Remembering Jim Crocker-Lakness

I first met Jim Crocker-Lakness about 15 years ago, when he and Jean started attending Cincinnati Friends Meeting. They had previously attended Community Friends Meeting, and also Heritage Unitarian Universalist.  I knew right away that Jim was a “seasoned Friend,” with a long history of involvement in Quaker thought and practice.

He was knowledgeable and experienced in a wide range of religious and spiritual study, as was I.  He joined a group that studies Daoism, in which I had been involved for a few years, and he remained active in that group right up until the end.  

Not long after we got to know each other, Jim invited me to join him for lunch once a week, on Wednesdays.  I worked in Madeira, where they lived, so that was easy.  Those lunches formed the basis of what became one of the closest friendships of my life.  Our minds seemed to work in the same way; we could talk about anything:  gnostic religions, the Holy Grail, paganism, Buddhism, comic books, current events, science fiction, ice cream.  We could also  share on a deeply personal level, opening up in ways men rarely do with each other.  During the time of Covid, those lunches often occurred on the bench at the back of the meetinghouse parking lot, near the woods.

It was during one of those heartfelt conversations that he turned to me and said, “This energy is food for God.”  

I served a term on Ministry and Counsel with Jim as clerk, and was able to observe first hand how a clerk listens deeply and carefully feeds back what he has heard and felt, as the sense of the meeting.  It was during the time of Jim’s service on M&C that the Meeting had to face the question of same-sex marriage.  Under Jim’s clerkship, the members of M&C listened to every member and attender of the Meeting at that time, one on one and in small groups.  By the time this issue came to Monthly Meeting, the sense of the meeting was absolutely clear to all.  

Jim’s ties to the Unitarian Universalists reflected his deep concern for and commitment to the equality of all religious expression.  Yes, Jim was Christian - and he also believed deeply in universal, diverse, inclusive spiritual expression, and he found that in the UU’s.

He also found it in Paganism.  He and Jean loved to attend the Pagan Spirit gatherings every summer, pitching their tent and sharing in spiritual practices from indigenous cultures all over the world. They went to Europe one summer and participated in workshops and seminars based on the legends of the Holy Grail.  

His passion for spirituality extended seamlessly into his professional life.  The following is from his bio in the University of Cincinnati directory:  “He is the co-founder of the Spiritual Communication Division of the National Communication Association and has been the Executive Secretary of the Religious Communication Association.”  

Here’s just a couple of Jim's publications:  

The Da Vinci Code as a Gnostic/Pagan Mystery Novel

Thinking with your Feet: International Folk Dancing as Embodied Feminist Communication

Jim loved life, in all its aspects.  He and Jean were committed folk dancers, and he considered dancing to be a part of his spiritual practice.  He once led a spiritual nurture group in a dance session, so that we could experience how, once you learn a dance, you can hand your body over to Spirit and let it move you in concert with the other dancers.

Along with dance came a love of music. I seem to remember “And When I Die” as a particular favorite (ironically).  “There’ll be one child born in this world to carry on.”  But his real love was for the gospel music of his youth.  I learned how to play: “Peace In the Valley” on my guitar so we could sing it together. 

I left the lunch with Jim on my recurring calendar, so that once a week I can pause and remember this man who came to mean so much to me.  The grief that I feel in his absence is a reminder of the love that I felt in his presence.  

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  1. Glenn Williams | | Reply

    Well written, Jeff. Thank you for providing this insightful perspective on this many-faceted man.

  2. Jim Newby | | Reply

    Thank you, Jeff for this beautiful remembrance of Jim. What an amazing, inquisitive spirit. He is missed.

  3. Ray Geers | | Reply

    Jeff, I got just a taste of what you experienced in fraternal sharing with Jim C-L. I wrote a little about it myself but after reading this reflection there is no need for it. You covered the bases. I would only add the following verses from Wendell Berry, an American novelist, poet, essayist, environmental activist, cultural critic, and farmer. It is also a song which I love (just like I love “Peace in the Valley”!)

    “When I rise up
    let me rise up joyful
    like a bird.

    When I fall
    let me fall without regret
    like a leaf.”

    This is how I think now, today, about Jim’s passing.

  4. Megan E Golden | | Reply

    Thank you Eric for such a touching tribute in Jim’s Memory.

  5. heidi bright | | Reply

    Beautiful, beautiful. Thank you for sharing, Jeff.

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