New U.S. yearly meeting formed
In early May, Piedmont Friends Fellowship (PFF) formally announced the formation of a new yearly meeting, Piedmont Friends Yearly Meeting (PFYM), following PFYM’s first annual session held two months before on March 14. As quoted in the session epistle written by new presiding clerk Marian Beane, “PFYM intends to act as a twenty-first-century yearly meeting well-grounded in Quaker tradition and history. The yearly meeting intends to continue and build upon Piedmont Friends Fellowship’s 47-year tradition of loving and inclusive fellowship.”
PFF held its spring retreat and annual meeting on March 13–15, with 92 adult Friends and 20 young Friends from North Carolina, South Carolina, and Virginia gathering together at the New Garden Friends meetinghouse in Greensboro, N.C. Within this loving context on the afternoon of March 14, PFYM convened its first annual session with 76 Friends in attendance.
Five North Carolina monthly meetings, a Virginia monthly meeting, and a South Carolina worship group minuted their affiliation with the new PFYM: Chapel Hill (N.C.), Charlotte (N.C.), Fancy Gap (Va.), New Garden (Greensboro, N.C.), Raleigh (N.C.), and Salem Creek (Winston-Salem, N.C.) Meetings, and Upstate Friends Worship Group (Lyman, S.C.). Friends then proceeded to establish basic elements of the new yearly meeting through approval of recommendations from the Piedmont Friends Fellowship Yearly Meeting Formation Committee and the Interim Body of Representatives from affiliating meetings—groups that had been working jointly on these recommendations for two years.
A document which will serve as a guide to the relationship between PFYM and PFF was drafted and approved. “The two entities will act in Friendly partnership, with the Fellowship developing programming (including youth programming), planning semiannual workshops and retreats, maintaining a joint website, and handling finances. The Yearly Meeting will turn to the work of nurturing service to monthly meetings and strengthening service and witness in the world. Membership in the yearly meeting will require that the monthly meeting or worship group also begin or maintain active membership in the Fellowship.”
Read the full epistle and learn more about these two Quaker bodies at piedmontfriendsfellowship.org.
Quaker film questions militarization of education
On June 23, a new short film questioning the militarization of schools in the United Kingdom was released online by Quakers in Britain, the group which produced the five-minute film. The Unseen March, debuting four days before the country’s Armed Forces Day on June 27, challenges the strategy and close partnership of the Military of Defense and Department of Education working together on “military ethos” projects.
Background on these military initiatives is provided: In 2008, the British government launched a strategy to build public support for the armed forces; the strategy included a day to celebrate the armed forces, taking Members of Parliament to combat zones, and expanding cadet forces to comprehensive schools. Starting in 2012, projects with a “military ethos” entered the classroom. The film also reveals the monetary evidence of this policy: Since 2011, the government has spent over £45 million (about US$70.9 million) on new educational programs with a military ethos.
The film features interviews with a number of prominent individuals and activists in the education and government realms, including Ben Griffin, a former paratrooper in the British Army; school principal Chris Gabbett; former secretary of state for international development Clare Short; Don Rowe, co-founder of Citizenship Foundation and a former teacher; Brian Lightman, general secretary of the Association of Schools and College Leaders; and activist Mark Thomas.
Paul Parker, the recording clerk of Quakers in Britain, also commented on the message of the film:
So-called “military values,” such as leadership, discipline, and motivation should no doubt play their part in today’s schools but not at the expense of listening skills, nonviolent resolution of conflict, mediation, and respect for difference. Since the seventeenth century, Quakers in Britain have felt called to live “in the virtue of that life and power that takes away the occasion of all wars,” and are alarmed at the increasing role of the military in our schools. War represents our failure to resolve our differences by peaceful and amicable means; any ethos which supports it has no place in our society.
Through free access to The Unseen March on YouTube coupled with the sharing of related resources on its website, Quakers in Britain seeks to awaken a national debate highlighting the dangers of an increasing role of the military in education, and the normalization of war. Ultimately, militarism in schools leads to two kinds of recruitment: the recruitment of teenagers into the armed forces, and the recruitment of wider society to be war ready.
Quakers are asking parents and pupils, governors and teachers, to question militarization in education. To watch and learn more about the film, visit www.unseenmarch.org.uk.
On May 30, Baltimore Yearly Meeting announced that Riley Robinson is leaving his position as general secretary of the yearly meeting after nine years of service. His last day as general secretary was July 12, after which he began a new position as a major gifts officer for Friends Committee on National Legislation in Washington, D.C.
Robinson commented to Friends Journal about his move, saying, “It’s a joy to be of service with Friends to advance Quaker witness, and I count my blessings!”
A minute of appreciation for Robinson was shared at BYM’s interim meeting on June 13 at Patuxent Meeting in Lusby, Md. In the minute, the yearly meeting expressed “its profound appreciation to Riley Robinson for his rare mixture of love, concern, insight, and faithfulness in his service as our general secretary . . . His many and varied contributions have strengthened the yearly meeting as a spiritual community and as an organization.”
The minute also pointed out several notable accomplishments of Robinson while serving in the general secretary role: He helped improve the yearly meeting’s fiscal situation, progressing “from a state of accounting disarray that revealed significant shortfalls to making substantial progress toward building unrestricted reserves.” Under his leadership, a new development program raised money for yearly meeting programs, exceeding $300,000 last year. He also helped manage the yearly meeting office property, working to modernize it and bring in advanced technologies, including taking steps toward using solar energy.
The minute concludes with love and good wishes: “We love Riley and will miss him. We wish him health and happiness as he faithfully undertakes new challenges and opportunities in Quaker service.”
At press, the Supervisory Committee of the yearly meeting was planning its search for a new general secretary. Learn more at bym-rsf.org.
At the end of June, religion professor Max Carter retired from his position at Guilford College, a Quaker liberal arts school in Greensboro, N.C., as the William R. Rogers director of Friends Center and Quaker studies. The first to fill the role, Carter has led Friends Center since 1990, marking 25 years of service.
Carter was profiled in the May 24 edition of Greensboro’s News & Record in an article titled, “Passing Down His Peacemaker Role.” The story describes how Carter has helped make Guilford a place where students of different faiths can hear different views and share their own without fear of judgment or criticism.
As stated by Guilford, the mission of Friends Center is “to provide programs that nurture servant-leaders both at Guilford College and in the wider community through activities that are grounded in prayer, informed by Friends’ faith and practice, nourished by worship and spiritual formation and brought to fullness in Quaker community.”
Over the years, Carter has been a frequent contributor to Friends Journal, in recent times becoming one of our most prolific book reviewers. See opposite page to read his latest review.