PA SR 655 or The Great Road: The Journey: Part 1

Southern end to Mill Creek

U. S. Route 66 has nearly 800 books as its central subject, Lincoln Highway (Route 30) has 290 books, The Great Silk Road of Asia has over 1400 —in English–by their travelers, photographers and chroniclers. Pennsylvania SR 655 may not be ready for full book treatment. But, SR 655 deserves some attention.  Recently I have accomplished what few (if any) have accomplished:  driven the entire length of SR 655 in one day.*  Even my spouse, Julia, born and raised several hundred feet from that thoroughfare had not completed this journey.   Her family has an 1814 deed positioning a corner of the family farm at a “large rock” at the edge of “The Great Road”.  (The farm at the upper edge of Allensville is now the Peachey farm.)  Julia is one of the natives of Big Valley that knew that 655 has its northern end at Reedsville at North Main Street and Old 322, but this was the first time she had seen the (current) southern end. Here is the chronicle of our journey. [PA SR 655 previously was SR 76 until the start of the Eisenhower Interstate highway system began in 1956. It took over the two-digit numbers and required state routes to be three-digit.] (Thanks to Nelson Roth and Sanford King for this information.)

At the edge of Hancock, MD, is the border of Pennsylvania and the start of SR655

.5 miles: First church on or jouney. Note the double doors. Tonoloway Primitive Baptist Church

Needmore Full Gospel Church, 4014 Thompson Road, Needmore, PA 17238 at mile 4 sets back off the road. (not shown).

Mile 9.1: US Post Office, 7992 Great Cove Road, Needmore, PA 17238 a brown brick building.

9.2 miles: Rehoboth New Life (Church), Needmore

655 becomes Great Cove Road and joins US 522 for .8 miles.  The only eatery in Needmore is Gordon’s Cruise-In, just south of the junction of US 522 and SR 655.  It is housed in the same building as Gordon’s Garage and Appliance.

Mile 10: 655 turns north along Tonoloway Creek.  655 takes the name Pleasant Ridge Road for the next 17 plus miles. The Creek runs approximately 32 miles south to the Potomac River.

Pleasant Ridge Church of the Brethren

Mile 12.3:  Pleasant Ridge Church of the Brethren church is 3.2 miles north of Needmore at the top of a hill.

Just over the mountain east is the Supreme Council of the House of Jacob, an African American community and religion/denomination with a fascinating history.

Mile 18.7 Less than 2 miles before Harrisonville, Baby Run flows into Licking Creek at Schooley Lane.  Licking Creek drains south.  Its origins are far to the east where part of it starts just north of McConnelsburg where it first heads north, then west before turning south. The other branch starts a bit to the north.  Sindeldecker Creek is a major branch

Mile: 21.3 Harrisonville Post Office on Route 30

1.1 miles north Route 30, just to the west on Buck Road, is the Independent Holiness Academy.

28.2: SR 655 passes over the Pennsylvania Turnpike.

After a mile, SR 655 becomes Pitt Street in Hustontown for a short time

Mile 27.1, the Hustontown Post Office shares a building with a library. This is the only public restroom between the MD line and Mapleton, Pa. Also here is the Brown Funeral Home.

Twist and Shake serves grapenut ice cream when their machine works.

Grace Bible Methodist Church is nearby.  Pitt Street becomes Waterfall Road. 

Some straight stretches along a curvy 655
One of the nice gardens along 655

Mile 33.9:  US Post Office at Waterfall, Pa.

Mile 37.7: Center Grove Brethren in Christ Church (may have changed it’s name or closed)

Mile 41.6: Junction with PA 994 which leads to Three Springs and PA 747 which leads to Agape Farm Retreat Center and Mt. Union, Pa. Agape Farm Retreat Center has an interesting history.  (See

Salillo Post Office

Mile 40.8: Saltillo, Pa, Post Office, Main Street.  According to Wikipedia, Saltillo was named after the Mexican War Battle of Saltillo (23 October 1840). It was a major tanning center during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The Leas and McVitty Tannery was located here, known for quality hides. The main line of the East Broad Top Railroad ( was built through Saltillo in 1874. The railroad served the tannery as well as a short-lived iron mine and an equally short-lived limestone quarry, both just southeast of town.  (,_Pennsylvania  accessed 6/25/20)

Mile: 42.1: Calvary Independent Baptist Church, 20258 Main Street.

Mile 43.8 Gravedigger Drive heads up towards Jacks Mountain to the east-maybe a deadend.

Mile 43.9: PA 829 branches off to the west giving access to Cassville, Calvin and the Raystown Lake Recreation area.

Mile 44:  Hares Valley Creek. Pa 655 becomes Hares Valley Road.  Probably at the PA 829 junction (Signs for change didn’t appear for several miles). Hares Valley Creek runs near the road most of the way to Mapleton.

Mile 48.6: Just north of Labrador Drive (and before Soggy Bottom Lane) is Latta Grove Church.  No information is available for this church.  The fence in front and the unworn grass near the red front door suggest that there is little use of the building.

Mile 49.5: Barneytown Rd. on the left, then Jacks Mountain Road leads off to the east toward the mountain here.  Not clear from Google maps how far it goes or if the road is all season or requires all-terrain vehicles.

Mile 52.3: Beech Run Church of the Brethren, Mapleton, PA is 8.5 miles north of Gravedigger Drive.  Not sure that is significant.

Mile 54 in Mapleton, Pa, 655 becomes Campbell Street.

Mile 54.4:  another Main Street Post Office—just off SR 655 (n0t shown).

Nearby is the H.O. Andrews Feed Mill was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1990 according to Wikipedia.  (Accessed 6/25/20).

My spouse, Julia Hartzler Alleman, remembers her father ordering animal feed from them in the 1940s or 1950s.

H.O. Andrews Feed Mill 1.jpg
H. O. Andrews Feed Mill in 2014 (from Wikipedia) accessed 9/11/2021)

Mile 55.4:  Pa 655 becomes Bridge Street, Oriskany Road beyond the Juniata River.

At the bottom of Jacks Mountain, SR 655 joins US 22 between Mt. Union and Huntingdon.  SR 655 is now William Penn Highway as well as US 22.

Mile 55.5:  U. S Silica, according to its web site: “The Premier Silica Sand Provider for Today and Tomorrow”.

U. S. Silica Sand plant

Across the Juniata River and not quite 2 miles west on William Penn Highway or U.S. 22 brings one to the beginning of the Valley Pike.

Mile 57.7:  SR 655 turns north toward Big Valley and is called Big Valley Pike.  The original 655 ended/began here until 1964.  Mill Creek/Mapleton to Maryland was added at that time.

Junction of US 322 and SR 655 at Mill Creek

Part two, Valley Pike, Mill Creek to Reedsville coming soon.

*If you have traveled Pa SR 655 in one day, email me a and I will add your name to the PA SR 655 Wall of Fame.

Composting and Gardening at Our Community Place

The smelly buckets of kitchen wastes sat by the back of the blue Our Community Place (OCP) building. A local hog farmer was slow in picking them up. Some yard wastes at the cement wall at the back of the property and a pile of dirt and stones along the east wall needed attention.  I liked to do composting.  The garden needed compost.  This was the beginning of my work with OCP’s gardening and composting activity. 

Beginning the composting project

When OCP staff agreed to the composting project, we started pulling branches and stones out of the pile at the “Roses” end of the OCP yard (Roses Department Store parking lot was on the other side and above the cement wall.)  We started with two pallet bins, plus a “collection” bin, then added a third bin for finished compost.  Sometime later, we added another bin for storage of leaves, straw or wood chips to cover kitchen trimmings or yard wastes before mixing them in the “cooker” bin.

Getting kitchen trimmings covered promptly was always a problem.  Sometimes there were a large amount of wastes coming out due to the nature of donations to OCP.  Food donation was often at the peak of ripeness (fruit and vegetables) or day-old (bread and pastries) and took some time to cover.  Cover materials like leaves, sawdust or woodchips weren’t always close.  Kitchen workers wanted to dump the kitchen trimmings quickly and get back to their work—preparing food or cleaning up the kitchen. This was especially a problem in cold weather.

About the time we started emptying the kitchen trimmings buckets into the compost pile’s collection bin (there continued to be problem with the hog farmer’s timely pick-up of the buckets), a US Agriculture Department agent stopped in to checked on our activity.  There had been a report that kitchen wastes headed for the farm had cigarette butts in them. (apparently dropped in while the buckets sat the yard waiting for pickup).  Trimmings going to feed hogs were an USDA issue.  Apparently a disgruntled, former OCP client had contacted the USDA with this complaint.  Ron, the director, was able to point at the just-started-composting project as evidence that kitchen trimmings were being handled properly.

Sifting compost

Stones and sticks needed to be removed from the pile of soil at the east wall.  We wanted to run the soil through a hot compost pile to help remove as much of the unknown and possibility undesirable ingredients from the soil.  We first used a flat sifter that sat on a wheelbarrow.  Then we used an A-Frame soil sifter which was less back-straining.  When visiting a friend, Tim, I saw his automated sifter.  It had a rotating drum run by a motor. 

With the craftsmanship of Mark Showalter, an automated sifter was designed for OCP.  The drum was a cut-down Volvo truck fuel tank which sat on four balloon tires.  Power came from an old truck battery that could no longer start a truck.  The power ran through two Volvo windshield wiper motors removed from trucks due to recall based on fear of the motors being the cause of fire starting in trucks.  The cut-out fuel tank we lined with half-inch hardware cloth. The three 10” square holes in the bottom of the frame caught the “fines”.  Stones and other coarse material fell out the back end.  Volunteers were always attracted to this sifter, requiring scheduling of feeding the sifter.  Later, when we had fewer stones in the compost, we used wood chips as our “filler” material.  These were sifted out and put back into the composting cycle.  The sifted compost is a much more attractive product for sale, which has been a recent development.  As time went on, Mark Doll became the manager of the sifter and the compost piles.

Scrounging for composting ingredients

Sometimes a lot of high nitrogen materials come from the kitchen and we needed more “browns” or carbon materials to mix with the nitrogen materials. One OCP supporter offered sheep manure.  She told us there would be a large percentage of sawdust/wood shavings with it.  We started loading the “manure” into the two pickups available. After working through loading and unloading the two pickup loads we wondered where the manure was. When we went back to the farm, a neighbor came with a tractor and front-end loader to help with the rest.  He told us that the family raised sheep to show at fairs.  So, they used a lot of bedding to keep the sheep clean.  He loaded more sawdust/shavings/manure and more.  We hauled 13 loads, if my memory is correct.

Bug Woman (that was her business name–she sold insecticides) had been part of OCP activities for a time.  She heard we needed ingredients for our compost piles.  She offered manure with a lot of hay in it from where her horses and cattle were fed.  Her offer was especially attractive as it was accompanied by offer to load the trucks with her front-end loader.  I located two pickups in addition to mine and we headed south.  The farm was much further than I understood it to be.  The “hayey” manure turned out to be nearly all manure and fairly decomposed.  While it was good stuff, it was very heavy material and our trucks sagged.  We did too, once we got done unloading the manure.

Some years earlier, I had gotten manure at a butcher shop.  We went to ask for manure and found they were glad to have us take some.  It was Autumn, so we needed nitrogen material  go with the leaves. It was usually Mark and I picking up a pickup load of manure on Tuesday’s work day.  The manure was mixed with a good bit of sawdust which was good for our composting.  Later they wanted to clean out their pens on a different day and haul off the manure in a dump truck.  They agreed to dump part of the load at our compost bin materials collection section.

“Greens” or nitrogen material coming from the kitchen or yard and garden wastes were usually plentiful.  Fruit and vegetables donated to OCP were often at their peak (sometimes nearly past) and it was difficult to use them before they spoiled.  Sometimes, too much of a particular kind of food was given.  When it could not be used or given to OCP people or neighbors, it was sent to the compost pile. Often, we had to scramble to find “filler”, also called “browns” or carbon material to mix with the greens.  One source of brown was tree leaves in the fall.  Some we could collect along the street.  Then the city started vacuuming leaves and bagged leaves were no longer available.  For a while the city stockpiled leaves at a site on E. Mosby.  Then they contracted to provide leaves as a cover for the methane generating trash mounds for Sentara hospital.  Then we no longer had this source of leaves.

Collecting wood chips

Once we had a good bit of manure plus the kitchen trimmings and excess coming to the piles, we needed more carbon materials.  (The general rule we followed was 1 part of greens to 2 or 3 of browns.)  We started calling tree trimmers and landscapers asking them to dump their loads at our site.  At one point, we needed to ask them to stop.  Other times we could go to a feedlot at the edge of the city. The farmer had a contract with the city to dump chips at his site.  Private tree trimmers dumped there, also.  He was a friend of OCP and would load our pickups free, rather than the usual charge of five dollars a scoop.

Speeding composting

To keep the organic matter moving through the three bins, which sometimes got a bit high, we started putting slotted drain pipes and other pipes in the piles to provide aeration.  Someone was assigned the task of pushing a half-inch rod down into the pile from the top to provide additional air for the microbes transforming the raw material into new soil.  To keep the bins from getting too wet, we made frames and covered them with clear plastic.  These were placed over the bins when rain threatened.  In winter, they provided some protection from the cold for the microbes and worms working in the bins.

Students and other volunteers

JMU students put down newspaper mulch before adding woodchips

James Madison University students, Community service clients, high school doing projects (and sometimes their parents curious about what their child was doing) and others supportive of the OCP mission have come to help with composting as well as gardening.  At times, we were overwhelmed with help, other times when kitchen trimmings needed covered or piles were ready to be turned, no help was available.

New bins

A church group from Mt Crawford Methodist Church (?) told us they wanted to do a project for OCP.  The compost bins needed repair, and no staff person wanted to show up on the weekend, so I agreed to be available to guide the project.  We planned the layout of new bins and the group leader said they would bring the pallets for the bins.  Then, they said that they wanted to come Sunday at 11:30!  I usually was still in church at the time. 

Around noon the group pulled in with green, plastic pallets!  Not the recyclers preference.  But, with the help of a total of 10-20 workers, some of them with much more construction skills then I had, the 5 bins were put in place with sturdy 4” x 4” corner posts.  Slots for bin front boards were added and we were ready for “industrial” level composting. 

Selling compost

When we had a lot of help running the sifter and producing finished compost, we set up a finished compost bin.  Someone suggested selling compost.  We first sold compost at the OCP Plant Sale.  First, we sold compost by the bucket.  Then Ron Copeland found someone to print OCP’s name on biodegradable bags.  These became a regular sales item at the Plant Sale.  Several individuals came each year for a pickup load of compost.  While not a big money maker, Mark’s composting work has brought in money each year.

The OCP Garden

Skip was a master gardener.  He liked to garden by himself.  Communicating to a helper required perfect hearing which I did not have.  The cigarette he usually had in his mouth made his speech even more difficult to follow.  Because his skills were in demand elsewhere sometimes and for other reasons, his absences from the OCP garden increased.  When he took another job, I was asked to take responsibility for the garden.

OCP Garden, Spring view

Partly because I preferred raised-bed gardens and partly because people involved at OCP tended to wander across the garden, I managed a switch to raised-bed garden with clearly defined paths.  The paths were usually covered with wood chips which we could get from local tree trimmers.  They found OCP a convenient place to dump their chips.  During the winter, we marked the path from the kitchen to the compost pile with string to keep people from packing down the raised beds.  Volunteers, especially, could not understand the idea of no-till or minimum tillage gardening.  One volunteer in particular would not follow instructions to use a digging fork to just loosen soil in the bed, but insisted on turning over the soil.

OCP garden: Tomatoes and cucumbers

While the beds produced fairly good crops of cabbage, collards, beets, tomatoes, peppers, potatoes and other vegetables.  I was not prepared for gardening for a large group or for the peculiar circumstances found at OCP.  One of those factors was that during mid-season for a vegetable there were a lot of donations of that vegetable.  Certain vegetables were always available as “seconds” from sellers at markets. I didn’t learn this until my second as gardener.  So, if we could grow early potatoes, tomatoes, etc. those were more useful.  Having cherry tomatoes around the edge of the garden for snacks was good, too.  Also, producing enough of anything in a small garden for 15-40 people was another challenge.  Once, I sent a fairly large pan of young spinach leaves to the kitchen, expecting that they would be added to the salad.  The kitchen assistant was soon back with the pan wanting much more.  I learned that for a southern cook, spinach was cooked.

I was a volunteer who intended to be present only one-half day (Work Day) plus several hours on other days, especially in the spring.  Finding other volunteers to fill in to keep the garden weeded and watered was a constant source of frustration.  Help was often needed when students were having exams (April) or when they were gone for the summer.  Community service workers often did not want garden or composting work. The work was enough to stress my already operated-on-back.  I eventually had to turn the garden over to others due to that problem.  But, I was glad to have the opportunity to garden and compost there and felt I made a small contribution to the work of Our Community Place.

David Alleman 10/12/20,  Rev. 9/27/21

Holy What?

How often do we sing “holy” in a song? What does it mean to you when you sing it?  Are there specific Biblical events or Bible passages that help us to understand the word and concept of “holy”?  If Jesus’ teaching helps us understand the First Testament, what did he teach about the “holy”’?

Snails and more

In the Hebrew Bible (frequently called the Old Testament or sometimes the First Testament), especially in Leviticus, there is much about being holy. What about not eating snails?  The first command to be holy (Leviticus 11) follows a list of creatures not to be eaten, including snails. So, does holiness have to do with what we eat?  With how much we eat?

Where was God first called “holy”?

The first Biblical reference to God as holy is in the “Song of Miriam” in Exodus celebrating the work of God in defeating the Egyptians at the Red Sea.

1“I will sing to the Lord. He is greatly honored. He has thrown Pharaoh’s horses and their riders into the Red Sea. . .  .  11 “Lord, who among the gods is like you?  Who is like you?You are majestic and holy.  Your glory fills me with wonder.You do wonderful miracles. 

Here God was holy because he rescued his people from the Egyptians.  The gods of the Egyptians supported the rich and powerful. Israel’s God was different/holy. Israel’s God reached out to the “wandering Aramean” (Deut. 26:10-14) and created a people “who were not a people.”  Translated into modern terms, God rescued oppressed immigrants from a superpower whose gods approved of the rich having control over key resources and perpetuating control through the exploitation of other people groups. God’s holiness stretches beyond rescuing the Hebrews.  Many passages throughout the scripture expand our understanding of the separateness and otherness of God.

Jesus and holiness

Jesus teaching about being like God does not use the word holy.  Jesus command parallel to “Be holy for I am holy” is: “be completely merciful as is your Father in heaven.” (Luke 6:36).  Moses’ presence in the Transfiguration, Jesus calling himself a “‘ransom” (Mark 10:45), and words of Jesus at the last supper connect his ministry to the first exodus.   If the first exodus had to do with the rescue of an oppressed minority from a powerful empire, how does that apply to Jesus ministry? 

Perhaps it is with Jesus’ reaching out to those on the margins of society and those considered inferior in society.  (These include the good Samaritan, Mary (wanting to learn about God/the Law in a culture that denied learning to women), the lepers, the Syrophoenician woman, and the Samaritan woman at the well.) Jesus fulfilled God’s call through Isaiah and other prophets to spread the good news to all people. 

Be holy/merciful today

How do we translate this Jesus-style holiness into our lives today?  Are there people similar to the Hebrews in Egypt?  They would be people who need to be saved (rescued) from an “Egypt” or the evil one?   The US government aid has aided the “pharaohs” of our time, especially in Central and South America.  Military and development aid have enabled upper classes in these countries to oppress poor and small landowners.  Due to that aid there are “wandering Arameans” among us that we can rescue, following God’s example.  Recently, the billionaires and multi-millionaires at the head of government gained hefty tax cuts for themselves and others of similar economic status.  They have proposed large reductions in disaster aid, deportation of taxpaying, hardworking young adults who were brought to this country as children and are trying to deny health care assistance to those who cannot afford it.  We, as Christians, can prepare for and encourage a new exodus from a hostile United States to a welcoming United States or an exodus to our guests’ economically revitalized homeland.  If we do this we are following God’s example of holiness.

Let’s connect God’s holiness with Jesus command to be merciful.  How do we respond to the homeless, to the worker who has had his/her hours reduced so that the employer need not provide health care and other benefits, to those in our communities who need to hear the good news of the gospel or to long-time residents who long for the security of citizenship?

Singing about the holy should not just remind you about what God did at the Red Sea. God’s holiness is broader than the aspect of what I have written.  Seeing the holy through the roots of this concept and through Jesus’ teaching gives us a good start in understanding what we mean when we sing “holy”.

—–David Alleman 10/14/13  rev. 9/21/21

Threshing in Big Valley Pennsylvania

Across the valley from the mountain house where we stayed in Big Valley were two fields of wheat in shocks.  We were hoping that threshing would begin while we were here to watch. I was interested in seeing the threshing because I had recently scanned a photo of threshing in Iowa that I may have observed when I was about ten years old. By Friday we saw seven wagons loaded with wheat sheaves and wondered if they could thresh that much in one day. On Saturday morning at 7:00,  I saw activity in the field.  Half-mile distance made viewing the activity difficult. So, I drove across the valley, parked out of the way and ask if I could take some pictures.

Seven wagon loads of wheat sheaves

 I wondered if the older Amishman I asked would put some restrictions on my picture-taking, but he just said “Take some pictures”.

Note the rubber-covered steel wheels. See the end of the blog for detail.
Frick Threshing Machine

A belt from the Farmall 400 drove the Frick threshing machine. George Frick built his first grain thresher in 1843, and began manufacturing units for sale to the public in 1848, forming Frick Co., Waynesboro, Pa., five years later. (See Wikipedia)

Grain runs into the green grain wagon that two work horses just delivered to the site.

Two men unloaded the sheaves from a wagon. The wagon with the sheaves was pulled by two horses.  The threshing machine discharged the grain into a gravity wagon. A second gravity wagon pulled by two horses soon arrived.

Amish boy holding work horses

A boy who looked to be about ten held the lead of the horses the entire thirty or forty minutes I was there. While I stood there taking this picture, the itching at my neck reminded me that one of the challenges of threshing is the chaff that you can see drifting across the photo. As soon as the wagon the horses are hitched to is emptied, the horses will bring one of the other six wagons to be unloaded.

Baling the straw

The threshing machine blew the straw it separated from the grain through a metal tube, then through a canvas tube to the take up reel of a John Deer baler.  The baled straw is pushed up into a wagon where several teenagers stacked the bales. (I had wondered why they were threshing in the field, rather than near the barn which is where they would want the straw stack.)

A Huber tractor stood nearby pulling a trailer.

By 4:00 pm both the first field we saw with the seven  wagons in and a second field were cleared of shocks of wheat, and the threshing machine and wagons were gone. Four or five men plus four teenagers were working on the threshing.

Close-up of rubber-covered steel wheels on Farmall used to power the threshing machine.

Great Road: SR 655 Big Valley and beyond

Part 1: A Quiz on SR 655

Route 66 (there are nearly 800 books with Route 66 as its central subject with more giving this road some attention), Lincoln Highway (Route 30) (290 books), The Great Silk Road of Asia (over 1400 —in English) all have their travelers, photographers and chroniclers. SR 655 may not be ready for full book treatment, but, SR 655 deserves some attention.  Recently I have accomplished what few (if any others) have accomplished:  driven the entire length of SR 655 in one day.  Even my spouse, Julia, born and raised several hundred feet from that thoroughfare had not completed this journey.   Her family has an 1814 deed positioning a corner of the family farm at a “large rock” at the edge of “The Great Road”.  (The farm at the upper side of Allensville is now the Peachey farm.)  Julia is one of the natives of Big Valley that knew that 655 has its northern end at Reedsville at North Main Street or Old 322, but had never seen the southern end.  To stimulate your interest in a more in-depth look at SR 655, here are some question to challenge your knowledge of the “Great Road”.

Which of the following towns is nearest the southern end of 655?

(1)       a. Cumberland, Md.                c. Hancock, Md

            b. Warfordsburg, Pa.               d. Maugansville, Md

And, (2) how far is it from that beginning to Reedsville?

  1. 101
  2. 83.5
  3. 79.8
  4. 62.1

 (3). Before 1964 only the section through Big Valley (Mill Creek to Reedsville) was called 655.  How long is that section?

  1. 33.5
  2. 24.7
  3. 21
  4. 36.2

Maybe you are as surprised as I am about how much of 655 is not in Big Valley.  So, most of the following towns may be unfamiliar to you.   

(4) Which of the following towns are not on 655-the southern section?

  1. Calvin                    b. Needmore
  2. Three Springs       d. Hustontown

SR 655 may be thread that knits the Valley together, the “tie that binds”; it’s a common bond. 

 (5). But which of the following is NOT a name of SR 655?

  1. Kish Road
  2. Pleasant Ridge Road
  3. Waterfall Road
  4. Big Valley Pike
  5. Hares Valley Road

(6) “The Great Road” has also been felt the means of escape from the Valley.   Between Rt 322 and Rt 22 several roads permit “escape” from the Valley.  But which of the following does NOT lead out of Big Valley?

  1. Wills Road
  2. Allensville Road
  3. Greenwood Road
  4. Coopers Gap Road
  5. Barrville Mountain Road

(7) Times have bypassed some settlements in the Valley and little evidence of them remains.  Some roads are named for these settlements.  655 does NOT pass through/by one of the following roads or former settlement.  Which is it?

  1. Sharpsburg
  2. Peacheyville
  3. Waynesburg
  4. Metztown
  5. Airydale

(8) The mountain ridges above 655 in Big Valley are named Jacks and Stone.  Which has the highest elevation above sea level?

  1. Jacks 2321 feet
  2. Jacks 1456 feet
  3. Stone 2640 feet
  4. Stone 2092 feet

 (9)What is the average height above the SR655 (in feet) of these ridges?

  1. 1000
  2. 850
  3. 560
  4. 400
  5. 250

10. Everyone knows that Kishacoquillas drains the lower end of the Big Valley, which stream drains the “tight” end?  

  1. Mill Creek
  2. Saddlers Creek
  3. Fousetown Creek
  4. Flush Run

11. What bodies of water does SR 655 NOT cross?

  1. Kishacoquillas Creek
  2. Juniata River
  3. Coffee Run
  4. Tea Creek

It is noteworthy is that there is only one public restroom on SR655 between the Sheetz on Pennsylvania Ave in Hancock, Md and Mapleton, Pa on Route 22*.  The Post Office/Store combination on the Lincoln Highway has a prominent sign “No Public Restrooms”.  We did not patronize the store.  Some may remember other features of this route like how many passing lanes there are between Reedsville and Mill Creek, how many buggies there are to pass on Wednesdays (Belleville Sale Day), why the Huntingdon County part of the Valley is called the “tight end” or how many churches one can see between the Primitive Baptist near the start of 655 and Mt. View near the end. Productive farms, big and little businesses, picturesque barns and houses populate the way from Hancock to Reedsville.  Describing all these might produce a tedious book.  Best to leave that kind of travelogue to someone else. But, I will attempt a more detailed account of my journey on SR 655 to be published later in another blog.


  1. c. Hancock;  2. B: 83.5  3. B: 24.7;  4. b:  Three Springs;  5. A:  Kish Rd.;  6. D: Coopers Gap; 7. B: Peacheyville;  8.  A: Jacks 2321;  9.  C: 560;  10.  B:  Saddlers;  11. D:  Tea Creek.

(Information comes from Wikipedia, Google Maps and my poor memory as corrected by several natives of the Valley.  Additional corrections appreciated.)



Saving books #5 – Unusual ways

What language?

There was no doubt it was a cookbook.  I could tell by the pictures.  The language, though, was in doubt.  We eliminated Russian, Chinese, Japanese and Korean and were pretty sure it wasn’t Arabic.  Our best guess was that it was a southeast Asian language, either Thai, Laotian, or Vietnamese.  I was making a trip near a Thai restaurant, so I took the book with me to show to someone there.  The server who greeted me summoned a cook.  She looked at the book and said, “Oh, this is Thai country cooking.” I had eaten at an upscale Thai restaurant once (thanks to my employer’s conference funding) and noted the French titles in the menu listings.  So, I assumed she meant that this cook book did not show the French influence.  She asked me “How much do you want for it?”.  (Of course, the reason I was there was that I did not know what it was worth.)  So, I asked, what will you offer?  She said, “Ten dollars.”  I said, “You can have it for that.”  Then explained why I was selling the book:  to support Mennonite Central Committee that provided disaster relief and development assistance to many countries.  This is done in Harrisonburg, VA through Gift & Thrift and Booksavers of Virginia.  Several years later another Thai cookbook was donated to Booksavers.  Yes, the same cook bought that one as well.  A second cookbook that almost got sent to recycling was saved for another use.

Saving non-Biblical information

Someone donated a well-used Bible to Booksavers.  The King James Bible was an older one, probably nineteenth century.  Ordinarily a volume in that condition would be sent to recycling, plus, it did not have a title page.  We should send it to recycling.  But, someone noticed that the clippings, notes and a filled-out Family Information page in the Bible had local information.  So, the manager took the Bible to our silent auction division.  I do not remember the final bid on the Bible, but we saved the volume from recycling because someone wanted the local news and genealogical information in the Bible.

Box better than the game?

How a item looks can be very important, though.  Sometimes looks are more important than the contents.  A number of computer games had been donated to Booksavers.  Neither I nor any of the pricers knew much about the games and Amazon was not much help.  A young man at my church was interested in computer games, so I asked him to review the games.  He found enough information on several of them to post the games on Amazon.  One, “Casper the friendly ghost”, he told me was a terrible game.  However, there were very few copies of the game of this older game still available and our box was in excellent shape, so it was of sufficient value to list on Amazon.  (This was long enough ago that I do not remember the details of sales.)

A beautiful Bible

A beautiful, oversized leather-bound Luther Bible, probably from the eighteenth century sat on the shelf.  It had been there for months maybe longer. The cover was in unusually good shape for the age of the book.  The problem was that the title page was missing.  There are enough Luther Bibles out there that some of them are not worth much.  Knowing the date and publisher and perhaps the edition name could make the difference between a fifteen-dollar volume and a fifty or one-hundred-and-fifty-dollar volume. One day a young man came to the store and wanted an unusual gift for his fiancé.  The manager thought for a while and looked at the top shelf where the Luther Bible sat.  He said he had an old Bible that could be worth ninety dollars.  Would he be interested?  The problem was the Bible did not have a title page.  He said that was not a problem.  How the book looked was the important thing for his fiancé.  Problem book sold!

Call: Conversion or Career Guidance?

For many people, the word “call” refers to a post-conversion experience directing a person to full or part-time service in missions or church work.  Others have used the word to characterize their way of doing their wage or salary earning activity to glorify God and serve human kind.  I am not questioning the validity of the experiences these people have had and identified with the word “call”.   One can, I think, pursue the separate task of analyzing the use of the word “call” in scripture.

There are a number of verses in scripture that use the word “call” to designate a stage in one’s spiritual journey.  Several are often cited to illustrate this understanding the use of “call” to mean a special post-conversion experience.  In this experience one receives the guidance of the spirit to enter church planting, missionary activity or religious institution employment. [Calling to any employment]  In this essay I want to raise some questions about these passages and will give my understanding of them as well. 

Interpretation guide

There are several passages where the word “call” fairly clearly is a synonym for conversion. 

  1. Most of the time Paul (and others) use the word/term “call” (or “called” or “calling”) they are dealing with starting the journey with Jesus.  1Th 4:7; 1Co 1:2; Eph. 4:1, 2 Pet.1:10, 1 Cor. 1:26, 2 Thess. 1:11, 2 Tim 1:9, Heb. 3:1, 2 Peter 1:3.

            1Th 4:7  For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life.

            1Co 1:2 To the church of God in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus and called to be his holy people, together with all those everywhere who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ—their Lord and ours:

            Eph. 4:1 As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received.        

            2 Pet.1:10 Therefore, my brothers and sisters,[a] make every effort to confirm your calling and election.

            1 Cor. 1:26, For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards,[a] not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth.

            2 Thess. 1:11  To this end we always pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling and may fulfill every resolve for good and every work of faith by his power,

             2 Tim 1:9  who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began

            Heb. 3:1 Therefore, holy brothers,[a] you who share in a heavenly calling, consider Jesus, the apostle and high priest of our confession,

            2 Peter 1:3. His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to[a] his own glory and excellence

  • In the lists of qualifications for ministry, “call” is not included. (1Tim. 3:1-16, Titus 1:6-9).  
  • When writing about gifts associated with leadership in Romans, I Corinthians. and Ephesians, Paul writes about the leading of the spirit, but does not use the word “call”.

Two Ambiguous Passages

There are two passages that are often assumed that Paul is writing about his “call” as his leading to become an apostle. The  question to ask is:  How do other passages above using the word “call” help interpret these passages?

Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated unto the gospel of God, (Ro 1:1.)  Paul, called to be an apostle of Jesus Christ through the will of God, …. (1 Co 1:1)

With regard to these passages, does Paul mean?

–As a result of my decision to follow Jesus, I realized I was being led to reach out to the Gentiles


–Sometime after my Damascus road experience, I had an experience that made it clear that I should minister primarily to the Gentiles

The Acts passage

One day as they were worshiping God—they were also fasting as they waited for guidance—the Holy Spirit spoke: “Take Barnabas and Saul and commission them for the work I have called them to do.” (Acts 13:2 Message).  The more familiar translation perhaps: “As they ministered to the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Ghost said, “Separate unto me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them.” KJV.

In interpreting this passage, does one assume that 1) “work” refers to Barnabas’s and Saul’s lives?  (But we know that Saul probably already has his “call”). OR, 2) the “work” has to do with the trip to Cyprus and Asia Minor?  On what basis do we decide?  Do the keys I proposed above provide guidance? Which verses are prime or basic for interpreting others?  In addition, contemporary application requires an additional step.  Is Paul’s leading by the spirit to become an apostle something unique?  Is the guidance I have experience to serve the church the same kind of experience?


My conclusion is that Paul uses the word “call” to refer to beginning the walk with Jesus.  This is due to the weight I give

  1. to the lack of “call” as a qualification for elders,
  2. to the absence of the term “call” in discussion of gifts, and
  3. to the frequency of the use of the word call as a synonym of conversion. 

Speaking of “leading of the spirit” to explain either a choice of a career or a desire to exercise gifts in the church seems a move in the right direction.

*I have talked to many people who have experienced the leading of the spirit to serve God through employment in missions, the pastorate and related positions.  Most of these were post-conversion, intensive experiences (sometimes, occurring over a period of time) that were life changing.  I do not question the sincerity of these experiences or the dedicated service resulting from them.  My focus in this essay is questioning how to appropriately use Biblical language.

Note: A possible origin of the use of the word CALL for full time church workers is the development of a two-tiered spirituality after the establishment of the state church under Constantine.  According to this tradition, Jesus had a special spiritual vocation/calling as Messiah.  Since it was his ‘vocation’ to suffer and die, the events of his life are not a norm or example for us to follow.  Some Christians like Jesus have a ‘spiritual’ rather than a temporal or secular vocation and receive a special “call.”   These are the people who become priests and nuns.  The laity did not need to follow Christ closely in spirituality, direction for Christian service or service in the military.  Priests, for instance, were expected to be pacifists, but not the average Christian.  At the time of the Reformation, some claimed that only the ordained were CALLED and part of the church.   Taking issue with this separation of life into secular and spiritual, Anabaptist sought to recover the sense of following Christ in all of our lives.  They insisted that those called were to follow Christ in ‘churchly’ activities, work and all of our daily lives.

One historian of ancient church history (Holl**) comments that the Greek word for “call” was not used for career choice until after 400 AD.

Does insisting on a “CALL” experience for those employed by religious institutions contribute to a separation or stratification of church members (between “clergy” and “laity”) not envisioned by New Testament writers?

** quoted in The Southern Baptist Journal of Theology  22 no 1 Spr 2018, p 46-65 “Some Kind of Life to Which We Are Called of God:” The Puritan Doctrine of Vocation, Leland Ryken.


Judging a book by its cover

Saving books by learning about book covers

Saving books (and other media) from the recycling bin (or too low a price), requires distinguishing between bonded leather, imitation leather, sheep skin or goat skin; whether what is printed on the cover is author/artist or title. In my volunteer position of searcher/pricer at Booksavers of Virginia ( ) I have seen some of these covers, others I have gleaned from descriptions or titles in ABE Books which has fairly detailed descriptions compared to some other sources.( ).  Bibles and other pre-20th century books are bound in an astounding array of leathers and treatments. *

A calf must be sacrificed for the best Bible: full green limp calf decorated in gilt;  (This is a contemporary green calf.  “Limp” costs more.)


Other variations:

  • rubbed and chipped tree calf; 
  • Full treed calf binding with red leather label on spine;
  •  publisher’s quarter red calf; 
  • Mottled calf binding with banded spine; 
  • quarter plum calf with plum textured cloth boards; 
  • Full acid etched calf;
  • Contemporaneous Brown Calf Half Leather binding with five raised bands gilt titles on red morocco title slip;                        
Red Morocco leather
  •  Coeval full calf; 
  • contemporary full, speckled calf; 
  • Contemporary reversed calf; 
  • English black full diced calf; 
  • Rebound in butterscotch leather and marbled end leaves,
  • Full Leather, contemporary straight grained dark blue morocco binding with gilt lettering to the spine, gilt rules to boards and spine, decorated in blind . . .

Then there is goatskin

  • contemporary green goatskin richly gilt with a herringbone design and incorporating hearts, pineapples, stars, and other floral and leafy ornaments, gilt-decorated spine in 6 compartments, red morocco label
  • Bound in contemporary purple straight-grained goatskin, the covers tooled in blind with a wide border of repeated palmette arabesque and anthemion tools, fillets and a chain roll
  • ” Bound in fine blue polished crushed levant goatskin with six compartments, each with single gilt frame and strawberries at each corner.
  • Bound c.1873 by or for T. Kerslake & Co of Bristol in brown hard-grained goatskin over bevelled boards, the spine with five raised bands tooled with blind fillets converging
Blue Goatskin

See  contemporary Bible in blue goatskin:

This is one of the most expensive leathers:

The Holy Bible containing the Old and New Testaments . . .  [India paper; Water Buffalo Calf-skin leather lined, hand-grained] 

Perhaps one of the most elaborate cover descriptions –and only part of it description!

Contemporary full red goatskin, elaborate borders on covers incorporating a Greek key design enclosing lilies with birds and vases with flowers, and with a central monogram “M*B” on an oval green morocco onlay, surrounded by a black morocco onlay tooled with cherubs, the whole surrounded by a flame tool, smooth spines richly gilt and gilt-lettered direct, . . .  ($14, 500—at this price one needs a full description)

See the site below for examples of many of the special antique bindings

Contemporary Bible style names are inspiring

Holy Bible, King James Version – Clutch Style Snap Dusty Rose Bonded Leather; Holy Bible, NKJV: Royal Reference, Dusty Rose, Bonded Leather, Thumb Indexed.

Other striking/amusing/eye-catching binding terms

Bumpus binding; Gilt inlaid contemporary moss green crushed morocco binding features …French fillet borders … raised bands, spine gilt in comportments with central rose framed with …

Paperback bunko, turtleback, mook, tankobon softcover (some of these I have not been able to find a description of)

Thomas Nelson’s Premier NKJV Bible

The Premier Collection edition of Thomas Nelson’s NKJV Wide-margin Reference Bible showcases the highest levels of design and craftsmanship: a supple goatskin leather cover, raised spine hubs, durable edge-lined binding, premium European Bible paper, beautiful art gilded edges, three satin ribbon markers, and more.


While God’s word is at the “heart” of scripture, publishing of Bibles has a lot to do with the outward appearance.  “Man looks on the outward appearance, but God looks at the heart” …. (1 Samuel 16:7).  Beauty may be only skin deep, but for book sales that skin may make the difference between a ten-dollar sale and a twenty-five dollar sale.  When I started doing searching and pricing of books, I would come across the words in descriptions “reading copy only”.  I would think, “what’s a book for, anyway”.  I soon realized that a book’s cover is often as valuable as the rest of the book and a good cover may save from the recycling bin.


*Booksavers of Virginia has been receiving donations of books for more than 15 years.  Most volumes sold by Booksavers are priced between $8 and $20.  We have occasionally sold leather volumes like those listed here, but most of the descriptions above are of books available elsewhere. 

Violent Revolt or Faithful Living and Teaching Wisdom?

A Maccabean warrior and a Wisdom Prophet disciple: A dialogue

The situation: 

169-164 BCE was the time of the great Seleucid persecution, :  Impure sacrifices, Books of the Law destroyed, Jews killed, enslaved, Jews forced to eat pork.  Mattathias, a priest, kills a royal official, a Hellenistic Jew who was about to make an impure sacrifice.  Then, some of the “Holy Ones”, allies of Mattathias, who had taken refuge in a cave rather than fight on the Sabbath, were massacred by the Seleucids. There may have been a thousand including women and children. (According to the book of the Maccabees)

Aziel is a disciple of the wisdom prophet, (my name for the author and editor of the book of Daniel, –based on Daniel 11:33, 12:1-4).  He is recalling the Babylonian stories and the visions of Daniel to encourage the Hebrews to seek the way of peace and teach wisdom. 

Gidon is a follower of Mattathias and his sons. He is calling the Hebrews to join the revolt against the forces of Antiochus Epiphanes who has been oppressing the people of Judah

Gidon:  “We must follow the example of Mattathias who defied the demands of the Seleucid Greek official to offer a sacrifice to their gods. He showed no fear in killing the Greek-loving Jew who offered to perform the sacrifice.  Don’t you know that thousands of Jews were killed by Syrians and that thousands of men and women were sold into slavery? We must follow Judah, the hammer, in the fight to drive the Syrians out of our land.” (It is estimated that twenty to forty thousand Jews were sold into slavery to raise funds to support Antiochus Epiphanes’ wars. (2 Maccabees 5:11–14)

Aziel:  Thousands of Daniel’s people were killed when Jerusalem was destroyed and many died on the way to Babylon.  Leaders of Israel were killed or taken to Babylon. Many more of our ancestors were killed or died during the fifteen years of the siege of Jerusalem. ” (2 Kings 25:1–72 Chronicles 36:12

Aziel:   Daniel was probably made a eunuch, since most of those close to the king where treated this way.”( accessed 3-22-21)

Gidon:  “They are trying to destroy our faith and way of life. Jews are being forced to eat pork!  Mother’s forced to wear slain circumcised baby boys around their necks” (2 Maccabees 6:10)

Aziel:  Daniel persuaded Babylonians to get him and his friends “kosher” food that would make him wise. The hyper king (and his dream interpreters) by contrast, who ate all the rich food, couldn’t remember the dream (the king) or interpret (the astrologers, etc.) the dream.1

Gidon:   “We must stop the pagan worship that is being conducted in temple and purify the temple.” (I Maccabees 1:47)

Aziel:  The Jerusalem temple was destroyed and Daniel’s people were to Babylon, had no temple available for worship. ” (2 Kings 25)

Gidon:  “We should follow the example of Phineas, our ancestor, who ran a spear through the sinning Zimri and the Moabite woman he was consorting with. Only by killing the pagans and the Hebrews who cooperate with them will our people be pure. (I Maccabees 1:26)  Joshua, David and others have been strong in defending our land. (Numbers 25)

Aziel:  Daniel was faithful to God without violence. Remember that our people triumphed over the Egyptians at the Red Sea without our effort.  God did it all.  His command in Exodus was “Stand still and see the salvation of the Lord.” (Exodus 14:3)  Even though our ancestors believed that the possession of our land came due to the power of their arms, Exodus 23:28 and Deuteronomy 7:20 tells us that the Lord could have used hornets to drive out our enemies.  King Asa called for help from the Lord and the Ethiopian army was put to flight.***  Later King Asa made an alliance with  Under King Jehoshaphat.  The Lord defeated our enemies without the need for human help. (2 Chron. 20)

Gidon:  “Egyptians and Antiochus, the Syrian ruler, have stolen temple vessels.”(I Maccabees 1:21)

Aziel:  Babylonians also stole and used temple vessels in a banquet for their leaders. (Daniel 5)

Gidon:  “We cannot just to do nothing when Antiochus claims to be god in the land of the Lord.”2

Aziel:  But we can laugh at Antiochus as Daniel laughed at the dumb ox ruler of Babylon. (Dan. 5)

Gidon:  “Antiochus has banned traditional worship and begun burning of Torah scrolls.”(1 Maccabees 1:57)

Aziel:  Remember that when the Babylonian “god for a month” banned prayer to any god but him? Daniel defied the ban and openly prayed as before (even though he knew he would be sent to the lions’ den. (Dan. 6)   Daniel’s three friends refused to worship the pagan image, acknowledging death might be the result. The wisdom prophet made fun of Babylonian religion and its elaborate festival and image. But, the straightforward deliverance of the three Hebrews by their God was gives us confidence. (Dan. 3)

Gidon:  “If all of us do as some Jews have done and refuse to fight the Gentiles to defend our lives and our religion, we will soon be wiped off the face of the earth.” (1 Maccabees 2:39)

Aziel:  We can find confidence in the words of the wisdom prophet who recounts Daniel’s visions of kingdoms rising and falling from the time of Nebuchadnezzar to the Roman Empire (depending on your interpretation).  According to the wisdom prophet, God will be the one who brings down the empires. And, remember, Michael, God’s warrior, fights for Israel.  Remember God’s promise to Abraham. (Daniel 10:13-21; Daniel 12:1)

Gidon:  “But you are doing nothing, while your brothers are fighting, laying down their lives to preserve our faith, protecting our families and our land.”

Aziel:  But you have allied yourselves with the pagans, the Romans.3 

Gidon:  “Death of fighters on battlefield will provide atonement for others.”4

Aziel:  We will follow the guidance of the Wisdom Teacher.  We are doing what God commanded.  We have cared for the widows and children of  those who died at the hands of the foreigners. We continue to teach the wisdom, practice covenant ways faithfully, trust God.  Those who teach the wisdom (above) may die, but will “shine as stars”. (Dan. 11:33, 12:1-4)

The Aftermath:  History of Palestine
Maccabees through guerilla warfare, then open warfare defeated Seleucids with the help of threats from Romans.  An independent Jewish state was established under the Hasmonian dynasty (the family name for the Maccabee army leaders).  The temple was purified and Torah-guided worship re-established.  The Hasmonians intermarried with family of Cleopatra to maintain security between Egypt and Judah against Syria. Herod (of New Testament note) marries last Hasmonian princess.  accessed 3-22-21

The wisdom teacher and followers may have retreated to desert (the Qumran settlement?) and establish what became the Essenes, avoiding the political intrigues in which the Pharisees and Sadducees participated.  Jesus was probably influenced by rural or city Essenes and their non-violent approach.5


*** (and Asa’s army slaughtered many of them)

1Valeta, David M. “Court or Jester Tales:  Resistance and Social Reality in Daniel 1-6.”  Perspectives in Religious Studies, 32 no. 3, Fall 2005, p 309-324. All of the references to humor in Daniel come from Valeta.


3,Jewish%20people%20and%20the%20Romans. Accessed 3/20/2021

Portier-Young, Anathea. Apocalypse against empire : theologies of resistance in early Judaism. William B. Eerdmans Pub., 2011. Portier-Young provides a scholarly basis for some of the ideas I developed in an earlier essay part of which was published in The Mennonite Vol. 6, No. 7, April 1, 2003., p.12-14.

4Ripley, Jason. “Atonement and Martyrdom in the Gospel of John”, Horizons in Biblical Theology, 30 Apr 2020, Volume 42:  Issue 1 Pages 58-89 [abstract only]    accessed 3/20/2021.

5Trever, John C. “The Qumran Teacher- another candidate?”  Early Jewish and Christian Exegesis,  edited by Craig A. Evans and William Stinespring, Scholars Press, 1987, pp 101-121.  Note p. 105

General background:

Daniel Smith-Christopher, “Daniel”  New Interpreters Bible Commentary (Reference Shelves, EMU Library). The development of my understanding of Daniel has been aided significantly by this article. [I was unable to get the page numbers due to the closing of the library to those without EMU ID.]

deSilva, Daniel.  Day of Atonement.  Kregel Press, 2015 (novel about the background to beginning of Maccabees’ revolt.  Personal copy)


“At Westminster Abbey”

Poem by Yorifumi Yaguchi [A Mennonite Christian Poet]* Commentary by David Alleman

“I can’t help imagining those enslaved colonials carrying

Burdens with their slender legs stepping heavily

Deep into burning sand, whipped mercilessly and moaning

And you have done it in the name of Christ,

The lord of love and peace.”

“At Westminster Abbey” reminded me of an experience six or eight years ago.  My wife, Julia,  was taking a class with a Christian mission program which was recruiting missionaries and promoting interest in missions.  I scanned/read through the book of readings.  There was theological, psychological, sociological and anthropological material in it.  The latter had information on learn about a new culture and how to adapt to a new culture.

Since the subject of peace was of special interest to me, I looked for articles on how to live at peace with people of other cultures.  Also, I wondered if there were articles about how United States and British militarism (and colonialism) would affect mission work.  There was almost nothing about the effect of these on the community of nations.

Finding nothing on the effect of war on missions, I wrote to a local leader of a mission agency listed in the handbook of readings. His organization was part of a denomination that  taught peace and nonresistance.  I inquired whether the planners and managers of the program would be open to including in these sessions some information about the church as a world-wide community of believers or the effect of colonialism, war, and preparation for war on mission efforts (I do not have a copy of the letter from six to eight years ago—I hope my memory is accurate). His response was that he thought the leaders of the local or international group would not want to add material of this nature to the packet of readings.  They would feel that it challenged their patriotism.  I didn’t feel this individual would take further action with the organization, so did not follow up on this interest.

Then I thought about a conversation many years earlier with a student who worked with me. He told me he was thinking of becoming a missionary.  When discussing war, I asked him, how could I say to someone that I have accepted as a brother or sister in Christ, “I love you, but if my government tells me to bomb you, I will do it?”  He replied. “What about the ones not yet believers?”  So, this poem revived that line of thought, Christians killing Christians.  Christians killing those they wanted to be Christians.

I was reading the poem for a class I was auditing.*   The assignment included looking at the poet’s technique.  Flipping through the book to this poem, I was struck with how different “Westminster Abbey” is from the Yamaguchi’s other poems. The lines are long. I believe the form is rooted in the English setting.  The text-like shape of the lines feels like formal English.  The heaviness of the meaning of the words is carried by the weight of the length of the lines even as the sentence/thoughts gain weight running over from one line to the next.  I felt a tension between the formal text and the pain and suffering.

In the book just mentioned, several pages later is the poem, “Just war”***. The last lines are:

“We bombard you for our country

As you bombard us for your country.

Both in the name of our God. Hallelujah!”**

I was reminded of the discussion with a student I mentioned above. The poem comes out of real experience (by one not too different from some of the people referenced in the Westminster Abbey poem). It reflects, in a brief and pointed way, the conflict war brought between Yaguchi’s patriotism and Christian pacifism.

*”Ways of War and Peace”, Martha Eads, Instructor.  (Eastern Mennonite University through Virginia Retirement Community)

Yorifumi Yaguchi. The poetry of Yorifumi Yaguchi : a Japanese voice in English. Good Books, 2006. Edited  by Wilbur J Birky. **p. 125. ***p.135