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Connecting Friends: Salt and Light

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Margaret Fraserhttp://www.blogger.com/profile/15816265523721808103noreply@blogger.comBlogger35125
Updated: 1 hour 9 min ago

PILGRIMAGE TO IRELAND April 22-May 5, 2014

Thu, 12/19/2013 - 20:17
Spend time in worship and conversation with Irish Quakers. Appreciate the rich history of Friends in Ireland, enter into the spiritual life of this diverse group as a guest at their yearly meeting sessions and visit some of their meetings.
  • Explore the 350-year history of Friends in Ireland, which began in persecution.
  • Reflect on the witness of Friends whose quiet efforts during the Great Hunger of the 19thcentury helped relieve suffering and challenged its causes.
  • Hear from those who worked during the 20th century 'Troubles' to offer fresh visions of reconciliation.
  • Observe the continuing work towards community reconciliation in 21st century multi-racial, multi-cultural Ireland.

Moyallon - our 'home' in Northern IrelandAlways the chance of a cup of tea

THE PILGRIMAGEOur pilgrimage will begin and end in Dublin, where we will join in Ireland Yearly Meeting’s annual sessions. The yearly meeting is a microcosm of some of the theological and cultural diversity on the island. We will meet as a small group each evening to reflect on our learning.
We will then move to Northern Ireland. From our tranquil base at Moyallon, we will get to know local Friends, visit meetinghouses in villages and cities, hear about faithful work for reconciliation over the years, and visit some of the places where Friends’ testimonies are visible in community relations. Be prepared to drink many cups of tea as Ulster Friends welcome us, and expect to make lasting friendships.
We will travel to areas where so-called “peace walls” keep communities segregated, visit places of loss and violence, but also look for signs of hope, and see some the work to bring members of different communities together, including the role of the arts in creating new paradigms and symbols.We will visit the Giant's CausewayPilgrims on the Antrim coast, looking across to Scotland
We will also have opportunities to relax and explore Dublin, Belfast and Derry/Londonderry, as well as visiting the Antrim coast and the Giant’s Causeway.

A pilgrimage involves preparation, the journey itself and reflection after the event.
SOME QUERIES TO BEGIN YOUR JOURNEY:
·      How do I prepare myself for what God has waiting for me in Ireland?
·      What gifts do I bring to reconciliation?
·      How do I overcome inward obstacles - especially assumptions and fears?
·      What would make me a more effective agent of reconciliation in my own community?
·      How am I called to engage in change within my own community - Quaker and beyond?Pilgrims on the walls of Derry/Londonderry
The Fountain enclave from the walls of Derry/Londonderry











SOME THOUGHTS AND QUESTIONS ON THE JOURNEY
Ireland Yearly Meeting spans two countries: (the Republic of) Ireland and Northern Ireland. What are the factors that hold it together as one yearly meeting?  
Irish Friends reflect some of the diversity in broader Irish/Northern Ireland society, and much of the theological diversity to be found among Friends everywhere. How do they nurture unity? 
How can we learn from Irish Quakers, with their cultural and theological diversity, on navigating the differences among Friends - especially in North America?
In what ways have Irish Friends held up Quaker testimonies and influenced public policy in both countries?


YOUR FACILITATORS Margaret Fraser has co-led Quaker pilgrimages for both adults and Young Friends on two continents, and two previous international visits to Northern Ireland. She has a growing interest in the ways in which some communities can live together in the midst of significant cultural, religious and linguistic diversity, while for others the stress is too great. She feels happily at home among Irish Friends.
Anne Bennetttaught at Queen's University, Belfast, during the Troubles, and for several years afterwards she worked for the international department of Britain Yearly Meeting. She was involved with developing peacebuilding  programmes in societies which had experienced  violent conflicts including Africa. Asia and the Middle East, before returning to Northern Ireland in 2004 as Director of Quaker House, Belfast.
They are both hoping that their friends will quickly become your friends.
PILGRIMAGE COST: $2,500.                                    
WHAT'S INCLUDED:§  13 nights' accommodation.§  Three meals a day during the pilgrimage.§  Travel - on buses and trains, and in a van with local driver.§  Attendance at the sessions of Ireland Yearly Meeting§  Advance reading materials§  Daily reflection and conversation time.
(Airfare to and from Dublin and travel insurance are not included.)
REGISTRATIONTo register, contact margaret@goodnewsassoc.org A deposit of $800 will secure your place. Please pay two further payments of $850, due by February 1 and March 1, 2014. 
Please make checks payable to Good News Associates, and mail them to 13730 15th Ave NE #A302, Seattle, WA 98125.
Good News Associates
13730 15th Ave NE #A302, Seattle, WA 98125
Categories: Blogs

PILGRIMAGE TO IRELAND

Tue, 01/01/2013 - 15:37

                  Good News AssociatesPILGRIMAGE TO IRELANDJULY 22-AUGUST 5, 2013
Spend time in worship and conversation with Irish Quakers. Appreciate the rich history of Friends in Ireland, enter into the deep spirituality of this diverse group as a guest at their yearly meeting sessions and visit some of their meetings.
  • Explore the 350-year history of Friends in Ireland, and their beginnings as a persecuted sect. 

  • Reflect on the witness of Friends whose quiet efforts during the Great Hunger of the 19th century helped relieve suffering and challenged its causes.

  • Hear from those who worked during the 20th century 'Troubles' to offer fresh visions of reconciliation.

  • Observe the continuing work towards community reconciliation in 21st century multi-racial, multi-cultural Ireland.






·  

Moyallon Meetinghouse and Moyallon Centre - our 'home' in Northern Ireland
THE PILGRIMAGEOur pilgrimage will begin and end in Dublin. From there we will drive south to Cork to join in Ireland Yearly Meeting’s residential sessions. The yearly meeting is a microcosm of some of the theological and cultural diversity on the island. We will meet as a small group each evening to reflect on our learning.
From Cork, we will drive north through small towns and villages to Northern Ireland. From our tranquil base at Moyallon, we will get to know local Friends, visit meetinghouses in villages and cities, hear about faithful work for reconciliation over the years, and visit some of the places where Friends’ testimonies are visible in community relations. Be prepared to drink many cups of tea as Ulster Friends welcome us, and expect to make lasting friendships.
We will travel to areas where so-called “peace walls” keep communities segregated, visit places of loss and violence, but also look for signs of hope, and see some the work to bring members of different communities together, including the role of the arts in creating new paradigms and symbols.
We will also have opportunities to relax and explore aspects of Armagh, Belfast, Cork and Dublin, as well as visiting the Antrim coast and the Giant’s Causeway.




The Antrim coast near Corrymeela; The Giant's Causeway; Lurgan Meetinghouse






A pilgrimage involves preparation, the journey itself and reflection after the event.
SOME QUERIES TO BEGIN YOUR JOURNEY:How do I prepare myself for what God has waiting for me in Ireland?
·      What gifts do I bring to reconciliation?
·      How do I overcome inward obstacles - especially assumptions and fears?
·      What would make me to be a more effective agent of reconciliation in my own community?
·      How am I called to engage in change within my own community - Quaker and beyond?

SOME THOUGHTS AND QUESTIONS ON THE JOURNEY
·      Ireland Yearly Meeting spans two countries, Ireland and Northern Ireland. What are the factors that hold it together as one yearly meeting?

·   Irish Friends now reflect some of the diversity in broader Irish/Northern Ireland society, and much of the theological diversity to be found among Friends elsewhere. How do they nurture unity?
·   How can we learn from Irish Quakers, with their cultural and theological diversity, on navigating the differences among Friends - especially in North America?
·   In what ways have Irish Friends held up Quaker testimonies and influenced public policy in both countries?

YOUR FACILITATOR Good News Associate Margaret Fraser has co-led Quaker pilgrimages for both adults and Young Friends on two continents, and a previous international delegation to Northern Ireland.
She has a growing interest in the ways in which some communities can live together in the midst of significant cultural, religious and linguistic diversity, while for others the stress is too great.
She feels happily at home among Irish Friends and was in residence at Moyallon Centre last year. She is hoping that her friends will quickly become your friends.
PILGRIMAGE COST $2,250.WHAT'S INCLUDED:14 nights' accommodation.Three meals a day during the pilgrimage.Travel in our own vehicle.Attendance at the residential sessions of Ireland Yearly Meeting.Advance reading materials.Daily reflection and conversation time.
(Airfare to and from Dublin and travel insurance are not included.)
MAKE YOUR RESERVATION EARLY To register, contact margaret@goodnewsassoc.org A deposit of $750 (payable to, and mailed to, Good News Associates) will secure your place, with two more payments of $750 due by March 1 and May 1, 2013.
Once your place is confirmed, make your own airline reservation. Plan to arrive at Dublin Airport on Monday July 22nd and to leave on Monday August 5
American, Delta, United and U.S Airways are among the airlines flying into Dublin.Good News Associates13730 15th Ave NE #A302, Seattle, WA 98125

Categories: Blogs

Michigan roots and routes

Tue, 08/14/2012 - 02:32
Raisin Valley Friends Church. Oldest active Friends congregation in MichiganWhether they got there on by boat on the Erie Canal and Lake Erie or by train, by carriage, or on foot, Friends who moved to Michigan in the nineteenth century were pioneer farmers, artisans, teachers and small business owners. Those whose work was connected to logging communities had to move frequently, so it was not unusual for some worship groups and meetings to be established and laid down a few years later. The landscape of the Lower Peninsula contains the ghosts of small meetings and worship groups. The meetings in farming and manufacturing areas to the southeast of the state had a more stable population.

To the outside world, the early Quaker settlers would have looked the same. All the early meetings would have been unprogrammed until the mid-19th century evangelical revivals. All Friends would have worn plain dress and used plain speech. Differences in theology and attitudes towards the world, however, and Friends' place in it, would have been apparent by the vocal ministry offered and some of the conflicts that arose. 
There were two main migration routes: From upstate New York via the Erie Canal, completed in 1825, and from Eastern and Central Indiana. Because of their different roots, the congregations had distinct cultural and theological histories. 
(The dates are those in which monthly meetings were established. Most of the congregations had existed previously as worship groups or preparative meetings under the care of a monthly meeting in a different state.)

New York Yearly Meeting’s Orthodox branch. Its earliest monthly meeting in Michigan was established in 1831. Its Michigan meetings were transferred in the mid-19th century to Ohio Yearly Meeting of Friends, Damascus, later known as Evangelical Friends Church-Eastern Region.  
Genesee Yearly Meeting Set up in 1834, it had its roots in New York Yearly Meeting's Hicksite branch. Its earliest monthly meeting in Michigan was also established in 1834. The yearly meeting was weakened in Michigan by the "Progressive" schism.
Michigan Yearly Meeting of Congregational Friends, a separation from Genesee Yearly Meeting, starting in 1838, linked to the movements in other states of Progressive and Reform Friends, and the Friends of Human Progress. Among other things, members supported anti-slavery activism, women's rights  and greater equality in meetings.  The movement faded partly because of Emancipation and also because, by the late 19th century, many of the ideas had become mainstream Hicksite thinking.
Indiana Yearly Meeting’s Orthodox branch. Its first preparative meeting in Michigan was set up as a monthly meeting in 1841, to be followed by twelve others. It also experienced a schism over anti-slavery activism, but only one meeting in Michigan separated.
Indiana Yearly Meeting of Anti-Slavery Friends, a schism over activism and quietism. Two years after Indiana's earliest monthly meeting was established in southwest Michigan in 1841, an Anti-Slavery monthly meeting separated from it.
Ohio Yearly Meeting of Friends, Damascus (Orthodox Friends known as Gurneyites in the 1854 separation) now Evangelical Friends Church-Eastern Region. It inherited the Orthodox New York meetings, and went on to establish the first of ten other monthly meetings in Michigan in 1855.
Nine new monthly meetings have been established in Michigan since 1937, mainly in college towns. They are affiliated to Friends General Conference, so have Hicksite roots, though not all members would be comfortable with that term. Seven monthly meetings and their associated worship groups on the Lower Peninsula belong to Lake Erie Yearly Meeting and two, on the Upper Peninsula, belong to Northern Yearly Meeting
There is also a monthly meeting affiliated to Ohio Yearly Meeting. The yearly meeting has its origin in the Orthodox branch of Ohio Yearly Meeting of Friends, which took the Wilburite, or Conservative, position in the 1854 separation.

Friends in Michigan today
Three meetings were established by New York Yearly Meeting (Orthodox1831, 1842 and 1851, and later transferred to Ohio Yearly Meeting of Friends, now Evangelical Friends Church-Eastern Region. There were early tensions over engagement in the Underground Railroad, and some activist members left to join other churches, but there were no schisms. All three survive as churches belonging to Evangelical Friends Church - Eastern Region.
Genesee Yearly Meeting Four meetings were established. Two left Genesee to form the Michigan Yearly Meeting of Congregational Friends, the Progressive branch. One meeting split; its Genesee supporters joining another meeting, and that fourth meeting survived until 1899. -None of the Congregational/Progressive meetings survived beyond 1860. -None of the 19th century Hicksite meetings survived the 19th century.
Indiana Yearly Meeting set up thirteen monthly meetings. Of those, nine were laid down, one was transferred as a worship group to Ohio Yearly Meeting, Damascus and was subsequently laid down. Two survive, and one other left the yearly meeting this year, but survives as an independent Evangelical church.
Nine years after the Indiana Yearly Meeting of Anti-Slavery Friends was set up, it was agreed that Anti-Slavery Friends would be accepted back into the larger body with no requirement for apology on either side. It is possible that the only Michigan meeting that belonged to the Anti-Slavery Friends rejoined the meeting from which it had separated.
Ohio Yearly Meeting of Friends, Damascus, now known as Evangelical Friends Church-Eastern Region, inherited three meetings from New York Yearly Meeting. It went on to establish ten more of its own. Of those, four survive.
The seven unprogrammed monthly meetings and their associated worship groups on the Lower Peninsula that belong to Lake Erie Yearly Meeting, Friends General Conference, all survive.
The two unprogrammed monthly meetings on the Upper Peninsula belonging to Northern Yearly Meeting, Friends General Conference, both survive
The newest monthly meeting in Michigan, Crossroads, a Conservative Friends Meeting, was established in 2010 under Stillwater Quarterly Meeting, Ohio Yearly meeting.
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Forty-five monthly meetings have existed in Michigan. (The figure is approximate because of separations and mergers.)Some bloomed briefly, either because of schism or implosion, or because communities moved to follow the work. Others, like Raisin Valley, Raisin Center, Rollin and Ypsilanti (all Evangelical Friends churches) are still active more than 150 years later.
Over the years, Evangelical Friends Church-Eastern Region and its predecessor had to lay down six of its thirteen monthly meetings.
Indiana Yearly Meeting had to lay down ten of its twelve monthly meetings (partly due to locations associated with logging and lumber transportation.)  Another Indiana meeting in Michigan left in 2012.
None of the traditional Hicksite meetings or the activist splinter meetings survived.
All nine Friends General Conference meetings have survived, and a new Conservative meeting has been established.
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There are currently twenty monthly meetings in Michigan.
Nine of them are unprogrammed meetings affiliated to Friends General Conference, somewhat Universalist in outlook.
Eight (including one independent) are Evangelical, with a particular understanding of what it means to be Christian. 
These two groups tend to pull away from each other. One group may look outwards towards building alliances with other Faiths. The other may look to other Christian denominations for alliances. Their focus may be outwards, rather than looking towards each other, and towards Friends who are somewhat different from them.
The traditional Orthodox "middle ground" has largely collapsed. What is left is fragile.
One is a new Conservative meeting. 
There other two are congregations that belong to Indiana Yearly Meeting. One of them may look more towards Evangelical Friends and other churches for its connections. The other has among its members some who look to build greater links with nearly Friends General Conference meetings, and those who want stronger connections with the wider world of Friends, including progressive Christians.
While the nineteenth century saw fractiousness, turmoil and some schism, most Friends would have recognized in each other more that was common than was different. This was not just because Friends were still more “peculiar” - more set apart from the World. It was also because they did share commonality - the identity of being a particular part of the Christian Family that was Quaker. They were also linked through educational, employment, and family ties and tradition.
Given the polarization of the present Quaker landscape, what can hold us together?  How can we nurture that fragile middle ground, and how can we be Light in the world?
Friends of the Light, Traverse City. Newer congregation; historic building
Categories: Blogs

Quakes on a plane - and other travel thoughts

Mon, 04/23/2012 - 13:44

It's confusing when you first arrive
Back in the 1980s, when in a university city that was hosting a residential session of London Yearly Meeting, I played “Spot the Quaker” - a game that involved guessing which people in the crowded town center were Friends.The plumage of these rare birds (or at least the stereotype I held) was often khaki shorts for men and rather long cotton skirts for women, with both parties wearing sandals (sometimes with socks) and small khaki backpacks. I was stunned to be accosted a few years later in the airport in Miami, on my way to the study tour of Nicaragua and the subsequent world conference, by a New England Friend, now sadly deceased, and asked if I was a Quaker. -How did you know? I asked. -Oh, by your clothes, he said. I was actually wearing a dress - no backpack, no socks - but I had acquired, unwittingly, enough of the Quaker culture to be recognized as one of the species - at least among European unprogrammed Friends.I tried playing the same game in Heathrow’s Terminal 3 last week, without success. I think there is now a universal dress for the casual traveler. However, I have hung around long enough in the global flock to recognize people by face, so it was good to bump into three people I knew in the terminal - one from Britain, two from Philadelphia.A little later I had settled into my seat on the plane when I heard my name, and discovered that our little group was surrounded by a delegation of Irish Friends, fresh from their yearly meeting sessions and on their way to Kenya. I knew quite a few of them, so it was particularly good to be with them on my way to Kenya. Despite our excitement at reunion and my suggestion (not taken up) that we sing a few hymns, we quietened down and got some rest. I hope, in our joy to be all together heading for a challenging event, we were good ambassadors for our small denomination among the other passengers.This small scene of excited reunions was repeated many times as we boarded a bus at Nairobi Airport, then again when we stopped for a quick break at Friends Centre in Nairobi and took on extra passengers. It happened constantly on campus at Kabarak University as fresh people arrived.Differences in language, culture and theology are among the challenges to building a global mini-family for nine days. But I am conscious, too, that a huge challenge is for newcomers to feel at home as quickly as possible.Have you every been to a church or meeting where everyone was so busy talking about committees or church business or whatever that they didn’t have time to talk to the visitor? They are not places to which I want to return.One of my hopes for this time together is that, while some of us bring ‘continuity,’ and for others it is a fresh experience, everyone feels at home and included. In my exuberant greeting of old friends, I remind myself to incorporate others into the conversation, and to introduce people to each other when possible.We non-Africans have also been reminded that it is the custom here to stop and greet each person, and to look them in the eye, whether we know them or not. For an introvert like me, who works hard to do the public thing, that is hard, but I’ve been practising, and it really makes a difference. 
I walked over from the auditorium this morning with my home group co-facilitator, an 80 year old retired elementary school headmaster from Western Kenya. It took us a long time to get there, as he stopped every few paces to greet someone he knew, and to engage them in conversation. Among others, I met a couple whose wedding ceremony he had conducted 35 years ago. In my rush to be first to get to the room for our meeting, I would have missed all these encounters, and meeting Friends I wouldn’t normally meet is, after all, one of the aims of the conference.My home group: from Aotearoa/New Zealand, Britain, Canada, India, Kenya, Rwanda and the USA
Categories: Blogs

Esther Mombo starts us off

Fri, 04/20/2012 - 05:35


Kabarak University campusEvery morning it is the responsibility of a different area of the Quaker world to offer a one and a half hour period of morning worship and the week began, appropriately, with East Africa.Theologian Esther Mombo of Bware Yearly Meeting brought the message which set out the context and issues that face us during our time together. She grew up in a Quaker family in western Kenya, and credits her mother and grandmother in particular for nurturing her faith. She attended what is now Friends’ Theological College in Kaimosi and went on to postgraduate study in Europe, where she was able to attend the 1997 FWCC Triennial gathering in Birmingham.She greeted us as people who speak many tongues, but who, this week, are speaking in one tongue.Some of the highlights of her message for me were:Salt and Light were, and still are, important metaphors.The context of Jesus’ time was discrimination and marginalization, and that is still the context in which we live. We have divided ourselves by race and ethnicity, which can be used to exclude. In this situation, we Friends have to be Salt and Light.A major challenge for Christians is how to live in peace with neighbors of other faiths, especially, at the current time, with Muslims. Christians are called to live at peace with their neighbors.Another is denominational rivalries, and, among Friends, rivalry and tensions.The social context in which we live includes:
  • disintegration of families and communities; 
  • the impact of some diseases to marginalize; 
  • human trafficking, which is modern slavery;
  • sex tourism
  • gender injustice which still exists even when there are laws prohibiting it;
  • medicine is unreachable for some people.
  • sexual minorities continue to live in fear of marginalization, in the name of religious community;
  • environmental degradation which is creating dustbowls.
There is extreme poverty in both rural and urban areas, and the gap is increasing. ‘Some can make ends overlap, while some cannot make ends meetConflict, violence and war are endemic in most of our communities, in homes and in the wider world. There are ethnic clashes, ‘ethnic cleansing’ and genocide.In all this, we are called to be Salt and Light.Quakers were a group who challenged the ills of their day.Quakers were among the first who said that women were humans.Early Friends were Salt and Light in their own context. In the 21st century, much of that zeal has died. Yet we read in scripture that if salt has lost its effectiveness, it is only good to be trampled underfoot.Some Christians take pride in statistics. The issue is not numbers, but influence. There is a disconnect with what is preached. There is more pride in numbers than what we do.It was said of the Christians in Antioch ‘See how they love each other.’ Not ‘See how they talk about loving each other.’ Some traditions give life; other traditions need to be done away with. The context of Salt and Light is brokenness, rottenness. You don’t see salt; you see its results. Society will be influenced by us. We influence by being.But the salt has to be contaminated, to be mixed in, to be effective. We have to get involved.Light is different. It is visible. We shine better when there is darkness, not light.By avoiding issues, we are hiding our light under a bushel.Don’t complain about the darkness: light a candle!
Categories: Blogs

Preparing for a World Conference

Sun, 04/15/2012 - 07:28

Gibara, Cuba
Twenty-one years ago I was preparing for a world conference of Friends. I had been a Quaker for less than a decade and, despite being assistant clerk of my monthly meeting in Britain, I still felt newly hatched. I thought it was only “weighty” Friends who went to world conferences, but I benefited from FWCC’s request to yearly meetings to balance age, gender and participants’ experience among Friends. I had felt a strong tug to attend the conference, ever since I had seen a poster about it a couple of years earlier, and the logo, with its three intertwined globes, had glowed at me. The poster’s glow stayed with me, and I mentioned it, with some diffidence, to a member of my meeting. That set in motion a chain of events that changed my life’s direction.The 1991 conference - the last before this week's - was on three sites: the Netherlands, Kenya and Honduras, with just over 300 people at each. I assumed I would go to the Netherlands as it was nearby. If not, Kenya was the logical next choice, with its ties to Britain. No. The same glowing, insistent feeling that had accompanied the poster kept telling me I should suggest I might be sent to Honduras.Honduras was such a preposterous idea - never in my wildest dreams could I imagine going to Latin America. The only news I was aware of coming out of Central America was scary. You guessed. So I took Spanish evening classes and around Easter time in 1991 I took myself to Madrid for the weekend. I booked into a bed and breakfast knowing that I would have to use the language or go hungry.I signed up for a study tour of Nicaragua on my way to Honduras and boldly booked flights to Managua and San Pedro Sula. The study tour was an important preparation for the world conference. The situation in Managua, eighteen years after the earthquake that had destroyed it, was shocking, with almost nothing rebuilt, yet people were getting on with their lives and community connections were impressive. We visited a number of faith groups that were working there. I was taken out of my own culture and comfort zone which made it possible to be broken open to experience things anew. I was vulnerable and open to new experiences, ideas and people. I experienced “Quaker culture shock” seeing, for the first time, the differences among Friends, within the container of geographical culture shock.  My world was turned upside down daily. I was broken apart, but I survived.After the world conference I needed to meet with others who had been there, as if we were survivors of an event that others who had not been there would never fully understand. Like a survivor, I needed to tell my story, repeatedly. It was not a catastrophe, and yet for me it was a kind of death and rebirth. I, who had always regarded writing as a necessary chore, also found myself birthing articles in joy. My curiosity about the differences among Friends grew. The following year found me in the US, traveling to four yearly meeting sessions in three weeks, trying to discover the roots of the differences that had been exported around the Quaker globe. The year after, I was in seminary in Indiana, at Earlham School of Religion. I joined a pastoral meeting and I shortly after, I resigned my tenured position in Britain - work I had felt fortunate to have - to serve Friends in the US.Since that conference I have traveled among Friends in Latin America, including Bolivia, Cuba, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Peru. If I had know what a whirlwind I would be caught up in, would I have taken the first step? I think so, but sometimes it helps not to know what is round the corner. 
My greatest excitement about the upcoming world conference is to accompany some people who will be finding their own worlds turning upside down, and waiting to see what God has in store for them.
Categories: Blogs

Unbinding ties

Wed, 10/05/2011 - 08:53


Friends outside the US are often baffled by the tendency of yearly meetings here towards schism. The Hicksite/Orthodox separations of the 1820s, the Gurneyite/Wilburite, and later Holiness and Evangelical separations among the Orthodox are part of our history, as are some of the later reunifications which occurred when the grandchildren could not understand what the grandparents had been quarreling about. Last week I was present when a little more of that history was made, setting in motion a schism that may reach further than the boundaries of one yearly meeting. 
The Representative Council (which functions at the Indiana Yearly Meeting’s decision-making body when the yearly meeting is not in session) met in Muncie, Indiana on October 1 to “help the yearly meeting in its discernment of a way forward regarding our current tensions.” The outcome was the choice of “Deliberative/Collaborative Reconfiguration.”

A task force of members has been laboring to present the issues and to offer guidance. Part of their work has been to name issues, holding up a mirror to this diverse yearly meeting. They presented four options to the yearly meeting sessions in the summer, with a recommendation for model #4 - “Division and Possible Realignment.” Friends were not ready to have this as the only option to be considered at the October Representative Council.

Taking into account feedback after yearly meeting sessions, the Task Force met again and modified option #4. A new option #5 was sent out. This was worded “Deliberative/Collaborate Reconfiguration.” The outcome would be essentially the same - schism - but included provision for a yearlong process of seeking a future that honored each other’s consciences and understandings of scriptural guidance.

The task force pointed out deep differences, ranging from how Friends regard, interpret and use scripture, differing world views, and differing identifications: those who identify most closely with the wider Religious Society of Friends and the other Peace Churches, and those who identify most closely with other Evangelical churches. It acknowledged deep disagreements on the yearly meeting’s authority over congregations. It asked meetings to discern if they wanted to be part of a yearly meeting that has authority over subordinate meetings, or if they wished to be part of a yearly meeting that is a collaborative association. After the period of discernment, meetings would be expected to state their preference for the yearly meeting to which they would wish to affiliate. Model #5 included inviting neighboring Western and Wilmington YMs to join this process of discernment.

The process would involve appointing a new task force to clarify implementation and determine how to share responsibilities for Friends Fellowship Community, FUM, Quaker Haven Camp, White’s Family Services, and to address legal issues such as meetinghouse ownership.

There were proposals from the floor to continue to work towards reconciliation, and models of family life and family systems theory were used both to make a case to stay together and work through differences, and to separate (as “healthy self-differentiation.”) However, the sense of the meeting was that staying together locked in conflict was distracting the work that churches and meetings felt called to do, and possibly inhibiting them from being fully authentic. Out of this, Representative Council took the decision to separate, as recommended in model #5.

A few personal observations. Care had been taken to frame the Representative Council meeting as a meeting for worship with an earnest desire to seek God’s will for the yearly meeting. From the choice of hymns to the Penrose’s painting of The Presence in the Midst projected onto the wall throughout the session, it was a gathered meeting and I know we were being held in prayer from many different places, as well as those of us who had attended with the single intention to hold the whole process in prayer.

I heard “new light.” For instance, among our “deep differences,” some of us derive energy and greater connection to God when encountering Difference; others are discouraged by it. But above all, I think I heard weariness over protracted conflict, fear of further loss of numbers if the decision were delayed, and a deep desire not to inhibit the ministry of others.I also heard from a member of the task force that while we might get along “ecumenically” we could not get along “denominationally.” I take that to mean that respectful dialogue and friendship is possible between people in different faith traditions, when each is speaking out of a clear sense of their own identity, and not asking the other to be more like them. This is also the basis of effective interfaith dialogue. It makes sense to me in the context of my work, professional and volunteer, with FWCC. However, as a member of the yearly meeting, it is harder to wrap my head and heart around it. Indiana Yearly Meeting was my door into Friends in the US eighteen years ago. West Richmond Friends Meeting became my faith community, but my circle was wider, especially through accompanying Young Friends to visit other meetings within the yearly meeting and through attendance at yearly meeting sessions.   To unravel the tapestry that is this yearly meeting - to pull out threads that were put in in the earliest days to be monochrome is heartbreaking.

While I expect that there will be suggestions that those churches and meetings that prefer a more collaborative polity could join existing FGC-affiliated yearly meetings, I believe that this would not be an appropriate option, since most if not all of our meetings are Christ-centered, semi-programmed and pastoral, which can present problems to some (but not all) Friends who are not. So during the year of discernment it is likely that a “shadow” structure may emerge for a new yearly meeting or association, and it may work as part of, or alongside, the Indiana Yearly Meeting task force.

The decision to separate was not without challenges in the afternoon to both content and process, and not without deep grief. The proposal to sing Blest Be the Tie that Binds did not sit well with those who were feeling ties torn apart, and was quietly dropped. While it may prove to be the best decision in the circumstances, the ties are not simply “fellowship” but deep ties of history, generational connection and, above all, identity. Grief is appropriate
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Salt and Light in Ulster

Fri, 06/17/2011 - 17:09

















Grange Meeting dates back to 1660, when families in the area between Moy and Dungannon, County Tyrone, joined the Religious Society of Friends in response to the preaching of Robert Turner. There are reports of Friends from Grange being imprisoned in Omagh in 1729 for refusal to pay tithes (taxes to the Established Church.) Arthur Chapman, Quaker historian, estimates that in the first half of the 18th century, over 2,000 Irish Friends migrated to Pennsylvania, and of those, 41 were from Grange, the greatest number from any meeting in the north of Ireland.

A century after the founding of Grange Meeting, the local landlord and occupant of the castle in Richhill (formerly Richardson’s Hill) 11 miles away in County Armagh gave land to Friends for a new meetinghouse and burial ground there. Richhill was known for its linen markets, a town on the stagecoach route from Belfast to Armagh, with connections to the west of Ireland. American Friends Job Scott and Thomas Scattergood are known to have worshipped at Richhill, and John Wesley visited the town several times.

Grange and Richhill remain thriving meetings, and together they form one Monthly Meeting. Last weekend, with more than sixty others, I attended a lively all-day session of Ulster Quarterly Meeting, held in the creeper-covered meetinghouse in Grange. Last night was the chance to revisit Richhill, for the Monthly Meeting on Ministry and Oversight, where I was the invited speaker.

My sojourn among Irish Friends has offered many opportunities for home visits. Yesterday I had tea with Gray and Elsa Peile. Gray told me that he had been at the Young Friends conference in Oskaloosa, Iowa, in 1949. He had served in the Friends Ambulance Unit in China during the Second World War and went to Iowa to meet up with some American Friends he had known in China. Elsa had been a representative at the 1967 World Conference in Greensboro, North Carolina.

After roast chicken, apple crisp and many cups of tea, we went to Richhill where I talked about the impact of world conferences on raising up new generations of Friends ready to take on responsibilities and educating all of us more about the global span of Friends. I suggested that they identify those who might not have thought of applying open places to go to Kenya, but who might show gifts in ministry or future promise. We talked about ways in which meetings could raise funds to make it possible for open place holders to attend, and also raise extra money to support the travel costs of Friends from the global south.
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Friends presentations start the conference

Wed, 12/01/2010 - 12:15
On Monday there were 22 presentations, with the Friends featuring significantly. Adriana Cabrera of Bogota Monthly Meeting started us off with some challenging questions, then Bernabé Sánchez of Honduras YM read the paper on the Peace Testimony by Heredio Santos of Cuba YM. (The two Cuban Friends had not been able to get visas to enter the Dominican Republic.) Linnette Garcia of Jamaica YM spoke about prison visiting ministry, and Lon Fendall of Northwest YM read the paper from William Bertrand, Evangelical Friends Church Eastern Region. William is responsible for the Friends churches in Haiti and the Dominican Republic. He felt he should not leave Haiti during the election period. Fortunately there are other Haitian pastors here, from the Church of the Brethren.

Oto Morales of Ambassadors Friends Church in Guatemala talked of engagement in civic and political life. I think that Friends have always been more willing to engage with ‘principalities and powers’ than the other peace churches, which are ambivalent about this. I sense an interest from their members in the quiet ways in which we have been able to influence public policy.

Delia Aspi Mamani of Quaker Bolivia Link said there are now 26 Alternatives to Violence (AVP) facilitators in La Paz, Santa Cruz and Cochamamba. After some challenges they have been able to get into prisons, including the San Pedro Jail for those convicted of drug trafficking. It was good to hear her pay tribute to the work of facilitators whose travel we (FWCC) had been able to fund.

Martin Gárate of Chile, and Jesus Huarachi of Peru spoke next, followed by Daniel Mejia of Honduras YM, the pastor at San Marcos, and Lilian Hall of the Managua Friends Worship Group, an agronomist who has spent many years in rural Nicaragua, and who now runs Pro-Nica.

Jorge Laffitte of AFSC presented research results. The rural image of Latin America, he said, belongs to 1940, not 2010. It is an urban society with rural pockets, and unlike other parts of the world where there are wars between nations, the violence is urban. After South Africa, Latin America is the most violent area of the world. Violence, as measured by the homicide index, is now moving from the big cities to medium-sized towns. Criminalization of youth is noticeable, and there will be no peace in communities without inclusion and relationships.

I want to mention two contributors from other churches that were particularly interesting: Olga Piedrasanta Ortiz, a Guatemalan Mennonite, described the Latin American Anabaptist Women’s Blog, to be found at http://teologasanabautistas.blogspot.com/

We also got a crash lesson in the background of the Dominican Republic and Haiti from a Dominican pastor. A quick gallop through history from the 1400s onwards, and an account of some of the origins of the difficulties in relationships between the two nations that share one island space.

It’s impossible in a blog to do justice to the words that were delivered, and the preparation behind them. I am doing just a brief overview. By contrast, my friend Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford of the Church of the Brethren is picking just a few speakers to cover in depth at http://www.brethren.org/site/News2?page=NewsArticle&id=13059
Categories: Blogs

Domingo in Santo Domingo

Tue, 11/30/2010 - 11:36
The conference began by our attendance at a large Mennonite church in Santo Domingo called Luz y Vida (Light and Life.) There were several short messages of welcome, but most of the service consisted of chorus singing led by a praise team. Alix Losano of Colombia brought a powerful message about violence and peace in the cities.

In the afternoon we moved to the center where we will remain for the rest of the week. We traveled in buses loaned by local churches, and our luggage went on the back of a small truck. It was piled twice or three times as high as the cab. I said goodbye to my small case which was perched on top, not really believing I would see it again; but the combination of a rope and a man balanced on top of the load kept everything in place. How did he keep his balance? I am glad there were no low bridges.

The recently-built center where we are staying is called the Casa Arquidiocesana Maria de la Altagracia. Much of the work is done by young women volunteers from different countries. After squeezing into a room with five women and having to share a bed in the hotel, it is wonderful to be in this welcoming space. The pope has stayed here, so you can imagine it is in good shape. I enjoy visiting different retreat centers to see the commonality (how do the do food service? en suite rooms, or facilities down the hall? worship? budget worries?) and also the differences. Here the communion sacraments are on display 24 hours a day in a chapel, with two volunteers keeping constant vigil. Parts of the beautifully planted grounds are also a cemetery in current use - not at all obvious as there are no headstones or mounds.

The full day ended with a long and detailed presentation by John Driver, a veteran of Civilian Public Service, who spent his working life as a Mennonite missionary in different Latin American countries, starting in Puerto Rico. The characters and issues from the Radical Reformation in sixteenth century Europe must have given quite a workout to the interpreters. We were off to a good start!
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With St. John and St Dominic

Mon, 11/29/2010 - 02:43
I left a somewhat chilly Philly for San Juan, Puerto Rico, which is a hub for many flights between the US and parts of the Caribbean. I have been there a couple of times on my way to somewhere else, and although we flew in low over the city, I haven't really been to Puerto Rico, since I have never left the San Juan airport. The airport is a strange experience since the stores and fast food cafes belong to the familiar US airport chains.

Flying to Santo Domingo is a different matter. To go there you need to complete an immigration card and a customs declaration, and on arrival buy what is called a tourist visa, but seems to function as a non-negotiable $10 tax on visitors. You then have to go through immigration (which doesn’t happen if you are flying from the US to Puerto Rico) and finally get some Dominican Republic Pesos. After all that, and friendly welcomes, I knew that I had truly arrived in a Hispanic Caribbean country.

When I got out of customs I saw the IHP – Iglesias Historicas de la Paz sign that was being held up to welcome participants at the Conference of the Historic Peace Churches of Latin America. After many hugs and handshakes we were dispatched in groups of fifteen onto a shuttle bus to the hotel where we would spend the night before moving to a Catholic retreat center for the rest of the week.

70 people are expected. Apart from a group from the US (mostly denominational staff like me) the majority are from the Caribbean and Latin America. In descending numerical order they are from the Dominican Republic, Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, Honduras, Chile, Guatemala, Haiti, Puerto Rico, Bolivia, El Salvador, Mexico, Nicaragua, Argentina, Jamaica, Peru and Venezuela. The Cuban Friends who couldn't get visas will have their talks read and I will show video clips of interviews I did with them when we were together last week.

The proceedings will be mainly in Spanish, with interpretation to and from English and Haitian Creole.

Please join the conference. You can watch it live over the internet in English or Spanish at http://www.bethanyseminary.edu/webcasts/PeaceConf2010
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Historic Peace Church gathering

Sat, 11/27/2010 - 11:40


The Brethren, Friends and Mennonites have held three conferences in connection with the World Council of Churches' Decade to Overcome Violence. They were in Switzerland, Kenya and Indonesia. In addition there was a Canada/USA conference in Philadelphia, called Heeding God's Call. Now it is the turn of Latin America to host the final one. FWCC Section of the Americas has underwritten the Quaker contribution to make this happen. I am on my way right now to Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, and will report on ways in which members of the Historic Peace Churches are being Salt and Light where they live.
Photos show some Quaker arrivals at the Santo Domingo airport. Above: Costa Ricans Sandra Ribas (San José) and Ivonne Rockwell (Monteverde.) In the background are delegates from other churches in the Dominican Republic and Chile. Below: Dionel Mejía (Honduras), Loida Fernández (Mexico), Bernabé Sánchez (Honduras) in the background, Aminda Posada de Arévalo (El Salvador) and half of Nick Wright (Mexico.)
Categories: Blogs

Ann Arbor and Detroit

Mon, 11/08/2010 - 14:18



Friends from Toledo, Ohio and Birmingham, Michigan joined Ann Arbor Friends to hear Anne Bennett talk about some of her experiences working with Friends in Northern Ireland on peacebuilding and reconciliation. She decribed work done by Irish Friends at all levels from grass roots community work to strategic off-the-record meetings, and her own work with the latter.









With Anne's encouragement small groups considered issues in their locality and how they could make a difference where they are right now in reconciliation.

Next day, Anne spoke to the middle school students at Detroit Friends School. Thanks to Ann Arbor Friends for their gracious hospitality and a special thank you to Nancy and Thomas Taylor for hosting and planning - and for taking Anne to Indianapolis for her next Salt and Light event.


Safe travels, Anne, as you leave for Mexico City for the Casa de los Amigos.
Categories: Blogs

Salt and Light in Illinois

Wed, 11/03/2010 - 19:16

Louise Salinas writes: A good-sized crowd from five nearby meetings showed up for the hearty potluck at Lake Forest Friends Meeting before Anne Bennett and Rachel Stacy spoke in what felt like an extended Meeting for Worship – intense, spiritual and moving.

In line with the bright sun streaming through the large windows at Downers Grove’s new meetinghouse, Saturday’s event was spent with cheery Friends who had more time to hear from Anne and Rachel. Here Friends talked about the issues of brokenness that are on their minds: access for all to resources such as water; the large number of incarcerated persons in the US, and understanding technology in our lives.
Categories: Blogs

Kalamazoo

Tue, 11/02/2010 - 15:12



We lined up, from Britain, Indiana, Lake Erie and Philadelphia yearly meetings, around the table in Kalamazoo Friends meetinghouse. What a feast of autumn abundance. We talked, we ate, it was hard to herd us all upstairs for the program, but we went to hear Anne Bennett.

She told stories of people taking small steps where they were in situations of terrible loss and fear. Of men in Burundi trampling red mud and water to make bricks – almost dancing as they gave their time to re-house neighbors whose homes had been burnt. Everyone had lost family members in the slaughter, and there was always the possibility of more reprisal raids. She told us of women taking the practical steps of opening a laundry in a Balkan town where landmines were still hidden in side streets. It became a place to talk as well as to clean clothes, and is still a presence in the community. Just do what you can, where you are, was what I took away. Even if it doesn't make much sense at the time. Those small steps are part of the greater fabric of reconciliation.

She reminded us of our coping mechanisms. How we cope when we are with “others” – those with whose community we have historic issues or often recent grievances. – We navigate politely by talking about many topics except those touching on the things that separate us. How do we create the space, and time, and safety, to make possible those more difficult conversations, so critical for community and personal healing, possible?

I appreciated her accounts from long years of Quaker service, and I was happy that one of the things that we (FWCC) are doing is not only bringing speakers and programs to Friends communities, but also acting as a catalyst to bring those Friends together. As someone said last night: it takes outside visitors to get 35 Friends together on a Monday evening.
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Dayton, Virginia

Sun, 10/17/2010 - 17:03


Tuesday evening found us at Valley Friends Meeting, part of Baltimore Yearly Meeting, in Dayton, VA, a few miles south of Harrisonburg. The event was jointly hosted by Rockingham Friends (Ohio YM) and Valley Friends. The meetinghouse is a former Presbyterian church, and comes with a nice kitchen, good classroom spaces, excellent acoustics and some historic stained glass windows.

Participants traveled from as far as Staunton and Charlottesville, but most were from the local area, including a couple of people who had discovered that they might be Friends after taking an online quiz on Beliefnet.com. We had a lively discussion and only drew things to a close because it was past 9:00 pm and most of us had to be up early the following morning. With thanks to Rockingham and Valley Friends for hospitality in many ways.

The pictures show Felicity unloading the car in the dusk, and Tom Hill, one of two Friends who drove over from Charlottesville to be with us.
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Eastern Mennonite University, Harrisonburg

Sun, 10/17/2010 - 16:46

Then it was back to Salt and Light. Sue Williams had arranged for Felicity to speak at a “brown bag lunch” at Eastern Mennonite University. It was actually a bring-your-tray-of-excellent-cafeteria-food-into-the-committee-room-lunch. Not a brown bag to be seen. As we all munched, Felicity spoke about the support that Mennonites had given Irish Friends during the Troubles in Northern Ireland, in exploring paths towards reconciliation.

Those attending were mostly Mennonites connected with the University, but Dona Boyce Manoukian, former FWCC representative from Baltimore Yearly Meeting, drove over to Harrisonburg for the event. Later that day, a number of us, including Faye Chapman and Dona, had afternoon tea at Mrs Hardesty’s tea room ‘quality cuisine in a traditional tearoom setting.’ It’s all about balance: attend many meetings and events, but have good fellowship along the way. The picture shows Dona and Felicity at EMU.
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In the Shenandoah Valley

Sun, 10/17/2010 - 16:21


One of the great things about getting on the road and visiting Friends meetings is catching up with F/friends. Tuesday was busy, with two Salt and Light events, but we also found time for fellowship and exploration. While Felicity stayed with Sue Williams of Ireland Yearly Meeting, who now works at Eastern Mennonite University, I stayed with Jack and Susan Smith.

They took me to the Shenandoah Valley Produce Auction, a wholesale market that, twice-weekly, serves the predominantly Mennonite farming community in the area. Buyers come from a wide area, and schools, colleges and hospitals, as well as restaurants, are benefiting from being able to buy fresh food directly from the growers. Tractors with trailers loaded with boxes of produce, from pumpkins to peppers to potatoes, and a whole lot of other things, pulled up near the auctioneer. There were some very experienced buyers and agents who seemed to bid by merely twitching. I was careful to avoid brushing my hair out of my eyes in case I found I had bought some bushels of vegetables by mistake. What a great experience and thanks to my friends for suggesting the visit.
Categories: Blogs

Salt and Light in Tennessee

Mon, 10/11/2010 - 17:50

My last Salt and Light posting was written while I was flying over the Alps, returning from Kenya, where I had been helping to plan the 2012 World Conference of Friends. Since only 1,000 people will be able to go to Kenya, it’s important to bring some of the spirit to local meetings and churches.

The first of these local events took place last weekend in the shade of deciduous trees in Tennessee, in a meetinghouse lined from ceiling to floor by windows. When the windows were open we could hear birds and the noise of huge acorns falling; we were truly in those woods.

Participants, hosted by West Knoxville Friends, came from eight yearly meetings: six in the USA and also from Ireland and Jamaica. Felicity McCartney, Ireland YM, and Sheila Hoyer, North Carolina YM (FUM), spoke of doing peace and reconciliation work in Northern Ireland and encouraged participants to consider ways to address conflict in their own lives and in the experience of their communities.

As with all FWCC events, we combined the worship styles of different traditions, singing hymns and having vocal prayer as well as waiting worship. We heard reports from all the yearly meetings, and were particularly interested to hear that Jamaica YM had used the text of being Salt and Light as the theme for its recent annual sessions. I am hoping that Jamaican Friends will host a local event next year.

Most of us were able to stay to be able to worship with West Knoxville Friends and we shared some of flavor of the weekend with them over potluck lunch. With thanks to all those Tennessee Friends who volunteered time and a host of skills to launch this program (we are looking forward to sixteen local events in just six weeks) I am now moving through the changing tree colors to our next stop: Harrisonburg, Virginia.
Categories: Blogs

Leaving Africa

Sun, 05/23/2010 - 18:14
As we left Nairobi, the pilot pointed out Mount Kenya, to my right. It was covered in snow, a contrast to the dark green vegetation all around. Dark green faded into reddish brown, as trees gave way to desert. We crossed northern Kenya and Sudan through red clouds - the red dust had been blown or sucked up even to our height.

After a few hours, we left the coast of Tunisia behind and crossed the Mediterranean. Below me were the Straits of Messina - Scylla and Charybdis in Greek mythology - the eastern tip of Sicily and the big toe of the Italian mainland. I watched the Italian coast slip away far to my right. Next we were over Corsica and then over Nice.

Very quickly, mountains were there to keep me company again. This time it was the Alps (see photo), with all the peaks coverered by a dusting of icing sugar snow. Delicious. Then they, too, were behind me as we passed Grenoble, and then followed the Rhone Valley for a while, past Macon, and slowly towards the northern French coast, the Isle of Wight, and finally London.

Usually, a long flight is something to be endured or ignored. A means to a destination. But today I had the gift of a glimpse of the beauty of Creation.
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