other guys with buns. Other things worked as well like parts of your meals.

I didn’t drink the milk so I would just ask the nearest guy if he wanted it. That spread the exchange around to everyone. Keep in mind this also was illegal. You are not allowed to share in jail and I did it blatantly. It really took everyone by surprise and so guys would watch for items I seemed to prefer (a stretch considering these were terrible meals) and would offer me things but in a more casual exchange. It was a gift economy like Ulysses on our street has been doing. The other benefit though was the spirit of it all. I was quickly identified as something different. The other men would come to me to talk and tell me things I know they were not telling anyone else because they trusted me. It helped topple the purposeful actions by the guards to get the other guys to despise me when mail came. I was getting a ton of mail sometimes 15 letters a day. They would come in to pass out mail and read the names loudly off of each letter. My name would be read over and over even though they had bundled them together. I was mortified, but there actually seemed to be some pride that I was with them. I learned so much from guys would had been in Iraq and Kosovo and just how life was for them and who they missed.

Last week was hope that the messianic promise would come take root. This week we are given a tool, love, and think about how we can use it to bring forth the messianic promise in our communities. I attest that love is the only thing that can fulfil the promise.

They will know we are Christians by our love one song goes. Another says we are called to love one another, love tenderly, serve one another, to walk humbly with God.


First Sunday of Advent

Reflection: Hope

By Gary Ashbeck

To introduce this whole Advent series: Around October, some members of the Collins Street community gathered and decided that with the turmoil in both government and churches, we should start meeting in prayer. I felt strongly that special consideration of Advent should be made because of its importance, and so I started doing some reading. The synagogue shooting in Pittsburgh hit home pretty hard.  Not only does our family belong to a synagogue, but Noah’s school is located at that same synagogue, and both boys attended preschool there. They sent out notifications of their safety plan since they were a possible target for the increasing insanity. Condemnation of the act was weak from the executive branch of government, and the remarks showed an absolute lack of morality, as seems to be a recurring problem these days. I felt that the strongest statement I could make was to celebrate my faith as strongly as I could. That Friday we made a point to celebrate Shabbat and I turned my sights with renewed energy towards Advent.

Today is the first Sunday of Advent. It is the first day of the church year, a time for us to prepare for the coming of Jesus the messiah and the new world he is to usher in. He is the catalyst to bring forth justice and peace.

Coincidentally, tonight also happens to be the first night of Hanukkah. The celebration of Hanukkah commemorates a miracle that happened after the outcome of a struggle for religious freedom. Judea had come under Syrian control and after a succession of kings the Jewish religion was outlawed and Jews were forced to worship Greek gods. Many Jews had long since turned to the Hellenistic culture because of the lure of the supposed “modern realities” that it possessed. It wasn’t enough for the Syrians to outlaw the faith—they subverted the temples and forced the Jews to violate their customs and practices. The Second Temple was seized and desecrated through the erection of an altar to Zeus. People were forced to eat pork under the threat of torture and death. The final insult was the sacrifice of swine in this temple.

A successful rebellion that took years freed Jerusalem and a new altar was built in the temple. The menorah was to be lit to rededicate the temple and allow the Jews to be able to celebrate their faith again. This is when the miracle of Hanukkah happened: They only had enough oil to light the menorah for one night, but somehow the menorah stayed lit for eight nights, in time for more oil to be made. (This is really a very abbreviated description; a look at the two books of the Maccabees and Michael Lerner’s book “Jewish Renewal” would tell you more.)

Like the rededication of the temple and purification of the Jewish faith, Advent is also a rededication of ourselves on a yearly basis. It should also be a purification of the faith. It is a time for us to prepare for the birth of Jesus on Christmas. At the end of the month we will also celebrate the coming of a new year, with all our new plans and resolutions to better ourselves.

Advent is a time for us to reflect upon ourselves and our world. We are to prepare ourselves by reflecting on the teachings we have received from Scripture and the rededication of our lives to make those words “flesh,” or real, in our present day. We are to rededicate our lives to make those words flesh in our present day.

We are promised that Jesus the Messiah will help. The Messiah is supposed to usher in a new world. Isaiah tells what the fruits of the Messiah will be: Nations will destroy their implements of war and destruction and rework them into farm implements, tools of life- growing food. Jeremiah says the Messiah would do what is right and just in the land, and Judah will be safe and the Judeans would be safe and secure. In contrast, today one Christian leader publicly stated that he would not condemn the murder of a journalist because it would cause a loss in arms sales revenue. That statement did not elicit much outrage.

There was some argument about who the Messiah would actually be when they arrived. One theory was that the Messiah would come as a powerful military leader like Judah Maccabee. Other theories were that the Messiah would be a sage or high priest. Last was the theory that he would come as a prophet like Moses. Either way, they would come and be a savior to Israel and bring forth an era of peace.

Who was Jesus as the Messiah? We get an idea from his forerunner John the Baptist. John lived simply and humbly. He was part of the Essenes community that lived together, dedicated themselves to voluntary poverty, and lived ascetically, denying themselves pleasures to pursue spiritual goals. John confronted immoral behavior in the people of power. It ultimately caused his execution. His teachings had impact and people came to him in crowds to cleanse themselves through baptism. He was a breath of fresh air. He had a moral weight to him.  When people who came to him as many come to churches today—with piety on their lips and the devil in their heart—he confronted them.

The theme for the first week of Advent is hope. We are in hope of the new era that the Messiah is to bring in. What better time to have that hope? What better time to act on that hope? How much of modern-day Christianity is based on a messianic age that is maybe not what we had expected? How much has been co-opted by people in power? Who even recalls in Scripture what the characteristics were of the first Christian communities? Was the era to be a magical moment or was it a catalyst of a continued struggle long after Jesus left the earth? Are people so worried that the story of creation is not going to be taught in schools that they don’t realize there are actually two stories of creation in the Bible?

One thing we do know: Jesus was our example. He lived a life of compassion, and was always the champion of those underfoot, below the people in power. He held people accountable to the faith. I am a fan of how Professor Obery Hendricks describes Jesus’ basic teaching: “The needs of the people are holy.” Jesus was in constant struggle with those in positions of power in the commonly held faith, and called them out on abandoning the faith and the people because they chose power instead.

What clearer message can be given today? We live in a world where Scripture is being used to separate families. We live in a world where the pot of hate is stirred to keep us arguing and separate, allowing us to be fleeced by people constantly with the words “Jesus” and ”freedom” on their lips. We live in a period where God’s creation is hoped to be destroyed for the second coming, and rape culture not confronted because of political desires.

The Syrians had outlawed the Jewish faith. Jesus struggled against a faith that had been co-opted by power and was no longer authentic. That was the state of his messianic promise. He didn’t wage wars. He walked around talking to people, and offering compassion. He confronted those “whitewashed tombs” of people who were the reason he needed to give compassion to others. He fought religious means of excluding people who were unclean. He had compassion like the prophets for the poor, sick, and lame. His life started as a refugee and the trajectory of his mission was towards confronting the powers in Jerusalem. In his triumphant arrival into Jerusalem, he still arrived humbly on a donkey.

Today we still have the hope that Jesus’ world will come. Now it is our turn. This is a struggle for religious freedom. We know Jesus would not teargas refugees. He would rail against situations that created those refugees. We know Jesus would accept all people and treat all people’s needs as holy. And that is how we need to celebrate Advent. That is how we need to celebrate this first week of hope. The times now show that we need to celebrate this harder than we ever have before.

Let’s celebrate Advent, let’s celebrate hope.  What does hope look like for you?


Pax Christi Peacemaker Awards


Former members and dear friends of Jonah House Sisters Ardeth Platte and Carol Gilbert have won another award (ICANN, an organization they have done much work with this past year, won the Nobel Peace Prize for 2018). This time it was the Pax Christi Peacemaker Awards. The text from Pax Christi follows.

– – – – –

On Monday, June 4, 2018, Ardeth Platte, OP and Carol Gilbert, OP accepted an award on behalf of peacemakers around the world. Mary T. Yelenick from the Pax Christi International UN-NGO Delegation presented the award.

“We were privileged to be present for the Pax Christi New York Metro Awards Banquet and Fundraiser. Young and older people received awards for charity and justice work. We received the award for all of you who have surrounded us over many years. All connected with us receive a pause in the peacemaking labor for a gathering of this nature to say “thank you” to and for each other. War makers are lifted in memorials all over the world, so this memorial belongs once again to Grand Rapids Dominican Sisters who challenged war and the nuclear arms race for years and continue to do so.” — Peace, Ardeth and Carol

The message on the award read:

Pax Christi Metro New York Gratefully presents the Sister Christine Mulready Peacemaker Award For 2018 to Carol Gilbert and Ardeth Platte OP

Carol and Ardeth, your life-long commitment to peace is grounded in the love that both Thea Bowman and Dorothy Day proclaim. From the classroom to the public square, from government facilities to military bases, from places of worship to diplomatic centers, you have allowed love to conquer fear. Like Thea, you embrace a simple life that is open to people and filled with laughter and music. Like Dorothy, you know the link between poverty and militarism and you stand up and speak out against both.

Thank you for your great courage to live, love, and laugh, to believe that peace is possible, and to help to bring it into being. We are privileged to honor you.

DSGR Corporate Stance on Nuclear Disarmament

The Dominican Sisters ~ Grand Rapids call upon the United States government to lead the way for the global abolition of nuclear and all weapons of mass destruction by adopting a plan to lock down, dismantle, reduce, and eliminate nuclear and all weapons of mass destruction.

We call for immediate development, adoption and implementation of a plan that will ensure that there will be no new nuclear weapons, no new materials for nuclear weapons, and no testing of nuclear weapons.

We will work with all people of goodwill until there is no chance that a nuclear weapon or other weapon of mass destruction can come into the hands of anyone wishing to do harm.


Kings Bay Plowshares

Liz McAlister, co-founder and once-and-future member of Jonah House, has taken part in her second Plowshares action. She, and six others, calling themselves the Kings Bay Plowshares, used the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., to symbolically disarm the Trident 9 first-strike nuclear weapon system in King’s Bay, Georgia. Quoting King’s “Beyond Vietnam” speech, delivered on April 4, 1967, the group decried the giant triplets of militarism, racism, and consumerism, showing how these three are intimately interconnected.

More on the Kings Bay Plowshares Facebook page:

Here is the statement of the Kings Bay Plowshares:

We come in peace on this sorrowful anniversary of the martyrdom of a great prophet, Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Fifty years ago today, April 4, 1968, Dr. King was assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee as a reaction to his efforts to address “the giant triplets of racism, extreme materialism and militarism.”

We come to Kings Bay to answer the call of the prophet Isaiah (2:4) to “beat swords into plowshares” by disarming the world’s deadliest nuclear weapon, the Trident submarine.

We repent of the sin of white supremacy that oppresses and takes the lives of people of color here in the United States and throughout the world. We resist militarism that has employed deadly violence to enforce global domination. We believe reparations are required for stolen land, labor and lives.

Dr. King said, “The greatest purveyor of violence in the world (today) is my own government.” This remains true in the midst of our endless war on terror. The United States has embraced a permanent war economy.

“Peace through strength” is a dangerous lie in a world that includes weapons of mass destruction on hair-trigger alert. The weapons from one Trident have the capacity to end life as we know it on planet Earth.

Nuclear weapons kill every day through our mining, production, testing, storage, and dumping, primarily on Indigenous Native land. This weapons system is a cocked gun being held to the head of the planet.

As white Catholics, we take responsibility to atone for the horrific crimes stemming from our complicity with “the triplets.” Only then can we begin to restore right relationships. We seek to bring about a world free of nuclear weapons, racism and economic exploitation.

We plead to our Church to withdraw its complicity in violence and war. We cannot simultaneously pray and hope for peace while we bless weapons and condone war making.

Pope Francis says abolition of weapons of mass destruction is the only way to save God’s creation from destruction.

Clarifying the teachings of our Church, Pope Francis said, “The threat of their use as well as their very possession is to be firmly condemned … weapons of mass destruction, especially nuclear weapons, create nothing but a false sense of security. They cannot constitute the basis for peaceful coexistence between members of the human family, which must rather be inspired by an ethics of solidarity.”

Nuclear weapons eviscerate the rule of law, enforce white supremacy, perpetuate endless war and environmental destruction and ensure impunity for all manner of crimes against humanity. Dr. King said, “The ultimate logic of racism is genocide.” We say, “The ultimate logic of Trident is omnicide.” A just and peaceful world is possible when we join prayers with action. Swords into Plowshares!

Elizabeth McAlister
Mark Colville
Clare Grady
Martha Hennessy
Stephen Kelly S.J.
Patrick O’Neill
Carmen Trotta


Good Friday 2018 at the White House

For Jonah House, we ended Lent 2018 in the same place where we began it: at the White House in Washington, DC. We were there for the same reason: to pray and protest for peace. Joe and Liz were able to attend. Liz was one of the crucifixion victims. Joe helped with the singing.


















For a full account of the action, and the Faith and Resistance retreat that proceeded it, check out the account of Art Laffin, of the Dorothy Day Catholic Worker:


Ash Wednesday 2018 at the White House

As in years past, we began our Lenten journey at the White House, on Ash Wednesday. Joe Byrne and Liz McAlister were there to represent Jonah House.

Liz McAlister, emeritus member of Jonah House, with Michael Walli of the Dorothy Day Catholic Worker, in Washington, DC.

Participants marked the street in front of the White House with crosses made of ashes.

Follow this link for a full account of the prayer service at the White House, written by Art Laffin of the Dorothy Day Catholic Worker:

Report of Ash Wednesday Liturgy of Repentance Outside White House-February 14, 2018


Sisters Ardeth and Carol and Anti-Nuke Treaty

Wonder article about the wonderful work being done by Sisters Ardeth and Carol, with ICANW (International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons). Ardeth and Carol left Jonah House to dedicate themselves full-time to this peacemaking work.


Jonah House in 2017

2017 was an eventful and adventurous year at Jonah House in Baltimore! During the winter months, we spent some time hibernating. We had to do a lot of splitting and stacking wood for our two wood burning stoves. Later in the winter we were occupied with planning the vegetable and herb gardens, then with planting seeds and cultivating new plants in our greenhouse.

We also had our regular food pantry ministry to keep us busy. Every Monday we went to the Maryland Food Bank to pick up discounted food and free fresh produce, and brought it home in our van to process in the pantry. Then on Tuesdays, from 9am to 12pm, we were in the pantry handing out food boxes to low-income friends in the neighborhood.  Over the year, we gave out almost 4,500 boxes and half as many emergency bags. Unfortunately, we’re seeing more and more demand in West Baltimore, one of the more impoverished and underserved areas of Baltimore.

We had a few student groups visiting us over the winter and into the spring. A group from Xavier University in Cincinnati came for a day in January. They did some work outside at Jonah House, and at Tubman House, near the Gilmore Homes in West Baltimore, where they helped prepare raised garden beds that have been set up in abandoned lots. In the evening, we had a feast and did some reflection on the work of peace and justice in Baltimore, and the rest of the world. This one day was inspiring for one of the Xavier Students in particular: Josh Menke agreed to come back in the summer as an intern (he ended up staying with us for two months). Later, in early March, a group from Loyola University Chicago came to visit for a week, as part of Loyola’s extensive alternative spring break immersion program. Again, they worked at Jonah House and Tubman House. During the week, we broke bread and reflected on the four roots of Jonah House: community, spirituality, activism, and stewardship. In the evenings, we had fun playing “Fishbowl.” The group also had the opportunity to attend a couple of marches. The first was a Women’s Strike march in Baltimore, to commemorate International Women’s Day. The second was a march on the White House by Sioux water protectors from Standing Rock, North Dakota. Finally, a group from Loras College came for a short visit during Holy Week. The day after their visit, they drove to Washington DC, to take part in the Holy Week Faith and Resistance Retreat sponsored by Dorothy Day House. They witnessed at the Pentagon, and were there as Joe Byrne of Jonah House was arrested protesting for peace!

Tucker, Auggie, Joe, Emily, and Evie at BWI airport last January to protest President Trump’s immigration ban.

Jonah House continued to witness for peace and justice when the students went home. Tucker, Joe, and sometimes Emily did public “sits” in which we would go to City Hall Park, across from the War Memorial, in Baltimore, and do silent sitting meditation, while surrounded with signs that proclaimed our deep desire for peace and justice. During the year, Jonah House was also able to participate in events sponsored by the Atlantic Life Community, including two retreats and Faith and Resistance events during the Feast of the Holy Innocents, Holy Week, and the anniversaries of the nuclear bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

The summer, as usual, was a busy time at Jonah House. We had our fruit orchard to attend to, beginning with a “pruning party” in early spring. We also had our extensive garden to look after. Emily did much of the work there, with the help of many volunteers, including some of our Tuesday pantry folks. For a bag of produce, they would come Thursday mornings to plant, weed, and harvest. Meanwhile Tucker, with the help of his dad, built a chicken coop and yard. We now have fourteen hens laying upwards of a dozen eggs a day!

Throughout the summer we were able to bring in quite a bit of produce, preserving some of it, using some of it to feed the Jonah House community, the rest of it going into the food pantry boxes. We did pretty well with our fruit trees as well. The figs in particular were prolific, as were the grapes. We were able to harvest quite a few apples too, but the pear harvest was poor. This was due to the fact that the pears ripened a month early and were attacked by fruit-eating hornets. Last year we brought in five or six bushels; this year a half bushel. This brought home to us the very real threat posed by global warming and climate chaos.

Our community life was quite rich in 2017, including lively meals with the children, Auggie and Evie, often followed by quiet sitting meditation after the kids had been put to bed. But there were some changes in the composition of the community, with more to come in 2018. The three “emeritus” members of the community—Liz McAlister, Ardeth Platte, and Carol Gilbert—left us in 2017. Liz moved to New York City, while Ardeth and Carol went to Dorothy Day House in DC, where they plan to devote themselves to their ministry of “itinerant preaching” for peace. All three spent quite a bit of time at the United Nations in New York City educating and lobbying member nations about the Nuclea

r Weapon Abolition Treaty. This treaty was signed on July 7 by most of the world’s nations (but not, alas, the countries—like the United States—that have nuclear weapon arsenals), and will soon be ratified. The main NGO working for the treaty, ICANW (International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons), won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2017, thanks to the dedicated and selfless efforts of people all over the world, including Liz, Ardeth, and Carol.

Meanwhile, after much discernment, Tucker and Emily decided to leave Jonah House. They and their kids will be moving out in May 2018, so that they can be closer to family in the Midwest, and Tucker can pursue an academic career. Like Liz, Ardeth, and Carol, they will be missed mightily! Joe remains to carry on the work of Jonah House and is excited about welcoming in two new members to the community.  Ausur Amen and Ayo Rodan have been an extensive part of our community and work in west Baltimore over the past two years and are thrilled to be joining Joe in May to continue the work here at Jonah House. The community is still recruiting additional members so if you know anyone who would like to do the work of peace and justice in the context of intentional community, please contact Jonah House.

Finally, we are very grateful for all the volunteers who pitched in during 2017, and those who sent us donations to do our work. We couldn’t do it without you! As Martin Luther King Jr. said in his Christmas Sermon in 1967, “All life is interrelated. We are all caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, woven into a single garment of destiny. . . . We aren’t going to have peace on earth until we recognize this basic fact of the interrelated structure of all reality.” Thanks for joining us in our work and play! We hope and pray you will continue to do so in the years to come.


Sisters Ardeth and Carol at Buchel Air Base in Germany

Our dear friends Ardeth and Carol are in Germany protesting at a German airbase where American nuclear weapons are deployed. Here’s a report from Germany:

On Monday, July 17, 2017, Ralph Hutchison <> wrote:

US citizens take action against US nuclear bombs in Europe

Remove US flag; Blockade main gate; Meet with Base Commander

Among the American delegation were CWers:
Steve Baggarly, Virginia;  Susan Crane, California ; Kathy Boylan, Washington, DC.

Others we all know well ….
Srs Ardeth Platte and Carol Gilbert, Jonah House, Maryland; Ralph Hutchison, OREP Tennessee; John LaForge and Bonnie Urfer, Nukewatch, Wisconsin

A delegation of eleven US citizens joined with activists from China, Russia, Germany, Mexico, The Netherlands, Belgium and Britain at a peace encampment at the German airbase in Büchel, Germany, where US B61 bombs are deployed.

On Sunday, July 16, following the celebration of a Christian liturgy, Dutch and US citizens removed the fence blocking the main entrance to the airbase and proceeded on site, the Dutch delegation carrying bread for a “Bread Not Bombs” action and the US delegation carrying the text of the Nuclear Ban Treaty passed on July 7 at the United Nations in New York City.

More than thirty activists entered the site without incident, passing through the security gate that was accidentally left unlocked and unstaffed. The Dutch delegation placed loaves of bread on the wings of jet fighters; the US delegation lowered the US flag from the flagpole, requested a meeting with the base commander, and read the text of the UN Treaty to soldiers at the base.

After forty-five minutes, guards ran to seal the gates and police were summoned. Eventually, all activists were expelled from the facility without being charged.

On Monday, July 17, activists woke to find themselves prisoners in the peace camp as those attempting to approach the base with banners were rebuffed by police. More than a dozen police vans ringed the roundabout at the gate.

Undeterred, activists traveled through the woods and sat down to block the road leading into the airbase. They were joined by two other teams who traveled to blockade other entrance gates. The US delegation asked again to meet with the Base commander and were told that he would arrive shortly to meet with them.

When the commander arrived, they delivered the Treaty to him and then left the blockade to greet workers arriving at the main gate with banners requesting the removal of US B61 bombs from German soil. The Dutch activists remained in the road for another forty-five minutes before being removed by police. There were no arrests.

The US delegation arrived at the invitation of German activists to participate in a twenty week encampment at Büchel.

In the US delegation: Steve Baggarly, Virginia; Ardeth Platte and Carol Gilbert, Maryland; Susan Crane, California; Carmella Cole and Ralph Hutchison, Tennessee; Leona Morgan, New Mexico; Zara Brown, Minnesota; John LaForge and Bonnie Urfer, Wisconsin, and Kathy Boylan, Washington, DC.