For the past five summers, Friends from more than 20 yearly meetings from all branches of Quakerism have gathered together at Olney Friends School in Ohio or The Meeting School in New Hampshire to explore and experience Spirit‐led Quakerism. With most of the week left unplanned and open to God’s leading, these truly have been gatherings with a difference. This year QuakerSpring meets in Barnesville, Ohio, from June 24th through 29th. All are invited to attend this radically unprogrammed retreat. It will be an opportunity to drink from the spring of living water and rest at the feet of the Inward Teacher with other Friends who long to deepen their spiritual lives and listen to ways the wind of the Spirit is blowing. Go to www.quakerspring.org for more information and registration.
AFSC Epistle to Quaker Yearly Meetings
Power without love is reckless and abusive, and love without power is sentimental and anemic. Power at its best is love implementing the demands of justice, and justice at its best is power correcting everything that stands against love. — Martin Luther King, Jr.
Week after week, American Friends Service Committee staff member Domnique Stevenson visits four prisons in Maryland and invites the incarcerated men to consider how they can change their lives from within the walls of their confinement. The men have worked with Domnique to design the program that she runs. Some weeks they learn about mediating conflict; some weeks they learn about parenting. And one week in the past few months, they talked about love. It is love, says Domnique, that is the foundation of their work together.
The men didn’t hesitate to express their thoughts: “Love can be defined as a noun or a verb,” one man said. “When you’re in love, that feeling can fade; then what? Mature love is about what you do, how you act, and the sacrifices you’re willing to make.” Another man responded, “How do we define family? If your brother’s been oppressed, help him. If your brother’s been an oppressor, help him by helping him to stop the oppression.” From across the room, a man said, “We have a government that doesn’t advocate love. I don’t expect the government to offer love. Humans make it up, but don’t behave in human ways. We’ve come from communities that were denied love.” They continued their conversation until a man concluded, “One issue is we lack understanding, and love is the highest degree of understanding. You can hate someone’s actions, but love the person. If you hate someone, you hate the Creator. We need to hate the action. We hate others because we lack understanding.”
In a concrete classroom in a prison in Maryland, these men vulnerably explored their experience with love. All over the world, in 13 countries and in more than 35 U.S. towns and cities, AFSC invites people to explore what love can do from within the walls that confine them. In doing so, they also explore how to free themselves from and overcome the constrictions of injustice.
Drawn from Quaker faith and testimonies, the work of AFSC is to create a world where all people can live in peace. The work can be seen as a constellation of optimistic experiments with truth and love, and with the human vulnerability that underlies both. We believe that answers lie within those with whom we work, and when they are heard and responded to with compassion, the power to work for justice is released. Through this work, we address the seeds of war and violence and thereby begin to create the social and economic conditions necessary for lasting peace.
We deeply appreciate Quaker meetings’ and individuals’ support of this work; they make it possible. In the coming years, we hope to deepen our connection and partnership with Quakers. As part of that effort, we have hired Lucy Duncan as Friends Liaison. She writes and edits a blog on AFSC’s work entitled Acting in Faith, at www.afsc.org/friends. She is establishing a new Quaker meeting/church liaison program to strengthen ties to monthly meetings and churches.You can reach her at [email protected]afsc.org.
This year we published a booklet, An Introduction to Quaker Testimonies, which reminds us of the spiritual basis for AFSC’s work. You can find it at www.afsc.org/document/friends-testimonies-booklet or order it from QuakerBooks.org.
Friends, please challenge us; hold us in your prayers, and continue to help us. Together we can do so much.
In the Light,
Shan Cretin, General Secretary of AFSC, and Arlene Kelly, Clerk of the Board