Betty’s Way

Volume 44, Issue 2, by Michael J. Crosbie

It is difficult to argue with a 92-year-old. When Betty Meyer told me she had decided to retire her Faith & Form column, “Just One More Thing,” I protested and tried to talk her out of it. But Betty has more than earned the privilege to stop. Writers do not easily put down their pens. There is something life affirming about having a publishing outlet for your ideas and views, about knowing there is a space and some ink for you to tell a story, reflect on an experience, or champion a cause. Betty did all of these things so well. That is why her leave is particularly bitter. Such a talented and thoughtful writer should just go on writing.

I first met Betty more than 15 years ago, at a meeting of the Interfaith Forum on Religion, Art, and Architecture. In the lobby of a hotel she was surrounded by a court of friends and admirers, all sharing a drink and their reflections on the day’s events. I was not yet part of theFaith & Form staff, just a freelancer covering the IFRAA tour for the journal. What impressed me was how very much at ease Betty made people feel, how unguarded she was. She appeared to have no ego, no thirst for attention, no tiresome pedantic tendencies. Instead, Betty thrived on drawing people out, gently, about their impressions. She asked many more questions than anyone else in the group, and she would sit quietly with a knowing smile while others held forth. This was my first impression of Betty. It is a lasting one, and it has been confirmed by dozens of encounters with her over the years, and by the experiences of others.

Her column in Faith & Form has always been an opportunity for Betty to ask questions. Many of her essays started with a query: Have you ever wondered; did you ever consider; how might we make it better? Betty knows that the act of writing is really an exercise in thinking. You can feel her ideas taking form and evolving as she writes, following her question to an answer. This is completely different from reading an article where the author has already formulated an idea, an agenda, an answer, and is merely there to convince you she is right. Betty, instead, writes to invite us on a voyage of the mind and the spirit. She writes less about the destination than about the journey. In this way, I have always most admired Betty as a teacher.

I have provided Betty with an escape route from retirement: if she ever wants to pick up her pen again, the last page is hers once more. Until then, the space that was occupied by Betty’s column will be devoted to a guest essayist. In each issue we will invite someone to tell us about whatever fires her or his passion for religion, art, or architecture. Just as Betty always invited others to speak, sat back, and drank in their ideas, it will be a place for us to welcome new ideas and new points of view. It seems like the most fitting way to follow Betty’s example.

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