325 years of Quaker education
With the start of the 2014–2015 school year, two Quaker schools have been open for 325 years, marking a historic milestone in Quaker education. Friends Select School and William Penn Charter School, both located in Philadelphia, Pa., trace their roots back to 1689, eight years after the founding of the colony of Pennsylvania by William Penn. Each school commemorated the occasion with celebratory events at the beginning of the school year and by attending a gala event held in April by Friends Council on Education, the umbrella group for Quaker schools across America.
On Monday, September 8, the student body, faculty, and staff of Friends Select gathered in the meetinghouse of Central Philadelphia Meeting to celebrate the school’s 325th opening day. During the celebration, Friends Select students viewed a video featuring archival photos of the school that highlighted moments and figures in history. A real‐life “William Penn” read the mayor’s proclamation that declares the 325th anniversary of the charter of Friends Select. Lower school students received copies of a specially commissioned 325th anniversary coloring and puzzle book. A time capsule is being planned for later in the year. Following the celebration, birthday cake was served.
Penn Charter planned a special all‐school convocation to take place on the morning of Friday, October 24 (after this issue went to press). According to Penn Charter’s website, the event will feature remarks by head of school Darryl J. Ford, PC parent and former governor Ed Rendell, and other dignitaries. After school, students are encouraged to attend home games for the football, soccer, and field hockey teams. Dinner will be provided for the entire PC community courtesy of food trucks and food stations to be set up outside of the school. Next, a 12‐minute commissioned film on William Penn will premiere in the Kurtz Center. The day will conclude with cake, hot chocolate, and fireworks.
Australian Quaker biographies now online
The website for Quakers in Australia, quakers.org.au, has a new section called Australian Quaker Biographies, which enables anyone to search the biographical details of over 700 people who have been associated with Australian Quakers since 1855.
Most of the information comes from the Dictionary of Australian Quaker Biography (DAQB), the compilation of information about Australian Friends who have died. Print versions of the DAQB are held in regional meeting libraries, with entries filed alphabetically in a series of loose‐leaf folders. Additionally, copies are lodged in the State Libraries of New South Wales, Tasmania, and Victoria; the University of Tasmania Library; the National Library of Australia; and some overseas libraries. Each year, Australia Yearly Meeting produces and distributes an annual supplement to the DAQB.
Preparation of the digital archive of Australian Quaker biographies involved scanning DAQB print entries and converting them using Optical Character Recognition (OCR) software to Rich Text Format (RTF) files, which were then proofread by volunteers.
Short audio biographies of 30 significant Quakers from different parts of the world may also be accessed from the Australian Quaker Biographies website. Information about Quakers who arrived in Australia before 1862, based on the research of Marjorie and William Oats, may also be searched.
British Quakers call to recognize Palestine
On October 13, the United Kingdom Parliament voted in favor of recognizing Palestine as a separate nation state alongside the state of Israel; the vote was 274 to 12 (more than half of the 650 House of Commons members abstained). The move is intended to help along peace negotiations and increase pressure for a two‐state solution to the Israeli‐Palestinian conflict.
Two months before the motion was up for debate, Quakers of Britain Yearly Meeting had called for this decision in a statement released on August 8, during the group’s yearly meeting gathering held in Bath of Somerset county in South West England. The full statement is available at fdsj.nl/BrYM-Palestine. A key excerpt from the statement reads:
As we among other Nobel Peace Laureates have said, “The conflict between the Palestinians and the Israelis will only be resolved when Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian territory is ended, and the inherent equality, worth, and dignity of all is realised.” Peacebuilding is a long and demanding path to take.… We long for—and will work for—a time when the deep fear experienced on all sides is replaced by security and a just peace.
The statement also came following the news that Quakers were invited to meet Foreign Office ministers on the crisis. Teresa Parker, program manager for Israel and Palestine for Quakers in Britain, was among representatives from faith and secular agencies who shared views on and experiences of the region.
A few weeks before the debate took place, Britain Yearly Meeting urged Quakers to contact their respective member of parliament (MP) and encourage the MP to attend the debate and vote for the recognition of the state of Palestine. On its website, the group also supplied a template to use for writing an email or a letter to a MP addressing this concern.
Pendle Hill, a Quaker study, retreat, and conference center located in Wallingford, Pa., announced the appointment of Steve Chase as its new director of education effective October 1.
Chase is a member of Putney (Vt.) Meeting, a traveling Friends minister focused on both Quaker Quest and answering God’s call to heal and repair the world, and the author of Letters to a Fellow Seeker: A Short Introduction to the Quaker Way. For the last 13 years, he has worked at Antioch University New England in the Environmental Studies Department as the director of the Advocacy for Social Justice and Sustainability master’s program. He was the 2013 speaker for Pendle Hill’s annual Stephen Cary Lecture.
Chase is also the author of numerous articles on faith, social activism, environmental justice, sustainability, and the Transition Movement, including an essay on the Transition Movement in the 2014 book Achieving Sustainability: Visions, Principles, and Practices. He has been published in Friends Journal, Quaker Life, Western Friend, BeFriending Creation, and Sojourners. He is currently co‐writing a booklet for the Quaker Institute for the Future entitled Creating Beloved Communities: A Primer on the Transition Town Movement for People of Faith.