A semiannual feature to connect Friends Journal readers to the good works of Quaker organizations* in the following categories:
- Consultation, Support, and Resources
- Environment and Ecojustice
- Investment Management
- Retreat, Conference, and Study Centers
- Service and Peace Work
*Editors’ note: We invite all explicitly Quaker-founded and/or Quaker-run groups and organizations to submit to the Quaker Works column. Most, but not all, are 501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations. The content is supplied by staff members of the organizations and edited to fit the style of Friends Journal. More details can be found on the Quaker Works submissions page.
Friends Committee on National Legislation
For nearly 75 years, FCNL has brought Friends’ perspectives to Capitol Hill. Congress has immense power to effect positive change. It’s all of our jobs to make sure they use it.
In November 2015, more than 400 people joined FCNL in Washington to encourage U.S. investment in peacebuilding. This lobbying convinced senators from both parties to support permanent authorization of the Atrocities Prevention Board, which helps the U.S. respond quickly when violence threatens. The Genocide and Atrocities Prevention Act was introduced with bipartisan support in February.
While some in Congress worked to keep Syrian refugees out of the country, FCNL challenged the government to do better. It co-chaired a coalition of more than 100 groups lobbying against anti-refugee legislation and in January successfully stopped legislation that would have kept Syrian refugees out of the U.S.
Hundreds of young people came to Washington in March to advocate for sentencing reform and to unlock justice. They urged Congress to end racism in the justice system and take steps that will keep more people out of prison. This annual Spring Lobby Weekend event helps build a new generation of advocates.
On March 31, FCNL’s associate executive secretary for legislative program Ruth Flower retired after 25 years. FCNL welcomed Amelia Kegan as the new director for domestic policy and Jose Woss as legislative associate for domestic policy.
Quaker Council for European Affairs
QCEA brings a Quaker vision of just relationships to European institutions. In 2015, peace and sustainability were the strongest themes. QCEA’s advocacy staff focused its efforts on: (1) building an advocacy network against armed drones in the EU; (2) proposing that peacebuilding and restorative tools be used to address insecurity and hate, including advocating against military responses to migration; (3) building a circular economy, in right relationship with creation; and (4) opposing the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership that threatens social and environmental legislation.
The European Forum on Armed Drones has grown quickly from project officer Tim Harman’s initiative. Fifteen NGOs now take part, resulting in a draft European Union (EU) policy to be considered in the Parliament. Sustainability project officer George Thurley held a series of meetings with national member state governments in faith that they hear QCEA’s call for a sustainable economy.
In November 2015, the European Network Against the Arms Trade appointed Laëtitia Sédou as its first member of staff, and based in the QCEA office.
In early December, the largest ever QCEA-QPSW (Quaker Peace and Social Witness) conference took place in Brussels, Belgium, involving 115 Friends from 23 countries. They discussed the Europe that Friends would like to build. The tide of militarism, xenophobia, and injustice seemed to be strong, but the conference reaffirmed the commitment to try what love can do.
Quaker Initiative to End Torture
QUIT is the spiritual work of Quakers to end torture. It was founded in 2005 by Quaker healer John Calvi.
There have been too many stories of American torture involving children and women, civilians and soldiers, abductions and disappearances, and use of medical professionals to “improve” torture. These reports have brought some North American Friends together to oppose torture as policy and practice in all places, at all times, for all peoples.
Minutes of support have come from numerous monthly and yearly meetings. QUIT’s care for healing extends to all survivors and perpetrators as the practice of torture defiles all involved.
This initiative to end torture begins in the United States, where much of the responsibility for torture around the world resides. QUIT has held conferences for education leading to action, and continues to share information and reminders about work to end torture and pursue accountability.
The greatest dangers are denial and inaction. QUIT began in the silence of worship, and continues in reverence, as the work is large and will take more than good intentions or a mere generation. These activists are hopeful because such work strengthens their spiritual muscles and disciplines their listening for the Divine in all.
Quaker United Nations Office
In October 2015, the Israel-Palestine NGO Working Group, of which QUNO is a member, published a booklet on the UN Security Council Arria-formula meeting on Gaza, which took place in July. The booklet features the presentations made by the four expert speakers at the meeting, which was co-hosted by the Permanent Missions of Malaysia and Jordan to the UN.
In November, QUNO hosted a book launch and discussion at Quaker House in New York on “Making Peace in Their Own Words: People of Myanmar’s Peace Process,” a publication recently issued by the Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies. Member states, UN personnel, and NGOs came together to discuss challenges and successes of the peace process, which is nationally led and has taken place between the government and ethnic armed groups.
In December, QUNO director Andrew Tomlinson spoke at a meeting of the Washington-based Conflict Prevention and Resolution Forum on “The Future of Goal 16: Peace and Inclusion in the Sustainable Development Goals.”
In January, in the midst of UN discussions on the Secretary-General’s recent Plan of Action on Preventing Violent Extremism (PVE), QUNO co-hosted the launch of three reports by Saferworld on counter-terrorism, stabilization, and statebuilding in Afghanistan, Somalia, and Yemen. A packed room of member states, UN officials, think tanks, and NGOs engaged with multiple panels of speakers, including PVE experts and UN representatives.
Consultation, Support, and Resources
Fellowship of Quakers in the Arts
FQA coordinated the Quaker Arts Center at the FGC Gathering in July 2015. The art show included quilts, knitting, painting, photography, wood carvings, kites, and other art. FQA’s Great Lakes chapter had an “Eyes Wide Open” display with artists’ additions to Michigan soldiers’ combat boots. One visitor commented: “beautiful artwork, totally awesome.” The closing reception featured a musical performance, presentations by workshop leaders on kite-making and photography, and artists talking about their art. FQA also sponsored a reading of Sandra Johnson’s play “Three Women,” facilitated a discussion on the “meaning of art in your life,” and ran a continuous slide show featuring about 36 Quaker artists.
FQA coordinated an art exhibit and artists’ workshop at Caln Quarter’s Camp Swatara Retreat (in Philadelphia Yearly Meeting) and held an art exhibit with music and poetry performances at Mount Holly (N.J.) Meeting. FQA continues to publish a full-color journal, Types and Shadows, featuring visual and literary works by Quaker artists around the United States.
FQA regional chapters have been busy too. Great Lakes held a workshop involving worship with clay and featured a member’s art at a show and reception. In October, South Jersey held an event at a historic meetinghouse, with artists responding to the building in their chosen medium. Regional chapter events are covered in Types and Shadows, available on the FQA website.
Friends General Conference
Central Committee (FGC’s governance group) met October 22–25, 2015. More than 140 Friends from the affiliated yearly and monthly meetings gathered to consider Spirit’s guidance as regards the organization’s joint work and how to move forward while living within financial means.
FGC was blessed with unity to move forward with many programs, to regretfully lay down others, and to grow a stronger identity for FGC as a collaborative of its affiliated yearly and member meetings.
There was also widespread unity that FGC should be enthusiastically experimenting with how FGC can better function as a vibrant collaborative of our affiliated member organizations working together to serve the Religious Society of Friends. An evaluation of FGC’s governance and volunteer structures is also a vital part of this process.
Programs continuing for 2016 include: the FGC Gathering, QuakerPress, the Friends Meeting House Fund, QuakerBooks, Quaker Cloud services, Quaker Finder, Faith & Play, Sparkling Still, Yearly Meeting Visitors Program, Spiritual Deepening Program, Ministry on Racism, Clerks Training for young Friends, Stewardship Services, and Christian Interfaith Relations Committee.
FGC’s Ministry on Racism staff is busy working on the annual White Privilege Conference, which serves as an opportunity to examine and explore difficult issues related to white privilege, white supremacy, and oppression. FGC is one of the sponsors of this year’s event being held in Philadelphia, Pa., April 13–17.
Friends Services for the Aging
Friends nursing homes shine!
The federal government service of Nursing Home Compare provides a five-star quality rating system for every Medicare- and Medicaid-certified skilled nursing facility (nursing home) in the United States. These ratings, of which five is the highest score to receive, are based on information from health inspections, staffing, and quality measures. This system is just one source of information that consumers can use in conjunction with other information when making decisions about nursing facilities for themselves or others.
Friends Services for the Aging (FSA), the national association of aging services providers associated with Quakers, includes 23 organizations that receive ratings in this system. Several member organizations skilled-care units are private pay-only and so are not included in the rating system. In reports issued from February through October 2015, these Friends organizations performed very, very well.
The average score for the 10,819 for-profit facilities rated was 2.95; the average for the 959 government facilities was 3.43; the average for the 3,727 nonprofit facilities was 3.61; and the average rating for the 23 FSA member organizations was an outstanding 4.5!
These organizations pride themselves on their commitment to quality and it shows!
Friends World Committee for Consultation (Section of the Americas)
This year FWCC Section of the Americas is organizing a new volunteer corps of Spanish- and English-speaking Friends to send as traveling ministers throughout the Section, crossing yearly meeting lines and other divisions among Friends. The Traveling Ministry Corps Program Group includes Friends from six yearly meetings in the United States and Bolivia. Since November, the group has been developing the training program, and will start accepting applications in the spring of 2016. Check the website for more information. Some members of the program group participated in the QuakerSpeak video titled, “Why Traveling Ministry is Vital for Quakers in the 21st Century.”
FWCC Section of the Americas was also excited to host the FWCC World Plenary Meeting in its section in January. Over 300 Friends from around the world gathered in Pisac, Peru, to share worship, fellowship, and plans for the FWCC organization and the Religious Society of Friends. Attendees participated in consultations on Quaker leadership, living ministry, environmental sustainability, and identifying the challenges and opportunities ahead.
Friends World Committee for Consultation (World Office)
FWCC held a World Plenary Meeting in Pisac, Peru, in January. This was an opportunity for FWCC to gather voices from around the world to discuss matters of importance to the worldwide Quaker family. In particular, the plenary incorporated four consultations on: Ministry and Leadership, Living Ministry Communities, Sustaining Life on Earth, and Equipping FWCC for the Future.
Friends agreed a minute on sustainability calling on all yearly meetings to initiate at least two concrete actions on sustainability within the next 12 months, to support individuals and groups in their meetings who feel called to take action on sustainability, and to support the work done by Quaker organizations such as the Quaker United Nations Office and the Quaker Council for European Affairs. FWCC is also called upon to look at ways of connecting Friends worldwide that are sustainable and to give consideration to its investments and other issues that affect sustainability.
Friends also approved a new constitution for the World Office. Details of what has emerged, including the Epistle, can be found at fwcc.world/peru-2016.
World Quaker Day will held on Sunday, October 2. The theme this year is “Inspired by faith—witnessing together in the world.” More information and resources can be found at worldquakerday.org in the coming months.
Quakers Uniting in Publications
Quakers Uniting in Publications (QUIP) is very pleased to have many quotes from its publications Spirit Rising: Young Quaker Voices and El Espíritu Se Levanta: Voces Jóvenes Cuáqueras appear in the study booklet for the 2016 FWCC World Plenary Meeting in Peru.
A talented youth editorial board worked tirelessly for several years, supported in a variety of ways by QUIP and its members, to publish this book. More recently, QUIP coordinated and published the Spanish translation, making it accessible to many more Friends. QUIP, as publisher, is very pleased that one of the fruits of this project has been to support the work of FWCC and worldwide Friends.
Quoting from the booklet, “The plenary meeting will have a strong focus on youth with many young Adult Friends attending, so we have included experiences and insights of young Quakers from around the world with extracts from the book Spirit Rising.”
Quaker authors, publishers, and booksellers always hope that their labor will contribute to Friends personal spiritual growth and that of our growing faith community. This is as good as it gets. For those who seek to know about the faith, practice, and wisdom of younger Friends, both books—El Espíritu Se Levanta: Voces Jóvenes Cuáqueras and Spirit Rising: Young Quaker Voices—are available from QuakerBooks at quakerbooks.org.
Tract Association of Friends
In First Month, the Tract Association of Friends began its 200th year, anticipating new offerings: Living in the Spirit: What One Friend Has Learned, a tract; and A Language for the Inward Landscape, a book made possible with grants from the Mosher Book and Tract Fund and the Obadiah Brown Fund. Many Friends have the 2016 Friends’ Calendar on their walls; the 2017 calendars are in preparation.
The Tract Association of Friends began as one of many tract associations in Europe and North America to provide inexpensive, concise printed materials that promoted religious reflection as sermons and excerpts.
Although the use of tracts declined in the mid-twentieth century, the Tract Association of Friends still finds a continuing demand for tracts that explain the Quaker experience of Quaker worship and practice. Thomas R. Kelly’s The Gathered Meeting and John H. Curtis’s A Quaker View of the Christian Revelation are examples of tracts which have a steady demand.
Shifts from print to electronic media encouraged the Tract Association of Friends to adjust its focus to distribute tract texts electronically: “free or at cost”—as set forth in the original mandate in 1816. Tracts and pamphlets are frequently read online at the website, e.g. Virginia Schurman’s The Beatitudes and Sandra Cronk’s Peace Be with You. The Tract Association serves Friends of all varieties throughout the world.
Quaker Bolivia Link
QBL is an international, non-sectarian development organization guided by Quaker principles and dedicated to reducing poverty among the indigenous peoples of Bolivia. Since 1995, QBL has been working alongside the indigenous Andean people to fund, construct, and monitor community-based projects to secure food sources, promote better health, and generate income.
As a result, through QBL support, there are now over 365 family greenhouses growing healthy vegetables rich in iron; 1,870 families with access to clean water; 260 families with animal breeding projects; 50 families with alternative income projects; and 750 families with improved crops or irrigation systems.
The following principles guide QBL’s actions: (1) QBL works to raise awareness of Bolivian culture and society; (2) QBL seeks to include men and women equally in the planning and leadership of projects; (3) QBL does not fund projects that have a religious purpose and neither includes nor excludes communities because of their religious beliefs.
Three QBL boards (QBL-Bolivia, QBL-USA, and QBL-UK) work together with the staff in La Paz, which is composed of university-trained Bolivians who administer the projects, engaging villagers to do the labor and participate in all aspects of the project’s completion. QBL fundraising—primarily from Quaker sources—is done throughout North America and Europe. Current projects include building a community water system and improving local quinoa production.
Quaker Social Action
Since 1867, generations of Quakers have helped Quaker Social Action to take action on poverty in the UK. To help understand its own history, QSA has welcomed four visiting students from Earlham College, an American college in Indiana founded by Quakers. Thea, Kyra, Hao, and Brittani will be digging into QSA’s history to help mark its 150th anniversary in 2017.
They will be spending a lot of time at the Library of the Religious Society of Friends in London, which holds original documents dating back to when QSA was known as the Bedford Institute Association. This material takes readers back in time to when Quakers helped Victorian orphans in the nineteenth century, provided coal tickets to families during WWI, and supported single mothers in the 1960s. The work QSA does has changed over the years, but Quakers have always remained committed to social justice, equality, and improving the lives of those living on low incomes.
In the words of the students: “QSA’s annual reports are a treasure trove of insight into how Quaker communities have responded to poverty. We can’t wait to speak with Friends who can bring some of these documents to life with their memories.”
QSA is really looking forward to what the visiting students will discover in the archives and to sharing what they learn.
Right Sharing of World Resources
RSWR funds micro-enterprise projects for marginalized women in Kenya, Sierra Leone, and India, with grants of about $5,000 to women’s groups that then lend the money to their members to start small businesses. The repaid money is passed on to new women to start additional businesses. Here are three of 43 groups RSWR supported in 2015.
In Freetown, Sierra Leone, girls sell sex or marijuana at numerous “social centers” to survive. Women in Crisis Farmers Association helps these young women find a better way to earn a living through a community project growing food. The RSWR grant will fund 33 women to cultivate 70 acres of groundnuts, vegetables, rice, maize, potatoes, and cassava.
Solidarity Friends Women Group is a Quaker USFW organization in Vihiga, Kenya, where most people struggle with poverty. Members currently run small businesses including selling groceries, buying and selling cereals, tailoring, or selling kerosene. The RSWR grant will be used to expand these tiny enterprises to provide a better living.
Society for Enlightenment and Empowerment works with tribal people in Tamil Nadu, India. Traditionally, these people lived in and made their living from the forests, but recently the area has become a tourist destination, and they are banned from hunting or collecting forest products. SEE will help them start small businesses selling fruit, vegetables, and fish, so they can support themselves.
Bolivian Quaker Education Fund
BQEF has 45 Quaker scholarship students this year. Meanwhile, graduates are effecting change in the world:
Magaly Quispe has been reinvited by Bolivian prison officials to spread Alternatives to Violence Project workshops to prisons in three cities. Magaly is also involved in planning a four-country Caravan of Peace.
Magaly, graduate Emma Condori, and BQE-Bolivia Coordinator Bernabé Yujra are establishing a “Casa de La Paz.” They’ve rented a location for offering seminars, workshops, and courses to Friends of all ages across Bolivian yearly meetings, including peace workshops in May.
Alicia Lucasi and Anahi Ticona attended the FWCC Plenary and forged friendships with Friends around the globe.
While attending a linguistics conference, scholarship student Walter Poma learned about Jaqi-Aru, an NGO working to preserve Aymara language and culture. He left inspired to get involved in the project co-founded by graduate Ruben Hilari.
Five of the 22 students at the Student Residence hope to graduate this year and attend university. There’s now Internet access on new computers, more textbooks and literature, and the library in the works, plus major improvements to the boys’ bathroom were made, including tiling, a second shower, more toilets, and privacy walls.
Volunteer Johanna Buchmann of German Yearly Meeting spent two months in Bolivia tutoring scholarship students and at the Student Residence. Johanna went home inspired to share her experiences with Friends in Germany.
Earlham School of Religion
New and noteworthy from Earlham School of Religion: ESR has expanded its full tuition Leadership and Service Scholarship program. Originally designated for recent graduates from a Quaker College Leadership program or a faith-based volunteer service program (through “Service Programs that Change the World”), the Leadership and Service program has grown to include year-long interns at Friends Committee on National Legislation, the Quaker United Nations Office, and QuEST Seattle; as well as graduates from a Bonner Scholar or Bonner Leader program, and any Forum for Theological Exploration Volunteers Exploring Vocation (VEV) network program.
Through the Leadership and Service Scholarship, ESR offers a limited number of full-tuition scholarships to accepted, degree-seeking, residential student applicants within three years of graduating from any of the above programs.
In faculty news, professor of theology Grace Ji-Sun Kim attended the Paris Climate Conference where 195 countries adopted the Paris Agreement, making history and recognizing the urgency of climate change. She shared more about this experience in a workshop at ESR’s Spirituality Gathering in February.
ESR has also been preparing to host the 2016 Quaker Leadership Conference in August. “Holy Experiments: Risk, Courage, and the Entrepreneurial Spirit” will feature keynote speakers Christina Repoley, executive director of Quaker Voluntary Service, and Samir Selmanovic, executive director of Faith House Manhattan.
Friends Council on Education
Friends Council, founded in 1931, provides a vital network for 81 Quaker schools across the country, bringing educators together for collaboration and connectedness, and helping to assure that Friends schools remain grounded in Quaker values, pedagogy, and process. Through professional development, a growing student scholarship program, governance support, and a Quaker self-study process, Friends Council continues to bolster the Quaker nature of Friends schools.
2016–2017 brings noteworthy growth in Friends Council’s professional development programs for educators. The Institute for Engaging Leadership and the SPARC Program have record enrollment, and Educators New to Quakerism (ENTQ) has expanded with programs hosted in Pennsylvania, North Carolina, and New York. A new Mindfulness Peer Network has launched, along with a SEED seminar for Friends schools.
Fundraising is well underway for the National Endowment for Quaker Children (NEQC). The NEQC Pilot Program provided scholarships to Quaker children in four schools across the country in 2015–2016, with anticipated growth for 2016–2017.
This year Friends Council is exploring ways in which technology and web-based platforms can be used more effectively to connect Quaker schools.
Environmental sustainability, the theme of the recent issue of Chronicles of Quaker Education, shares the story of FEEN, the Friends School Sustainability Survey, and a Sustainability Forum, all of which have spurred schools to actively evaluate their practices.
Quaker Religious Education Collaborative
QREC is living into its mission to create spaces where Friends from across the branches of Quakerism can share resources, inspiration, and support among the RE community of practice.
The fall e-newsletter, Connections, included news of curricula from collaborative members in Ohio Valley and Western yearly meetings and resources for addressing bias, assumption, and racism through Quaker RE. Conversation Circles this winter used online video conferencing for groups of 10 to 15 Friends from across the country to discuss: “Supporting Parents in Meeting Life,” “Mentoring Young Friends in the Meeting Community,” and “Spiritual Partnership Between Meetings and Friends Schools.” The energy was palpable as sharing created new collaborative work (notes are on the website).
QREC’s web resources continue to grow. When a collaborative member reached out informally about materials for Christmas, it led to the curation and posting of suggestions for teaching Friendly Advent and Christmas. Presently QREC is assembling suggestions for Easter and Pentecost. Collaborative members created a series of short RE videos for release on the website. Topics include “Expectant Waiting: Preparing for Families Coming to Worship” and “Supporting Children’s Ministry.”
Planning continues for a June gathering at Quaker Hill Conference Center in Richmond, Ind., which QREC hopes will bring to life its vision of a multigenerational educational community modeling tools and resources that serve to both spread seeds and nurture the sowers.
Environment and Ecojustice
Earth Quaker Action Team
EQAT’s new campaign addresses both the climate crisis and the inequality crisis by pushing utilities to Power Local Green Jobs by making a major shift to local rooftop solar. EQAT’s first target is southeastern Pennsylvania’s utility, PECO, whose current energy mix includes a paltry 0.25% from solar.
In September and October 2015, EQAT met with PECO and urged it to take a step toward a just transition by purchasing solar from rooftops in North Philadelphia, creating jobs and energy savings in a neighborhood with some of the deepest poverty in the nation. Knowing it would take more than logical arguments to convince PECO, EQAT launched its direct action campaign in September when 75 protesters gathered at PECO’s Philadelphia headquarters, assembling a giant puzzle depicting what a transition to a green economy could look like. PECO was invited to put in the final piece, but the company refused. In the following three months, EQAT held five other creative, invitational actions, which included worship, singing, and dancing the electric slide outside corporate headquarters.
On February 17, EQAT gave PECO a May 2 deadline to commit to purchasing solar from North Philadelphia. If the utility—which is owned by the national corporation Exelon—does not comply, EQAT will “blow the whistle” in a major May action. Visit the website to learn more.
Quaker Earthcare Witness
QEW seeks ecological sustainability and environmental justice, and is dedicated to spiritual transformation within the Society of Friends regarding our connection with nature.
This fall QEW joined in coalition with faith communities to welcome Pope Francis to the United States and joined him in calling for living in right relationship with each other and the natural world. QEW’s response to the Pope’s encyclical is posted on its website.
QEW was a Quaker presence and voice at the 2015 UN Climate Change Conference in Paris in December, in alliance with QUNO-Geneva. The general secretary’s blog from COP21 and the January/February issue of BeFriending Creation (includes a range of Quaker responses to the climate agreement) are both available online.
Friends were pleased to see the aspirational goal of keeping global temperature rise to close to 1.5 degrees C, but expressed concern that current commitments fall far short of that goal. QEW calls for more significant efforts on the part of nations, states, provinces, and local communities to transition to an equitable and sustainable way of life.
New published resources include population concerns (plus Spanish translations of these) and contemplative action around climate change.
QEW contributed to the 2016 FWCC World Plenary gathering in Peru. Conscious of FWCC’s carbon footprint, this gathering made changes to meet less often and approved a followup to the Kabarak Call.
Quaker Institute for the Future
Quaker Institute for the Future is a network organization conducting research at the intersection of economics, equity, and ecological integrity. QIF provides a Quaker voice within the larger ecojustice movement via three programs: Summer Research Seminar, Circles of Discernment, and Publications. QIF’s Moral Economy Project produced the book Right Relationship: Building a Whole Earth Economy in 2009. The institute has subsequently published eight short books on specific research topics.
During the last six months two Circles of Discernment projects have been preparing additional research work for publication. The first book will be titled, Toward Right Relationship with Finance: Debt, Interest, Growth, and Security. The second is titled, Toward a Life Centered Economy. In addition, two research and writing projects by individual QIF associates are in process. The first is on the Transition Town movement and people of faith. The second is on environment and health as planetary crisis.
The 2016 Summer Research Seminar will be held at Regis University in Denver, Colo. See website for further information. The 2017 SSR will be held at Union Theological Seminary in New York City.
Friends Fiduciary Corporation
In November 2015, Friends Fiduciary joined the Paris Pledge for Action, along with other investors, businesses, labor organizations, and nonprofits in advance of the UN Climate Change Conference. By doing so FFC expressed its support for the implementation of a new global climate change agreement and its “strong commitment to a safe and stable climate in which temperature rise is limited to under 2 degrees Celsius.” FFC is committed to working with companies and various partners to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, increase sustainability, and build resilience against those climate changes already occurring.
Friends Fiduciary structured its Quaker Green Fund to include investments in renewable energy, energy conservation, and various cleantech strategies to mitigate climate change. The Consolidated Fund also has investments in these companies and both funds include green bonds in their fixed income portfolios. FFC is a sponsoring organization and active member of the Investor Network for Climate Risk and participated in the recent Investor Summit on Climate Risk hosted by the UN Foundation and Ceres.
FFC has supported stronger standards for truck emissions and fuel efficiency and the EPA Clean Power Plan, believing such efforts provide necessary regulatory guidance to effectively deploy capital for a lower carbon economy. FFC is encouraging businesses to assess the risks created by climate change as well as the business opportunities created by transitioning to a greener economy.
Retreat, Conference, and Study Centers
As of early February, Friends Center is greeting its tenants and visitors with a new look in its lobby.
New signage and banners interpret Friends Center’s role as the Quaker hub for peace and justice, and as a center of activity for the Religious Society of Friends in Philadelphia, Pa.
A large welcome sign behind the front desk highlights the presence on site of Friends Center’s three owning partner groups: American Friends Service Committee, Central Philadelphia Monthly Meeting, and Philadelphia Yearly Meeting.
Four large, visually striking display boards briefly describe the work of each partner plus Friends Center itself. Each organization’s website is prominently displayed, allowing viewers to look up more information using their own devices.
Finally, a series of seven banners evoke Quaker testimony and values, with single words such as “worship,” “peace,” and “justice.” Additional banners were fabricated, allowing rotation of words over time. The extras are displayed in an external window facing Fifteenth Street.
The design took shape over several months in 2015. A working group of representatives from the partners developed the conceptual designs, which were vetted through an approval process unique to each partner.
Graphic designer Steve Tucker designed, fabricated, and installed the pieces in late January. Architect Alice K. Berman, AIA, assisted with preliminary design work.
The displays help Friends Center maintain a strong Quaker presence in Center City Philadelphia.
Friends Wilderness Center
In 2015, Friends Wilderness Center (FWC) welcomed visitors for self-directed excursions and organized monthly events, inviting them to experience Rolling Ridge: a 1,400-acre wilderness preserve in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Bequeathed for “perpetual, spiritual use” by a inspirational Quaker couple, Henry and Mary Cushing Niles, the land links the Appalachian Trail and the Shenandoah River with miles of hiking trails that meander around mountain streams and waterfalls.
Throughout the year, FWC guests explored expressive language through poetry writing and storytelling workshops; lifted their voices at sing-a-longs and their eyes heavenward at stargazing events; expressed their creativity in sculpture and painting programs; and refreshed their spirits with Qigong, meditation, and contemplative hikes.
In May, FWC celebrated the grand opening of its Geodesic Dome. Talks on dome design and construction, sustainable energy, simple living, and ethical eating enticed visitors to explore alternatives to typical lifestyle choices. Each visitor received a voucher for a free night in the dome: FWC’s newest accommodation.
Later in the summer, FWC was delighted to stage an open-air performance of Cinderella, delivered commedia dell’arte style by talented student actors with the Traveling Players Ensemble of Virginia. Laughter appeared to shake the heavens as Perseid meteors showered the troupe with dazzling praise.
Opening 2016 with poetry, astronomy, and a tree grafting workshop, FWC extends an invitation to relax, renew, and recharge: seeking the Light through nature.
Beyond Crime and Punishment: Fostering Transformative Justice in Community, a conference for inspiration, education, networking, and action, took place March 10–13. Special guests included Kay Pranis, Dr. Joy DeGruy, Rev. Nelson and Joyce Johnson, Lorraine Stutzman Amstutz, and many others!
The Living Building Challenge Collaborative 2016 Demonstration Project selected Pendle Hill as their 2016 site. At no cost to Pendle Hill, it will actively collaborate in the development of a conceptual building design that will meet the LBC certification standards for “socially just, ecologically regenerative, and beautiful environments.”
Pendle Hill now sends out weekly spiritual and inspirational text messages. Over 100 people have enrolled to receive a text message at 8:30 a.m. EST each Monday morning.
Pendle Hill ran its initial ad campaigns on public radio stations WHYY (Philadelphia), WNYC (New York), and WYPR (Baltimore). Each campaign ran a minimum of three weeks, reaching listeners from parts of West Virginia to parts of Connecticut.
Answering the Call to Radical Faithfulness, a six-month online/on-campus interfaith program on nonviolent activism and grassroots organizing, completed its second class and is now in the third session of this new hybrid program.
Woolman Hill Retreat Center
This season’s programs have been well received, including the launch of New England Yearly Meeting’s Support Across Generations for Elders (SAGE) trainings, the annual New Year’s silent retreat, and a Rise Again singing weekend led by Peter and Annie Blood-Patterson. Woolman Hill was also delighted to have the NEYM Young Adult Friends mid-winter gathering on the hill again this year, as well as weekend retreats of the Junior High and Junior Yearly Meeting youth.
In October, friends and family gathered for a memorial meeting to celebrate the lives of siblings Harry and Cornelia (Kee) Spruyt, whose mother, Antoinette, donated the Woolman Hill land to Quakers in 1954. Wonderful stories and sharing out of worship were followed by an abundance of good food and dancing.
Woolman Hill continues to deny surveying rights to the gas company that has filed with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission for interstate pipeline approval. The gas company has now asked the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities to override property owners’ refusal of survey, so there will be related hearings in the future.
Recently Woolman Hill has been graced with a daylight visit from a bobcat, sauntering across the open field near the conference center. Coyotes, red-tailed hawks, owls, and deer also frequent its woods and meadows. It is a blessing to offer this spiritual sanctuary to people from all walks of life.
Service and Peace Work
American Friends Service Committee
AFSC and Quakers have worked productively together on several projects recently.
Earlier this year the Governing Under the Influence (GUI) project wrapped up its successful campaigns in Iowa and New Hampshire that put issues like nuclear weapons and the immigrant detention bed quota in the spotlight during a primary season that was more focused on personalities than on policies. The GUI project trained over 1,000 volunteers, including many Quakers, to “bird-dog” candidates on issues that mattered to them, with several local and national news outlets covering their activities and shifting the conversation.
Alternatives to Violence Project (AVP) training sessions, supported by AFSC, have helped the Samburu and Turkana communities in northern Kenya make significant progress toward peace and reconciliation after decades of conflict over land and cattle. The fighting between these two communities has intensified in recent years due to resource scarcity and new access to automatic weapons. With AFSC support, Quakers in Kenya have conducted AVP trainings in prisons, high schools, and universities with high turnout and participation.
Quaker meetings in Philadelphia, Boston, Indianapolis, Lansing, and Durham are participating in the Quaker Social Change Ministry pilot program. This program seeks to deepen the relationship between Friends and AFSC through working together for social justice and providing Quakers with a Spirit-led model for social action while following the lead of communities most impacted by injustice.
Canadian Friends Service Committee
Did Canada commit genocide? The newest issue of the newsletter Quaker Concern, put out by CFSC, examines genocide against Indigenous peoples and the importance of this question for future reconciliation. The article notes that only one of five acts in the 1948 United Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide necessarily involves “killing.”
CFSC and the Quaker United Nations Office Geneva have supported a working group that developed new guidelines for mother-baby units in prisons. The guidelines provide 15 recommendations for prisons to meet the challenges of providing appropriate assistance for incarcerated mothers and their babies. Too often, the needs and rights of the children of incarcerated parents are not considered or met. This can negatively impact children’s development and the adults they become.
A rapidly advancing set of techniques brings biology, computer science, and engineering together to build new forms of life. Known as synthetic biology (SB), some call it “genetic engineering on steroids.” Canadian Friends formed study groups to consider the social, ethical, and spiritual dimensions of SB. In late 2015 CFSC participated in an online forum and expert working group on SB under the UN Convention on Biological Diversity. CFSC seeks regulations that promote precaution and right stewarding and sharing of resources.
Visit the CFSC website to read more about these highlights.
Friendly Water for the World
Friendly Water for the World has stopped cholera! Friendly Water is a clean water group based in Olympia, Wash. The nonprofit organization was founded in 2010 by convergent Friends from Olympia Meeting and Olympic View Friends Church in Tacoma, Wash.
There is a cholera epidemic in the city of Goma in the Democratic Republic of Congo, with more than 100,000 cases and over 2,000 deaths. In the 26 orphanages for war orphans, there are 3,800 children, more than 700 cases, and 67 deaths. Friendly Water installed BioSand water filters in each orphanage, and within five weeks, there was not a single case of cholera, nor any other waterborne illness.
Now Friendly Water is setting up operations for each orphanage to sell clean water, in order to earn an income to support the orphanages themselves. The group’s work is now featured on multiple African TV channels, and it is fielding inquiries from all over east and central Africa.
Friends Peace Teams
Friends Peace Teams (FPT) is a Spirit-led organization that develops long-term relationships with communities in conflict around the world to create programs for peacebuilding, healing, and reconciliation. FPT’s programs build on extensive Quaker experience combining practical and spiritual aspects of grassroots peacebuilding.
FPT uses processes and methods that respect individuals and help conflicting groups through such programs as the Alternatives to Violence Project (AVP), trauma healing, community reconciliation—specifically Healing and Rebuilding Our Communities (HROC)—and peace education.
FPT’s work is carried out through three initiatives: African Great Lakes Initiative (AGLI) with programs in Rwanda, Burundi, Kenya, Uganda, DR Congo, and now in the Central African Republic; Asia West Pacific Initiative (AWPI-FPT) with visits to Indonesia, Nepal, the Philippines, and Australia, with a concern for friends in Aotearoa/New Zealand, Afghanistan, Chechnya, Ukraine, and Korea; and Peacebuilding en las Américas (PLA) with work in Colombia, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras.
FPT is offering a second PeaceQuest gathering for peace activists from all over the world to learn and celebrate peacemaking techniques. Interactive workshops will run in four tracks: personal, local, global, and parent/child. PeaceQuest 2016 will be held Saturday, May 21 at Olympia (Wash.) Meeting.
The search is on for a new coordinator for PLA as that initiative says goodbye to long-time coordinator Val Liveoak.
ProNica serves as a bridge between North American Friends and Nicaraguans working for social change.
ProNica’s project partner, Casa Materna, celebrated the milestone of 25 years spent enabling safe births for rural women with high-risk pregnancies. Casa Materna has served over 17,500 mothers during that time. Thanks to its pioneering model and work with the Nicaraguan Health Ministry, maternal death rates dropped in Nicaragua nearly 74 percent from when the Casa opened its doors in 1991. The anniversary celebration was a truly joyous event.
During the winter months, ProNica hosted four visiting groups: Southeastern Yearly Meeting Friends continued their years of building solidarity with the partners. The nonprofit Nobis Project explored how to develop long-term reciprocal relationships between K–12 teachers and community organizations in Nicaragua. Washburn University students from Kansas learned all about families sustaining themselves without formal employment, the reality for 70 percent of Nicaraguans. Just Peace Healers returned with Baltimore Yearly Meeting Friends and others for deeply impactful healing workshops with ProNica partners.
ProNica also welcomed Bambi Griffin as its new in-country director. After a transformative volunteer trip to Nicaragua in 1999 following a devastating hurricane, Bambi returned again and again to work alongside social justice organizations here. She holds an MA with a dual focus in economics and nonprofit management, as well as an MS in planning with an emphasis on developing areas.
Quaker House continues to provide education on moral injury. Among the venues were a presentation at the Medical Grand Rounds at Hunter Holmes McGuire VA Medical Center in Richmond, Va.; the Licensed Professional Counselors annual conference in Raleigh, N.C.; and the annual military-civilian alliance conference Forward March in Fayetteville, N.C.
As referrals from Fort Bragg and other sources increase, Quaker House’s Domestic Violence, Sexual Assault, and Moral Injury Counseling Program has reached capacity in the number of victims it can see. The number of calls Quaker House receives on the GI Rights Hotline continues to grow; a part-time employee was hired to screen calls and emails so that counselors can spend more time working to help service members with their discharges and other issues.
Josh, a service member from Fort Bragg with severe PTSD/TBI, was imprisoned with inadequate mental health care and suffers terribly. Quaker House discovered that there are around 700,000 veterans in prison, most due to mental health issues complicated by self-medication with drugs and alcohol. Most are deprived of adequate mental health care. To help them, Quaker House began a petition and wrote an op-ed, working with Josh’s mother and his lawyer. Visit the website to sign the petition.
In January, Quaker House received the Mountaire Better Carolina Award for “Doing the Right Things.”
Quaker Service has been at the heart of restorative justice in Northern Ireland for over 20 years. Along with its work in prisons and with families in crisis, the charity promotes restorative practice, particularly through active involvement in the Restorative Justice Forum (NI). The forum’s purpose is promoting restorative philosophy and practice across all aspects of life and society.
Recently the forum, chaired by Quaker Service’s director, initiated some exciting cross-border work by partnering with like-minded organizations in the Republic. Through organizing events together, the partners have shared practices and have introduced and promoted restorative practices with key decision makers across Ireland.
Quaker Service recently piloted its own new innovative “restorative conversations” project at a Quaker Care charity store in Belfast in partnership with the Probation Board for Northern Ireland. For an hour each week over five weeks, a woman on community service had the opportunity to reflect on the harm caused through her actions. She commented, “It made me consider the effect this might have had on the person I injured. Before I thought I was afraid to face and acknowledge it but now I can say that it has made me think at length about what I did, and how it affected the victim.”
Quaker Service hopes to continue providing this opportunity, but its longer term desire is to share this practice with others.
Quaker Voluntary Service
Quaker Voluntary Service is partway through its fourth year with young adults serving in Atlanta, Ga.; Boston, Mass.; Philadelphia, Pa.; and Portland, Ore.
QVS staff has been busy traveling the country recruiting for the 2016-2017 program year and is excited to see who will join its cohort. Focus groups were held in QVS’s four cities to look at messaging and outreach going forward as QVS looks to take its operation to the next level as a sustainable organization.
On February 21 QVS held a special event at Kendal-Crosslands Communities, a continuing care retirement community in Kennett Square, Pa. The event was called “Quaker Voluntary Service Then and Now.” Older Friends shared about their lifetime experiences of Spirit-led service while QVS Fellows shared about how they are carrying on this tradition.
The last weekend in February QVS Fellows participated in mid-year retreats to reflect on their experiences so far and set intentions for the rest of the year. The 2015-2016 year concludes at the end of July.
William Penn House
With sadness, director Byron Sandford retired after 16 years at the helm, seeing William Penn House through good and challenging times. He leaves behind a legacy of providing and supporting opportunities for people of all ages to find and develop their own leadings.
Andrei Israel was appointed as new director. A product of Quaker education, Andrei grew up in the Baltimore Yearly Meeting camping program, graduated from Sidwell Friends School, and is a former WPH intern and Workcamp coordinator. He brings more than ten years of experience in environmental and social justice education. He is a member of State College (Pa.) Meeting.
William Penn Quaker Workcamps is gearing up for another exciting growing season. Building on last year’s successful program of installing over 50 raised vegetable garden beds in D.C., WPH is collaborating with other farming and community gardening groups to develop food hubs for vegetable exchanges and swaps, and is holding community education and social events. Sidwell, Harford, and Cambridge Friends schools will be a part of this innovative work in the community, as will college students from Wilmington College in Ohio, other groups from Burma and Germany, and local interfaith and school groups.
William Penn House welcomes all Friends—individuals, small groups, and meetings—to join in this program of good Quaker outreach that meets needs while building community and supporting spiritual formation.
Youth Service Opportunities Project
YSOP, a Quaker organization grounded in Quaker values, engages middle school, high school, and college students and adults in service experiences working with homeless and hungry people in New York City and Washington, D.C.
YSOP’s Washington, D.C. Program celebrated MLK Day with an annual luncheon for homeless guests. Twenty-five members from the Dartmouth Alumni Club, two local families, and lots of YSOP staff, family, and friends prepared, served, and shared an eclectic menu of lasagna, stir-fried vegetables, mashed potatoes and gravy, garlic bread, and cupcakes at YSOP. Twenty-five guests played board games, ate, and relaxed in the convivial atmosphere, and many spoke about their remembrances of Martin Luther King Jr’s life and work.
YSOP’s New York City Program organized an overnight program with the tenth grade class of Friends Academy (YSOP works with the entire tenth grade in three programs each school year). The group was eager and helpful, showing the dedication to service one might expect from a service-oriented Quaker school. Notably, a student on crutches who’d recently had surgery on both knees was totally committed to leading the other boys in washing everything, as soon as help was needed. The guests from a Brooklyn shelter were a lively group of ladies, and the students had lots of fun stories to share later in reflective activities.