Obituary of W. Newell Hendricks

W. Newell Hendricks, born on February 23, 1943 in Los Angeles, California, died peacefully in his home in Cambridge, Massachusetts, on Friday, April 3, 2015, after a long struggle with cancer. His wife and his two daughters were with him.

As a young adult in the 1960s facing the draft, Newell drew on his Presbyterian upbringing. He read the Bible front to back while hitch hiking across the country, and presented an essay to the draft board outlining why, as a Christian, he refused to fight. Though the argument didn’t go over well with the board, and he was subsequently forced to dodge the draft nine times, Newell had made a choice that would guide him throughout his life: to live what he called “a moral life.” Newell drew on his idealism and strong moral compass to live a vibrant and productive life unapologetically outside the mainstream.

Newell was an artist in every aspect of his life, but he lived out this dimension most fully as a composer. He received his graduate degree in musical composition at the University of California, Santa Barbara, where he met his wife of 45 years, Barbara Englesberg. After staying on as faculty at UCSB’s College of Creative Studies in a position he designed for himself, Newell went on to receive a Doctorate of Musical Arts from Boston University. Newell’s major works include the oratorio, El Salvador: Requiem and Invocation, with poet Denise Levertov, supported by a grant from the Massachusetts Council on the Arts, and two operas, The Cell and Ascona, written with the Boston Theater Group, and supported by grants from the National Endowment for the Arts. Earlier works include the opera Cain, and a concerto for violin written for his wife, a superb violinist.

Though never ordained as a minister, Newell led a deeply spiritual life. A member of Church of the Covenant for over thirty-five years, Newell served in a variety of roles including minister of music, sexton, deacon, council member, and president of the congregation. Newell was a key member in the congregation’s sister relationship with a rural church community in Dulce Nombre de Jesus, Nicaragua, traveling there over 20 times in the last 19 years, and working to build authentic relationships across cultures. Newell’s experience in Nicaragua led him to further apply his theology toward political action, working tirelessly for economic justice, immigrant rights, and action in the face of climate change.

Newell did things you just aren’t supposed to do. He rode his bike regularly, with no fancy gear, in all weather, to western Massachusetts from his home in Boston. He hiked mountains with nothing but a topographical map. He sewed entire wardrobes, including three prom dresses for his daughter Anna, by making up his own patterns out of newspaper. He used his chainsaw and a chalk line to mill boards from large pine trees fallen after a storm. Never one to buy things, he took great pleasure in making what he needed from the refuse or natural resources he found around him- braiding beautiful wool rugs from cast off coats, sewing quilts from fabric scraps and his old clothing, devising a roof rack for his car using a snow scraper as an integral structural element, and building two houses and a cabin with wood, stone, and mortar from the land they sit on and his own hand-drawn set of architectural plans.

After being diagnosed with metastatic prostate cancer in 2010, Newell continued to live his life with the same vigor as always, constantly assessing what he was and was not capable of doing as his body got weaker, and living as fully as possible within those limits. In his last year of life, with metal rods running through his spine from multiple surgeries, Newell continued to bike everywhere he could, traveled to Nicaragua with 17 family members, continued to make repairs on his house, wrote several children’s stories for his granddaughters, planted and harvested from his vegetable garden, made wine from the grapes in his yard, and completed and published his memoirs, Normal: Stories from My Life, (Outskirts Press, 2014). In November, 2014 he wrote the following poem.

The Things I Can Still Do

“I can sit.
I can lie down.
I can talk while sitting or lying.
Sitting, I can write letters to my nieces
Who lost their father this past summer.
Sitting, I can save a booth at the café for a friend
Who first takes her children to school.
Lying down, I can nap with my young granddaughter
So my wife can practice or get some exercise.
Lying down, I can pray, thinking of all those I know
With love in my heart.
Sitting or lying, I can make sure there are no unsaid words
To my daughters, after adolescence.
Sitting or lying down, I can express love for my wife
Who gives me all I could ever need.
And I can require nothing of others that isn’t necessary.”

Newell has inspired many many people in his life and will be greatly missed. He will be remembered by family and friends for his passion for justice, deep thoughtfulness, sense of humor, love of adventure, musical brilliance, and devoted care for his loved ones. He is survived by his wife, Barbara Englesberg; his daughter Anna Hendricks, her partner Toby Briggs, and their daughter, Vita; his daughter Clara Hendricks, her husband Jake Carman, and their daughter Bridget; his sister Ann Woolcott and her husband Tom, and many nieces, nephews, grandnieces and grandnephews. He is predeceased by his mother Louise Hendricks, his father George Hendricks, and his brother Brad Hendricks. A memorial service will be held in late May at The Church of The Covenant in Boston. Donations in his memory can be made to a project that was very close to Newell’s heart: preserving and recording some of the core music at the heart of liberation theology in the communities of the Delegation of the Word in Nicaragua. Donations may be sent to Service Is the Water, Inc. PO Box 103, Damascus, MD 20872, with “music project” in the memo line.

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Report on Family Trip to Nicaragua

It’s been awhile since I have posted anything.  In that time I went to Nicaragua with 17 members of my family, and when I returned, decided to enter hospice care.  The treatments were no longer effective and going to the hospital for any kind of visit seemed less and less desirable  I am now comfortably situated in my home, have frequent visitors, and a very supportive church and hospice staff taking care of me.

In the mean time, here is a report back from our trip to Nicaragua

January 23 to Feburary 1, Seventeen members of my extended family went with me to say good-bye to all of my friends in Nicaragua, especially those who live in the community of Dulce Nombre de Jesus.  I don’t have the energy to give a good report, so I asked some of the other members of the delegation if they might write about some special memory from the trip.  Here is a general outline of the trip followed by some of these reflections:

We gathered in the church to meet one another


We had several dialogues with the community about “family.”



We participated in the daily life of the community



We worshiped together


Entre Culturas, the organization that facilitated the trip, showed us all the documentary they had just finished, on the history of the faith community – a special community which was part of the “Delegate of the Word” movement after Vatican II.


We had a party.  They always celebrate my birthday, no matter when I come.


We gathered one last time before getting on the bus.


We spent two days in a retreat center near Masayya reflecting on our experience..


Those who went on the delegation:

Newell Hendricks, Barbara Englesberg and daughter Anna Hendricks.

From Barbara’s family:  her brother Paul Englesberg and wife, Lucy Morce; their son, Colin and his partner Kiana and their son Savion.  Barbara’s sister, Helen Englesberg also came.

On my brother’s side of the family, his wife, Jane; Harmony and 14 year old Moxie and 13 year old Gus, plus the youngest daughter and family, Heidi and husband Todd: 5 year old Max and 3 year old Opie (Penelope).  That made 17 in all:  6 from my generation: 6 from our daughter’s generation, and 5 from the youngest generation.

I asked several members to write their about one special event on that remembered from the trip.  Here are some of those comments:

Lucy Morse:

A refrain echoes in my ears and heart – all day, even when I wake up during the night: “La paz, la paz es fruto de la justicia, el don de dios que debemos aceptar.” Even if my memory of the words isn’t exactly correct, I’m grappling with the profundity of its meaning. I feel its relationship to Newell’s connections with Dulce Nombre de Jesus and the work of Entre Culturas so strongly. It’s an entryway into my own experience of the past ten days in Nicaragua. The problem so far is that I’m not sure where that entryway goes or what my path is beyond it.

Our bus lurched down the rutted road into the center of the village where we were to join the community of La Iglesia de los Pobres for four days. I had no idea what to expect or what to do. The first thing I saw was a group of people waiting for us eagerly and smiling. When I finally got off the bus, I was greeted with a full-body hug from a woman I’d never met who clearly was welcoming me with all her heart. The crowd slowly moved us, hugging all the way, toward the church, a one room, open to the air tiled floor space. Simple and elegant. I saw my son going up to people and greeting each one. I liked his initiative and followed his lead into the church where white plastic chairs lined all the walls. As the community found chairs, I continued around the sanctuary greeting everyone. Some of the kids seemed surprised that I was greeting them, but they all got up and gave me a hug. As I reached the back corner of the church I found an empty seat and took it, not realizing that my entire family was seated across from me. We smiled at each other.

Suddenly the church erupted in song. Everyone, it seemed, sang full-throatedly and open-heartedly. I had never before been so thoroughly surrounded, wrapped and held by such heartfelt singing. Such a welcome! Such an invitation! It opened my own heart to the community. As I began to learn the lyrics and their meanings of liberation, community, responsibility and justice my heart continued to open.

I stepped through the entryway of that gathering into our host family’s circle, the workshops on family that were so skillfully led by Entre Culturas’ facilitators, swimming with the community’s kids in the river….and singing- that whole-hearted, all-inclusive singing.

By the way, our 2 ½ year old grandson knew just what to do in the church. Almost immediately he joined the community’s young kids who were sitting together on the floor in the raised area behind the altar. He seemed not quite sure what to do once he got there, but he knew he belonged with them. The community was saying to us at the same time: “You belong with us.” So it began.

Thank you to the staff of Entre Culturas for so thoroughly supporting us and the community in this delegation.

At one point Newell pointed out that one aspect of our delegation was simply to accompany the community in their process, not to project our own ideas of what they are doing or what we think they could be doing. That simple, profound experience of being with the community became my touchstone. I return to it often; I will work to carry some of its import into my daily life.

Lucy Morce


Barbara Englesberg

One of the many memorable experiences I had in Dulce Nombre de Jesus  was the church service on the last day.  It was a thrill for me to be able to join the great accordion player, Secundino, and his guitarist son, Everth.  on my violin, accompanying some of the hymns of the Church of the Poor.  With generous smiles and encouraging previews of each song they performed the music robustly, while I joined in as best I could with harmony or melody.    Their spiritual energy and love for the music was very contagious.  After the service I let some of the children try my violin.  Some were eager, others were too shy.  One little boy,  Kenyer, who had been bullied in the village, had been watching me with rapt attention.  When I let him try the violin he enjoyed playing  with great gusto. It was very gratifying for me to actively
participate in music-making and to be able to introduce these children to the violin.   I am grateful that I was able to experience the spiritual joy of this community,  as well as that of Catorce de Setiembre,  and the powerful ways in which this joy is expressed through music.

Harmony Hendricks:

Thanks to Newell for preparing us with a history lesson so that I could appreciate Memo’s pride as we toured Managua. Seeing and having a little knowledge of a people so close to their own revolution and reformation is a gift of inspiration, and Memo’s pride and generosity teaching it are a gift also.

Newell asked me to thank Gloria the first day under the mango tree, which I did not do, can’t imagine why not now, but written on the back of my song book is this- “Thanks to Gloria for feeding and caring for my mother while she lives in your home, for feeding and caring for this amazing tree so that we all may find shelter here, for the coffee for my sulky son, for all the people here for making a place where we can all be together, and for the remarkable Nica trait of unending generosity.

The thing I keep telling people about over and over is the music, the singing coming from the windows of the church. I do it no justice, I can’t tell how the voices of the women sound, how the kids smiled at us, how I spilt my baggie of orange juice, how delicious the food was, my friends don’t really understand, but it makes me grin every time, so maybe I’m telling the story of the music coming from the windows of the church to myself. I will continue to do so.

I keep thinking about the first day when we got there and they sung us into town and I was nervous and uncomfortable, we are all bunched together, hot, intimidated,and in no way at home, and then, only four days later, we are scattered all over the church, laughing and relaxed and I wasn’t in someone else’s church at all. And we all sang us out of town together. That’s an incredible piece of work, you should be very proud of that.

This is the letter I wrote when you asked us to write about our experiences to someone back home.

Dear Newell,

I am cheating, writing to you, who know better than anyone what it means to be here, and you already know the meaning of the word “delegation,” (I still do not). I went to Nicaragua and sang songs in a language I did not understand to a God with whom I have no relationship, and it turns out that the words do not matter, and the relationship may, or may not matter either, at least in the ways I thought.

I once called you to ask your advice on sending my kids to the local church to get a little religious teaching, and you asked no questions about what they taught, what the did in the community, who they were, what roll they played in town, the only thing you asked me was if I would go with them. No, I said, for reasons of my own, and with no other discussion you said “Absolutely not, family is the most important thing, if you don’t go as a family you don’t go period.”

So I come to your church, in Nicaragua, with my family, and I am so grateful to have done so. I came because my father told me to, in the months since he died I’ve heard his voice over and over telling me to not pass this up, don’t let this one get by you, in my words, you gotta show up.

What did I learn? Snap out of it! There’s songs to sing. You must be present to win.

What I got in Nicaragua is my first time showing up in seven months, I went looking for my father and I found you.

I can’t tell you all how much I appreciate you and what you did for us.



Newell Hendricks

As we pulled up to the church in the town square, we could see the crowd gathered. Most of my family was on the bus. I was in the front seat of the truck so I could put the seat way back and lean against several pillows. The windshield was dirty, so people couldn’t see into the truck very well, but then a young girl pointed at me and shouted and started jumping up and down. I got out and was surrounded by the wonderful people of Dulce Nombre de Jesus. I had no words, only tears. As I hugged people, I tried to say their name, probably making many mistakes, but they embraced me nevertheless. Eventually we entered the church and there was a chance to talk. All I could say was “si trato de hablar, voy a llorar.” It was the same at every gathering that week. I had come back one last time to Nicaragua to say good-bye, but I didn’t know what else to say, or even to feel. I was simply there, and had brought my family. I had no special words to summarize what the relationship had meant to me over the years – I couldn’t explain to the community why I had brought my family, and I couldn’t explain to my family why I had asked them to come. I actually had no expectations for the trip. The last four months, my sole job was to stay alive and healthy enough to travel to Nicaragua. I left it to others, to my family and to Entre Culturas and to the good people of Dulce Nombre to figure out what we would do or say once we were together. And now that it has happened, I have very few words to express what happened. But it happened. The theme for the trip became “just show up.” I showed up, my wife and daughter showed up, my extended family showed up, Entre Culturas showed up, and so did the people of Dulce Nombre de Jesus.

I still have no words. I have gratitude in my heart and music in my ears and the memory of smiles of family and friends as they watched this process of everyone just showing up and being together. It was a great act of faith on a lot of people’s parts. There must have been some visioning on my part, but that was long enough ago that it has long since escaped my awareness.

I am home now, and enjoying all of the memories, but unable to put it all together with any kind of meaningful perspective.  So I will simply repeat my description of this one scene, of a truck with a dirty windshield pulling up to a crowd outside a church, all squinting to see who was in the truck – and then a little girl pointing and jumping up and down, and everyone rushing over and hugging and me just crying.


Posted in Community, music, Nicaragua, religion, Spirit of the Poor, Uncategorized | 2 Comments

My word for now

Today I am participating in Bonnie Gray’s “beloved brews” linkup with this post. beloved_brews_faithbarista_badge[1] I have seen this idea at a number of sites, the idea of picking a word for the year. My time frame doesn’t go that far, so I’ll pick a word that I think will work for the near future. ADJUST

On November 1, I posted a short piece called “little things I can still do”

I can sit.
I can lie down.
I can talk while sitting or lying.

Sitting, I can write letters to my nieces
Who lost their father this past summer.
Sitting, I can save a booth at the café for a friend
Who first takes her children to school.

Lying down, I can nap with my young granddaughter
So my wife can practice or get some exercise.
Lying down, I can pray, thinking of all those I know
With love in my heart.

Sitting or lying, I can make sure there are no unsaid words
To my daughters, after adolescence.
Sitting or lying down, I can express love for my wife
Who gives me all I could ever need.

And I can require nothing of others that isn’t necessary.

It sobering for me to read this now. Most of this is no longer true. My sitting is limited to extremely soft easy chairs, which is not conducive to writing letters. I no longer spend my mornings in the café so I can no longer save the booth for my friend, I will have to arrange a home visit if I ever want to see her again. And my lying down time is governed more by my needs than by my granddaughters.

And something I hadn’t anticipated, is that my mind is no longer my own. For most of my life, I spent a great deal of time in my head. I wrote music, operas, oratorios, concertos, etc. I am quite comfortable being alone with my thoughts. But now I am on an oxycodone patch to control the pain from metastasized prostate cancer. My mind goes off to various random places when I lie down. That is a big loss for me. ‘

But I can still express love for my wife and daughters, and I have found a way to have fun with my older granddaughter while lying down at her house.

And my wife found a comfortable chair where I can sit for a while with my computer, and do some writing, and some reading. So I came upon a web site that invited me to join in a conversation by writing about my faith journey, using the prompt for this week of picking a word for the year.

I have learned that the only word that will work for me is ADJUST. Every day, I have to assess who I am, what I am capable of, and how I can continue on in my life choices given my present physical state. Today that means writing this post. Yesterday it was different.

Last year I wrote a post that outlined my goals for 2014. One of the goals was to continue to invest in my church, to continue active involvement in committees and especially to continue singing in the choir. There was another goal which I barely mentioned, because it seemed pretty unrealistic. That goal was visit my church’s sister community in Nicaragua one more time – this time with members of my extended family.

On Friday, I will be going to Nicaragua with 16 other family members. Sunday was to be a commissioning for this trip. And I knew it might be the last time I cold sing in the choir.

When I woke up, I checked out the various painful parts of my body to see if I could still get out of bed, and ascertained that I could. But when I stood up, I was dizzy for about one minute before I could move. Putting on my clothes with my wife’s help was a bit more stressful than usual. By the time I got downstairs, I needed a bowl to receive the contents of my stomach. It was not stomach related, but stress – my body telling me I had exceeded my physical capacity.

So I had to slow down. I had to adjust. I took extra time to stand up after I had eaten – waited until I was stable, and took an extra minute to walk to the car of a neighbor choir member. At church, a friend who helps with the children came out with the slider chair the mothers use for nursing and told me to use that chair for the service. It was a real gift. I stayed put for the choir rehearsal – the choir arranged themselves around me. I realized I would not be able to move at any time during the service. The piano was moved, and chairs near me were moved, so that the commissioning could be done with me sitting where I was and not moving, and when the choir sang, I stayed put, and though I was a bit removed from the bass section, it went fine. I adjusted, and others adjusted.

After church I would ask someone near me to tell people with whom I wanted to talk, to come over. There were two seminarians who had just returned from a trip to the Arizona/Mexico border. I have friends who are very involved in this work. I had a wonderful talk with this couple. Another visiting couple came over who had just returned from Nicaragua. We found connections.

I asked to talk to my minister. He had taken a rather bold step in being understanding of the young people who had been arrested for stopping traffic during commuter hours on one of the main arteries in Boston. The press had been unmerciful on this group of “anarchists and occupiers.” I wanted to tell him that although I didn’t know of my daughters involvement in this activity, I knew that she certainly knew many who were involved, and that her involvement in this movement had come out of her education at this church. She had become much more aware of world politics after her trips to Nicaragua, and her Jr High church group had taken a civil rights pilgrimage to the south. It was a conversation of mutual support. I appreciated his stepping out on a limb, and he appreciated knowing that the limb was part of the tree of our church.

So I had a wonderful day at church – I sang in the choir, I was commissioned, I had wonderful conversations after church – even though I never got up. I ascertained that morning that I couldn’t stand up and do anything of importance, so I didn’t, and others adjusted.

I have other schemes. My oncologist used to go to Honduras before it became unsafe, so while I am in Nicaragua I want to make arrangements for my doctor and his group to be able to come to the region of my sister community in Nicaragua. That’s mainly what we talked about at my last check up. I don’t have any idea how I will do on the trip other than my plan to stay in a hammock and visit with those who come by. But in the past two years I have learned that I can continue faithfully living my life as a child of God, even though I don’t know what that will mean from day to day.

Posted in Community, life style, Nicaragua, religion, word for the year | 7 Comments

2014 evaluation update – Nicaragua Delegation

Last August I posted an evaluation of how I was doing on my goals for 2014. I won’t repeat that evaluation – most of it has held.  I do continue to visit my mother every three months, and hope to visit again in March.

But the big unknown goal which I want to write about now is the family delegation to Nicaragua. Here’s what I have written:

Feb: 2014
“The community of Dulce Nombre de Jesus in Nicaragua has a special place in my heart. They continue to embrace me and pray for me and let me know they are thinking of me. I owe them one more visit, perhaps with family members. I have a vision of bringing my whole family, but that is a vision.”

Aug: 2014
I have put out the invitation to my extended family, especially my brother’s family, to join me on a delegation in late January. So far, 12 other members of my family have said they would join me, with the possibility of 3 more. This is a major goal of mine for the remainder of this year – to stay healthy enough to make this happen.

The delegation is going to happen, January 23 to Feb. 1.

When I was in Colorado at the celebration of my brother’s life, I made a commitment to his daughters that I would try to be a presence in their lives in the future.  As we talked together, I mentioned that taking my daughters to Nicaragua had been one of the most important thing I had done for my daughters.  So the idea was born, for me to invite my brother’s daughters families with me on a trip to Dulce Nombre de Jesus.  Barbara and I extended the invitation to include her family members.  Early in November I wasn’t sure how many were going, so I put out a deadline – by November 8, I had to know who was going.  Eighteen said yes.   Here is the delegation: Barbara and I and our daughter Anna: Nine members of my brother’s family: his wife and two daughters with husbands and two children each (3, 5, 12, 14);  and six members of Barbara’s family: her brother and wife, their son and family of 3 (Savian is 2 years old) and Barbara’s sister. There will be six from my generation, seven from our children’s generation, and five from the youngest generation. It is a dream come true for me.

I can’t begin to describe what it will be like, so I will just put down the schedule that has been planned and include some pictures. You can use your imaginations to fill in the unknowns. The community of Dulce Nombre de Jesus is in the north/west of Nicaragua, very close to Honduras, in the foothills above the bay of Fonseca. There are no motor vehicles in the town, but there is now electricity.

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I have been there at least 20 times, and probably slept in every bed in our community. It will be good to introduce them to my family and to introduce my family to this community which has been very special in my life.

Schedule for Newell’s Family Delegation
Jan 23-Feb 1, 2015

Friday, Jan. 23rd
Arrivals in the afternoon and evening, traveling to AMOS Guesthouse in Managua

Saturday, Jan 24th
7:00 am Breakfast
8:00 am Getting to know each other
8:30 am Orientation
9:00 am Workshop of the history of Nicaragua, given by Newell
12:00 pm Picnic lunch in Managua
1:30 Historical Tour

Evening Dinner & musical event out in Managua

Sunday, Jan 25th
7:00 am Breakfast
8:00 am Opening reflection with Luis Aguirre
8:45 am Leave for 14ce de Septiembre
9:30 am Celebration of the Word at 14ce de Septiembre San Pablo Apostol Christian Base Community

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12:00 pm Lunch
1:30 pm Market Experience

5:00 pm Dinner
7:00 pm Evening of Music with Oscar & Eduardo

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Monday, Jan. 26th
7:00 am Breakfast
8:00 am Leave for Dulce Nombre de Jesus
12:00 pm Arrival/Welcome/Lunch with the community/Games

2:00 pm Going to Host Families Homes
4:00 pm Visit with Esperanza at her home

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6:00 pm Dinner with families, spend time with them
7:00 pm Reflection Time/Check in with the group

Tuesday, Jan. 27th
Breakfast with families
8:00 am Time with Saul

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9:00 am Dialogue with the community, getting to know one another & talking about the topic of family
12:00 pm Lunch, Rest Time
3:30 pm Swimming in the river

5:30 pm Dinner with Families
6:30 pm Pesca Fundraising Activity

Wednesday, Jan. 28th
Breakfast with families
8:00 am Visit the homes of different community members
10:00 am Dialogue time with the community on the topic of family

12:00 pm Lunch with host families, rest time
3:30 pm Reflection time with the group
5:00 pm Dinner with extended family members of the community at the church

Thursday, Jan. 29th
Breakfast with families
7:30 am Tortilla Making Lesson


9:00 am Time at the River
12:00 pm Lunch, rest time
2:00 pm Visits to community member’s home
4:00 pm Shared Celebration of the Word
5:30 pm Dinner with families
6:30 pm Evening of Music (hopefully with Don Salustio)

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Friday, Jan. 30th
Breakfast with families
8:00 am Leave Dulce Nombre de Jesus
12:00 pm Lunch on the road
2:00 pm Arrive at La Mariposa Retreat Center
3:00 pm Begin Closing Reflection Time
6:00 pm Dinner

Saturday, Jan 31st
7:00 am Breakfast
8:00 am Closing Reflection Time & Evaluation
10:00 am Free Time
12:00 pm Lunch
1:30 pm Leave for Masaya Volcano
2:30 pm Arrive at Masaya Volcano
4:00 pm Leave for La Mariposa
6:00 pm Dinner
Evening Music & Relaxation Time

Sunday, Feb 1st
Leave for airport

I will give a report when we return.

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Advent, Christmas Eve

I don’t write on this blog much anymore. I wrote “Emptiness” when a friend asked me to write on suffering and God, and the last two posts were poem-like pieces in response to prompts by Jaime Bagley. For December Jamie suggested that we write about the four themes of Advent, Hope, Love, Joy, and Peace. I gave it a try, but got stuck on hope. I wrote out something, but didn’t post it.

Then I got asked to say something on Christmas Eve as I light the Christ Candle. So here I share with you my attempt to write about hope, and my anticipated words for Christmas Eve; Emanuel: God with us.


No, God, don’t ask me to hope.
There is pain out there – real pain.

(Spanish) to hope … to wait

But they are not the same – waiting and hoping.

I’m waiting for the pain to go away.
Don’t ask me to hope – to refresh the pain.
Besides, I don’t have much time to wait.

I’ve never done much hoping; don’t ask me to start now.
I never expected things to turn out OK.
Most of my life turned out far better than I could have hoped for.
But not because I hoped.

Yet, it is Advent, and I am asked to hope.
Maybe I can do this much:

I can have hope in others.
– I can look deeply into others; beyond words and incidents.
– I can see goodness wherever it exists.
– I can see beauty anywhere.

I can relinquish my sense of control;
– hope does not depend on me
– I am still responsible for my actions
– but so are others
– we are all responsible
– but hope depends on none of us.

It’s not much, but it is what I can hope for.

Emanuel: God With Us

Tonight we light the Christ Candle: Emanuel; God with us.

Certainly the greatest miracle in my life was the birth of my daughters.


What a perfect way for us to understand the presence of God among us: this story of God being born into an infant – with all of creation as witness – the peasant shepherds, the rulers of nations, the animal world and all the angels: it’s a beautiful story, and I love it.

But I also want us to remember the unabridged version of Emanuel: God with us.

That God – all that word means and has meant to all people throughout history – the creative spirit that infuses all life – all that is sacred and good –


Is available to us;

To you, to me

Right here

Right now.

As I light the Christ Candle, I invite you to have the audacity to actually believe in Emanuel: God with us.

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My experience with racial injustice in the courts


Picture courtesy of Diana Trautwein’s recent facebook post

The third floor of this Santa Barbara Court House is a jail. I looked out through these windows as I awaited my hearing. Here is the section of my book where I talk about it.

Excerpt from The ‘60s, Part I

Of course, not being registered, I received another induction order. The law said that if one was not living in one’s home district when the order came, one could report to a different draft board on the date and that draft board would either provide transportation to the home draft office, or transfer the papers to the new location. I decided to hitchhike to Ed’s ranch and report to the draft board in Delta, Colorado. But I had an old ticket to clear up before I went. Police routinely checked records of hitchhikers, and I didn’t want to end up in a jail somewhere in the Mojave Desert.

While I lived in the three-bedroom house I owned an old Harley Davidson motorcycle to get to school and visit my home in Glendale. It was something of an antique, a 1948 “chopped hog.” For me it was functional, but it would have needed a lot of work for a real biker to ride. I got a ticket from a motorcycle policeman who I think was mainly disgusted that I hadn’t fixed up the bike. He gave me a ticket for not having a mirror, but also wrote, “generally unsafe” on the ticket. So I parked the bike and didn’t ride it, but never did anything about the ticket. So I went to the court-house and the lady looked up my name and said:

– You’re going to jail.

I was taken to the third floor of the Presidio, a beautiful Spanish building in downtown Santa Barbara. It was a little embarrassing in the jail.

– What are you in for? It’s OK, I’m in for rape, he’s in for robbery.

– Well, … um … I didn’t have a mirror on my motorcycle.

I spent the night in jail and the next morning watched the proceedings of the court. At least half of the cases were Mexican agricultural workers with minor infractions. The standard sentence was $50 to be paid by working five days picking lemons for some orchard owner who had a deal with the court. I figured that’s what would happen to me. But when my case came up the judge told me to just fix the bike and come back the next week. I told him I didn’t have the money; the bike wasn’t being ridden and had some value but I didn’t have time to deal with it. He insisted that the case be continued till the next week. I waited a week, came back and said the same thing. I asked the judge to just fine me and let me work it off picking lemons. But he told me that he was going to continue the case for another week and if I had already left, we could pick up the case when I got back. So I was telling him to convict me and he was telling me to skip out on a court date! It was actually pretty racist. He couldn’t bring himself to treat a white college boy the way he treated the Mexicans.

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Little Things I Can Still Do

I can sit.
I can lie down.
I can talk while sitting or lying.

Sitting, I can write letters to my nieces
Who lost their father this past summer.
Sitting, I can save a booth at the café for a friend
Who first takes her children to school.

Lying down, I can nap with my young granddaughter
So my wife can practice or get some exercise.
Lying down, I can pray, thinking of all those I know
With love in my heart.

Sitting or lying, I can make sure there are no unsaid words
To my daughters, after adolescence.
Sitting or lying down, I can express love for my wife
Who gives me all I could ever need.

And I can require nothing of others that isn’t necessary.

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