Ted Webster (1933-2013) Marlboro, VT, beloved member, came to Putney Friends Meeting in the mid-1990s, bringing a long legacy of peace, social and ecological activism, and a deep spiritual practice with him. He was a former member of both Monadnock Meeting (Peterborough, New Hampshire) and Friends Meeting at Cambridge (Massachusetts).
Ted was born in Abington, PA, son of Harold Shoemaker Webster and Grace Edel Gourley. He grew up in Jenkintown, PA and attended Gettysburg College graduating Phi Beta Kappa in 1955 with a degree in political science. After College he served two years in the U.S. Army, posted in Germany. After completing his service, he moved to Lincoln, MA where he had a career in the computer programming, market research and publishing industry.
He married Susan Foote Griggs in 1961 and raised 3 boys, Mark, John and Chris. Susan was instrumental in guiding Ted back to his paternal Quaker roots, and they became peace activists protesting the Vietnam war. They started the Roxbury War Tax Scholarship Fund for war tax resistors to redirect their taxes from the war effort to support the local black community.
Susan Webster died in 1978. Ted was later married to Margaret Connell from 1985 to 1992.
In 1989 Ted created the non-profit Jubilee Center to “address the ever-more urgent need to heal the human soul and our bleeding world through exploring paths to deeper and more universally engaging modes of holistic worship.” During that time he organized over 30 different experiential worship workshops, ranging in themes from Taize, Tumata, Celebration of the Earth, Shaker Song and Dance and Dances of Universal Peace and edited a monthly newsletter Joy.
At one of these workshops Ted met Edie Mas in 1993 and they began a 20 year committed relationship. They lived first in Concord, MA where they continued the Jubilee tradition holding workshops and monthly sacred circle dances in partnership with Sybille Volz of Skyloom Sacred Dance before moving to Vermont.
Ted was an active and vibrant participant in the life of Putney Friends Meeting. He served on numerous committees including; Buildings and Grounds, Finance and Peace and Social Concerns, and he took part in forming a Healing Circle focused on healing through prayer. He was an active advocate for the Peace Testimony, protesting the Iraq and Afghanistan wars and providing information, options and answering questions for conscientious objectors to the wars at local area high schools and the Brattleboro Food Co-op.
Ted embraced the Putney Friends community with his warm smile and presence at Meetings for Business, work days, potlucks and retreats. His witness and clarity of testimony will be missed in Meeting for Worship.
Ted’s spirituality was too large to be contained by Putney Friends Meeting. He was a member of the Mevlevi Sufi order, Threshold, which led him to whirl in Sufi prayer ceremonies. He was a steady participant in Parker Huber’s Sacred Circle Dance and the Moment for Peace in Brattleboro,VT. He also joined Dances of Universal Peace with Halima and Abraham Sussman at Friends Meeting and retreats in Royalston, Massachussetts. Ted represented Putney Friends Meeting in the Brattleboro Area Interfaith Initiative. Always the activist, he participated with the Brattleboro Area Peace and Justice Committee, A.R.M. (Alternatives to Recruitment by the Military), The Palestine/Israel Committee, The Palestinian House of Friendship in Nablus and he marched in protests to the Iraq/Afghanistan wars as a member of Veterans for Peace, and to close down Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant. Ted also belonged to the Windham County Progressive Party and worked on political campaigns going door to door to educate voters.
Ted was engaged with the local community both in Putney, as a supporter of the effort to become a transition town, and Marlboro, where he was part of the effort to form NeighborNet and other activities to bring the community together. With Edie, Ted worked with the Brattleboro Area Community Land Trust to convert land that belonged to Edie into affordable housing at Butterfield Commons in Dover, VT.
As a writer and editor, Ted authored and published several pamphlets and books including; War Tax Resistance; Individual Witness or Community Movement? (1968), Savoring One River; The Sufi Order of the West (1989), Interest for Radicals; A Collection of Polemics (1991), The Community Land Trust (1972,2007), Print Unchained , A Saga of Invention and Enterprise (2000), Transformational Joy (2009). He also published; Eight Rabbits; A Biography of George Humphreys (2000-2009), Susan Webster Poems (2008) (a collection of poetry by his first wife) and Songs from the Hills of Vermont (collected by Edith Barnes Sturgis (2010).
Ted was a loving father, grandfather, partner and friend and is survived by his sons Mark, John and Chris Webster, his step-children Michael and Meghan O’Donnell, his grandchildren Rebecca, Haddie and Ely Webster, and by his partner Edie Mas, her children Alex and Carl Mas, and her grandchildren Sonja, Ronan Mariella, and Nico.
Ted was an advocate for worship through Sacred movement. In whirling with the Sufi, Ted found peace. He said that he felt he was still and the world was spinning. Ted’s bright presence among us is missed, but we know that his spirit has joined the turning wheel of the Cosmos for eternity.