What Is the Essence of an Active Faith?

Along with 27 others, Peg Morton trespassed onto Fort Benning property in November 2003 as a part of the effort to close the Army School of the Americas (SOA), now renamed Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation. About 190 people have served in prison as a result of nonviolent civil disobedience in this large, Gandhian-style movement. Eugene Meeting gave her sustained spiritual support throughout. Strawberry Creek Meeting in Berkeley, Calif., near where she was in Prison Camp Dublin, also supported her, and she received letters of support from many Illinois Yearly Meeting meetings and individuals (her former yearly meeting). This statement (with slight changes) is the one that she presented during an interfaith service in Eugene in August 2004.

There is no question in my mind that, for me, the essence of an active faith is to seek to live in openness to the Divine, the Holy Spirit, that is within me and enfolds me in its embrace. As I live into my elder years, this message has come to me increasingly strongly.

In the summer of 2003, I entered a week-long juice fast, as part of the giant effort to save the human services and education in our state. Many of you, undoubtedly, have experienced the miracle of a spiritual fast. Sitting on the steps of the state capitol, with expanses of time for quiet reflection, my body, cleaned of toxic wastes, opened itself to the Spirit. A blind friend of mine said, "Peg, you are surrounded by light." That is how I felt, and I know that this is the way I am supposed to be.

In the spring of 2004, I was privileged to be able to experience three months in prison. Intense and difficult as it was in some ways, it was also a time totally away from my usual daily life. I joined many other inmates who use this time for deep reflection and prayer, who seek to use the time to transform their lives.

I am known as a busy person. The message coming from deep within me is to slow down, to let the adrenalin energy drain away, to allow space for the Spirit to seep in, to listen to the messages, the leadings that will come, to learn to respond to life more from my heart.

And my experience is that, to the extent that I am able to live and act in the Spirit, I am not discouraged. I feel hope, strength, and often joy in the community of others who are on a similar path. And we often have fun!

This country, our dear sick country, is perhaps the most high-pressured country in the world. From government officials to CEOs to church committees, to political activists, we run at high speed. I believe that many, many of us, to the extent possible, need to slow down and allow space so that we can listen to and be led by the Divine. As a country, we need to find our Heart.

I am not describing a passive life of sitting in spiritual bliss. I believe that active, yearning prayer can be a strong component of our work. And I believe that as individuals, interfaith communities, and in other groups, locally and worldwide, we may, we must, we will be led in creative and courageous ways to act and to take risks, just as others encourage our young people to risk their lives in war. Interfaith communities can and must provide leadership towards healing in our deeply troubled world. Let us try what love can do.