Quakers addressing racism
A diverse group of over 400 Quakers gathered on Saturday, January 10 at historic Arch Street Meeting House in Philadelphia, Pa., to participate in Philadelphia Yearly Meeting’s called meeting to discern how its faith community is being led to address racism. The meeting was announced by PhYM’s clerk, Jada Jackson, a month earlier. As stated in the announcement on PhYM’s website, a called meeting is a meeting outside the yearly meeting’s normal schedule, called by the clerk, and is used to gather Friends to consider a concern that cannot wait until the next meeting of the entire yearly meeting because of timing and/or significance. Called meetings are held rarely and only after careful consideration.
The body, which included Friends from 79 meetings, other yearly meetings, and religious organizations, united in affirming that anti-racism work is to become central to all that PhYM does, recognizing that this commits individual members to an ongoing process of reflection and action. A statement from the body’s clerks and elders was posted on PhYM’s website later that night. A minute of action was approved and includes three main points that Friends agreed to commit to: (1) “increase our consciousness as Friends about the intersection of privilege and race in our culture and spiritual community”; (2) “move forward with our entire community”; and (3) “integrate this work into what we do in an ongoing way at the yearly meeting level.” The full statement and minute of action is available at fdsj.nl/phym-racism.
Quakers addressing climate change
Each of the 53 monthly meetings within Baltimore Yearly Meeting (BYM) have been asked to write and adopt a minute on right relationship following a process of discernment on global climate change, resource depletion, and environmental degradation. The request for meetings to engage in such discernment around climate change came from the Unity with Nature Committee of BYM at the yearly meeting’s last annual session in August 2014. BYM embraced the request and believes “a mindful discernment process will lead us to the hope, inspiration, and strength we need.” Responses are being collected by the yearly meeting through March, the month of BYM’s spring interim meeting, in preparation for seeking unity on the issue at the 2015 annual session celebrating the theme “Living in Right Relationship” in August.
As stated on BYM’s website, the Unity with Nature Committee believes that “we are at a critical tipping point in the evolution of our culture and its relationship with the earth,” a belief which prompted the proposal of “a yearly meeting-wide exploration of the physical and spiritual implications and responsibilities of sustainability.” The committee also provides a definition of what it means to live sustainably (“to meet our needs in a way that preserves or enhances the resources and environmental resilience available for the future”) and poses a number of queries for Friends to consider, including “Do Quakers have an ethical, moral, or spiritual calling to live sustainably?”
BYM is made up of over 7,000 members and attenders in Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia, and the District of Columbia. The Unity with Nature Committee is offering support to monthly meetings as they discern together. A page on BYM’s website (fdsj.nl/bym-right-relationship) has a compilation of relevant readings, queries, web links, and already written minutes. In addition, the committee has established personal contact with each meeting and will provide in-person visitation when requested. Unity with Nature Committee co-clerks are B. Eli Fishpaw of Maury River Meeting in Lexington, Va., and Ann Payne of Monongalia Meeting in Morgantown, W. Va.
Quakers and religious education
A group dedicated to Quaker religious education is growing within the Religious Society of Friends. The group is called Quaker Religious Education Collaborative (QREC) and had its first meeting last August when 33 Friends from ten U.S. states gathered at Pendle Hill study center in Wallingford, Pa., “to envision the future of religious education among Friends,” as stated in a press release.
The gathered group confirmed some major underpinnings of the collaborative, including “religious education for Friends is about taking people to their Inner Teacher”; “meetings need families, and families need religious education”; “religious education is for children of all ages”; and “from infant to elder, all of us are teachers and all of us are learners.” QREC’s intentions going forward include continuing to build an international online community of practice; supporting the set-up of small, virtual working groups around religious education topics; gathering the collaborative together again in 2015; and offering a religious education institute in the United States within the next four years.
A steering group for the collaborative was formed at the Pendle Hill meeting and is made up of four Friends with deep ties to Quaker religious education: Beth Collea of Wellesley (Mass.) Meeting, Marsha Holliday of Friends Meeting of Washington (D.C.), Melinda Wenner Bradley of West Chester (Pa.) Meeting, and Liz Yeats of Friends Meeting of Austin (Tex.). The steering group currently meets two to three times a month and is working on a website for QREC to share its resources. They invite Friends who hold a sense of stewardship for the faith formation of Quaker children to join QREC, including First-day school teachers, religious education coordinators and committee members, Quaker parents and grandparents, and others across all of the traditional branches of Friends. For more information and to join the collaborative, go to fdsj.nl/qrec-neym.
Right Sharing of World Resources (RSWR), a Quaker microcredit organization that supports female entrepreneurs in developing countries, announced the appointment of Jacqueline Stillwell as its new general secretary effective in January. Stillwell is a lifelong Quaker and currently serves as clerk of New England Yearly Meeting (NEYM). Her international experience began in Norway where she did an internship in an educational program for mentally challenged youth. She lived in Guatemala for nearly a decade, part of which she served in the Peace Corps. She has also led five trips to Cuba to visit NEYM’s sister yearly meeting there. Stillwell has many years of experience with nonprofit organizations, including 22 years as head of school for the Meeting School in Rindge, N.H. She left her previous position as administrator of the Tobias Community to take on the leadership of RSWR.
Stillwell received her bachelor’s degree in education and psychology at Friends World College in New York. She earned a master’s degree in organization and management from Antioch University in Keene, N.H. She has served Friends General Conference on several committees, including Personnel, Ministry and Nurture, and Executive. Grounded in Quaker thought and practice, she has also served as clerk of her own Monadnock Meeting in Jaffrey, N.H.
The mother of three grown sons and married to Travis, she enjoys contra dancing, sewing, quilting, knitting, and singing. Stillwell says her experiences in Guatemala and Norway caused her to reflect on her own choices about what material possessions are wanted versus needed and how God calls us to be faithful in the management of our own material and spiritual resources. As an educator, she finds fulfillment in helping people recognize and develop their own possibilities and sense of spiritual wellness. It is those reflections that still drive her lifestyle and make her excited to lead the team that manages the work of RSWR.