Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Echo Petry's passing

Dear sisters and brothers,

Last week we lost an elder of our congregation, the Richmond Church of the Brethren. Echo Petry was a warm-hearted woman of grace, a stalwart of the congregation, who welcomed me over and over again when I was a new seminary student. I can still feel her soft hands surrounding mine, and see her deep eyes, expressing love and concern.

In church this Sunday, our pastor read a news item about Echo, which brought me a whole new perspective to her testimony of grace.

Background: Echo Petry's family was originally from the United States, but was living in Canada when she was born, so she had Canadian citizenship. In 1952, Echo, who had married in the States and was settled in Richmond, Indiana, decided to give up her Canadian citizenship. She attended citizenship classes and was finally granted naturalization after some delay, because she refused to take the regular oath of allegiance. Here's how it was reported in the local paper.

Richmond, Indiana, Palladium-Item, April 19, 1952:
“Judge G.H. Hoelscher administered the oath of allegiance to a class of 13 persons today in the Wayne Circuit Courtroom. Because of her religious convictions in opposition to war, Mrs. Echo Marie Petry, a member of the Church of the Brethren, was permitted by the court. . . [to take] an “alternative” oath... Mrs. Petry, a native of Canada, submitted extensive and detailed documentary evidence of her church membership and of the church’s opposition to war. Judge Hoelscher asked Mrs. Petry, "‘What have you to offer the United States in return for your citizenship?"’ Mrs. Petry asserted that she was willing in any emergency. . . to serve in hospitals or in rehabilitation work. . . under civilian direction rather than military supervision.”
Here is a link to Echo's obituary.
May we give thanks for the cloud of witness that surrounds us,
and for lives well- and richly-lived.



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