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Spiraling Around

Keep Calm and Drink Tea TeapotBy Margaret Fraser

FACEBOOK REMINDED ME that it was ten years ago this fall that I drove a small delegation of Jewish and Roma Hungarian peace activists from Dublin Airport to Belfast and Derry/ Londonderry. This started a surprising-to-me decade of introducing folk from outside Northern Ireland to cross-cultural experiences, new connections and a sense of wonder.

My posts show a focus on the rented Mercedes minivan that I called the Blue Beast, with its multiple gears, and my concerns about getting it and the passengers safely through narrow busy streets. I had no idea, of course, that saying yes to a request from an acquaintance would lead to ten years of shepherding visitors from other countries around Northern Ireland. Continue reading

“Difference is of the essence of humanity” —John Hume

Cows in the Field

By Margaret Fraser

LAST MONTH MARKED THE 45th ANNIVERSARY of the ambush of the Miami Showband, in which three band members and two of their attackers were killed. Flourishing from the 1960s to the 1980s, Showbands were an Irish cultural phenomenon, performing in village and parish halls, offering a way for young people to meet each other and have a night out. Dublin-based, the Miami Showband was one of the most successful.

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Carried by a Concern

By Margaret Fraser

Columbus Foundation Replica of Nina and Pinta

On the left are the Columbus Foundation’s replicas of Niña and Pinta. Center right, in front of the artist, is the top of the tent where volunteers welcomed visitors to the ships. On the far right is the tent that was provided for the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians to educate visitors about the impact of Columbus’s voyages on the indigenous people.


You never know when you are going to be called to take a stand. Well, of course, if you have a longstanding concern, you can be pretty sure that sooner or later you are going to have to stand up and speak up. But in this case, I didn’t see it coming. I didn’t even know how strongly I felt about the issue until it arrived – not exactly on my doorstep, but in a marina just a few blocks from my house. Continue reading

Musing on Music

Hymn BooksWhen I lived near Media, Pennsylvania, I joined a Gospel choir. We practiced for several weeks, did a concert in a local church, and then dissolved until the next year. It was joyful and packed full of praise. Gospel is a distinctive genre of music — sung unaccompanied, with a call and response style, and hand clapping the rhythm.

I was energized by the experience of getting to know people from other faith communities, and by learning a new way to make music. But I was also stressed. I had to unlearn so much that my body knew: a different rhythm and downbeat, and different harmonies. Continue reading

Surprised by the Joy of Interim Pastoral Work

Margaret marsh light

A year ago, it never occurred to me to go back to work—in the sense of being employed. I was happily retired after more than forty working years. I was free to set my own hours, to follow leadings, and to volunteer. I always felt free to stop doing those things at any time, because I was, well—free. But then I got The Call. Oh, my.

I had heard that, in seminary, you should never say” I’ll never be a pastor.” Because that is when God smiles, and before you know it… Well, I had said it, but that was more than 20 years ago, as I watched classmates prepare for Sunday Morning. But I ‘knew’ that whatever my religious service was going to be, pastoral ministry was not it.

And here I am, six months into my service as an interim pastor. I started off thinking that, with God’s help, I could do it. But now, when people ask me how it’s going, I say “I love it!” Continue reading

So what is she doing up a ladder?

Margaret on ladder

Margaret Fraser is serving as Interim Pastoral Minister of West Richmond Friends Meeting, in Indiana. She reports on the first couple of weeks:

I t has been intense. On my first Sunday I gave the message on John 1: 1-19 and was welcomed with a pitch-in / potluck meal and cake. I have visited people, have attended several committee meetings, been to worship at Richmond Friends School and have made contact with the local ministerial association. I also want to participate in events at Bethany Seminary and Earlham School of Religion, so that people there get to know me, and to be able to invite them to meeting. Yesterday I was up at 5:00 a.m. to go to the hospital to sit with someone who had emergency surgery. In the evening I worked on my second message, based on John 2: 1-11. This sounds pretty typical for a pastoral minister – though not many are welcomed with two cakes, one decorated with the meeting’s mission statement.

So what is she doing up a ladder? There is nothing in the job description of an intentional interim minister that says she should be up a stepladder ripping wallpaper off the office walls, but the thing about having an interim pastor is that there is always the unexpected. I didn’t plan to do this; it was almost as if the wallpaper, up for at least 23 years and peeling at the edges, was asking to be removed. And as if the walls were asking to breathe and be beautiful. They will be, once they are painted Lemon Grass and Eider White. Some people who have come to the office have looked a little shocked to see black bags of stripped-off paper and bare plaster. Others, some of whom have stopped by to help, can see beyond that, to the beautiful space and comfortable chairs that will materialize, and the place of hospitality that will emerge. Continue reading

Footprints in the Visitors’ Book:

Continuity and Change

by Margaret Fraser

Richhill guest bookIn April, on the final Sunday of the Good News Associates pilgrimage to Ireland, our group attended meeting for worship at Richhill, County Armagh, Northern Ireland.

After worship I signed the visitors’ book in the entrance hall, then flipped through the entries to look for names of past visitors whom I might know. Surprisingly, I met myself, and my elder daughter, from a visit fifteen years earlier. On 20 August 2000 we had written our names in the book, and our addresses at the time – mine in Wallingford, Pennsylvania and Laura in Cambridge, U.K.

Those entries reflected our changing lives – in microcosm. Fifteen years ago, when Laura and I had visited Richhill, I was serving as Dean of Pendle Hill, and had a couple more years to serve in that role before I moved on to Friends World Committee for Consultation. Laura had returned from a year in East Africa as a volunteer teacher with Mennonite Central Committee, and was continuing to volunteer – this time living in a group home in England and providing support for adults with mental health and developmental needs.

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Stopped in the Tracks

iciclesBy Margaret Fraser

On November 12, I sorted through my red 22-inch carry-on wheelie bag for the final time. I was off to Ohio to co-facilitate a session of Quaker Quest, and from there to Ireland, for a project for which I volunteer. In addition to checking on the suitcase and the passport, there was just one more task that day — to go for a second mammogram. I had no concern about it — I had been called back before, and I knew that suspicious areas sometimes showed up that would not be present on the second x-ray.

The day turned out differently. Instead of walking out, I was moved along a different track: a meeting with an oncology nurse, and then one with a radiologist who pointed to a screen and said that it looked like cancer to him. The biopsy was scheduled for December 1, on the tiny window of a day between arriving back from Ireland and flying to Oregon.

The Oregon plans included being on retreat with the other Good News Associates, and spending time with my younger daughter and other close friends. The phone call came during the Good News Associates’ retreat, probably the very best setting. The results were inconclusive. Two experts had given differing opinions, so a third expert had been called on. I remained calm, but I had a real sense of my life being in two chapters: before and after November 12. Continue reading