What Canst Thou Say? colloquium
The Ministers and Elders Colloquium organized by What Canst Thou Say?, an independent Quaker journal published quarterly, took place October 6–9 at the Cenacle Retreat Center in Chicago, Ill.
Experienced ministers and elders were invited from a number of the branches of Quakerism, the diversity of which enriched the gathering. The two planners and one of the group leaders fell sick at the last minute. Other Friends stepped up at a few minutes’ notice. Colloquium participants marveled at the miracles and mischief of the Holy Spirit manifested among them.
Prior to the colloquium, participants were encouraged to read the book Inner Tenderings by Louise Wilson, especially chapter 11. Wilson was a presence throughout the colloquium. In the opening worship one Friend shared a heartfelt message saying the Society of Friends is in deep trouble because it is not surrendering to the Holy Spirit. Another Friend said Friends are planting seeds every day and leaving the harvest to God.
The schedule left Monday morning open, leaving space for the Holy Spirit. Saturday morning worship was extended in response to a Friend’s concern. Several Friends served as elders holding the gathering in the Light for an hour each morning before breakfast.
Paul Buckley spoke about “Restoring the Art of Eldering,” at its core: “see the Light, turn toward the Light, follow the Light.” Jennifer Elam tapped into participants’ creativity as they played with clay and then wrote impressions. Lucy Davenport spoke on “Laying Claim to our Calling” and Dan Davenport offered some resources and reflections on II Corinthians 12:1–10, followed by meeting in small groups to consider queries.
Fernando Freire facilitated a Spirit-led discussion of covenanting, after which participants broke into the same small groups to ponder passages from Jeremiah 31:31–34, Hebrews 8:6–13, and The Journal of George Fox on covenants, and talk of their own experience and the possibilities to form covenants from the colloquium. On Monday morning those small groups reported and participants discussed options for forming covenants among each other.
Evening sessions included an open mic with poetry, essays, stories, and songs, and interest groups were available on the second night. John Edminister led an interest group on “Searching Early Quaker Online Resources with the help of the Quaker Bible Index and the Digital Quaker Collection.” Paul Buckley led an interest group on early Friends. Mariellen Gilpin and Judy Lumb led an interest group on What Canst Thou Say? in which several themes were developed for future issues, along with volunteers to be guest editors for those issues.
All presentations and other reflections from participants will be published in the proceedings, which will be available on whatcanstthousay.org after January 1, 2018.
Quaker leaders part of church delegation to the Middle East
Two American Quaker leaders—Christie Duncan-Tessmer, general secretary of Philadelphia Yearly Meeting, and Diane Randall, executive secretary of Friends Committee on National Legislation—participated in a ten-day trip to the Middle East in September organized by the U.S. National Council of Churches (NCC), which has relationships with faith communities and organizations around the world.
Bishop Darin Moore, NCC board chair, and Jim Winkler, NCC president and general secretary, led the delegation, which, according to a NCC statement, “traveled to the region to mark the 50th anniversary of Israel’s Occupation of Palestinian land, express solidarity with our ecumenical colleagues, witness for peace alongside interfaith partners, and observe current on-the-ground realities so as to better inform our ongoing advocacy.” The delegation of ten representatives of the NCC’s member churches included church leaders from a variety of faith traditions.
The trip began in Beirut, Lebanon, where participants met with people from the Middle East Council of Churches, including the general secretary, the staff for ecumenical relief, and the president of the board. Conversations were largely about the relationship between Christians and Muslims and the integral role religion plays in governance.
On September 10, the delegation began with early worship at St. Peter and St. Paul’s Church near Saint Mark’s Coptic Orthodox Cathedral in Cairo, Egypt. This church was the target of an ISIS bombing last December. Following the service, the delegation met with President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi of Egypt, and later with the Grand Mufti. The Grand Mufti is the highest official of religious law, interpreting texts and offering opinions on cases involving religious law.
The delegation also met with Bishop Thomas at the Holy See of the Pope of the Coptic Church. Bishop Thomas spoke with the delegates about the role of Christians in the world. The bishop said that the church left the evidence of the bombing consciously, to serve as a reminder of the victims of the bombing.
On September 14, the delegation met briefly with the Palestinian Authority Presidential Commission for Church Affairs. Later that day, Duncan-Tessmer and Randall left the main group to visit with Ramallah Friends School (RFS). The pair walked to the school from the Palestinian Authority headquarters. RFS is a Quaker school in Palestine that intentionally offers education to both boys and girls, and both Christian and Muslim students.
Duncan-Tessmer and Randall took leave of the main delegation a second time to visit the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) office in Jerusalem. During the meeting, they discussed AFSC’s Israel and Gaza programs.
On the final day, the delegation visited the Palestinian city of Hebron, followed by a visit to the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem. The day ended with a dinner with leaders of the region. At the dinner, the delegates discussed what they had witnessed and learned throughout the course of the trip, and began considering possible points of work for the National Council of Churches.
In August, Adrian Moody began his position as head of Ramallah Friends School (RFS), succeeding Joyce Aljouny. Aljouny served as head of the school for 13 years, before joining American Friends Service Committee as the new general secretary in September. Ramallah Friends School, located in Palestine, is a ministry of Friends United Meeting.
Moody comes to RFS with an extensive background in international education, having served in school leadership positions in Australia, New Zealand, Tanzania, Thailand, Kazakhstan, Vietnam, and India.
A committed Roman Catholic with a master’s degree in theology, Moody feels deeply called to the particular witness of a Friends school under occupation. As he shared with the school when he visited, “I am drawn to RFS for so many reasons. It has a long history of shared communities. It has a strong academic program and is able to offer its students wonderful opportunities. But RFS is not just a school—it is much more than that. I look at RFS and I see that the grace of God is working within your community. I see God carrying us all on a journey, together through moments of success and challenges which strengthens our lives and our bonds with each other and God.”
Moody, an Australian national, and his wife, Gillian, a New Zealander, took up residence in Ramallah at the beginning of August while their teenage daughter continues at boarding school in New Zealand.
Friends United Meeting invites all Friends to pray for Moody and his family during this transition and to give thanks that God has called him to witness to the transformational presence of Christ amid the Friends community in Ramallah at this time.