While nations around the world seek to respond to COVID-19, Friends advocacy organizations continue their work but at distance. They look to respond to emerging issues as well as consider how long-held priorities might be newly heard in the current situation.
- Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL) quickly moved its March 29-31 Spring Lobby weekend online (recordings are available) and continues to offer Thursdays with Friends, 30-minute online community chats designed to foster dialogue among Quakers on pressing issues.
- Quaker Council for European Affairs (QCEA) is tracking abuses of power across Europe during the crisis as well as movements of solidarity and resistance.
- Quaker United Nations Office (QUNO) highlights recent thinking on people-centered and sustainable approaches to complex crises.
Consultation, Support, and Resources
While in-person conferences have been canceled, much of the vital work of these organizations can continue online, including the support of Friends who are newly in positions of need.
- Friends General Conference (FGC) and Quakers Uniting in Publications (QUIP) have had to move their annual conferences online.
- Friends Services Alliance (FSA) is offering workshops and other resources to help its members navigate the especially difficult issues facing senior-serving communities.
- Friends United Meeting (FUM) has created a special new fund called the COVID-19 Solidarity Fund, which allows all Friends to serve the most vulnerable. Funds have gone toward food insecurity in Belize, and to the Friends Lugulu Mission Hospital and Friends Theological College, both in Western Kenya.
- Friends World Committee on Consultation Africa Section issued a joint appeal with FUM and Friends Church Kenya asking for spiritual, medical, and humanitarian support for African churches in crisis.
Friends development organizations continue their life-saving work in communities around the world during the pandemic.
- The work of Friendly Water for the World training communities around the world in how to ensure safe water and to manufacture liquid soap has become especially relevant. They have begun hosting weekly online chats.
Friends educational institutions make adjustments to continue their work within social distancing guidelines. Quaker campuses have shut down while instruction continues online. Quaker schools look to address financial shortfalls, and Quaker religious educators offer ways to engage children at a distance.
- Friends Council on Education is facilitating virtual conversations with Friends schools about online pedagogy, family support during these times, and financial uncertainties.
- Guilford College in Greensboro, N.C., closed its campus for the semester and furloughed over 130 employees.
- Sidwell Friends School, a pre-K through 12 school in Washington, D.C., drew fire for accepting CARES federal bailout funds while maintaining an endowment worth over $50 million.
- Quaker Religious Education Collaborative (QREC) continues to provide resources and hold online conversation circles about topics such as “supporting spiritual nurturers in the home.”
Environmental and Earthcare
Friends environmental organizations are finding new ways to accomplish their goals.
- Earth Quaker Action Team (EQAT) has had to modify its protests against PECO and parent company Exelon as the utility company moved to online meetings.
- Quaker Earthcare Witness is hosting monthly worship sharing groups in partnership with Friends General Conference.
- Friends Fiduciary Corporation has closed its physical office but has been able to continue operations online, including offering guidance on recent market volatility.
- Quaker-supported Mennonite financial services group Everence has seen over 200 applications for its anabaptist congregation COVID-19 relief fund.
Retreat, Conference, and Study Centers
Friends retreat and conference centers have closed to outside events and visitors. They have moved programs and worship online, dependent on Internet and power availability. Centers dependent upon outside guests are concerned about lost revenue, while centers with permanent residents worry about keeping them safe and healthy. Several centers have looked to apply for federal funding via the Paycheck Protection Program.
- Pendle Hill continues its daily meeting for worship online; but has had to let go of half of its staff.
- Pennington House in New York City and Beacon Hill in Boston, Mass., have concerns both about their lower residency levels and keeping their remaining residents safe while maintaining a sense of community.
Service and Peace
Friends service organizations are navigating how to continue to support the groups they’ve long worked with while also responding to new needs.
- American Friends Service Committee through their local offices have worked to help Atlanta residents stay in their homes, advocated for prisoners’ health in Arizona, and started a “Farm to Food Bank” project in New Mexico.
- Friends House Moscow has moved Alternatives to Violence Project (AVP)-Ukraine, its English club, and refugee services online.
- Quaker Service Australia has been limited in its work as partner organizations have not been able to visit the rural communities that they serve.
- Quaker Service Belfast stopped its in-person family crisis, adolescent mental health, and prisoner visitation programs but look to offer some support online.
- Quaker Voluntary Service fellows are not going into their internship sites, but are working remotely while living in the homes they share with other fellows.
Many Friends summer sleep-away camps are canceling summer programs, and facing financial shortfalls as a result. Some are opting to run modified versions of their summer programs.
- Baltimore Yearly Meeting Camps in Maryland and Virginia; Farm & Wilderness Camps in Vermont; Friends Camp in Maine; Mountain Friends Camp in New Mexico; Quaker Knoll Camp in Ohio; Camp Onus in Pennsylvania; and Camp NeeKauNis in Ontario have all canceled their programs for this summer.
- Quaker Haven Camp in Indiana, and Camp Tilikum and Twin Rocks Friends Camp in Oregon are planning on running summer camps but with enhanced safety guidelines.