Friends meeting celebrates 25 years of holiday aid program
The 2015 holiday season marked the twenty-fifth year of the Shoebox Project, a holiday aid program run by Friends Meeting of Washington (D.C.). On December 12 and 13, 2015, more than 1,000 boxes were packed for the benefit of those living in local homeless shelters.
Each year volunteers, including many children, from the meeting and other philanthropic organizations across D.C., gather over two days to pack the boxes and get them ready for delivery. Divided into three piles for men, women, and children, the boxes are packed with a number of items, such as clothing, essential toiletries, toys in the children’s boxes, plus a resource card that lists shelters, places for food and internet access, and other information. The boxes are then wrapped up as Christmas gifts for those at homeless shelters.
Friends Meeting of Washington started the project in 1990 as part of a newly formed task force on hunger and homelessness. The first year, they packed and delivered a few hundred shoeboxes, and have since continued the project every year, sometimes packing as many as 2,000 boxes. Funds are collected throughout the year for the project. The shelters that receive them look forward to their delivery every year.
Irish Quakers lose contract to run prison visitor center
After more than 26 years of serving the incarcerated and visitors of incarcerated family members, a Quaker group in Belfast, Northern Ireland, called Quaker Service lost the contract to run the family visitors’ center at Maghaberry Prison (referred to as the Monica Barritt Visitors’ Centre by the Quakers). It was announced December 17, 2015, that the contract was granted to recruitment and training company People Plus.
Quaker Service’s work was praised by many prison inspectors. A spokesperson for the Quaker Service said that they were “saddened that after nearly 44 years of providing services at prison visitor centres, we are no longer able to be involved in the work at Maghaberry,” and that they “will continue supporting isolated prisoners, vulnerable families, and young people through our other projects.”
The Quaker organization ran the center through the aftermath of Northern Ireland’s Troubles—the period of civil war during the 1980s and 1990s—and provided “practical and emotional support in a safe, welcoming environment where all visitors were met with dignity and respect. Services included childcare, transport, refreshments, counselling, information, and advice, all to make it easier for family members to keep visiting prison.” Quaker Service sees prison work as important to making sure that returning citizens in Ireland are able to successfully integrate back into the community.
New York Quarterly Meeting and Friends Seminary separate
On December 6, 2015, New York Quarterly Meeting reached a decision to approve the separate incorporation of its 230-year-old independent school, Friends Seminary.
“I couldn’t be any more excited for our school and the quarterly meeting,” Friends Seminary principal Robert “Bo” Lauder said following the decision. “The excitement and electricity in the meetinghouse today was palpable. This is a great new chapter in the school’s 230-year history!”
Ann Kjellberg, clerk of the trustees of New York Quarterly Meeting, said, “We welcome this opportunity to usher the school we have nourished so long into the twenty-first century in this way. Separate incorporation will allow Friends Seminary to thrive and develop as its own institution and make an outward-looking home for Friends’ values in the modern city.”
Friends Seminary and its adjoining meeting, Fifteenth Street Meeting in New York City, have been so closely entwined that arriving at separate incorporation through this process took many years. Friends Seminary is the last Quaker school of its size and complexity to take this step, according to Friends Council on Education. The terms of their separate incorporation will allow Friends Seminary to undertake an ambitious campus redevelopment project, slated to break ground in June 2016.
A document called “Essential Principles, Practices and Procedures” was also approved at the meeting ensuring that Friends Seminary continues to operate as a Friends school into the future. The document calls for the creation of an independent governing board, one half of whose members are appointed by New York Quarterly Meeting. This new relationship will provide an exceptional opportunity for continued deepening of the school’s commitment to a rigorous, experiential academic program grounded in Quaker testimonies.
Quakers attend Paris climate conference
Several members of Quaker Earthcare Witness (QEW) traveled to Paris to attend and participate in the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference, commonly called Conference of Parties 21 (COP21).
The talks were held November 30 through December 12, 2015. The representatives were Sara Wolcott, Elaine Emmi, Phillip Emmi, and Shelley Tanenbaum, general secretary of QEW and a Friends Journal author.
Tanenbaum recorded her experience while in Paris. She was able to attend several sessions and events planned around the official conference, including the People’s Climate Summit, a conference on women leading solutions on the frontlines of climate change, an interfaith service, a grassroots session led by Naomi Klein, and several others. She also met up with other Friends that were in attendance.
Tanenbaum witnessed the approval of the Paris agreement and provided some commentary on the process as well. Find her full report on the QEW website, quakerearthcare.org.
Peace groups honor Elise Boulding
In November 2015 the National Peace Academy (NPA) and the School for Conflict Analysis and Resolution (S-CAR) at George Mason University (GMU) announced plans to honor Elise Boulding by naming a residential building to be built at Point of View after her: the Elise Boulding National Peace Academy House.
In a collaboration with S-CAR, NPA is working to expand the opportunities available at Point of View, an international retreat and research center dedicated to peace in Fairfax County, Va., to include residential facilities and opportunities for joint NPA/S-CAR programming. The two groups also collaborated to establish a new faculty fellowship at S-CAR GMU dedicated to the research and study of peacebuilding: the Elise Boulding Scholar-Practitioner, with Dr. Arthur Romano as the first fellow.
Boulding was a Quaker sociologist whose work contributed to the creation of the academic discipline of peace and conflict studies. She was a prolific author, with more than a dozen articles published in Friends Journal from 1956 through 2000. She was also an important figure in the histories of both NPA and S-CAR.
Last summer, NPA, an educational nonprofit that brings together scholars and practitioners of peacebuilding, affiliated with S-CAR with the shared goal of expanding Point of View. The purpose of Point of View is to host national and community level peacebuilding events, conferences, and workshops, and to support visiting scholars and practitioners, as well as students and peacebuilding initiatives. Point of View is a philanthropic investment Edwin and Helen Lynch made to S-CAR; it includes a new academic facility, which will have a ribbon cutting ceremony in early April.
NPA has initiated a grassroots fundraising campaign for donations of any amount in support of furnishings for the center and programming at the school, which includes the new faculty fellowship. It is also possible to purchase a brick, tree, or bench. For more information, visit nationalpeaceacademy.us.