On Anne Montgomery: Of Two Hands and Two Feet

Dear Friends,

Kathy Kelly is one of those extraordinary souls whose acts of love, compassion and courage are well-known.  Kathy understands, as did Anne Montgomery, that it is not about “us” per se, but about our work and the fact that we do not do it alone.

Anne and Kathy would meet, not unexpectedly, in conflict zones where both were working with people in dire need.  It is work that takes not only faith, hope and courage, but persistence.

Anne & Kathy, witnessing against torture in Washington, DC (photo courtesy of Chrissy Nesbitt)

Kathy wrote her own tribute to Anne, based on her recollection of time spent with Anne in conflict zones.  Much stands out for me in Kathy’s essay, and the following paragraph stands out in particular.  In it Anne spoke beautifully and thoroughly about means and ends:

It’s not just a matter of blocking doors, shouting, doing a Plowshares action or whatever, but in every aspect it’s nonviolent, and not just resisting but doing it peacefully. One person said you use two hands: with one hand you say no but with the other hand you say come join us, be part of us. And two feet: with one foot you do charity work but the other foot is the foot of justice. You try to see what’s behind the injustice, the hunger, and work to change it.

These powerful metaphors – of hands and feet, of no and yes (“come join us”), of balancing mercy and justice – could, if need be, sum up the balancing act to which we are called.

Recently, at Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action’s (GZ) Hiroshima observance on August 6th, participants split into two groups.  One group vigiled at the Bangor Trident nuclear submarine base Main Gate.  Some from that group walked out into the roadway with banners, blocking traffic going into the base in a symbolic NO to Trident and nuclear weapons.  Meanwhile, the other group was at the other entrance to the Bangor base leafleting, the gentle YES.  The leaflet – of which 200 were distributed to people going in and out of the base – was an invitation (a “come and join us”) titled “Can We Talk?”.

The leaflet, written by GZ co-founder Shelley Douglass, embodied the essence of what Anne spoke of and lived – the invitation.  It comes from a deep understanding of our oneness.  Anne repeated this to Susan Crane in her last visit with Anne – “We are one  We are one”

Of course, Anne truly understood and balanced the scale of mercy and justice, a lesson that seems lost so often in the church (and world) today.  At least in my own experience in a social justice ministry the people were fine with acts of mercy, so long as they were not asked to balance their steps with justice.  It was like a whole congregation hopping, going around in circles and never getting anywhere.  I am grateful for those faith communities that do, in fact, balance mercy and justice.

Well, enough from me.  I invite you to read Kathy Kelly’s beautiful tribute to Anne’s life work.  Click here to read Parting with Sister Anne Montgomery, published at Waging Nonviolence on August 29th.

And may we all learn to fully use two hands and two feet.

In Peace,

Leonard

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