In the fall of 1964, Trappist monk Thomas Merton prepared to host an unprecedented gathering of peace activists.
"About all we have is a great need for roots," he observed, "but to know this is already something." His remark anticipated their agenda--a search for spiritual roots to nurture sound motives for "protest." This event's originality lay in the varied religious commitments present. Convened in an era of well-kept faith boundaries, members of Catholic (lay and clergy), mainline Protestant, historic peace church, and Unitarian traditions participated. Ages also varied, ranging from twenty-three to seventy-nine. Several among the fourteen who gathered are well known today among faith-based peace advocates: the Berrigan brothers, Jim Forest, Tom Cornell, John Howard Yoder, A. J. Muste, and Merton himself. During their three days together, insights and wisdom from these traditions would intersect and nourish each other.
By the time they parted, their effort had set down solid roots and modeled interreligious collaboration for peace work that would blossom in coming decades. Here for the first time, the details of those vital discussions have been reconstructed and made accessible to again inspire and challenge followers of Christ to confront the powers and injustices of today. "If Thomas Merton held a retreat in the '60s on the spiritual roots of protest--attended by Daniel Berrigan, John Howard Yoder, A. J. Muste, and ten more great Christian peacemakers--would you want to be there? Gordon Oyer's exhaustively researched, inspiring story of just such a legendary retreat at the Abbey of Gethsemani feels like faith on trial at the edge of the end of the world. Read it and see." --Jim Douglass, author, JFK and the Unspeakable "A meticulously researched account of a historical event whose ramifications are as apposite today as when they were first discussed, perhaps more so. The prophetic voices and the witness of the retreat participants are brought to life in Oyer's engaging narrative, echoing from the Gethsemani woods down through the ages, still struggling to be heard against the techno-babble, the inertia felt by so many, and the ever more sophisticated war machine of our world today." --Paul M. Pearson, Director, Thomas Merton Center "Three powerful faith traditions . . . converged for the first time at that legendary1964 retreat hosted by Merton. . . . Any of us who seek today to bear public witness to the gospel, justice, and political imagination are truly 'children' of that conversation a half century ago. . .
. We are walking in their footsteps. Oyer has gifted us with a magnificent chronicle of the contemporary spiritual roots of protest." --Ched Myers, Bartimaeus Cooperative Ministries Gordon Oyer is an administrator with the University of Illinois system and has an MA in history from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
He is the past editor of Illinois Mennonite Heritage Quarterly, has served on different regional Mennonite historical committees, and is the author of various articles on Mennonite history.