Nettie Bothwell: Gentle Woman Loving Justice
I thank my God always, making mention of you in my prayers, because I hear of your love and of the faith which you have toward the Lord Jesus and toward all the saints; and I pray that the fellowship of your faith may become effective through the knowledge of every good thing which is in you for Christ’s sake. For I have come to have much joy and comfort in your love, because the hearts of the saints have been refreshed through you. . . .(Philemon 1: 4-7)
These verses, from a seldom quoted New Testament book, are Nettie Bothwell’s favorite Bible passage. Like these words, Nettie, too, is a rare find among the members of Peace Church—and the hearts of us all are refreshed through her love.
Nettie’s most revered ancestor is her Great Aunt Lou who loved her unconditionally. When Lou was dying, Nettie was at her bedside and turned to her Bible, which fell open at these verses. They became her favorite passage. Nettie was blessed to be with her great aunt when she died, and she felt Lou’s mantle, her ethic and spirit, pass on into her.
Nettie, whose given Indian name is Gentle Woman, believes in a God of her understanding, in seeing God in other people, and in being thankful. She claims Mother Earth is everybody’s mother.
Her favorite political quote is: “A woman without a man is like a fish without a bicycle.” Nettie is one of our most unique feminists, as was her long-admired friend, Mary Martin. “Mary had a special way of offering approval and encouragement. Mary gently nudged me to try new things.” Several years back, when Nettie was confined to a wheelchair due to Multiple Sclerosis, Mary told her to go to a golf clinic and swing your club from the chair!
Peace Church’s ability to accommodate differently abled folks earns high praise from Nettie. Whether doing the Ropes Course at Wolf Ridge, helping with a Habitat for Humanity home, or attending work camp in South Dakota she has always felt welcome to participate and contribute.
The social issue that is dearly important to Nettie is equal rights for same sex couples. When she first attended Peace Church in 1997, Nettie heard Pastor Kathy say lesbian from the pulpit. This is one of her favorite stories of inclusion and welcome at Peace. From that day forward, her faith has grown. Nettie helps make Peace a place where prejudice isn’t welcome, but every person is.
Both Nettie and her partner, Naomi Christensen, are known for their activism and hospitality at Peace. Among so many other acts of love and generosity, Nettie is our go-to leader for post funeral meals.
She also shares the spirituality of being free from drug and alcohol use. She says openly: “Steve, 32 years sober, most of the Peace folks know that.” Her recovery work has taught her to reach out.
“By asking for what we need from each other we begin to form family.” And that belief has helped her direct the Spring Peace Rummage Sale for many years (occurring this month on Saturday, May 16th). Her faithful cohorts Cindy Macaulay and Martha Minchak make the 3-day process look fun.
Among garage salers, Peace’s annual sale is a favorite, and is a place where shopping for a good garment or home appliance also helps those in need. Nettie shows her pride in this fund-raising success momentarily during our otherwise humble interview. Nettie praises Pastor Kathy for listening to the Peace workers’ suggestions about where the rummage sale proceeds should go each year.
As we wrap up our interview, Nettie says: “Steve, I am a miracle.” And I know she generously believes that I am a miracle, too.
Thank you—for every good thing that is in you. Megwich, Nettie Bothwell.
Interviewed (with the bias of a 10-year friendship) by Steve Coll.
Thank you to Pamela Mittlefehldt for editing Voices for Justice each month!