A semiannual feature to connect Friends Journal readers to the good works of Quaker organizations* in the following categories:
- Consultation, Support, and Resources
- Environmental and Ecojustice
- Investment Management
- Retreat, Conference, and Study Centers
- Service and Peace Work
*Editors’ note: We invite all explicitly Quaker-founded and/or Quaker-run groups and organizations to submit to the Quaker Works column. Most, but not all, are 501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations. The content is supplied by staff members of the organizations and edited to fit the style of Friends Journal. More details can be found on the Quaker Works submissions page.
Quaker United Nations Office
This June, the Quaker United Nations Office (QUNO) in New York hosted a gathering of past and present New York program assistants (PAs). As part of American Friends Service Committee’s centennial celebrations, this reunion provided an opportunity for past PAs to gather in person to launch the QUNO Alumni Network (QAN).
The PA position provides an invaluable opportunity for Quakers and those in sympathy with Quaker ideals who have recently completed a degree to experience a year with QUNO’s offices in Geneva or New York. Over the exciting four days of the gathering, PAs from the United Kingdom, Ireland, the United States, China, France, and Zimbabwe convened at the historic Quaker House in New York to hear about the current state of the UN, learn of new QUNO program work on peacebuilding and prevention, and to share and reminisce about their time at QUNO. Program assistants reflected upon how their experiences at QUNO impacted their professional career paths, with participants representing a wide array of careers, including law, diplomacy, policy campaigning and advocacy, leadership facilitation, and peacebuilding, to name a few. By the end of the weekend, the enthusiastic group officially launched QAN as a means to stay connected with QUNO and each other, to provide guidance and professional support to one another, and to spread the word of QUNO’s work.
Consultation, Support, and Resources
Friends General Conference
Friends General Conference (FGC) held its annual Gathering of Friends at the University of Toledo, in Toledo, Ohio, July 1–7. Nearly 1,000 attendees came together for workshops, worship, and community-building activities related to the 2018 theme: “The Power of Truth.” Friends and members of the local community were spiritually nourished by inspirational evening plenary presentations, including from author and ecologist Dr. Robin Wall Kimmerer; storyteller and singer La’Ron Williams; Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II of the Poor People’s Campaign and also Repairers of the Breach; and Baldemar Velásquez of the Farm Labor Organizing Committee. This year’s FGC Gathering also organized a TED Talks-inspired evening event called Quaker Truth Talks, featuring presentations from Paula Palmer of Boulder (Colo.) Meeting’s Toward Right Relationship with Native Peoples, artist and activist Oskar Pierre Castro, and Andrew Tomlinson of the Quaker United Nations Office. Video recordings of select evening plenary events are available on the FGC website.
Between May and July, FGC’s Institutional Assessment on Racism (IAR) Task Force invited Friends in the FGC community to participate in a survey that would offer a better understanding of where areas of racial bias may exist in the organization. The IAR Task Force is now crafting recommendations from its work so far, and will present its report during the fall Central Committee October 25–28.
Friends United Meeting
After more than two years of input and planning, Friends United Meeting (FUM) has launched its new, greatly expanded online bookstore with more than 400 titles from Friends, Christians, educators, peace and justice workers, and others from around the world. FUM will continue to grow this resource for Friends, attempting to bring the best Quaker writings from all branches and geographical locations of Friends to one another and the world.
The online bookstore can be accessed at bookstore.friendsunitedmeeting.org.
Friends World Committee for Consultation (Asia–West Pacific Section)
Quakers in the Asia–Pacific region are continually experimenting with new ways to share spiritual journeys and deepen connections that don’t involve plane travel. The Quaker Settlement is on the North Island of Aotearoa (a collective name for New Zealand) and has offered weekend residential seminars to Quakers for over 30 years. For the last two years a seminar has been offered that taps into the resources of Woodbrooke Quaker Study Centre located in Birmingham, England.
In 2017 a seminar was offered on Early Friends, and Woodbrooke tutors gave talks over the Internet to 20 Friends gathered in Whanganui, a city on the North Island. This past July the seminar was repeated but extended to the South Island of Aotearoa. Twenty Friends gathered in Whanganui; twelve Friends gathered in Christchurch; and one Friend participated from Nelson, a small town on the top of the South Island. The weekend theme was “The Renewal of Creation—What Can I Do?” New Zealand Friends benefited from the knowledge and commitment of Stuart Masters and Maud Grainger from Woodbrooke and Susanna Mattingly from the FWCC World Office. One of the threads running through the seminar was an awareness that as Friends search to find our role in caring for the earth, it is important to remember that love is our guide and we also need to be kind to each other.
Friends World Committee for Consultation (Section of the Americas)
This year Michael Wajda, a Quaker from the Philadelphia, Pa., region, is supporting the fund development efforts of all five FWCC offices.
FWCC Section of the Americas has also announced several of the speakers for the 2019 Section Meeting. Emily Provance from New York Yearly Meeting; Virginia Jalire from Central Evangelical Friends Church in La Paz, Bolivia; Dave Williams from Evangelical Friends Church-Mid America Yearly Meeting; and Joel Cook from Southeastern Yearly Meeting will be plenary speakers.
Members of the Traveling Ministry Corps have been making connections among the various branches of Quakerism: Pacific Yearly Meeting hosted Yulieed Ávila, member of Mexico General Meeting; Salvadoran Friends hosted William Medel from Cuba Yearly Meeting; and Estefany Vargas from INELA Bolivia Yearly Meeting traveled to Peru. The Traveling Ministry Corps continues to be a valuable means for fulfilling FWCC’s goal of fostering fellowship among all the branches of the Religious Society of Friends.
Friends World Committee for Consultation (World Office)
The Central Executive Committee (CEC) of FWCC met in April in Northern Ireland. The CEC is made up of Friends from each Section, and comprises a variety of ages and Quaker traditions. One of the items on the agenda addressed issues of privilege and historic injustice, a response to the 2017 CEC minute on overcoming historical patterns of colonialism and inequality (including racism). FWCC hopes to open up dialogue as a convening function, leading to the World Plenary Meeting in South Africa in 2023.
FWCC has launched the Young Adult Friends Development Fund (from Quaker Youth Pilgrimage funds) with the objective of strengthening Quaker identity by offering opportunities to explore Quaker roots, history, and heritage in many contexts, and to enable young adult Friends to meet peers from other countries and branches of the Quaker family. FWCC is inviting proposals for events, projects, or programs that will meet these objectives. It is hoped that in time, regular programs may emerge that will become as well-established and memorable as traditional Quaker Youth Pilgrimages were in the past.
FWCC has joined the multi-faith “Living the Change” sustainable living initiative, as representative of Quakers worldwide and in partnership with a global community of religious and spiritual institutions—including Buddhist, Catholic, Christian, Hindu, Jewish, and Muslim networks—who will be working together to champion sustainable living.
Quakers Uniting in Publications
QUIP began in 1983 with a few Quaker publishers and booksellers; today it is an international network of over 50 Friends organizations and individuals.
QUIP’s 2018 annual meeting was held April 26–29 at Glenthorne Conference Centre in the Lake District, UK. Using the theme “Writing at the Edge,” Geoffrey Durham’s keynote address spoke to the importance of being a reader for one’s spiritual development. Activist authors Philip Austin (Northern Friends Peace Board), Vanessa Julye (coauthor of Fit for Freedom, Not for Friendship, a history of Friends and racism), and Laurie Michaelis (Friends and climate change and sustainability) presented as a panel discussion. Another panel, “Crossing the Chasm,” presented by Daniel Flynn, Kirsten Mangels, Emma Condori, and Julia Ryberg, revealed that an increasing amount of original Quaker material is available in languages other than English; these need to be translated into English. Workshops were conducted by Friends Journal executive director Gabriel Ehri (Quaker magazines today), Joe Jones (how publishing is changing), and John Lampen (the joy and challenge of writing for Quaker children). One of the important events of the annual meeting is when members share their publications (print, media, art, etc.). During this time, stories behind each published work are shared.
The Tacey Sowle Fund (supported by the QUIP dues) promotes publishing among the underserved. An application form is found on the QUIP website.
Friendly Water for the World
In June, Friendly Water for the World was named winner of the National Energy Globe Award for the Democratic Republic of the Congo in the water category. Based out of Austria, the Energy Globe Award is today’s most prestigious environmental prize for sustainability. Worldwide there are more than 2,000 project submissions annually.
The award was given for Friendly Water’s work with the women of Minova, many of whom are victims of a mass rape by the Congolese National Army in November 2012. Some became pregnant; others contracted HIV; all of their husbands left them. They were sick, poor, depressed, and starving, and had removed all of their children from school, as they could no longer afford school fees.
In October 2016, Friendly Water trained them in the fabrication of BioSand water filters. Since then, the women have sold more than 1,000 filters, providing clean water to schools, clinics, and the entire community. They stopped cholera epidemics in two refugee camps. They are now healthy; their children are back in school; they have enough to eat; and they have purpose.
In July, a large celebration was held in the town of Minova, in eastern Congo. Their work has now spread to three other communities of women in the region. More details about Friendly Water’s award can be found at energyglobe.info.
Right Sharing of World Resources
Right Sharing of World Resources (RSWR) is an independent Quaker not-for-profit organization. Its purpose is to share the abundance of God’s love by working for equity through partnerships in the United States and around the world. RSWR gives grants to groups of marginalized women in Kenya, Sierra Leone, and India to fund individual micro-enterprise projects. When women repay their loans, the money remains in the community and is used to fund additional projects. Right Sharing’s work is grounded in a sense of stewardship for the world’s material, human, and spiritual resources.
At its meeting in April in Tampa, Fla., the board of trustees of RSWR approved funding for 20 new projects: ten in India, four in Kenya, and six in Sierra Leone.
This summer, RSWR General Secretary Jackie Stillwell attended the Friends General Conference Gathering in Toledo, Ohio, as well as Western, Pacific, New York, North Pacific, and New England Yearly Meeting annual sessions. She led a workshop on “The Power of Enough” at Gathering as well as mini-workshops at three yearly meeting sessions. Stillwell’s plenary address at New York Yearly Meeting was titled, “Sharing God’s Abundant Love: Expect Grace, Miracles, and Transformation.”
RSWR recently launched a brand-new website, complete with a new logo. This new site enables RSWR to better serve supporters and grant seekers and to share important stories with supporters.
Bolivian Quaker Education Fund
Bolivian Quakers continue higher education through scholarships from the Bolivian Quaker Education Fund (BQEF). At the Public University of El Alto, Tania Colque Chambilla studies medicine. Seila Apaza Huanca studies public accounting; Ricardo Mamani Patzi studies law and judicial science; and Elvira Castaya Quispe studies agricultural engineering at Túpac Katari Aymara Indigenous University. They and 32 other students are receiving scholarships from BQEF. Many students and sponsors exchange letters several times a year.
BQEF hosted a Quaker study and service tour to Bolivia July 26–August 9. Participants enjoyed meaningful experiences including visiting rural communities, extensive contact with scholarship students and graduates, and sharing activities with high school students at the BQEF-sponsored Student Residence in Sorata. They met with university scholarship students at a traditional lunch provided by the students, where some of the sponsors enjoyed meeting their sponsored students. Scholarship program graduate Alicia Lucasi helped organize and lead the tour. One trip participant wrote, “The gratitude of the Bolivian people is overwhelming. One woman walked four hours to Sorata to cook lunch for us, grateful for her child’s opportunity to live in the Student Residence to access a secondary education. Four hours!”
Currently, BQEF is working on bringing graduate Vanessa Maldonado Choque to the United States for a year of apprentice teaching at a Friends school.
Earlham School of Religion
Much change and transition has been happening at Earlham School of Religion (ESR). Beginning July 1, Matt Hisrich assumed duties as acting dean for the 2018-19 academic year. As part of that transition, Julie Dishman moved into Hisrich’s previous role of director of recruitment and admissions. The school also welcomed a new director of business and student services, Jonelle Ellis, and most recently an interim receptionist, Kristen Laws.
Two additions for prospective and current students include reduced course audit fees and the new Quaker Professional Scholarship. Occasional Students can audit courses for the now reduced rate of $350 per course. In addition, those who hold an MA or MDiv degree from ESR will be able to audit classes for an even further reduced rate of $100 per course. The new Quaker Professional Scholarship will be awarded annually to one student who is currently employed by a Quaker organization. The first round of applications for this new scholarship are due in May 2019. More information on both of these announcements can be found on the ESR website.
Friends Association for Higher Education
Friends Association for Higher Education (FAHE) has published Quakers, Politics, and Economics, the fifth volume in its book series Quakers and the Disciplines. Chapters contributed by 20 Quaker scholars look at historical figures as well as current Quaker perspectives on contemporary issues.
In June, FAHE members gathered at Wilmington College in Wilmington, Ohio, for its annual conference, this year with the theme “Keeping Faithful in a Time of Rapid Change.”
Friends Council on Education
Quaker testimonies are lived out in Friends schools across the country. Friends Council on Education plays a vital role in nurturing the Quaker essence of Friends schools.
“Leading in the Manner of Friends,” a new workshop for Friends school administrative teams, explores the unique characteristics of Quaker school leadership, including Quaker-based decision making, collaborative leadership style, and responsive listening.
Friends Council’s statement in support of student activism around gun violence garnered over 70 signatures from Friends school heads. Articulating the values of nonviolent conflict resolution, peace, and community, the statement asks public officials to heed student voices and take action on gun violence.
Quaker students in Friends schools bring Quakerism to life, enhancing the modeling of Quaker values and practices. The National Friends Education Fund (NFEF), Friends Council’s tuition aid program for Quaker families, has national scope and impact in its support.
Executive Director Drew Smith’s presentation at the FGC Gathering shared the ways Friends Council’s work helps Friends schools understand how testimonies and practices of the Religious Society of Friends ground the work of Friends schools.
Quaker Pilgrimage 2018 brought current and retired Friends school educators together with Quakers from across the country to explore 1652 Fox and Fell Country in northern England. The group climbed Pendle Hill and worshiped in meetinghouses with British Friends, creating connections with Quaker ancestors and with each other.
Quaker Religious Education Collaborative
Quaker Religious Education Collaborative (QREC) is living into its mission to create spaces where Friends from across the branches of Quakerism and the international family of Friends can share resources, inspiration, and support among the religious education community of practice.
QREC’s website has been redesigned and includes a searchable resource library. The library is a forum for curricula, articles, videos, and other educational materials on Quaker themes.
QREC began its fifth year with an annual conference and retreat at Powell House in New York, where more than 50 Friends from across the United States, Latin America, and Africa gathered to consider the theme, “Religious Education in Action: Activism, Outreach, and Parenting.” Queries included, “How do we take the lessons of Quaker religious education beyond the meetinghouse? Where do lifelong spiritual formation and activism, outreach, and Quaker parenting intersect?” A pre-gathering opportunity was held on reimagining ministry to Quaker youth (ages 12–18), with participants considering what is working well, what are the growing edges, and how to work together in youth ministry.
Any individual or organization interested in and supportive of the work and mission of QREC is welcome. Membership is not required to access the resources offered through QREC.
Environmental and Ecojustice
Earth Quaker Action Team
The Power Local Green Jobs campaign continues pushing PECO, the largest utility in Pennsylvania and owned by the conglomerate Exelon, to expand local solar and green jobs. In response to this public pressure, the company has been making small fixes to its outdated solar technology and promoting them as big steps. Meanwhile, Philadelphia fails to meet basic air quality standards, and dirty electricity continues as the region’s biggest source of greenhouse pollution.
Earth Quaker Action Team (EQAT) took the step of civil disobedience this spring. Clergy and grassroots supporters, fed up with the suffering caused by the company’s greed and recalcitrance, took peaceful actions leading to 25 arrests at the utility’s headquarters. While PECO profits $1 million every single day in the poorest big city in America, those profits go to Exelon shareholders, instead of building the clean energy and jobs that neighborhoods need.
The utility has applied for a rate hike that will hurt the poorest and deepen the energy crisis. This summer, EQAT connected ratepayers, consumer advocates, and faith groups in opposition to this rate increase, while organizing around the demand for local solar in high-unemployment communities. Videos from the actions are available on EQAT’s website, along with a newsletter sign-up.
Quaker Earthcare Witness
Quaker Earthcare Witness (QEW) calls on Friends to take Spirit-led action to address the ecological and social crises of the world and to connect Friends who are already engaged. Its network members feel the liberating possibilities of changing humans’ relationship with the planet.
This July, QEW hosted the Earthcare Center at the Friends General Conference annual Gathering in Toledo, Ohio, sharing presentations on issues like factory farming, right relationship with indigenous peoples, organizing for political change, and energy choices.
QEW released a new pamphlet, “Human Reproduction Is in the Commons: The Case for Smaller Families,” as part of a series on the difficult but important concerns on population and the environment. It also produced a new issue of BeFriending Creation, its 12-page quarterly journal.
On September 8, QEW joined the People’s Climate Movement in mobilizing tens of thousands to demand real climate leadership and 100 percent renewable energy for all. General Secretary Shelley Tanenbaum participated in the Global Climate Action Summit in San Francisco the week after.
QEW’s yearly meeting representatives serve as liaisons to each yearly meeting, connecting local Friends with QEW, informing the yearly meetings about QEW’s work, and helping guide QEW’s vision.
QEW offers a community of support through like-minded peers, educational resources, action items, and expertise on how to make a difference at this crucial moment.
Quaker Institute for the Future
QIF has been applying Quaker values and collaborative process to a research agenda on economics and ecology since 2003. Fueling Our Future: A Dialogue about Technology, Ethics, and Public Policy was published in 2009. While the ethical principles guiding the analysis of this report remain relevant, the options for clean renewable energy have dramatically changed. QIF has now published Energy Choices: Opportunities to Make Wise Decisions for a Sustainable Future by research associate Robert Bruninga of Annapolis (Md.) Meeting.
Energy Choices is the product of a deep concern for right relationship translated into immediately useful information on clean energy options for homes; personal transportation; businesses; and institutional facilities, such as meetinghouses.
The 2018 QIF Summer Research Seminar was held in Ithaca, N.Y., hosted by Ithaca Meeting. Participants presented their research on the following topics: the historical roots of racial and environmental injustice; the contemporary intersection of racism and environmental destruction; the linkages of global conflict, climate disruption, and the fossil-fuel economy; Kenneth Boulding’s Spaceship Earth concept in relation to current human impact on the planet; the exploitative and damaging impact on Earth’s ecosystems and human communities of remote ownership and the need for limits-insistent ecological law.
A presentation was made on the Finite Biosphere Project, which is seeking to generate a Quaker voice in Washington on economic policies that support a mutually enhancing human–earth relationship.
Friends Fiduciary Corporation
While Friends Fiduciary currently provides management services exclusively to Quaker organizations, planned giving is the one area where it works with individuals. Over the past 12 months, Mimi Blackwell, the planned giving program manager, has met with over 50 Quaker monthly meetings, yearly meetings, schools, retirement communities, and organizations located across the United States. The purpose of the meetings is to get members and donors thinking about planned giving.
A common theme among Friends visited was how Friends Fiduciary can further leverage the benefit of an individual’s gift through socially responsible investing and active ownership. Friends Fiduciary believes that with ownership in a company comes a responsibility to address specific and systemic issues with those companies, reflecting Quaker values in the process. This year, Friends Fiduciary engaged with 41 companies on over 20 environmental, social, and governance issues, including lobbying disclosure, methane emissions, drug pricing, and board diversity. Friends Fiduciary doubled the number of engagements where it serves as main point of company contact, leading several engagements which resulted in significant progress, including substantive sustainability reports from a bank and insurance company and increased lobbying disclosure from several utility companies.
Expanded planned giving and shareholder engagement programs are exciting testimonies to Friends Fiduciary’s mission of serving the financial needs of Friends organizations at cost while making the case for Quaker values in the business world.
Retreat, Conference, and Study Centers
Ben Lomond Quaker Center
The mission of Ben Lomond Quaker Center (BLQC) is to nurture the spiritual growth and faithfulness of Friends and others, while strengthening Quakerism and its witness in the world.
The BLQC annual pass, currently held by 16 meetings and 24 individuals, contributes to over 400 people attending BLQC Quaker programs each year. Complimentary child care offered during programs, which makes BLQC programs more accessible to parents, was utilized more regularly this past year. Support for young people is also exemplified in the Family Work Camp, which was multi-generational this year with over 50 participants. This summer, two youth camps were consolidated into a single camp called Quaker Service and Art Camp for rising fifth through ninth graders. The addition of a weeklong art course for campers was a great success. BLQC rents its facilities to Quaker and non-Quaker groups. Revenue from these renters helps the center to operate in a financially viable way.
Co-directors Bob and Kathy Runyan traveled to western meetings to present a program on the road called, “Radical Quakerism: From Roots to Fruits.” BLQC also reached out to each Friends meeting in the west inviting them to send two representatives to the third complimentary Quaker Centering Consultation. Forty-six Friends worked together and considered how they might facilitate the spiritual development of their meetings.
Friends Center’s event and conference space continues to serve the wider community. Friends Center’s space is well used seven days a week, not only by three Quaker equity partners (American Friends Service Committee, Philadelphia Yearly Meeting, and Central Philadelphia Monthly Meeting), five Quaker tenant organizations, and thirty-one other nonprofit and philanthropic tenants, but also by outside organizations. Over the last 12 months, the facility was the location for 15 Quaker events, 92 nonprofit events, and 22 general events.
Events have included several pop-up vegan flea markets; a celebration and awards ceremony for the Philadelphia Reentry Coalition; a presentation by tenant Philadelphia Lawyers for Social Equity called “Beyond Bars: Conquering the Stigma of Criminal Records”; a press conference by the Philadelphia chapter of the Council on American–Islamic Relations to decry the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to uphold the federal “Muslim travel ban”; and a celebration of World Refugee Day by the Community Fund for Immigrant Wellness, which is coordinated by tenant the Thomas Scattergood Foundation.
Finally, Central Philadelphia (Pa.) Meeting hosted a July poetry reading that was curated by Philadelphia’s Poet Laureate, Raquel Salas Rivera, on the theme “Schools Not Prisons.” Two members of the meeting were among several poets examining mass incarceration and education.
In March, Pendle Hill hosted a popular seven-day mindfulness retreat called “Present in Every Moment” and Peterson Toscano’s workshop on LGBTQ-friendly Bible stories and compassionate communication; in April, Marcelle Martin’s course “Nurturing Faithfulness”; in May, healer John Calvi brought “Retreat, Rebalance, Recharge”; and in June, a new cohort of Radical Faithfulness in Action launched. July saw a new retreat “Kairos: Silence, Contemplation, and Scripture.” In August, Pendle Hill offered John Dominic Crossan lectures on “The Challenge of Progressive Christianity” and other programs, including visual storytelling, an altered bookmaking workshop, “Fierce Biblical Women Speak Power to Us Today,” and “Playing in the Light.”
Pendle Hill sponsored three conferences: May’s “Truth and Healing: Quakers Seeking Right Relationship with Indigenous Peoples”; June’s Continuing Revolution for young adult Friends; and July’s “Beyond Gender-Based Violence,” with civil rights leader Ruby Sales delivering the keynote speech.
Three new pamphlets were published: Money and Soul, Humanity in the Face of Inhumanity, and Art as Soul’s Sanctuary.
Scholars- and artists-in-residence included fiber artist Kendra Biddick; classics scholar Sarah Ruden; singer-songwriter Kate MacLeod; and authors Madeline Ward, Hal Weaver, and Michael Newheart. Sarah Willie-LeBreton, provost of Swarthmore College, gave the Cary Memorial Lecture on continuing revelation.
Free First Monday Lectures (available on the Pendle Hill USA YouTube channel), the Poetry Coffeehouse, and one-day arts and spirituality programs were offered monthly.
Spring was busy, with increased use by school groups through the week as well as a slate of adult and youth weekend retreats. Adult retreats included a gathering for pastoral ministers from New York and New England yearly meetings, facilitated by Jan Wood, as well as a Godly Play training, facilitated by Melinda Wenner Bradley. Among the youth retreats, there was the annual “EarthSong,” where this year’s graduating seniors were launched from the youth program, and a reunion retreat was held for those who had graduated in 2014–2017. This retreat led right into “Year at Hogwarts,” a Harry Potter-themed intergenerational retreat that was a tremendous success, even though Slytherin won the House Cup.
Powell House hosted several large summer rental groups: Jewish Family and Children’s Service, Yad B’Yad, and Alliance of Families for Justice. August closed out with the Quaker Religious Education Collaborative’s annual gathering and a wedding.
During yearly meeting sessions, Powell House presented its strategic plan to the body and led an interest group that shared more plan details. This plan is the focus of much of the work that is currently underway, including a new database; facility improvements; and planning for energy-efficient systems to provide electric, heat, and water for buildings.
Woolman Hill Retreat Center
The first offering of the nine-month program “Nurturing Faithfulness,” a collaboration between Woolman Hill, New England Yearly Meeting, Hilary Burgin, and Marcelle Martin, ended in May. At the closing weekend, participants shared deeply about the impact of the program on their spiritual lives and their local meetings.
At its June meeting, the Woolman Hill board approved a strategic plan based on two guiding principles: one of sustainability and right relationship, and another of accessibility and welcome. It focuses on a vision “to provide a welcoming sanctuary where people come to be restored and inspired, and leave with the strength to act out of love, sowing seeds of peace that lead to a world transformed.” More about the strategic plan can be found on the website.
A volunteer crew has been working to restore the home of Juanita and Wally Nelson, peace activists and war tax resisters who lived at Woolman Hill for over three decades. The board is clear that the Nelson legacy is best honored by a living memorial, rather than a museum or shrine, as the Nelsons’ witness was much broader than the physical building from which their work radiated. Woolman Hill currently envisions using the Nelson homestead for day-time individual or small group meditation, prayer, meetings, and similar uses.
Service and Peace Work
Friends House Moscow
Friends House Moscow (FHM) continues to support programs addressing Moscow refugee family needs. FHM supports tutoring and teaching English to orphans aging out of state support; easing tensions between Ukraine’s ethnic Ukrainians and Russians with Alternatives to Violence Project training; and providing Internet safety training to students at high risk for self-harm and to teachers, parents, and others working with them.
The newsletter, Alternativshik, with accounts of young men challenging conscription, will convert from printed to online format.
Quaker materials recently translated into Russian include Description of the Retreat, print and eBook versions, making a small profit; Friends for 300 Years; Reflections from a Long Marriage; Walking with Wolf; Truth of the Heart: An Anthology of George Fox online; Harvey Gilman’s A Light That Is Shining and George Gorman’s The Amazing Fact of Quaker Worship (116 printed copies each, thanks to a Moscow Meeting Friend’s generous donation); and Richenda C. Scott’s Quakers in Russia. A translation of William Penn’s Some Fruits of Solitude is in progress.
Connecting regional Quakers and reaching out to seekers continue. Monthly meditation gatherings in the FHM office average 10 to 12 participants. Wednesday worship meetings have three new regular attenders. Social media followers on Facebook and other platforms also continue to grow.
At the end of February, Quaker House attended and spoke up at the first listening session of the National Commission on Military, National, and Public Service, which is tasked with reviewing the military selective service process and with considering methods to increase participation in military, national, and public service. Quaker House publicized notices of the subsequent sessions and will remain involved when the Commission’s public activities begin again in 2019.
Quaker House also attended the National Counter Recruitment Strategy Summit in Chicago in June in order to better coordinate information, activities, and support with other organizations dedicated to monitoring and counterbalancing the tactics of military recruiters in schools.
In August, the director and the licensed clinical social work counselor were the closing plenary speakers at the North Carolina Foundation for Alcohol and Drug Studies summer conference. They spoke about moral injury arising out of combat experiences to approximately 300 social services professionals in attendance. Quaker House’s counseling program provides counseling to military members and their families for domestic violence, sexual assault, and moral injury.
In May, the director joined the board of the GI Rights Network, which includes the GI Hotline. Quaker House’s two counselors to the hotline take approximately 300 calls per month, including a call from a service member whose wife was deported as well as calls from those seeking discharge as conscientious objectors.
Quaker Social Action
Since 2014, Quaker Social Action (QSA) has been campaigning to end funeral poverty in the United Kingdom. Funeral prices have been rising at almost triple the rate of house prices, with the average basic option now sitting at a staggering £3,784 (about US$4,930), leaving one in six people struggling to pay without taking on debt.
The Fair Funerals campaign has approached funeral poverty across three key areas: working with the funeral industry to improve price transparency, lobbying the government to increase available financial support, and boosting awareness of the issue throughout the UK.
This year, the campaign has been involved in two major breakthroughs. In March, the Prime Minister announced that England is to follow Wales’s lead and scrap child funeral fees. This follows a passionate campaign led by Carolyn Harris MP, with the help of the QSA team and partner organizations.
Last month, an investigation from Gabriel Pogrund of The Sunday Times, supported by the QSA team, found that some local councils were banning poor families from attending the funerals of relatives. New guidelines will force councils to make provisions for relatives to be invited to funerals and to return the ashes.
This year, the fixed-term campaign comes to a close, however, QSA will continue to support those organizations speaking truth to power on the issue. More information is at fairfuneralscampaign.org.uk.
Quaker Voluntary Service
In March, under the leadership of the new director of program, Mike Huber, Quaker Voluntary Service (QVS) convened an inaugural gathering of Friends at Pendle Hill to bring together key supporters from each QVS city. Together Friends worked to clarify expectations, establish more consistent lines of communication, produce a calendar to orient work throughout the year, and share ideas for deepening support of the program.
QVS returned to Pendle Hill in August to welcome the seventh and largest group of Fellows for national orientation before beginning their fellowship year in their separate cities, including a new location in Minneapolis.
QVS also launched a slate of new equity initiatives this year. These will expand the ability of QVS to be more accessible to Fellows from marginalized backgrounds.
QVS launched the Rooted, Grounded, Growing campaign to ensure the ability to build Spirit-led leaders for the future of Friends and the world well into the future. More information on how to partner with QVS is available on the website.
William Penn House
WPH has expanded and deepened connections with activist and advocacy organizations in Washington, D.C. The social justice education program has been enriched by a new relationship with the Anacostia Community Museum, a unit of the Smithsonian Institution devoted to chronicling community history and neighborhood activism in D.C.’s eastern neighborhoods. The museum’s location across the street from partners at the Fort Stanton urban farm creates a powerful service and learning experience for program participants.
WPH has also developed a strong relationship with ONE DC (Organizing Neighborhood Equity), a grassroots activist organization working for economic justice and inclusive and equitable communities in the city. In July, WPH led Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL) summer interns in a day of service helping to prepare space at ONE DC’s new Black Workers Center, bringing two partner organizations together.
WPH continues to support emerging citizen-activist movements, providing Quaker hospitality for marchers and activists. Just before Mother’s Day, WPH hosted an inspiring group of mothers of victims of police violence, organized by the Truth, Hope, and Justice Initiative. In June, the Poor People’s Campaign was hosted, and several WPH interns participated in the concluding rally. In July, it was time for Zero Hour, a youth-led movement for climate justice. Lastly, in August, FCNL’s Advocacy Corps organizers were hosted as they were oriented and trained for their year of service.
Youth Service Opportunities Project
Youth Service Opportunities Project (YSOP) celebrated its thirty-fifth anniversary of engaging youth in hands-on service experiences to people facing homelessness and hunger. YSOP offers service learning programs in both New York City and Washington, D.C., for youth from seventh grade through college.
This summer YSOP’s D.C. office worked with a number of local groups. The British International School, Foundry United Methodist Church, and Greenbelt Community Church all partnered with YSOP for the first time. One volunteer from Greenbelt Community Church was particularly grateful for her service experience because she had the opportunity to volunteer at an agency that she had donated to many times in the past. This volunteer left YSOP excited to have had a direct service experience with an agency that she has invested in and plans to continue serving with them in the future.
Since 2012, Walled Lake Western High School Choir has participated every other year in a YSOP New York City program. Led by their charismatic choir director, they were enthusiastic and excited to serve. There were many emotional moments at reflection with two students moved to tears by sharing conversations they had with homeless folks. One alum, who is now a professional rock musician, said he loved traveling around the world singing, but YSOP was his favorite choir experience.