Spark, January 2008
15 Rutherford Place
New York, NY 10003
|New York Yearly Meeting News|
|The Religious Society of Friends (Quakers)||January 2008|
- First Meeting for Discernment
- CONVERSATIONS ON RACISM
- Racism Is a Spiritual Issue
- Listening to Our Experiences of Racism
- Stages in Growing an Antiracist
- Apology to Afro-descendants
- An Extra Effort
- Undoing Racism with Love
- Race, Adoption, and Martin Luther King
- The Birth Chapter: A Reading for Fall Sessions
- What is FGC's Committee for Ministry on Racism?
- Resource List on Web
- Fit for Freedom Moves Forward
- Letter to the Editor
- AROUND NEW YORK YEARLY MEETING
- Death Penalty Abolished in N.J.
- Living as Friends, Listening Within
- Quaker Youth Book Project
- FWCC Directory Is Online
- Report from FWCC Triennial
First Meeting for Discernment
March 15, 2008
This is a reminder that the first Meeting for Discernment will be held on March 15, 2008, at Rochester meetinghouse.
At 2007 Summer Sessions, Friends approved creating Meetings for Discernment as a replacement for the Yearly Meeting on Ministry and Counsel. The first one will be held on March 15, 2008, at Rochester meetinghouse. The second will be a designated day of Summer Sessions at Silver Bay. Meetings for Discernment will worshipfully consider:
- How is the Spirit moving in your monthly meeting?
- What concerns have been laid upon your heart and into the collective care of your monthly meeting?
- How is the Spirit moving in the yearly meeting?
- What are we as a body called to at this time?
The Interim Steering Committee asks for monthly meetings to appoint at least one Friend, and emphasizes that all Friends are welcome, and encouraged, to join in this worship and work.
More information in general about Meetings for Discernment is available in the 2007 Advance Report of the Transition Working Group, which can be found on the Yearly Meeting Web site at www.nyym.org/pubs/yb07-08 in the Advance Reports section.
Conversations on Racism
Racism Is a Spiritual Issue
Racism is deeply, deeply interwoven into the political, social, and economic fabric of this country. The wealth of this nation is built upon the institution of slavery. In the 18th and 19th centuries, slavery was perceived as right and good, an appropriate part of the social order. Those who challenged it were deemed social deviants, and were viciously attacked. Even early North American Friends, who eventually rejected slavery, treated Friends of African descent with only slightly moderated versions of the racist culture that surrounded them, relegating them to the back bench in worship. Racism is part of our culture. It is the air that we breathe, the water we swim in. All of us, of all races, who have been raised in this racist culture, have internalized its messages. And becoming conscious of one’s own culture is like trying to see the back of our own head. We need someone else’s perspective to see it.
I served for seven years on Friends General Conference’s Committee for Ministry on Racism. I learned a tremendous amount in the process. Part of what I learned was how blisteringly difficult it is for mixed-race groups to talk about race. A lot of the committee’s work revolved around trying to structure such opportunities. Though we tried any number of structures designed to help Friends share their experience and feelings about racism within the Society of Friends in ways that were healing, almost invariably, there was a significant blow-up that left some Friends feeling deeply wounded. Typically, that blow-up occurred at the interface between Friends of color sharing their experience of racism, and the white folk present, in various ways, not being able to hear that experience.
There were patterns to white folks’ response to hearing about Friends of color’s experience of racism in Friends. The most common response involved some version of “Some of my best friends are…” This response sought to illustrate a long history of being friends with people of color, the implication being that, unlike the white folk whom Friends of color had found to be racist, the speaker was not racist, due to these relationships. An analogous response was “I have worked all my life for civil rights [or against racism].” This response had a similar implication; “because of my past behavior, I am not like those other white people being named.” Another frequent response was “The reason that we don’t have more people of color in our meetings is that our form of worship doesn’t suit them. They need lots of music.”This may seem like a non sequitur, but the implication is the same: “There isn’t racism in my meeting. The reason that we are all white is just because of our form of worship.” Another common response, and undeniably the most damaging, was “You people are misinterpreting the actions of white folk. What you are experiencing is not racism.”
In all of these responses, the speakers did not receive the experience of the Friends of color. Instead, they did all they could to distance themselves personally from the specter of white racism. All these responses defended against taking in what the Friends of color were saying: that they frequently, even habitually, experienced racism in our Religious Society, and that it was deeply painful for them.
After these incidents, Friends of color shared how having their experience denied compounded the hurt of the original incidents. They felt further alienated and wounded.
I must admit, there were times when the incidents related did not sound like racism to me; they sounded like some self-conscious white person putting their foot in it. It was only after years of working with the Friends of color on the committee that I broached those perceptions in some one-on-one conversations. And we had some very productive exchanges. But before we could do that effectively, we had already laid a substantial foundation of trust between us.
This is the juncture where I see liberal Friends in this conversation about race. People of color are trying to name their experience. A lot of white folk are not able to hear that experience. We need to be able to get to a place of enough trust to have the conversations about how we do or don’t experience racism in our midst. And we are not there yet.
This is why racism is a spiritual issue. If there is something in the fabric of our community that we are not able to talk about, some of the energy that might give us greater life in the Spirit is bound up, frozen, unavailable. It is the old “elephant in the room” phenomena. For me, the issue isn’t “Is there racism in the Society of Friends?” The issue is “Are we going to have the courage to learn from one another about how we experience racism?”
We have all been wounded by racism, no matter what our racial background. I don’t expect to ever be free of its subtle influences in my life. I do hope to become more and more aware of it, and to heal what I can from it. And as I do, I believe that I become closer to the person that God made me to be.
Listening to Our Experiences of Racism
Members of the White Friends Working to End Racism group have been meeting together for several years in an attempt to heal our own racism and to be a catalyst for change in the Yearly Meeting. We understand that our very existence is a challenge to some Friends. We feel called to this work, however, and think we have something to share. As in previous years, we thought carefully this year about how we might reach out to Friends at our Summer Sessions in order to continue the conversation about racism. We realize that this is a tender topic for many Friends and that we need to approach it with compassion and understanding. It is tender and scary for each of us, also. We do not want to create divisions among Friends or separate ourselves from our Yearly Meeting family by our actions, so we do not take them on lightly.
This past year we conducted mini listening sessions with Friends at Silver Bay. Members of our group interviewed 50+ people with two intentions. One was to create a safe space for people to share their thoughts and feelings. Many of us rarely have a place we can speak openly, and it can be healing simply to have someone hear our inmost thoughts. Second, white Friends wanted to gain a clearer sense of the Yearly Meeting’s experience, so that we can work more effectively for growth and healing. We asked each person three questions: Does racism affect you? What is your earliest memory of race? and How can Quakers help heal racial hurts? We went out in pairs with one person asking the questions and listening attentively to the Friend who was speaking. The listener did not respond except to clarify the questions if they weren’t clear. There was no discussion. The second person took notes. These are confidential, and can be used by our group to understand our needs, concerns, questions, and issues as a Yearly Meeting.
We talked to young and old Friends, both men and women, and Friends of different races. We are grateful to all who spoke with us. Thank you for being open and willing to speak from your heart on a topic that can be deeply moving. We were honored to hear your experiences and be trusted with your thoughts. We recognize that the questions we asked and the time we had limited us to only touching the surface, but we were moved by the experience of listening to each Friend we talked with. We hope that the experience made a difference for those being interviewed and that the conversations will continue.
Each person answered from his or her own experience, and we agreed to keep the responses confidential, so we are not at liberty to quote anything verbatim. Most Friends answered “yes” to the first question and those who did not had an answer to the second one. It is significant that most of us can remember our first experience of noticing that there are people who have skin a different color from ours. For some of us this was a good experience, but for many it was not. We did not attempt to delve further into anyone’s experience during the interviews, but we were sensitive to the fact that there was much more where that came from. Friends of both races expressed anger at the hurts that have been laid on them from the effects of racism. We are all damaged by this oppression. It will take all of us to end it.
Friends had many ideas in answer to the last question. Here are some of the responses. In order not to break confidentiality, we have chosen quotes that are general enough not to reveal the speaker’s identity, yet specific enough to be meaningful.
- Be aware of the need for healing. Listen and learn. Ask questions. Work on getting past any prejudices when meeting people for the first time.
- Notice when African Americans stand alone at social hour. Get to know and care about people. Don’t just “help”; work together.
- Give witness; never stop talking; work on legislation. There is strength in numbers. We need to still be doing this in ten years.
- Quakers need to become aware of where the hurts come from, and then do something to change that.
- Be able to talk about the experience of being affected by race.
- Work needs to be done at the individual level. We need to look at how white Friends benefit, whether we are conscious of it or not.
- Reparations should be considered along with an apology to African Americans for slavery and its residual effects.
It is clear from these answers that Friends are concerned about the issue of racism in New York Yearly Meeting and in the wider world, and that they have thought about some things that we can do to help in the healing process. The White Friends Working to End Racism group is here to help move this work forward. In the meantime we will continue to meet together and do our own work. We welcome questions and suggestions from Friends who carry this concern.
Stages in Growing an Antiracist
Thanks to Quaker parents, Carolyn and Glenn Mallison, I grew up convinced of the equality of all people, regardless of race. I learned that racism exists and that we are committed to ending it.
One of my earliest memories is of a native of Africa who stayed at our home. I loved David’s dark brown skin, rolling accent, hearty laugh, and fondness for children. I learned that Africans are my people too.
At age six, despite extreme shyness, I confronted my classmates and convinced them to say, “Catch a tiger by the toe.”
I have a vivid memory of hearing that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. had been assassinated. I knew what a tragedy that was.
I recall wondering why there were so few people of color in our Yearly Meeting. I didn’t feel safe to ask anyone.
I consider that in those years I was “nonracist.” I believed I was not racist, would never participate in racism, and would stop racism if I witnessed it.
In the year 2000, two events caused a sharp turn. At a conference at Pendle Hill, an African American Friend told painful stories of feeling oppressed by white Quakers. It shook me to hear this. At the same time, I wondered if the incidents weren’t misperceptions. Months later, I attended a workshop in another organization, and again a person of African descent detailed ways she had been hurt by white members. I decided these experiences could not be accidents or misunderstandings. I had to admit that racism was not just “out there,” done by other “awful” people. It was here, among my own people.
It took a few months before I accepted another truth, and entered a new stage. I accepted the harsh reality that, having grown up in a racist culture, I myself am racist. I have thoughts, feelings, attitudes, memories, opinions, and interpretations shaped by racism embedded in the culture. To the extent that this reservoir had remained unconscious, I was controlled by it. To end racism, I would need to be more than a passive “nonracist.” I would need to work actively against racism, including my internalized dominance patterns. Distressing though this was, I found it thrilling that racism is in me—because I can do something about it!
I began working hard as an antiracist: reading, watching movies, taking workshops, participating in reevaluation counseling as a means of moving through feelings distorted by racism. I developed more friendships and partnerships with people of color. They, along with European American mentors, taught me a great deal. In particular, Mahesh Thomas, a Friend of African descent, partnered with me and coached me.
I understood my purpose to be the elimination of racism because of the damage it caused people of color. As I continued working though, I gradually entered a new phase. It began to dawn on me that, not only does racism destroy happiness and material wealth and life itself among people of color, but it destroys white people as well. We could not possibly cooperate with racism if we could feel its impact, so we numb ourselves. In the process we lose our own humanity.
In the last few years, I have moved into yet another stage, appreciating the necessity for white people to work together against racism, at times in exclusively white settings. This is a hard lesson, particularly for Quakers who so eschew exclusivity. I have found that as long as a white person maintains strong connections with people of color elsewhere in life, she or he can do much to unearth and erase unconscious racism, in the safety of an all-white group. This frees the person to return to the community and live passionately and lovingly alongside people of all races.
Apology to Afro-descendants
We, white members and attenders of New York Yearly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends, apologize to Afro-descendants* everywhere, for Quaker participation in the terrible acts of enslaving your ancestors, and for the effect this has had on succeeding generations.
Slavery, in and of itself, is an abomination. We particularly regret that any Friends participated in or benefited from slavery. This included trafficking in human beings from Africa, capitalizing on the products of their unpaid labor and suffering, and being enriched by an economy based on chattel slavery. We apologize that NYYM allowed their members to hold Africans in bondage up until 1798.
In addition, we abhor the decades of terror and legalized racial segregation that followed. We are appalled that the 13th Amendment of our Constitution allows for legal enslavement of people, most of them African-Americans, “as a punishment for crime.”
We pledge ourselves to discern what we as Quakers are called to do, beginning with exploring reparations.
Robin Alpern, Scarsdale; Peter Barker; Sue Clark,Albany; Sarah Faith Dickinson, Butternuts; Norma Ellis, Scarsdale; Elizabeth Gordon, PYM; Sallie Gordon; Irma Guthrie, Perry City; Jeff Hitchcock, Rahway-Plainfield; Evelyn Kennenwood, Syracuse; Ilene Wagner, 15th Street; Karen Way, New Brunswick
*Afro-descendants is a term now officially in use by the United Nations to identify the more than 250 million descendants of enslaved Africans dwelling in North America, Latin America, the Caribbean, and the Slavery Diaspora.
|It is not enough to pray. I believe in prayer with action. I say: pray for peace, but then get up and make it happen...you will be guided.
—Oscar Torres, co-scriptwriter, Innocent Voices
An Extra Effort
“I brought some of my [African-American] friends to Meeting. They loved the quiet, deep silence, and appreciated the meeting’s involvement in social justice. People greeted them very nicely—but the greetings did not feel sincere. My friends decided not to come back because, they said, ‘They don’t really want us there.’ It would take an extra effort to reach out to the black community and show them that they are really welcome at Quaker meeting.”
The speaker was the only African-American member of my home meeting—a woman of immense heart, generosity, and honesty, much loved by others. The words were said without rancor or reproach, simply as a statement of fact. The speaker allowed that her friends might have been overly sensitive because of their own past history of rejection. Still, her words pierced my heart. I recalled one such visit when the speaker was accompanied to meeting by two black women, both very friendly, both looking a bit uncertain of themselves. I remembered going up to them and shaking their hands, welcoming them to the meeting. I also remembered my own feelings of awkwardness, arising from an assumption of their difference from me and my uncertainty about how to relate to them. I did not talk to them further, but quickly moved on.
|The wider community needs to know that all are welcome.|
At the time she spoke, the speaker and I were participants in a workshop led by Vanessa Julye, a member of Central Philadelphia Monthly Meeting and the coordinator for the FGC Committee for Ministry on Racism. The workshop focused on issues of race and racism within the Religious Society of Friends, opening a disturbing window on Quaker history—which on racial matters is often presumed to be above reproach, but is not. With some moments of defensiveness but also much good will, we engaged in challenging consciousness-raising discussions around a variety of topics. Several other African-American Friends who attended the workshop made it clear—again, without rancor or blame—that encounters with racism among Friends were not solely incidents of the past, but had infected their present experience.
My home meeting is in many respects a microcosm of liberal, unprogrammed Friends’ meetings in the United States. In some ways, we are distinctive: Sunday morning attendance at meeting for worship typically averages between 50 and 60 persons, probably well above the national average. The demographic profile of residents of Claremont, which is home to several colleges and retirement communities, also differs from that of many other places where Friends meetings are located. But in other respects, I suspect that Claremont Friends Meeting is fairly typical of liberal, unprogrammed meetings across the United States:
- Members and attenders tend to be well-educated and highly articulate.
- An exceptionally high proportion of members and attenders had or have careers in challenging service professions. Most of us are actively engaged in the community.
- Politically, we are an overwhelmingly liberal, progressive, even radical crowd.
- The size of our meeting has slowly declined over the past few decades.
- We are almost all “white”—i.e. of European descent.
We are blessed with the regular presence of a few persons of color, including some who have been a part of our community for many years. If the question were put to them, I am certain that our white members and attenders would express sincere gratitude for this presence. Members and attenders often testify to the strength of our community. Indeed, our 2006 State of the Meeting Report included these words: “A new attender declares that ‘everything people do here shows the love and care meeting members and attenders share—doing dishes, laughing, greeting each other . . . a fundamental strength.’ Another observed, ‘There is tenderness here as a core— in our ways of doing things and our ways of being together. Our greatest wealth lies in the love we share with one another.’”
Yet, surrounded by a Southern California population of immense ethnic and racial diversity, we are a relatively homogeneous group. We need to ask why this is so.
At the workshop, I thanked our black member for her candid words. At my next opportunity, I asked her to think about what an “extra effort” by our meeting to reach out to persons of color might be. She looked at me intently, and promised to get back to me. A few days later I received a thoughtful card from her, suggesting a process of “soul searching” and outreach. She wrote, “The wider community needs to know that all are welcome. This is a good season for peace and healing, and getting better acquainted, and spreading the Light.”
We have now embarked on that process of soul searching and outreach, of “peace and healing, and spreading the Light.” Our first steps have been to look more deeply into ourselves, exploring our own personal experiences of race and racism. We began with two powerful worship-sharing sessions in response to the following queries:
- What have been my most important experiences of race and racism?
- Do I have wounds from these experiences?
- Am I aware of “blind spots” that I may have on questions of race?
The first of these worship-sharing sessions was marked by heart-felt personal sharing, with a number of remorseful confessions of unenlightened behavior. In a later conversation with Vanessa Julye, I asked her what advice she might have for us in this process. Her response was both striking and liberating: she said, in effect, “Get past the guilt. We have all grown up in a society that is deeply tainted by patterns of racial bias. We acquired our own attitudes through many subtle, indirect means, without having the opportunity to evaluate them. It is not helpful to blame ourselves for this involuntary enculturation. Put the guilt behind you, and move ahead to promote healing, equality, and justice.” Perhaps because of this key message, our second worship-sharing session was not only even more powerful, but also marked by good feeling, boisterous laughter, and hope.
As I write, we are in the middle of an ongoing process, proceeding “as way opens.” Possible future steps include: a meeting-wide threshing session on “Welcoming Persons of Color and Others,” and then a meeting Open House on the topic “What Is Quaker Worship?” supported by an “extra effort” to reach out to persons from local churches and interfaith groups to join us. Please hold us in the Light.
(This article originally appeared in FGConnections, the newsletter of Friends General Conference, www.fgcquaker.org.)
Undoing Racism with Love
Based on remarks given during the annual sessions of New York Yearly Meeting at Silver Bay, July 25, 2006, during a dinner and discussion hosted by the NYYM Committee on Black Concerns.
I believe white people and people of color are located in a system of culture and institutions that supports a hierarchy of power and privilege in which white people receive privilege and people of color do not. We may want to address that.
Lila Watson, an Australian aboriginal activist cautions us, saying:
If you have come here to help me, then you are wasting your time…But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.
Prejudice may be as old as humankind, but racism, where some people are designated as white and others as not white, is a creation of Europeans and their descendants that began around 500 years ago. In other words, it’s a creation of white culture.
That part of God within us tells us we are all part of God’s community. Every child knows this. But racism forces us to believe that white people and people of color are different in some essential way and so we are separated. I think this separation has different effects on white people and people of color. As white people, we supposedly are in control of our lives. We feel responsible for our social location, and so we use phrases such as “self-made person” and “rugged individualism.” Yet we are cut off from people of color and at some level we understand that this makes our community incomplete and damages our humanity.
Our topic tonight is “Undoing Racism with Love.” With love come many other feelings like joy, happiness, contentment, excitement, but also pain, sorrow, feelings of loss, worry and fear, and hurt.
We find fullness and fulfillment in loving relationships where love is shared and reciprocated, and where the well-being of our loved ones is intact.
We experience hurt, pain, and sorrow when our love is not shared, or when loved ones experience setbacks, or when they are lost to us.
What happens to you when you are drawn in to, implicated within, born and raised as, and unquestionably given the status and benefits of the same system that limits the potential, draws away the safety and resources, and damages the material and bodily well-being of those whom you love? I think the result is we find it hard to love ourselves.
Learning to love one’s self is hard to do under any circumstances. I think white people project our love elsewhere, across inequality, so that we love people of color, or we love everyone, and we believe that love conquers all. We try to level the hierarchy by saying, “We’re all racist” or that racism is a thing “in the past.”
If you are in a relationship with another person and you do not love yourself, this distorts the relationship with the other person as well. When we are unable to love ourselves, then we “require” others to love us, for if they do love us, or appear to, then we must be loveable after all. We become like the proverbial, self-centered author who says, “Let’s talk about you. What do you think of my book?”
This is not truly loving ourselves. Our goal becomes achieving the love of the other, and when it is not forthcoming, we may become angry, lash out, and reject the other.
|We are trapped in a history we do not understand.|
People are affirmed by the embrace of a loving community. Yet where systematic injustice holds sway, no community can exist. One cannot love and be unmoved by injury to those whom we love. We must act, for if we don’t, who will? Regardless of how successful we may be, our love can be measured in a very real way by the action we take in response to injustice toward a loved one.
Now we can begin to understand the wisdom of Lila Watson. We white people are trapped in a system. As James Baldwin said, we are trapped in a history we do not understand. And this system, this history, this racism keeps us from finding the embrace of the loving community that will teach us to love ourselves.
We must move beyond denial and see that system, and affirm our humanity by working to undo it. I’d like to finish by once more reading the quote from Lila Watson.
If you have come here to help me, then you are wasting your time…But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.
Race, Adoption, and Martin Luther King
My wife and I have always been concerned about racism. Early in life, I lived in a thoroughly integrated neighborhood and shared a common struggle to create a world of racial justice and equality, but the issue became more personal 20 years ago when we adopted an interracial child. We were not seeking to “make a statement” through our adoption—we just wanted to adopt, and Nathan was the child that God gave us. But we were pleased that we could be a witness to a blended family similar to other examples that we had seen in Quaker circles, especially at NYYM sessions.
Nathan has lived up to his name and truly been a wonderful gift from God. He is “tall, dark, and handsome,” a good student, a musician and athlete, and above all a good person. For the most part we try to treat Nathan simply as our son and downplay the racial differences, but it is impossible to ignore race in this culture. Mostly this racial difference has been a source of fun family lore. My favorite story is from his youth: He was standing next to me as I talked to a basketball referee during a scrimmage break. The referee took an obvious interest in Nathan, and finally asked if he was my son. When I said yes, I could see some really hard thinking as his eyes darted back and forth between the two of us as he tried to understand how this beautiful boy could possibly be my son. Finally his face relaxed into a broad smile of insight as he proclaimed, “Boy, your wife must be something else!” Sometimes I feel it necessary to clear up confusion by explaining the adoption, but in this case I simply told him the truth: “Yes, she sure is!” Besides I didn’t want to ruin his fantasy.
There have, of course, also been times when prejudice has clouded the fun. We have always told him that his skin color was a gift from God of which he should be proud, and yet experience sometimes taught otherwise. While he has not dealt with too much overt racism, he has dealt with the all too common insensitive comments that can eat at a sense of confidence and acceptance. He has also had to sort through the story of slavery and racism visited upon people of African descent and has asked the inevitable question of why whites did this.
As a father, I have seen these questions as faith opportunities to put his struggles in the larger context of God’s call to all of us to witness to the Peaceable Kingdom. We have given him stories that we believe best confront prejudice. After all, he is named after the prophet Nathan, who “spoke truth to power” in confronting the injustices done by King David.
The stories and message of Martin Luther King Jr., with their deep resonance with our Quakerism, have been particularly helpful. I have always loved King’s hopeful message of God’s ultimate justice. “How long? Not long, for the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice. How long? Not long, because truth forever on the scaffold and wrong forever on the throne...yet that scaffold sways the future.” King’s was a faith in God’s ultimate redemptive victory over evil and a call for all of us, Black and White together, to play our part in this divine drama. I want Nathan to have these powerful examples to give him strength and courage in the face of prejudice.
King’s message and example also speak to another important human temptation that is critical to our Quaker faith in peacemaking—the temptation to demonize the oppressor. Speaking to a group of civil rights workers, he cautioned, “One big danger for us is the temptation to follow the [leadership of the] people we are opposing. They call us names, so we call them names....Let us not do to ourselves as others do unto us; try to put ourselves into one all-inclusive category—the virtuous ones, or the decent ones as against the malicious, prejudiced ones or the well-educated against the ignorant. You can see that I can go on and on—and there is the danger: The ‘us’ vs. ‘them’ mentality takes hold and we do, actually, begin to run the risk of joining ranks with the very people we are opposing. I worry about this these days.”
As with our Quaker ancestors, King understood that the true struggle in this world was not with flesh and blood enemies but against spiritual powers of wickedness that tempt the oppressor to racism and the weak to hard-hearted hatred and despair. Rather than take up armed struggle, King’s redemptive and sacrificial love for all humanity sought the liberation of both oppressed and oppressor. Like early Quakers, he was waging the Lamb’s War with spiritual weapons aimed at the spirit of confusion alive in the world that tempts us to take advantage of the weak if we are strong or worship our wounded anger if we are oppressed. He believed that the way of the cross—self-giving, sacrificial love—was the path of healing, justice, mercy, and righteousness. It is the middle way between the tempting extremes that divide.
So I hope that my son will have the faith, hope, and love to stand tall (he’s 6’5” after all!) and
challenge continuing racism and other attempts on the part of the privileged to use and abuse those in a position of relative weakness. I also hope that he will avoid the temptation to see all his struggles through a lens of racism. Sometimes tensions and conflicts are racism. Sometimes they are just the inevitable conflicts that come with living with human beings no matter what the race. I want him to look toward King and especially Jesus as a role model. I want this for us as a community of faith, as well.
I think young people, in particular, are tired of this interminable baby boomer battle between social-justice-only liberals and personal-responsibility-only conservatives on race and other issues. I think they are tired of polarized “either...or” and drawn to moderate “both...and” witness. This is the message of Barak Obama, which I find exciting and hopeful. In short, I want Nathan and us to stand for justice, mercy, and righteousness and work toward the Peaceable Kingdom that Edward Hicks painted so often, where we all will finally be judged by the content of our character, not the color of our skins.
The Birth Chapter: A Reading for Fall Sessions
|Elizabeth K. Gordon|
I lived alone in the woods for four years and wrote a book. The book was about living in North Philadelphia for four years and sharing a home with teen parents and their triplet boys. The book found a f/Friend, Sue Clark, at a conference on racism in the Religious Society of Friends. The fact that I had cared for the triplets and, with my partner, served as their mother’s legal guardian, doing so as personal acts of reparations, spoke to Sue, a Jim Crow–era southerner cared for, as a baby, by a black nanny. Months later, Sue talked about the book to another Friend, who had started a publishing company at very nearly the time I started the book. Within a year the book was A Book, with a cover and a title and, very soon, a crowd of New York Yearly Meeting Fall Sessions attenders gathered in the Purchase Meeting worship room, waiting to hear a part of it.
But which part? I sat in the library trying to discern. Sue sat with me. I had marked a few passages I thought likely to speak to Friends: about discernment, conflict resolution, injustice, the legacy of slavery. Why not read, said Sue, about the boys being born? That’s the part that she liked best.
|I saw that publishing the book was not an end but a beginning, and that ongoing revelation has a sort of companion principle—ongoing accountability.|
I clutched the book, my book, and looked again at the parts I’d marked to read: weightier, more literary passages. Then I closed my eyes and tried to open to the still small voice, the same that the book’s plot turns on. Should Sue’s personal preference overrule my preparedness? I remembered another Friend eldering me, after a prepublication reading, about the abstractness of the section I’d chosen. In the silence I could almost hear her voice, with its western twang—”People want to know how those babies were born, what that girl went through.”
That made two elders against my intellectualizing inclination, not to mention the fact that it was November 9, just a day after the young mother’s birthday. I would follow Sue’s suggestion, making the births the center of the reading, and going on from there as led.
Thinking of the series of apparent synchronicities that had brought the book to this audience (starting—perhaps starting—with the fact that I had felt led to move from New York to Philadelphia in the very month the triplets were conceived), I was not surprised when a woman I had felt moved to ask to hold me in the Light as I read appeared and offered to do just that. With two others she sat on the facing bench, but scattered about the room (I sensed), worshipping Friends radiated Light like so many space heaters.
In what seemed to me a gathered space and time I was able to step aside and let the book go its way. It became that night less my book. I was a cork buoyed on a lake of listening. The depth of the lake was made apparent to me by the responses after the reading, that night and in the two days after. I was complimented, yes, but also challenged, challenged to examine and reexamine my assumptions and language. I saw that publishing the book was not an end but a beginning, and that ongoing revelation has a sort of companion principle—ongoing accountability. I was reminded that as a white person trying to write about race, racism, and one black family’s suffering and triumphs, history had handed me a grave responsibility: first, to do no new harm, and then, if possible, to say only what was true, useful, and loving. I realized I would be held as responsible for my unplanned speech as for my much-revised and seasoned prose, and rightfully so.
Every reading must therefore also be—as that Fall Sessions reading had seemed—a meeting for worship. I ask Friends to help me, as led, to strive for that standard.
In worship that very productive weekend one of us stood and powerfully rendered two verses from Bernice Johnson Reagon’s “Ella’s Song”—one of which is quoted in and central to Walk with Us.
We who believe in freedom cannot rest
We who believe in freedom cannot rest until it comes.
Until the killing of black men, black mothers’ sons, is as important as the killing of white men, white mothers’ sons . . .
We who believe in freedom cannot rest,
We who believe in freedom cannot rest until it comes.
Someone pointed out to me that the reading had offered a lovingly detailed description of the births of one black mother’s sons, making the danger of their deaths (all the kinds of death) more real to us and, one trusts, more important. More worth praying and laboring, sacrificing and persevering to prevent.
I was glad I had listened to my elders and read the birth chapter. And I was very grateful to New York Yearly Meeting Friends, and to those who worked so hard to make the reading happen, for so closely attending the birth of Walk with Us. We who cannot rest from work in the world must not rest either from resting in the Spirit. Wherever I read hereafter I will be reading, at some level, to yearly meeting Friends gathered at Purchase Meeting, on the night before Fall Sessions, on the day after Tahija’s birthday, in the hour when the book became less mine, and more yours.
What is FGC’s Committee for Ministry on Racism?
In November 2000, Friends General Conference’s Central Committee formed the Committee for Ministry on Racism (CMR). Two members of New York Yearly Meeting, Vince and Ernie Buscemi, were not only a part of CMR but were also on the ad hoc committee that preceded its formation. Christopher Sammond and I were among the first group of CMR members. As a group we spent several meetings worshiping and revising the carefully crafted agenda formulated by our clerk, Vince Buscemi. He graciously accepted these changes, recognizing the spirit moving among us as we discerned our name and purpose. It took us several meetings to get to know each other and to discern our name and God’s will for the Committee.
Our vision eventually emerged: a Religious Society of Friends transformed into a beloved community enriched by its diversity. We agreed that the Committee for Ministry on Racism would need to offer assistance and support to monthly and yearly meetings to help them develop and/or enhance their racial and ethnic awareness, increase their diversity, and strive to address the impact of the institution of racism on our Society.
The Committee for Ministry on Racism networks with Friends and meetings doing work and witnessing about racism and racial diversity. It provides opportunities at the annual FGC Gathering for individuals who are working for racial diversity and challenging racism to gather for mutual support and sharing. In addition, it supports the People of Color Center at the gathering and hosts meetings for worship for racial healing. CMR also supports individuals traveling in the ministry with a concern for racism.
I was hired to work part-time as the coordinator for CMR in 2005. In 2007, CMR supported my visits to both New York and Pacific Yearly Meetings.
CMR plans and holds events to provide opportunities for learning, training, sharing, community building, and worshiping together around the issues arising from the impact of racism. The Committee identifies and promotes resources that will assist those doing this work. We are in the process of developing short and long workshops to be offered by its members at monthly and yearly meetings.
For the first time, CMR is sponsoring a consultation for Friends of Color and their families, April 25–27, 2008, at the Colombiere Conference Center in the area of Detroit, Michigan. We plan to spend the weekend getting to know each other, exploring our Faith together, as well as identifying and sharing ways to support each other. We will have intergenerational activities exploring parts of the Underground Railroad. We would like to invite all Friends of Color and their families who live in the Midwest to join us, including parents of children of Color (be they white or a person of Color themselves), spouses and partners, etc. We welcome multiracial families. Please contact me for further information at vanessaj [at] fgcquaker.org.
Also in the spring, check out the new look of our Web site, www.fgcquaker.org/cmr.
Resource List on Web
A list of resources for those working against racism will be posted on NYYM’s Web site. It will also be printed out and sent by postal mail to those who request it.
Fit for Freedom Moves Forward
“What ever happened to that book?” is a question often asked of authors Donna McDaniel and Vanessa Julye. They have been working on Fit for Freedom, Not for Friendship for over six years, and many Friends have heard them speak on the book and what it will be: the first comprehensive history of Quakers, African Americans, and racial justice in North America from precolonial times through much of the interracial unrest of the 20th century. Luckily, the news on the book is good: In the fall of 2006 a historian was hired to serve as project editor; the manuscript is approaching completion; and publication by Quaker Press of Friends General Conference is expected for late 2008.
|L to R: Sarah Mandolang, Vanessa Julye, Nadine Hoover|
Drawn primarily from the wealth of resources available in the work of Quaker historians and others, Fit for Freedom, Not for Friendship: Quakers, African Americans, and the Myth of Racial Justice 1680–1980 tells of Quakers committed to the often-dangerous work of freeing and educating enslaved Africans and their descendants, of the ambivalence surrounding their abolitionist activities, and of both their participation and hesitancy to participate in the racial ferment of the 20th century. Central to the story is the hard work and experiences of Friends of African descent as they have struggled to become and remain members of the Religious Society of Friends.
The authors, who will be at NYYM sessions next summer, believe that Friends today will see their own thoughts, experiences, and struggles reflected in those who have preceded us. “What has been important for me in doing this work is finding out that Quakers of European descent and African Americans didn’t have this wonderful relationship that we lost,” notes Vanessa Julye. “What is raised and put forward as a wonderful relationship was really on an individual basis and not widespread. This was sort of good news for me: it’s not like we had this wonderful relationship and it’s deteriorated; we never had it. Now with that information we can move forward and see that we have an opportunity to create the relationship that we do want.”
Letter to the Editor
Note: Letters to the editor are presented when space is available. Letters raise and explore topics of concern to NYYM Friends. As in any Quaker forum, views here are uncensored, should be expressed briefly and gently, and may discomfort some Friends. The Communications Committee welcomes unsolicited manuscripts of opinion or reporting and will publish material that seems provocative and timely.
Race is an issue that stirs emotions at a visceral level. In recent years some Yearly Meeting Friends began a new discussion of race and racism. The intent is good and the motivating spirit is pure. That notwithstanding, sometimes in our calling to do good in the world, Friends may get passionate within a narrow band of focus, thereby losing focus on the principles of faith within our own community that led us to a concern in the first place.
Our Yearly Meeting approved creation of the Task Group on Racism in NYYM. That title is an absolute guarantee that the discernment process will be hindered by wrong focus. Racism in NYYM is insignificant if not nonexistent. There have been and will continue to be incidents of racial insensitivity, racial hypersensitivity, and racial awareness. The name for the task group is a good example. That however, is not racism. A much better name, absent the accusatory and white-guilt–inducing negative assumption, would have been the “NYYM Task Group on Racism.”
We all know as a matter of faith that “race” is a false construct created in darkness to separate what God created as one. An “us and them” mentality is not healed or even mitigated by the continuation of the awful lie called race. It is in fact empowered. African Americans? European Americans? White? Yellow? Black? Brown? Stop!
We are one, loved by our creator. When we encounter racism, racial insensitivity, or racial hypersensitivity we need to abandon worldly, knee-jerk and race-conscious reactions and respond with love. We need to model the Truth, not perpetuate the lie, no matter how good the intentions. This is true within our beloved community and essential in the wider world.
Don Badgley, Poughkeepsie Meeting
Around New York Yearly Meeting
Quaker Quest is a dynamic new approach to outreach that has brought seekers to meetings all over England. It is based on the idea that Quakerism, “a spiritual path for our time,” is simple, radical, and contemporary.
Friends General Conference is exploring ways to bring it to the U.S. FGC will hold a conference soon, to explore how to make this happen. Christopher Sammond and three other NYYM Friends will attend the conference.
Among the important workshops coming up at Powell Houseare Pastoral Care, February 1–3, led by Mickey Edgerton & Dortha Meredith, and Dealing in Love with Difficult People…in Our Meetings and Beyond, February 15–17, sponsored by NYYM’s Conflict Transformation Committee. For further descriptions, see the Powell House catalog or visit www.powellhouse.org.
An epistle to Friends everywhere:
Friends in the Spirit of Christ, meeting this weekend at Powell House in Old Chatham, New York, where we were tendered in the love of Christ, greet Friends everywhere with this message of our love and our concern, our desire that you be strengthened and supported in all your efforts to be faithful, and our prayers for your well-being now and always. May our Lord Jesus Christ make our good wishes for you abundantly fruitful.
In His love,
Friends in the Spirit of Christ, 11/18/2007, Hebrews10:24–25
Web sites for meetings: Paul Busby and the Advancement Committee have been working with monthly meetings to develop Web sites for the meetings. Various meetings have taken advantage of this opportunity to make themselves better known in the world. Paul has worked with several meetings recently to create static Web sites. Some are very simple, with only the basic information about the meeting. Others are more elaborate, with photographs and links to information about the meeting’s activities, etc. If your meeting does not yet have a site, please contact Paul to create one.
At Fall Sessions 2007, Friends requested that Worship and Action for Peace communications be revived in order to provide a timely means for Friends to share their news. As Friends will recall, a Worship and Action Working Group was formed following the events of September 11 and our government’s agitation for war against Iraq, and for over two years almost weekly communications were sent to Friends throughout the Yearly Meeting and beyond. The frequency of these communications gradually decreased; they have most recently been sent on a sporadic or as-needed basis.
In November Friends expressed a renewed sense of urgency to deepen our worship and witness in the face of our country’s commitment to an ongoing and expanding “war on terror”. This sense of urgency gave rise to the desire to reactivate the Working Group.
The Worship and Action Working Group is under the care of Yearly Meeting Ministry Coordinating Committee and at present comprises Ernie Buscemi, Linda Chidsey, and Fred Dettmer. Friends who are moved to share experiences of worship; who are under the weight of a concern; who wish to share reflections, practices, or matters of spiritual concerns are invited contact a member of the Working Group.
Greta Mickey, a member of Central Finger Lakes Monthly Meeting, has been appointed to serve a three year term on the national council of the Fellowship of Reconciliation (www.forusa.org). Founded in 1915, the FOR is the largest, oldest Interfaith Peace organization in the United States.
Greta says, “As a Friend, I can find complete solidarity with the FOR mission statement: ‘We envision a world of justice, peace, and freedom. It is a revolutionary vision of a beloved community where differences are respected, conflicts are addressed nonviolently, oppressive structures are dismantled, and where people live in harmony with the earth, nurtured by diverse spiritual traditions that foster compassion, solidarity, and reconciliation.’ The FOR is currently doing accompaniment work in Colombia, leading peace delegations to Iran, Palestine. and Israel, doing antirecruitment work, and so much more. I am grateful and humbled to be a part of this work and hope that you, throughout NYYM will uphold the FOR and me as we move forward.
In 2008, Poughkeepsie Monthly Meeting will be considering whether our present large facility is compatible with our needs for spiritual growth, fellowship, and outreach, and our available resources of time, energy, and money.
Questions of simplicity, stewardship, eco-spirituality, and the importance of tradition and location are expected to arise as we give prayerful consideration to the future of our meetinghouse and property.
We welcome communication with other meetings and Friends with similar experience or concerns.
Please contact us at fwdoneit [at] optonline.net.
Staten Island Executive Meeting has been showing DVD and video programs as an adult religious education program as well as to stimulate discussion of witness activities. We recently finished viewing a 24-part course entitled The Historical Jesus, distributed by the Teaching Company.
On January 27 we will be viewing Drumbeat for Mother Earth, distributed by Bullfrog Films. The film discusses the ecological consequences of persistent organic pollutants to the health and lifestyles of indigenous people.
We have announced these programs to the community.
A workshop on Responsible Adult Presences at Quaker Youth Gatherings will be held at Farmington-Scipio Spring Gathering, Friday, May 16, 2008, from 9:30 a.m.–4:00 p.m., facilitated by Mike Clark, codirector of the Powell House Youth Program. More information will be in March Spark.
An Interfaith Service of Liberation commemorating the 200th anniversary of the U.S. abolition of the transatlantic slave trade was held at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in Manhattan January 13. Following a reading from John Woolman’s Journal read by Jason Robards III, our clerk, Ernie Buscemi, spoke briefly about the Quaker practice of silent waiting, leading the congregation into silent prayer. “I spoke from my experience of being guided by the Divine into the stillness that enables in that precious space/time to look at hard truths about self, joys, and sorrows (past and present). And ‘As we commemorate those on whose shoulders we stand today, may we cross the bridge of hope, the bridge of love, the bridge of hard truths about ourselves and history moving us forward into the future.’ “
The NYYM Nurture Section is settling into its new form with some committees added to its care and some placed elsewhere. At the 2007 Fall Sessions, we approved the new Committee on Aging. In addition we have four hardworking task groups: Earthcare Working Group, FUM Task Group, Task Group on Youth, and Young Friends in Residence Working Group (previously known as the PoGo [Powell House on the Go] Working Group).
Each committee and group under Nurture’s care has a Web page at www.nyym.org/nurture. Take a look there for more information on what everyone is up to!
Bridget Bower, for the Records Committee, reports that Friends Historical Library has put a listing of our records on their Web site so we can view the records descriptions without having to search the online catalog. Each entry also contains a brief history of the meeting. The URL is www.swarthmore.edu/library/friends/NYYM/NYYMindex.htm. It seems to be current through around 2005.
Death Penalty Abolished in N.J.
Friends, let us rejoice, the death penalty has been abolished in New Jersey. On December 17, 2007, Governor Jon Corzine signed into law a measure that repeals capital punishment and replaces it with life without parole.
On April 14 at NYYM Representative Meeting, Friends approved a minute reaffirming NYYM’s support for the abolition of the death penalty in New Jersey and elsewhere. The minute, written and approved by Manasquan Meeting, was approved by Shrewbury-Plainfield Half-Yearly Meeting and then Witness Coordinating Committee. Friends also directed the clerk to send a letter along with the minute to officials in New Jersey indicating the Yearly Meeting’s support of the abolition of the death penalty.
At the beginning of May the clerk wrote a letter and the letter and the approved minute were mailed to 90 legislators whose districts lie within NYYM, the governor’s office, New Jerseyans for Alternatives to the Death Penalty, and the New Jersey Council of Churches.
In New Jersey, in May, the Senate Judiciary Committee passed the Senate version of the bill (8–2). At that time it seemed likely that no further votes would take place until after the elections in November. NJADP encouraged Friends and others to begin writing letters again in October and November. At the end of November, Ernie Buscemi and Christopher Sammond sent a letter on behalf of the Yearly Meeting to the Senate Budget Committee, which was to hold the first of four votes, restating New York Yearly Meeting’s support for the abolition of the death penalty and encouraging the Committee to support the bill. On December 3, the Senate Budget Committee approved the bill (8–4). A week later the Senate (21–16, 3 abstentions) and the Assembly Law and Public Safety Committee (5–1) passed the abolition bill. Finally, on December 13, the Assembly passed the bill (44–36). Four days later Governor Corzine signed the bill into law and New Jersey became a guiding light for the United States and the rest of the world.
Governor Corzine also commuted the death sentences of the eight inmates on death row. Friends are encouraged to write letters of thanks and appreciation to the legislators who supported and voted for the abolition of the death penalty.
As a life long resident of New Jersey, I am ever so grateful that in my adult life no one has been executed in my name and that the death penalty has at last been laid to rest.
Further information is available from New Jerseyans for Alternatives to the Death Penalty: www.njadp.org. The New Jersey Death Penalty Study Commission Report is available at www.njleg.state.nj.us/committees/dpsc_final.pdf.
More information on the history of the death penalty in New Jersey is available on NYYM’s Web site at www.nyym.org/witness/dp/njdp.html.
Living as Friends, Listening Within
A conference for Young Adult Friends
Memorial Day weekend,
May 23–26, 2008,
Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God-what is good and acceptable and perfect.
Romans 12:2 NRSV
How do we each listen for God in our lives? Whether you are led to speak in meeting or to put your life on the line for peace, you are invited to share your experiences and explore how we can support one another in discerning important life questions.
Young Adult Friends will lead a variety of interest groups, and Earlham School of Religion will offer workshops on leadings and callings. Young adults from meetings and churches affiliated with Friends General Conference (FGC), Friends United Meeting (FUM), Evangelical Friends International (EFI), and Independent and Conservative yearly meetings are planning this exciting event. Let’s talk about our lives as Friends and come together to play, pray, laugh, and worship.
For more information, check out www.fgcquaker.org/qy/yaf-conference-2008 or contact Emily Stewart, Emilys [at] fgcquaker.org; Terri Johns, Terrij [at] fum.org; orSadie Forsythe, Sadief [at] pym.org.
Quaker Youth Book Project
Quakers Uniting in Publications (QUIP) is thrilled to announce the launch of its second Quaker Youth Book Project, which will culminate in an anthology of short nonfiction prose, poetry, and visual art by young Quakers ages 15–30 from all branches of the Religious Society of Friends, all over the world.
Few books or resources exist that emphasize the lives and voices of younger Friends. QUIP hopes to produce a book that will focus on the personal spiritual experiences, beliefs, and identities of contemporary young Friends and offer a resource both to younger Friends and to the meetings and churches striving to understand and support their younger members. We envision a book that will spark discussion and dialogue, speak to and lift up the growing youth movement in Quakerism, and act as a catalyst for growth within the Religious Society of Friends.
The project will be guided and edited by six to eight young Friends ages 15–30, with oversight and support from QUIP. The Editorial Board will be selected by a formal application process and applications are currently being accepted. The final deadline is February 15, 2008. Editorial Board applications and other information can be found at the Quaker Youth Book Project Web site, www.quakeryouth.org/quipbook.
Stay tuned for a call for submissions in early summer 2008.
FWCC Directory Is Online
The Friends World Committee for Consultation (FWCC) Section of the Americas has posted their Directory of Meetings and Churches online at http://fwccamericas.org/MeetingSearch.aspx?. Meetings and churches may be searched by state, ZIP code, or part of a name. This is a comprehensive listing of Friends’ congregations from all branches of the Society of Friends.
Report from FWCC Triennial
Do you know that you are part of a larger Quaker family, with relatives in Bolivia, Finland, Uganda, Cuba, Hong Kong, Oklahoma, the Philippines, and even Philadelphia?
The Friends World Committee for Consultation Triennial in Dublin, Ireland, August 11–19, 2007, was attended by 308 Friends from 41 countries. I was one of four representatives from NYYM. On the first night we were given a brief history of Irish Friends, from the arrival of Friend William Edmondson in Armagh in 1654, through Friends’ work in agriculture, shipbuilding, and manufacturing, to late–20th century work for peace in Northern Ireland and work with with political prisoners. Ireland is two countries but one Yearly Meeting. We were treated to an exhibition of Irish dancing, performed by a boy and five girls, and we were given a booklet on Quaker relief work during the famine of 1845–52.
FWCC made a big effort to have the attendance reflect the diversity of world Quakers (nearly 50 Africans were present). The speakers who addressed the theme, “Finding a Prophetic Voice for Our Time,” were diverse too. One defined prophecy as the human response to transforming encounter with God; prophecy warns, challenges, empowers, and comforts, and brings others to God’s presence. Another said that the motivation for prophecy is God’s desire to restore God’s people to a loving and faithful relationship. Another said that we have been given a mandate to love and serve in order to transform, and asked, “Are we known more for our silence than for the power of truth?”
On most days we met in worship-and-sharing groups. I was coleader of one of the two Spanish-speaking groups, with Alberto from El Salvador. He did most of the leading because he seemed quite accustomed to it, and also his Spanish was better than mine—no surprise! I found working with him quite gratifying.
Working groups met to consider issues previously submitted by Yearly Meetings. I went to the one on the environment, which produced a minute that may be posted on FWCC’s Web site. Friends are encouraged to contribute to the planting of trees to compensate for air and car travel.
During our sessions there were announcements of an earthquake in Peru and a mudslide in Kenya, and we prayed for Friends of those countries.
It was decided that the next FWCC gathering will be in 2012, and since that is five rather than three years from now, the gathering’s name is changed from “Triennial” to “plenary meeting.”
In the middle of the week came an excursion day. I went with the group that visited the Quaker museum in the home of Mary Shackleton Leadbetter in the village of Ballitore, where Friends established a boarding school in the 18th century, with students from as far away as Norway and Jamaica. Mary was the first girl to attend the school. We also went to Rosenallis, a lovely, peaceful Quaker cemetery, and to Mountmellick, where a museum exhibits a type of white-on-white embroidery taught in two Quaker schools there in the early 1800s. The themes are taken from nature—grasses, leaves, berries—and the fabric is cotton satin; it is lovely.
At the final business session I admired the tact of our clerk, Duduzile Mtshazo of Central and South Africa Yearly Meeting: “The Young Friends will report, and I know they will demonstrate judicious use of our limited time, and subsequent speakers will follow their good example.” There followed a 70th birthday celebration of FWCC, with a cake wheeled in by a leprechaun, and a Young Friends skit about the plenary meeting in 2077, to be held in FWCC’s newest section, Antarctica. The evening ended with the singing (by a pickup choir in which I participated) of a beautiful Zulu amen.
I wish I could convey the excitement and stimulation of being among international Friends: the chance conversations, the visual delight of indigenous dress, a choir of Africans serenading us; glimpses into lives revealed by small-group sharing; the warmth of plenary worship, with some silence and some singing and clapping; the opening of channels of communication and understanding. Differences in belief and worship styles there certainly are; it is wonderful to see the extent to which we can reach across them.
This column is prepared from information about membership received from the local meeting recorders.
Anthony Salem Jr.—New Paltz
Rodney Morris, to Poplar Ridge, from Butternuts
Anna Buchholz, member of Poughkeepsie, on November 2, 2007
Don Danler, member of Collins, on December 26, 2007
Elaine Danler, member of Collins, on December 13, 2007
Michelle Leyden, member of Rockland, on November 27, 2007
Mary Shriner, member of Perry City, on November 15, 2007
Robert Simkin, member of Poplar Ridge, on October 31, 2007