A semiannual feature to connect Friends Journal readers to the good works of Quaker organizations* in the following categories:
- Consultation, Support, and Resources
- Environmental 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
As FCNL marks its seventy-fifth year, Friends are celebrating its lobbying for peace and justice and looking toward the future of Quaker advocacy. Anniversary events are planned in FCNL’s birthplace (Richmond, Ind.) and Washington, D.C.
In March, hundreds of young adults came to Washington, D.C., for Spring Lobby Weekend, focused on advocacy for compassionate, just immigration policy. FCNL is a key advocate on immigration, co-chairing the Interfaith Immigration Coalition and working to promote the love of all our neighbors, without exception.
The new Quaker Welcome Center, adjacent to FCNL’s office, hosts programs that equip people to change policy, nurture integrity in governance, and collaborate across political differences, including a recent congressional bipartisan dialogue on climate change. Each Wednesday FCNL hosts lobby training and silent reflection at the Welcome Center.
Building on decades of advocacy on Native American issues, FCNL welcomed Lacina Tangnaqudo Onco in November as the first congressional advocate on Native American policy. During her two-year fellowship, Onco will lead FCNL’s lobbying to honor the promises made to the native peoples of this country.
Friends are actively discerning FCNL’s legislative priorities and speaking at local meetings about their spiritual journeys. Nearly 80 Advocacy Teams are spending this year advocating against war and for diplomacy with North Korea. In all its work, FCNL advocates for peaceful, just public policies to address the country’s challenges.
Quaker United Nations Office
The United Nations (UN) has experienced a tremendous shift in recent years, with peacebuilding and prevention being placed back at the heart of its work. In this environment, QUNO has been actively working to impact and support the prioritization of peace issues.
The Civil Society-UN Prevention Platform was founded and co-convened by QUNO in partnership with the UN Department of Political Affairs and others to enhance civil society and UN coöperation on prevention. It has provided a key forum for cross-communication and bringing together different perspectives. Highlights include bringing together diverse UN actors with the Mediation Support Network, a global network of NGOs that support peace negotiations, and hosting the first briefing in New York with Under-Secretary-General and Senior Advisor on Policy Ana María Menéndez.
QUNO has also been active in supporting greater inclusion of the perspectives of peacebuilding practitioners within UN policy discussions. In June 2017, QUNO was asked by the UN to arrange for the formal presence of civil society representatives at the annual meeting of the Peacebuilding Commission. Additionally, QUNO partnered with the Office of the President of the General Assembly for a half-day UN-led dialogue at Columbia University with governments, private sector, civil society, and academia on the topic of partnerships for conflict prevention and peacebuilding. QUNO ensured civil society representation and moderated half the event.
Consultation, Support, and Resources
Fellowship of Quakers in the Arts
Fellowship of Quakers in the Arts has a new website. One section displays digital issues of the journal Types and Shadows. The most recent issues featured Meed Barnett’s elegantly crafted jewelry, the art quilts of Asake Denise Jones, poetry by Jen Gittings-Dalton, and Adrian Martinez’s life-size paintings evoking the life of eighteenth-century Quaker Humphrey Marshall.
The home page features news of upcoming events and monthly postings of Quaker-related stories from storyteller Chuck Fager, and podcasts with discussions about classical music from Paul Somers. The website also contains archives, with articles concerning various art media and topics such as the history of Friends’ relation to the arts, spirituality and witness.
Last year FQA coördinated the Quaker Art Center at the Friends General Conference Gathering, and this “Art of Fearlessness” project featured art events—musical performances, art shows, discussion groups—by Quakers around the country. The 2018 project will focus on “The Arts in Our Beloved Community.”
Friends General Conference
In 2017, Friends General Conference retained Crossroads, a nonprofit organization serving faith communities, to facilitate FGC’s anti-racist transformation. Crossroads will work with FGC over the next year to conduct an institutional assessment on racism. Last November, 43 FGC staff members, committee clerks, some yearly meeting representatives, and members of the Institutional Assessment Task Force convened at Stony Point Retreat Center in New York for the first training. During the training, participants shared experiences of the historical roots of white supremacy within the Religious Society of Friends and our society, the insidious nature of racism embedded in these cultures, and the impact that racism has on governmental systems, people, and communities in the United States and Canada.
QuakerBooks, FGC’s bookstore, has relaunched thanks to a new partnership with Massachusetts-based book service Publishers Storage and Shipping Corporation (PSSC). Thanks to PSSC, QuakerBooks can now ship five days a week and offer expanded ordering options.
In an effort to help Quaker meetings be more welcoming to people of all walks of life, FGC is launching the Welcoming Friend Project. FGC has hired an assistant who will work closely with the Spiritual Deepening Program Coördinator to plan and implement the first year of the project.
Friends United Meeting
FUM has committed to revamping its entire communications effort to better equip, connect, and inform Friends as they build faithful fellowships to do God’s work in the world. In order to communicate news from FUM communities and missions around the world in a more timely manner, FUM now has weekly e-news emails, a regular blog and social media presence, and a monthly Connections newsletter.
FUM also updated its website and changed Quaker Life into a quarterly journal featuring thoughtful writings about personal faith journeys. In 2017 Kristna Evans was hired as the new managing editor of Friends United Press and manager of an upcoming, greatly expanded online bookstore and resource center. It will offer close to 400 carefully curated books, pamphlets, and other resources to Friends.
In addition, FUM recently published two new books: Modern Psalms for Peace and Justice, written by Dwight Wilson, and a second, revised edition of Luke’s Summer Secret by Randall Wisehart. With a dedicated press editor, FUM is also poised to bring out several more books this year with some exciting projects underway for the future.
Friends World Committee for Consultation (Asia–West Pacific Section)
In October 2017, an uplifting Section Committee meeting was hosted in Osaka, Japan. Quakers from India, Hong Kong, Philippines, Australia, and Japan met in a Japanese monastery—where Osaka Quakers worship monthly. Michael Wajda of Philadelphia, Pa., attended to help with organizational development.
FWCC Asia–West Pacific Section’s priorities are to build connections, boost finances, strengthen the committee, and share stories. The committee celebrated progress and planned next steps. AWPS lifted up a calling to connect young Friends throughout the Section, to continue a Section-wide online meeting for worship, and to create a development committee to help strengthen the Section’s financial base. AWPS made a commitment to have a Section gathering with workshops and young Friends activities, hopefully in Hong Kong, in 2018.
AWPS worshiped, enjoyed fellowship, and attended to business blessed by their Japanese hosts. AWPS is conscious the region is geographically large and culturally diverse, and recognizes the privilege to have glimpses into this rich diversity. AWPS values the friendships in this committee, and renewed a commitment to encourage Friends to reach out to each other and to build meaningful links and friendships.
Friends Committee on National Legislation’s message “Love thy neighbor (no exceptions)” spoke to all—a simple message that challenges Friends in their daily lives and as an organization.
Ronald Titus now serves as Section clerk.
Friends World Committee for Consultation (Section of the Americas)
On October 1, 2017, Friends celebrated the diversity of Quaker experience during the fourth annual World Quaker Day. Meetings exchanged visits, shared food, organized intergenerational worship, and more. Photos and stories are available on the FWCC Americas Facebook page. World Quaker Day 2018 will take place on October 7.
The Section of the Americas has named the newest members of the FWCC Traveling Ministry Corps, adding seven ministers from Latin America and four new ministers from the United States. All of the Spanish-speaking ministers gathered in La Paz, Bolivia, in January, to train the new ministers and share in fellowship before embarking on their ministries. The North American group met at Pendle Hill study center in Wallingford, Pa., where they also conducted a panel discussion exploring the Quaker tradition of traveling ministry in the twenty-first century. More information about the Traveling Ministry Corps, and the ministry of each member, can be found on the FWCC Americas website.
Meetings and churches can invite one of the Traveling Ministers to visit their congregation by filling out the request form on the Visitation section of the FWCC Americas website. FWCC Americas continues to envision a more interconnected network of Quakers in the Americas and around the world, and the Traveling Ministry Corps will be a vital conductor of that energy.
Friends World Committee for Consultation (World Office)
FWCC supports the vitality of Quakerism around the world and amplifies the Quaker voice. In November 2017 FWCC represented Friends at COP23, the UN climate conference in Bonn, Germany, and signed the Interfaith Climate Statement promoting sustainable lifestyles. These talks, which were presided over by Fiji, offered a stark reminder of the devastating human impacts of climate change and the need for urgent action.
FWCC is undertaking an ambitious and exciting new project working with Friends around the world to strengthen environmental commitment and gather a collective voice through a positive, global Quaker sustainability movement. This stems from the significant commitment Quakers globally have made to global sustainability and stewardship of the Earth in the Kabarak Call for Peace and Ecojustice (2012) and the Pisac Sustainability Minute (2016), which asks yearly meetings to initiate at least two concrete actions on sustainability, involving young adult Friends in key roles.
FWCC’s sustainability communications officer is collecting stories of Friends living sustainably and justly on this earth; this effort is meant to help inspire yearly meetings to take further action, engage young adult Friends across the Sections, and encourage yearly meetings to report on their work. These stories can be found on the FWCC website under “Sustainability Resources.” Friends are invited to share their story as a video or case study. More information on the website.
Friendly Water for the World
Friendly Water for the World is working with a community of people with albinism in Shinyanga, northern Tanzania. People with albinism in East Africa face heavy discrimination, and in Tanzania, are often hunted for their body parts, which are considered good luck. More than 100 are killed annually, many while walking long distances to gather water. To try to protect them, the government gathers people with albinism onto reserves, where there is rarely enough food, adequate shelter, toilets, or decent schools. There is no employment, and almost never access to clean water.
Through an affiliate called the Community Life Amelioration Organization (CLAO), Friendly Water is training people with albinism to build BioSand water filters, both to provide clean water for themselves and to sell to the larger community, which should also serve to deter violence against them. Trainees can purchase filters for the cost of materials, and provide the labor themselves. The local government is so excited about the project that they provided police protection and free hotel space and food for the five days of the training. The police took up a collection for more materials themselves.
Once this effort is well established, people with albinism will be trained to build rainwater catchment systems, interlocking bricks, and MicroFlush toilets. Twelve other communities of people with albinism have already contacted Friendly Water about future programs.
Quaker Bolivia Link
Quaker Bolivia Link has embarked on a partnership with Rotary International to fund water projects in the altiplano of Bolivia. As climate change is already creating weather pattern shifts, the availability of fresh water year round is becoming more and more critical. Funding is in place for three more villages already as QBL enters its twenty-third year of service to the indigenous Aymara people.
Right Sharing of World Resources
Right Sharing of World Resources (RSWR) is an independent Quaker not-for-profit organization sharing the abundance of God’s love by working for equity through partnerships around the world. RSWR gives grants to groups of marginalized women in Kenya, Sierra Leone, and India to fund micro-enterprise projects. Right Sharing’s work is grounded in a sense of stewardship for the world’s material, human, and spiritual resources.
The October 2017 Right Sharing board meeting was held at Pendle Hill study center in Wallingford, Pa. The board approved funding for 22 new projects: 6 in Kenya, 5 in Sierra Leone, and 11 in India. The meeting concluded with a joyous fiftieth anniversary celebration at Kendal at Longwood.
Several in the RSWR community traveled to visit projects in January. Program Director Sarah Northrop visited Kenyan RSWR Field Representative Samson Ababu and met new RSWR trainer Pauline Andisi and recipients of RSWR grants. Current board members Marian Beane and Doug Smith and former board member David Camp traveled to India. Stories from these travels will be featured in the spring issue of the RSWR newsletter.
At the end of March, General Secretary Jackie Stillwell facilitated a workshop on “The Power of Enough” at Powell House in Old Chatham, N.Y. Right Sharing is accepting requests to bring this workshop to interested monthly and yearly meetings.
Earlham School of Religion
Seven ESR students were awarded $2,500 Innovation Grants for proposed entrepreneurial ministry projects. These Innovation Awards are part of a grant the school received from the Association of Theological Schools. ESR was selected as one of 58 seminaries and graduate theological schools in North America to receive such a grant.
ESR also awarded its annual Mullen Ministry of Writing Fellowship to current student Andy Henry. Henry’s fellowship project is a book called Recovering Abundance: Resources for Place-Based Ministry. The purpose of his book is to “connect faith communities to the insights of those doing the work of community renewal and draw out the spiritual and theological resources available to people of faith.”
This spring semester includes many campus events, beginning with the annual Spirituality Gathering on March 3. This year’s theme is Buddhist and Quaker Spiritualities and features keynote speaker Sallie King. The week of March 19 Dwight Wilson was on campus as Friend in Residence. In April the 2018 Willson Lectures and Trueblood Symposium will host keynote speaker Monica Coleman sharing on the topic of process theology.
Friends Association for Higher Education
Friends Association for Higher Education issued a request for proposals for papers, panel discussions, and workshops for its June 2018 conference at Wilmington College on the theme of “Keeping Faithful in a Time of Rapid Change.” FAHE also began receiving proposals for chapters in the next volume in its book series on Quakers in the scholarly disciplines. The topic for volume six is Quakers, Creation Care, and Sustainability, highlighting Friends’ contributions to biology and environmental science, past and present.
FAHE started the school year under the leadership of its new co-clerks, Deborah Shaw and Wess Daniels of Guilford College. Donn Weinholtz of the University of Hartford moves into the role of clerk emeritus.
Friends Council on Education
Friends Council on Education nurtures the Quaker essence of schools through professional development offerings. Each year, over 160 Friends school educators are oriented to Quaker principles, practices, and testimonies through the Educators New to Quakerism workshop. Friends Council programs support Quaker schools in developing educational programs that connect to Friends principles. This year’s offerings include responsive programming on timely issues, including immigration and sanctuary, working for social change, and helping educators embrace the tensions of teaching in these uncertain times.
Thanks to support from many people and organizations, Friends Council has provided tuition aid for 219 Quaker students to attend Friends schools this school year. Developing initiatives enhance this program’s national impact while strengthening the Quaker nature of individual Friends schools.
Friends Council helps schools focus on issues of equity, community, and justice through a variety of programs and partnerships. A series of community conversations around race and white privilege have emerged after a screening of André Robert Lee’s film I’m Not Racist…Am I?
Friends Council convened a panel of Friends school educators to present at the National Association of Independent Schools conference on the topic of supporting transgender and non-binary students.
The collective strength and work of 78 member schools is lifted up through the newly launched e-newsletter, “QuakerEd News,” available through the Friends Council website.
Quaker Religious Education Collaborative
Quaker Religious Education Collaboration has redesigned its website. The new, intuitive design invites readers to explore QREC’s cross-branch, international, grassroots work as Quaker religious educators. The website hosts a collaborative, searchable, online library of religious education materials, inviting Friends who use the materials to share their experiences.
The website serves as a portal and an archive for events such as the annual QREC retreat, online Conversation Circles, parenting workshops, and teacher training opportunities. Because QREC thrives on the wisdom and experience of its community of practice, the website offers the invitation to join in the work and get involved in a variety of ways, including membership, and the opportunity to donate funds that make its projects possible.
QREC’s work continues to draw from multiple perspectives and approaches to Quaker spiritual formation. The 2017 retreat program included a diverse panel on the role of the Bible in Quaker religious education. This rich discussion generated a series of Conversation Circles in the months that followed; notes and additional resources have been posted to the website. The next QREC retreat will be held at Powell House in Old Chatham, N.Y., August 17–19. Plans are in development to host a gathering of Friends from Latin America before the retreat, as QREC continues to widen the circle of its community.
School of the Spirit Ministry
The School of the Spirit Ministry is experiencing a season of rebirth and new leadings. Of primary interest is its new independence—the School of the Spirit left the care of Philadelphia Yearly Meeting to become its own independent nonprofit. This change better reflects the appeal to Friends throughout North America.
Three new core teachers—Erika Fitz, Evelyn Jadin, and Susan Kight—are working to refine the curriculum for an eleventh class of the “On Being a Spiritual Nurturer” program that will provide participants a structured way to discern and grow into gifts for spiritual hospitality as informed by the Quaker tradition. Its overarching goal is to help participants live in a contemplative rhythm with a deepened faith that God is at work in the world. The program involves six residencies over 18 months beginning September 5.
In addition, the School of the Spirit sponsors contemplative retreats during the year. The next one will be at the Siena Retreat Center in Racine, Wis., April 5–8.
More details about all available programs are on the website.
Sierra Friends Center
The board and staff of Sierra Friends Center are moving forward with a vision of continuing its mission of student-directed inquiry, spiritual growth, and healthy living through its summer camp and facility rentals to individuals and groups for retreats and workshops.
SFC is also planning two newly evolving programs: the Woolman Outdoor School and the Jorgensen School for Nonviolence. For a second year, an urban charter school is visiting in May for a three-day experience that is the pilot program for the outdoor school.
SFC recently welcomed Sierra Streams Institute to its campus. This nonprofit works in the local community to implement citizen science, ecosystem restoration, and environmental education. The center is finding creative synergy with these scientists and educators, and foresees shared projects, envisioning a vibrant ecosystem on the campus and an environmentally literate community of learners.
Camp Woolman and the Teen Leadership Camp will run concurrently for six weeks this summer from June 24 to August 4. These two summer residential camp programs include overnight backpacking trips for all campers, and are being organized and implemented by emerging young leaders with a deep love for the people and place that are Woolman.
Woolman and SFC welcome visits and correspondence, and are grateful for the support of the community as they seek ever more relevant ways to bring Quaker educational experiences to the West Coast.
Environmental and Ecojustice
Earth Quaker Action Team
“We need renewable energy with racial justice. None of us without all of us. If we are going to rebuild, we have an opportunity to rebuild on equity and justice. [We can] build it right this time.” These were the words spoken by community members at the Climate Justice and Jobs convening organized by EQAT’s campaign partner, POWER, last fall. The interfaith Power Local Green Jobs campaign calls on PECO, the largest utility in Pennsylvania, to purchase 20 percent of its electricity from solar by 2025, with a priority on creating local jobs.
On December 7, 2017, the “Big Change Day of Action” saw four actions at PECO facilities throughout the Philadelphia region. So far, PECO has responded to calls by advancing a small jobs-training grant and proposing a regulatory tweak, but these steps are a drop in the bucket for a company that makes $1,000,000 in profit every single day.
This winter EQAT members peacefully approached CEO Craig Adams at public events, and supported faith communities to come and worship in PECO’s Center City lobby. PECO kicked out the worshipers to avoid the public witness. EQAT recently planned a series of actions in the last week of March to deepen the call for justice on a livable planet. Its members ask for prayers of courage as they work to move this corporation.
Quaker Earthcare Witness
QEW is network of Friends across North America faithfully working for a restored Earth in our homes, meetings, and communities. The world is experiencing climate disruption, depleted fisheries, decreasing biodiversity, soil erosion, declining water resources, and growing human population, all rapidly escalating. After celebrating its thirtieth anniversary last fall, QEW has recommitted to addressing these concerns. QEW sees its primary purpose as bringing about a spiritual transformation within the Religious Society of Friends with regard to our relationship with the natural world.
QEW’s most recent publication, BeFriending Creation, highlights Friends and earthcare; stories include topics such as economic integrity and ecojustice; science warnings; population; earthcare witness in Arkansas, Minnesota, North Carolina, and Mexico; standing up for environmental policy in D.C. and Sacramento; and installing composting toilets at a Quaker camp. QEW recently released a new pamphlet, “Eco-Justice: Ecological Responsibility Linked with Social Justice,” for individuals and meetings. QEW also runs a mini-grants program, offering $500 to Friends starting environmental concerns projects.
The Earthcare for Children curriculum is now available on the website as downloadable lesson plans. Topics include “Earth Is Our Home,” “Soil, Seeds, and Climate,” and more. The lessons accommodate varying ages and interests in First-day schools, with multiple options to suit all branches of Friends.
Quaker Institute for the Future
QIF has two research and writing projects in process for bringing Quaker values to critical issues: (1) Energy Choices: Opportunities to Make Wise Decisions for a Sustainable Future, and (2) Toward a Life-Centered Economy. Each project will produce a QIF Focus Book on its area of research.
QIF’s first Focus Book, Fueling Our Future (2009), was concerned with energy technology, ethics, and public policy. Energy Choices will be a companion volume that surveys and details the options now available for personal, household, business, and community action on shifting to clean renewable energy.
Toward a Life-Centered Economy will bring together the range of options now being developed to restructure the economy so it works for the health and well-being of Earth’s whole commonwealth of life instead of the accumulation of financial wealth and power for a few.
QIF’s 2018 Summer Research Seminar will be held in Ithaca, N.Y., July 9–14.
Friends Fiduciary Corporation
The goal of the Friends Fiduciary Corporation Planned Giving Program is to support the development efforts of Quaker organizations which in turn strengthen and grow the Religious Society of Friends.
The program had a strong year which can be attributed to donors who actively and passionately supported Friends organizations of all types located across the country. In 2017, donors to Quaker organizations established over $900,000 in charitable gift annuities, made $117,000 in gifts to donor-advised funds, and contributed $133,000 to newly established endowment funds, all through Friends Fiduciary. Private foundation funds of $2.4 million were placed with Friends Fiduciary for administration and investment management. In 2017 Friends Fiduciary facilitated 111 stock transfers totaling $757,000 and benefiting 40 Quaker organizations. It was a productive year.
Friends Fiduciary is a Quaker nonprofit corporation with the singular purpose of supporting fellow Quaker organizations in their efforts to achieve financial sustainability through planned giving strategies and investment management. Learn more about supporting Quaker organizations at Friends Fiduciary’s website.
Retreat, Conference, and Study Centers
Friends Center manages the office complex and Quaker meetinghouse at 1501 Cherry Street, Philadelphia, Pa. Outside groups who share Friends values may rent space for meetings, trainings, conferences, films, rehearsals, staging marches, and more.
In the last year, that business grew. Recent renters include Quaker organizations (Earth Quaker Action Team, Friends Publishing Corporation, Friends Life Care, Friends Select School); advocates (ACLU of Pennsylvania, Media Mobilizing Project, Planned Parenthood Southeastern Pennsylvania, Public Citizens for Children and Youth); academics (American Council of Learned Societies, Bryn Mawr College, Philadelphia Higher Education Network for Neighborhood Development, Swarthmore College, West Chester University); funders (Bread and Roses Community Fund, Seybert Foundation); service or policy nonprofits (American Vegan Society, Broad Street Ministries, City Year, Covenant House, EducationWorks, Entrepreneur Works, Health Care Improvement Foundation, JEVS Human Services, Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future, LGBT Elder Initiative, National Adoption Center, New Voices for Reproductive Justice, Philadelphia Office of Homeless Services, Greater Philadelphia Coalition Against Hunger, SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania, the Food Trust); mindfulness programs (Myrna Brind Center for Mindfulness, Penn Program for Mindfulness); and arts groups (Mendelssohn Club, Mural Arts Program, Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts).
Many are attracted by Friends Center’s identity as the local Quaker hub for peace and justice. Having these events in turn advances Friends Center’s mission to express the beliefs and testimonies of the Religious Society of Friends through stewardship of the property.
In September 2017, Pendle Hill hosted the Social Justice through Economic Resistance conference with support from American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) and Philadelphians Organized to Witness, Empower, and Rebuild (POWER). Presenters included Dalit Baum of AFSC, Eileen Flanagan of Earth Quaker Action Team, and Rev. Greg Holston of POWER, among other leaders.
During November, 45 aspiring and current meeting and committee clerks joined the annual clerking workshop, designed and led by Arthur Larrabee. The participants learned the basics of serving their communities with joy and confidence, grounded in Quaker practice. Additionally 22 students started the Journey Toward Wholeness program, the popular four-part retreat based on the work of Parker Palmer.
Pendle Hill organized a two-day program on Pennsylvania Community Rights in partnership with the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund and facilitated the basic training of the Alternatives to Violence Project.
Annual New Year’s workshops rang in the New Year with live music and a candle-lit meeting for worship after guests enjoyed a delicious dinner orchestrated by chef Henrik Ringbom and the kitchen team.
In January, Pendle Hill presented the Beyond Diversity 101 workshop with 34 participants interested in the healing transformation of personal relationships and community living. In February, Pendle Hill hosted the Values in Action conference in partnership with the Trinity Institute and offered the racial justice H.E.A.R.T. workshop led by Amanda Kemp.
Silver Wattle Quaker Centre
Silver Wattle Quaker Centre in Bungendore, New South Wales, was established in 2011 for spiritual retreats, learning, healing, and preparation for witness. The 2017 program offered courses on discernment, life transitions, Quakerism, clerking, creativity, Indigenous spirituality, peace witness, and sustainable living. A full program of courses is available for 2018.
Silver Wattle manages a large land area (2,800 acres), including the lake bed of Weereewa (Lake George), with ongoing work to eradicate weeds and restore biodiversity lost when the land was originally cleared for sheep farming. Once brown, barren hills are greening up under care, and seedlings planted in 2011 are now four-meter-tall trees.
A rainwater collection system and solar energy works have increased the center’s self-sufficiency. The orchard and vegetable gardens provide about half of the food consumed at Silver Wattle. The center harvested an amazing 70 kilograms of garlic this year, with the surplus being sold at the local farmers market.
An online mid-week meeting for worship was instituted in late 2017 so those involved across Australia could spend time in prayer together. The resident community has been bolstered by a program to encourage Quakers and other sojourners to spend time apart there. Eighteen people have registered as resident volunteers since November 2017. Silver Wattle welcomes visits from traveling Friends.
Service and Peace Work
American Friends Service Committee
AFSC was named one of the organizations blacklisted by Israel due to its support for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement to end militarism and human rights abuses against Palestinians. Despite the ban, AFSC programs in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories are continuing.
AFSC continues to support groups and individuals in engaging in economic activism, including through an online tool called Investigate that shares research on companies that profit from human rights abuses in prisons, the U.S.-Mexico border, and the occupied Palestinian territories. The website can scan a list of companies in an investment portfolio.
Immigrants, Muslims, and communities of color have been under a new intensity of threats since President Donald Trump was elected, sparking the initiative Sanctuary Everywhere. AFSC believes impacted communities and allies can work together to create more safety from targeting. A series of webinars presents how to support the work.
The relationship between the United States and North Korea is volatile. As an organization that has worked in North Korea (DPRK) for decades, AFSC knows how humanitarian work can open up space for dialogue and reconciliation. AFSC is sharing lessons with Congress and the Administration, and building momentum for humanitarian engagement such as people-to-people exchanges, reuniting Korean and Korean American families, and repatriating the remains of U.S. servicemen left in the DPRK after the Korean War.
Canadian Friends Service Committee
In 1981 Canadian Friends came to unity on the need to abolish prisons. The Canadian Yearly Meeting minute reads in part, “The prison system is both a cause and a result of violence and social injustice. Throughout history, the majority of prisoners have been the powerless and the oppressed. We are increasingly clear that the imprisonment of human beings, like their enslavement, is inherently immoral and is as destructive to the cagers as the caged.” Advances toward this vision have not come easily or swiftly.
This work is one focus of Canadian Friends Service Committee, which also seeks to abolish the “penal” justice system. Punishment is neither an effective tool for justice nor a healthy part of finding a way forward from a harmful event.
For several years CFSC has been leading workshops across Canada on penal abolition. The workshops that have taken place (in seven of the ten provinces) have created closer connections between Quakers who are working on criminal justice in Canada; deepened grassroots knowledge about CFSC’s work in this area; and led participants to a better understanding of the slow but clear progress that has been made toward penal abolition. Friends are renewing and strengthening their commitment to the 1981 minute as it approaches its fortieth anniversary.
Friends House Moscow
Friends House Moscow continues 20 years of service in the Russian Federation and Ukraine with British, American, French, Belgian/Luxembourg, and German Friends’ coöperation.
Current projects of Friends House Moscow include alternative service consultations and Alternativshchik newsletter in Kazan. These and similar efforts inform men of their right to perform alternatives to military service, and provide advocacy for those conscripted in breach of legal rights. In Ukraine, Friends House Moscow runs Alternatives to Violence Project workshops, training participants in nonviolent conflict solutions, particularly focusing on ethnic group tensions among displaced persons.
Other programing includes work to prevent teen suicides, establishing school mediation programs, helping orphanage graduates with communication skills in English, and translating over 40 Quaker books and articles into Russian.
Friends House Moscow provides support for Moscow Meeting, a midweek worship group, and Russian-speaking Friends in other countries. This year the group is expanding its use of social media and other online resources, including an informative Facebook page.
Friends House Moscow’s projects all support its mission to support Friends and individual seekers interested in Quaker faith and practice, specifically by promoting a voluntary social work culture and by protecting the rights and providing services for minority or targeted groups and individuals.
Friends Peace Teams
Friends Peace Teams (FPT) is a Spirit-led organization working around the world to develop long-term relationships with communities in conflict to create programs for peacebuilding, healing, and reconciliation. FPT was founded by Quakers from several yearly meetings with the goal of making every Friends meetinghouse and church a center for peacemaking. This work has formed “initiatives” to offer opportunities for communities in conflict to create human and material resources to build peace.
The African Great Lakes initiative strengthens, supports, and promotes peace activities at the grassroots level in the Great Lakes region of Africa (Burundi, Congo, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, and Uganda). The Asia West Pacific initiative seeks to connect communities of conscience between the United States and communities in the Asia West Pacific region to provide opportunities for conscientious service. The Peacebuilding en las Américas initiative promotes peace and healing in countries of Central and South America where the violent legacy of civil war has added to the continued poverty and injustice that sparked the conflicts.
FPT is governed by a council of Friends that meets face to face each spring and monthly online. The latest issue of the biannual newsletter, PeaceWays, includes in-depth updates on all of FPT’s work around the world.
Quaker House has been continuing to work for peace while helping to heal current wounds of war and militarization.
Quaker House attended the Conference Against the Use of Drones in Warfare and the public hearings on civilian participation at airfields and on flights used as torture taxis that originated in North Carolina. Quaker House also provided a presence of understanding and compassion in the courtroom for Bowe Bergdahl, the Army soldier who endured five years of torture and then faced prosecution for desertion. Staff members shared information and lessons learned in the organization’s newsletter, blog, email lists, and other forums.
At the invitation of Fort Bragg units, Quaker House participated in three summits, one addressing each of the topics of mental health, sexual assault, and victim advocacy in the military. With the support of donors, Quaker House continues to offer free counseling for domestic violence, sexual assault, and moral injury to the military community including family members, and the GI Rights Hotline counselors remained busy with calls from service members reaching out for help.
Quaker House also continues with conscientious objection education, recently hosting This Evil Thing, a play on tour from England about the experiences of a World War I conscientious objector. Quaker House is thankful to Guilford College for the use of their auditorium.
Quaker Service is a Quaker charity that provides support for people in post-conflict Northern Ireland going through difficult times. Quaker Service currently delivers two main services.
Quaker Connections, a volunteer program based at Maghaberry Prison, supports visiting families through befriending and practical support services. Services are currently available at all the prison establishments in Northern Ireland.
Quaker Cottage, a cross-community family crisis and daycare center in west Belfast, offers daily therapy for mothers and projects for young people up to 18 years. It serves those most vulnerable in these communities where the conflict and sectarian violence is as prevalent as ever. Social deprivation, isolation, and lack of opportunity trap many in a vicious cycle, where rates of suicide are the highest in the UK.
A storytelling project organized by Rory Docherty, a teenage worker with Quaker Service, is planned to coincide with the twentieth anniversary of the Good Friday Peace Agreement (signed April 10, 1998). The project will engage young people from the sectarian interface and support them in telling their personal stories of how, for them, peace in Northern Ireland has not yet come. They will have their stories recorded on film and printed in a book. The launch of these stories will be delivered to an audience of politicians and decision makers in the Stormont Parliament Buildings.
Quaker Voluntary Service
Quaker Voluntary Service has made substantial progress toward opening its newest outpost in Minneapolis–Saint Paul, Minn. Friends in the Twin Cities and Sonja Sponheim, the Minneapolis startup coördinator, have worked and met with QVS staff. When QVS Fellows arrive in early September, they’ll live together in community and work in partnership with some very exciting social service and advocacy organizations in Minneapolis.
QVS is happy to announce two additional staff positions. Mike Huber will serve as director of program. In that role, he will endeavor to strengthen ties between QVS and local Friends in each city where QVS operates, provide supervision and support for QVS city coördinators, and ensure cohesiveness of programming across the cities.
Oskar Castro has expanded his role at QVS, and now serves as director of equity and community in addition to his Philadelphia city coördinator role. In his new position, Castro will help QVS better embody its commitment to equity and inclusion as an organization and as a voice for wider societal change.
William Penn House
William Penn House began its fifty-first year of service much as it started the first: offering hospitality for activists traveling to the U.S. Capitol to “speak truth to power,” educational opportunities for students of all ages, active partnership with organizations seeking a more peaceful and inclusive world, and a chance to experience worship and community after the manner of Friends.
January saw the International Honors Program filling WPH to capacity with back-to-back groups of college students preparing to spend a semester studying community health initiatives in countries on four continents. The conference room served as a classroom, while the living room and dining rooms did extra duty as break-out and hang-out space. Students, laptops, and luggage filled every nook and cranny. The founders would have felt right at home.
WPH also recently launched quarterly Sunday dinners that fill the house with longtime Friends and new neighbors, and a new social justice movie night series that brings guests and local activists together for conversation and inspiration.
The WPH board has adopted a renewed mission statement, affirming the calling to “serve and inspire everyone seeking a more peaceful, just, and inclusive society.” A new website and expanded Facebook presence are helping to share news of the mission and programs with new communities to encourage expanded program participation.
Youth Service Opportunities Project
YSOP has had a busy winter with groups and schools from all over the country serving the homeless and hungry in New York City and Washington, D.C. YSOP offers service-learning programs for students from seventh grade through graduate school. It also has programs from time to time for groups of adults. All programs offer hands-on service to homeless and hungry folks framed by an orientation and reflection facilitated by YSOP staff.
The Washington, D.C. program hosted its eighth annual MLK Day lunch in January, where local volunteers and their families prepared, served, and shared a festive meal with homeless and hungry guests from the community. The youngest volunteer was just three years old, proof that anyone can serve.
YSOP’s New York program continues to develop strong relationships with Quaker groups, among the many religious and community groups, schools, and colleges that serve there. In the past, Friends Academy divided its tenth grade into three YSOP overnight groups throughout the year, but for the past two years, has extended into four separate overnight programs with YSOP. YSOP was excited to host returning groups from Oakwood Friends School and Purchase (N.Y.) Meeting. YSOP National Program Director Lisa Gesson spoke at Medford (N.J.) Meeting in October 2017.