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Montreal Quakers

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Montreal Quaker Meeting



In spite of the typical cold at this time of year, the month of February offers us the opportunity
to express our warmest feelings. The greatest of these is love, especially when we consider it in
its universal sense. Thinking of our reality this year, we especially need to do this.

So we present you with poetry, meditations and pictures arising out of the month of February:
Black History; love; matters of the heart and human justice; the procession of candles known as
Candlemas; and all thoughts of human fraternity. May you find in these texts a renewal of your
Quaker values and the inspiration to live them better.

View of a sunset over a river

By Brooke Nancekivell


Loving Your Enemies

By Martin Luther King

View of a sunset over a river

Following is an excerpt from "Loving Your Enemies," A sermon delivered at Dexter Avenue Baptist Church by Reverend Martin Luther King, November 17, 1957

The Greek language, as I’ve said so often before, is very powerful … It comes to our aid beautifully in giving us the real meaning and depth of the whole philosophy of love. …the Greek language has three words for love, interestingly enough. It talks about love as eros. That’s one word for love. Eros is a sort of aesthetic love. Plato talks about it a great deal in his Dialogues, a sort of yearning of the soul for the realm of the gods. And it’s come to us to be a sort of romantic love…. Everybody has experienced eros in all of its beauty when you find some individual that is attractive to you and that you pour out all of your like and your love on that individual. That is eros, you see, and it’s a powerful, beautiful love that is given to us through all of the beauty of literature; we read about it.

Then the Greek language talks about philia, and that’s another type of love that’s also beautiful. It is a sort of intimate affection between personal friends. And this is the type of love that you have for those persons that you’re friendly with, your intimate friends, or people that you call on the telephone and you go by to have dinner with, and your roommate in college and that type of thing. It’s a sort of reciprocal love. On this level, you like a person because that person likes you. You love on this level, because you are loved. You love on this level, because there’s something about the person you love that is likeable to you. This too is a beautiful love. You can communicate with a person; you have certain things in common; you like to do things together. This is philia.

The Greek language comes out with another word for love. It is the word agape, and agape is more than eros. Agape is more than philia. Agape is something of the understanding, creative, redemptive goodwill for all men. It is a love that seeks nothing in return. It is an overflowing love; it’s what theologians would call the love of God working in the lives of men. And when you rise to love on this level, you begin to love men, not because they are likeable, but because God loves them. You look at every man, and you love him because you know God loves him. And he might be the worst person you’ve ever seen.

And this is what Jesus means, I think, in this very passage when he says, “Love your enemy.” And it’s significant that he does not say, “Like your enemy.” Like is a sentimental something, an affectionate something. There are a lot of people that I find it difficult to like. I don’t like what they do to me. I don’t like what they say about me and other people. I don’t like their attitudes. I don’t like some of the things they’re doing. I don’t like them. But Jesus says love them. And love is greater than like. Love is understanding, redemptive goodwill for all men, so that you love everybody, because God loves them. You refuse to do anything that will defeat an individual, because you have agape in your soul. And here you come to the point that you love the individual who does the evil deed, while hating the deed that the person does. This is what Jesus means when he says, "Love your enemy." This is the way to do it. When the opportunity presents itself when you can defeat your enemy, you must not do it.


Love is a Healing Grace

By Marilyn Ajami


In 1945, my Uncle Mike, An American Marine from New Jersey, died in the Philippine Islands at the hands of the Japanese.


An island family had given him refuge before he was killed.  After his death they went to the local Red Cross Office where they composed a letter to my grandparents.


This letter, now in a family archive, describes my uncle as a remarkable young man who had become a "member of the family" - helping with the chores of daily farm maintenance. The host family was devastated by the Japanese brutality.  My grandparents were heartbroken, but the letter was a healing grace that enabled them to have a home-based memorial service for our family and the community.


Now our story turns to another healing grace: the power of forgiveness and love. Our son is married to a Japanese lady and visits to their nearby home is a pure blessing.


Practice Love

By Juan Nino

View of a sunset over a river

Sometimes we get so caught up trying to be productive that we risk starving ourselves of love and attention.

In my case, realizing that the things I love doing are indeed worth my time has helped me in becoming more loving towards myself.

Loving oneself might not always be easy, but I think it does get easier with practice.


Stranger Love

By David Summerhays

View of a sunset over a river

One January about five years ago, my friend Hayden cut out thousands of little paper hearts, gluing them together with little messages. Hayden invited their friends to distribute them in the metro on Valentine’s Day. Most of Hayden’s friends were too shy; me, I loved the idea.

Up and down the platform, we offered a little heart. Most turned away, suspicious. Others asked what it was for? “Fun,” we replied. A few understood our intent immediately. Grabbing a heart, smiles were our communion.

Hayden died of cancer a few years back. Inspired by this memory, I’ve cut dozens of hearts in an envelope, intending to continue the tradition when I can.


Reflection on the Gospel and First Letter of John

By Sébastien Garant

View of a sunset over a river

Amour, Lumière, Souffle, ink on paper, S. Garant, 1998


Lately, I have enjoyed rereading a few passages from the Gospel and the First Letter of John. In these texts, the words that John uses to tell us about God are revealing. He wants to express something about God but, in doing so, he also wants to tell us that God does not allow himself to be confined in definitions. John, in fact, does not seek to define God: when he speaks to us about him, he instead uses simple, complementary images, encouraging us to open ourselves to the contemplation of the divine mystery. Refusing to limit God to any one of these images, John moves from one to the other, suggesting that none of them – and, not even all of them considered together – is sufficient to express the inexpressible. In doing so, John makes each of these images a springboard that we can use to enter the transcendence of God.


John uses three images:  “God is breath” (John 4:24)*; “God is light” (1 John 1:5); “God is love” (1 John 4:16). John’s three images particularly resonate with me, perhaps because they relate more to everyday experience than to the world of ideas: breath and light are perceived by the senses, while love is felt in the heart. Our perception of them is immediate, without having to filter the experience through our reason, although reason can then be applied to the experience. For example, we all perceived light before we even knew how to speak. Even a blind person can sense the presence of light when moving from a shady place to a sunny place. Then, as we acquired language and developed cognitive faculties, we were able to question ourselves about light and to talk about it: what is it? What are its effects? How do I adjust to it? What does it make visible to me?


John experienced mystical transcendence. His experience astonished him and he wanted to share his wonder with us. To do this, he speaks to us of God through magnificent images of breath, light and love. During my daily prayer, these images help me in turn to enter the mystery. They are my springboard. The repetition of a short invocation inspired by John (“Ineffable Breath” or “Ineffable Light” or, my favorite, “Ineffable Love”) helps me to clear an interior space for silent concentration. In this silence, I can enter a wordless state and allow myself to be transformed by it. This is a way of praying** that I really like. 


* In the original Greek text, John uses the expression “pneuma ho theos”. The primary meaning of the word pneuma is “breath, respiration”. By extension, a second meaning of the word pneuma is "spirit", hence the frequent translation: "God is spirit" (rather than "God is breath"). However, the original Greek text never loses sight of the fact that spirit is breath!


** This way of praying, with a few nuances, was common in the ancient Church and is currently widespread in several spiritual traditions, Christian or otherwise. The Quaker Thomas R. Kelly addresses it in a simple and brilliant way in his book A Testament of Devotion, HarperCollins 1996 (originally published in 1941). 


A Parisian Valentine

By Michel Pionetti

View of a sunset over a river

This happened at the time I was teaching biology. Two of my students became such a passionate couple that to all who saw them, their mutual dedication seemed invincible.  And yet shortly after graduation, Ombline moved to the other side of the world, while Ludovic joined the Foreign Legion.

Six years later, passing through Paris for a congress, one Friday morning, February 13, on Boulevard Haussmann, I came face to face with Ombline… returning from a distant humanitarian mission. Neither of us had the time to linger at that point, but we made an appointment to eat together the next day at noon at the Brasserie de la Gare de Lyon.

At the end of the afternoon, returning to my hotel near the Bastille, I ran across Ludovic. I knew he had become a military doctor and of course, wanted to know more, but for an obscure reason that later became obvious, I pretended to be caught up in an emergency. Instead we agreed to meet the next day at noon. at the Gare de Lyon Brasserie.

The next day, as the bell of Notre-Dame struck noon, I skipped happily on the docks of the Seine near the Grande Bibliothèque. 

A year later, around the same time, I received a request to be the godfather of Léa and Théo… newborn twins of Ombline and Ludovic.



By Roy Croft


I love you
Not only for what you are,
But for what I am
When I am with you.

I love you,
Not only for what
You have made of yourself,
But for what
You are making of me.

I love you
For the part of me
That you bring out;

I love you
For putting your hand
Into my heaped-up heart
And passing over
All the foolish, weak things
That you can't help
Dimly seeing there,

And for drawing out
Into the light
All the beautiful belongings
That no one else had looked
Quite far enough to find

I love you because you
Are helping me to make
Of the lumber of my life
Not a tavern
But a temple.

Out of the works
Of my every day
Not a reproach
But a song.

I love you
Because you have done
More than any creed
Could have done
To make me good.
And more than any fate
Could have done
To make me happy.

You have done it
Without a touch,
Without a word,
Without a sign.

You have done it
By being yourself.
Perhaps that is what
Being a friend means,
After all.



Contributed by Janette Fraser


The Godly Net

By Wendy Sturton

View of a sunset over a river

I was twenty.  I flew alone on a plane from Montreal to Paris, took a train to Göttingen in Northern Germany, planning to attend university for a year.  I knew nothing and no one.


By accident I stumbled on a residence which lodged German students with international students.  I was assigned to a tower room with Juliane.  


It was a real tower room, in a turret, with access only up a steep circular stairway.  This was the land of Grimm’s fairy tales, and the university where the Grimm brothers had worked.


I collapsed, sick with exhaustion, as soon as I arrived.  Of course.


In my delirium on the first morning I heard ominous footsteps on the stairs. The wicked witch?  Bluebeard? Juliane emerged smiling out of the dark stairwell with a tray of breakfast.  For me.


This gift opened the friendship of a lifetime.


I feel a net of love holding me up in the acts of friends throughout my life.  This net is one of my images of God.


When Love is Hard

By Jean-Louis Demers

View of a sunset over a river

Mural entitled "Look Away" by Chuck Landvatter aka @chuckdillah Located at 195 West Commonwealth Avenue in Salt Lake City, Utah. Photo by James aka @urbanmuralhunter on that other photo site. Edit by Teee. | Photo from flickr


Love is commonly depicted in popular culture as an easy idyll, often in the context of a heterosexual relationship between two young and beautiful individuals. But love is more than just a feeling, and it is not always easy or wonderful. Love can be a challenge.


An interesting book I read recently, by Dr. Christian de Duve (Nobel Prize 1974), presents a biological basis for our tendency to reject people who are different. This behaviour is inscribed in human genes, evolved in order to preserve the unity of a group. This heritage is no longer needed today; on the contrary, it harms us. He proposes that overcoming this natural inclination requires us to overcome an aspect of our inner nature. Love is not always natural. Loving our enemies can sometimes be, at most, wishing them no harm.


I became aware of such a challenge a few years ago when visiting the museum of the Royal London Hospital. The museum houses some artefacts of its most famous patient, Joseph Merrick, sadly nicknamed during his lifetime “the elephant man”. Merrick was the lifelong object of rejection by others because of an extremely atypical physique developed due to a rare pathology.  People didn't like him. To love him, they would have had to transcend themselves and overcome an innate tendency. 


Joseph Merrick’s case is famous, but he is far from unique. I watched a short film there on this socially difficult condition. How many have suffered from not being like everyone else? I think of classmates who were teased because of their differences. Who hasn't known such a child? Children can be very cruel if they are not taught to overcome their initial reactions. And what about adults? The philosophical problem of evil and suffering escapes us. It seems so unfair. Only silence in the face of this mystery and action to combat it seem to offer a solution. 


Some people have impressed me by their courage in the face of rejection by others. They have my deep admiration. I think of Michel Petrucciani, whom I saw performing and of whom I have fond memories. As fiddlers, Gaelynn Lea and Michael Cleveland come to mind. We should also think of the great courage of people like Jono Lancaster who, thanks to his gift as a communicator, campaigns for the acceptance of people with Treacher Collins syndrome. These people, we might say, have the advantage of talent.  Yes, they have exceptional talents, but such talents could only develop because people around them loved them. 


The less talented do not have a fortunate gift which, providing pleasure to others, enables their acceptance. But those with broken skin, the least beautiful, the overweight, those with tortured physiques, the disagreeable ones, they still make their appeal to us. They can be our teachers, provided we are willing to learn something from them, about ourselves and about life. As a good Quaker I would say: there is something of the divine in them as it is in each of us. Divine or not, this is one of the great challenges that love sometimes poses to us: to remain aware that people are always greater than their actions, and that the body, over which we exercise no choice, is a setting for our spirits.  


So let's think about how we love and why we love.


Dark Phase

View of a sunset over a river

For many moons
I circled the axis of truth
Until the uprising.
Birthed from deadly silence
Exploding rocks and dust
fallen stars
Quiet Trauma
unraveling soul
are systems 
where justice disappears
and blackness is void
Where is our light?



See the poet’s biography here


Proposed by David Millar


A Reading From the First Letter of Paul to the Corinthians


If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give away all my possessions, and if I hand over my body so that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 

Love never ends. But as for prophecies, they will come to an end; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will come to an end. For we know only in part, and we prophesy only in part; but when the complete comes, the partial will come to an end. 

When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became an adult, I put an end to childish ways. For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known.

 And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love. 





Death of Caroline Balderson Parry


Caroline Balderson Parry died on February 11, 2022 surrounded by her family who were “singing her home.”  Caroline was a writer, musician and religious educator who was active in Montreal Meeting during the time she lived in Montreal.  

Molly Walsh remembers Caroline as a force in CYM.  She grew up in Philadelphia and spent much of her adult life in Toronto and Ottawa.  Wherever she went, remarks Molly, Caroline had an influence; she was a “young elder” as Molly puts it.  

Molly in particular remembers a book written by Caroline in 1987 called Let’s Celebrate.  This book, written to describe how Canadians celebrate their holidays and special days, was much loved by children, teachers and librarians.  Writer, artist, celebrator –we will miss our friend Caroline and send our condolences to her children, Evalyn and Richard Parry.  


Don’t Miss This Film Festival

By Wendy Sturton

View of a sunset over a river

Image from the


The Quaker Black Lives Matter Film Festival opened with an excellent film on February 12, I Am A Woman—Leap of Faith.  The film focused on the life and work of Nozizwe Madlala-Routledge, South African Quaker and newly-appointed Geneva director of the Quaker United Nations Office (QUNO). The “Leap of Faith” mentioned in the title refers to the difficult decision made by Nozizwe to accept the position of Deputy Minister of Defence in the early ANC government of South Africa.  The decision was problematic for a pacifist Quaker, and yet with the discernment of her Meeting, she accepted the job and had a positive influence on the military of her country.


Each film in this series focuses on a Black Quaker who has made an important contribution to Quakerism and the world:  Howard Thurman, Mahala Ashley Dickerson, Bayard Rustin, and finally, Paul Robeson.  


Publicity on the Festival remarks “…this groundbreaking, first-of-its-kind film festival endeavors to educate all about the importance of Quakers of Color who for too long have remained within the margins of the Society of Friends and the wider world.”  


If you are able to reserve a couple of hours every second Saturday at 1 PM from February 26 to April 9, these films will deepen your understanding of Quakerism and of Friends we know far too little about. I look forward to good films and deep learning.


More on the Festival, and to register here



List of Contributors

Jean-Louis Demers
Sherezada Ochoa
Wendy Sturton


Jean-Louis Demers
Wendy Sturton


Special Thanks to:

Claire Adamson

Marilyn Ajami

Roy Croft

Janette Fraser

Sébastien Garant

Roen Higgins

David Millar

Brooke Nancekivell

Juan Nino

Michel Pionetti

David Summerhays

Molly Walsh


To contact the Newsletter Team please email us at


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