Jeff Green | Dec 27, 2007
Feature Article - December 20, 2007
Back toHomeFeature Article - December 20, 2007 Local couple to join Christian Peacemakers by Jeff Green The anti-uranium protest at the Robertsville mine has had a range of impacts on the community in the surrounding region, forging an alliance between environmentalists and Algonquin communities at the same time as it caused a rift between people on both sides of the debate in North Frontenac and Lanark Highlands.
For retired United Church ministers John and Caroline Hudson of Snow Road Station, the uranium protest has resulted in the re-awakening of their Christian calling, and this month they are going to Chicago for an introductory course with the International Christian Peacemaker Teams.
The Hudsons have lived on an island on Palmerston Lake since the early 90s, on a lot that is part of the Palmerston Highlands subdivision. Caroline Hudson describes the island as their “haven” and the perceived threat from a potential uranium mine just upstream from them is a threat to that haven.
The Hudsons came to Palmerston Lake at one of many crossroads in their lives, partly in response to an illness.
They were married when John was 24 and Caroline was 19. For the next 15 years, John worked in the municipal world in Lanark County as an assistant to the county engineer and in the roads departments of several municipalities, while Caroline was a contract worker for several hospitals specializing in medical records. They were raising four children.
Then came a major shift in their lives, when they both “felt a calling” - as Caroline described it in an interview last week from the renovated construction trailer that is parked at the side of Road 509 just outside the gate of the Robertsville mine.
“We both quit our jobs, and spent the next seven years in school at Carleton and Queen's,” Caroline recalled.
The were both ordained and were sent to Northern Alberta, but it wasn't long before they returned to Eastern Ontario, after John was recruited to do chaplaincy work in the Kingston prisons. He worked at Millhaven and Kingston penitentiaries throughout the 1980s while Caroline took on a parish in the Cataraqui and Westbrook regions of Kingston.
In 1990, they were preparing to go to Brazil on a six-year exchange program with the Methodist Church of Brazil when John became ill with what Caroline describes as a “severe breakdown”, which she now surmises came as the combined result of the stress he had been under working in the prison system and a family history of depression.
John went on a disability and Caroline had to scramble to find a posting, as she had resigned from her Kingston parish. She worked at Queen Street United Church in Lindsay for six months before taking on a job as the Minister of Mission and Stewardship in the sprawling 300-parish Bay of Quinte Conference of the United Church.
Meanwhile the couple moved to Palmerston Lake, where John recovered from his depression by working with the builders who put up their house on the water.
He eventually returned to the ministry, serving as a parish priest in the Balderson-Lanark parishes until another illness, this time an enlarged heart, forced him to retire in the year 2000. Caroline retired as well, since doctors thought that John's condition was fatal.
“They were quite astounded when he recovered,” she said, “and they now believe his condition was caused by a virus.”
The couple has been living quietly on Palmerston Lake for the past 5 or 6 years - until, this past summer, when things changed again. “I had no idea this past April that anything was going to happen, but a lot has happened and what we are doing now is something that definitely springs from our faith,” Caroline said.
Since they have a long association with Kingston, John and Caroline travel down Road 509 to Kingston on a regular basis, and this past July they could not help but see the protest camp that went up at the Robertsville mine. They became involved in the protest in early July, seeing the uranium exploration as a potential threat to their household and, more poignantly, as a social justice issue.
Caroline and John could see that tension was rising at the site as the summer wore on, so Caroline contacted Nan Hudson (no relation) at the United Church to find out if she had any contacts with the Christian Peacemakers Team.
Nan Hudson contacted Jim Loney, the Canadian co-ordinator of the peacemakers, and an assessment team came to the site.
“The Peacemakers sent a team of four to see whether the situation was such that they might be helpful, and one of the criteria for them is, there can be no violence committed. Their whole position is anti-violence, preventing violence. They wanted to be sure that the Algonquins were not going to carry out violent actions, which was the Algonquin stance all along, and was repeated many times,” said Caroline Hudson.
A rotating four-member team, made up mostly of volunteer reservists, spent a couple of months at the Robertsville site, and during that time John and Caroline Hudson acted as the unofficial hosts for the Peacemakers, inviting them to their house for a shower and a meal on their off days, and spending time talking with them about the program and what it is devoted to around the world.
“Their role was to try and lessen tension,” said Caroline Hudson, “and that happened a couple of times in incidents with some of the local people. If violence were to ensue, the Christian Peacemakers would take note of any violation of human rights, as a witness. They try to prevent any escalation, and they have a role as witness. Sometimes that's been a very important role. I was so impressed by their commitment to non-violence.”
At some point the conversations between the Hudsons and the Christian Peacemakers turned to the Hudsons themselves.
“Some of them began saying that we were just the kind of people they would like to have involved. They also talked about how important it was in their lives, in their understanding of their own Christian faith, to be involved in this kind of work. It was something that kind of moved us into saying that this just might be what we are called to do. You wonder in retirement what you have to offer the ministry, and this might turn out to be something for us.”
The Hudsons were each interviewed for 90 minutes to see if they are suitable candidates, and they are going to be traveling to Chicago in late December, where they will spend a month sleeping on the floor of a church and undergoing intensive training to simulate field experiences, undergo role playing and study different non-violence techniques.
At the end of the month, they will undergo another interview, and if they are approved, they will become Christian Peacemaker reservists. They will be required to be available for at least one two-week mission each year, although many reservists serve more often. Assignments range widely, with the most intensive being in Hebron, Afghanistan, and other global war zones.
“I still really have no idea where this is leading for us,” said Caroline Hudson, “except that I know it springs from our faith.”
And what do their children think about this latest adventure?
“I think they are saying 'There they go again'”.