We’re celebrating five years of the Quaker Works column! The first installment was published in the May 2015 issue. The idea for a semiannual round-up of Quaker work being done around the world came out of a brown-bag lunch meeting of heads of Quaker organizations based in Philadelphia, Pa. These Friends sought to help aid and amplify each other’s missions; given Friends Journal’s role as a commons for the Quaker community, we created Quaker Works to inform, excite, and empower our readers, while not pandering or advertising to them. Representatives of the organizations supply highlights to us, and we treat each one equally, no matter how big or small, allotting them the same amount of space (225 words) to share what they’ve been up to in recent months. We love to hear from our readers what you think about this feature, because we do it for you.
This semiannual feature highlights the recent 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
In November, Friends Committee on National Legislation’s (FCNL) General Committee approved an updated statement of legislative policy. “The World We Seek: Statement of Legislative Policy” is based on careful discernment by Friends meetings, churches, and organizations who identified the fundamental vision that underlies FCNL’s legislative actions.
“The World We Seek” focuses on FCNL’s vision of creating a world free from war, a society with equity and justice for all, a community where every person’s potential may be fulfilled, and an earth restored. The original document was approved in 2013.
Since its founding in 1943, FCNL has believed that the success of U.S. democracy is determined by the actions of advocates who hold institutions accountable and ensure their proper function. The document is being used by hundreds of Quaker meetings and churches to help FCNL discern its legislative priorities for the 117th Congress (2021-2022). FCNL will announce the priorities at its annual meeting in November.
Quaker Council for European Affairs
Through its advocacy work in 2019, Quaker Council for European Affairs (QCEA) continued to make the case for humane, sustainable peace and human rights policies in Europe.
One of the priorities of QCEA’s human rights program has been to address challenges to the fundamental rights of people on the move in Europe, particularly in the context of violent treatment by police and security forces. This work led to the publication of Framing Human Policing, a booklet that explores the issue and calls upon Europe’s police services to uphold the rights of all people they interact with. The report has been translated into multiple languages, including Croatian to respond directly to the particular problem of violent policing in the Balkans.
QCEA’s peace program has begun a research partnership with Newcastle University in the UK on the importance of inclusive peacebuilding, with an emphasis on gender-sensitive conflict resolution approaches. Several months were spent interviewing numerous key stakeholders with a goal to create a video series and accompanying report, which will inform future advocacy aimed at shifting prevailing narratives about peace and security.
QCEA continues to organize events that bring together Europe’s Quaker community and equip Friends with a greater understanding of how European policy making influences the issues that matter to them.
Quaker United Nations Office
Civil society organizations (CSOs) are instrumental in building peaceful, just, and inclusive societies, often serving as the primary peacebuilders in times of conflict and fragility. The Secretary-General’s report on peacebuilding and sustaining peace called for the UN to create system-wide community engagement guidelines (CEG) to strengthen UN–civil society partnerships. A joint UN–Civil Society Working Group, of which QUNO is one of only three CSO members, has spent the last year leading an innovative process to deliver on this recommendation.
As a joint working group member, QUNO has played a vital role alongside the UN partners to draft and produce the CEG and ensure that civil society is heard and included in the process. To support an inclusive approach, the joint working group consulted with civil society in two exercises: (1) an online survey to learn more from peacebuilders’ experiences and hear their recommendations on how to enhance UN–CSO partnerships, and (2) an online consultation (in partnership with Peace Direct) that provided a platform to test emerging messages and take a closer look at key peacebuilding issues. Through these processes the joint working group heard from over 700 peacebuilders globally whose input directly informed and shaped the CEG.
QUNO will have a part in implementing new practices once the CEG is published in early 2020.
Consultation, Support, and Resources
Friends General Conference
In October, the Executive Committee approved Pacific Yearly Meeting’s request to affiliate with Friends General Conference (FGC). This new affiliation will allow for a deeper relationship with Friends in the western United States and parts of Mexico; the groups hope to co-create possibilities that will enrich Friends across the continent.
The Spiritual Deepening eRetreat Program, which brings together newcomers, seekers, and seasoned Friends into a four-week, self-paced opportunity to deepen spiritual practices and build community online, has released its full eRetreat schedule for 2020. Three courses have occurred, and four more are planned for this year.
This year, FGC is conducting a feasibility study to learn whether there is wide-spread support to create an endowment for the FGC Gathering, thus making the annual event more affordable for Friends to attend. This study also aims to determine if there are expansion possibilities for high priority programs such as anti-racism work and youth programming.
Friends United Meeting
The 37 yearly meetings and associations that comprise Friends United Meeting (FUM) engage in a broad range of Christian Quaker ministries on four continents.
In December, over 850 Friends gathered for the ninth African Friends Pastors Conference in Mwanza, Tanzania. The Quaker movement continues to grow rapidly in Tanzania, Uganda, and in several of the desert regions in Kenya. Turkana Friends Mission in Kenya is celebrating its fiftieth anniversary this year.
FUM has appointed Nikki Holland to serve as the director of Belize Friends Ministries. Belize Friends Church continues to grow, with more than half of its membership being teens and young adults from the troubled neighborhoods of Belize City. Oscar Mmbali, a Kenyan pastor, continues to serve as the pastor of Belize Friends.
Ramallah Friends School celebrated its 150th anniversary, and continues to provide a strong values-based Quaker education in the midst of a very troubled context. The Amari Play Center, a Quaker program working with preschoolers in a Palestinian refugee camp, was closed down in 2019.
FUM’s online bookstore has a new agreement with Britain Yearly Meeting’s Quaker Books publishing arm that allows FUM to be a direct distributor of BYM’s publications, and vice versa.
In July, FUM will partner with the United Society of Friends Women International and Quaker Men International to hold an historic joint triennial conference in Kisumu, Kenya.
Friends Services Alliance
Earlier this year, Friends Services Alliance (FSA) introduced FSA Learning Labs. These educational opportunities will address various topics in values-based senior care, such as “stay interviews” for reducing employee turnover, employment laws, and managing conflict. They can be attended virtually or in-person.
In February, the eighth cohort of the FSA Leadership Institute completed their classes. Created for current, emerging, and new senior leaders, the institute is an experiential learning opportunity that deepens understanding of leadership in a Quaker-affiliated organization. The experience is designed to give leaders ways of thinking and practicing that are congruent with Quaker philosophies.
Planning is underway for FSA’s spring annual meeting, which will focus on organizational culture and creating a diverse, inclusive environment. Speakers include company culture expert Erica Javellana, who will talk about the celebrated culture at Zappos.com, and author and social entrepreneur Due Quach, who will offer tools and tactics for overcoming unconscious bias.
Friends World Committee for Consultation (Section of the Americas)
In February, Friends gathered at four regional meetings of FWCC representatives and other interested Friends. They met in Seattle, Wash., for the Northwest region (of North America); in Miami, Fla., for the Southeast region; in El Salvador for Central America; and in La Paz, Bolivia, for South America. They shared current concerns within their respective yearly meetings, fellowshipped with like-minded Friends from across the yearly meetings in their region, joined together in meals and worship, and trained new representatives to FWCC.
Ruben Maydana and Agustina Callejas started training the 2020 cohort of the Traveling Ministry Corps (TMC) for the South American TMC members in Tacna, Peru, in January. Bill Schoder-Ehri and Minga Claggett-Borne trained the North Americans in March in Worcester, Mass. The final training led by Cristela Martinez and Enrique Jovel for Central America and Cuba was held in Metapan, El Salvador.
Jhoana Ramos, a new minister from Peru wrote, “We each shared how our ministry began, the good and bad moments through which God never forsaken us, and how, thanks to all these experiences, today we are part of the same body. The many yearly meetings in the Section of the Americas have different forms of worship, but we share the same concerns. Whatever yearly meeting we belong to, we are from the same family, that is, we are Quakers.”
Tract Association of Friends
The Tract Association of Friends holds a sense of unity in the concern for distribution of Quaker literature, and for explaining the spiritual basis of Friends testimonies.
The Tract Association mourns the passing of clerk and Friend Marjorie Ewbank, who died in Fifth Month 2019, at the age of 104. The association is grateful for her work and dedication.
Tract Association 2020 wall and pocket calendars are available, and a redesigned website went live in February.
Friendly Water for the World
Friendly Water for the World is initiating its first efforts in southern Zambia. Partnering with Friends of Monze (a Quaker-founded UK charity based in South Wales and working in the Monze district in Zambia), Friendly Water is working with the Zambia Women and Girls Foundation (ZWaGF) to set up programs to fabricate BioSand water filters, rainwater catchment systems, non-fired soil-stabilized bricks, and to expand permaculture efforts.
The team is headed by Eric Lung’aho Lijodi—Friendly Water’s Africa program manager from Kakamega Friends Church (Kenya)—and several others from Tanzania.
Southern Zambia is experiencing extreme drought as a result of climate change. Rivers and streams have dried up; wells are running dry; and there is almost no water at Victoria Falls. Hunger is rampant. The ZWaGF community is helping to expand the efforts of local schools, sustained by Friends of Monze, to grow food effectively. The brickmaking, which eliminates the need for firewood to fire the bricks, will provide bricks for the bases of the rainwater catchment systems, to build MicroFlush toilets, and to improve housing and school infrastructure.
This is a long-term initiative supported by Quakers worldwide. In the future, Friendly Water expects to expand this effort in partnership with the American Friends Service Committee Zimbabwe office.
Quaker Bolivia Link
Quaker Bolivia Link (QBL) is in the process of completing four water projects in the Coro Coro region of Bolivia: the villages of Phina Litoral, Phina Pallini, Quinoani, and Rosapata. These projects are being funded by a collaboration of several Rotary Clubs—Hobbs, N.M.; and San Jorge, Bolivia among them—with additional support from other QBL U.S. donors.
Water has become an increasingly important issue in the Altiplano since climate change has been altering the pattern of rainy and dry seasons. Safe water is directly linked to community health and food security for the indigenous Aymara people. Now in its twenty-fifth year, QBL continues to serve communities as a Quaker response to poverty in Bolivia.
Quaker Service Australia
A recent visit to projects in rural Cambodia has revealed impressive home food gardens established using permaculture training supported by Quaker Service Australia (QSA) in partnership with the Australian government’s Australian NGO Cooperation Program. Over the past eight months, many women have achieved flourishing gardens providing them with better food security and improvements to overall health. Some women are already selling surplus harvest in the local markets, and even small quantities are popular due to the quality of their organically grown leafy green vegetables, beans, chillies, herbs, and a range of fruit trees such as bananas, papaya, mangoes, and milkfruit.
To enable this, QSA projects have assisted with the provision of wells, water storage devices, and building of small-scale channels to make good use of rainfall as a clean water supply when it comes, and to store what they need for the dry season.
Through QSA, meetings and Friends are able to support these rural Cambodian communities that have limited resources: for example, helping more community members have access to a household toilet. Their increased knowledge in health, hygiene, and dietary nutrition has served to improve the wellbeing and energy levels of everyone in the community, including lower incidences of illness, healthier newborns, and increased school attendance for children.
Earlham School of Religion
Earlham School of Religion (ESR) has been named to the 2020 class of Seminaries that Change the World (STCTW) by the Center for Faith and Service based out of McCormick Theological Seminary in Chicago, Ill. Each year STCTW “seeks to identify and promote seminaries and divinity schools that are demonstrating a commitment to service and justice through their curriculum, scholarships, internships, and student-life experiences.”
A new emphasis in Unitarian Universalist ministry is now available as part of ESR’s master of divinity degree program, made possible through a partnership with the Unitarian Universalist House of Studies at Methodist Theological School in Ohio (MTSO). ESR has long been a home to Unitarian Universalist students who resonate with the Quaker testimonies of simplicity, peace, integrity, community, equality, and stewardship.
In support of Quaker students from California, ESR is offering tuition and lodging assistance beginning in fall 2020. This support is thanks to a gift from Audrey Lasson, who passed away last summer and included ESR as part of a planned gift.
Recent spring events featured opportunities to learn from ESR alumni and faculty. The Spirituality Gathering on March 7 was led by ESR alum Summer Cushman, with a theme of “The Spiritual Practice of Remembering.” The Willson Lectures took place on April 4, and featured keynote speaker ESR professor Grace Ji-Sun Kim on “Reimagining Spirit.”
Faith & Play Stories
Faith & Play Stories is a Montessori-inspired, experiential storytelling resource for Quaker religious education programs and Friends schools. Faith & Play stories explore Quaker faith, practice, and witness using the Godly Play method of storytelling and building spiritual community. Faith & Play Stories develops stories for publication and offers training for Friends interested in using Godly Play and Faith & Play.
When this ministry began in 2005, Faith & Play was supported by both Friends General Conference (FGC) and Philadelphia Yearly Meeting. Faith & Play Stories evolved into an independent collaboration, and the group incorporated in 2018; it remains in relationship with other Friends organizations, including its publisher, QuakerPress of FGC.
The revised, expanded edition of Faith & Play: Quaker Stories for Friends Trained in the Godly Play Method was published in 2017, and new stories are under development. Since 2010, Friends from 14 yearly meetings and 25 Friends schools in the United States and Latin America have participated in training workshops. In 2019, Faith & Play was also shared at the North American Godly Play Conference in St. John’s, Newfoundland, Canada; and at the Quaker Religious Education Collaborative conference at Friends Theological College in Kaimosi, Kenya.
Faith & Play Stories offers a variety of workshop opportunities, and works to build a community of practice with groups currently using Faith & Play.
Friends Association for Higher Education
Friends Association for Higher Education (FAHE) issued a request for proposals for papers, panel discussions, and workshops for its June 2020 conference at Earlham College and Earlham School of Religion on the theme of “Peacemaking and the Liberal Arts.” This is also the topic of the next volume in FAHE’s book series on Quakers in the scholarly disciplines.
In September, FAHE welcomed a new associate member institution, Antioch College in Yellow Springs, Ohio.
Also in September, FAHE hosted the Quaker College Fair at Friends Center in Philadelphia, Pa., co-sponsored with Philadelphia Yearly Meeting. Quaker and other high school students and their families attended a panel discussion with Quaker college faculty and admissions staff, Friends school college counselors, and recent Quaker college alumni, who discussed the college selection and application process. After the panel, attendees visited with representatives from Quaker and historically Quaker colleges.
Friends Council on Education
Friends Council on Education offers programs that nurture the Quaker character of Friends schools and foster equity, community, and social justice.
New this year is a Quakerism 101 workshop for parents at Friends schools. Several schools in New York have participated and additional offerings are to come.
In February a host of Friends school educators participated in the National Association of Independent School annual conference in Philadelphia, Pa. Workshops by Friends Council staff included, among others, “Breaking the Bonds of Bias in Hiring” and “Creating Inclusive Environments for Transgender and Nonbinary Students.” Workshops by educators in Friends schools included “Mastery Learning Journey for Culturally Responsive White Leaders” and “The Power of Place in Defining Your School’s Educational Niche.”
In 2019–20, Friends Council distributed tuition aid to 197 Quaker children in 34 Friends schools through the National Friends Education Fund, which serves to assist Quaker families in sending their children to Friends schools.
The ninth cohorts for two leadership developed programs—Institute for Engaging Leadership in Friends Schools, and Spirited Practice and Renewed Courage—have been selected and are currently engaged in their respective two-year cycle. Program graduates often go on to accept leadership positions in Friends schools, including school headships.
Friends Council continues to provide counsel to school trustees around strategic planning, Quaker decision making, and more.
Quaker Religious Education Collaborative
Quaker Religious Education Collaborative (QREC) is a grassroots, cross-branch, international network of Friends holding a sense of stewardship for lifelong Quaker faith formation through religious education. Friends in this community of practice share resources, skills, gifts, questions, and insights.
In collaboration with Friends Theological College (of Friends United Meeting) in Kaimosi, Kenya, QREC launched a new project in January called the Africa Quaker Archive (AQA). The AQA will gather, document, and preserve contemporary East African Quaker history, making materials and oral histories available to Friends, religious educators, and scholars around the world. The project is now accepting documents, photographs, letters, and personal journals related to Friends in Africa.
QREC Conversation Circles are online video conferences on topics of shared interest to the Quaker religious education community. The fall 2019 conversation topic was on Quaker campus ministry, and the spring conversation was about lessons for the sacred spring, Lent, Easter, and Passover.
Two recent additions to QREC’s online resource library include the out-of-print curriculum “Religious Education in the Home and Small Meeting” edited by Mary Snyder, and a new retreat curriculum from Chris DeRoller and Mike Clark of the Powell House Youth Program.
“Faith and Service” is the theme of the 2020 QREC conference and retreat, offering networking opportunities and hands-on resources from across multiple approaches. The conference will be held August 14–16 in Hickory, N.C.
The School of the Spirit Ministry
The Board of School of the Spirit Ministry has taken 2020 as a sabbath year after the eleventh class of On Being a Spiritual Nurturer concluded its work. The board intends to discern what frequency and format they are being called to develop for future offerings. New voices and perspectives on contemplative depth and faithfulness are being invited into the discernment process to help identify gaps and needs. A “Spiritual Lives of Friends” online survey has been created to gather feedback; it is available on the website.
The School of the Spirit continues to offer contemplative retreats that include both guidance from experienced facilitators and extended periods of dwelling together in restorative silence. Recent retreats were held at Powell House in Old Chatham, N.Y.; and in Berryville, Va. Upcoming opportunities are detailed on the website.
More than a dozen participants are now halfway through the four residential weekends of the new one-year course, “Participating in God’s Power” (PiGP), led by Christopher Sammond and Angela York Crane. Held in Pennsylvania and New Hampshire, PiGP explores courageous faithfulness, working to identify and heal the barriers that keep people from full participation in God’s power.
Environmental and Ecojustice
Earth Quaker Action Team
Earth Quaker Action Team’s (EQAT) campaign targeting PECO, the largest electric company in Pennsylvania, continues to gain momentum. Owned by utility giant Exelon, PECO is a significant contributor to greenhouse emissions while profiting more than $1 million a day. Meanwhile, Philadelphia, Pa., remains the poorest large city in the United States, and more solar jobs could address many aspects of environmental racism and injustice.
In April, EQAT spoke out for green jobs and local solar at an Exelon shareholder meeting in Wilmington, Del., and three months later dropped a four-story banner from the roof of PECO’s headquarters that read: “Climate is changing. Why isn’t PECO?” In December, four activists blocked entrances to a PECO service building in Phoenixville, Pa., and were arrested for trespassing. Coordinated actions at two other PECO sites in Coatesville and Warminster took place on the same day.
PECO has continued to make incremental changes in response to the pressure, which many advocates have credited to EQAT’s campaign, but also continues to lobby against solar power. Last fall, EQAT had success with coordinating days for the public to call PECO executives, and organized in solidarity with the Youth Climate Strikes.
This year, EQAT is planning Spirit-led actions to be held during key regulator proceedings that enable PECO’s carbon-polluting power.
Quaker Earthcare Witness
In recent visits and connections with Friends, Quaker Earthcare Witness (QEW) has found increasing awareness and engagement on earthcare concerns. For many the recently concluded decade was a time of waking up to the ecological crises humans are facing, including unprecedented climate change. QEW works to connect Friends who are taking Spirit-led action; to inspire and educate through sharing stories; and to visit Quaker groups across the United States.
Last fall, QEW was part of an interfaith coalition in support of global Youth Climate Strikes, when globally seven million people participated. The next “deep strike” will be on Earth Day, April 22, as part of a global campaign to raise awareness and demand climate action.
Later in the fall, QEW collaborated with Friends Journal to make a QuakerSpeak video about Friends and earthcare.
QEW offers a community of support through like-minded peers, educational resources, action items, and expertise on how to make a difference. At the start of this year, QEW launched an outreach project to bring the message of living in harmony with creation to more monthly meetings. Offerings include presentations, workshops, and retreats designed for monthly meetings to respond to challenging times.
Friends Fiduciary Corporation
The planned giving program at Friends Fiduciary Corporation (FFC) supports the development efforts of Quaker organizations and individuals who wish to support them. In 2019, donors established over $600,000 in charitable gift annuities to benefit Quaker organizations; made $400,000 in gifts to donor-advised funds; and contributed $100,000 to endowment funds. Friends Fiduciary processed 100 stock gifts benefiting Friends organizations and faith communities.
In 2019, Quaker organizations received $1.1 million in stock gifts facilitated by FFC. The ability of FFC to transfer stock directly to a Quaker organization or into an account at FFC greatly lowers the expense and administration typically associated with those gifts. Remainder gifts from charitable gift annuities issued by FFC totaling $216,812 were paid to 11 Quaker organizations, including yearly and monthly meetings, Friends schools, life care communities, and other Quaker organizations. Pooled life income funds and endowment funds held by FFC distributed an additional $420,000 to Quaker nonprofit beneficiaries.
Retreat, Conference, and Study Centers
Friends Center was recently featured in the Chilean TV program City Tour on Tour. Architecture professor Federico Sánchez visits cities in Chile and across the world to seek out outstanding local architecture. A recent program on Philadelphia, Pa., included a visit to the worship room of the Race Street Quaker Meetinghouse at Friends Center. He also interviewed Robin Mohr, executive secretary of Friends World Committee for Consultation Section of the Americas. The episode is available on YouTube as “Capítulo 8 | City Tour on Tour Estados Unidos.”
In November, two former managers of the Philadelphia Phillies professional baseball team—Charlie Manuel and Larry Bowa—joined more than 200 others for Covenant House Pennsylvania’s latest overnight sleepout in Friends Center’s courtyard. This event raised more than $500,000 for the Covenant House’s services for homeless youth and received significant local media attention. The sleepout events are designed to raise funds and awareness among participants of the challenges faced by people with no home, especially teens and young adults.
In September, Pendle Hill launched its year-long program Journey Toward Wholeness, and Lives of Service, a working retreat. October brought a writing retreat for women of color, a Beyond Diversity 101 workshop, and poet Pádraig Ó Tuama’s weekend-long “Storywork” about deepening community through storytelling. In November, George Lakey led two workshops on nonviolent direct action, and a clerking workshop was offered. In December, the Pendle Hill Quaker Institute hosted “Practicing Our Heritage of Mysticism and Resistance.” Participants in New Year retreats enjoyed painting, music, and mindfulness.
January brought a training in Godly Play and Faith & Play, while February saw a course about race, reparations, and justice, and a workshop about embracing our inner critics.
Three new pamphlets were published: The Workings of the Spirit of God Within; On Vocal Ministry; and Spiritual Gifts, the Beloved Community, and Covenant.
With support from Obadiah Brown’s Benevolent Fund, in November, Pendle Hill sent every Friends meeting and church in the United States a free copy of the index of Pendle Hill pamphlets 1934–2018. With support from the Pickett Fund, an e-publication was completed of Witness for Humanity: A Biography of Clarence E. Pickett.
Friends-in-residence include Mo O’Ryan, Katrina McCrea, and Doug Gwyn, plus Cadbury Scholar Windy Cooler. Three art exhibits occurred in addition to monthly programs: First Monday Lectures, the Poetry Coffeehouse, and one-day arts and spirituality workshops.
Silver Wattle Quaker Centre
Despite being surrounded by bushfires (the nearest one was 20 miles away), Silver Wattle Quaker Centre, located in Bungendore (about 18 miles northeast of Canberra) in New South Wales, escaped the flames of the latest Australian wildfires that devastated the region for months starting in November. The prolonged drought, however, took a toll on the landscape. Silver Wattle has several large rainwater tanks with backup bore water, so was able to provide water to tide the animals over until the rains came, restoring habitat, water, and food supply.
Courses offered over the past year covered various topics, including Quakerism and elders, universal spiritual teaching, Celtic spirituality, and Indigenous learning. Additionally silent and end-of-year contemplative retreats were held. Upcoming opportunities are detailed on the website.
Silver Wattle offers spiritual nurture to all who visit, not just Quakers, including hosting retreats (Anglican, Catholics, yoga) and groups (Cambodian students, Indigenous writers). The quarterly gardening and land care weeks are one way international visitors can participate in life at Silver Wattle. There’s also a new opportunity for long-term resident Friends.
Silver Wattle recently installed 57 new solar panels and four inverters to bring our existing system up to 25 kilowatts. As funds appear, the additional batteries needed to complete the system will be installed.
Service and Peace Work
American Friends Service Committee
On January 31 at Friends Center in Philadelphia, Pa., AFSC hosted 140 students from U.S. Friends schools participating in the Quaker Youth Leadership Conference. The students learned about the history of AFSC and participated in one of five workshops: Decolonizing the Future, Shared Security, Bystander Intervention, No Way to Treat a Child, and How to Talk to the Media About the Issues You Care About. One student said about the afternoon, “I was moved by personal narratives and experience. The personal messages . . . brought out the reality of the issue and made it feel especially important and relevant.” When asked what they would say about AFSC, one student shared, “It is an amazing Quaker activism organization. I would tell them the story about the peaceful border protest that really inspired me.”
Many Quakers have been supporting AFSC’s efforts with the No Way to Treat a Child campaign, which is focused on getting the HR 2407 bill passed that will condition military aid on upholding the human rights of Palestinian children. On January 16 Philadelphia Yearly Meeting and AFSC partnered on hosting a documentary screening of Imprisoning a Generation, and invited Quaker meetings to engage with the campaign, lobby Congress, and open their meetinghouses to public education events.
AFSC responded quickly to the call for war with Iran, and created a webpage to share information: afsc.org/noiranwar.
Canadian Friends Service Committee
A new informative handout from Canadian Friends Service Committee (CFSC)—the peace and social justice agency of Quakers in Canada—addresses the question, “What would a world without prisons look like?” The double-sided handout is titled “Alternatives to Prison,” and highlights community-based sentences; restorative justice; education, employment, and training; addiction and mental health services; healing lodges; and what can be done about the “dangerous few,” which Quaker prison abolitionist Ruth Morris describes as “the very few individuals who do need to be separated from our society to keep us safe.”
The handout presents in a simple format decades of work and reflection on viable and healing options following crimes. There are many examples of what alternatives to prisons can look like. There are many programs that are working to reduce crime, increase community safety, rehabilitate people, and address the conditions that result in people going to prisons. A PDF is available for download at the CFSC website: quakerservice.ca/alternativestoprison.
Friends House Moscow
Friends House Moscow continues to support Alternativshchik, a publication in Russia for conscientious objectors that provides information on alternatives to military service and pacifist materials.
After many years as a printed newspaper, Alternativshchik migrated to electronic format in late 2019. The new website was built with financial and technical help from Friends House Moscow; in addition to current information for conscientious objectors, it also contains an archive of all the past print issues. This change was particularly timely since a law recognizing alternative service came into force in 2004, and since that time, more and more young Russian men are becoming interested in alternative service. There are now more applications to perform alternative service than there are places available.
Quaker House was established 50 years ago in Fayetteville, N.C., a milestone commemorated in September. Its mission is two-fold: to work for peace and to support individuals who have been harmed by military service. This work is done through the GI Rights Hotline, a military counseling program, and the Advocacy Team associated with Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL).
In recent months, Quaker House has also organized rapid-response public actions. When President Trump came to Fayetteville for a congressional election rally on September 9, Quaker House organized community members in a demonstration calling on the president to act with greater compassion and responsibility. On January 4, the assassination of Iranian General Soleimani was protested and de-escalation demanded.
Between September 1 and December 31, GI Rights Hotline counselors took 935 unique calls from active duty service members stationed throughout the world. There has been an increase in the number of calls received about conscientious objection discharges and education. The mental health counselor continues to see clients who are dealing with issues of domestic violence, sexual assault, moral injury, and post-traumatic stress.
Quaker House lobbied government representatives (Representative Hudson’s staff in Fayetteville in August and three others in Washington, D.C., as part of an FCNL event in November) and wrote letters to the editor to support ending the 2002 Authorization for Use of Military Force.
Quaker Social Action
At a November launch event at Friends House in London, England, Quaker Social Action (QSA) revealed its latest report: “Speaking Truth to Power: A Decade of Groundbreaking Work on Funeral Poverty.”
QSA’s work on funeral poverty began a decade ago, when it first started thinking about the impact of a death in the family for low-income people in the United Kingdom. At that time the phrase “funeral poverty” didn’t exist; the issue was given little coverage in the media, and it was rarely mentioned in parliamentary debate.
In listening to families share about the unexpected expenses that resulted in their financial precariousness, stress, and debt, funerals came up fairly frequently, prompting QSA to research the issue. A gap in support was identified for those struggling with funeral costs, so in 2010 the Down to Earth service was launched to help people access an affordable and meaningful funeral. The Fair Funerals campaign followed in 2014–2018 to push for national change.
The report assesses progress made to date by QSA and its partners, and sets out a vision for continued action. Both the report and the launch event were made possible in part with a grant from the Quakers and Business group.
Quaker Voluntary Service
Quaker Voluntary Service (QVS) is a fellowship opportunity for young adult Friends and spiritual seekers to integrate their spirituality and vocation while being supported in developing their passion and purpose. QVS partners with local Friends in five cities across the United States and across the theological spectrum of the Religious Society of Friends.
This year, there are 36 young adults serving as QVS Fellows. In Boston, Mass., one Fellow serves as a medical escort, accompanying aging adults to medical appointments and advocating for their care. In Atlanta, Ga., another Fellow works on a project aiming for the release of incarcerated survivors of abuse. And, in Portland, Ore., a third Fellow is developing a peace writing scholarship project while engaging in state-wide climate lobbying work. This work complements the Fellows’ experience living in community, as they practice spiritual reflection, conflict transformation, sabbath and spaciousness, and equity and identity work.
As of this summer, nearly 200 young adult alumni will have gone through the QVS program since opening the first house in 2012.
Youth Service Opportunities Project
Since 1983, Youth Service Opportunities Project (YSOP) has engaged students from middle school, high school, and college-aged groups, as well as an occasional adult group, in service to homeless and hungry people through a program that includes orientation, reflection, and direct service to people in need. The setting varies but includes soup kitchens, food pantries, urban gardens, tutoring new readers in public elementary schools, and offering recreational activities in shelters with children.
In January, YSOP celebrated Martin Luther King Jr. Day in Washington, D.C., by hosting a service luncheon for local people in need with the families of the Dartmouth College Club of Washington, D.C.
In February, young Friends from Philadelphia Yearly Meeting participated in an overnight program in New York City, and hosted a service dinner party with guests from the Friends Shelter, which is jointly supported by Fifteenth Street Meeting and Friends Seminary School.
YSOP groups, staff, and service recipients represent all religious backgrounds, including those who don’t adhere to any faith tradition. People of all sexual orientations, gender identities, and abilities are welcome.