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News, August 2016

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FUM Friends visited Miami Friends Church before going to Cuba.

Friends United Meeting board visits Cuban Friends

A group of 39 Friends made a trip to Cuba recently as part of the Friends United Meeting (FUM) North American General Board meeting. The group first gathered in Miami, Fla., and shared a meal together at Miami Friends Church. During the trip to Cuba they visited almost every meeting in Cuba Yearly Meeting, a member of FUM. The group included some members from meetings that are also affiliated with Friends General Conference and Evangelical Friends Church International and included Friends from Cuba, Jamaica, Kenya, and the United States.

This was the first General Board meeting in Cuba. The last meeting that took place outside of the United States was in Jamaica, hosted by FUM member Jamaica Yearly Meeting.

Young adult Friends gather for conference on integrity

The fifth annual Continuing Revolution Conference for young adults took place June 3–8 at Pendle Hill retreat center in Wallingford, Pa, and brought together more than 50 individuals. The theme this year was integrity, following last year’s theme of equality, and looking forward to next year’s theme: peace. This conference had previously been called the Young Adult Friends Conference.

Workshops focused on various ways of living with integrity, a theme considered broadly. Some workshops focused on how to lead virtuous lives, while others looked at maintaining an integrity of caring for the whole self (mind and body) and understanding living with integrity as a radical act. The program provided time for both reflection and discussion, along with dance, making hula hoops, and an evening bonfire. The conference brought together attendees from various branches of Quakerism and featured semi‐programmed worship.

Changes at Quaker Life

Quaker Life, a publication of Friends United Meeting (FUM) that began in 1960, is decreasing the number of issues published a year from six to four. The last issue of its bimonthly magazine was released in May. In July, the magazine debuted a newly designed quarterly publication with the name Quaker Life: A Mosaic of Friendly Living.

The new publication will not feature recent news from around the FUM world. It will instead be a collection of pieces featuring contemporary reflections on faith in various forms. Annie Glen, the editor of Quaker Life since 2012, is moving into new responsibilities with Friends United Press and the distribution of FUM resource materials. Dan Kasztelan is the editor of the new quarterly magazine.

EQAT sees progress in newest campaign

In April Earth Quaker Action Team (EQAT) saw the first signs that PECO Energy is feeling pressure from EQAT’s campaign to improve local economies by developing solar energy. On April 22, ten days before EQAT’s stated deadline for stepping up their activity, PECO announced that it would create a Solar Stakeholder Collaborative to advance the development of local solar energy. PECO did not commit to further action so it is unclear if this is actually a step toward EQAT’s goals.

EQAT has been demanding that PECO purchase 20 percent of its energy from rooftop solar by 2025, prioritizing rooftops and installation workers in areas with high unemployment, such as the North Philadelphia neighborhood. This would bring much‐needed jobs and economic growth to North Philadelphia, sections of which has a poverty rate of over 45 percent and an unemployment rate of over 30 percent. Currently, PECO only purchases the legal minimum of 0.25 percent of its energy from solar sources, most of which are not local.

EQAT has been joined in its campaign by Philadelphians Organized to Witness, Empower, and Rebuild (POWER), an interfaith organization of over 60 congregations in the Philadelphia area. It is also supported by the lobbying efforts of the Delaware Riverkeeper Network, although EQAT itself focuses on nonviolent direct action rather than lobbying.

During the campaign, EQAT has engaged in several different actions including worship, singing, and dancing outside of PECO’s corporate headquarters. Its most recent action included 150 people of a variety of faiths and had speakers including POWER executive director, the bishop Dwayne Royster, an African American leader on justice issues in the Philadelphia area.

First event held for Honoring Those Known Only to God

On the evening before this year’s White Privilege Conference, held in Philadelphia in April, a new independent Quaker committee called Honoring Those Known Only to God held its first public event. It drew 50 Friends, with more watching through a live stream.

At the event, Avis Wanda McClinton and the committee welcomed attendees. As people entered the room, they viewed large photographs that showed enslaved African Americans in muzzles, with chains and shackles, or with scars down the length of their backs from whippings. They also viewed a slideshow put together by committee member Joseph Coscia Jr. Some of the slides were of a deteriorated African Methodist Episcopal church’s burial ground and its poorly kept gravesites.

Each attender was given a printed program which described some of the experiences of families torn apart by slavery. In addition, attendees were asked to read through a list of nineteenth‐century names and select one for themselves for the evening as a symbol of how enslavers stripped people of their identity. After committee members introduced themselves, participants were invited to share their thoughts and feelings about what they had heard and seen. The committee has now posted a full‐length video of the event at bit​.ly/​H​o​n​o​r​i​n​g​P​r​o​j​e​c​t​U​G​R​R​f​u​l​l​v​i​deo.

The project, also known as the Honoring Project UGRR (Underground Railroad), is grounded in the ministry and vision of McClinton, a member of Upper Dublin (Pa.) Meeting of Philadelphia Yearly Meeting. She described some of its early origins in an October 2014 Friends Journal article. The Honoring Project UGRR honors the nearly forgotten African Americans—freed and fugitive—who may have died on their way to freedom while traveling on the Underground Railroad. The project is being shepherded by an independent committee of Friends from across the United States.

The scope of the Honoring Project URGG includes the following:

  • Giving recognition to and providing historical markers for these burial sites, as has been done at Upper Dublin and Abington meetings in Montgomery County, Pa.
  • Correcting the erroneous, erased, or false history of the United States by making visible those African Americans whose names and stories have been lost
  • Organizing and compiling the collected information in a database so other people can have access to it
  • Providing some healing from the widespread trauma of slavery and ongoing racial suffering. Healing may happen through ceremonies, meetings for worship for memorials, and other events of remembrance.

 

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