A semiannual feature dedicated to connecting Friends Journal readers to the good works of Quaker organizations.
American Friends Service Committee
On March 5–7, AFSC held its annual Corporation Meeting at Friends Center in Philadelphia, Pa. This year’s theme was Radical Hospitality: Working for Immigrant Justice. Braving the snowy weather, Corporation members, representing 25 yearly meetings, participated in business sessions, program updates, and workshops on issues ranging from mass incarceration to immigrant rights.
At the 2015 Nonprofit Technology Network (NTEN) conference held March 4–6 in Austin, Tex., AFSC was awarded the Rob Stuart Memorial Award for its use of technology to “disrupt the status quo and create change in unexpected ways.”
A new AFSC website helps socially conscious investors identify companies directly complicit in ongoing human rights violations. The Investigate site highlights companies that support Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territory and companies that do business with the Israeli military. At afsc.org/investigate, investors can upload a list of the companies in their portfolios. The tool offers details of each company’s involvement, shows how other responsible investors have reacted, and lists public campaigns aimed at changing the company’s behavior.
AFSC also launched its Governing Under the Influence campaign in Iowa and New Hampshire, with the goal of bringing attention to the realities of corporate influence on U.S. politics. This non-partisan, civic engagement campaign encourages local people to question presidential candidates on defense spending, militarized police forces, for-profit prisons, and immigrant detention policies.
Earlham School of Religion
For the second consecutive year, ESR has been named to Seminaries that Change the World by the Center for Faith and Service. This group of schools seeks to reclaim the important historic role that theological education has played in promoting community and justice while training and launching local and world leaders in all areas of society.
In academic news, ESR is now offering certificate programs in Quaker studies, spirituality, and writing, which can be completed in as little as two years. These programs are intended for those who want to take the next step in study without the commitment of a degree program.
In scholarship news, ESR is excited to now offer a limited number of full-tuition scholarships to recent graduates of Quaker College Leadership programs or those who have completed a year of faith-based voluntary service. The school has also been utilizing funds from Lilly Endowment grants for two special projects. In order to address financial concerns facing future ministers, ESR is using the funding to address the current financial realities of students; vocational trends that might frame graduates’ employment opportunities; and the changing landscape of religious life in America. Another grant project currently underway is research into alternative forms of ministry including the Garden Church and the Friends of Jesus Fellowship.
Earth Quaker Action Team
On March 2, EQAT declared victory in its five-year campaign to get PNC Bank to stop investing in companies engaged in mountaintop removal coal mining. The bank’s announcement that it was phasing out those investments came after the most ambitious six months in EQAT history.
Two September 2014 events enabled EQAT to reunite with some of the 200 Friends who joined its Pittsburgh action during the 2014 FGC Gathering. On September 8, 35 people performed street theatre outside a locked-down PNC branch in Washington, D.C., during Alliance for Appalachia’s week there. On September 20, the day before the massive People’s Climate March in New York City, 90 people from Boston to Florida to Wisconsin joined EQAT’s two Manhattan PNC actions.
Many Friends then joined one of four fall regional trainings for EQAT’s December 6 Day of Action, where 300 people took part in 31 actions in 13 states and D.C. Most of the action leads were taking that role for the first time, some of them teenagers. The final PNC action occurred February 9 in Philadelphia, in conjunction with Appalachia’s I Love Mountains Day.
EQAT’s recent success has been covered in the New York Times and the Guardian. American Banker magazine speculates that PNC’s move may inspire other banks to follow suit.
Fellowship of Quakers in the Arts
The exciting development from FQA is that two regional chapters of FQA have formed: the Great Lakes Regional Chapter of FQA and the South Jersey Chapter of FQA. In an effort to engage FQA members across the United States in art activities, the national office of FQA has established criteria for the formation of regional chapters. It is happy to announce its first two. FQA membership has also increased by 70 percent, up from a low point during the recession.
To better serve artists who work in color, Types and Shadows, FQA’s quarterly journal, will now be printed entirely in color. The first color issue was the Spring 2015 issue.
FQA held workshops, exhibited artwork, and presented a concert at the New Jersey Tri-Quarter Retreat at Camp Ockanickon last October, and will also have a workshop and art exhibit at the Caln Quarter Retreat at Camp Swatara in May.
FQA is currently looking to fill openings on the board.
Friends Association for Higher Education
FAHE has named Friends Theological College (FTC) as a new institutional member. Founded in 1942 and located in the highlands of Kaimosi, a town in Western Province, Kenya, FTC is affiliated with Friends United Meeting. FTC prepares Friends for pastoral ministry and Christian leadership in East Africa. Robert Wafula, principal of FTC, describes the mission of the school as “equipping pastoral ministers who will be thoughtful listeners, effective evangelists, dynamic preachers, informed educators, and models of integrity.”
After releasing its first book, Quaker Perspectives in Higher Education, earlier in 2014, FAHE is at work on a second volume. Quakers have contributed significantly to nearly every discipline, so FAHE believes drawing some of that content together in published form would greatly bolster the work Quakers do as educators. It might also contribute to disciplines in Quakerly ways, and ideally also make a difference in the world. This year’s volume, Befriending the Truth: Quakers and Philosophy, is being edited by FAHE clerk Jeffrey Dudiak, with a publication date of June 2015. FAHE has also issued a call for papers for the third volume, Quakers and Literature. The editor is James Hood, professor of English at Guilford College.
Friends Center, the complex at Fifteenth and Cherry Streets in Philadelphia, Pa., is a partnership of Central Philadelphia (Pa.) Meeting, Philadelphia Yearly Meeting, and the American Friends Service Committee. It includes the historic 1856 Race Street Quaker meetinghouse, another historic building, and an office building renovated to the LEED Platinum green standard.
Through winter and spring, Friends Center was well used seven days a week. Its roster of 43 organizations works for peace, justice, and equality in Philadelphia, the nation, and the world. Recent move-ins included Together as Adoptive Parents, supporting adoptive and foster parents; Elizabeth Ann Coalition Against Domestic Abuse, supporting abuse survivors and advocating to end domestic violence; and the Philadelphia Center on Alcoholism, providing resources and classes. As of May, local staff of Greenpeace and Food and Water Watch will move in, adding to the cluster of environmental groups at the center.
In February, Friends Center hosted a meet-and-greet event where the expanded circle of tenants described their missions, and then connected along common interests.
On March 3, AFSC began hosting twice-monthly “Ferguson to Philly Town Hall Meetings” of the Philly Coalition for REAL Justice, which is composed of Black Lives Matter activists. The same night, EQAT held its regular monthly meeting at the center as usual, this time celebrating its successful campaign to have PNC Bank stop financing mountaintop-removal coal mining.
Friends Committee on National Legislation
Protecting space for diplomacy: In April, U.S., Iranian, and international negotiators announced a diplomatic breakthrough that puts safeguards in place to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon. At every step, Congress had threatened to derail the talks. Congressional allies say Friends’ advocacy on Capitol Hill, in national media campaign, and through a lobby day in November that brought 440 people to Washington has helped protect space for diplomacy.
Climate advocacy from the heart: Can Friends’ faith and practice bridge the gap to make climate action possible in a divided Congress? At Spring Lobby Weekend in March, 270 young adults discovered their voices of different faiths can open doors and minds to new types of conversations. FCNL’s moral call for action on climate change is building bipartisan support.
Working to ban lethal drones now: In January, FCNL helped bring 150 people of different faiths to the Interfaith Conference on Drone Warfare. Participants released a joint statement calling on the United States to immediately halt lethal drone strikes. FCNL’s Elizabeth Beavers co-leads the working group that organized the conference.
Young activists making change: The first FCNL Advocacy Corps begins this summer with a ten-day training in Washington. This team of 15 young adults will work in their communities over the next year, connecting local activists with members of Congress to effect long-term change on climate.
Friends Council on Education
New executive director Drew Smith took the helm on July 1, 2014. A Quaker, Friends school alumnus, and former Friends school head, Smith brings Quaker values, experience with Quaker process, and passion for Friends education to FCE’s work.
To support Quaker children in Friends schools, FCE has launched a pilot program offering scholarship aid to member schools in six regions across the country; the pilot serves as a testing ground for the new National Endowment for Quaker Children. By increasing the presence of Quaker families in Friends schools, FCE aims to strengthen the unique character of Quaker schools and extend the reach of the Religious Society of Friends.
To nurture the Quaker essence of Friends schools, FCE offers signature programs, including Educators New to Quakerism, Facilitating Quaker-Based Decision Making in Friends Schools, SPARC, and the Leadership Institute. In 2014–2015, FCE hosted 11 workshops, 14 peer network gatherings, a series of professional development sessions with schools, and engaged schools in the Membership Renewal Process, including the Quaker Self Study.
FCE co-hosted a mini White Privilege Conference in October 2014; the focus was on race, power, privilege, and leadership, setting the stage for a full-scale conference in 2016. WPC examines challenging concepts of privilege and oppression and offers solutions and team-building strategies toward building a more equitable world.
Friends Fiduciary Corporation
As part of its continuing efforts toward socially responsible investing and climate change solutions, FFC, which manages over $325 million for 330 Quaker meetings, churches, schools, and organizations, is actively adding green bonds to its investment portfolios. Green bond investments totaling more than $5 million are held in both its balanced Consolidated Fund and Quaker Green Fund, a fossil-fuel-free alternative launched in 2014.
FFC is proactively investing in bonds which finance projects focused on energy efficiency, clean energy, and other environmental benefits, including upgrading power plants to reduce total greenhouse gas emissions. Jeff Perkins, executive director of FFC, reported the corporation is expanding its holdings of these securities because green bonds not only support global climate-change goals, they also provide attractive returns and portfolio-diversification benefits.
Driven by socially responsible investors like FFC, the issuance of green bonds is increasing rapidly. The Climate Bonds Initiative estimates that $36 billion in green bonds were issued in 2014, an increase of 300 percent from 2013. It predicts a similar pace of growth in 2015. Despite the strong growth in green bond issuance, experts estimate that an additional $44 trillion of investment in clean energy and green projects will be necessary to limit global warming to a 2°C rise. Perkins noted that it’s clear that global investors need to commit dramatically more investment dollars to combat climate change.
Friends General Conference
This spring brings new growth and opportunities from FGC. QuakerBooks has moved its year-round location; the Friends Meeting House Fund is going green; there are fresh support opportunities for meetings; and the Quaker Cloud celebrates 100 meetings.
In a new partnership, QuakerBooks of FGC has moved to a rented space at Pendle Hill study center in Wallingford, Pa., allowing the store to offer books and resources to thousands of guests that visit through the year.
FGC’s Friends Meeting House Fund recently launched its Green Meeting House Fund, which will offer meetings grants for green improvements to their spaces. This fund is brand new, and FGC has started raising the money necessary to fund these grants.
FGC’s Traveling Ministries program connects Friends with the gifts of ministry to Quaker meetings requesting spiritual support. Experienced Friends offer assistance deepening worship, building faith community, and navigating conflict. Traveling Ministries is planning its fall schedule to be filled with visits to Friends in need of support or nurture.
Since its launch in 2012, the Quaker Cloud, which provides Quaker meetings with a website, a minute manager, and a member/attender directory, has grown rapidly. In December 2014, FGC proudly announced Kalamazoo (Mich.) Meeting as the 100th meeting to join the Quaker Cloud.
Friends United Meeting
Looking back over the 2014–2015 year for Friends United Meeting, there is a lot to celebrate. Groundbreaking for the new Commercial Project in Ramallah began in January this year. In partnership with the Ramallah Friends Schools, a commercial building will be constructed next to the schools, providing space for street-side stores, offices, and underground and ground-floor parking.
Six new churches were planted in Samburu, north-central Kenya, and three new ones in Turkana, northwest Kenya. Also this past year, FUM sponsored a dozen patients at Lugulu Hospital in Kenya through the Adopt-a-Bed Program.
In education news, FUM’s candidacy for accreditation at Friends Theological College was granted in March. Five Lindi Friends School graduates are able to go to secondary school this year because of a generous donor. Nearly $29,000 came in for the Education for Esther program, which allowed FUM to send 40 girls to high school in Turkana and Samburu. Eight graduates of FTC are being sponsored for graduate studies. A biosand water filter project is being introduced to the Friends School for Disabled in Poroko, Kenya, which also includes composting latrines.
Elsewhere, an in-depth community needs assessment is being carried out in Belize to determine FUM’s direction for the coming years. A new event is scheduled for May: Stoking the Fire, an FUM North American Ministries Program, to take place in Milford, Ohio.
Friends World Committee for Consultation (Section of the Americas)
On March 12–15, Friends from 31 yearly meetings across five branches were woven together at the annual meeting of the Section of the Americas of the Friends World Committee for Consultation just outside Mexico City, Mexico. Benigno Sánchez-Eppler gave the keynote titled “Friends Woven Together in God’s Love.” He was later approved as the new clerk of the Section. Friends worshiped in multiple styles; shared experiences and prayer in small, diverse home groups; heard reports on FWCC work over the last two years; and approved sweeping programmatic changes during bilingual business in accordance with the new strategic plan for 2015–2020: Weaving the Tapestry.
As FWCC realigns its work to make the wisest use of the gifts God has given, one significant change was the creation of the Traveling Ministry Corps. FWCC will organize Friends from diverse yearly meetings to travel in the ministry with a message of connection. FWCC also honored the long history of the Wider Quaker Fellowship and the many Friends who have been connected with this work. It will be continued by the new Communications and Correspondence Program Groups.
A new working group is discerning how FWCC can best offer spiritual leadership opportunities for young Friends in the tradition of the Quaker Youth Pilgrimage.
Friends approved the request of the New Association of Friends to affiliate with FWCC.
Friends World Committee for Consultation (World Office)
On October 5, 2014, FWCC launched the first World Quaker Day, with the theme Let Your Life Speak: Living the Kabarak Call for Peace and Ecojustice. It was promoted with the following statement: “As the sun rises, we want to remember that Quakers are worshiping through every time zone, celebrating our deep connections across cultures and Quaker traditions. We are united in love and can accompany each other on this special day that draws us together. As we worship, let us hold each other in prayer and thanksgiving, and let our hymns of praise resound across the world.”
FWCC asked Friends to look afresh at the Kabarak Call, the ways it has informed their work in the world and how they live their lives, and how it could be used further.
FWCC was excited by how Friends responded, receiving reports from all four sections that highlighted the joy they felt in being part of the worldwide family of Friends. The range of activities and depth of the contributions were inspirational. Friends posted photos, videos, and descriptions from their experiences, with contributions from the full range of theological perspectives. Friends worship where they are, forming meaningful communities that nurture spiritually and give a deeper understanding of collective purpose. Full details can be found at worldquakerday.org. The 2015 date is Sunday, October 4.
A new hybrid education program called Answering the Call to Radical Faithfulness began in early April with 12 students from around the country. The intensive online/on-campus program, led by director of education Steve Chase, leads to a certificate in prophetic activism and civic engagement.
Megan Snowe, the current Minnie Jane Artist-in-Residence Scholar, presented her work Collision of Spaces, focusing on the precarious nature of self-improvement, the role of integrity in seeking an image of self, and the forms violence can take in the standards to which we hold ourselves.
Eileen Flanagan, clerk of Earth Quaker Action Team’s board, lectured at Pendle Hill on April 6 as part of its Monday Night Lecture Series, soon after EQAT successfully pressured PNC Bank to end its financing of mountaintop removal coal mining.
Live streaming came to Pendle Hill when the center launched a new offering during Flanagan’s lecture. Pendle Hill will be live streaming all remaining Monday Night lectures and other interesting presentations throughout the year.
2014 Cadbury Scholar Jeff Dudiak presented a two-part lecture series entitled Radicalizing Spirit: Quakerism and Christianity in the Contemporary Religious Society of Friends, where he addressed the perplexing and often troubled relationship between Quakerism and Christianity in the contemporary Society of Friends.
Friends General Conference, for a six-month experimental collaboration, will operate QuakerBooks from the current Pendle Hill bookstore.
During the last half year, ProNica project partners, together with its members, made a difference in Nicaragua.
ProNica’s Alternatives to Violence Project (AVP) partner, Harold Urbina, held talks with peasant farmers along Nicaragua’s proposed canal route. Plans for the unparalleled infrastructure project have spawned clashes, prompting Urbina to reach out to campesino groups at risk for displacement and violence. The interest from peasant activist groups in AVP has been overwhelming.
ProNica partner the Acahualt Women’s Center held steady in its holistic care for marginalized populations despite the loss of its primary funder in Spain. The center’s resolve to remain open has meant that the LGBTQ community, sex workers, and street peddlers still received compassionate care and support, including Pap smears, STI testing, legal aid, counseling, childcare, and vocational training.
ProNica partner the Women’s Coöperative of Rio Blanco established dozens of new family gardens with single-parent families. With the new plots, children in and around the small town of Rio Blanco, Nicaragua, are eating more cucumbers, squash, tomatoes, green peppers, and plantains than ever.
Being a bit too accustomed to virtual meetings, the ProNica staff and board gathered at the annual sessions of Southeastern Yearly Meeting (SEYM) in April. Examining solidarity with grassroots organizations while being in physical proximity to one another was just what ProNica needed, spurring witness of solidarity once again.
Quaker Council for European Affairs
QCEA is the Quaker voice in Europe. The organization advocates for peace, human rights, democratic governance, economic justice, and sustainability with the 28-country European Union and the 47-country Council of Europe.
Peace implies peacebuilding and peaceful societies. QCEA has been advocating against the increasing militarization of the EU since 2013, most recently exploring the development and use of armed drones. QCEA recently coördinated a joint statement for the Global Campaign on Military Spending, and successfully advocated for the passage of a European Parliament resolution in support of recognition of the state of Palestine.
Peaceful societies are built on mutual understanding, and QCEA is concerned about increasing divisions within European societies. QCEA is developing policy recommendations to discourage hate crime and to promote restorative justice. QCEA also works for the protection of human rights in business with the European Investment Bank and the European Commission. QCEA is engaged in the discussions on free trade agreements and how they can be designed to protect the public interest and human well-being.
Governance should be transparent and open to civil society. QCEA has shared on its website a series of briefing papers on how citizens can become more involved with different levels of EU institutions. QCEA has also engaged directly with the European Commission to advise improvements for its method of impact assessment, stakeholder consultation, and corporate social responsibility.
Quaker Earthcare Witness
Quaker Earthcare Witness provides resources, networking, and support to Friends and meetings in the Religious Society of Friends, helping them “to search for that life which affirms the unity of all Creation.” QEW seeks spiritual guidance in its efforts to halt the ecological destruction that is a growing threat not only to humans, but to all life on this planet. Concerns include global climate change, ecological sustainability, eco-justice, and world population growth.
QEW connects Friends throughout North America via its website and publications, including several books, pamphlets, an eco-bulletin, and an e-newsletter. QEW shares news with its network to inspire and empower others. Some recent changes to its website include new web pages called Fossil Free Friends to share resources on divestment from fossil fuels.
QEW shared the following stories in the most recent issue of its bi-monthly journal, BeFriending Creation: direct action from Cambridge, Mass., Friends, fasting for the planet, lead-up to the Paris climate change conference, how to create an elevator pitch on earthcare, young Friends appeal for fossil fuel divestment, and statewide examples of sustainability in Vermont. QEW also regularly visits yearly and monthly meetings across North America, providing speakers and workshop leaders for further education.
Quaker House provides counseling and support to service members who are questioning their roles in the military; works to educate them, their families, and the public about military issues; and advocates for a more peaceful world.
Steve Woolford and Lenore Yarger, GI Rights Hotline counselors, counseled 2,659 service members during the year. One became a regular attender of Fayetteville (N.C.) Meeting and other Quaker House activities.
Quaker House conducted four AVP trainings with 26 participants, including military, VA, and civilian social workers; counselors; and a military chaplain.
Quaker House hosted mindfulness classes, house concerts, and educational forums about military issues to raise its profile in the community and attract service members to its work. As a result, Quaker House received excellent publicity in the press, radio, and TV.
Joanna, coördinator of the domestic violence and sexual assault in the military program, provided therapy to 29 victims, family of victims, and perpetrators. Human Rights Watch lawyers visited Quaker House to interview victims and spotlight the program in a film.
Fort Bragg invited Quaker House to give a presentation on moral injury to the Marriage and Family Life Consultants. The recognition of moral injury opens conversations with the military and chaplains about the morality of war and the need for conscientious objection. Quaker House gave presentations throughout the country during this past year.
Right Sharing of World Resources
RSWR began in 1967 as the One Percent Fund of Friends World Committee for Consultation. The idea was that people in the developed world benefit from more than a fair share of the world’s resources. Thus the fund asked Friends to give one percent of their yearly earnings to poverty reduction programs in the developing world. Today RSWR funds micro-enterprise projects for poor women in Kenya, Sierra Leone, and India. RSWR makes grants of about $5,000 to women’s groups that then lend the money to local women who pay it back so that it can be “recycled” to others. In this way, the money stays in the community and has a multiplier effect.
Because of its work in Sierra Leone, RSWR has been involved in the Ebola crisis. RSWR sent an extra $4,000 earmarked for distributing chlorine, soap, and buckets in the remote villages where its projects are located; $2,000 for purchasing food supplies for quarantined areas; and $1,000 for preventive Ebola training and supplies for newly funded RSWR projects.
Although the Ebola crisis is waning, Sierra Leone has been left economically devastated. Thus RSWR’s work of funding micro-enterprise projects in food production is especially critical. The board of trustees recently approved nine new projects in Sierra Leone, almost double the usual number, in addition to others in Kenya and India.
William Penn House
The past year has been an exciting and challenging time for William Penn House. A ruling by the District of Columbia reversing its property tax exemption put WPH at risk. A groundswell of support and encouragement from Friends has helped state WPH’s case as a religious organization, as well as give moral support. And, thanks to the publicity of this case, a tax attorney has stepped forward and is donating her time to usher WPH’s case through the bureaucratic and legal system. While the outcome is still uncertain, WPH is feeling a greater sense of calm that it can weather this.
Relatedly, WPH has worked diligently to keep Quaker Workcamps alive as an expression of its faith and practice. Washington Quaker Workcamps are now called William Penn Quaker Workcamps, reflecting Penn’s vision of creating the Peaceable Kingdom. The three principles are mindfulness, connectedness, and service. Leadership development, education, outreach, spiritual formation, and sustainable service come together in these programs. In D.C., WPH has engaged with the urban garden movement, bringing gardens to homes throughout the District. During Lent, WPH ran a “40 Days with Peacemakers” daily reflection blog, which was a fun way to honor many of the small differences people make.
Woolman Hill Quaker Retreat Center
Woolman Hill Retreat Center reports delighting in newly opened daffodils and the recent boisterous chorus of peepers. Though the winter was long and challenging, the presence of the Spirit was just as powerful through the snow-covered months. In addition to its annual year-end silent retreat, Woolman Hill hosted well-received programs on “Inward Activism and Outward Prayer,” Circles of Trust (developed by the Center for Courage and Renewal), conflict transformation within meetings, and mindfulness for youth workers.
Woolman Hill also delighted in its usual mix of individual retreats; of Quaker youth, young adult, adult, and intergenerational groups; as well as Buddhist, Sufi, Dances of Universal Peace, and Interhelp Network gatherings. On Easter Sunday, Woolman Hill welcomed the Pipeline Pilgrimage for worship in its meetinghouse. Initiated by the New England Young Adult Friends Climate Working Group, and open to all, the pilgrimage was a 12-day walk along the route of a proposed gas pipeline which would cross Woolman Hill property on its way through Massachusetts.
As the trees and creatures wake from their dormant states, Woolman Hill looks forward to the increasing light and human activity of the warmer months, and prays that the Spirit continues to sustain those who come to find solace, respite, and renewal, and those who work, live, and worship at the center.