Friends of Silence 2011
Dear Friends of Silence:
As I sit to draft our Annual Appeal letter, I am trying to remember my first conversation with Nan. In the year 2000 I was looking for a special gift for my wife Jackie. A longtime friend of mine, who later developed the computer program for maintaining the Friends of Silence mailing list, told me about Bella Erakko, a gifted weaver and dear friend of Nan’s. Bella created a beautiful prayer shawl and also put me in touch with Nan. I called her that year, and our first conversation lasted over two hours! She rapidly became like a second mom to me, my own having died in 1971.
In our monthly phone conversations we would talk about Nan’s dreams, and mine, and we loved to share books that were deeply influencing our lives. I remember that the first book she sent my way was Meditations on the Tarot: A Journey into Christian Hermeticism; and if I recall correctly, the first book I sent her was the second volume of Maurice Nicoll’s Psychological Commentaries on the Teaching of Gurdjieff and Ouspensky. As you might guess, we both were seekers of inner transformation and, while rooted in the Jesus story, we both read broadly from the sacred literature of all the wisdom traditions.
As our conversations continued, Nan shared her vision for a contemplative retreat center for the FOS, a place of hospitality and welcome for those journeying on this silent path. My wife and I had moved to Rolling Ridge in 2002, a 1400 acre tract of sacred wilderness land near Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, where we now live with five other families in a volunteer retreat community. Nan came for a visit with Anne and Bella to explore establishing her House of Silence at Rolling Ridge. The idea did not come to fruition at that time, and a few years later Nan, Anne, and Bella, through a combination of circumstances, found the ideal house and established The Friends of Silence Center for Peace and Prayer in Hannibal, Missouri.
In the last months of Nan’s life, she became concerned about how her vision would continue. Several months before she died, Jackie and I visited Nan and a few members of the Friends of Silence board in Jericho, Vermont to discuss the possibility of moving FOS to Rolling Ridge. Before our first meeting began in her small apartment, she handed me a colorful bundle of all the past issues of the Friends of Silence. “Here’s my baby,” she said. As my hands touched the “baby,” a jolt of energy flashed through my body, my eyes filled with tears, and in embarrassment I turned my head, not sure that I wanted any of the others to see this unexpected display of emotion that had overtaken me. Nan spoke no further words, but as I turned back to her, her gaze burned into me. It was as if I could see her life and her dream all at once, in one big bundle.
I regained my composure and we all sat down to continue our discernment about the future of the Friends of Silence. The next day, before resuming our talks, I privately went up to Nan and said, “You know what happened yesterday morning, don’t you?” “Of course I do,” she simply stated. And then, in almost a whisper, “I sent it.” Nan did not want her baby to die. She wanted to know whether I could hold her dream with reverence and tenderness, and help what she had birthed to grow up without her.
And so now Nan’s energy and her dream have taken up residence in Still Point at Rolling Ridge with me and three energetic and gifted women – Trish Stefanik, Lindsay McLaughlin, and Mary Ann Welter. To be honest, we don’t really know where Nan’s dream is taking us, but it is living and growing in us and we are trying to hold it with listening and receptive hearts. As we listen for possible new directions, we also continue to hold fast to the heart of FOS, our monthly letter, which Anne Strader continues to produce in the simple, familiar format Nan began more than 20 years ago.
We all may want to be a friend of Silence, but sometimes I am not entirely sure that Silence wants to be our “friend.” Befriending Silence should at least come with a big warning sign, because if we stretch out to take her hand, she will inevitably lead us where we do not want to go. Those who follow the path of Silence learn to embrace all that life brings them – the wanted and the unwanted, the mess and the magic – with open, abandoned, and surrendered hearts.
Nan was a friend of Silence. She knew this terrible truth about its wily ways. And so do we. Will you join with us in this journey into the unknown? We need your partnership, your prayers, and your support. I am asking for the help of each of you. We cannot care for this baby alone.
Some facts and figures are printed below for your prayerful consideration.
Your friend in Silence,
Facts and Figures
FOS letter circulation: more than 6,000
Number of Donors: less than 2,000
Cost of the letter: $28,000 per yer (printing and mailing)
FOS Additional Needs:
$15,000 per year to keep the online FOS active and alive (see note below)
$50,000 to purchase 2 partnership shares in Still Point Mountain Retreat to establish a retreat home.
Note: We are continuing to build a web site (www.friendsofsilence.net) where you can search through all issues of the Friends of Silence letters, get daily quotes, and have the monthly letter delivered to your email box. We hope you soon will be able to take an online class on silence. Check the website often for news of our developing retreat ministry at Still Point.