May 022012

Saturday, April 28th, 2012

By Michael True

“If there are Seven Wonders of the World, the eighth is the Peace Abbey,” according to one of its benefactors.

Since Worcester admirers agree, a recent announcement that the Peace Abbey, based in Sherborn, may be closing was a sad moment hereabouts.

Founded and directed by Lewis Randa, with Meg Randa and Dot Walsh, the Abbey has flourished since Mother Teresa visited there in 1988. In time, it has become a significant memorial for peacemakers throughout history, a resource for education and action by activists resisting war and injustice, and a major conference center for peace studies faculty and students at neighboring schools, colleges and universities.

Dedicated to creating innovative models that empower individuals on the path of nonviolence and peacemaking, it has enriched the community far beyond its borders, with a steady stream of visitors from throughout the U.S. and foreign countries.

A public event, “Occupy for Change,” sponsored by the New England Peace Studies Association, was held Saturday. Although in a rather financially precarious position, the Abbey conference center and guesthouse will remain open for weddings, retreats, meditation, and other activities.


Inspired by his participation in the Day of Prayer for World Peace during the UN International Year of Peace in 1986, at the Basilica of St. Francis, in Assisi, Lewis Randa brought back Prayers for Peace to the Life Experience School for special needs students, which he founded as a conscientious objector during the Vietnam War.

After Mother Teresa visited the school and students in 1988, the Abbey compound, in the town’s historical district, was expanded to include a guesthouse and multi-faith chapel, with artifacts of the world’s religions,

Central to the peace movement in New England, its programs have involved local citizens, volunteers and interns from Wellesley College, Andover Newton Theological School, Clark and Brandeis universities, among others. Abbey staff have taught peace studies courses at Stonehill College and in area schools, focusing on successful nonviolent movements around the world. Musical and theatrical events, and protests have also involved a community of talented and committed persons of all ages.

The nine-foot statue of Mohandas Gandhi is a focus point of the Pacifist Memorial surrounded by plaques with quotations from ninety peacemakers, from the Buddha to Dorothy Day. Well-known visitors over the past three decades include, Howard Zinn, Elise Boulding, Maya Angelou, and Father Daniel Berrigan. The 150 peacemakers honored by the Abbey with its Courage of Conscience Award include the late Stanley Kunitz, the Dalai Lama, Nelson Mandela, and Congressman Dennis Kucinich.


Since it was initiated, Worcester residents have benefited from and contributed to the life and outreach of the Abbey in numerous ways. The New England Peace Studies Association, founded by Glen Gersmehl at Clark University in the 1980s, has its home base there, for regular meetings and annual conferences.

Students and faculty in the peace studies programs at Clark, Assumption, and Holy Cross gather there each semester, some helping with the Registry for Conscientious objectors, housed at the Abbey. A Clark student, Emily Luhrs, has prepared a Resource Packet on the significance and content of the Registry, available on the internet.

One of the memorial plaques honors peacemaker Annabel Wolfson, co-founder of the Inter-faith Center for Draft Information, Worcester. Joseph de- Rivera, emeritus professor, at Clark, is one of several Worcester benefactors who have helped to sustain the Abbey over the years.



The Abbey’s staff and compatriots have engaged in a variety of events involving peacemakers over the years. They include major events in Boston involving well-known activists and STONEWALK, a series of pilgrimages across hundreds of miles in Asia an Western Europe, as well as United States.

Initially, the Abbey consecrated a Memorial for Unknown Civilians Killed in War in Sherborn on May 14, 1994. Calling attention to the 2,174 victims of war daily, none out of ten civilians and half of them children, the stone was placed on private grounds adjoining the town’s Veteran’s Memorial.

Then from 2000 to 2005, members and friends of the Abbey pulled a similar memorial stone on a caisson from Dublin to Belfast, in Ireland; from Liverpool to Coventry in England, and from Boston to New York City, and from Sherborn to Cambridge, and another to Arlington Cemetery, Washington D.C. Each journey highlighted the human cost of war, particularly victims and conscientious objectors, with a message of healing and remembrance.

During Stonewalk USA 2004, Bruce Nichols, described his experience, as he and others “propelled the stone on its journey toward a peaceful tomorrow.” It represented, he added, the many hearts silenced by the untimely intervention of conflict and war“–Hearts full of hope and aspiration. Millions of hearts and their stories, now mostly unknown and lost when they were prematurely stilled.”

In 2005, the Japan pilgrimage included members of Families for Peaceful Tomorrow, relatives of residents killed in the September 2001 terrorist attacks. After flying to Tokyo, they walked 280 miles to mark the 60th anniversary of the U.S. bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Warmly welcomed by Japanese officials and the Hibakusha, survivors of the horrors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945, who shared their goal of eliminating nuclear weapons and their message, “War is not the answer.”

In 2007, the Japanese built their own caisson and cut a stone with the same message to bring to Korea to apologize for the occupation and the war. Peace Abbey members joined this journey.


The Abbey’s commitment to animal rights was responsible for one of its most widely publicized activities. Having rescued a cowfrom the slaugherhouse the staff gave sanctuary to the animal until her death as a result of cancer.

Over the next two years, hundreds of visitors visited Emily the Cow and her barnyard buddies at the Abbey. She reserved a special greeting for the many children who came to have their picture taken. Howard Lyman, “the Mad Cowboy” and former Nationafarmers Union staff member paid homage to Emily while barnstorming across Massachusetts to educate people about Mad Cow Disease and the benefits of sustainable farming, with an appearance also at Tufts College of Veterinarian Science in North Grafton and on WCCA-TV 13, Worcester.

As he unveiled the Sacred Cow Animal Rights Memorial, Lewis Randa acknowledged the Life Experience School and the Peace Abbey’ÿs long dedication to animal rights. Today, a statue of Emiliy the Cow, by an internationally known Georgian sculptor, Lado Gudjabidze, stands near the bronze plaques honoring the world’ÿs pecemakers.

Life Experience School students leave statue at Dewey Park

Life Experience School students leave statue at Dewey Park


In the most recent initiative, in support of activists addressing injustice, the Abbey took the Gandhi to join hundreds of protestors at the Occupy Boston camp in Dewey Square, Boston. For nine weeks, it served as a focal point for the demonstration.

Fulfilling Lewis Randa’s faith in the crowd, the unsupervised statue remained safe,“except for the temporary displacement of Gandhi’s eye glasses and a broken thumb, according to Wicked Local Dover-Sherborn newspaper. In addition, “Gandhi’s likeness was used to block the entrance to the nearby Goldman Sachs offices, which Randa regarded as a more appropriate place for the protest.”


Recent plans suggest that University of Massachusetts, Boston, will be the beneficiary of artifacts, personal papers, conscientious objector files, and books, to be archived with its social justice collection. A peacemakers table, which serves as a focal point for an introductory ceremony for visitors to the Abbey, will be housed on the fifth floor of the library.

The statue of Gandhi, a bronze statue of Emily the cow, and Conscientious Objectors Hill of Remembrance will be retained at the present site.

Whatever its future manifestation, the Peace Abbey will undoubtedly continue its imaginative witness and faithful commitment to building a peace culture and cultivating a just social order.

“And so dear friends, you just have to carry on, the dream is over.”

John Lennon  1940 – 1980

 Posted by at 10:22 pm
May 022012

By Theresa Knapp
Wicked Local Dover-Sherborn

Sherborn —Folks filled the Peace Abbey Coffeehouse on Saturday night to enjoy what could have been the last concert in that venue.

“It may be the last time we assemble here to experience music in this space,” said Peace Abbey founder Lewis Randa at the start of the program that featured Philip and Pam Boulding of the Celtic ensemble, “Magical Strings.”

Randa called the concert “fitting” since Philip’s mother, Elise Boulding (a world-renowned sociologist and peace activist who died in 2010 at age 89), was a long-time friend of the Abbey.

Many of the Peace Abbey collections, including a “peacemaker’s table” dedicated to Elise Boulding, will soon be transferred to the University of Massachusetts at Boston where all items – including the National Registry for Conscientious Objection where people can register their objection to personal, national and international violence – will be catalogued and available for students and the public to peruse.

“Even though it looks like it might be a sad time, it’s really a wonderful time because we’re going to be able to have a lot of things archived and there will be a lot of new people” exposed to the works of the Peace Abbey, said Dot Walsh, the Abbey’s program coordinator.

Peace Abbey officials are in the process of finding someone to occupy the building.

“The Peace Abbey is really our favorite place to play music,” said Pam Boulding, who has traveled with her husband around the world offering concerts, workshops and composing original music. “Our first time coming to the Peace Abbey, we were really changed and a little bit of the Peace Abbey always comes out in our music.”

“Magical Strings” enchanted Saturday’s audience with their Celtic music, songs and storytelling.

The Bouldings played many instruments, including the dulcimer (one hand-made by Philip), pennywhistle, harp, accordion, and others, to create many Irish jigs, slip jigs, reels, as well as several original works including a song Philip finished at his mother’s bedside during the last week of her life.

“Many of you knew her well,” said Philip of his mother who lived in Needham. “I would like to play, in memory of her and her deep love for the Peace Abbey, ‘A Lullaby for Elisa.’”

To mark the Abbey’s upcoming transition into UMass Boston, Philip also created a musical piece and poem that Walsh described as “hopeful.”

Walsh said the Peace Abbey remains open and invited people to stop in and learn more about the work of the Abbey where “good things are happening.”

 Posted by at 10:07 pm
Apr 162012

John Newhall signs the Registry for Conscientious Objection

A small but intentional group of students and teachers from St. John’s Prep in Danvers, MA traveled to the Peace Abbey, an interfaith center in Sherborn, recently to take part in a three-day SPIRIT workshop.

The workshop focused on peacemaking and non-violence. During their stay, students devoted themselves to learning about the peace traditions of the twelve major world religions, and to working on a service project for the Abbey. The group also cooked their own meals, being careful to keep in concert with the Abbey’s commitment to vegetarianism.

The Prep group included Adeeb Shaji ’14, John Newhall ’15, Bailey Trahant ’13, and Kyle White ’14, as well as faculty members Heather Angell, James Barry, and Charlie Newhall.

St. John’s Prep has had a connection with the Peace Abbey for some years. When the Abbey faced serious financial problems in 2008, students at the Prep organized a dress down day to support their efforts. In appreciation, Dot Walsh, program coordinator and chaplain at the Abbey, arranged for a statue of Gandhi statue to be displayed on campus for several months.

 Posted by at 5:28 pm
Apr 162012

Dover-Sherborn students pause in front of the Emily Memorial

The following was provided by Kim Phelan.

19 eighth grade students from the Dover-Sherborn Middle School Veterans’ Citizen Action Group (CAG) visited the Peace Abbey in Sherborn last month to learn about the Abbey’s mission and goals and to perform community service.

Students chose groups at the beginning of the year based on their interests ranging from homelessness, hunger, children and animals. The students in the Veterans’ CAG mostly chose the group because they have had family members who have served in the military and they wanted to help and support veterans’ service.

The Veterans’ CAG came up with the idea of visiting the Peace Abbey as students recognized that most veterans really want to support efforts to make peace.

During their tour of the Abbey the students were shown bracelets representing all service members who have died at war in Iraq (each has the name, age and other information about each service member) and also a list of names with the same information for those who have died at war in Afghanistan.

They also participated in Native American drumming and movement activities led by a volunteer from the Abbey.

The students then helped the Abbey with some spring cleaning and raking to help beautify the grounds.

 Posted by at 5:17 pm
Mar 182012

By Sara Feijo

Dover-Sherborn Press

Sherborn —A group of activists gathered together in the basement of the Peace Abbey events conference center to protest against capital punishment.

Organized by Calling All Crows, a nonprofit that promotes sustainable change and empowers women all over the world, the meeting was part of a series of events happening throughout the country to celebrate death penalty awareness week, running from Feb. 27 to March 11.

“We are not experts on the death penalty,” said Matt Wilhem, chief program officer. “But what we are, are really, really passionate people who have been moved by stories of people who are on death row that we have serious questions about, their guilt or innocence, and it’s because of that uncertainty that it’s really important to gather together to educate each other.”

About 40 crow members, traveling from as far as New York, attended the March 7 teach-in session, where organizers discussed facts and myths about death penalty by playing a true-or-false game and engaging the audience in a stimulating conversation.

In partnership with Amnesty International, a nonprofit organization that helps protect human rights worldwide, Calling All Crows’ co-founders, Sybil Gallagher and Chad Urmston, also known as Chadwick Stokes, discussed cases of people who have been sentenced to death row even though there were persistent doubts in their cases.

They urged audience members to get involved in the cause and write letters to Gov. Jay Nixon of Missouri pleading clemency for Reggie Clemons, who was sentenced to death in St. LouisMo., as an accomplice in the 1991 murder of two white women, Julie and Robin Kerry, even though he has consistently maintained his innocence.

In between teaching sessions, Urmston, singer-guitarist and songwriter for indie-rock band State Radio, played some of his songs — two of which were about his friend Troy Davis, who was executed in Georgia on Sept. 21, 2011, despite what supporters of Davis said was a lack of evidence and heavy doubts about his guilt.

“[Troy Davis] was really courageous,” said Urmston.

“He just would’ve been a good guy with a big heart and really, really amicable and quick to laugh,” Urmston said of his friend who died at 42, spending half of his life on death row.

“All My Possessions,” one of the songs played by Urmston, is about Davis’ last thoughts prior to his execution. However, the night the singer first debuted the song was also Davis’ last night alive.

“[Troy Davis] was a tangible way for us to sort of ignite the fan base around the death penalty, because it was a specific case [in which] the problems were so clear,” said Gallagher, the group’s chairwoman. “It was a good way to ravel people around the abolishment of the death penalty.”

In the midst of soaking in information, listening to music and winning prizes, audience members wrote clemency letters to Nixon and supporting letters to Clemons.

“I’m here because I wanted to learn more about, not only the death penalty in general, how it works and how you can try to stop it, but Reggie Clemons’ case,” said Michaela Ward, 17, an attendee who wrote a letter to Nixon.

But, as the group of young activists gathered together in the conference room to change the world, the Peace Abbey, which was created in 1988, is on the verge of saying goodbye to Sherborn.

Both buildings are currently on the market, going for less than $1 million with no takers at the moment, said Dot Walsh, program coordinator and Peace chaplain.

“We’re still hopeful we can pull out of this,” Walsh said. “My prayer is that whenever we have the buildings sold, we’ll be able to continue in someway.”

Despite its financial turmoil, the Peace Abbey still caries on with its programs and hosts events.

“We ask people to come visit and help us in any way,” Walsh said.

The Crow crew has also been doing a lot of petitioning and protesting on tour with State Radio, Chadwick Stokes and The Pintos, an indie rock band.

Calling All Crows is also currently working on marriage equality, women’s issues and the empowerment of women around the world, said Gallagher.

“I’m always so amazed at the resilience of prisoners who are innocent in jail,” said Urmston. “No matter what there’s always going to be a fraction of the prison population who are innocent and to think that idea of someone being [innocent] behind bars, let alone being killed, is totally tragic.”

 Posted by at 9:17 pm
Mar 172012


Larry Colburn, Recipent of the Peace Abbey Courage of Conscience Award and Co-Chair of the Larry Co

Larry Colburn is the recipent of The Peace Abbey Courage of Conscience Award and Co-Chair of the STONEWALK, the 1999 pilgrimage of the memorial stone for Unknown Civilians Killed in War to Arlington National Cemetery.  Stonewalk was sponsored by The Life Experience School and The Peace Abbey.

So, an American soldier has apparently lost whatever sanity, or at least humanity, he once possessed, and murdered numerous civilians in Afghanistan. His name has not been released to the public — yet. He is alleged to have shot to death at close range at least 16 people, including children sleeping in their beds, and may have burned some of the bodies as well — a nightmarish act of wanton brutality.

How could this happen? It’s something I’ve given a lot of thought to since March 16, 1968 – 44 years ago this week – the date of the My Lai massacre. Since 2006, I have been the lone survivor of the three men on the helicopter, commanded by Warrant Officer Hugh Thompson, Jr. — who later in life became my good friend — that intervened to help stop that massacre.

Today, President Obama stated that this latest atrocity by an American soldier is ” not comparable” to what happened in My Lai.

He is correct. It is not comparable.

But there is a good reason to bring up My Lai right now, regardless of the differences. And the differences are great: in body count, in the number of perpetrators, and in the coordinated execution of mass murder by senior commanders. All of those things set My Lai apart from what is being called the “Panjwai Shooting Spree”.

Whatever names we give to these atrocities, they are stark reminders to a weary public of what war does to people — both the victims and the perpetrators.

War destroys people, not just physically, but mental. Whatever facts may emerge about the man who killed those civilians last Sunday, I am confident that it was his experience of war that transformed him into something he never, ever wanted to become. (This was reportedly his fourth tour of duty – after three in Iraq.)

This in no way excuses his acts, for which he will undoubtedly be prosecuted. And no matter what the outcome of that prosecution — whether his punishment is deemed too merciful or too severe by the many who will presume to opine on that subject — he will never rest easy for the rest of his life. His acts will haunt him to his dying day, just as they will haunt the families of his victims, who of course deserve compassion, and whatever measure of “justice” can be served by his prosecution.

Americans can debate the pros and cons of our mission in Afghanistan, begun more than a decade ago in hot pursuit of the terrorist – and the regime protecting him — who inflicted the worst attack on US soil since Pearl Harbor. And while my heart goes out to those who will surely be victims of the Taliban when America withdraws, I have my doubts about whether keeping our soldiers in Afghanistan even one more day is actually helping any of those we claim to be trying to help, as this tragic mass murder brings into high relief. Having served in combat in a war that was aptly described by the phrase, “we had to destroy the village in order to save it,” the parallels are growing ever more clear.

But while the generals and the pundits and the politicians weigh in, about “strategic objectives” and “protecting American interests” and all the usual justifications for the organized, planned murder of fellow human beings, I plead with you as my fellow Americans never to forget what war really is. Every military organization on earth trains young people, in the bloom of youth when they should be filled with hope and idealism and the joy of living, to dehumanize other human beings — to demonize them — so that the psychological ground is cultivated for them to do things they would only otherwise do if they were under mortal attack — that is to say to kill people.

And as long as we can rationalize that the people being killed “deserve it” — because they are “the enemy”– we have opened Pandora’s box, which as we know is damned hard to close once the lid is lifted.
While the “shooting spree of Panjwai” may not equal the horrors of My Lai in scale, it is a slap-in-the-face reminder of the hellish, irrevocable destruction that war wreaks upon both soldiers and civilians. It should force Americans to ask their leaders: what exactly we are trying to accomplish by continuing the longest war in American history?

 Posted by at 8:21 am
Jan 172012

Dear Friends of Gabe,

Sad news.  Sunday afternoon while doing chores, I noticed that Gabe was so stiff he couldn’t get up from where he was lying in the pasture.  Meg and I covered him with Emily’s blanket and gave him water and hay and called Cindy, his vet, who drove down from Bolton, MA to see him.  She examined Gabe and felt that due to advanced arthritis in his knees, aggravated by his enormous size, weight and age, his legs could no longer carry him.  He was unable to stand.  His 16 years of being a friend and ambassador to those who visited the Abbey was coming to an end … so she assisted him in his transition

Tears flowed as Meg and I held him and thanked him for being such a wonderful friend to us all.  Best that his physical condition worsened with us rather than at Maple Farm where the same outcome would have resulted.  How wonderful that a veal calf that would have been killed for food in 16 weeks would live happily for 16 years at the Peace Abbey and would befriend Emily, a pony named Lilly, 11 pigs and a flock of pigeons who shared his barn, the students and staff at the Life Experience School … and come to touch the lives of countless visitors, some who swore off eating meat because of him.  Gabe was buried on Monday, Martin Luther King Jr. Day, on the property.

A special thanks to those who loved Gabe and showed it by rolling up their sleeves since 1996 to help repair the fence, muck the stalls, put down fresh bedding, shovel the mud, toss down the hay, empty and clean the water trough, made contributions toward his care and much, much more.  There was so much work to be done … day in and day out … and Gabe and the rest of the animals appreciated our love.  He will always live in our hearts.  Guess he didn’t want to leave the Peace Abbey, either.

In Gabe’s memory, educate people to boycott veal and dairy.  Through your efforts, he lives on!    Thanks.

Lewis and Meg

 Posted by at 12:22 pm
Dec 292011
By Theresa Knapp

Sherborn —The Order of the Bards, Ovates and Druids celebrated Winter Solstice at the Peace Abbey on Wednesday, Dec. 21.

The Druids celebrate eight ceremonies a year. The Winter Solstice welcomes the sun back and is a “new beginning,” said member Sarah Fuhro of Natick.

“For the last three years we’ve been at the Peace Abbey, and part of that is because we usually are doing them [ceremonies] on public land, but the Peace Abbey is nice because it’s private land and we can have a large fire,” said Fuhro, noting the Boston “grove” has been in existence for about 20 years.

Cat Hughes of Berlin has been involved with the Order since 2005. She attended this year’s Winter Solstice with her toddler son.

“This is one of my favorite ceremonies; I really like the bonfire,” said Hughes, noting that she attends a ceremony every six weeks. “It’s a nice contrast between the really cold weather [and the hot fire] and it’s neat to see the light shining in the dark of winter which is the major symbolism of the ceremony — the return of the sun.”

According to, the Winter Solstice (called in the Druid Tradition Alban Arthan [the Light of Arthur]) is the time of death and rebirth.

The site says “Druidry is for some a spiritual path, for others a religion, and for others a cultural activity. As a spiritual way or philosophy, Modern Druidism began to develop about 300 years ago during a period known as the ‘Druid Revival.’ ”

James Dempsey is a Shamanic energy healer with the Order, and has been involved since 2003 when he first met Fuhro whose “grove”’ does a lot of rituals at the Boston Arboretum which Dempsey frequents.

“We’ve been coming to the Peace Abbey for this particular ceremony for three or four years,” said Dempsey, whose wife, Liz Tobin, is also an energy healer. “It’s nice because the mission of the Peace Abbey goes with our mission; the goals of Druid practices are similar to the practices of the Peace Abbey such as embracing Mother Earth.”

This may be the last year the Druids will celebrate at the Peace Abbey, however, as the buildings are up for sale.

“Hopefully we can sustain ourselves,” said Dot Walsh of the Peace Abbey.

According to, the Peace Abbey is dedicated to creating innovative models for society that empower individuals on the paths of nonviolence, peacemaking and cruelty-free living. They offer a variety of programs and resources that teach, inspire and encourage one to speak out and act on issues of peace and social justice.

Photo gallery – Celebrating the winter solstice at the Peace Abbey in Sherborn


 Posted by at 11:14 pm
Dec 142011

Click here to view a catalog of the 3,203 books and videos in the Peace Abbey Library on

The catalog includes the 564 books in the Gandhi collection.

You can sort the collection by topic or author by clicking the Tags or Authors tab at the top of the page. You can also use the Search window to look for a topic of interest.

Thanks to our great volunteers who input all the books. Please let us know what you think of this tool and how you are using it.


 Posted by at 9:11 pm