14 November 2015

Peace of Heart, Peace of Mind

By Chris Farrow-Noble
Existential Focus Talk for Women Explore
November 12, 2015

To bring us together to this question, “What Matters to Me and Why?,” I offer the Metta Meditation, which I recently rediscovered in a women’s circle in Maine.

May I and all living beings be free from suffering.

May I and all living beings be well in body and mind.

May I and all living beings be at peace.

To warm our circle, I light this candle and invite Pierre Teilhard de Chardin’s words:

“We are not human beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having a human experience.”

I am on a spiritual pilgrimage and feel most centered when I know my goal and see a path leading forward with clear steps ahead, one step at a time.  

What matters to me is that I feel alive, eager, excited, inspired, and passionate for the next step.  I am fully tuned in, open to the present in front of me.  It matters at every turn, looking backward and forward, to know I have done, and am doing, my very best with the information and experience I have at the moment. 

The Summer Day, a poem by Mary Oliver, speaks to me: 

“…Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?”
(Mary Oliver, New and Selected Poems, 1992)

(SING this one line):         “Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me.”

(Take one rose and put it into the vase.)

1) I begin with the first rose, representing Me in this Wild and Precious Life.

What matters to me as one spiritual being
 having a human experience at this time in this lifetime?

It matters deeply to me that I love, feel loved, and am loved.

I want to feel accepted for who I am, not who someone thinks I am, or someone they want me to be.  

I want to feel heard, to be able to speak clearly without hesitation or judgment, not feeling rushed or cut off. 

I want to be visibly present in my home.  I want people to think, “Oh, Yes! Chris lives here!” 

I want to have eye contact with the person I am speaking with.  It’s more likely to sense that they are listening to me, not looking over my shoulder or paying attention to someone or something else.  

I want to speak in person when we make important decisions.  My husband Chris and I call it an eye-to-eye decision.  It’s then less likely for one of us to think we’ve have made a decision before we have confirmed it. 

It matters to me to have open-ended, non-stressful time

I treasure beautiful golden unscheduled open-ended time for creating.  A clear desk to welcome words and images. A full afternoon to paint or an open evening to write by the fire.  Spontaneous time brings unexpected thoughts and dreams, long forgotten hopes and unexplored paths.  

Unplanned time opens the door for interactions with strangers, unpredictable relaxed conversations with family and friends that go where they will, not driven by necessity or deadlines.  I long for intense exchanges with honest emotions and reactions.  

It matters that I find ways to express myself creatively.  

I need a place to sing, usually with others but sometimes on my own.. Making beautiful music in a cozy space is one of the highest kinds of personal expression.   In the fullness of that fleeting moment, we can hear the ebbs and flows of the song: , its rhythm, lyrics, melody, tune, harmonies, pauses, personal touches of the musicians, and our own connection and emotion. 

I must write – it’s my preferred way to take my thoughts from me to others.  This can happen anywhere – in a morning cafĂ©, sitting on an Austrian hillside, typing at 5:30 AM in New Zealand.  I’ve always written to understand myself; this inbred personal therapist that has never let me down.  At two significant crossroads in my life, I wrote 15 pages in my journal and came to a clear decision and action.  I am always more settled after writing, as shown recently when I arose at 3 AM when I couldn’t sleep and wrote until I’d emptied my full heart onto paper. 

It matters greatly to me that my writing is read by a wider audience.  I am committed to getting my writing published and out to the broader world. 

Photography has led me, and now watercolor painting beckons.  Time escapes when I set aside painting time.  One color leads to another; one texture begs for another layer.  I haven’t yet found my style or perhaps even my medium.  Similarly, I delight with time to cook, to bake, to grow flowers and arrange them. 

My newest self-expression is on the stage! Last year an inner voice urged me to audition for the musical Carousel. With the New Surry Theatre in Blue Hill, Maine, I sang in 12 performances of Carousel.  I auditioned and got a part in Natural Fractal, but the play was cancelled.  I drove 40 minutes to audition for Men’s Lives, based on the book by Peter Matthiessen.  I got the leading female role as Alice in this staged reading and sang a solo of “Hush Little Baby.” I plan to audition in March for the role of  Sister Aloysius in the play “Doubt.” I have caught the bug and hope to get a chance to bring another person’s character and persona to life. 

Of course, my seven existential focus talks with TOP and Women Explore have been significant creative openings. Telling my story turns out to be important to me, and I encourage everyone to share theirs.  Since 2009, I’ve spoken on Globalization, Living with Fear, Sensuality & Sexuality Throughout Life; Challenge of Communications with Mothers and Adult Sons; Family Secrets, How the Media Desensitizes Us to Violence, and Women’s Bodies and the Media.  Thank you for these opportunities. 

It matters to me that I continue to learn. 

Whether I am learning a new culinary skill, the Italian language, the ukulele or guitar, a dialogue, or a history of a culture, I am growing and expanding. I have a sense of well being when I can take in new information and then integrate and use it.  Being an eternal student demands that I stay focused and be fully present.  Traveling is still a very strong pull; I hope to live in another culture again in these freer years ahead.

Learning about dreams has been a lifelong course. Where do they come from?  Why is this dream here now? How can I tap further into my subconscious to know more about this personal dream theatre? I am deeply moved by encounters with people who are no longer alive or in my life.  I participate in two dream groups and recently offered a workshop integrating Dreams and the Labyrinth.

It matters that I am healthy – physically, mentally, and emotionally.  

I watch carefully what I eat and how much wine I drink.  I am playing tennis again after 50 years.  I’m learning to read chords for the ukulele, and staying connected to people who matter in my life.

2) Now, I add my 2nd rose, representing Chris Noble, my life partner, who is here today.

Ten years ago on August 20, 2005, Chris and I decided to share our promises with the people gathered for our wedding.

These promises matter to me because they have held true and guide us during difficult and easier times in our life together. 

I share them again with you, dear friends:

1) I promise to raise and to be open to discuss anything that could be unsettling or harmful to you, me, or our relationship. J promise to do this as soon as possible, and not to let these issues fester or simmer beneath the surface. 
2) I promise to be totally and completely faithful to you.
3) I promise to be careful and attentive, and not to speak or act in a way that is harmful to you.
4) I promise to do everything I can to make your life easier, to encourage you to identify and achieve your goals, and to hold you accountable in a positive and loving way if you don’t try your best to do these things.
Chris and I learn each day about the realities of living with another human and spiritual being. Our promises are broad and could be edited and expanded.  We now know that it matters for us to be totally who we are.  We know better how to acknowledge our differences, respect each other’s ways, and still love each other.

Our daily lives with the ups and downs, eruptions and silences, matter deeply because I love him and he loves me.   We have made a loving commitment to be partners for the rest of our lives.  

3) I add this 3rd rose for my Immediate and Extended Family,

It matters to me to feel in close touch and connected with our adult children and their families.

I live 3000 miles away from Portland Oregon, where my son Carter, his wife Kate, and my two granddaughters, Mika and Anna live. Our close connection can include email and telephone, but in person is best.  I can see them, feel their moods, laugh and cry with them.  We can share quiet or conversation without regard to time ticking away or external demands on the phone.  We can engage with all our senses and know what is happening in each others’ lives, ups and downs of jobs, families, transitions, aches and deep pain. I can feel what they are experiencing, not just learn the facts.  I can be on the floor to hear Mika’s stories that she weaves for her little sister.

My Mom’s recent 99th birthday celebration brought us precious time together.  I could swim with 4-year old Mika, hold 6-month old Anna, and talk intimately with Kate and Carter about life.  There is never enough time, but we look forward to our next time together. I hope someday to live closer to their homes and lives so we can know the girls as they grow up, oh so quickly. This geographical gap between us is difficult for me, and I want to find additional ways to feel connected. 

One of my “new” sons, Matthew, and his wife Apple now live in the Northwest in Tacoma Washington, and Jeremy, the older brother, lives in North Carolina.  We will be together with all three sons and their families over a week in December holiday time. We are all learning to be fully ourselves, honestly and openly, and truly look forward to this time together.

It matters that I love and feel loved.  

I have quite a few gremlin visits at night when I question if I am loved.  I’m not sure where this comes from.  I don’t have control over others loving me, yet I know that I love and care deeply.  I can only be myself, live honestly, share my love and hope that people can feel that love.

It matters to know that my 99-year-old Mother is happy and safe.

My mom just celebrated her 99th birthday with family and friends joyfully sharing what she has meant to them.  Now, she is in a very challenging transition, adjusting to living in a memory care home in Ventura California, near my sister Diane and her fiancĂ©  Bob.  

From this 3000-mile distance, I want to know how she is feeling, how her days are going, how she likes her new home, how she feels about the daily pace and structure in her life.  It matters to me so deeply that she feels peaceful, calm, comfortable, loved and loving, at home, even joyful as she expressed in her poetry.   Is she happy? 

I treasure the memories of our conversations  when she was in her own home only a month ago.  In the mornings over coffee while we were still in our comfy robes, we would talk about her sense of coming back from a long long time ago -- returning to her home after dreams or another place, before time, before Jesus, before life.   She often said it was a long way from her bedroom to the sunroom, from sleep to today. 

It matters to be with her as often as possible and to be sure she is in the most peaceful place possible for the rest of her beautiful life

4) I offer this 4th rose to honor Beauty and Nature.

It matters to me to feel Beauty in me, all around me, and to share beauty with others.

I long for full relaxed time outside surrounded by beauty and nature.  It has been a long time since I felt the pull to just sit and let the thoughts flow.  I long for the open time to follow a trail into the woods to see what I come upon. 

I long to be surrounded by wind, dragonflies flitting ahead of me, lizards pausing as I speak to them.  Hummingbirds finding their food within moments of my refilling their dish; houseplants thriving as I shift their location.  Snapping turtle coming out on my labyrinth walk; frog pausing in the labyrinth pathway, witnessing the showering of oak leaves onto the green grass, hearing and feeling the wind sing among the white flags in the labyrinth.

I am blessed daily by our golden retriever Ana Luzia with her constant company and appreciative, loving eyes and presence.  I say goodnight to her every night.

In the past six months, I learned about creating and constructing labyrinths and painted my first original classic labyrinth on the floor of our 100-year-old Reversing Falls Sanctuary.  Last Saturday, I created what feels like a new labyrinth by putting over 200 flags along the right side of the pathway of our 10-year-old field-mown labyrinth.  I put each flag 1 long stride apart and added flags closer together when the path came to a curve or turn. A friend donated 25 yellow flags for the Center, which we marked with a large harvest orange chrysanthemum.  This so aptly represents my Mom – or Mum -- in the Center of my life now. 

5) Thus, my 5th rose, for my Friends,Tribe and Community

It matters to me to have real, honest, open friends, both men and women, who are there for me and know I am there for them.

I am blessed with deep, still growing friendships with my husband, family, Fireworks sisters, and loyal friends in this country and abroad.  I have lost several close friends and miss their loyal company. 

My sense of being part of a tribe began at Pinewoods Folk Music Camp and extends now to my community in Maine.  I feel part of a whole, acknowledged and appreciated.  I know I can explore old and new aspects of my own being over time. I can take risks, such as jamming with my newly restored Kamaka ukulele in a circle of musicians and singers last week. 

Our Alice's Field Labyrinth (Field of Flags Peace Labyrinth) near Maine home
in the process of being built. The green areas show the path of the labyrinth.

We first created the labyrinth 50 yards from our home in Maine at the time of our wedding.  For 10 years, we’ve offered meditative walks to the public.  Yet now, in using the memorial flags that have honored those who have died in the Middle East, I sense this labyrinth as more a part of the community.  While installing the flags, I focused on the pathway, the colors, the wind wafting through the flag, and the calm between the bursts.  I was lost in its creation. I am grateful to be able to offer these beautiful sacred labyrinths as a place for people to walk peacefully in the midst of their busy lives. 
Our Alice's Field Labyrinth (Field of Flags Peace Labyrinth) near Maine home
6) Now, a 6th rose for the broader Nation and World.

It matters to me to know that we are all One, all Connected, all part of the Whole.

Yet so much is pushing toward Separateness and Violence.

In this bigger context, I am still learning, reading, trying to gather information to get a sense of what I can do.  I am still asking questions and seeking answers.

What can we do about the proliferation of guns and killing?

What are the next steps in understanding the links between mental illness and suicide?

How can we raise our awareness of the volatile family relationships that erupt into domestic violence and death?

Why the Children?  Why are they the ones to suffer and die at the hands of the people who brought them into this life?

What is our next step in this unfathomable refugee migration?

It matters to me to find a way to make a difference in our world.  

Perhaps I can return to teaching English as a Second Language to help people communicate their needs and dreams.

Perhaps I can continue to build labyrinths to encourage communities to walk and talk together. 

Perhaps I can consistently walk for hunger or suicide prevention or to Save The Children.

Perhaps I can help build a bridge of music as Bill Staines suggests in his song, Bridges:  (Sing last verse below.)

“Let us build a bridge of music, Let us cross it with a song,
Let us span another canyon, Let us right another wrong.

Oh, and if someone should ask us, Where we’re off and bound today,
We will tell them, “Building Bridges,” and be off and on our way.

Oh, and if someone should ask us, Where we’re off and bound today
We will tell them, “Building Bridges,” and be off and on our way.”

7) I will end with the 7th rose for Spirit

It matters to me to feel spiritually awake

I have always been a seeker on a path with yearning and questions. When I was a younger, I tried many denominations, believing there was one true one.  I am now at peace with the idea that there needn’t be one true faith; each can offer us something of value.  

Reversing Falls Sanctuary classic labyrinth, painted in July by community

In the past 16 years, I have been involved with a labyrinth community as a writer, walker, teacher, creator, builder, dream-worker, and Council member.  I walk a labyrinth often, wherever I am and value the moments of meditation, quiet, and community.  In 2014, I walked a labyrinth every day.  I will continue to follow its path and calling.  

I will ask all the questions that come to me about God or Mystery, Spirit, prayer, meditation, unity, love, hate, death, and life.

I will continue to take one step at a time on this pilgrimage of life.  I will take risks to follow my heart and reach out to those who are in pain, grief, or difficult times. I will seek ways to be with people in person.  I will find ways to express my caring, help find solutions, and tell my story. 

 It matters to me to know that I am beautiful and to believe in my gifts and myself.  It matters to me that I love myself, my husband Chris, my family, beauty and nature, my friends, tribe and community, and the broader world around me.  It matters that I find my part in bringing peace.  

Let’s close with a song based on a Navajo prayer.  I’ll sing it once and then please join me.

“All before me, peaceful
All behind me, peaceful
Under me, peaceful
Over me, peaceful
All around me, peaceful
All around me, peaceful.”

Thank you so very much.

Christine Farrow-Noble
Cambridge, Massachusetts
November 12, 2015

Some links to labyrinth organizations and resources:
http://www.veriditas.org     International organization for training and experiential workshops
https://labyrinthsociety.org  Wonderful informative annual gatherings for interested people
www.labyrinthos.net  Amazing resource of history, photos, instructions to build
labyrinthlocator.com  Worldwide locator of labyrinths

29 September 2015

What Matters to Me and Why?

  by Elaine Fisher                 
--A September 17, 2015 Focus Lecture for the WomenExplore Fall Lecture Series
“What Matters to Me and Why?”
ONE          It Was a Dark and Stormy Night
For several evenings, my brown and tan, Domestic Short Hair Rescue Cat, Shao Lin, had been staring intensely out of the window, looking up at the stars. Unfortunately, this particular night’s weather forecast indicated persistent clouds, curtailing her research.
And so she now sat across the room with her tail thrashing irritably, her grumpy, green-eyed gaze focused relentlessly on my left ankle.
Even Jean Luc, my often oblivious, but quite loving, brown and tan, Main Coon Rescue Cat shifted restlessly in his soft, white nest
on the couch. Noting the movement, Shao Lin quickly shot him a disdainful glare and slowly stretched out her front paws, brandishing her sharp, hooked, shiny nails. He was not to interfere.
Satisfied with his compliance, she now stomped across the living room rug toward me, whiskers twitching, ears back, determined
to proclaim her latest insights into the mysteries of the universe. Her Publish-or-Perish-Drive-to-Glory could be discerned clearly in her arrogant, self-righteous demeanor. At one time that familiar mandate also reverberated within my own soul, reminiscent of the Academic Sandbox in which I had spent nearly four decades, running fast with scissors.
Her narrowed eyes filled with, “Why?”.
Why what?”, I wondered.
Why ANYthing?!” Finished with her terse, ontological appraisal, she marched stiffly, tail high, back hairs up, toward her litter box, with not a backward glance at me, the Inept Unfurred One.
Devastated, I decided to shore up my defenses by sending:
                  A Text Message to God
Dear God, please exist, and if you do, please consider my desperate inquiry.
I know you could have made me a speck of dust floating in the breathtakingly vast, expanding universe; or a bright photon of light, zipping along in its wave of particles; or a mysterious bit of Dark Energy lurking within ninety-five percent of everywhere.
In fact, You probably made me all of these things, at one time or another. Except I wasn’t an “I” at the time. Just an Eye of a rather large, Bang up Storm in the Dark Night.
Or You could have made me a rock. It would have been ok. I wouldn’t have minded. Really. Why make me a Consciousness, only
for me to be painfully aware of my own eventual demise?
I ask these questions in earnest. Why not? I have an opposable thumb. I walk on two legs... mostly. I did reasonably well on my SATs. And yet, answers to these questions consistently elude my understanding.
I waited for God’s response... [pause]
                  Finally, a Text Message From God! 
[low voice]  My dear, beloved creation,
You can be such a persistent pain in the ass.
Go live your precious life, and we will meet again, by and by, at the Gate, near the Tunnel, where I will answer ALL of your inquiries.
I have to go now to recharge my iPhone 5s.
Love and kisses, God
PS: ...that rock idea might have some merit... LOL...
TWO        A Star Filled Insight   
It was early Friday evening when my mother picked me up after work, from my Grandmother’s apartment, where I lived during the week. It was now late Saturday night, as I perched on the arm of the fuzzy, navy blue couch, next to her in the darkened living room, as she stared anxiously out of the window, hoping her husband, my father, would come home. I watched, focused intently on her tears, as they slowly moved down the sides of her face, sparkling like stars from the reflected light of the street lamp outside. 
Hoping to comfort her, I offered, “Mommy... I’M here!”. She glanced at me, patted my upturned, little, five year old head, and immediately resumed her dedicated vigil out the window. I looked out of that window as well, up at those same stars, at the bigness of the night sky, and understood that I would never be of real interest to either one of them. I also understood that the opposite of love is not a heated hatred, but rather a room-temperature indifference that slowly starves the soul.
THREE    Infinite
One day in third grade, Sister Helen George mentioned the word, “infinite”. Puzzled, I asked her what it meant. She explained
that it meant something that “never ended”.
Later that afternoon, walking the one block home, I tried out my newly won knowledge by wrapping the concept around numbers:       One... two... a hundred! (I was impatient.) A thousand. A million... plus one more! A bazillion, gazillion trazillions... plus one more! An electrical storm swirled in my mind as I ran up the stairs to share my newfound, thrilling insight with my grandmother. ”Bocky, forever means infinite! Infinite goes on forever... plus one more! We laughed together. Then, over our lettuce, tomato and mayonnaise sandwiches, we talked about the bigness of the idea.
After a while, her face became very serious as she clarified that not everything was infinite. Some things did end. That in time, even people would end, that even she would die. I was startled. I never thought she would not be there. Of course she was infinite and would always be there! Horrified, I felt my warm tears slowly soak the front of my light blue t-shirt, as I realized with increasing shock that someday I would actually lose the person who saved my life by rescuing me from indifference. That one day I would lose the only person who loved me.
FOUR       The Macrocosm / The Microcosm  
My treasured pussycats are gone now, Shao Lin at 19-years, Jean Luc at 18. They both died 2 days before Valentine’s Day, two years apart, in 2012 & 2014. Sometimes I find myself wondering if Shao Lin has decided to bite Jean Luc, or if they’re both only memory energy-activating synapses in my brain. And then I wonder, since those same brain cells communicate through tangible synapses, where is the tangible part I call “me” located, the “me” who activates those synapses.
But for now, I’m the only one staring out of my window at night, looking up at the moon, the stars. Even though I realize they’re burning rocks, or exploding hydrogen, or dazzling White Dwarfs, yet from my perspective, the night sky looks much like a navy, velvet cloth, with benign, friendly, scattered pinholes of light. If we manage to look behind the cloth, will we find The Magic Wizard,
or just more layers of Multi Universe cloth?
Immersed in wonder, I sense the amazing vastness of the Cosmos, the MACROcosm. So big that even if I drove my impressive, 2013, silver, 6-cylinder, Honda Accord EXL, at the Speed of Light, 186 thousand, 282.4 miles per second [whoosh!], that fast, it would take just one second to span a distance equivalent to the 24,901-mile equatorial circumference of the earth... nine times! And it would take 2.5 million light years to reach our nearest galaxy, the Great Nebula of Andromeda. Never mind that at that speed, SpaceTime would slow down my ageing process; I would still be getting rather long in the tooth...
And when I think of the other direction, the smallest of the small, the MICROcosm, I am overwhelmed at the concept of something billions of times smaller than the very atom itself, whose protons, electrons, neutrons and nucleus were once thought to be the tiniest bits of matter. But now we know from studying the Quantum, using the five billion dollar, 17-miles in circumference, Hadron Particle Accelerator Collider in the CERN Control Center [European Council for Nuclear Research] near Geneva, Switzerland, that the Microcosm is like its own universe, where physics folds in on itself, contradicts our beloved notions of how matter exists, and teases our minds with being in two places at once... but only when actually looked at! Matter becomes an entity so miniscule that I cannot use an ordinary ruler to fathom it, and instead try to simply imagine I have magically become the smallest unit itself, the very beginning of matter. Is there consciousness here? Is all matter composed of willful consciousness, enveloped within energy? Is this where consciousness begins? If matter goes so deeply into smallness, will it flirt with the infinite, or eventually simply disappear into nothingness, as our entire universe flies apart and disappears into nothingness, each one of gazillions of stars burning out its energy until only Darkness exists within the very last Stormy Night? And then, does Time stop, or Bang into existence yet again?
Or dance on a String, near a Multiverse Membrane? How can I expect to have an Afterlife if even the Universe itself will end?
Yes, I will have many questions at the Gate, near the Tunnel. That is, if the gate hasn’t disintegrated into rusty dust, lying on a dark, velvet cloth when I get there. And then I think, “OMG!. And then, I, [low voice] LOL!“... to quote God.
FIVE         So...
Some people’s hobby is art, or sports, or making wine, or making love. My hobby is Astrophysics. But that’s just code. Don’t be fooled. Striking as the stars are, my real focus is on longing. An intense longing for some kind of an Entity to care. To care about
me. To care about all of us. Not like a Facebook “friend”, but with His, Her, or Its actual face... if there is a face. Why make us wait
until we’ve decomposed into heavenly ashes? Why NOT now? At any rate, I’ve had more luck in my life with dorks than with
A Divine Being, with the spirited than with The Spirit, with the available than with The Almighty, with pussycats than with parents.
So... what does the Universe mean to me? It means Space, Time, Stars, Searching, Consciousness, Death, Life, Loneliness, Hope, Courage, Despair, Emptiness, Fear, Creativity, Destruction, Indifference, Intimacy, Tenderness, Love, Bocky, Us, ...God... maybe...
Everything. It means EVERYTHING THERE IS... to Infinity... plus one more!

14 July 2015

Service for David Dodson Gray

Liz's and David's friend and minister Tom McKibbens conducted a memorial service at First Baptist Church in Newton Center on Saturday 11th July 2015.  Martha Nielsen collected remembrances of David from the women of TOP/WE and edited them down into a piece which was read by Erica Kenny at the service.  Here is the edited version of this piece:
David Dodson Gray: Remembrances by the women of the Theological Opportunities Program, now known as WomenExplore !
David Dodson Gray was such a GOOD MAN, a man of integrity, who lived out his ethics. He was sweet and kind, and a true feminist. He understood the Biblical sense of justice, and the justice dimensions of black/white and male/female issues. He believed strongly in “women’s voice”, and for many years he used his considerable editing and typing skills to assist our women at the Theological Opportunities Program at the Harvard Divinity School with their talks in our lecture series. His presence in our lives will be sorely missed by all of us who knew him.
Each week, David and Michael Donham, after they set up the sound system, would put on their hats and go over to Peet’s for coffee and muffins which they brought back. They sat in front of us and there was great unwrapping and enjoyment of muffins during the talk! They had a grand time together at their weekly ritual.
I remember David interrupting Liz, or anyone else, when something was missed, fearless to add his point of view or to clarify.
David was an appealingly quiet, giving and gentle man. This is not to say he didn’t have his convictions (he had them in abundance), but that he was a very principled person - bright, caring, faithful, true and unusually generous.
I'll always remember David's welcome to me as a new member: big smile, kind, efficient, well-groomed. David was a treasure
for Liz, TOP, WE, and me. I feel sad in my heart at his passing. —————

At TOPs [tops] meetings, David was known for his helpful assistance to enable the event to function smoothly, and for his generous support during the Think Tanks to record our suggestions for the new series - accurately. He modeled, with Liz, the complicated interplay of marriage relations - with no hesitation to disagree or do corrections of each other in a room full of people - successfully and with humor.
I remember David as always being present in the moment. Always loyal and respectful to Liz, David was a masculine example to me, embodying stability, intelligence, and a willingness to be a team player as well as being a tranquil leader.
I always looked for David’s cheery face at the back of the Braun Room, presiding over a book display and watching to see that the speakers kept to their time limits.
I remember David as a man who was very clear about his feminist views---as a consistent, heartfelt advocate for women.....and at the same time he appreciated enjoying women, noticing what they wore, feeling their sensuality.......he was devoted to women as equals.....women in their strength, leadership and wisdom.....and, as we all witnessed, devoted to Liz.
I have known Liz and David for forty years, and have reveled in the richness of their talents and personalities. Just one of his special talents, and a very special gift to the focusers (of which I have been one many many times), was to convert our talks into professional looking booklet form, and print five copies for us to have and to share with our family and friends. My covers were often red, which he well knew was my favorite color. And apropos of that, on the rare Thursday I appeared with no visible red in my outfit, he would tease me about that omission. On one of those days I spontaneously said “Oh don’t worry, I have on a red slip!” As you might imagine with David, this became an ongoing joke between us.
As a clergy spouse I recognized David’s awesome role with Liz and TOP for so many years.
David’s devotion to Liz with its many twists and turns speaks volumes of their mutual love and respect and David’s role in the background, editing and publishing - a true helpmate with his considerable skills. A GOOD MAN. An authentic role model. —————
David never turned me away and never avoided me if he thought I might want to speak to him. He answered questions clearly and simply, and he was kind.
A very tall Pooh Bear himself, David calmly chauffeurs Liz to Cambridge, and with a wink, assembles the AV equipment so we all can hear. We are fortunate to have a practiced, able, and handsome male presence amidst all of us femmes.
David was a living model of a feminist man, beginning with his relationship to the woman of his life. He was genuinely interested in me and other women, and expressed that interest with inquiring about, and with keeping up with, what was going on in one’s life.
He showed and expressed his appreciation of how women were living their lives, and what they were discovering about themselves. He believed in the power of women in their own lives, and most particularly the power of his beloved Liz.
David was very supportive of all of us in TOP/WE and together he and Liz guided us to create both wonderfully stimulating lectures and a warm community of women as well.
To me David was a magical mix of mentor, father figure, counsel, brother, friend, buddy. One of the many memories and feelings that have been floating through my heart is the hugging practice that evolved over the years that we delighted in, and that was transformative and healing for me.
Attending the TOP series on a regular basis in the mid-80’s
and early 90’s, I grew to have an even deeper appreciation of how comfortably and publicly he held the role of chief support person
to Liz’s endeavors. He truly supported her creativity and provided the collaboration and organizing efforts for her books and her travels and lectures about the country, as well as for the management of the TOP lecture series.
I've never known a time when David wasn't helping Liz -- holding her arm, her bag, or her chair. I don't think I've ever even seen Liz without David except when we packed up for Utah. I've heard stories of all the wonderful things that David did to help Liz in her role as Executive Director of TOP and to publish her books. Their togetherness reminds me of the Frank Sinatra song of Love and Marriage.
“Liz and David, Liz and David,
Went together like a horse and carriage, This I tell you sister,

I didn't see one without the other!”
When my son, Luke, was setting up Liz's website, he also spent some time working with David. I asked Luke if he wanted to say anything about David. His response was that David was a very "supportive chap”.
I recall David so well and his kindness to me, which included giving me some of his academic books on the New Testament, which I treasure.
Liz's "most interesting man she has ever met”
Dear Liz,
Ever since I first met you both in 2004, I have admired the way that David complemented, or should I say, "completed" you. As I got to know you both better I learned just how true this was. It wasn't something that just happened naturally. David strove hard to augment your talents. The two of you are the epitome of the saying that "the whole is greater than the sum of its parts".
You, dear Liz, have been extremely fortunate, as I know you are aware, to have lived your life with such a partner. You can rejoice in the legacy of shared memories that David has bequeathed you! —————
Received, collated and edited by Martha Nielsen and presented by Erica Kenny at David’s memorial service on July 11, 2015, at the First Baptist Church in Newton MA

David Dodson Gray

In the early hours of 4th June 2015 David Dodson Gray, sharing a room with his wife Elizabeth in their son's home in Utah, died peacefully in his sleep. 

Here is the obituary published in the Boston Globe on 8th July 2015:

GRAY, David Sperry Passed away in his sleep on June 4, 2015 at the age of 85. He was born on January 2, 1930 to Clarence Sperry and Marion Fearney Gray in Providence, RI. David graduated from Yale University in 1951 with a degree in Mechanical Engineering where he was inducted into Yale's chapter of Tau Beta Pi, the national engineering honor society. He then graduated from Yale Divinity School in 1954 where he met the love of his life, Elizabeth Emma Dodson. They were married for 58 years and had two children, Lisa Fearney Gray and Jonathan Hunter Gray. He was blessed with four grandchildren: Tricia Gray, Jon-Hunter Gray, Jake Jackson and Sam Jackson. David was an Episcopal Minister, ordained in 1957. He left the Parish Ministry in 1972 to partner with his wife, Elizabeth Dodson Gray in what they termed an "Issues Centered Ministry" during the course of which they wrote and lectured together on the issues of the day from sustainable growth to eco-feminism. During this time together David and Liz operated The Bolton Institute for a Sustainable Future and Roundtable Press, which published four of Liz's books and one of David's. It was a true spiritual and professional partnership that few are lucky enough to experience at all....much less for 58 years! We love you, respect the life that you lived in service to others, and will miss you greatly, Dad! Memorial Service will be held at 3:00 p.m. on Saturday, July 11, 2015 at The First Baptist Church of Newton, 848 Beacon Street, Newton Center, Newton, MA. In lieu of flowers please make a donation to Autismspeaks.org in his name. Arrangements under the direction of Leavitt's Mortuary, 836 36th St., Ogden, Utah. Please send condolences to the family at: www.leavittsmortuary.com

Here is the text of a tribute to David in June 2010 written by Chris Farrow-Noble on behalf of the women of the Theological Opportunities Program (now WomenExplore Lecture and Discussion Forum) on the occasion of his and his wife, Elizabeth Dodson Gray's retirement from thirty-two years of running TOP/WE:

(Chris Farrow-Noble, Cambridge)