Thursday, May 11, 2017


Thank God for Larry Clayton

Thoughts from his friend, Judith Larsen

We Meet……and Meet Again

It happened naturally. In the old Environmental Protection Agency building in Washington D.C. I walked down from my 4th floor office to the newly-established Document Room, probably to look up the legislative history of a law I was working on. Larry, founder and organizer of the Document Room gave me a friendly greeting and explained how to identify and retrieve the documents. He had the most amiable “down home” manner – casual, approachable and deeply Southern. What was that accent? Louisiana, though I wouldn’t have been able to place it at the time.
That first conversation must have been lengthy, trusting and fun (it was easy to make fun of the bureaucracy) because a week or two later Larry came looking for me in my upstairs office. He had a problem and his intuition led him to think I might suggest ways to solve it. When he had put in a request for a secretary the personnel office sent to him a young woman who proved to be difficult: as I remember she was belligerent, wouldn’t take directions, and disappeared for long periods of time. Larry looked at her personnel records and discovered that she had come from my office. Remembering our friendly initial conversation he decided to see if I could recommend strategies for working with her. I was delighted to see Larry again. We joked about the bureaucracy’s personnel-roulette, and I probably recommended that he pass her on down the line, as in the game of Hot Potato.
Third sighting: I moved to San Francisco for a year to work in the regional EPA legal office and lost sight of Larry, who in the meantime had left EPA. But when you are meant to engage, angels manage it easily. When I returned to my Virginia home and to work again at EPA headquarters, I also reconnected with my home Quaker meeting, Langely Hill Friends. I was startled to see a familiar face among the silent worshippers in the dear, quiet room – Larry, accompanied by a silver-haired, small woman with a thoughtful expression: Ellie, his wife and soon to become my good friend. After worship we greeted each other happily, and thus continued our friendly relationship.

Our Deepening Friendship

Larry became my spiritual brother. The feeling of family came partly because we shared some characteristics: we were intuition-led explorers. I trusted Larry completely, and from the beginning there was no pretense between us. Whenever we came together we immediately moved to the spiritual heart of whatever idea was under discussion. More often than not Ellie and my husband Paul joined our lively conversations. Ellie could always offer a thoughtful factual, scientific perspective. To an outsider we might have sounded like debaters, so emotional and emphatic was our back-and-forth.
Larry’s mind was brilliant and penetrating. He had honed his intellect at his beloved Duke University, and in seminary, but also continually throughout his life. I never heard him claim ownership of ideas. Rather he accepted ideas as God-given, streaming toward him. Larry’s task was to discern how to use the ideas .
As a young man, Larry had a thrilling vision of Jesus in answer to a prayerful request for spiritual direction. The vision led him to enter seminary and accept pastoral assignment from the Methodist Church. As it turned out, Larry’s faithfulness to his spiritual calling led him first to assignment as a church preacher in several Southern parishes, but ultimately to other tasks. His was not a standard pastoral journey. He felt called to serve as a probation officer and develop a ministry for alcoholic miscreants in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. Then his heart was opened even wider by the Church of the Savior in Washington D.C. which offered ministry to the poor. That struck Larry as close to Jesus’ vision.
By loving and sacrificial agreement Ellie and Larry arranged that their sons would finish the school year in Winston-Salem before moving the family to D.C. So for the good part of a year Ellie was the parent-in-residence for their boys while Larry labored in the vineyards in D.C. Ellie was finally able to join Larry at the Church of the Savior. Their unit of the church, whose members lived and worked together, took on a task to build and renovate homes for the poor, and provide the resident families certain life-sustaining services.
When Church of the Savior ministry turned in a direction that Larry could not follow, in obedience to his divine calling Larry and Ellie left the Church. It was through that fraught circumstance that I found them in the quiet Quaker meeting in Virginia.
Larry gave unwavering attention to the Spirit calling. He never claimed insights and resulting actions as personal to him: it was the Spirit working through him. Although Ellie never said so, I can’t help but believe that this was hard on his family. When he received a call, he answered, as when he gave up a vocation as a church pastor for work with alcoholics, as when he was summoned to D.C. to work with the poor through the Church of the Savior, and as when he gave up his membership in the Church of the Savior despite his dear friendships there because he saw that he must travel a different road.
Meanwhile, Larry and Ellie’s three sons – Paul, Mark and Rob – were passing through high school into adult concerns, and predictable struggles with their father emerged, always resolved in a loving manner, but honestly and directly with the accompanying tensions one would expect. Paul crafted an independent life in North Carolina, becoming an accountant; Mark studied architecture and is a professor in Texas, and Rob became a psychologist, practicing in California.
Ellie was growing in skills as well. She had achieved a Bachelor of Science with distinction at the time of her marriage. As her sons moved into the adult world, Ellie was tapped for computer skills by the Department of Defense.

The family was thus arranged when I encountered them on my return from San Francisco.

Gift of Life

I had a heart connection to Larry and Ellie, and I trusted them implicitly. Here is an example of the kindness and counseling I received from them. I carry a tendency toward depression. While my husband Paul was in Europe as part of a government delegation to a conference, I was struck particularly hard with thoughts of suicide. Knowing Larry was a man of God, I sought his counsel. I particularly wanted to know if I would be cast into hell if I died by my own hand.
When I called Larry with an urgent request to meet with him, Ellie and he were clearing out their home prior to its sale. Larry said “Come right over.” We three sat on up-ended boxes in a little huddle. It was hard for me to speak through the pain I felt, but I stumbled through a description of my state of mind, while Larry and Ellie listened intently. Then Larry spoke. There was no such thing, in his view, as God cursing a soul. I should put that concern away. Larry talked about the gift of life, what a treasure our ordeals are because of the leaps forward they make possible. He said that I would not be given greater burdens than I could carry. As my understanding grew I would come to appreciate and love life.
Ellie was still during this counsel. We both listened intently. Larry led us in a prayer for healing. Looking back I remember extreme relief that I would not be cast into hell for harboring ungracious intentions. I believed completely in what Larry told me, even though I am by nature wary, disbelieving and uncertain.
My heart is filled with gratefulness for Larry’s counsel and for Ellie’s intense silent support.

Always Himself

Larry was at home with himself, never projecting a false image. I wonder if that is what made him so uncomfortable in the early days when he was a preacher. He said the people in his parish were just as good and just as bad as he was. When he would say goodbye to them at the door of the church after the Sunday sermon, he heard “Preacher, you really stepped on my toes!” Then, Larry said, they would go home and eat their chicken dinners and listen to a football game. He came to feel that as a preacher he was not helping them to grow spiritually.
An endearing aspect of Larry and Ellie’s relationship is that he never asked her to assume duties of a preacher’s wife. While Ellie did join activities in the parish, she was originally not the committed Christian that Larry was. Larry never asked her to be anything but herself. She gradually came to a profound commitment to the sacred, but that was through encounters with authors and artists, particularly William Blake. Larry and Ellie shared admiration of Blake, so much so that both maintained a “Blake blog” which Ellie still carries on. Larry wrote a book on Blake and e-published it so that it would be freely available.
Larry’s natural “down home” manner did not open all doors. A mutual friend of our who was a graduate of Duke and whose father had been a professor there, was offended that Larry talked like a country boy. She felt that Duke graduates should speak the king’s English with the king’s accent. But Larry was utterly without pretense. It was this that opened doors with people closer to the street level. Once when I was emerging from a Wendy’s restaurant after a post-church tea- and- biscuits break, I found Larry at the cash register having a heart- to- heart talk with the cashier about the state of her soul.
Larry could be stern and outspoken. Once when Larry and Ellie visited us in Virginia I was walking around our neighborhood with them. I love stories and it was my habit to tell a story about the people in the houses we were passing, assembling a few facts and adding some colorful speculation. We had interesting neighbors, for example, people who worked for the Central Intelligence Agency, the National Security Agency, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and even someone who appeared to be in a witness protection program. I was weaving their stories as we walked along when I became aware that Larry was tense and angry. Then I understood that for him people’s lives are not a game. He heard me as mocking my neighbors.
In his later years Larry was a visiting pastor at a local hospital, bringing encouragement and sharing prayers with the afflicted. Larry said he was not just a giver, but equally the receiver in these visits. That loving practice may have helped to sustain his spirit when he was in a hospital preparing to die at the age of 90. Ellie says he was asking friends and family for blessings and forgiveness as he began his final earthly journey.

A Whole Man

I wish I could give an accurate impression of what a unique and powerful person Larry was. The elements of his character that stand out for me are that he was soul directed (that is, God-directed: in constant conversation with God); unpretentious in his daily relationships; astute and intellectual in a graceful manner born of genuine curiosity. Now that he has passed over into paradise I see him clearly. I think he stands out from most of my friends and family who are in the Beyond because he was so fully himself, without many cultural add-ons. He never pretended to be what he was not. He saw that, like those whom he counseled, he also was a flawed human in need of love and forgiveness. He was able to open to the Spirit, let it grow in him and pass it on to reach others.
I have a powerful, living impression of Larry. He continues to be my guide, one who leads me through the complexities of the material life.
Thank God for Larry Clayton!

Monday, January 30, 2017


Robert Lawrence Clayton
March 7, 1927 - December 23, 2016

Larry was the son of a Methodist Minister and a Methodist Minister Himself. He was a seeker after the truth and a follower of his Lord Jesus.

When a youth as a Merchant Seaman he traveled the world during World War II. Uncle Sam required his services again as a Radio Operator in the Navy during the Korean Conflict.

In 1949 he was able to complete his degree in natural science at Duke University. Seeing the emptiness of life without a spiritual commitment, he answered the call to ministry and enrolled in seminary in 1955. He found and married his partner in God's work, Eleanor Babylon, the following year.

He served churches as a Methodist Minister for eight years. The Lord opened to him a ministry to alcoholics which he pursued as a probation officer for alcoholics for eleven years in NC. He then followed a leading to participate in the Church of the Savior in Washington, DC, a model church which urged it members to follow an inward and outward journey.

He became fascinated by the poet William Blake whose spiritual teachings were to influence his thinking and living through the rest of his life. In 1985 his journey led him to Langley Hill Friends Meeting which became his church home until he retired. In later years he participated in the Brevard Friends Meeting, helped to originate the Greenville Friends Meeting, hosted the Friends Worship Group of Ocala, and led the Bible Study at the Gainesville Friends Meeting. His ministry included volunteering weekly at Munroe Regional Medical Center to visit and pray with heart patients.

He counted his blessings every day and marveled at God's Amazing Grace.

No work in his life pleased him more than raising his three sons. He will be missed by his wife Ellie; his sons Paul, Mark and Rob; his two granddaughters Marie and Rennie; his grandson Ryan; and great-grandson Lars.

William Blake, Jerusalem, Plate 5
 "I rest not from my great task!
To open the Eternal Worlds, to open the immortal Eyes
Of Man inwards into the Worlds of Thought: into Eternity
Ever expanding in the Bosom of God. the Human Imagination        
O Saviour pour upon me thy Spirit of meekness & love:"

Sunday, June 12, 2016


Mary Joseph, Sally Gillespie, Elaine Fellows

Unfortunately there are too few attending our Ocala Worship Group to continue to meet. We had hoped to locate more Quakers in our area to replace those whom we had lost, but we have not been successful. Since we were unofficial to begin with, there is little action that is needed to "lay the meeting down." Ocala Worship Group has been removed from from the SEYM meeting list and the QUAKERS MEET HERE sign has been removed from the front yard.

Larry Clayton

We appreciate the support we have received from the yearly meeting and from Gainesville Monthly meeting during the eight years Quakers have been meeting at our home. Although there is a long history of Quakers meeting in Ocala the time has come to accept the fact that we cannot carry on. We are sorry that there will no longer be a meeting in this area for the Quakers who are passing through to stop and strengthen the bonds of the wider fellowship. We rejoice in what we have had through the years, and look forward to what lies ahead.

Our thanks to all who shared with us the privilege of being a Quaker presence in Ocala.
Ellie Clayton, Sally Gillespie, Elaine Fellows

Friday, January 29, 2016


In 1983 I attended my first unprogramed Quaker Meeting. Larry and I were looking for a new faith community which would meet our need for a less structured and organized experience of worship. We stumbled onto the Langley Hill Friends Meeting in McLean, Virginia. To our surprise, on the bench in front of us was Judith Larsen who was Larry's coworker at EPA. Judith and her husband Paul instantly befriended us. Their love and generosity of spirit has sustained a relationship over time and distance as we travel our journeys through the vicissitudes of life. At present Larry and I live in Florida and are a part of a Quaker worship group called Friends Meeting of Ocala. Paul and Judith live in Washington state and their meeting is the Agate Passage Friends Meeting on Bainbridge Island in Washington State.

Since Paul and Judith moved west they have journeyed to the east each winter to teach, and study, and sustain bonds of friendship with their eastern companions on the journey. Judith became interested in becoming more familiar with the course of events which had shaped the lives of her friends whose lives had spanned many decades. She recorded interviews with these older friends, guiding them to relate the significant experiences which gave definition to their lives. From her interviews she has constructed a book in which she followed thirteen individuals through seven or more decades of becoming themselves.

Larry and I are two of the people she interviewed on visits to our home in Florida. We have been pleased that Paul and Judith have worshiped with us in our Ocala Quaker Meeting and in the Gainesville Meeting as well. 

Judith's book, Discovering Ourselves: Thirteen Conversations can be purchased through Amazon. Much of the contents can be read online by clicking Look inside over the picture of the book's cover at Amazon.

Judith Larsen

Monday, January 11, 2016


Quakers meet Sunday at 11 oclock at 1906 SE 8th St.

Confirm at 352 369-6032.

At noon we share a light meal together.

On 4th Sundays we meet with the Gainesville Meeting.


1906 SE 8TH ST, 
Attending Friends Meeting of Ocala yesterday were were ten worshipers: five regulars and five visitors. Among the visitors was one from Minnesota who was visiting his grandmother's home in Ocala. This was his second visit in two years. He is our only attender who arrives by foot after having run two and a half miles to get here.

Two visitors were attending a Quaker meeting for the first time. Like many first-timers they were very interested in Quaker history and practice. They went home with a copy of Friends for Three Hundred Years and hope to return next First Day. They moved recently to Ocala from Alaska.  

Two visitors were from northern New York spending a month in Homosassa. Although seasoned Quakers they attend a Unitarian group in New York because of the distance to the nearest Quaker Meeting. Visiting Florida gives them an opportunity to visit a variety of Quaker Meetings and taste the diversity of Quaker worship. The man of this couple is a birthright Quaker who grew up in the over 300 year old London Grove Meeting in Pennsylvania.

Even the regulars in our group have their Quaker origins in distant groups. It makes for a rich fellowship to bring together folks of different backgrounds and experience from several regions of our country. We get a sense that recognizing the spirit within each of us binds us together, cementing our unity with the God who is in everyone.

Thursday, December 24, 2015


William Blake
Illustrations to Milton's On the Morning of Christ's Nativity
'The Descent of Peace'

In this illustration for Milton's On the Morning of Christ's Nativity, we notice in the foreground a female figure lying in the snow. Blake was calling to our minds Vala as an image of the natural world where the seed contains the potential for development. In the center of the picture is an enclosed space in which the holy family rejoices in the arrival of new life. The enclosure is the womb in which the new man is nurtured until he is born of the spirit. The winged being in the arc of a rainbow partakes of the Dove of the Spirit which has been released from the egg of mortality.

May the Peace of Christ Descend on Us Today