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Let Us See What Love Can Do…Quaker Chaplain at Harvard, War Resister/Prisoner of Conscience, to Visit Germantown Friends Meeting
February 16, 2020 @ 9:00 am - 1:00 pm
Let Us See What Love Can Do
(so said William Penn)
On Sunday, February 16, John Bach, Quaker chaplain at Harvard University, will speak at Germantown Friends Meeting’s adult class at 9 a.m.-10:20 a.m., and at an open discussion at 12 noon, after meeting for worship and refreshments. His commitment to justice began in the early 1960s, when he visited the South after the murders of the three civil rights workers: Schwerner, Cheney, and Goodman. He served a prison term for draft resistance during the Vietnam War, and then with equal commitment, marked by prison terms, resisted nuclear weapons which he continues.
An old friend to the decades-old Brandywine Peace Community, John Bach is a member of Cambridge Meeting in Massachusetts. He is author of Short Time: A Season’s Prison Journal. Reverse side for more on John Bach.
The after-worship discussion with John Bach will be hosted by Germantown Meeting’s Working Group to Abolish Nuclear Weapons. Everyone is welcome at both events. For more information call the Germantown Friends Meeting office, 215-951-2235.
In his own words: JOHN BACH
I have been a member of the Religious Society of Friends for almost all of my adult life. I became a Quaker because I wanted to accompany Harriet Tubman and support native Americans; to shelter Anne Frank, to consort with Gandhi, and to march with Dr. King; to construct alternatives to violence; and to sit silently, waiting expectantly for the Spirit to speak.
I endeavor to live an engaged life, taking part in the “burning issues of the day,” as someone once put it, while also pursuing a spiritual path, and refusing to separate the one from the other. The joyful consequence has been years of imprisonment for reasons of conscience, deportations, border crossings, dealings with badly behaved people with guns, and an arrest record longer than both of my arms. As this trajectory unfolded, foundations shook and doors flew open, and I understood freedom was not determined by which side of a prison wall you were on or by paychecks or ability to consume, but rather being of service and faithful to ideals.
And fully engaged also, I should hope, in the equally meaningful everyday acts of attention to the miracles of help and outreach, listening to the small, still voice that speaks with thunder and lightning. It’s hard to corrupt a spirituality based on humility, simplicity, compassion, non-violence, moderation and contemplation. We believe that there is that which is spirit-driven in all of us, and that we do not need intermediaries to seek and discover the will of the divine spirit.
The victory is in the struggle and in living in balance with nature. With a resounding NO to the murderous policies of the State and a seductive culture, and an equally resounding YES to everything else, as we lift up each other with tender hands.
I have been a house-painter for almost half a century. I am the Quaker chaplain at Harvard, and author of Short Time: A Season’s Prison Journal.
John Bach, sketch of nonviolent action, peace, and Quaker values
In the Freedom Summer project of the mid-1960s, the violence of racism raised its guns, firebombing, and lynchings against the Civil Rights movement. John Bach, a high school senior, made his first trip into the deep South just after the executed bodies of Cheney, Sch werner, and Goodman, were discovered.
Then came the war in Vietnam, as the U.S. introduced a whole generation to the cost and price of power in world. John Bach renounced the white supremacist, elite student deferment, dropped out of college to confront the draft and the war. Spent 35 months in federal prison for refusing induction. There were also prison protests, work strikes, hunger fasts. He began a long and vital relationship with Philip and Daniel Berrigan. Lost two parole dates before being released. More Vietnam war resistance, parole revoked, and returned to jail.
In the wake of the Vietnam war, the U.S. began a build-up of nuclear “first-strike” weapons, the center of which was the Trident missile submarine that was being built at Electric Boat in Crouton, CT, Bach’s home state. John and others on Hiroshima Day occupied the water tower 300 feet above Electric Boat shipyard under, what the local newspaper called a slogan: Thou Shall Not Kill. He was sentenced to a three-month sentence in a state prison. He received a four-month prison sentence for locking the doors shut on the Hartford Federal Building the following Hiroshima Day, and he spent four months in prison.
John Bach was arrested with hundreds of anti-nuclear power activists who occupied the under-construction Sea brook nuclear power plant in New Hampshire. They were held for two weeks in a state armory.
Central America. Bach traveled throughout El Salvador during Reagan’s wars in Central American, did construction work in Nicaragua after the revolution, and was arrested, imprisoned, and deported from Honduras for protesting the Iran/Contra debacle.
Helped to conduct “the “new underground railroad,” bringing political/religious refugees across the U.S.-Mexico border. Helped establish sanctuary for refugees at Hartford Monthly Meeting, hosting and employing a family from Guatemala.
Defending the Environment. Part of Extinction Rebellion and the current effort to have Harvard divest from fossil fuels.
From 1973 to the present, as central to his Quaker faith, John Bach has done his best and then some to embody the Society of Friends testimonies of simplicity, peace, integrity, community, and equality. John Bach is a member of Cambridge Monthly Meeting, a house painter, husband, writer, and the Quaker chaplain at Harvard University.