Great Plains Yearly Meeting expanding
Two new monthly meetings joined Great Plains Yearly Meeting during its annual yearly meeting held June 1–4 in Wichita, Kans. Topeka (Kans.) Meeting and Lubbock (Tex.) Friends of Christ joined meetings from Kansas, Oklahoma, and Nebraska in the regional group.
“We are celebrating these meetings joining with us and are so thankful for God’s work here in our region,” said LaVonna Loesch, presiding clerk of Great Plains Yearly Meeting.
The theme of the yearly meeting was “Unifying Our Community with Courage and Love to Move Forward Together,” and it was held at Heartland Meeting in Wichita.
Guest speaker for the gathering was C. Wess Daniels, director of Friends Center and Quaker studies at Guilford College in North Carolina, who spoke on an alternative view of the Book of Revelation.
Other workshops discussed sharing our message of peace with elected officials, and ways to communicate openly and honestly with others.
Great Plains Yearly Meeting includes Central City (Neb.) Meeting; Council House Meeting in Wyandotte, Okla.; Heartland Meeting in Wichita, Kans.; Hominy (Okla.) Meeting; Lubbock (Tex.) Friends of Christ; Topeka (Kans.) Meeting; and University Friends Meeting in Wichita, Kans.
Merion Meeting celebrates Quaker history
Merion (Pa.) Meeting hosted a local history festival on May 20. The festival welcomed visitors to learn about Quakers and local history. The event was designed to educate the community about the history of local Quakers in the early nineteenth century and to invite them to explore Quakerism at the meeting. An estimated 250 guests attended the event, which featured historical exhibits on Quakers and the antislavery movement; the Underground Railroad; Quaker plainness and Quakers relations to changing modes of transportation, particularly horses and carriages.
At any moment, one could find historical characters enthusiastically sharing their stories with visitors—a sizable group watching “turnings” of antique quilts, people sitting for silhouettes, and families enjoying a period lunch. Outside, children played games and enjoyed a carriage ride. In several locations on the meeting grounds, costumed members presented particular aspects of Quaker history from the period 1820–1860. Both adults and youngsters were fascinated by the history of the Underground Railroad in and around Philadelphia. One historical character brought to life was William Still, a black businessman and conductor along the Underground Railroad.
The display of authentic antique Quaker dresses and bonnets fascinated many visitors. Others were intrigued by the important role of horses in the early nineteenth-century economy and the dilemmas presented by fashionable carriages to conscientious Quakers, for whom these mobile conveniences represented a potential challenge to their notions of simplicity. Quoting from the exhibit on plainness: “Worldly entanglements distracted one from focus on the inner light. Such a life need not be cloistered but grounded in ‘a right ordering of priorities.” Quakers therefore had made a commitment to living simply so that others might simply live: avoiding excess, living intentionally, and maintaining humility of spirit.
If visitors read the historical exhibits carefully, they would also learn that Quakers believe that there is that of God in each person and also, that to be whole spiritually, they need to live their beliefs. Overall, it was a day of fun and learning for both participants and guests.
Northern Yearly Meeting publishes first Faith and Practice
Northern Yearly Meeting (NYM) recently published the first edition of its Faith and Practice. NYM became a yearly meeting in 1975, and consists of meetings throughout the Upper Midwest, including Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, North Dakota, and Michigan. NYM’s Faith and Practice has been in the works for over 20 years; a committee was first appointed to write chapters in 1994.
NYM’s Faith and Practice consists of four sections: Faith, Practice, History, and Resources. Interspersed throughout are quotes from Quakers around the world, queries for both individuals and meetings, and references to other writings of Friends. The Faith section of the document includes a description of the spiritual beliefs of Friends in NYM, as well as discussion of testimonies. The testimonies included in NYM’s Faith and Practice are care for the earth, integrity, peace, equality, simplicity, and community.
The main work on the text of the Faith and Practice was completed between 1999 and 2015. In 2016, NYM’s Faith and Practice committee completed final editing. The final document was published in early 2017. The publication can be purchased through QuakerBooks & More, as well as at Amazon.com, Apple iBooks, and Barnes and Noble. A free PDF of the Faith and Practice can be downloaded from NYM’s website at northernyearlymeeting.org.
Friends Peace Teams conduct International Training for Peace
Friends Peace Teams’ fourth annual International Training for Peace took place February 11–18 at Peace Place in Pati, Central Java, Indonesia. The training gathered peace workers from all over the world for eight days of training based on the Alternatives to Violence Project (AVP).
The training cultivated a culture of peace where people gathered with love, authenticity, and curiosity, showing genuine concern and sharing mutual discernment. Participants practiced skills for self empowerment, discharging emotions, and facilitating mediation. This year’s group was large and multifaceted: seven participants hailed from the United States, joined by two Nepalis, two North Sumatrans, three West Papuans, twenty-one from Pati, and one from Yogyakarta. Participants were a group of educators, farmers, land rights activists, and community organizers.
The local AVP team began with practicing empowerment. The group shared their stories of violence, a powerful testament to the pervasiveness of violence in the world. The stories also reminded participants of the great humanity accompanying them on their journeys. Bullying, harassment, war, abuse, financial ruin, environmental devastation, flood, and famine were examined through these stories. Together the group learned from each other’s experiences and examples of violence and nonviolence in the world.
In brainstorming around nonviolent powers, the group recognized that nonviolence requires standing up to and saying no to violence, but also turning to and relying on nonviolent powers. This the group defined as transforming power. Members discovered how transforming power can operate by analyzing personal stories regarding solving problems nonviolently. The training continued with workshops on trauma resilience and transformative mediation.
The group talked about what truth means in the context of conflict. The experience an Introduction to Transformative Mediation emphasized the importance of prioritizing peace and cooperation over determining whose “truth is the right one.” The group analyzed communication styles, including asking open-ended questions, clarifying, reframing, normalizing, summarizing, reflecting, encouraging, and validating feelings. These communication skills were then applied to real-world situations.
Participants in the International Training for Peace included community leaders organizing to confront palm oil plantations, illegal logging, mountaintop removal, the blocking of harbor outlets, river basin mismanagement, long-term flooding, mining, and more. The week wrapped up with two one-day workshops: for local teachers and for land rights activists. Twenty additional teachers joined, filling the room with women who worked with young children. The teachers experienced dozens of developmental activities set up by Joglo Preschool and based on AVP principles, a very different experience than most Indonesian classrooms.
The long-distance visitors who gathered to reflect on the experience said the training had a serious impact on them. One participant stated the training was “one of the most important things that has ever happened to me.” The work focused on transforming personally to become change-makers that follow a path of peace. Each activity built upon the one before to create a sturdy foundation from which to go out and do work in the world.
To learn more about the annual International Training for Peace, visit fpt-awp.org.
Patricia Jones is retiring at the end of September as director of ministry of Minneapolis (Minn.) Meeting after more than 39 years of service and ministry in that capacity.
Jones began her work by sitting on the facing bench and closing all meetings for worship, as well as speaking once a month at semi-programmed worship. She was vital in smoothing the transition from the meeting’s historic affiliation with Iowa Yearly Meeting and move to its current affiliation with Northern Yearly Meeting.
Jones helped usher in new generations of leadership in the meeting by creating a structure for engendering new leaders by offering intentional professional and personal support to meeting clerks and all other members in leadership positions. Because of this arrangement the organization of the meeting changed, and Jones’s leadership became one of connecting and supporting other people’s ministries instead of serving as a primary minister or leader herself. With that, an unusual position among Friends evolved: that of director of ministry, a role that includes many elements common to both Friends pastors and staff positions at some of the larger unprogrammed meetings.
Jones is a 1978 graduate of Earlham School of Religion. A celebration will be held on September 10 at the meetinghouse in the Linden Hills neighborhood of Minneapolis, Minn.
Photo: Pat Jones