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.
The International Day of Peace (September 21) was established in 1981 by unanimous agreement of the United Nations General Assembly and is dedicated to strengthening global commitments to peace and nonviolence. For the past five years, QUNO has facilitated the development and distribution of a sign-on statement supported by peacebuilding organizations globally to recognize the day and engage with UN member states and stakeholders at the opening of the UN General Assembly session.
The 2020 statement was signed by over 170 organizations, including several Quaker organizations, and called on governments to prioritize inclusion in analysis and action, make space for building peace, and reaffirm multilateralism and international norms as a safeguard for the most vulnerable.
Last year, the International Day of Peace fell in the midst of the global COVID-19 health crisis. Signatories used the statement as an opportunity to call on member states to mainstream peace in the pandemic response, recognizing that this crisis could be typical of the disruptions that may arise in years to come. The statement emphasized that the continued progress that has been made toward building, keeping, and sustaining peace is now under threat, and therefore a recommitment is needed to focus on peace, justice, and inclusion now and in the long-term.
Learn More: Quakers United Nations Office
The 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.
Now in its sixteenth year, QUIT continues to call for the closure of Guantánamo Bay prison on moral and financial grounds and joins others in putting pressure on U.S. President Joe Biden to do so. According to a September 2019 New York Times article by Carol Rosenberg, it costs an estimated $13 million per year for each of the 40 prisoners being held there, making the prison’s total annual budget over half a billion dollars.
Learn More: Quaker Initiative to End Torture
Based in Quaker House in Brussels, Belgium, Quaker Council for European Affairs (QCEA) brings a vision of peace, justice, and equality to Europe and its institutions.
In November 2020, the peace program formally launched its report Gender & Inclusivity in Peace & Security. The occasion to work on this issue was the twentieth anniversary of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 on women, peace, and security.
In December, the peace program published a new report, Peace Mediation: From Concept to Successful Implementation, Learning from Quaker Experience. It focuses on the implementation of the European Union’s recently published working document “Concept on EU Peace Mediation” and uses Quaker experience in mediation and conciliation to offer practical guidance and make the case for a multilayered approach.
Also in November and December, QCEA’s human rights program, along with Project Wisdom, ran a workshop series about radical empathy for professionals. The course consisted of three sessions designed to strengthen empathy skills and highlight the relevance of empathy-led practice in the peace and human rights fields. The participants were policy professionals at various ages and stages of their careers. Additionally, the program hosted a free online event, Connecting the Dots, in September for QCEA supporters. It was an open conversation about discerning the bigger picture of justice, peace, and equality today, and making these values a lived reality for all.
Learn more: Quaker Council for European Affairs
As the COVID-19 pandemic led to more social isolation, it also spurred innovations on how to be in community with distant Friends and family. Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL) was no exception.
The organization quickly pivoted its two major events, Spring Lobby Weekend and Annual Meeting, to online experiences and then realized these gatherings were not enough—especially in the months between them.
In April 2020, it launched a twice-monthly online conversation hosted by Diane Randall, FCNL general secretary. Thursdays with Friends are brief conversations on Zoom from 4:00 to 4:30 p.m. EST on Thursdays. Each episode features FCNL lobbyists, staff, and other external experts discussing topics such as racism and policing, saving the environment, the state of Indian Country, nuclear disarmament, and engaging with Congress during a pandemic. The audience, primarily FCNL’s most loyal supporters, interacts with the host and her guest through the chat boxes on Zoom, Facebook, and YouTube.
Since the first program on April 9, 2020, Thursdays with Friends continues to reach an average of 107 viewers per episode. Initially meant to last only six episodes, FCNL made it a regular show due to demand. Thursdays with Friends is produced like a television show but via Zoom. The same production standards were rapidly applied to other FCNL events. Recordings and a schedule are available at fcnl.org/twf.
Learn more: Friends Committee on National Legislation
Consultation, Support, and Resources
The Quaker Parenting Initiative (QPI) recognizes parents’ struggles while they are being expected to do more than usual for their children during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Quaker faith with its beliefs and testimonies can give parents support and guidance.
The QPI website has been updated to better meet the needs of Quaker parents wherever they may be. A new section, “Conversations in Parenting,” creates space for parents to ask questions, share experiences, and develop themes. With each there is opportunity for others to reply and participate in the discussion. A recent post encourages parents to think through when and how they want their children to acquire and use mobile devices. Given the increased use of screens by youth, QPI offers a place for parents to rethink how technology can encourage or hinder their children’s well-being. The website also includes reviews of select parenting books and lists of upcoming online workshops, discussion series, and other events.
QPI’s new website is another means of connecting mentors with parents, parents with fellow parents, and all participants to their faith.
Learn more: Quaker Parenting Initiative
Quakers Uniting in Publications (QUIP) publishers, authors, and booksellers want their works (print, media, art) shared with a wider audience. The wider Quaker community includes many creators in many genres and media, all encouraged by QUIP. While Quaker publishers and bookstores are fewer than in the past, there are still many ways to share the messages, and these creators join in sharing their work through QUIP.
The 2021 annual conference on April 9–11, Publishing Quaker Truths in an Upside-Down World, was in Great Britain but held virtually through Woodbrooke. Featured speakers were Brent Bill, Joe Jones, and Sally Nicholls. Workshops included Sarah Katreen Hoggatt and Gabe Ehri presenting on video and other media, poetry writing with Philip Gross, and a panel on how to get spiritual books published. The online format allowed for international participation while air travel remains limited due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
QUIP is also the ministry of Quaker publication in areas of poverty and few resources. Since 1999 QUIP has dedicated part of its dues to help those from underserved countries to attend QUIP meetings, work with QUIP members, or financially assist publishing ventures. These small Tacey Sowle grants provide seed money and encouragement. An application form is on the QUIP website.
Learn more: Quakers Uniting in Publications
Despite the indefinite postponement of in-person gatherings due to COVID-19, Friends Couple Enrichment (FCE) has remained available to both Quakers and the wider community via its online presence and virtual events.
In February, FCE co-sponsored Pendle Hill’s First Monday Lecture, with Mike and Marsha Green presenting a talk on disciplined listening to an online audience of more than 100 participants. In March, FCE co-sponsored an online couples workshop with Pendle Hill, featuring three leader couple facilitators. FCE is again preparing for an online workshop at the Friends General Conference Gathering this summer.
FCE has launched a self-paced online training program for new leader couples. Three couples have begun the training process. Once a couple has completed the first module and been accepted into the program, they are invited to join gatherings of the entire FCE community.
Another new offering is the monthly online Drop-In Dialogue meeting on Zoom, which is open to couples who have already participated in an FCE workshop and want to practice their dialogue skills or witness other couples having dialogue.
Learn More: Friends Couple Enrichment
Toward the end of 2020, Friends World Committee for Consultation (FWCC) launched “A Friendly Advent,” a free online course offered in partnership with Woodbrooke, the Quaker study center in the UK. It allowed for spiritual inspiration during the season of Advent, and also enabled Friends to connect across the branches, living into the mission of FWCC.
FWCC continued growing its online presence with a monthly webinar series, Quaker Conversations, which explores topics such as social revolution and adaptive community. The recordings of these are available on the website.
In February, Gretchen Castle spoke on behalf of Quakers to faith leaders at the first installment of “Faith and Science: Towards COP26,” an eight-part series organized by the British and Italian Embassies and the Holy See to generate a collaborative faith response for the twenty-sixth United Nations Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) to be held in November in Glasgow, Scotland (postponed from November 2020). Toward the same end, FWCC’s Sustainability Program was asked by the Interfaith Liaison Committee to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), which helps to plan the interfaith presence at the COP meetings, to moderate an interfaith panel, both last November and at the upcoming event.
In early 2021, FWCC received applications for its next general secretary. An announcement sharing the outcome of the search is planned for spring 2021.
Right Sharing of World Resources (RSWR) works to redistribute resources to women’s groups in India, Kenya, and Sierra Leone.
In 2020, the board began strategic planning by exploring the legacy of empire and colonialism in RSWR’s work at home and with partner countries. With the guidance of Lisa Graustein, a New England Yearly Meeting Friend with experience in noticing patterns of oppression and faithfulness, RSWR staff and board members examined: “What are our values and core beliefs? What have our actions been? In what ways might our core values be in conflict with the way we facilitate our programs?” Through self-inquiry exercises, staff, field representatives, and board members are noticing invisible cultural habits and finding new ways of moving forward together.
The COVID-19 pandemic hit RSWR partner countries very hard. RSWR projects carried on by being as flexible as possible. As partner women’s businesses were affected by lockdowns and economic restrictions, RSWR donors responded with food aid for all 2018- and 2019-funded groups to carry them through the quarantine months. Later, additional funding was provided to women’s groups that needed help restarting their businesses after the lockdown was lifted. COVID-19 training was added to the business training offerings in all partner countries.
RSWR hired a new assistant field representative in Sierra Leone, a position that will allow more time for monitoring and supporting funded groups.
Learn more: Right Sharing of World Resources
After 25 years of service to the Aymara people of the Altiplano in Bolivia, Quaker Bolivia Link in the United States (QBL-USA) has been laid down. The QBL Boards in Bolivia and the United Kingdom remain, and the U.S.-based work is now being overseen through United 4 Change Center (U4C) and Rotary International. U4C is a Houston, Tex.-based nonprofit that works with women and youth in vulnerable communities to create positive social change and promote social justice and peace. QBL’s Quaker response to poverty has been effective in providing food security, clean water, and economic empowerment for women over this quarter century, and the organization is grateful for U4C’s management of the current and future projects.
Learn more: Quaker Bolivia Link
Working with project partner Khmer Community Development (KCD), Quaker Service Australia (QSA) has supported the subsistence farming community of Prek Chrey in southeast Cambodia over the past ten years with permaculture training and livelihood initiatives. New techniques have improved the quantity and quality of produce, improved nutrition, reduced the need for chemicals, and resulted in surpluses.
With no market in the immediate area to sell surplus produce, the community created their own, establishing a small but successful organic vegetable cooperative shop in 2018 with support from QSA and KCD. Strong demand has since developed among the locals, who now have a greater awareness of the benefits of organic farming and produce. Also, using social media, vegetables are sold as far away as Phnom Penh city, over 60 kilometers (about 37 miles) away.
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, the co-op was severely impacted. With border closures and a general economic downturn, many in the community suffered a severe income reduction and the initiative was under financial threat.
With support from QSA, KCD supplemented staff wages to continue running the shop, enabling the initiative to survive the pandemic and continue supporting a network of approximately 35 local farmers and their families in Prek Chrey. The community also utilizes training provided by KCD to manage its own cow bank, rice bank, and micro and credit facility.
Learn more: Quaker Service Australia
Friendly Water for the World has branched out to work with communities on implementing multiple water-centered technologies, including BioSand water filters, rainwater catchments, MicroFlush toilets, interlocking stabilized soil blocks, multipurpose soap, rocket stoves, and permagardens. Critical to Friendly Water’s work is that communities get to prioritize the programs they wish to pursue.
Recently, in Matsakha, Kenya, more than 100 people, including the leaders of ten different villages (most of whom had never met each other before) came together for three full days of community engagement activities. Through a process of appreciative inquiry, they were able to enumerate the community assets they could bring to any undertaking and evaluate which technologies best fit their community (they want all of them). They then formed their own development group and chose to start with multipurpose soap.
Schools are reopening, but many lack a source for clean water and have limited or poor-quality soap for handwashing, both critical in times of COVID-19. Community members are now trained to make soap, and they are utilizing a sustainability plan mutually developed by all the program partners. Friendly Water is planning to partner with the people of Matsakha on more technologies, such as building their own rainwater catchment tanks that connect to their school buildings and provide schools with their own source of water for the first time.
Learn more: Friendly Water for the World
The Contemplative Retreats Committee of School of the Spirit continues to discern how to provide opportunities for contemplative practice in the manner of Friends during this time of physical distancing. Two contemplative retreats were held via Zoom over the past year and a third will occur April 9–10.
The newest program, Participating in God’s Power, has completed the teaching portion of its first iteration with a weekend Zoom retreat in January. Teachers Angela York Crane and Christopher Sammond and participants express gratitude for a deep, profound experience.
After a year of prayerful discernment, School of the Spirit feels called to move forward with a new program, Faithful Meetings, which will provide Friends communities an opportunity for learning and growth in corporate and individual Quaker faith and spiritual practices.
School of the Spirit is in the process of building a more robust version of Spiritual Renewal Retreats and is considering a redesign of the Spiritual Nurturer program. The organization’s monthly enewsletter, SnapShots, provides updates on the latest developments; a subscription link is on the website.
Learn more: The School of the Spirit Ministry
Quaker Religious Education Collaborative (QREC) has a new website. Its design and capabilities reflect QREC’s emerging ministries, leadings, and expanding international, cross-branch network. Users can automatically translate content into English, Spanish, or Kiswahili. The searchable Resource Library now includes Spanish-language materials and an African Quaker library component. A new Faith at Home section serves parents and caregivers with book and video suggestions and exercises to explore Quaker spiritual practices and live Quaker faith and practice in the world.
A public Facebook group called “Valiant Together: RE Support During COVID-19” was formed in March 2020 to sustain the Quaker religious education community through the pandemic with articles, resources, and creative ways to connect Friends in online spaces. It now has over 370 members.
Over the past year, QREC has expanded its geographic reach and consulting expertise: working with Pacific Yearly Meeting Friends in program planning; Latin American Friends in translation, grant writing, and community building; and East African Friends in oral history collection. Recent Conversation Circles (free, online video conferences) have focused on welcoming youth of color into youth programming, child safety in meetings, and program planning in uncertain times. The Thomas H. & Mary Williams Shoemaker Fund supports this work.
The next online annual conference will be August 13–15, on the theme “Looking Back, Looking Ahead.”
Learn more: Quaker Religious Education Collaborative
This year marks the ninetieth anniversary of Friends Council on Education. In 1931, two Friends, Morris E. and Hadassah M. Leeds, invited 90 educators to form a council on Quaker education. Today it continues as the only national association of Friends schools, serving over 6,000 educators, staff, and trustees. This April Friends Council will kick off a celebration with board members and educators, past and present.
Friends Council provides responsive and interactive virtual professional development for Friends school educators from all parts of the United States and the world.
Friends Council is committed to furthering social justice in every aspect of its work, including by dismantling racism, oppression, and White supremacy. In its fourth year, Community Conversations on Race is a regular event that invites educators and community members to examine structural racism and to practice having the conversations that are needed to dismantle systemic racism. Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion practitioners from Friends schools gather regularly for connection and conversation; the most recent program focused on trauma-informed approaches to supporting students during the pandemic.
Friends Council is a resource for the broader Friends school network and serves as the national voice of Quaker education. A January 2021 statement, “Insurgency, Inauguration, and Our Children,” signed by 55 heads of Friends schools plus FCE staff, was issued nationally and shared on social media.
Learn more: Friends Council on Education
Faith & Play Stories is an experiential storytelling resource for Quaker religious education programs and Friends schools. Stories explore Quaker faith, practice, and witness using the Montessori-inspired Godly Play method to build spiritual community.
Since many activities have been affected by the restraints of the pandemic, Faith & Play Stories is seeking ways during this time to strengthen connections to a growing community of practice. While in-person trainings remain suspended, there are online opportunities to learn more, including introductions to Faith & Play and Godly Play, and workshops for Friends. The hope is to resume training workshops for Friends in the fall.
Several projects are underway to support Friends using these stories in their faith communities. A grant from Obadiah Brown’s Benevolent Fund is supporting the building of a new website that will launch in late spring. While the Faith & Play Group continues to develop new stories, published stories are also being reviewed with a racial justice lens, particularly with a concern for language and materials used to tell the stories. Feedback received from the experiences of teachers, storytellers, and participants in trainings is at the center of this work. Meeting and school communities are finding creative ways to continue sharing stories in online spaces. A growing collection of videos is available on the Faith & Play Stories YouTube channel.
Learn more: Faith & Play Stories
Arch Street Meeting House Preservation Trust is a supporting organization of Philadelphia Yearly Meeting that was established in 2011 to preserve and maintain the historic Arch Street Meeting House and Burial Grounds, expand public understanding of the impact and continued relevance of Quakers, and provide governance and property management.
As Arch Street Meeting House (ASMH) prepares to reopen to the public, a few projects are in the works that aim to help the site become a preeminent destination in the United States to learn about Quaker history. New outdoor exhibits will be installed to engage visitors and utilize the grounds as an outdoor classroom; additionally wayfinding signage will be installed on the exterior walls to more clearly communicate about ASMH and guide passers-by inside. ASMH has never had permanent outdoor exhibits or wayfinding. The goals include: to attract more visitors to the site and to increase people’s knowledge about Quakerism and Quaker meetinghouses around the tri-state area of Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware.
In addition to exhibit and signage initiatives, the Trust is also working on expanding the education program with a new virtual tour and more in-person learning opportunities that incorporate the surrounding neighborhood of Old City and Philadelphia’s rich Quaker history.
Learn more: Arch Street Meeting House Preservation Trust
Environmental and Ecojustice
Since its inception in 2003, Quaker Institute for the Future (QIF) was designed and set up as a network organization. Its projects of research, discernment, and witness have not been significantly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Its annual five-day Summer Research Seminar (SRS) shifted to an online format in 2020 with good results. Planning for the 2021 SRS is underway.
QIF currently has two Circles of Discernment engaged in collective research: one on regenerative agriculture and one on the ethical context of artificial intelligence. QIF Focus Books on these subjects will be forthcoming. An additional Focus Book on the emerging field of ecological law is in preparation based on the work of a QIF Board member. A number of QIF associates continue with their individual research projects, which feed into the Institute’s mission of advancing a global future of inclusion, social justice, and ecological integrity through participatory research, discernment, and witness.
Learn more: Quaker Institute for the Future
Quaker Earthcare Witness (QEW) connects Friends who carry a concern for Earth, creating a supportive community for inspiring and empowering action while also providing a place for reflection and solace. QEW responds to critical issues of our time, such as climate change, biodiversity, ocean and soil depletion, and overpopulation, and acts on these concerns through a lens of environmental justice.
The QEW network has wide-ranging resources to share with Friends meetings and churches. QEW also seeks to educate and provoke action through the newsletter, BeFriending Creation; the earthcare curricula for adults and children; and other publications and social media. QEW offers $500 grants to individual Friends and groups who are working on an earthcare project, especially ones that promote environmental justice and youth.
During these past six months, as part of the recently launched QEW Presents! speakers bureau, QEW members have been visiting meetings around the United States to offer workshops on a range of topics, including the interconnections of the pandemic, regenerative agriculture, the power of silence, climate justice, and the financial and economic roots of the climate emergency. The speakers will continue to visit meetings virtually this spring and welcome invitations.
Starting in February, QEW has also been hosting monthly online worship sharing groups in partnership with Friends General Conference.
Learn more: Quaker Earthcare Witness
Earth Quaker Action Team (EQAT) launched the Power Local Green Jobs campaign in September 2015 to push Pennsylvania’s largest utility, PECO, to make a significant shift toward solar, prioritizing job creation in Black and Brown communities, which have been most affected by the fossil fuel economy. Within months, PECO set up “Solar Stakeholder Collaborative” meetings that helped the company realize the level of interest in the region, as well as the grievances of solar contractors. Based on those meetings, PECO has eased the solar application process, upgraded the grid to be more solar-ready, and hired a team to work specifically on solar.
PECO also made a significant investment in the Philadelphia Energy Authority’s solar work and donated $100,000 to a North Philadelphia-based job training program, though only some of that money went to solar training. PECO announced recently that it’s seeking proposals for local solar projects. While EQAT is pleased with this movement, much more action is needed, especially given the urgency of climate change and environmental racism.
Learn more: Earth Quaker Action Team
With generous support from the Thomas H. & Mary Williams Shoemaker Fund, Friends Fiduciary is now offering online giving options for meetings and small Quaker organizations through a custom webpage for each participating organization to highlight and encourage giving through simple and convenient means. Currently, a handful of meetings are serving as first adopters to vet the new giving portal and custom giving webpages.
Friends Fiduciary is also continuing its active witness to Quaker values via its shareholder engagement program. One focus area is just transition—meaning an equitable transition to a low-carbon economy that takes workers and communities into account. Friends Fiduciary has joined other investors led by the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility to engage with utility companies, asking that they responsibly move away from fossil fuel without leaving workers behind while also centering on the concerns of communities, particularly communities of color, in their planning processes. The investor coalition has engaged many stakeholders, including unions and environmental justice groups, in an effort to ensure that investors are connected with and accountable to the people who are most impacted.
Learn more: Friends Fiduciary Corporation
Retreat, Conference, and Study Centers
Throughout a year of challenges and change, the beauty and grounding of the natural setting of Woolman Hill have remained a constant. Despite the pandemic, staff have been able to safely offer space for individual and family retreats. Visitors have been frequenting the Sunrise, Woodshop, and Saltbox cabins and the Red House.
In the fall, Woolman Hill—in collaboration with Beacon Hill Friends House and Peter Blood-Patterson—launched a well-received virtual program series called Walking with the Bible; it featured guest presenters Carl Magruder, Adria Gulizia, Colin Saxton, Andrew Wright, Katie Breslin, and Regina Renee Ward.
Following prayerful discernment, the Woolman Hill Board of Directors has been implementing a multi-year strategic plan with guiding principles of sustainability, right relationship, accessibility, and welcome. Last May, the board approved moving forward with major improvements to the main building, increasing accessibility and accommodations while maintaining the homey character of the space. Since then, a working group has been meeting regularly with the architect and contractor; construction began in earnest in January.
Midweek worship has been held consistently—under an apple tree on campus from May through October, and via Zoom in colder months. The weekly gathering continues to be an important source of spiritual connection for regular attenders and occasional guests.
Learn more: Woolman Hill Retreat Center
Silver Wattle Quaker Centre has managed to cope with the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. The effort has been sustained by faith, support from donors, and simplifying operations to manage expenses. While residential courses from March to December 2020 had to be canceled, more people came for personal retreats and smaller gatherings were still held for gardening and land care activities throughout the year. Residential courses will resume from April 2020.
At the start of the outbreak, a desire for connection was met with an offering of weekly, then monthly online epilogues, in addition to online courses on living simply and Quaker basics and a virtual reading group studying Thomas Kelly. Quaker historian Paul Buckley offered a webinar after he was prevented from traveling to Australia as previously planned. Online offerings will continue even as Silver Wattle returns to hosting residential activities as the virtual option clearly meets a need for Australian Friends. This has been one gift of the pandemic.
The Silver Wattle Board has been making good use of this down time, reviewing strategic directions and organizational structures, and attending to facility improvements such as installing energy-efficient climate control systems and a new wheelchair lift for better accessibility.
Learn more: Silver Wattle Quaker https://www.friendsjournal.org/quaker-orgs/silver-wattle-quaker-centre/Center
Elsie K. Powell House in Old Chatham, N.Y., has continued to provide programming in the form of virtual workshops and youth conferences throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Recently, weekend-long adult retreats have been held over Zoom, exploring a range of topics such as clerking and opening to the heart of worship. The extra time within a weekend-long event has allowed for deeper exploration of the topics at hand.
“Drive-Thru Dinners” have also been offered about once a month, allowing people to stop by and pick up a dinner prepared by chef Tony Barca. These events have allowed the staff to work together in a new way, nurture connections within the community, and make new connections with Old Chatham locals.
Online events have been a steady source of groundedness in a time when it is much needed. Youth attenders have expressed that while a virtual conference is much different from an in-person one, there is still a lot of joy and community that can be shared over Zoom. Weekly Saturday evening worship also provides groundedness and community for Friends.
Powell House is still able to host sojourners in the Anna Curtis Center and Pitt Hall, and is grateful for the energy they bring to the space during this time when the buildings and grounds are largely empty.
Learn more: Powell House
In September, Pendle Hill celebrated its ninetieth anniversary and welcomed Francisco Burgos as the new executive director. Burgos, a former De La Salle Christian Brother who has been a Friend since 2004, previously served as director of education.
Through the fall Pendle Hill hosted a number of online lectures and workshops, including a webinar series on working toward right relationship with Indigenous Peoples, an annual Black women’s writing workshop, and a decision-making and clerking workshop. In December, a weekend workshop with Christopher Sammond explored what supports deep, transformative worship.
Pendle Hill welcomed in the New Year with three online retreats: a musical experience about Beethoven with Karl Middleman, a mindful awareness course with Valerie Brown, and a self-portrait painting class with Jesse White. Over 200 joined a musical celebration on December 30 and candlelight meeting for worship on New Year’s Eve.
In January a workshop about chanting as a communal spiritual practice was offered. In February, K. Melchor Quick Hall presented a month-long course on justice and race reparations, and Erva Baden led a six-week soul restoration workshop.
Three new pamphlets were published: Race, Systemic Violence, and Retrospective Justice; Cultivating Sanctuary; and Sir Arthur Stanley Eddington. Each month, the Pendle Hill Reading Group gathered to worship share on pamphlets and other texts.
Online meeting for worship continues each morning at 8:30 a.m. EST.
Learn more: Pendle Hill
Beacon Hill Friends House (BHFH) has been focusing on building community and connection amid the COVID-19 pandemic through its residential and online programs.
With its intentionally diverse residential community, BHFH recognizes the opportunity to share and utilize the tools of Quakerism in a group setting that includes non-Friends. Many residents combine these Quaker concepts of living in community—decision-making, shared work, and clearness—with their own ideas and perspectives, resulting in committee work that is flexible and focused on the community’s leadings and needs.
BHFH continues to host a broad array of online public programs, including Responding to the Call: Healing from the Sin of Separation. This course focuses on the inner and outer work required to interrupt and address White supremacy, the climate crisis, and the ongoing harm of settler colonialism, and begin the work of reparations. More than 80 Friends from New England and beyond have committed to this two-month-long program. The course is led by Lisa Graustein, Emma Turcotte, Briana Halliwell, Jen Higgins-Newman, and Aiham Korbage. Resources from the course will be available on the BHFH website.
Learn more: Beacon Hill Friends House
In February, Friends Center in Center City Philadelphia, Pa., entered into an agreement with Friends Select School to renovate 1520 Race Street, a historic building on the west side of Friends Center’s courtyard. See the News column on page 30 for the full story and photos.
Learn more: Friends Center
Service and Peace Work
Over this past year, Quaker Service in Belfast, Northern Ireland, has seen a deterioration in the mental health of the families served, particularly in young people. With lack of private space in challenging household environments, young people are feeling increasingly detached from the people they live with. Young people have been telling Quaker Service that they are struggling with anxiety, instability, uncertainty, deterioration of mental health, and difficulties and/or relationship breakdown at home.
During COVID-19 lockdown periods, many staff at the Quaker Cottage family crisis center were furloughed. The remaining staff and volunteers kept in regular contact with families, providing practical and emotional support through phone calls and video conferencing. They also provided engagement for the children such as reading stories, singing songs, and other activities to do at home. Quaker Service has also been delivering emergency food packages, ensuring families have enough gas and electricity as well as providing activity packs for the children and young people.
The work in prisons also continues through email, one-on-one Zoom calls, and letter writing.
Learn more: Quaker Service
Friends Peace Teams (FPT) works among people in more than 20 countries who are choosing to be part of efforts toward a transformed, sustainable world. FPT focuses on building person-to-person relationships in order to create a foundation for grassroots, Spirit-led change for peace and social justice. The work of FPT, carried out through five initiatives, is to empower and heal, educate and liberate, and act in solidarity for justice.
In 2020 the African Great Lakes Initiative co-sponsored 17 trauma-healing workshops, which, among other outcomes, enabled youth to identify economic opportunities.
As a response to the COVID-19 and hunger pandemics, Peacebuilding en las Américas created the Peace Baskets Project, distributing emergency food, hygiene items, and messages of peace. Over 1,000 families benefited across Central and South America.
The Asia West Pacific Initiative conducted Creating Cultures of Peace workshops, sharing skills, tools, and practices for living in integrity with life’s transforming power.
In the United States, Zoom became an effective way to involve Native and non-Native people in the Toward Right Relationship with Native Peoples workshops.
And the Friendly Book Collaborative evolved to include four projects: Peace Schools and Gardens, Friends Peace Libraries, Literacy for Peace and Justice, and Power of Goodness.
Learn more: Friends Peace Teams
On November 7, 2020, Sergei Nikitin, a former board member of Friends House Moscow, gave a presentation by Zoom on the history of more than 300 years of Quaker work in Russia. Over 40 people attended the presentation, which was recorded and is available on YouTube (search for “Friends and Comrades, by Sergei Nikitin”).
Much of the presentation was devoted to a fascinating (and little-known) episode covered in Nikitin’s recently published book, Как квакеры спасали Россию / When Quakers Were Saving Russia (working English title is Friends and Comrades). This tells the story of how Quakers, mostly from Britain and the United States, came to the Soviet Union in 1920–21 to distribute humanitarian aid, which was badly needed as the country was suffering a terrible famine in the wake of revolution, civil war, and unusually harsh weather conditions. These Quakers ended up in Buzuluk, a town in south-eastern Russia and one of the most badly affected areas. Here, they organized food distribution—at one point feeding over 80 percent of those in need—and also set up an orphanage and a hospital staffed by foreign doctors. There was a permanent Quaker presence in the Soviet Union until 1931, and they made such an impact that, to this day, there are still people alive who remember them.
Learn more: Friends House Moscow
Canadian Friends Service Committee (CFSC)’s office remains closed due to the pandemic, and staff have been working from home since March 2020. Nonetheless, the work continues. CFSC now offers more virtual events, including hosting various film screenings, workshops, and a weekly meeting for worship.
This year marks CFSC’s ninetieth anniversary. To celebrate a new website has been created with pictures, videos, and stories: 90years.quakerservice.ca. Once a month all year long, CFSC will be hosting a series called Get to Know Thee, Friend. Each event offers the chance to hear personal stories about Quakerism and service work from one Friend who has made a major contribution to CFSC.
To help build community and spread peace skills, CFSC continues to offer the six-week-long virtual Are We Done Fighting? workshop series. It features facilitated group activities and one-on-one discussions in breakout rooms. More than 100 people have participated so far.
CFSC is also working to support the passage of Bill C-15, which repudiates all racist doctrines of superiority and rejects colonialism. It would provide a long-overdue framework for the government of Canada to work cooperatively with Indigenous peoples to implement the rights affirmed in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) in both law and policy.
Learn more: CFSC
Following the police murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minn., Shanene Herbert and Sharon Goens-Bradley, AFSC staff working in the Twin Cities, saw that White people of faith needed support in deepening their skills for working to end White supremacy. They proposed and co-designed an e-course, Radical Acting in Faith for White People, facilitated by AFSC’s Friends relations director Lucy Duncan and Friends Lisa Graustein and Mila Hamilton. More than 500 Quakers and people of faith participated. The sessions focused on core skills, including following the leadership of Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC); speaking effectively to interrupt racist speech; and engaging in actions that result in tangible, positive outcomes for BIPOC. The recordings are available on AFSC’s website as a self-study e-course: afsc.org/radicalaif.
In January AFSC launched an initiative called Under the Mask. This effort documents ways that governments around the world are using the COVID-19 crisis to restrict civil liberties. AFSC produced a three-episode podcast with case studies on Central America, Israel, and Kenya. New events will coordinate people worldwide to counter oppressive state measures. More information is at underthemask.afsc.org.
In November 2020, thousands of people in Guatemala lost their houses and crops to catastrophic flooding when hurricanes devastated the area. AFSC raised more than $35,000 to help provide food, clean water, clothing, and safety kits for people living in temporary shelters.
Learn more: AFSC