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Archive for Quaker Life Magazine

Passages: Quaker Obituaries – September/October 2014

BRYAN Margueritte Elaine Bryan, known to friends and family as Marbie, passed away peacefully in Tucson, Arizona, on January 14, 2013. Born in Hutchinson, Kansas on September 18, 1930, she was the youngest of four children born to George Wilson Bryan and Maude Alice Vancil Bryan. Marbie seemed to develop some significant concepts at a very early age. She spoke of her childhood memory of running for the first time at two and being aware of a sense of “freedom” to go where she wanted to go. A concept of justice came to her early, too, when she was spanked by her mother, at the age of four, for not settling down and then spanked again for crying about the incident. After graduating from high school, Marbie attended the University of Wisconsin and received a B.A. in Education. While there, she met and married James Brault. It was during this time, also, that Marbie and Jim came upon Quakers when they attended a “faith fair” organized by the University. They found that the Quaker world view matched their own perspective. As a young person, Marbie was moved by the mystical power of life, hymns and the teachings of Jesus and by the age of 19, she had read the Bible. She tried various practices, including Christian Science. While with a Quaker group that worshipped in the Rathskeller at the University, Marbie realized how noisy her mind was, and it was there that she experienced a transformation through silent worship. The couple moved east, first to Ithaca, New York, and then to Princeton, New Jersey, where Jim pursued his Master’s and Doctorate degrees in Physics, and Marbie worked for Educational Testing Services. A friend from that time remembers how Marbie often came up with challenging ideas for projects and then followed through with the hard work needed to complete them. Some of her activities were connected with Princeton Friends Meeting and others with a small but energetic group of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom. After nine years in Princeton, the family — now including three small children moved to Tucson in 1964, relocating because of Jim’s job at the Kitt Peak National Observatory. Marbie was grateful for opportunities to travel with Jim to such places as Europe, China and India, and the couple hosted many overseas visitors. Marbie loved to experiment with food and encouraged others to do the same by initiating and hosting international potlucks with a foreign foods club. At age 39, Marbie went back to school and completed a second Bachelor’s degree and a Master’s degree in Drama. She also took a Progroff Intensive Journal workshop and continued journal writing throughout her life. It was through her writing that she learned to address injustice and her anger. She never stopped learning. In 1984, after 32 years of marriage, Marbie and Jim divorced. It was at this time Marbie attended Findhorn, a spiritual community and eco-village in Scotland, to find healing. She later talked of experiencing an awakening and a new awareness of Truth and Love. Her spiritual journey led her to consider, “Where do I get wisdom?” She also studied “A Course in Miracles” and took a class titled “People Facing Change in Their Lives.” Marbie Brault applied for membership in the Religious Society of Friends and became a member of Pima Meeting in 1985. In her letter of application, she stated that after many years of association with Friends it was time to “stand up and be counted” as she was moved by the work of the Sanctuary Movement. Marbie believed it was important to live your beliefs and she contributed to many charities. As an active member of Pima Meeting, she served in many roles and committees, including Long Range Planning, Ministry and Oversight, Trustees and Greeters. She also began a practice of making dolls, which would be sent to El Salvador through the American Friends Service Committee. She was asked to bring that work to Intermountain Yearly Meeting where, known as the Doll Project, it became a popular crafts activity, the creations being sent on to various communities. At Pima Meeting, Marbie was asked to take over the Homeless Hospitality project, and she kept that active for several years. Marbie looked for opportunity for work that would combine her love of writing, acting and teaching. She engaged with Sci-Expo, a venture for schools and went on to develop a program called Science Alive!, which brought into classrooms dramatizations of famous scientists who would explain their discoveries. Marbie directed this non-profit organization for 13 years, writing scripts, making costumes and training actors. She sometimes appeared in classrooms in costume as Madame Curie. Community and connections were always important in Marbie’s life. She felt inspired to provide land next to her house to create a community garden for the neighborhood. She sheltered many refugees in her home, worked with women’s gatherings and loved to open her home to her many friends and activities. She traveled the world, determined to live her life with the perspective that “everything is important and nothing is important.” She was a follower of the Dalai Lama, and one of the highlights of her life came in 2009 when she received a hug from him on her birthday. In her later years, rheumatoid arthritis curtailed her travel and activities. A memorial service celebrating Marbie Bryan’s rich life was held on July 27, 2013 at Pima Friends Meeting House. She is survived by her children, Stephen Brault and wife Jill Thorpe, Lisa Midyett and husband Jay, and Jennifer Wright and husband Frank, all of whom live in Tucson. Her three step-grandchildren, from the Wright family, are Irene (deceased), Rocky, and Shane. (Memorial minute approved 2014-07-13 by Pima Monthly Meeting of Friends, Tucson, Arizona)

CHETSINGH Dilawar Chetsingh, 75, died on May 31, 2014, at Noida, New Delhi, India. Dilawar was born at the Friends Mission Hospital, Itarsi, India, to Doris and Ranjit Chetsingh on October 26, 1938. He had a carefree childhood at the Friends Rural Centre, Rasulia, India. After schooling in India and at Friends School, Saffron Walden, England, he studied history at University and went into Indian Government Service. Dilawar later used his retirement to the full, continuing to give significant help and support to individuals and taking on responsible honorary positions in four organizations concerned with religious, educational and social work. He was a key member of the General Conference of Friends in India, where he is remembered as “a loving elderly figure who was always there to help and guide with a smile on his face.” From 2004-2012, he served as Clerk of the Asia West Pacific Section of the Friends World Committee for Consultation, and concurrently on the Central Executive Committee. An FWCC colleague recalls his “perseverance and non-confrontational and even temperament. Dilawar undertook administrative work for the Lott Carey Baptist Mission in India, becoming its president, with responsibility for four secondary schools in Noida as well as AIDS and leprosy clinics and attending the Biennial Conference of the Mission in the USA. Dilawar loved to travel and to interact with people. He always had plenty of questions to ask them. He was a keen and knowledgeable birdwatcher. Tributes since his death emphasize how his names set the benchmark for his life. His first name, Dilawar, can be translated Greatness of Heart, and his second name, Kripal means merciful, compassionate. These qualities in his character remain present to his wife, Snehlata, his daughter Kripa and her family in England, his son Ranjit in Canada, and relatives and friends worldwide.

REYNOLDS Floyd Addison Reynolds, 88, passed away on July 11, 2014. Mr. Reynolds was preceded in death by his parents Solon Addison Reynolds and Alma Barker Reynolds; brothers, A. Ray Reynolds, Joseph P. Reynolds and Paul E. Reynolds, James C. (J.C.) Reynolds and sister, Margie R. Pike. He is survived by his wife of 55 years, Susie Latham Reynolds; daughter, Jane R. Beck of Thomasville; son, Bruce L. Reynolds and wife Donelle Sain Reynolds of Wake Forest, North Carolina; grandchildren, Austin Beck and wife Rachel Clift Beck, Taylor Beck, Stafford Beck, Connor Beck, McKenzie Reynolds and Cameron Reynolds and Floyd’s sister, Lucille Hylton. Also surviving are numerous nieces, nephews and cousins. Mr. Reynolds was born in the Providence Friends Community near Pleasant Garden, North Carolina and graduated valedictorian from Providence High School in 1943. He was awarded a B. S. degree in Mathematics by Guilford College in 1949 and a Master’s of Education by UNC Chapel Hill in 1954. He was employed by Guilford College as an Instructor of Mathematics from 1960-1963 and as registrar from 1963-1992. He was an avid gardener and loved spending time with his children and grandchildren.

THOMPSON Donna M. Thompson, 86, of Wabash, Indiana, died June 12, 2014, in Fort Wayne, Indiana. She was born June 14, 1927, in Wabash, Indiana, to Ora Rife and Ethel (Garner) Rife Rettig. Donna was a 1945 graduate of Linlawn High School. She married Robert A. “Gus” Thompson in Wabash, Indiana, on November 23,, 1949; he died May 26, 1990. She managed the ABC Curb-A-Teria in Wabash for 20 years. She was a member of Wabash Friends Church and the Alpha Pi Omega Sorority. Donna loved her family and enjoyed reading. She is survived by her two daughters, Debbie Higgley Sailors and Karen (Gary) Halverson, both of Wabash; two grandchildren, Jason Higgley of Pewaukee, Wisconsin, and Christi (Todd) Bland of Wabash; two great- grandchildren, Hayley Bland and Joey bland, both of Wabash. She was preceded in death by her husband, her parents and her step-father, Frank A. Rettig.

WINSLOW L. Clinton Winslow Jr., 81, died quietly at his home on July 12, 2014, after a long struggle with health issues stemming from cancer. A lifelong resident of Belvidere in Perquimans County, North Carolina, he was the son of the late Lynwood C. Winslow Sr. and Sylvia A. White Winslow. He married Catherine Goodwin on his 22nd birthday, and they enjoyed 59 years of marriage together. Mr. Winslow was a graduate of Perquimans County High School where he was named All-Eastern in football and known to many as “Big Clint”. After graduation he worked for Hertford Motor Company and J.C. Blanchard and Company Department Store before taking over operation of the family farm at his father’s death in 1957. At one point cultivating just over 400 acres, he found great satisfaction and pride in his crops of corn, soybeans and peanuts, and was among the first in the area to return to growing cotton in the early 1980’s. After retirement he continued to raise several acres of vegetables, readily sharing the produce with friends and family. He combined his love of mechanics and auctions through the buying, rebuilding and re-selling of used farm equipment, as well as by collecting and restoring antique tractors, gas engines and tools. Mr. Winslow was an active, birthright member of Up River Friends Meeting, and his Quaker faith, up-bringing and heritage played major roles in defining his life and character. He had served Up River over the years as Sunday School Superintendent, clerk of Ministry and Counsel, a Trustee and chairman of the House and Grounds Committee. In his younger years he sang in the Up River Men’s Chorus and later in the adult choir. He was an active supporter of Eastern Quarterly Meeting and North Carolina Yearly Meeting of Friends, attending both regularly from childhood up until his failing health prevented him from doing so and serving for a time on the Board of Directors of Friends Homes in Greensboro, North Carolina. He was a trustee and treasurer for the Up River Community Cemetery and dedicated many days towards its mowing and upkeep. He had served on the Perquimans County Planning Board, the county committee of the Perquimans A.S.C.S. (now Farm Service Agency), and for many years on the Perquimans County Farm Bureau Board of Directors. Mr. Winslow was a member of the Parksville Raritan Club for well over 50 years, a charter member of the Perquimans County Volunteer Rescue Squad and a retired member of the Belvidere-Chappell Hill Volunteer Fire Department. Early in life he developed an enjoyment of hunting, spending many nights ‘coon hunting and days bear hunting with friends, and later hunting deer as a member of the Bear Swamp Hunt Club and the Belvidere Nicanor Hunt Club. When his health kept him from participating in the hunt, he kept up an interest in watching deer and wild turkeys in the field behind his home. Although Mr. Winslow served his meeting and his community well throughout his lifetime, his love for his family was evident in everything he did — even through the difficult times of illness which filled his last years. In addition to his wife, Catherine G. Winslow; he is survived by a daughter, Beth (Anna Elizabeth) Winslow Sanders, and son-in-law Stephen O. Sanders of Rock Hill, South Carolina; a son, Lynwood C. Winslow III of Belvidere, North Carolina; a grandson, Adam O. Sanders and wife, Dana of Apex, North Carolina; a granddaughter, Rachel E. Sanders of Greenville, South Carolina and a great-grandson, Luke O. Sanders. He is also survived by his sister, LaClaire W. R. Anderson, and brother-in-law Garland Anderson of Elizabeth City, North Carolina; nieces Susan R. Harris (Phil) and Ann R. Carpenter (Roger), three great-nieces, four great-nephews, seven great-great-nieces and nephews, and many cousins and friends.

My Visit to Baragoi in Samburu North

By Sammy Letoole

In mid-May 2014 I went to Baragoi (Kenya), which is approximately 200 kilometres north of Samburu central. I went with my family to visit the church and my in-laws who live there. Baragoi is a dry place, more so than Samburu central. Both the Samburu and the Turkana people live there and have been fighting for many years due to cattle, sheep, goats and camel rustling, with many losing their life over these conflicts. We had started a church in the middle of both groups in a strategic place where these groups could worship together.

After visiting my in-laws, the Holy Spirit gave me an idea. I felt I needed to talk to both groups so that they would come together and live in peace. I knew it would be a difficult and a dangerous thing to do, but I believed that God sent me to do it. I informed my family about the idea of going down to visit the Turkana settlement. But my family didn’t like the idea. My wife got mad and through her tears, she asked, “How can you decide to do such a dangerous thing?” I tried to encourage her, pleading that I should go because it was God who was sending me and our lives are in His hands. Finally, my family gave me their blessings and wished me all the best.

The Turkana settlement is about 40 kilometres west of Baragoi town (headquarters of Samburu North) — approximately three to four hours walk. There is no public transportation to that place and no person wanted to risk his or her life to take me there because of so many incidents of fighting.

Luckily enough, there was a Turkana man that day who was going there to take food stuffs to the people who lived in that place. I asked him for a lift. But the first thing he asked was, “Which tribe are you?” I hesitated and finally said, “I’m a Samburu pastor.” And he said, “Sorry I can’t carry you in my Land Rover, since it’s so risky.” I kept on begging him to agree to take me there since the risk was greater if I walked. He agreed and told me he would not be accountable for whatever was to happen to me.

We drove for about one hour or so before we reached our destination. The man introduced me to other men using the Turkana language. I didn’t know what they were saying and assumed he was telling them about me. One of the young men went right away into the settlement to inform the people I was there. He came back after half an hour or so and took me by the hand to lead me in.

What I saw made me more worried, and I prayed silently while following the man. As we passed through three fences I prayed for courage. These fences indicated that people were trying to protect themselves against outside attack either by the Samburu or the Pokot. The settlement was so big and had approximately 260 households or more. A man took me in the middle of the settlement where both old and young were seated. I was given a chair in the middle of them and as they surrounded me.

Luckily enough, there was a man who could speak Swahili, which gave me the chance to explain what brought me there. When others heard that I’m a Samburu by tribe they concluded that I was a spy. But before I started talking I prayed, “Lord, here I am. You sent me to these people, so give the words to speak.” I started speaking by greeting them. I introduced myself, where I came from and my work as pastor in a Quaker church. No one had an idea what the Quaker church was, but I took time to explain it to the best of my knowledge.

I stated that my intention was to bring the Samburu and the Turkana people together. I said that one part of the work the Quaker Church does all over the world, is to bring peace between the communities and countries. “Today God sent me to bring peace between the Turkana and the Samburu people, since you had been fighting for a long time. So this is the time you need to come together and live as brothers and sisters, since all of us belong to God our creator and protector.” I made sure that I spoke carefully so as to not hurt or annoy anybody.

After they listened to me for about an hour, I answered their questions. One man stood up and said, “We have never heard something of this sort and we thought all these years that this was the work of the government.” I explained to them that the work of the government is to intervene and attack the group that had raided the other ones. By doing so many people died. I also said that the government can’t solve the problem. The work of the church is to initiate a conversation so that people will reach a mutual understanding and know the will of God in their lives. He said, “Surely this is what we have been looking for throughout many years. We are tired of losing young, innocent lives.” I was really moved by that testimony. I was about to shed tears, as I had in my mind that 42 young soldiers had lost their lives and many young Turkana, Samburu and Pokot lost their lives too.

Finally he said, “Man of God, welcome to our place! Anytime you want to arrange a talk between the Samburu and the Turkana people, God will help you to bring us together!” Then they gave me their blessing. I felt like I had become friends with them and stayed there for three days. Then they accompanied me back to Baragoi where we walked together for three hours, since we didn’t have means of transport. So Friends, please pray with me, and let’s join hands together to support this great work ahead of us.

Sammy Letoole is Director of Samburu Friends Mission, Kenya

A Spontaneous Prayer

By Ruthie Tippin

Lord, God, some of us know you by only one name. And, we treasure that name and we treasure that relationship. We can only see you as being that name. Lord God, you are known by so many names. You are such fullness. You are over all, above all, in all and through all. And you cannot be defined by one name only; just as each of us have our own names and just as they are written in your hands. Every morning when you get up Lord, you see us written in your hands.

Help us, Lord, to know you in all the ways that you are God: as Christ, as shepherd, as king, as prophet, as priest, as Father, as Mother, as Lover, as Friend. Free us from judging others who name you in other ways than we know. Allow us, Lord, the same mercy that you have given us. Allow us to extend that mercy to those around us. In our own homes, Lord, in our extended families. In our meetings, churches, neighborhoods or cities. In our nation and in those nations around the world. Help us to rely Lord on the way you see the world and to trust you in it.

Thank you, Lord, for the diversity of Friends United Meeting. We would not want it to mirror itself over and over again, because the image would become distorted. We love the way you have created us in such unique ways.

Now, Lord, it is our work to do. To recognize you in a prophetic way. To hear your voice speaking and to do what you have called us to do, which is, first of all, to love. And then to love, and then to love again. So that anything that comes from the work of Friends United Meeting might be said to come from the love of God.

So, we ask for your blessings on these who have brought your message to this Triennial and have yet to speak, that we would have sheep’s ears so that we might hear the Shepherd’s voice. That we might remember we are in your kingdom and we might recognize the voice of the King and the Queen.

Help us, Lord. Put us in that place where we need to be in order to be truly available to who you are individually for each one of us.

And then, allow us to give thanks. Again, and again, and again. That you are speaking in such beautiful and unique ways through so many different people. Draw us together as one in the Spirit’s tether.

Thank you for your servant, your lover, your friend, our dear Richard. We ask for your blessings over his life and for Carolyn. We thank you for our dear Colin. We know that his coming was an answer to prayer. We ask for your blessing to fall over Colin and Janine. We ask you for blessing to fall in full ways over each one of the yearly meetings, associations and persons that
are a part of who we are as Friends United Meeting and who we are as yet to be. Amen.

Ruthie Tippin is the pastor of Indianapolis First Friends in Western Yearly Meeting.

FUM News in Brief – September/October 2014

Kaptama Health Centre Vision Camp on Mt. Elgon, Kenya

By John Muhanji

It was a moment when the dark mountain became bright and nature could be seen from its true colors — a moment when a cloudy atmosphere disappeared from the face of Julius who now saw his wife differently. Julius’s eye sight was invaded by cataracts many years ago. He was one of many whose sight was recaptured by the miraculous work done at Kaptama Health Centre.

Early morning of July 3rd, a high number of people walked from all directions toward the hospital for the first day of the camp. The young, middle aged and seniors streamed towards the hospital by walking, riding on donkeys and motorbikes. Others were carried or led by friends. The team of health care providers of Sabatia Eye Hospital and Wabash Friends Church found the Kaptama Hospital grounds full of people waiting to be treated. Julius was among the first people to be seen and booked for surgery the following day. The vision camp saw and treated over 1200 people.

The hospital was equipped with a surgery building, but it had never been used since it was built in 2004. During the vision camp, that surgery building handled over 100 surgeries excellently. Julius came back after having his eye sight restored and helped other people in the line, keeping order while rejoicing and praying God.

The mission on the mountain was two-fold. On one hand, eye sight was restored to many. On the other, spiritual transformation was evident. Initially, six trained young people in discipleship trained another 12, and those twelve trained 16 other disciples. Both groups are actively involved in reaching many other places on the mountain and planting churches. Because of this, the Ndorobo people who live in the forest, and do not mix with other people freely, were reached for Jesus. They, too, came to the vision camp after traveling over 30kms.

This camp and its results reminded me of the incident mentioned in Matthew 9:27-31: “As Jesus went on from there, two blind men followed him calling out: ‘Have mercy on us, son of David!’” The blind men heard about Jesus’ miraculous healing power from other people in the region and pursued him actively, doing their best to get attention. Jesus then turned the spotlight back on them, asking them to honestly reflect on their faith.

People came to Kaptama Health Centre to be healed and left rejoicing and praising God for renewed eyesight. Joys and praises reigned in the air on the mountain. People left the camp and stated that they have been changed through this ministry, causing others to come and be healed as well.

January/February Work Team Invitation

You are invited to visit and work among Friends meetings in eastern Cuba (particularly in Holguin and Gibara) at sites where Cuban Friends meet for camp, yearly meeting sessions and pastoral training. Some stamina is required for unskilled construction tasks, travel, longer walks and multiple church gatherings.

To register, go to: www.regonline.com/cuba_jan_2015.

A $200 non-refundable deposit is required at the time of registration as well as a copy of your passport. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact Terri Johns by email or by phone at 765-962-7573.

Dates: Last week of January through first week of February (exact dates determined on flight schedule from Miami to Holguin, TBA.)
Cost: $2,100
Participant Limit: 10 team members
Deadline: September 30, 2014

REGISTER NOW

Cost includes:

• Round trip flight from Miami to Holguin, Cuba
• Hotel stay in Miami on either side of the trip
• All meals, transportation and lodging in Cuba
• Needed supplies for work
• Visas and licenses
• Note: Costs will need to be adjusted if fares change significantly

Cost does not include:

• Meals in Miami on either side of the trip (team dines together)
• Baggage fees (estimated at $100)
• Flights to Miami and home
• Spending money for offering, snacks, souvenirs, etc.
• In addition, most work team participants carry items needed by Cuba Yearly Meeting

The First FUM Stewards

By Dan Kasztelan

The first year of the FUM Stewards program went exceedingly well. Four young adults — representing a wide range of ages and levels of Quaker involvement — participated.

Throughout the five days we were together, the stewards spoke about how they experience God, and tried out several new spiritual disciplines in order to experiment with expanding their responsiveness to God’s presence. Powerful stories were heard from Friends Sammy Letoole and Getry Agizah about how God has approached them in their work as African peacemakers.

The stewards also participated in many of the general activities of the Triennial, including the plenary sessions, workshops and other activities. Perhaps the greatest success of the Stewards program was in offering these young adults a family-like home in which to share stories and responses about the Friends they were meeting and the ideas they were hearing.

Feedback from the four stewards was extremely positive. As we left each other on Sunday, they were counting down to the next Triennial and figuring out how many more times they’d be able to participate in the program before hitting the upper age limit (27). They’ve also made plans for how to stay in touch after Marion.

2014 O&P Changes Approved

The following Operations and Procedures (O&P) changes were accepted and approved during the 2014 Triennial Business Sessions:

1. Membership:
• Clarifies the provision for Associations and other Quaker groups to become members.
• Establishes criteria for membership that includes alignment with FUM’s purpose statement and ministry priorities, and a willingness to actively engage in and financially support FUM’s mission.

2. Redefinition of staff structure:
• The General Secretary will be the sole executive staff member.
• All other staff will be hired by the General Secretary.

3. Definition of Global Regions of Friends United Meeting:
• Provides provisions for regional gatherings to meet and focus on ministries in their area.
• Grants authority and responsibility for Global Regions to name and populate commissions and task forces to broaden participation of individuals in the work of FUM and more effectively enable FUM to fulfill ministry priorities.

4. Establishment of a New Executive Board:
• Appointed and accountable to the General Board.
• Function as a global coordinating body of the General Board, structured for efficiency and to enhance global partnership priorities.
• Better balance regional representation.
• Meet more often through various communication means.

Closing Minute: Friends United Meeting Triennial 2014

This week, James Bryan Smith reminded us how completely we have been embraced by the love of God. Richard Foster reminded us that God’s divine power has already given us everything we need for life and godliness.

Colin Saxton reminded us how people in our world are hungering for what Friends have to offer:

· Intimate spirituality
· Radical discipleship
· Passion for justice
· Commitment to nonviolence
· Devotion to simplicity
· Concern for equality
· And a vision of a beloved community.

This week, the Lord met us here in Marion, Indiana, and gave us direction for our next steps together in mission.

As we all return to our home communities, may the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be over us all until we meet again.

Meanderings and Musings – September/October 2014

By Annie Glen – Communications Editor

My husband possess a unique ability to know what direction he needs to go to get to any destination he wishes. Most generally, he doesn’t need a map. Unlike me, he never gets lost.

I, on the other hand, could be placed within a cardboard box with the instructions, “Go to the upper right hand corner,” and I will get lost. When I venture out to parts unknown, there is always a part of me, deep within, that panics. I know that once I am lost, I will never figure out how to get to my destination.

My long suffering husband, who received the frenzied calls and who would calmly help me out of directional jams, thought it wise to purchase a GPS for me. What a gift! Now, I had a voice that would tell me to turn when I needed to, gave me fair warning that the exit was on the left and my destination was .2 miles on the right.

The only times I would get lost was when I ignored the voice — even when the voice stated and repeated, “At the earliest, most convenient time, make a U-turn.” I finally would listen — when I was about 50 miles out of my way. Turn around, make a U-turn. These words have been spoken to me more times than I can count — and not by a mechanical voice. There is deep within my soul a GPS that tells me and assures me that I am on the right path. I call it my “God Positioning System.”

My GPS was re-activated at the 2014 FUM Triennial with the words: “I am one in whom Christ dwells and takes delight. I live in the strong and unshakeable kingdom of God.” All of a sudden I heard my GPS state, “Are you ready? At the earliest, most convenient time, make a U-turn.” I have long held the belief that life with Jesus Christ is one that influences; it should be a model that listens to a spiritual GPS and does the actual work of God here on earth. God’s work. Not mine. God’s. I could do good works on my own and be OK, but is that the life to which God calls? Why can’t my work result in influencing others to a closer, tangible experience of a living God?

Through the speakers and the many conversations I had with people from all over the world at the Triennial, I found that tangible experience of God once more. I began to understand that I have ignored and eventually shut off my internal GPS system. My U-turn consisted of me looking at the belief that a tangible relationship with God, my Creator, does involve being a person of influence because my life is hidden in Christ with God.

Influence comes from not trying to do things on my own; it doesn’t come from my ego or determined sense of independence. It comes from trusting that my life, hidden in Christ, will influence. If I am one in Christ, the kingdom in which I reside becomes influential. The most significant part of the U-turn is the truth that it isn’t my life that influences, it is Christ’s.

I need to go back to a practice of listening intently and trusting that Voice. Christ’s voice spoke loudly during Triennials, “Annie, you are one in whom I dwell and take delight. Why don’t you let go and live in the strong, unshakeable kingdom in which I reign? The influence will be My job, if you just listen and trust my Voice.”

FUM, as a body, I believe, also heard its GPS say the same words. I found myself praying throughout the time, “We are listening, O God. May Your life become tangible to anyone we encounter. If we need to, may we turn around and make a U-turn right into Your strong and unshakeable kingdom. May the world experience Your influence, again. Amen.” It is a prayer I pray for you, my
Friends. And, may you never get lost.

Out of My Mind – September/October 2014

By Colin Saxton – General Secretary

Three years ago, when the Friends United Meeting search team interviewed me for the general secretary position, I told them one of the reasons FUM should not offer me the job is that I did not know that vast majority of people who populate this Quaker community. I had traveled some among FUM Quakers and built friendships and working relationships with a few of you, but it seemed to me FUM most needed a general secretary who was intimately connected to those she or he would be serving. Whoever they called, I suggested, ought to make relationship building and listening a major priority, in order to deepen the sense of community and discern how FUM could best move into the future. In response, the search team and General Board assured me I would have ample opportunity to get to know Friends if wound up being called to serve. It turns out, they were right . . .

I get to travel a lot in my work for FUM. Along the way, I have come to know and love Quakers from every corner of the world. Among the things I am tasked and led to do in service of FUM, one I enjoy the most is sitting down with individuals and small groups of Friends to talk about and dream about our life together and the work God is calling us we to do for the sake the world.

Around your kitchen tables, in your coffee shops and your meetinghouses, I’ve had the privilege of talking with many of you about FUM. Whether those conversations were in rural Tanzania, downtown Boston, sunny Jamaica or wintry Indiana, Friends have shared their hopes, fears, questions and concerns about the future of FUM.

At our recent Triennial, the staff and General Board shared an emerging strategic plan and set of priorities for the next five to 10 years. The particular features of this plan arose out of these many conversations with you and the responses we received from the Day of Discernment held over a year ago. The plans focus on new initiatives related to leadership development, improved communication and providing practical resources that support the life and vitality of local and yearly meetings who are a part of FUM, especially those in North America. We believe Friends have important work to do and that it will require a determined intentionality and deeper spirit of partnership and collaboration to see it come to fruition.

Over the last few months, FUM partnered with Henry Freeman to conduct a feasibility study to consider the possibility of an FUM Campaign. New and improved initiatives will require adequate and sustainable support if we are going to be effective and faithful. For several months, Henry also sat around the kitchen tables and local diners of Friends who were invited to be part of the study. He listened to the stories, passions and dreams of some of the people who make up our community. Over and over, Henry heard Friends speak hopefully about an FUM that can enable Friends to be more faithful, more effective and more united in Christian fellowship and service. They expressed a longing that FUM could make a transformational difference in the lives of individuals, meetings and yearly meetings by providing training, curriculum, shared experiences and connections aimed at energizing, equipping and connecting our community. The results of
the feasibility study were clear and consistent: FUM needs to move this direction and the time to do so is now. At the Triennial, the FUM General Board approved launching a $3,000,000 Campaign over the next three years. Above and beyond what Friends already give to support FUM, this new funding will begin to reposition FUM to better meet the needs of our community and set us on the path of making Friends’ hopes and dreams a reality.

Over the next several months, you will begin to hear more about the Campaign. Along the way, Friends will be invited to consider outright gifts, pledges and planned gifts that will enable FUM to not just meet our financial goal, but more importantly, deepen the sense of partnership in our shared future and turning hope for a vital Quaker community into increasing reality. It is my intent for the Campaign to also serve as a first step in building a much more sustainable base for FUM long-term. We have a future well beyond the next three years and now is also the time to be readying ourselves for it.

The launch of the Campaign means that I am going to having a lot more kitchen table and coffee shop conversations with all of you. I am excited about this and hope, when I call and ask to visit, you will consider meeting with me. Like so many of you, I love and believe in this community. Like you, I am passionate about our identity as Friends and sense our work and witness is as needed as ever. I think we have a hopeful future together. Let’s find new ways to partner together to make sure it is realized.

Joyful, Fearless and Always in Trouble!

By Colin Saxton

It has been a good week at the Triennial, hasn’t it? We were enlivened by the Spirit of God. We were re-membered, one-to-another into that living reality known as the Body of Christ. And maybe, just maybe, we are little more prepared to go back into our communities ready to continue the ministry of Jesus. What do you think?

On Thursday evening, I mentioned how several people have told me they thought Quakers had all died out. Turns out … not yet. As Mark Twain once said when a rumor started circulating that he had passed away, “Reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated.” We are not dead either — not by a long-shot.

In the future, I hope our vitality and felt impact in the world will not leave any room for doubt. In fact, it is my prayer that when others look at us, who they will really see is the Risen, Living Christ. This is who we are meant to be — the ongoing, incarnational Presence of Jesus, enfleshed in ordinary humanness but animated and directed by God’s Spirit . . .

Paul is even clearer in Colossians 3. As the ones who gets what God is up to in the world — reconciling all things in Christ — this becomes their joy and passion. Out of a growing intimacy and union with God, this chosen people put aside what might bind or distract them from their Good God and the Good Life and Great Work they have been invited to share in. So they put all of that behind them, like worn out clothing no longer suitable to wear. In its place, they dress themselves in lovely garments that bear witness to Christ’s presence in them: compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, long-suffering, forgiveness, peace … and above all, undying love. As this happens, the glory of God gets revealed through us — even people like us!
But this road to glory passes through a valley of death, as we learn to die to ourselves in order to be raised to new life.

Over the last few years, one story that keeps nagging at me comes from John’s gospel. It is the story of Jesus raising Lazarus from the grave. Let’s turn there together — John 11 and 12.

I am assuming most of us know the story. Jesus is summoned by Lazarus’ sisters because their brother is sick. But Jesus takes his time getting there, and by the time he arrives it is too late . . . or at least it seems. And though it has been a few days since he had passed away, Jesus calls to Lazarus’ tomb and before a crowd of people . . . a man’s life is returned to him.

Now, most often we leave the story of Lazarus at that point — a reunited family ready to live happily ever after. But if you read on, in particular to John 12, you find Jesus with friends in Bethany just before the Passover. In fact, they are meeting at Lazarus’ home, gathered around the table to enjoy a meal together, when in verse 9, we find this:

Meanwhile a large crowd of Jews found out that Jesus was there and came, not only because of him but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. So the chief priests made plans to kill Lazarus as well, for on account of him many of the Jews were going over to Jesus and putting their faith in him.

I am going to take a few liberties with the text at this point … but I think it is a fair reading of the situation. Here folks are eager to see Lazarus … just as much as they are eager to see Jesus. No doubt some wanted to trust Jesus … just as Lazarus trusted Jesus. But then we get this other bit of news — turns out many folks want to kill Lazarus … just as much as they want to kill Jesus.

What is all that about? Is this a story gone horribly wrong … one where happily ever after fails for Lazarus and his family? Or maybe … is there something wonderfully right about it, as he has finally become what we all are designed to be in Christ — a burning light — remade in Christ?

Lazarus, of course, had been a friend and follower of Jesus for some time. But now, having faced death, his life takes on a new quality and character . . .

Lazarus had just come through death and lived to tell about it. Not only “lived to tell about it” as though he barely escaped with his life. But LIVED TO TELL ABOUT IT — in the sense that this now becomes the sole focus of his future. And so that’s what he does — telling everyone about it through his words and through the content and character of his life. No wonder, then, that so many were simultaneously drawn to him and threatened by him. He had become a burning light— just like his Master…

Nietzsche once said something like this: If Christians wanted him to believe in Jesus, they’d have to start looking more resurrected. I think it is fair to say that Lazarus here is looking more resurrected — and people are noticing. You see his life is no longer his. He is dead to himself and now it is Christ who lives in him — fearless and free. He is at peace — able to face down a still violent world and not be afraid. I suspect Lazarus embodied the quality of life that Douglas Steere, the wonderful Quaker writer, once described this way (I am paraphrasing a bit):

“Christians should be absurdly joyful, entirely fearless, and always in trouble!”

Absurdly joyful, entirely fearless, always in trouble. I can’t say for sure this always described Lazarus’ life from the moment he stepped out of that cold tomb — into the warming Light of God’s new world, seen life from a brand new perspective … but I am guessing it might.

Friends, what do you think of Douglas Steere’s notion about the Christian life — joy, fearlessness and trouble? In those few words, I think we get a glimpse of some pretty essentials signs of life…

Joy! There are two things I pray regularly for Friends. One is humility — which I think we could use a real dose of now and again. The other is joy. Joy! That deep, lasting sense of gladness arising out of our experience of God’s overwhelming kindness for us.

As I keep learning to go deeper into Christ, joy is what I experience. Not giddy happiness. Not an absence from pain or the elimination of the kind of real-world suffering we all endure. In fact, in terms of a sensitivity to others’ suffering, it seems to me that the deeper one goes into the Christ-life, the more keenly one is aware of the hurt and brokenness there really is in the world.

Joy is an altogether different animal, isn’t it? It may cause you to do all kinds of outlandish things. Consider the parable Jesus told in Matthew 13 where Jesus so beautifully captures the essence of spiritual joy in the parable of a man who stumbles across a treasure hidden in field.

“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.” . . .

You know, he didn’t even “borrow” a few of the gold coins or precious stones in advance to pay off the land-owner. Instead, he went home and liquidated all of his assets in order to buy up the land and the treasure. What would move a person to do such a thing? JOY! Whatever he had found that day must have been amazing! Life-changing! He must have looked deeply enough into the treasure to realize it was worth far more than anything else he possessed.

For some of us, the faith-life winds up being much more an expression of some sense of duty, obligation, fear of punishment or tradition than it is a natural response arising out of a deep joy. When this is the case, the Christian witness is we demonstrate and proclaim winds up looking awfully constrained, reserved and guarded. There is little sense of wild abandon about it, not much radical self-giving, only hints of the kind of extravagant grace we’ve experienced in Christ. I wonder if joy was something Lazarus experienced after being raised to life? There is wonderful song by a fellow named Bradford Loomis called Dead Man’s Dance. The words are on the screen because I could play it for you this morning. It begins as a slow dirge and builds over the course of the song to a rocking celebration. The lyrics read:

O my love, when my days are done, and my bones have been put to rest
When my graven stone has found its home, may you not be bereft
Don’t waste your prayers on a wretch like me
My hearts been giv’n to wandering
All the things I’ve done since the war begun,
I could never be free
Wait my beleaguered love brings hope don’t set that stone
Though you feel meager,
Your heart may roam but mine will be your home
Wake, O you sleeper! There is still hope. Roll away that stone
Wake, O you sleeper! There is still hope. Roll away that stone
Come on up, rise on up, get out of that grave my Lazarus
Come on up, rise on up, get out of that grave sweet Lazarus
Go on get up Lazarus go on get out the grave
Oh you ain’t never seen nothing like a dead man dance

—Dead Man’s Dance by Bradford Loomis

I know . . . Quakers don’t dance . . . But maybe we would if we knew the joy of a Lazarus. Maybe today it would be enough to look again at the treasure we found in Christ . . . and see what a renewed joy might cause us to do.

I won’t spend so much time on being entirely fearless and always in trouble. Think about some the things we humans fear. What comes to mind? (Pain, not having enough, what people think about us, the unknown, etc). Do you think we’d view these differently through Lazarus’s eyes? Grace-healed eyes — that see people in a renewed light rather than our old prejudices. Eyes of generosity — that see God’s abundance rather our own limited resources. Eternal eyes — ones that sees a world set right…far beyond that one glaring issue or obstacle we can’t see beyond . . . The disciple’s life I have read about, seen modeled by my heroes in the faith or even experienced in my own life . . . is more like a wild boat ride where we are slapped around by frighteningly strong waves. And then in the midst of it, Jesus dares to show up and calls us to step out of the “safety” of the boat. Will we be ready to take a walk on the wild-side or seek the relative security of the boat? The more I read that story, the more I am convinced we ought to be praying God will sink the boat, if needed, to get us where we are called to go.
What we are promised is not safety — but a love that conquers every fear. And we are going to need every ounce of that love, because we are going to see and do some crazy stuff.

Which leads us to Steere’s third notion — that Christians will always in trouble. Hmmm, now hold on just a second here. Why does he have to spoil it that? Joy? You bet! Fearlessness? Ok, even if it does mean some scary stuff. But always in trouble? Isn’t it time to start the potluck?

One of my favorite theologians says it this way: “The cross is what happens to those who take God seriously.” The cross is not an inconvenience. It is what comes to a person who is willing to identify themselves with the values, priorities and purposes of the Gospel. It is the laying aside of ourselves, our ingrained cultural patterns, our status quo morality in order to be radically identified with Jesus. And when we do, the cross becomes the price we pay for our social non-conformity. It is what happens to people when the values of Jesus’ Kingdom collide with the values, priorities and wisdom of the world.

Long before Jesus ever faced his own literal cross, he had a crystal clear idea of what it meant to be crucified. Though the history of Jesus’ early life is very vague, one story from his teen years has some historical support. It is said that when he was a young man, there was a Jewish rebellion near his home. For a brief moment, Jewish Zealots seized control of the territory — away from the occupying Roman forces. Before long, however, the emperor sent in some of his powerful troops who simply overwhelmed this little band of rebels and quickly crushed the uprising. In the aftermath, the Romans wanted to ensure that the people learned a lesson they would not forget. So they crucified a Jewish male every 10 meters along a 16 kilometer stretch of road. For you math wizzes like me — who never got converted — to the metric system — that’s over 1700 people spaced every 30 feet for 10 miles. Imagine the horror . . .

If, indeed, young Jesus looked into the agonizing eyes of those dead and dying countrymen — the terror of it all was no doubt burned into his consciousness. It could never — would never leave him. And if that story is so, it is no wonder Jesus used the language of the cross as often as he did, even well before he faced his own. For in that ugly moment in human history, Jesus saw just what measure of evil God’s love was up against…how much sacrifice and devotion to God it would take by himself and others who would follow after — if the light was to, indeed, overcome the darkness.

But not by people unwillingly being led to their deaths — but rather by people voluntarily laying down their lives to take up a life of obedience to the will of God no matter the cost. When Jesus called his followers and the readers of these gospels to take up their crosses — he was under no illusions as to what that would mean for himself or them.

This, Friends, is the gospel at its most terse and dangerous. The cross is not a magic symbol or a fashionable decoration — it’s a symbol of a risky, alternative lifestyle. It is a symbol that makes normative claims about who our God is, about who we are and about the shape and direction of our life together. It is a symbol for how God and God’s people exercise redemptive love that has and will eventually transform the world. Being in constant trouble has nothing to do with being an annoying, judgmental, angry, demanding group of religious fanatics. We don’t go looking for trouble—it simply comes to those who are willing to follow where he lead.

Joy, fearless, trouble. These are signs of vibrant Christian life. And all we need to get there is near-death experience. That is what John Woolman experienced when one day in a dream he heard an angel say, “John Woolman is dead.” When he awoke, he pondered what the dream meant. Then he said, “At length I felt divine power prepare my mouth that I could speak, and then I said, ‘I am crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live yet not I, but Christ liveth in me.’” This is an echo of Paul’s experience in Galatians 2:20 where he said, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”

One of my good friends spoke on this text at a Friends gathering and asked people whether they felt similarly to Paul. It was a broad mix of Friends from all persuasions. He was surprised when those gathered explained Paul’s feelings away by noting he didn’t really have all of the things we have today that make life so appealing — comfort, security, entertainment, etc. Crucified with Christ — not today . . . There are other more appealing things . . .

I wonder how Lazarus would have responded had he been in the gathering of Friends that day? What might he say to us today?

Stories of Faith and Peacemaking

Panelists:
Getry Agizah: Friends Church Peace Teams, Kenya
Theo Stitther: Friends Committee on National Legislation
Ross Hennessy: Acting director of the Quaker Voluntary Service
Odalys Hernandez Cruz: Presiding clerk of Cuba Yearly Meeting
Candido Quelvys Fernandez Perez: Pastor & student of Cuba Peace Institute
Karla Moran: Translator

Getry:

Friends, I greet you in the Light of God. I promised myself that I would do this ministry until God says for me to end it. I don’t know when that will be . . . I was asked if it is time for us to stop. So I bring the question to you. Do you think we should stop? It is a ministry. God sent the work. There is a book I am reading and it is telling me when Jesus left after his 40 days and he sent the Holy Spirit down, he gave his instructions to his disciples. And he went. The disciples had the choice to do what Jesus said or not. They chose to continue.

We still have these disciples now. It is me and you . . .

Friends Church in Kenya has moved through thick and thin. From the time of the election in 2008 and the tension in 2012, there was an internal conflict within everyone whether there will be violence or not. But, we mobilized ourselves and said we needed to stand together and see this come to an end . . .

In 2013 we had an election. It was peaceful — not because there were no mistakes. Mistakes were there. But, we respected how Kenyans reacted . . . to each other. So we look at ourselves at 2013 as a goal. We have a government. We are living with the government. Do we still stop our work?

I am talking about issues of coming to the crisis type versus working along with Friends to trust in this ministry up to the end. I say the end is not now. It does not mean the work will stop. Right now, we are working with Burundi for their election to see how they can carry some of the things we used in also helping the country of Burundi. It does not mean in Kenya there are not issues. We do have issues. We have social injustice issues. We talk about an amount of insecurity. It is still our responsibility . . .

We are reaching non-Quakers and still preaching the gospel for peace . . .

I look at the work we are doing as a continuous ministry and add that we still work together. Don’t give up. The issue of insecurity is not my country’s issue; it is a global issue . . .

Theo:

FCNL’s vision statement starts with the very simple proposition: We seek a world that is free of war and the threat of war. In my position at FCNL, I work on peace building policy.

About a decade ago, FCNL came out with these bumper stickers. Another simple proposition that war is not the answer. When FCNL was on Capitol Hill, lobbying members of Congress, talking to them about why war is not the answer, we would often get the question, “If war is not the answer, then, what is?”

We have spent our time, our energy to figure out if war is not the answer, the, what is? FCNL has been lobbying for the prevention of armed conflict to ensure that before we go into war, before we invade a country, before the 911s of the world happen, that we are working to ensure that the elements of the conflicts are eliminated. It is a very simple proposition.

Our government is starting to invest in peace and in conflict prevention. At the same time, that our policies, our foreign policies, especially, is heavily militarized. The events in Iraq just this week where militants are taking over different parts of the country. The first question that policy makers often ask is: “What is our military response?”

FCNL is working and lobbying to ensure that we don’t keep asking that question. U.S. still spends a massive amount of money on our defense. There are drones that continue to do targeted killings in places like Yemen and Pakistan and Somalia. We still have a president who still has unchecked authority to go to war anywhere he pleases.

That is our challenge. If war is not the answer, the, what is? We continue to answer that question with policy makers.

Odalys:

This institute went through a lot of phases of trying to reflect, trying to make the government understand. Because when we went to the interviews, the government said, “There is peace. We don’t need an institute of peace here.”

We perceive the hand of God opening doors . . . It was in this way that Cuba Yearly Meeting approved what we call ICCP, the Quaker Institute of Peace. It is an institute to proprogate and train a practical form of peace and resolution from a Quaker perspective to equip Quakers — Latin American and all kinds. With the tools that we need to reduce violence in our communities and context, our main objective to contribute to develop a culture of peace, creating a community of learning of pacifists who implement actions and practices so that we can reduce violence in their communities . . .

I invite you to reflect, that this is the best legacy that we can leave to the next generations. I want to challenge you in remembering the words of William Penn, “Let us then, try what love can do.”

Ross:

Quaker Voluntary Service is a response to a need in a vacuum that has been existing for a while, which is service opportunities for young adult Quakers in the world. I have been working in Philadelphia for the past year. I have helped expand the program from one city in Atlanta to a three-city national network. We are also in Portland, Oregon.

In Philadelphia, our volunteers are doing some really neat stuff . . . volunteer working as a legal assistant helping refugees and immigrants that are trying to enter the United States and connect with their families . . . volunteer that is working with the HIV population that is coming out of prison . . . volunteer who is working with the mural arts program in Philadelphia with adjudicated youth. I have another volunteer that works for a food co-op . . . two volunteers that are in schools in the city of Philadelphia . . . another volunteer that is doing anti-racism work through Quakers, with Quakers.

In Portland and Atlanta, we are working with the homeless population. We are working with mental and physical disabilities. We are doing a lot of different work.

One of our volunteers is a young man who was not a Quaker and was placed at one of the inner city schools. This school laid down its music program because of budget cuts. He had studied music in college, but was not a teacher. The administration said they were desperate and asked him to create a music program. As an idealistic young person right out of college, he told them it shouldn’t be too hard.

This past year, he has done an amazing job. I get to go in and meet with the site supervisors a couple of times throughout the year. We were going through some of the things that our volunteers could grow upon. At the end of the supervisor’s discussion with me, I asked if there was anything else she wanted to say. She looked at me and said in all sincerity, “Ross, your volunteer is an answer to my prayers. This is a God send.”

That same volunteer, later, during our mid-year retreat worship time said, “I just want everyone to know that it is because of meetings like this that I have become a Quaker.”

There are a number of stories of different ways in which this work has been this catalyst for both personal transformation and transformation in the communities, in which they work. I like to say that service work for Quakers is sort of like mass for Quakers. This is our sacrament. This is how we practice our faith.

Candido (ending prayer):

Our Lord and Faithful guide, our brother, our friend and light in all of our ways, we give you thanks this night so that your Word lives. Your word of love, your word of peace has been among us. We ask you now that your Light can be within ourselves. That you can guide our steps in the paths of peace, in love and the good of everyone. That you, can be through our hands, be a voice, security for the person that feels insecure and that we can be as Francis said, “an instrument of peace in this world.” In the sacred name of your son Jesus Christ, that opens his arms to hold us all . . . Amen.

Reflection of Peace

By Mary Lord, Peace Panel Moderator

We look to this statement given to Charles II, as the statement of our peace testimony in the 1660s:

“We utterly deny all outward wars and strife, and fightings with outward weapons, for any end, or under any pretense whatsoever; this is our testimony to the whole world . . . The Spirit of Christ, by which we are all guided, is not changeable, so as to once to command us from a thing as evil, and again to move us unto it; and we certainly know, and testify to the world, that the Spirit of Christ, which leads us into all truth, will never move us to fight and war against any man with outward weapons, neither for the Kingdom of Christ nor for the Kingdoms of this world . . . Therefore, we cannot learn war anymore.”

That very strong, powerful statement that cost Friends so much, has endured. But, there is an evolution of the peace testimony. Moving from opposition to war to work on building peace. It doesn’t mean we aren’t opposed to war, but we are shifting what we do in some important ways. From a testimony that works for right of conscience that says, “I will not kill or use outward weapons,” from responding to the effects of war, which is humanitarian work. We still do it. We still work on matters of conscientious objection. To beginning more of learning more of what are the roots and the nature of this violent work. That is the field of peace research that in the past 50 years has exploded until there are colleges and universities with many. Efforts to develop international law and arbitration as an alternative to war, which people like Theo are doing on the prevention of armed conflict.

Community, mediation, Alternatives to Violence . . . The Healing and Reconciling Our Communities, the responding to or preventing domestic abuse, anti-bullying strategies, protecPaneltion for minorities and response to hate crimes are just a few of the works that prevent and protect people from violence.

I leave you with this thought as we hear the many stories of our panelists. There are two predictors of violence in a society or a country apt to come to war. One is the degree of inequality, especially if there are many poor and few rich. That is very unstable. We have that in our own country. Or if there are isolated and victimized minorities, such as in Europe, as the Jewish people experienced.

The other predictor of violence is the percentage of young men between the ages of 15-25 with no job, not in school and no hope. They are very vulnerable to those who would use them for violence.

I just wanted you to get a sense that we are shifting from steps of conflict . . . to heal the violence and to prevent it.

Energizing, Equipping and Connecting for the Work of God

By Colin Saxton

Good evening, Friends! It is a joy to be with you, and I am so grateful for the privilege to serve as general secretary of Friends United Meeting. I have appreciated Jim Smith’s devotional messages over the past two days and resonated with his distinction between the Living Water that is our source of life and the vessels we create to contain that Water. To be fully honest with you, I don’t have much interest in the containers we create within the church — the systems, structures and bureaucracies that demand so much time and attention. I would much rather talk about and splash about in the Water of Life.

But tonight, I do want to talk about the vessels — because they matter, and they are necessary, if we are going to be a community. Systems and structures either free us to life in the Kingdom of God, or they hinder us from faithfulness. A useful vessel, one that is well-designed and properly used, pours out living water to the thirsty. And in a day when there are so many who thirst — we need well-designed and well-used vessels . . .

If you have ever heard me talk about my hopes for the Religious Society of Friends, then you are likely familiar with a quote I have loved and used on several occasions. It comes from one of my favorite Friends, Francis Howgill. In talking about the experience of Christ gathering his people in those early days of the Quaker movement, Howgill said:

“The Kingdom of Heaven did gather us & catch us all, as in a net, & God’s heavenly power at one time drew many hundreds. We came to know a place to stand in & what to wait in; and the Lord appeared daily to us … And our hearts were knit unto the Lord & one another in true & fervent love, in the covenant of Life with God; and that was a strong obligation or bond upon all our spirits, which united us one unto another. We met together in the unity of the Spirit & of the bond of peace … and holy resolutions were kindled in our hearts as a fire — which the Life kindled in us — to serve the Lord while we had our being. And mightily did the Word of God grow among us & the desires of many were after the Name of the Lord. O happy day! O blessed day! The memorial of which can never pass out of my mind. And thus the Lord, in short, did form us to be a people for his praise in our generation.”

I love this image . . . but I wonder some days if we really believe it is possible that it might also be true for us in our time and place.

Over the next several days, you will hear me and others use three words with some frequency: Energize. Equip. Connect. They are the words that I hope will more fully inform and shape FUM’s work over the next several years. And they arise, I think, right out of the imagery in Howgill’s description of whom the early Friends were . . . and who we might be in our time . . .

I had met Christ in college — he lived a few doors down the hall of my dorm-floor through the life of an amazing young man. Later, and more profoundly, I encountered the risen Spirit of Christ on a midnight run through campus that changed the whole content and trajectory of my life. From that day on, it has been the same Spirit of Jesus that encounters and encourages and empowers me to run toward him and run with him . . . rather than away.

This is exactly the story we read in the text of the New Testament. Jesus, we are told over and over again, . . . is alive. He is risen! And he abides in and among and through his followers. It is his empowering spirit, not our religious devotion or human effort that transforms us into something beautiful and animates and directs our efforts to continue his ministry
in the world.

This, in my mind, is what it means to be energized. This is what it means to be filled with the power of God, in a way the New Testament describes in language akin to dynamite. This is the power that Jesus sends the disciples out to minister in — to drive out evil, cure diseases, heal the sick and make visible the reign of God. It is the power the apostles waited to be immersed in Acts 1, as they prepared to engage in a world-transforming movement.

This dunamis — the energizing and animating power of God almighty — is described as a foundational grace that enables us to live truthful lives, bold and courageous lives, lives drenched with love and compassion, graced with divine endurance and might, rooted in a liberating joy and freedom. It is the power to walk in unhindered union with the God we’ve come to know and love.

Does this describe your life? Are you energized and animated by the living Spirit of Jesus? Does it sound like the life you in your meeting or church? . . . I am not asking about an experience you may have had in the past . . .

I confess I do not always live this way — but it is my heart’s desire. And I think we can, in fact, live into this Life and Power by God’s grace, and as we nurture and encourage it in one another . . . behind our strategic thinking is an even more foundational grace that is our source of faithfulness. It is that Presence and Power of Christ that is beyond us and all our best efforts and wisdom.

As I think about the community of Friends, and in particular those of us within FUM, I want to be part of gathered people who share in and depend on the energizing Spirit of Christ. . . . And so long as I keep serving with FUM, I am determined to do what I can to see that we stay focused on energizing our community with a passion for and sense of spiritual vitality and depth.

Alongside being energized, are we equipped as a community? Are we ready to co-labor with God in restoration of all things — because that is what God is up to in Christ. . . .

We are meant to be a community of ministers — mobilized around the advancing reign of God. As ambassadors of God’s grace, as ministers of reconciliation, heralds of Good News, prisoners of hope, instruments of righteousness, restorers of justice … our lives and our life together are intended to reveal the glory of God and see that God’s will be done on earth … just as it is continuously in heaven. Our work is to embody the things of God.

As I think about a people who bring praise to God in our generation, I imagine a community that is fully equipped to serve as God intends . . .

Across the world, Friends have fed the hungry, taken in the alien and orphaned, spoken the truth when silence or a little-lie would have proven less costly. On our best days, we have shared our faith with humility and courage and invited others into our fellowships.

This is work we’ve done in our past — but what about today and tomorrow? And are we prepared to do this work and other work effectively? Skillfully? Sustainably? . . .

Well, I want to be part of community that takes seriously the work of equipping. Across the Quaker world, and especially within our FUM community, I’d love for us to become better focused on raising up effective leadership, developing and deploying able ministers, and creating opportunities and experiences for our faith-in-action to be nurtured and God’s work to be accomplished through us. And so I am determined to do what I can to make sure FUM keeps moving this direction . . .

Finally, in addition to being energized and equipped, how about being connected?

Later this week, you will be asked to approve three new yearly meetings and an association as new members of FUM. This will put the number of yearly meetings and associations FUM at 34. Thirty-four! Among the four major branches of Friends, FUM is the largest, and there is the possibility for even greater expansion. In East Africa, Friends are reaching out in places like South Sudan, the southern area of Tanzania and Malawi. Over the past two and half years I have been in FUM, we’ve had inquiries from several groups in India, other places in Africa, Barbados, Finland, Mexico and by scattered Friends in North America. People want to belong to something beyond the cozy confines of their meetinghouse walls. I think it is because the love of God naturally draws us to reach beyond ourselves . . .

But it ain’t easy … is it? Community is tough work, whether that clan consists of three people, 30 people, 30 meetings/churches or 30 yearly meetings . . . It is the source of some of our greatest joy and our deepest heartache. I think it is a severe mercy that will either break us apart or transform us. The question is whether we will come to experience and rely on that unity which transcends our diversity, to be knit together in a lasting bond of peace or whether we’ll let the threads that might connect us to simply fray beyond repair?

For me it is our greatest challenge and the spiritual discipline we are called to claim as a priority. I want to be part of a community that actually practices peacemaking in our local churches and meetings, within our yearly meetings, within the covenant fellowship of FUM, as eagerly and authentically as we try to do in matters of national and international dispute. I want to be connected in spirit and in purpose with Friends who know in their bones they are on an adventure together . . . This means creating spaces and places to be together, to worship together and to work together. It means learning from each other and staying engaged when we don’t see eye-to-eye immediately. It means praying for one another, taking responsibility for the hurts we cause one another, and forgiving as freely as we have been forgiven by Christ. Connection — if it is to be in terms of creating a global community of Friends and not just being an international affiliation of organizations — is going to require a level of humility and intentionality that will stretch us at our souls. Are we willing?

On a whole other level, connection also speaks to the world around us. How is it we Friends are demonstrating and proclaiming the good news of Christ to the people around us? If my experience is any gauge — I’m not sure we do this so well . . . Here are some examples from conversations I have had and exchanges I have seen on websites:

• I live in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. We have a nearby city called “Quakertown” and the people are known for making fine furniture.
• Yes. I just saw Quaker oatmeal in the grocery store the other day. So they must still be around to make it.
• I didn’t even know until a recent conversation with a friend who is dating a Quaker that they still exist. I knew they were here in the 1700s, but after that, my history lessons failed me and them. To me, they were in the same category as Atlantis and woolly mammoths.
• I have heard of George Fox. Isn’t he connected to Quakers?
• There are Quakers in Kenya?!? When did that happen?
• Do Quakers still exist?
• You are the first Quaker I have ever met.
• And then worst of all — and I have heard this several times… “I thought you were all dead?!?”

Friends, are we dead? No, seriously — are we? I didn’t think so. Why then are others saying it is so? . . .

My question is — why do we allow this to be the case? Beyond the peril it brings to own vitality and future, if we really believe in the goodness of this Life we’ve come to know and the Power that is available in this community, why on earth would we not share it joyfully and freely with others?!? . . .

The life we have in Christ is a cool cup of water waiting to be tasted … guzzled by some … who are feeling like they are dying of thirst. Why on earth would we deny them?!?

There is a thirst for what we claim to possess. Several years ago when I was a pastor, I got a phone call from a telephone company asking if the meeting wanted to switch providers.

I told the guy on the other end of the line that I was just a pastor — I couldn’t make high-level decisions like this! After a bit of nervous laughter, he said, “Are you a Friends pastor? I’ve always wanted to meet one of you but I did not know where to find one. I’ve been reading about Quakers and am so drawn to your faith and life. Can you tell me if there are any in Texas where I live?” I found my handy-dandy FWCC meeting directory and gave him the contact information of a couple of churches and meetings near him.

Another time, I was sitting in a pizza parlor waiting for my take-out order. A man came into the restaurant and . . . took seat next to me on the waiting bench and said, “What are you, religious or something?” [because I did not know where the liquor store was located]

I told him I wasn’t too sure how religious I was, but I did happen to be a follower of Christ and a member of the Quaker community in town. “QUAKER,” he nearly shouted. “My grandmother was a Quaker!” For the next 20 minutes or so, he commenced to tell me everything he knew about Friends and a good deal about his beloved grandmother. By the time he wrapped up his story he had tears in his eyes and he said, “I wish everyone was a Friend.”

You know, I do as well. But not if they are going to be dead Friends — or ones that are confused for being dead. We don’t need Friends in name only. We need ones who are baptized into the transforming Life and radiating Power of Christ. In my reading of the New Testament, Jesus wasn’t much interested in proselytizing. When he called others to follow, it was not by way of proselutos — where one changes their religious affiliation. Instead, he invited them into a metanoia — a radical, reorienting, transformation of life. This is what the world is looking for — can we offer it?

Well, I am determined to do what I can to make sure FUM builds connections — both within our community and with a world that ought not to be wondering whether we are all dead or how they might find us or if we are still doing anything today. We are made for connections — here and out there. As we move into a new Triennium, it is the hope of the General Board and staff that FUM will increasingly be a global community where Friends are energized, equipped and connected in order to carry out the work God is calling us to do in our time and place.