Pacific Yearly Meeting Epistle 2016

To Friends Everywhere:

Lift the veils the obscure the Light of Truth within you. Sink down to the Seed that God sows in your hearts.

From June 17 through June 22, 2016, three hundred and eight Friends gathered at Walker Creek Ranch in Petaluma, California, for the 70th Annual Session of Pacific Yearly Meeting. The theme of our gathering was, “Lifting the Veil,” and during our time together, we sought the tenderness that comes from lifting the veils of everyday life. We felt the kindness that comes with the presence of Spirit. 

Our invited guest from the Coast Miwok People, Sky Road Webb, opened our annual session with sacred songs, with tales of the land’s history, and with stories of indigenous peoples today. As the wind swirled forcefully around our gathering, billowing the sides of the large tent in which we held our plenary sessions, we felt the breath of Spirit moving in the world around us, and among us, and within us.

Early in our sessions, we noticed and appreciated the careful preparations that had been made for our gathering, both physical and spiritual. It was clear that our clerk, our assistant clerk, and our Ministry and Oversight committee had designed our plenary sessions to serve both as learning experiences and as times for Spirit to enliven our business. At the start of each plenary, our clerk reminded us of the sacred purpose of our Quaker practices. He reminded us to lift the veils of our egos, to “speak only when spoken through,” to drop our preconceptions, and to open ourselves to Mystery. He also took these learning experiences to special sessions with our young Friends. Worship sharing groups, interest groups, and bible study sessions throughout the week were also designed to help us explore the countless implications of “lifting the veil.”

We opened ourselves to experimentation in matters both profound and mundane. Some of our experimentation concerned simple logistical changes that helped clear our way to attend more fully to Spirit and community. We enjoyed the return of our long-lost Information Desk. We experimented with starting our session on Friday instead of Monday, which allowed participation by Friends who were only available for the weekend. We increased the number of intergenerational plenaries and offered a new evening campfire event for our youngest Friends, which enabled parents to attend evening interest groups. And we tried overall to lessen the number of concurrent offerings in our schedule, to create a greater sense of simplicity and unity among us.

Another new occurrence this year was that our annual session was led by adult Friends who grew up among us. Our presiding clerk, Diego Navarro, and our keynote speakers, Darcy Stanley and Carl Magruder, all had participated in PYM as children. Of course, Friends from countless backgrounds bring us leadership and light, but we felt especially uplifted to find that “our own” leaders are uniquely qualified to speak to our condition as a yearly meeting.

Our condition is one of human imperfection. Although we did feel Spirit working through us frequently during our time together, we also found ourselves stumbling over details in our business, found ourselves tripping over our worldly veils. We found it difficult to come to terms with the need to reduce the operating deficit in our budget. We suffered from confustion as we worked to approve the minutes of our meetings, confusion that diverted our attention from the task at hand and tempted us to reopen previous conversations instead. And throughout the year, between our annual sessions, we struggled to find ways to stay connected with each other – facing dilemmas over right uses of travel and electronic communications.

On a deeper level, we find ourselves falling short of our responsibility to nurture each other’s spiritual growth. Although we can feel inspired by descriptions of traditional, supportive relationships between Quaker ministers and elders, and can even feel inspired to see examples of such relationships in action today, many of us still find it hard to trust each other fully and to support each other effectively. Old memories of past hurts get in the way, which are sometimes hurts that we have caused each other. We struggle to learn ways to speak truth with love, to navigate between the errors of undue harshness and dishonest niceness.

At the same time, we sometimes find that conflict can open our hearts, and we continue to draw inspiration from each other. Our teens and young adults especially serve as models of faithfulness and good order for the rest of us. And we felt moved to see our young Friends embracing new experiences – from a wiggly baby tooth to the traveling minutes of two young adult Friends preparing to travel in the ministry in Australia.

We feel led to learn better how to reach down to the Seed that God sows in our hearts. We feel led to learn better how to pull away the veils that hide that seed, the veils of our daily worries, of our selfish wants, of our self-recriminations, of our wildest dreams, the countless veils that hide the Seed and Light of Truth. And when we ask whether we will choose to help each other in this work, we have learned to answer, “I hope so.”

German Yearly Meeting Epistle, 2015

The Epistle of RSoF, German Yearly Meeting 2015

The morning was grey. But the joy of being together with Friends was great. To be connected despite distances in space and time. Is Mysticism Deed? Is Deed Mysticism? A wonderful scent of freshly cut celery drifted through the Quaker House. Does the mystical spirit smell of celery? The helpers enjoy the Deed. Our children and the helpers enjoy the soup, the rest of us the odour.

The 85th Yearly Meeting of German and Austrian Quakers took place from the 22nd to the 25th of October 2015 in the Quaker House in Bad Pyrmont. Our theme was “Spiritual Growth”. 186 Friends between the ages of 9 months and 93 years were present, including delegates and guests from Georgia, Great Britain, Ireland, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Sweden, Switzerland, Hungary an the USA.
Our community and the bonds between Quakers world-wide as the foundations of spiritual growth were stressed in many of the Epistles which reached us from other Yearly Meetings. Our Friend Esther Köhring held the Richard L. Cary Lecture with the title “Roots and Wings. The
opportunity to grow in the community of Friends”. She spoke of the joy of being able to grow within the Europe and Middle East Young Friends (EMEYF) and German Yearly Meeting; wings were her earlier experience, roots came later. “Young Friends are not your future; they are part of
our joint present.” We can only grow into the Future out of the Here and Now of each one of us, younger or older. The sense of community – amongst EMEYF as within our Yearly Meeting – forms the foundation of mutual trust: both to fly, to attempt new things, and to develop roots, to
“become radical” in the original sense of the word. To try new approaches asks for the overcoming of the continual need for a finished product, “not always hearing the song of the birds but always listening for it”, and carrying the “Krummelus pill” in our pocket (like Astrid Lindgren’s
Pippi Longstocking) as a sort of dried pea to keep disturbing us and prevent us becoming too comfortable in our settled Quaker existences. “How can we be Quakers without ceasing the process of becoming Quakers?” New attempts: open sessions of our committees, a morning bible study time unit, joint business meetings of Young Friends and the Yearly Meeting, autobiographical contributions. From inner growth to outward deed: the particular field in which Friends feel moved to act is
currently – in view of the special situation of the moment in Germany – assisting refugees. Many Friends work with ongoing initiative and commitment in this area.
Important aspects of our Business Meeting: several years of work by a Literature Group have come to a successful conclusion, and “Our Book” has been published under the title “And what can you say? Views and experiences” (ISBN 978-3-929696-52-3). German Quakers’ striving to
live in the spirit of love and truth and their various answers to the questions of their time are reflected in this volume. Then: a new translation and publication of the Journal of George Fox in German has been decided upon. We look forward to its realization.
Further: the Yearly Meeting has agreed on the text of an open letter to the German Chancellor Angela Merkel and to other German and European politicians to express three concerns of German Quakers in the present refugee crisis. Firstly, we support the policy of open borders for
asylum seekers and live in the hope that we shall master the situation. Secondly, export of weapons from Germany contributes to the uprooting of refugees. Thirdly, all possible efforts must be made to aid the restoration of acceptable living conditions in the refugees’ countries of origin.
We greet Friends throughout the world in the conviction of our mutual trust and unity.
Sabine Alvermann (Clerk) Neithard Petry (Clerk)

Young Adult Friends (YAF) 2015 Epistle

To Friends Everywhere,

In 2015, Pacific Yearly Meeting’s Young Adult Friends are in many places at once, playing many roles. This annual session, our community came together from three countries over thousands of miles, comprised of participants from age eighteen to forty, attending Meetings for as little as one day to as many as twenty-four years. During the session, we have participated as teachers in the Children’s Program, Friendly Responsible Adult Presences and workshop leaders with Junior Yearly Meeting, and committee members for the Yearly Meeting. Our disparate group united through daily check-ins in the style of worship-sharing, during intergenerational events, and in times of unstructured fellowship.

This year we have gathered in these beautiful golden hills of Marin and have been rejuvenated by this land. As we have walked and hiked this earth, we honor the first peoples of this region, the Miwok, and we recognize the healing work there is to do towards right relationship with indigenous peoples here and everywhere.

YAFs have augmented our name tags this week with our preferred gender pronouns because we want to lift up the plurality of our experience and ensure a safe space in our community.

As we began our nominations mid-week, we settled in to lift names up from the silence and found our process dry. We struggled with this process that, at its best, allows us to lift up our members in recognition of their gifts and lift up our community in recognition of our commitment. Instead, we were mired in logistics. We encountered the confusion of being ourselves: far-flung, far-reaching, and closely tied. This struggle wasn’t a place to get stuck. It was the time to give over and dive deep. From this emerged three fundamental questions, central to the experience of being a Friend:

  • Who are we?
  • What are we doing here?
  • Who do we want to be?

In the Annual Session Keynote, Friend Lloyd Lee Wilson shared with us his reflection as a beekeeper. The unit of bees is not the individual insect, but the hive. And, the unit of Quakers is not the individual Friend, but the Meeting. To this we would add that the time of Friends is neither the past nor the future. The time of Friends is the present. As a Young Adult Friend ministered, “We are not the future, we are the Now.” Our laboring is not toward some imagined eventuality, but for faithfulness today to the Spirit revealed. This is our call— what we are called to. As we remain faithful to our bee roles, we create and sustain a thriving hive.

So, what is our role as YAFs? We participate in the whole in so many ways. Our community is formed as its own entity by some parameters of age or transitions in life, and yet what feels most true is that we are of the unit of this Yearly Meeting. Still, we recognize the value a gathering of YAFs provides for our own growth and as an incubator for our Monthly, Quarterly, and Yearly Meetings. Our experience is a living manifestation of Matthew 18:20, “For where two or more are gathered in my name, there am I among them.” The grace of God moves visible and invisible among us and we ripple among you.

With Love and Light,

the Young Adult Friends of Pacific Yearly Meeting

Junior Yearly Meeting (JYM) 2015 Epistle

PACIFIC YEARLY MEETING ANNUAL SESSION

What is the best time to heal? Some start after they’ve been hurt, others when they are confronted with loss and some heal to close wounds. Some of us heal by reading books, others by crying out all the trapped emotions. There are a few who like to sit by themselves and many who need a community. No matter the method, the end result is still the same. JYM is filled with healers of self and community. We are scared of the unknown, we are confused by some things in life, but we are all so happy for being alive. These common fears and joys separate and relate us. In AVP we as a community and as individuals confronted frustrating situations in life through games and meaningful discussion. It gave us a chance to open up.

By opening up we had an opportunity to be vulnerable; by being vulnerable we had bonded. We bonded because we were accepted for who we are. We opened up about things that made us feel invalid, family issues, disagreements that are hard to solve, and much, much more By acting out different situations answering questions not easy to answer without thought, and pushing ourselves into using better judgement when we are confronted with conflict in life.

In life we will get leadings as we learned from Diego Navarro. A leading is a nudge you get that makes you want to take control. It can be as simple as your classmates being insensitive of others, or as significant as finding your place in this crazy world. However it appears, follow it. Confront it because it’s only job is to benefit you. Some fear confrontation. Others enjoy being able to face the feelings, insecurities, and people that may be troubling them. But the product is much more worthwhile than avoiding it. Worship sharing acknowledges that people can be ineffectively insecure, clearly confident or somewhere in between. We all fall into this, because we all have flaws. It’s hard to tackle your identity, sexuality, or past in ways that uphold your integrity. Respectful relations educated JYM about sexuality, gender, consent, and relationships. Like some food choices, relationships can be both healthy and unhealthy. Safe and dangerous or great and solid. It all depends on who you choose. It also depends on you and deciding when to speak up for yourself, find support or just leave.

We all need time for ourselves to better ourselves before we try to better others. Support groups were our chance to better while bonding with others. By participating in groups we learn ways we can service others and ourselves. We had a few hours at turtle pond and the garden being of service to walker creek ranch by tending to the garden and the invasive plants in the pond. It was fun and inclusive showing us how the community services us and not just us servicing us.

Epistle Committee: Yasmeen Mercer, Nina Shaw, and David Shaw

July 18, 2015

Pre School Epistle 2015

This year at Pacific Yearly Meeting the Pre Schoolers gathered in large numbers. We loved visiting the goats and sheep. We played with bubbles and painted with our hands and feet. We also loved playing with bubbles and dancing to the guitar in the middle of the room. We enjoyed reading books and playing dress up. We had a blast playing the disappearing straw game and can’t wait to come back next year.

  • Laura Adair
  • Rebekah Percy
  • Melanie Cantu

Central and Southern Africa Yearly Meeting – 2015 – Epistle

16.6 YM epistle

CENTRAL AND SOUTHERN AFRICA YEARLY MEETING JANUARY 2015 – EPISTLE

To Friends everywhere,

We have met among the rocks and lush green bushes, grasses, flowers and birds of the bushveld summer, beneath billowing white thunder clouds in the clear blue sky overlooking the Hartebeespoort dam and Magaliesberg Mountains, near Johannesburg, very aware of the blessings of the earth. Our Yearly Meeting gathered about 110 friends of many ages, countries, cultures, languages, personal histories and spiritual vocabulary.

Worship sharing groups form the heart of our gathering and help us to meet each other on a deep level, come to understand our own limitations, and relish the rich blessings of diversity. We learn to be more tender and imaginative in receiving and giving communication. Detailed guidance – notes and questions – deepened and informed Worship Sharing groups. Summer School included “Experiment with Light”, and practice in talking about our faith.

Communication is a challenge. Email and the Website are replacing personal contact because of expense, new customs, the breakdown of postal services and thousands of kilometres between meetings. This continually endangers personal relationships. Many of us rely on traditional media and electronic coverage is patchy and faulty. Our common language is English which can be unnecessarily highbrow. However, YM provides an experience which builds up mutual trust and enriches the ground from which we operate. Our Handbook, available in hard copy and on the website, describes the Quaker Way and the unique and spirit-filled practice and experience of Friends in Southern Africa; our corporate memory.

We sensed that the time had come to break with outdated habits and for a great “spring cleaning” to fit us for the new world emerging in Africa in the 21st century. Change and renewal centred on a fruitful, re-vitalised Nominations process and fresh procedures which do not waste energy but allow reliable officers to make practical decisions. We broke into local meeting groups to consider which YM offices were unnecessary and to nominate those from our own Local Meetings whom we knew to be properly suited and qualified for positions. A rich crop of names were given to the current Nominations Committee to consider for the truly necessary offices.

We looked at the Outcomes we want. There will be co-ordinators for each of six clusters to focus on: Strengthening Meetings; Communication; Financial Oversight; Clerks and Administration; Youth and Activism and Advocacy. Instead of unwieldy committees we appointed trusted co-ordinators with power to co-opt suitable persons. They are obliged to report to YM and Mid-year meetings and must appoint and brief deputies if they cannot attend.

Improved discipline in business meetings, the microphone and the calm competence of the Clerks helped us to sense the guidance of the Spirit, respond to the Light and move into Unity.
The Richard Gush lecture gave a taste of the future academic and actuarial work required to calculate the way business and other organisations improve or destroy the Earth, the Economy, ”the Wellbeing” of stakeholders and the planet. Using “Ecos” as the environmental currency, the “triple bottom line” in the reports of business and national organisations could become accurate and meaningful, and organisations can be held accountable for the sustainability of their activities in each of those domains.

Singing, the final Celebration provided chiefly by children and young friends, the sunshine, swimming pool and good ordering of the children’s program, lightened our hearts. We enjoyed the few visitors from other continents. “Nature walks“ took the place of costly outings. Young Friends were not separate, but were full participants at all times.
Our Theme: Reverence for Life – Silence, Transformation and Action has inspired us to look into the future, to sweep away the autumn leaves and make space for the new growth and vision from the grass roots of our community. We hold each other in the Light.

Clerks: Central and Southern Africa Yearly Meeting
January 2015

Switzerland Yearly Meeting – 2015 – Epistle

To Friends everywhere:

Epistle from Swiss Yearly Meeting

  • Religiöse Gesellschaft der Freunde in der Schweiz (Quäker)
  • Société religieuse des Amis en Suisse (quakers)
  • Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) – Switzerland Yearly Meeting

Held at Herzberg, Asp ob Aarau, Aargau on 22nd-25th May 2015

We gathered together in the Light to “Imagine a world without war – Living for a world in peace”. In a world where conflict, war and their consequences are reported daily in the media, the theme of peace was particularly relevant to our personal, national and global experiences. We were 50 Friends and attenders including 4 children. We met for the fourth time over Pentecost on the Herzberg. We welcomed 3 delegates and 2 visitors from other European Yearly Meetings (France, Germany, Britain) and 2 visitors from Russia and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Workshops over the three days were organized around the many aspects of peace, e.g. religion, education, economy, as well as one workshop on peaceful martial arts (Aikido).
Inspiration was gleaned from a video on Bertha von Suttner, the first women to receive the Nobel Peace Prize in 1905. We were shaken by Junior Nzita’s memoir over his time as a child soldier in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The history and origins of the Quaker Peace Testimony were presented, followed by sessions to discuss personal testimonies of spiritual transformation and how they influenced living for a world in peace. Many and varied suggestions were made on how we as individuals and a “church of peace” could set about this work. However, the urgency to promote changes as individuals and meetings was palpable.

We began and ended our Yearly Meeting with music, enjoying the musical talents of our children and adults.

Greetings to Friends everywhere,
Nancy Krieger, co-clerk


 

An die Freunde in aller Welt:

Epistle der Schweizer Jahresversammlung
22-25. Mai 2015; Herzberg, Asp ob Aarau, Kanton Aargau

Die diesjährige Jahresversammlung (JV) der Schweizer Religösen Gesellschaft der Freunde fand unter dem Motto „Stellt euch vor eine Welt ohne Krieg – leben für eine Welt in Frieden“ in der Begegnungsstätte Herzberg bei Aarau statt. In einer Welt in der täglich Berichte über Konflikte und Kriege Schlagzeilen machen, ist uns das Thema von einer „Welt in Frieden“ ein besonderes Anliegen. An der JV nahmen 50 Freunde und Freunde der Freunde, darunter vier Kinder, teil. Zudem konnten wir drei Delegierte und zwei Besucher von weiteren Europäischen JVen (Frankreich, Deutschland, GB) sowie zwei Besucher aus Russland und der Demokratische Republik Kongo willkommen heissen.

Während der drei Tage wurden Workshops zu vielfältigen Aspekten von Frieden und Friedensarbeit organisiert, z.B. im Zusammenhang mit Religion, Erziehung, Wirtschaft, sowie ein Workshop über friedvolle Kampfkunst (Aikido).

Ein Filmbeitrag über das Leben und Werk Bertha von Suttners, der ersten Frau die den Friedens-Nobelpreis 1905 erhielt, inspirierte uns. Erschüttert waren wir von dem Bericht von Junior Nzita, über seine Erfahrungen als Kindersoldat im Kongo.
Es wurde über die Geschichte und Ursprung der Quäker Friedenszeugnisse referiert. Dieser Vortrag wurde durch den Austausch persönlicher Erfahrungen zu einer spirituellen Transformation ergänzt. Die Notwendigkeit und Dringlichkeit sich des Themas Friedens auf individueller wie auch gemeinschaftlicher Ebene anzunehmen war überall greifbar.
Auf der Grundlage dieser Quellen bemühten wir uns konkrete Wege für ein friedliches Miteinander zu finden.

Wir begannen und beendeten die Jahresversamlung mit Musik und erfreuten uns dabei an den musiklaischen Talenten unserer Kinder und Erwachsenen.

Herz(berg)liche Grüße an die Freunde in aller Welt,
Nancy Krieger, co-clerk


 

Children’s Epistle

We had fun going together to the Naturama. There we saw cute animals like mice, fish, mammoths and others. We also worked together to build a giant puzzle on a wall to explain the importance of maintaining nature. We played Foosball with Junior, ate ice cream and cheetos and decorated shopping bags.

Michel talked to us about Lebanon and how he did a non-violence training program there and that despite the war people still managed to come to the course.

Junior talked to us about being a child soldier and how it took away his childhood that he will never get back.

We enjoyed sharing our musical talents, saxophone, cellos, guitars and voices.

2015 Annual Session Epistle

Epistle
PACIFIC YEARLY MEETING
69th Annual Session 2015

July 18, 2015
To the gathered people called Friends, everywhere:

At Walker Creek Ranch in northern California, from July 13 through July 18 2015, Pacific Yearly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends met on land where the Miwok people have lived among the oak and deer, sustained by a gentle stream, both still and swirling with movement. Our widespread community came together from Mexico, Guatemala, Hawaii, Nevada, and California, to share a week of friendship, nurture, and the promise of transformation, centered on our theme of love and justice

“This is the day the Lord has made…” With these words, Lloyd Lee Wilson, Friend with us under a traveling minute from North Carolina Yearly Meeting Conservative, began his keynote address. Drawing on Psalm 127, Lloyd Lee reminded us that before we can change the world, we must be changed ourselves. Our shared conviction as Friends, that the total healing of the world is possible, inspires our lives. Yet not by our own wisdom and direction but through the faithful and courageous responsiveness to God’s guidance will this be accomplished. And like the motion of a pendulum, the shape of this life involves stillness, the swing to motion, and the return to reflective stillness. True Godliness does indeed turn us to the mending of the world, but it must first be true Godliness that does the turning.

We were deeply moved in our gathering by what we learned of marginalized and vulnerable people in our world. Children fleeing violence in their home countries, who cross the southern United States border, face mistreatment and risk in the U.S., often being placed in privatized detention centers. We grieve for these young persons and feel called to their support, and to the work required to insure their safety.

We are sensitive also to the potential dangers to our own Quaker children here. Our Ministry and Oversight committee brought the fruits of a long discernment over our responsibility to protect our children from sexual and other forms of abuse. We wrestled with this call to more careful work in staffing and overseeing our children’s and youth programs.

Paula Palmer, Friend with us under a traveling minute from Boulder Monthly Meeting and Intermountain Yearly Meeting, brought her concern to promote right relationships with First Peoples. She led intergenerational workshops to help us understand the legacy of the Doctrine of Discovery. Through an experiential encounter with our history many became aware of the burdens of our complex past and present, and of the call to an active recovery of right relationship with native peoples.

Our Walker Creek setting brought us to an immediate awareness of the beauty and preciousness of the natural world. Jose Aguto of Friends Committee on National Legislation, called on us to join a movement of moral conscience for climate action. FCNL urges us to join with other faith communities in a coalition of conscience for the stewardship of our world. There is awareness and good will in our country, a great reservoir of possibility for change; the faith community, including Friends, has a crucial role in releasing this reservoir to action.

Our Unity With Nature Committee brought us another call for climate action. We approved endorsing “Facing the Challenge of Climate Change: a Shared Statement by Quaker Groups,” which calls on our leaders and other communities to take action to protect our natural world. This endorsement led Friends to minister that such statements are only the first step. We must also take action on our own part in support of this call.

The needs of the world are great and we found ourselves challenged by these new levels of awareness. How can we be a moral witness and follow our leadings into action? How can we develop a foundation of faith and trust that will guide and support us in a turn toward the mending of the world?

Our week together also included other opportunities for deepening discernment, for learning, and for spiritual growth. In these ways we sought to make manifest the beloved community not yet fully present among us.

Our “listening sessions” were opportunities to share discernment on topics in advance of our business plenaries. Freed from the pressure to move to unity, we were able to more fully explore sensitive and complex issues in preparation for our business meetings.

We gathered to learn as well. We sought to honor our elders and ancestors in a series on transformative Quakers. These included Albert Bigelow, sailor of the Golden Rule, John and Alice Way, founders of Pacific Ackworth Friends School, Marjorie Sykes, Quaker educator in India, and Heberto Sein, co-founder of Casa de Los Amigos and Mexico City Monthly Meeting.

We continued our daily “come as you are” Bible study sessions, to which all were invited, regardless of viewpoint or degree of experience with the Bible. Attenders were asked only to be willing to have a respectful and spirit-led experience of the text. Many came and were nourished.

Our Quaker Youth Program Committee told us of the work of our Youth Program Coordinator and the newly funded projects in support of youth. We were told of the youth service learning camp at Quaker Oaks Farm, put on in partnership with the local Wukchumni tribe. A weekend gathering immediately preceding our annual session brought Lloyd Lee Wilson and Paula Palmer to join Young Adult Friends and others in a rich time of learning and exploration. Our Children’s and Junior Yearly Meeting programs brought energy and intergenerational spirit to our week. Our times in worship in our great meeting tent were often accompanied by the voices of children around us.

The call to deepen our trust in the spirit and follow our leadings in action, to find the way of love and justice, pervaded our time together. An exercise in the teen program proposed a metaphor for our search and the role of our community. Blindfolded groups of teens, supporting one another, struggled to stay on a rope line, on a course that took unexpected turns through unfamiliar territory. So, too, do we as a corporate body, seek to support each other’s leadings together, our imperfect attempts at following the light rooted in the Holy Spirit. Truth comes through our relationships as a gathered people in our search for love and justice. The word is given to us as a community and made manifest in action. Let us try what love can do.

Steve Smith
Presiding Clerk

FWCC Europe & Middle East Section Annual Meeting (4 – 7 June 2015)

Epistle from FWCC Europe & Middle East Section Annual Meeting

Held at Woodbrooke Quaker Study Centre, Birmingham, 4 – 7 June 2015

To Friends everywhere, Loving GreetingsSrdečné pozdravy,

kærlige hilsener, Hartelijke groeten, Lämpimin terveisin, salutations affectueuses, Liebe Grüße, Szeretettel köseöntzük, Calorosi saluti, Hjertelig hilsen, Serdecznie pozdrawiamy, сердечный приветвие, saludos cariñosos, kära hälsningar, Beannacht Dé oraibh, salut amics, salamu za upendo

This year’s gathering of Europe & Middle East Section comprised over 80 participants, and was enriched by the presence of members of FWCC’s Central Executive Committee, as we have gone about our business and our theme, looking at ourselves as pilgrims on a journey whose next stage will be the 2016 World Plenary Meeting in Pisac, Peru.

We have explored what this means to us as individuals, meetings, and as the world family of Friends. In plenary, in pairs, and in groups, we have asked: where have we come from, where are we going and how can we support one another as we travel? It has been a joy to consider these queries together at the nourishing watering hole of Woodbrooke, before continuing on our paths, whether to Pisac, or elsewhere. Looking forward, it has been valuable to contemplate the signposts pointing us towards action.

Ben Pink Dandelion’s keynote address reminded us that Quakerism is inherently collective as well as diverse. He challenged us to be ready to speak out our personal awareness of the divine but also open to listen from our hearts to those whose religious experience, however differently expressed, might emerge from the same deep place. We were struck by his suggestion that the Amish query – does this action build community? – can be an excellent way of testing discernment about things great and small.

We are, as our speaker said, a ‘do it together’ religious community and we long to make that more of a reality, especially for very small groups and those who are lone Quakers within their area or even larger region. So it was wonderful to hear, in our worship for business, of the exciting opportunity which has opened for EMES. The Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust has entrusted EMES with the administration of a Small Grants Fund. Its aim is to support European & Middle East Quaker groups in finding ways to grow our Quaker identity. This spirit-led generosity and trust greatly encourages us to look forward to the strengthening of our Quaker witness across the Section.

The joy of our meeting included early morning exercise for some and Experiment with Light for others; on our final evening we joined in dancing and singing together. At evening epilogue we have been led in varied and engaging worship by Friends from the Africa, Asia West Pacific and Americas Sections. The opening presentation and later excursions to Quaker places and projects, have given us a glimpse of Central England Quakers’ vibrant faith in action.

In all these things we have felt blessed that the Spirit of God works to unite us. While across the FWCC Sections our backgrounds may be very different, we share a loving trust. Our religious quest, our testimonies and our commitment to a life of faith in action bring us into unity that is deeper than words or outward uniformity. We give thanks for the deep ministry experienced in our worship. We are glad to share this journey, experiencing God in our loving relationships. As we draw strength from the inspiration of our intense experience here, we know it will sustain us for our pilgrimage. This refreshment is not just for us. We want to give to others what we have discovered through meeting one another and exploring our richly diverse ways of expressing our faith and experience. ‘To give the message, we must be the message.’ (Thomas Kelly)

Signed in and on behalf of FWCC-EMES

Rachel M Bewley-Bateman - FWCC-EMES Clerk
Rachel M Bewley-Bateman – FWCC-EMES Clerk

Baltimore Yearly Meeting Prayer Request

Dear Friends:
We in Baltimore Yearly Meeting (BYM) have received many expressions of concern from Friends near and far about the civil unrest in Baltimore City over the past week and the events related to it. We deeply appreciate your prayers and take comfort in knowing we are part of a wider Quaker community that actively seeks peace, justice, and equality.  Events have unfolded quickly. They are part of a long and complicated history that extends far beyond Baltimore. We would like to provide a brief update, knowing that we cannot possibly capture all there might be to say, and share just a few things we do know. And we want to thank you for your prayers.
Homewood and Stony Run are the two BYM Meetings within Baltimore City. Their Meeting Houses are not in the immediate area of the unrest. Still, on Monday, 4/27, the flames of that night’s fires were clearly visible from the historic Friends Burial Ground in east Baltimore in another neighborhood. Friends from Homewood and Stony Run and other nearby Meetings live in many different parts of the city. Several Baltimore Friends live in the immediate vicinity of the most affected neighborhoods. Many Baltimore Friends know and work with people who live in them. These are our neighbors and our neighborhoods. All were affected by the curfew, which has now been lifted.
Many Friends participated in peaceful demonstrations both before and after the looting, vandalism, and violence erupted. By Tuesday, 4/28, several Baltimore Friends were working with local groups in some of the affected neighborhoods, including cleanup efforts. Baltimore staff of the American Friends Service Committee have been actively involved in those neighborhoods and brought attention to community needs and deeper causes often overlooked in media reports. Last year, Friends from area Meetings helped start the Maryland Alliance for Justice Reform (http://www.ma4jr.org/), which seeks changes in Maryland law affecting incarceration, some of which have already been enacted. There are many Friends whose ongoing social justice work has increased meaning and import during this time. For instance, a member of Sandy Spring Meeting serves as Deputy District Public Defender in Baltimore City. In that role, she has been involved in processing many of the cases of people arrested and has been quoted in the press about the circumstances of many of the arrests, the conditions arrestees faced, and continuing issues of injustice for those swept up by the police.
On May 1, over 30 Friends from at least six BYM Meetings and Friends Schools participated in a vigil at a busy intersection in front of Homewood’s Meeting House, sponsored by the Baltimore Quaker Peace and Justice Committee (a joint committee of Homewood and Stony Run – https://www.facebook.com/BQPJC). Signs included “Black lives matter, all lives matter.” One Friend approximated that 80 percent of those passing by gave a positive response. The vigil will continue again this Friday at 5pm.
After the vigil, the Committee sponsored a time of worship and sharing to listen to experiences of the past week and consider further responses. Stony Run’s co-clerk of the Committee, who is a retired Baltimore City police detective, spoke about her connections to and efforts in the Penn North neighborhood, both before and after the unrest, where some of the greatest unrest occurred. She also spoke of her efforts over many years urging the Baltimore City Police Department to engage in community policing and get to know the communities they are serving. We also heard of one Baltimore Friend’s direct encounter with the violence Monday night on her commute home. Friends will continue to season their leadings and share them as way opens. The Committee will meet again after this week’s vigil.
These are just a few of the ways Baltimore area Friends have been affected by and involved in the recent events here. They illustrate how we are all connected and all of us children of God. There is much we still do not know. There is much to do, not only here, but throughout our country and our world. These recent events reflect deep, complex, widespread, and long-standing issues of peace, justice, community, and equality. By all means, continue to pray for Friends and our neighbors in Baltimore. Please also continue to pray for guidance on how to address these same perplexing issues in your own communities. With God’s Grace, we can all make progress toward building a community of peace, justice, and love that embraces and nurtures the Light in us all.