Anniversary commemoration for Norman Morrison
On November 1, the College of Wooster in Wooster, Ohio, held an event to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of the death of Baltimore Quaker and alumnus Norman Morrison, who in 1965 gave his life in an act of self-immolation outside the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., as a witness against the growing war in Vietnam. He was 31 years old.
In a day of remembrance, the College of Wooster hosted Morrison’s surviving family, including his wife, Anne Morrison Welsh, and three children, to dedicate a tree in his honor. Wooster (Ohio) Meeting and other campus groups began the day with a Quaker meeting for worship; followed by poems, special music, and informal sharing.
In a final letter to his family, Morrison said, “Know that I love thee, but must act for the children in the priest’s village.” He was referring to the U.S. bombing of a village in South Vietnam where the Viet Cong reportedly had passed through. The priest was a Catholic Father, shepherd of a mission chapel in the village, which was decimated in the bombing.
Friends from afar who feel moved by this commemoration are invited to consider the work of Madison Quakers, Inc., in Wisconsin in their decades-long efforts to help heal the wounds of war suffered by families and children in Vietnam. Learn more at mqivietnam.org.
Friends and Pope Francis’s visit
During his visit to the United States on September 22–27, Pope Francis spoke before Congress in Washington, D.C., and crowds in New York, N.Y., and Philadelphia, Pa. He spoke on the need for environmental engagement, the need to take care of the oppressed, and other subjects dear to the concerns of many Friends. He also mentioned Quakers during the speech he gave on September 26 in Philadelphia:
The Quakers who founded Philadelphia were inspired by a profound evangelical sense of the dignity of each individual and the ideal of a community united by brotherly love. This conviction led them to found a colony which would be a haven of religious freedom and tolerance. That sense of fraternal concern for the dignity of all, especially the weak and the vulnerable, became an essential part of the American spirit.
I take this opportunity to thank all those, of whatever religion, who have sought to serve God, the God of peace, by building cities of brotherly love, by caring for our neighbors in need, by defending the dignity of God’s gift . . . In this witness, which frequently encounters powerful resistance, you remind American democracy of the ideals for which it was founded, and that society is weakened whenever and wherever injustice prevails.
New England Yearly Meeting wrote a “public statement on climate change” in response to Pope Francis’s speech to Congress, sharing it on neym.org; an excerpt is below:
Francis reminds us that all creatures are connected, that each must be cherished with love and respect. We are dependent on one another. It is through our relationships with each living being that we make real our love for God and for Creation. Francis challenges us to accept the urgency of the crisis created by human-caused climate disruption, recognizing it as a central challenge of our time. This work cannot be left to the future. Responding to the climate crisis requires of us a serious and clear-eyed recognition of the severity of our impact on the planet and the devastating effects already being experienced, especially by the most vulnerable.
Distress in North Carolina Yearly Meeting (FUM)
September’s yearly meeting sessions were eventful for North Carolina Yearly Meeting (Friends United Meeting). On September 4, the first day of sessions, the yearly meeting released three monthly meetings from its care: Holly Spring Meeting in Ramseur, N.C.; Poplar Ridge Meeting in Trinity, N.C.; and New Garden Meeting in Greensboro, N.C. Holly Spring and Poplar Ridge had already made plans to leave the yearly meeting, while New Garden was released due to its dual affiliation in another yearly meeting.
The decision to release these meetings was overturned in business meeting the next day, yet Holly Spring and Poplar Ridge announced that they were still leaving the yearly meeting. Since August 1, four other meetings have announced that they are disaffiliating with NCYM (FUM): Pine Hill Meeting in Ararat, N.C.; Plainfield (Ind.) Meeting; Prosperity Meeting in Robbins, N.C.; and South Fork Meeting in Snow Camp, N.C. Anticipation is that others will follow, with guesses ranging from a dozen to two dozen, out of a total membership of 69 meetings.
A task group has formed to work on a way forward. The group sent a letter to all the monthly meetings still in the yearly meeting to respond to four statements as to whether they affirm them or not. The four areas of division can be viewed in an online Friends Journal post from last October by NCYM (FUM) member Max L. Carter at fdsj.nl/NCYM-FUM. Carter told us, “Although a process has not been approved, the implication is that meetings which do not affirm the statements will be asked to leave the yearly meeting.”
West Hills Friends Church rejoins NWYM for now
The administrative council of Northwest Yearly Meeting (NWYM) met on September 12 to begin the process of responding to appeals filed by a number of meetings in objection to the release of West Hills Friends Church (WHFC) of Portland, Ore. The council accepted the appeal as outlined in Faith and Practice, meaning West Hills is once again part of NWYM through the end of 2015, then until the administrative council reaches a further decision.
As we reported in the September issue, WHFC was dismissed by the board of elders of the yearly meeting following longtime disagreements over allowing those who are openly gay to become members of the meeting. WHFC is welcoming of LGBTQ members.
The administrative council will meet again in November and will act within its duties outlined in NWYM’s Faith and Practice. If the elders’ decision stands, the earliest at which legal separation could occur is December 31, 2016.
On behalf of the yearly meeting staff, Becky Ankeny, the superintendent of NWYM, addressed the conflict in a newsletter:
I have come to think that having the [yearly meeting] “answer” the question “once and for all” is a way of avoiding these much more personal and painful and relationally risky confrontations between people who love each other locally. And I’m convinced that it is not healthy to avoid the hard personal conversations by citing and enforcing a denominational document. We then live in false tranquility until the next rough shaking when we discover once again that we do not all think alike.
New documentary about Quakers
A feature-length documentary about Quakers called Quakers: That of God in Everyone premiered at the Cincinnati Film Festival on September 17. The documentary focuses on the past and present work of Quakers in the Midwestern United States, including Wilmington Yearly Meeting area. Over the last three years, Cincinnati-based Rebel Pilgrim Productions has worked on the film alongside Donne Hayden, who was the minister at Cincinnati (Ohio) Meeting during that time. At press, Cincinnati Meeting was planning to host a showing of the film on November 7. Friends can view the trailer on Vimeo.com.
Quaker-founded organization stops cholera in DR Congo
Friendly Water for the World, a clean water group based in Olympia, Wash., has eliminated cholera in 26 orphanages in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The nonprofit organization was founded in 2010 by convergent Friends from Olympia Meeting and Olympic View Friends Church in Tacoma, Wash. “It’s no miracle,” said board chairman David Albert, a member of Olympia Meeting. “It’s just good science, strategically and appropriately applied by people who care.”
From January to June, the medical officer for the organization Dr. Kambale Musubao visited all 26 orphanages in the city of Goma, documenting more than 700 cases of cholera and at least 67 deaths over the six months. Musubao is a physician who trained two teams to install BioSand water filters in all 26 orphanages; the teams also trained those orphanages in the basics of hygiene. With those efforts, as of September 2, there is not a single case of cholera in any orphanage in Goma. This has led to a “We Stopped Cholera Victory Campaign” that will hopefully raise the funds to reproduce the success in other parts of DRC. Find out more at friendlywater.net.
Friends school in Michigan closed for the year
In late August Detroit Friends School, Michigan’s only Quaker school, announced that it would close for the year due to financial strain, citing needed repairs to the campus and decreased enrollment. Many are hopeful that this closing will be only for one year, including members of the school’s board of trustees. Fundraising efforts by parents and board members are well underway; they were close to raising enough money for the school to stay open, but fell short due to the needed repairs. School officials plan to use the time while closed to raise money and reorganize. The school, which would have celebrated 50 years this year, was founded in 1965 by Judge Wade H. McCree, his family, and the Quaker community after McCree’s daughter was turned away from another school because she was African American. The current mission of the school is in line with this legacy, referring to itself as an “inclusive, culturally diverse community.” The school provides tuition assistance to any family that can’t afford tuition, though that has become harder to do over the past few years.
During its annual conference held August 12–16, Bware Yearly Meeting in southwestern Kenya took the historic step of appointing Monica Makungu Dalizu as the first-ever woman presiding clerk of any yearly meeting in East Africa. Dalizu, age 53, had been serving as the vice presiding clerk of Bware Yearly Meeting for the last three years, and had also served a three-year term as the yearly meeting’s recording clerk. She is currently the recording clerk for Friends Church Kenya, which is the national umbrella organization for the 18 yearly meetings in Kenya. She and her husband, Abisai Dalizu, are blessed with six children.
This appointment comes after a long history of women taking on leadership roles within Quakerism in East Africa. The Quaker movement in Africa has been characterized by its commitment to the dignity and rights of women, despite strong cultural forces to the contrary. Until now, no yearly meeting had appointed a woman to one of the three main leadership positions: presiding clerk, general secretary, and general superintendent.