School to Peace Pipeline Conference held at Duke
On Saturday, October 28, 2017, the School to Peace Pipeline conference was held at Duke University in Durham, N.C. The event was hosted by Peaceful Schools NC, an initiative of Carolina Friends School. Keynote speakers were Dr. Renee Prillaman and William Jackson.
The conference’s title, “School to Peace Pipeline,” refers to the school to prison pipeline, the process in U.S. schools where youth of color, in particular black boys, encounter biases and systems that push them out of school and into the criminal justice system. The conference presentations challenged participants to recognize their own roles in this pipeline and to find positive alternatives and hope for a better future for schools.
One of the keynote speakers, William Jackson, is a former science teacher and founder of Village of Wisdom, which works to “organize and mobilize a community of families committed to the healthy development and reflection of Black youth.” Jackson noted that most teachers and school professionals do not want to contribute to the school to prison pipeline but may be doing so despite their desires. Recognizing how and when their actions contribute to the pipeline is a first step in working to dismantle it.
The other keynote speaker, Dr. Renee Prillaman, serves as the assistant head for teaching and learning at Carolina Friends School and as an adjunct assistant clinical professor in the Program in Education at Duke University. Prillaman showed how educators can work to create educational environments that model healthy relationships; mutual respect; and peaceful, positive conflict resolution. Prillaman spoke about realizing the potential of working with young people, and how that work makes a difference in the world at large.
Conference organizer Christel Butchart said, “Educators are thirsty for opportunities to connect and strengthen their practice in conflict resolution, proactive discipline, mindfulness, restorative justice, and race equity in schools.” Breakout sessions covered a vast array of topics related to conflict resolution and peacebuilding in schools. There were 12 sessions to address topics including restorative justice practices in schools, mindfulness and yoga practices, and engaging with the wider community in discussions about inequity and oppression.
Photos by Satsuki “Sunshine” Scoville of Scoville Photography.
Sierra Cascades Yearly Meeting takes form
As the split in Northwest Yearly Meeting (NWYM) continues, Sierra Cascades Yearly Meeting of Friends (SCYMF) is beginning to form. SCYMF is a new yearly meeting formed by monthly meetings that have left NWYM due to conflict with the stance of its Faith and Practice on human sexuality. Meetings that are welcoming to LGBTQ+ Friends will leave or be removed from NWYM by mid-summer.
Many of the monthly meetings that are leaving NWYM will be joining Sierra Cascades. SCYMF has begun collecting historical documents and records relating to its formation, and some of these are available on the yearly meeting’s new website, www.scymfriends.org. One of the earliest items available on the website is a minute from Hillsboro (Ore.) Friends Church. The minute, adopted on February 25, 2017, reads:
This meeting commits to being a safe place for the LGBTQ+ community, no matter if it becomes a yearly meeting or not. We recognize it has not been a safe place in the past.
Sierra Cascades has formed committees and working groups to address different aspects of the yearly meeting’s formation and growth. These groups include those working on creating a Faith and Practice and meeting bylaws, coordinating new monthly meeting members, organizing gatherings, and working on equity and inclusion around race.
The Bylaws Committee of SCYMF has identified two big questions moving forward, which it has asked monthly meetings to hold in discernment. The two questions are (1) Why are we joining together instead of going our separate ways? What holds SCYMF together? and (2) How should we make decisions that affect the whole of SCYMF? These questions will be addressed at the SCYMF annual session in February, along with a draft of bylaws for the yearly meeting. The committee has also suggested that individuals and meetings hold lightly what they discern regarding these and other questions until the full yearly meeting gathers in February.
As SCYMF’s structure begins to develop, some monthly meetings remain undecided whether to leave Northwest Yearly Meeting. While meetings that do not have an affirming minute regarding inclusion of LGBTQ+ Friends in their meetings may remain within NWYM, they may also choose to leave. Those monthly meetings that leave NWYM may choose to become independent or may join SCYMF or another yearly meeting body.
Philadelphia Yearly Meeting (PhYM) welcomes Melinda Wenner Bradley to the new position of youth engagement coordinator. Bradley, of West Chester (Pa.) Meeting, began work in December 2017, focusing first on the continued success of current youth programs and on the health and vitality of religious education and youth work within PhYM.
Since 1995, Bradley’s journey has woven together work on callings in children’s spiritual lives, program development, education, and family and teacher support. She brings a wealth of wisdom and a vision that spans across yearly meetings. Since 2013, Bradley has worked with Friends organizations including monthly and yearly meeting and Friends schools to create and grow programs for youth. Melinda transitioned to this new position from her previous job serving as the children and youth field secretary of New York Yearly Meeting.
Bradley says of her new position at PhYM that it “presents an exciting opportunity to collaborate with colleagues in youth ministry, and to serve young people, families, and local meetings across the yearly meeting.”
Brent Bill, former associate secretary for communications, publications, and outreach at Friends General Conference (FGC), retired in October to devote more time to his family and to his ministry as an author and speaker.
Bill came to FGC in 2012 to coordinate the New Meetings Project, a program that nurtured new Quaker worship groups and meetings. Under his guidance, FGC helped support the formation of 25 new worship groups in the United States between 2012 and 2015. Many of the resources he and others authored for the New Meetings Project continue to be available from the FGC website and are in use by Friends around the world.
In 2015, Bill accepted the role of associate secretary for communications, publications, and outreach at FGC. During his term, he oversaw FGC’s book publishing; the operations of QuakerBooks; and the overall communications strategy, including the Quaker Cloud.
While at FGC, Bill also wrote three books: Finding God in the Verbs (co-written with Jennie Isbell); Life Lessons from a Bad Quaker; and the second edition of one of his most celebrated works, Holy Silence.
FGC plans to launch a search for a new staff member to oversee some of Bill’s former responsibilities after Central Committee, the governing body of FGC, has reviewed institutional priorities.