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Archive for Quaker Life Magazine

Belizean Ministry Expands to Adults

Beginning in September 2015, the unique and highly-successful Belize Friends School experience will be available to adult learners, as well as to teens. The school has long offered a “second chance” to teens who have dropped out or been kicked out of traditional schools. Many of these teens are at risk of joining criminal gangs, and the Friends School offers them a different path to take. They spend a year or two at Belize Friends, preparing to take the Primary School Examination (PSE). If they pass, they can go on to either academic secondary school or vocational training school.

Illiteracy and unemployment are rampant in the Friends School’s neighborhood. Principal Candi Young has long identified adult illiteracy as an obstacle to student success. Parents in the school have asked to be allowed to learn alongside their kids, but a multigenerational classroom is difficult to manage. In March, the Belizean Ministry of Education approached Candi with the remarkable statement that the Friends School is the most successful program of its type in Belize City, and they would like to see it expanded to include adult education.

After careful consideration, the School Board has approved a pilot program to begin in September, with just 15 adult students meeting four nights a week. They will study for the PSE, — just like the teens. If they pass, they will be admitted to one of several government vocational programs, depending on their skills and interests. If the first year’s pilot program succeeds, the Ministry of Education has indicated its willingness to help scale up.

The Spirit of God is moving mightily in Belize.

Read about this in the FUM in Belize blog.

Continuing Education at Friends Theological College

On March 16 and 17, 2015, Eloise Hockett from George Fox University led the faculty of Friends Theological College in a continuing education seminar focused on critical thinking skills.



continuing ed

Academic Dean Named

Nancy SwartzRamallah Friends School Board of Trustees and Friends United Meeting have appointed Ms. Nancy Sanderson Swartz to serve as the Academic Dean.

As an experienced International Baccalaureate (IB) educator, Nancy brings a wealth of diverse experiences in educational leadership. She has developed IB education for the past decade and has been an educator for 28 years. Nancy has served as Principal of IB World Schools in Canada, India, China, Norway and the Netherlands. She has extensive knowledge and experience in developing and implementing IB Standards and Practices for the Primary Years (PYP), Middle Years (MYP) and Diploma Programs. She has also led and coached teaching teams at six schools through the IB authorization process to become IB World Schools.

Nancy holds a B.A. majoring in Psychology and B.B.A. in International Marketing and Management from Brock University, an M.B.A. specializing in Strategy and Education Management from York University and is a Doctorate of Education candidate at Bath University, studying Global Educational Leadership.

Nancy will be responsible for working closely with the academic staff on both campuses. She will work with the Principals to improve the learning environment for students, while continuing to build on the excellent work our teachers have initiated. Her focus will be to develop academic standards in line with IB principles, to ensure teachers are empowered to collaboratively plan their lessons and assess student performance to augment learning. Nancy will be instrumental in generating the data we need to plan RFS’s future development as a leading player in Palestinian education. She will also help to deliver a vibrant co-curricular, after-school activities program.

Quaker Life – March/April 2015

Meanderings & Muses

I like to think that my public testimony falls right in line with my spoken testimony. I like to think that when I encounter anyone, they see Christ. But there are times, truth be told, that my outward testimony has nothing to do with my perceived reality of my spiritual state.

It was a few days before Christmas and I was at the grocery store with at least 45,000 (I am exaggerating) other last minute shoppers. Everyone had a frazzled look upon their face. My countenance was the worst. I had just left work, had several Christmas presents to buy, the house needed to be cleaned, the groceries had to be purchased, family members expected me to solve life’s problems and I was in a hurry!

As I was scurrying to the express checkout, my friend Keith Esch ambled up next to me and asked how I was doing. Truthfully I said I wasn’t doing well at that moment, I didn’t like anything that was happening in my life and I was in a hurry. He turned into the line next to me and said, “I think, maybe, this is the exact time for us to stop and chat.” With those words he stopped and looked at me with an expectation that I would do the same.

Now, imagine for a moment in the midst of a crowded grocery store, a perfectly peaceful and calm man standing next to the cartoon character, the Tasmanian Devil, who is spinning up a whirlwind, and you will have a pretty good impression of our encounter. My daughter who was with me tried to find a hole into which to crawl and just watched, as I stumbled over my excuses for my hurry – which I cannot remember.

But all the way home and throughout the evening, the calm and peaceful public testimony of Keith pursued my inner most being. What exactly was my hurry? What was so important that I couldn’t take the time to fellowship with a friend? Then it hit me; nothing, truly, was that important. I missed a moment of grace. How many did I miss as I allowed stress and chaos to rule my actions at the store?

As a follower of Jesus I have every right to fully feel the stress and chaos of exciting times. However, the stress and chaos does not need to run my life. Jesus has given me the freedom to move and have my being in him.  But, with that freedom comes the realization that there are responsibilities. One of which is to act as if Jesus Christ does continue to move within the chaos of exciting times.

As writer, Bruce Epperly states, “We are connected and what we do can bring beauty or ugliness, growth or diminishment to those around us. Hospitality invites us to give as much consideration to the well-being of others as ourselves. When we “die” to self-interest, we are born to a larger, healthier self, and our world is healed one moment at a time.”

The encounter at the grocery store was a tale of two testimonies: Both spoke volumes.

I received a precious gift that day. It is a gift for which I am grateful.

Annie Glen – Communications Editor, Friends United Meeting

Being the Hands and Feet of Jesus – By Scott Wagoner

“Through us, God continues to come to the world as we incarnate the grace, mercy and presence of God.”

Read more

Kindred Courage – By Cherice Bock

“I still ask the question, ‘What do we do now?'”

Read more


Renaissance House: A Ministry of Restoration – By Micah Bales

“You’re being handed a hammer. Will you take it?”

Read more

Bible Study: SPICE: A Youth Curriculum – By Cherice Bock

“A Quaker curriculum for youth who youth are searching for a faith that is real. Learn about simplicity, peace, integrity, community, and equality.”

Read more

SPICE: The Friends Testimonies – By Joel & Cherice Bock

“Friends believe that not only can each person connect with God; but God can and does work and speak through each person.”

Read more

The Faithful Life of Ellen Stanley – By Thomas Hamm

“Because Ellen was by nature modest and truthful, she found it difficult to comprehend anyone who was not.”

Read more

Other Articles In This Issue:

Staff Columns

Meeting God in the Grocery Store – Annie Glen
Out of my Mind – Colin Saxton

Other Articles

Blessed Are the PeaceMAKERS in Ferguson – Joshua Saleem
Missions Movement: Growth in Uganda Yearly Meeting – Eileen Malova

Out of My Mind – March/April 2015

By Colin Saxton – General Secretary

When it comes to educational work, Friends United Meeting’s schools in Ramallah, Belize and Kaimosi are well known and well understood. Ramallah Friends School is recognized worldwide as an exceptional place of study, rooted in Quaker values and serving as a symbol of hope in city and region under occupation with a constant threat of violence. Belize Friends School gives inner-city children a second-chance at education, a loving environment and an introduction to Christian teachings and teachers. It is a gateway to a brighter future that might otherwise not exist for some of our students. Friends Theological College, located in Kaimosi, is an essential training ground for pastors, chaplains and other ministers. Maybe more than any FUM ministry in East Africa, FTC has the opportunity and responsibility to nurture the theological and spiritual experience of Friends and help shape the church for the next generation.

Less well-known across FUM is the work our African Ministries Office does with the 1500+ primary and secondary schools that carry the name of Friends in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania. In a unique private/public partnership with their respective governments, Friends (and other churches) retain a level of control over the content and character of their schools, even as public money funds much of the day-to-day operation of each campus.

The active involvement of Friends in these schools is critically important. The sponsoring denomination is responsible to determine the spiritual training and experience of the student body. Friends’ chaplains, when provided, can build deep and loving relationships with students as mentors, counselors and care-givers. In Friends’ schools, we have had the opportunity to introduce a peace curriculum (with help from Friends in North America) to give students practical training in conflict resolution, mediation and non-violence, in addition to the biblical understanding from which all of these arise. Over time, our goal is to have this curriculum taught throughout every Friends’ school in East Africa, with the possibility that it might be adopted and used in other schools, as well. In talking with a group of Friends about this project, one Kenyan brother spoke about losing several members of his family in the 2008 election violence. His conclusion is that the peace curriculum is the single greatest hope for transforming the violence and prejudice that continues to tear at and divide along tribal lines. In so many ways, these schools have the opportunity to help form countless lives.

Thanks to a generous grant from Friends in Britain, FUM was able to hire Zadock Malesi as our African Ministries Office education secretary two years ago. Zadock has worked with each yearly meeting’s education secretary to provide leadership training for school administrators, encourage excellence in teaching, nurture Friends’ values in schools and devote some time to the implementation of the peace curriculum.

As announced elsewhere in this issue, we concluded our staff contract with Zadock in December 2014. The initial two-year grant has been used. By now, we had hoped to see more funding for this project come from among East African Friends and through an income generating project dedicated to raising money for this work. Unfortunately, a place of long-term financial sustainability in these areas has not yet been realized.

The education work, however, remains essential — and a FUM priority — for the future. Think about the opportunity involved in this work. In each these 1500+
schools there are hundreds, sometimes thousands of students, most of whom are not Friends. What would it mean to give each child a great education? To give each one a loving Christian example? An introduction to Friends? Tools and training as peacemakers? An experience in a community known for its love and integrity? A life-changing encounter with Christ? The knowledge and skills to do honest and meaningful work?

We are not finished with this project. Right now, we have some further work to do to establish a core of committed leaders who will encourage and continue what has already been accomplished. We are establishing some new goals and are looking at additional funding options to build a more sustainable base of support. I expect we will once again employ a staff person to oversee this ministry and coordinate the activities. We will need someone in that role — it is that important. In the mean time, please remember these children and the opportunity we all have to see their lives inspired by a Friends education.

The Faithful Life of Ellen Stanley

By Thomas Hamm

It has been my good fortune to know a number of remarkable Friends in the course of my life. When Annie Glen asked me to write abou2015MarchAprilQL_p30_EllenStanleyt one whose life was especially lived in the Light, whose life was a Testimony to the beliefs and practices of Friends; the person who immediately came to mind was Ellen Stanley, who passed away on January 3, 2015, at the age of 92. Ellen embodied all that was best in a type of Friend that is largely passing away now — pastoral Friends from the rural Midwest whose education and careers took them around the country and abroad, who experienced and appreciated different varieties of Friends, yet remained firmly anchored where they started.

Ellen was born on the family farm near Wabash, Indiana, in 1922. Her parents, Lawrence and Martha Stanley, both came from long lines of Quaker ancestry through Stanleys, Starbucks, Mendenhalls, Hutchenses, Weesners, Votaws and other families from Virginia, North Carolina, Nantucket and the Delaware Valley that went back to the beginnings of Quakerism. In 1940, she went off to Earlham College, where she graduated in 1944. Her calling was librarianship, so she entered the University of Illinois to earn degrees in library science. Her first job took her to Penn State, where she immediately became active in the meeting there. In 1950, she returned to Earlham as a reference librarian. In 1957, she married fellow Earlham graduate Don Stanley, a Quaker pastor. She, then, became Ellen Stanley Stanley. Don’s ministry took them to Cincinnati, Chicago, New York and Massachusetts. Don died in 1986, and in 1994, Ellen decided to return to Richmond. We met then, as she joined me as the college’s assistant archivist. She retired in 2004, 64 years after she had begun working in the library as a student.

In the twenty years that we knew each other, three things struck me about Ellen as a Friend. The first was her loyalty to Friends. It was not bigoted or exclusive. Ellen related well to people of all faiths, and none. But she was a Quaker right down to her bones. One saw that in a variety of ways. One was her sense that Quakers needed institutions, and that it was up to each of us to support them. A source of persistent annoyance to her was Friends who looked on Friends as just a church they could join, and leave, as they found convenient.

One of the few times I saw her genuinely irate was when Indiana Yearly Meeting was discussing whether it should continue its financial support of Quaker Life. Her family had been subscribers to the old American Friend as far back as she could remember; she had especially fond memories of reading Walter Woodward’s accounts of his travels in the 1920s and 1930s. Ellen found it incomprehensible that one could be a Friend affiliated with Friends United Meeting without reading its journal to remain informed about its activities and ministries. She also made a point of, when she moved, quickly transferring her membership, so that her loyalty to her meeting would never be divided.

Ellen’s second admirable trait was her commitment to sharing her gifts and talents. They were many. She had a prodigious memory, the fruit partly of her wide leading, partly of her acquaintance with Friends for almost three quarters of a century. More than once, when a student or faculty member or visitor from on campus would appear in the Earlham Library’s Friends’ Collection with a seemingly obscure question about Quaker history or genealogy, and she would simply know the answer. Many Quaker organizations benefitted from her willingness to serve, often in positions that involved substantial work and limited recognition. A good example was her willingness to serve, in the 1990s, as the membership secretary for the United Society of Friends Women International. Keeping track of the addresses and membership status of hundreds in an era before computers was time-consuming, but Ellen saw it was a way that she could serve, and did so uncomplainingly.

Ellen, finally, embodied the highest standards of Quaker integrity. She was someone for whom it was simply inconceivable to utter an untruth. But she was also someone who possessed that rare gift of being able to speak truth without giving offense, always kindly. She told me once that her preference was that if she could not say something kind, she preferred to say nothing at all. But when persuaded, she was willing to share, at least privately, insights about people and institutions that were devastating, hilarious and absolutely correct.

Because Ellen was by nature modest and truthful, she found it difficult to comprehend anyone who was not. She had little use for the pompous or egotistical. One of my favorite memories of her is her sharing how she and Don had always refused to become “sycophants” of a particular Quaker leader. But that did not prevent her from acknowledging and admiring that leader’s real gifts.

Ellen’s eyesight failed in her last years, and it must have been difficult for someone who was such an enthusiastic reader. But with her typical cheerfulness, she simply made that opportunity to ask others to read to her and share in the book or article. That gift of accepting cheerfully whatever came to her is rare. It was also her last gift to the rest of us.

SPICE: The Quaker Testimonies

By Cherice Bock


There is no longer male nor female, Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, for we are all one in Christ Jesus. — Galatians 3:28 Friends did not base their beliefs on Enlightenment philosophy; although they were, of course, products of the time and culture in which they lived. They found the theme of equality of all people in the Bible.

In our present day and age, many Christian denominations emphasize the biblical theme of equality, and many small groups of Christians across the centuries have uncovered and rediscovered it. In fact, at their beginnings, a large number of denominations are based on such a reading of scripture. A Reformed professor I had in seminary once said, somewhat derisively, “All Protestants believe in the priesthood of all believers, but Quakers took it one step further and encouraged the preacherhood of all believers.”

Friends believe that not only can each person connect with God; but God can and does work and speak through each person, as individuals listen and respond to God. For Friends, this has everything to do with “that of God in everyone.” For Catholics, the real presence of God resides in the bread and wine that is blessed by a priest and served at communion. For Protestants, God is present in the Word — that is, the Bible. All believers are “priests” in that all can connect with the Word through reading scripture, but not all are called to preach the Word. There is a hierarchy that gives one permission to speak the Word to others in a formal setting. (Of course, it is not a problem for any Protestant to share his or her beliefs with others for the purpose of edification or conversion.)

Friends, however, see the presence of God residing in each individual who learns to notice and live by it. “The Word of God is living and active (Hebrews 4:12).” It is not only written or present in the person of Jesus. We are all inheritors of the promise of God’s Spirit that came to the first Christ-followers
on Pentecost (Acts 1-2). Because we all have the ability to hear God, we can also be chosen by God to speak God’s Word in any given moment.

Therefore, equality as a testimony of Friends is based less on an “inalienable right” (although this also follows as part of Friends belief). But it is based on the ability of all people to hear and respond to God, to be moved by God, to speak and enact God’s Word in the world. As Friends are informed by the Light Within, they recognize the humanity of others and the presence of God shining forth through each one.


Although Friends are radically independent regarding many areas of faith and emphasize the ability of all to connect with God personally, there is also a great emphasis on community. All people can hear God and respond, but it is much easier and more accurate to hear God within the context of community. Part of this community is the living people that form one’s faith community, while part of this community is much larger, extending across time and space, including the “Church universal” — all people who have connected with God’s Spirit throughout all time. Friends believe that we discern God’s direction more accurately when we listen together.

Among Friends, this testimony is worked out in several ways. First, meetings for worship and business are (ideally) spaces in which God’s voice may be heard through anyone present. Friends must come to consensus before a decision can be made. God may speak through a minority voice, but others can hear and respond, making a different decision than most individuals expected.

Many Friends also practice something called a “Meeting for Clearness,” also called a “Clearness Committee,” in which an individual or couple asks for a group to listen with them around a decision the focus of which a person(s) finds difficult. It is common to hold a meeting for clearness regarding important life decisions like marriage, choice of schools, vocational change or other major life decisions. In this way, Friends invite others into not only their corporate decisions, but also their personal ones.

Simplicity & Integrity

These testimonies have been important for Friends since the beginning of the movement. The testimony of simplicity includes intentional thought about the kinds of clothing we wear, how much we focus on our appearance, the way we speak, our meetinghouses, foods we eat, the way we spend our time, use of titles and the ever-challenging issue of “stuff.” The testimonies of simplicity and integrity are based largely on the biblical injunction to “let your ‘yes’ be ‘yes’ and our ‘no’ be ‘no’ (Matthew 5:37).” Friends attempt to live as people of integrity in words, actions and possessions, stating plainly our intentions and ourselves.

Part of the reasoning behind this is that we do not wish to spend money frivolously in order to make ourselves, our homes and our meetinghouses look more important. Our worth does not come from our possessions or the way we appear on the outside. It is God who is important, the work of God, which should occupy our time and money.

Another piece of these testimonies leads us back to the testimony of equality. Although our society celebrates education and training that leads to special titles, Friends traditionally do not use these titles when referring to others or themselves. Currently, Friends do acquire advanced degrees or other training,
but generally attempt to avoid using their titles as much as possible. Friends refer to others based on their occupation (e.g. referring to someone who is a medical doctor as “Doctor” or to a college teacher as “Professor”), because this shows the person’s role of service in society. It is a fine line to walk.

The point is not giving one person honor over another simply because she or he has had access to formal education or acquired a position of leadership. These roles are meant for the service of others, not for the adulation of oneself. The testimonies of simplicity and integrity also come to bear regarding our possessions. Money and how we use it is a very personal matter in the present-day United States, and therefore Friends do not often question one another on this topic anymore. Yet many individuals query themselves or allow God to query them, regarding possessions. Friends attempt to live with integrity regarding what is actually needed, versus what is frivolous and self-serving. Historically, Friends refused to buy clothing made through slave labor. The area of possessions is also a very difficult line to discern: how much is too much? What products are alright to purchase? Are there any products in today’s first world market that are made and transported using only principles of integrity and equality? Can we ever buy things that are not necessary to life but that provide enjoyment? How much entertainment is “necessary” to life? Is it permissible to decorate our homes, our meetinghouses, ourselves, for pure aesthetic value? Did God not create beauty and good-tasting things for us to enjoy? But how can we live lives of comfort and even over-consumption while others starve?

These are questions each contemporary Friend must ask alone — and, I would say, together — in order to try to discern how to live out the testimonies of integrity and simplicity in today’s world.


The peace testimony is one of the most well-known testimonies of Friends. It encourages living peaceably at all levels by showing active love to our neighbors, including our enemies. Friends did not intentionally begin a denomination that would be a “peace church.” As early Friends read the Bible and listened to the Light of Christ, they noticed that it would be impossible for them to use violence against other people and follow Christ with integrity. Probably most early Friends did not think of themselves as pacifists, but simply realized that in order to follow Christ’s injunction toward love for neighbors and enemies, it was impossible for them to harm others (see especially Matthew 5:3-12, 5:38-48; Luke 10:25-37; Romans 12:17-21, Romans 13:8-10).

A large portion of this testimony for early Friends also had to do with convincement: if one injured or killed another person who was not a “convinced” member of God’s family, that person would never have a chance to know God. It was better for the already-convinced to suffer or even die in order to give others that chance. The peace testimony is connected to the testimony on equality because Friends believe God desires each person have the chance to know God. All people are equally beloved by God, and we do not have the right to injure those God loves.

One of the earliest statements of the Friends peace testimony appears in a letter written to Charles II in 1660. It says: We utterly deny all outward wars and strife and fightings with outward weapons, for any end or under any pretence whatsoever. And this is our testimony to the whole world. The spirit of Christ, by which we are guided, is not changeable, so as once to command us from a thing as evil and again to move unto it; and we do certainly know, and so 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.

Most of the time when Friends throughout history have taken a stand on a peace or social justice issue, it is not because they looked around for a cause to champion, but they found themselves in a situation of great injustice and could not in good conscience allow it to continue without standing up for God’s truth through love. This occurred as Friends were jailed for minor offenses and discovered the inhumane situation of the prisons and prison system and worked to change it. Similarly, Friends noticed the horrible setting of the insane asylums and worked to change that system, often by beginning mental institutions where patients were treated with respect and care.

Friends became involved in the abolition movement as individuals listened to God speaking to them about the humanity of those they, or their fellow Friends and neighbors, kept in bondage.

It should be noted that while Friends beliefs are similar on this matter to the other “historic peace churches,” there is basically no proven relationship between the Friends movement of 17th century England and the Radical Reformation of Germany and Switzerland in the 16th century, other than individuals reading the Bible and listening to the Spirit present with them.

Denominations arising out of the Radical Reformation are now the various branches of Mennonite, Brethren and Amish traditions. These are called Anabaptists because of their emphasis on adult (rather than infant) baptism. Friends and the descendants of the Anabaptists currently hold some common beliefs and practices and often work together toward peace and social justice, or at least they learn from one another using each other’s organizations and materials to teach and act upon these topics.


The testimony of stewardship can be traced throughout Quaker history, although different things needed to be “stewarded” at different times. Humanity is currently becoming increasingly aware that we need to intentionally care for our world and its inhabitants. The idea of stewardship of the Earth is in line with Quaker thought across history, although Friends did not necessarily see it as a call to Earth care any earlier than others. Still, this testimony can be thought of as an extension of all the other testimonies. We “live more simply so others can simply live.” Many Friends see connections between our ability to live at peace on a national level and the amount and kind of goods we require. Therefore stewardship is part of the peace testimony. Living with integrity means we are truthful with ourselves about what we actually need, recognizing the worldwide community in which we live, which extends to the plants and animals important in the ecosystems that support ourselves. We recognize that if we truly believe that all people are equal, we should not take more resources than we need, so that others can have what they need.

Author’s note: See this blog to understand how the acronym, SPICE, came to be:

SPICE: a Quaker Youth Curriculum

Editor’s Note: This resource originally appeared on the Northwest Yearly Meeting website and is used with permission. The Peace Month website also includes many more resources that will help create a meeting wide venture into the study of simplicity, peace, integrity, community and equality.

By Cherice & Joel Bock

Many youth are searching for a faith that is real, that has some feet to it rather than just words. Friends throughout history have exemplified living out their faith in ways that are world-changing and that show real moral gumption. Sharing stories of historical and contemporary Friends (and others) who grapple with living out Christian convictions can be powerful for youth as they think about their place within our denomination and within the world community. You are welcome to share your own stories, share stories of historical or contemporary Christians you know well, or invite a guest speaker to come share about each of the SPICE topics (Simplicity, Peace, Integrity, Community and Equality).

Make sure to utilize the essay on page 27 that gives more information about each of the Friends testimonies. Also, to spice up your lessons (pun intended!), go to the NWYM website ( and check out the music by Nate Macy and Bill Jolliff. You could play a song or two at the beginning of your lesson or during the lesson to illustrate a point.

Week 1: Simplicity

Explain the topic for Peace Month this year: Peace is one of the Friends testimonies — a way that Friends have traditionally felt called by God to live as they read the Bible and as they listen to God in their own lives. But peace is not the only Friends testimony. In order to understand our denomination and our faith better, we’ll be focusing on each of the Friends testimonies for a week. To make it easier to remember, we use the acronym, SPICE: Simplicity, Peace, Integrity, Community and Equality. These are not things that Friends have just decided they like so they live them out, but they are expressions of their intentional focus on God’s call on their lives individually and as a community, gleaned through reading scripture and attending to their own experiences.

What does “simplicity” mean?

Dictionary definition:

1. The state, quality or an instance of being simple.
2. Freedom from complexity, intricacy or division into
parts: an organism of great simplicity.
3. Absence of luxury, pretentiousness, ornament, etc.;
plainness: a life of simplicity.
4. Freedom from deceit or guile; sincerity; artlessness;
naturalness: a simplicity of manner.
5. Lack of mental acuteness or shrewdness: Politics is not
a field for simplicity about human nature.


• Discuss whether simplicity is or is not important for Christians.
• Read Luke 12:22-34 or Matthew 6:25-34 discuss not worrying about material possessions.
• What does these say verse about simplicity?
• Is anything about this passage difficult for you?
• Tell a story from your own experience about a way you try to live simply or a struggle you have regarding simplicity.
• Open it up for the youth to share their own thoughts, attempts at living simply or struggles with this concept.

Week 2: Peace

Ask: What are some different types of “peace” you can think of? Refer back to the different levels of peace discussed in 2010 — internal peace between yourself and God, peace in your community, peace in your nation and world — or to the individuals from Friends history who exemplified different ways of living out the peace testimony. (Look online:;

Guide your group toward thinking about peace as more than just the absence of violence, but creating a situation in which all people can live at peace.

Choose an individual to highlight. Discuss that person’s work for peace, especially focusing on how they started working for peace. (This could be a historic Friend, a contemporary person in your meeting or a famous person you know about who did something important to work toward peace and social justice.)

Note: Many Friends who we know now as great proponents of peace or justice simply looked around at things in their lives and recognized an injustice was going on, and spoke out against it.

Friends saw the deplorable conditions of the prisons because they were sent to jail, and they started working to change laws. They had friends and relatives in mental asylums and realized those had horrible conditions as well, so they began to open up mental institutions that were healthy spaces.

Regarding war, Friends noticed scriptural rejection of Christian participation in war, but they also noticed that no one was taking care of those hurt by war, so many Friends have helped in rebuilding countries after war, served as medics, or done other things to help those who are injured due to war. The American Friends Service Committee won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1947 for its efforts to rebuild Europe and feed those who were starving after World War II.

You can use these examples or one (some) of your own choosing.

Peace isn’t about being against something, or about being passive. It’s about actively listening to God and noticing the places where people are hurting, and doing something, as led by God, to help heal that hurt.

Read Amos 5:21-24 and discuss what it truly means to be a follower of Christ. (You can also read Micah 6:8 and/or read and discuss what Jesus says when he’s asked about the greatest commandment, Matthew 22:34-40.)

Give an example of a place in your life where you feel called to work for peace and justice. How did you decide which issue to focus on? What are you doing to make peace?

Have the youth think about places in their life where they notice injustice or lack of peace. Have they felt a nudge from God about this issue? Invite them to start brainstorming ways they could start standing against that injustice.

Talk about whether there is one of these issues the youth group feels called by God to focus on together. Could they start working together to stand for peace? What would be the first step?

Week 3: Integrity

Ask: What is integrity?

Note: Integrity has to do with moral character and honesty.

• Integrity of an object: it is whole or sound.
• Integrity in math: can be expressed as an integer (same root), or whole number.
• Adjective “integral”: something that is necessary in order for completeness to occur, “an integral part.”
• Integration has to do with bringing different parts together to make a more complete whole.
• Antonym: dishonesty.
• So, integrity has to do with living in a way that is moral and honest, that leads to wholeness.

After thinking about integrity in all these different ways, ask the youth what it means to them to live with integrity. What would it look like? What are areas in their lives or in the lives of most American teenagers where it is difficult to live with integrity?

Read Matthew 5:33-37 (let your “yes” be “yes”). You can tie this in to your last lesson on peace: living with integrity means paying attention to the ways you notice injustice and lack of peace, and refusing to cooperate with situations and systems that uphold injustice.

Ask: When is it easy to let your “yes” be “yes” and your “no,” “no”? When is it difficult? Give an example from your own life of a way you’re trying to live with more integrity, or a struggle you’ve had at living with integrity.

Ask the youth to think of places in their lives where they feel drawn to live with more integrity.

As a lead-in to next week, discuss whether one can live with integrity alone. Is it possible? Is it harder or easier to do so in community?

Week 4: Community

Ask the youth to share ways they see community in the Bible. (Some examples might be: The nation of Israel, Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego sticking together and giving each other courage to continue living out their faith while in exile in Babylon. Jesus chose an immediate community and welcomed an extended community that he taught, ate with and traveled with; the Body of Christ analogy; the church in Jerusalem in Acts: everyone shared all they had, they worked to feed everyone together.)

Ask: What was important about these communities?

• Friends are a communal people, believing that we hear and follow God best when we listen and act together.
• Open worship is an example of this, as well as consensus-based business meetings.
• Friends formed a tight community early on, but it was not an exclusive community: the intent was to invite others in.
• Friends also took care of each other. When someone felt called to be a traveling minister, others would help take care of the traveling minister’s children and crops. When Friends ended up in jail for speaking out about their faith and against injustice, other Friends likewise helped with children and crops, as well as taking meals to those in jail.

Give an example from your own life of what it’s like to be part of a true community, and how this strengthened your faith.

Invite the youth to share about their experiences of community.

• You might ask do you feel like you’re part of a true faith community? Why or why not?
• When have you experienced true community?
• What does it take, from you and from others, to form a true community?

Week 5: Equality

Explain: This is really the testimony on which all of the Friends testimonies hinge. Because we as Friends believe God values all people equally and desires us to do the same, we seek to live out true community that invites all to participate. This means we strive to live peaceably with
everyone, to be honest and have the same level of integrity with all, and to “live simply so others can simply live.”

Themes and verses that point to equality of all people:

• Jesus died for all people, while we were still sinners (Romans 5:6-8).
• God wants us all to be part of God’s family, adopted as God’s children and heirs with Christ (Romans 8:14-17).
• In Christ, we are all one–regardless of race or ethnicity (“Jew or Greek”), position in society (“slave or free”) gender or, by extension, other qualifications (“male or female”) (Galatians 3:28).
• We’re invited to love others as ourselves, the second greatest commandment (Matthew 22:34-40).

Ask the youth what ways they see inequality lived out in the world around them.

Ask: What ways do you contribute to these inequities?

What ways do you suffer from others treating you as less-than or more-than-equal?

Tell a story of inequality in your life and how you dealt with it. This could be a positive or a negative example. If it’s a negative example, perhaps give a suggestion of how you would deal with it now.

Brainstorm ways the youth can break down systems of inequality they see around them.

• How can they refuse to cooperate with social hierarchies at school, for example?
• How might they be able to give a voice to those who do not have a voice in our society?
• How might they suffer for this refusal to cooperate with “the system”?
• What benefits might come as they try to treat everyone equally?

Wrap up the series by reflecting on the ways they have noticed injustice and inequality and their sense of calling to building peace and community through living simply and with integrity.

Renaissance House: A Ministry of Restoration

Renaissance House, Richmond, Indiana

By Micah Bales

I remember the first time I met John Fitch. I knocked on the front door. When no one answered, I let myself in. I could hear the banging and clattering of tools and knew someone was home. I entered the house tentatively. It was dark and house smelled funny, an odd mix of seasoned wood and musky dog. The dilapidated Victorian mansion where John lived had a strange floor plan, and if it hadn’t been for the noise, I wouldn’t have known where to go. But it was impossible to miss. Hammer strikes. Groaning. Yelling. Someone was upstairs.

I called up the stairwell, uncertain. “Hello?”

“Yeah! I’m up here!” came back a voice from mid-air above me. I took a few steps. Suddenly, there he was, staring down at me from a makeshift scaffolding. John peered from the platform and called out, “You want to help me lift this piece of drywall? It’s killing me!”

Before I knew it, I was spending the entire afternoon working with John repairing the stairwell. I had no idea what to do with that hammer he put in my hand, but he was insistent that I hold it. I didn’t quite know what was going on in this house he was bringing back from the dead, but John invited me to follow along and find out.

Over the next few months, John would invite me into a journey of apprenticeship unlike anything I had ever experienced before. He started projects first and asked questions later. Presented with an opportunity to talk about the gospel or to practice it, John would pick practice every time.

Streets to Live In

John’s home is in the Starr District of Richmond, Indiana, and is called the Renaissance House. This neighborhood was at one time extremely prosperous, filled with the spacious homes of the well-to-do. If these families didn’t have servants, they must have had many children. Each of the homes on John’s block look like they could easily serve as a bed-and-breakfast — that is, assuming anyone would choose to vacation there.

The Starr District has not aged well. The old mansions that have survived the decades of neglect are now just shadows of their former glory. Most of them have long since been divided up into apartments, and few have received much maintenance this century. Our neighborhood was in gentle decline. The whole place was falling apart, but nothing was happening too quickly. To be honest, I liked it that way. The area could be rough, but it was also probably the most human place I’ve ever lived. In contrast to so many neighborhoods, the Starr District is truly inhabited.

Even back before the financial crisis, unemployment was very high here. Many people had physical or psychological disabilities and were living on some form of government assistance. There were almost always people hanging out on the street. Folks who were bored, broke and hungry.

Feeding Body and Soul

Hungry we could deal with. One of the main ways that John and the Renaissance House community reached out to the neighborhood was by holding regular public dinners out on our long front porch. During the time I was there, we were holding three dinners a week, and we rarely had a shortage of people coming to eat with us.

In theory the meals were a potluck, but residents of Renaissance House generally provided the lion’s share of the fixings. For our part, we requisitioned food from a variety of sources — donations, food banks and other creative means. Eating was always a special event for us as a community. We truly had the sense that God was providing for our physical needs daily.

I remember when we were heating the house with scrap wood from the nearby coffin factory. (Hey, it worked!) We made it through the winter. All of us who lived at Renaissance House shared a standard of living that was similar to the people in our neighborhood. This, too, was a blessing. We were living in solidarity with the poor, and the experience and priorities of the poor became our own.

From this place of material poverty, we were learning a poverty of spirit, as well. John set an example of looking to the simple, important things first: How should we acquire food this week? What is the best way to handle the violent outbursts of a mentally ill member of our community? Who would help us set the table for our shared meal? John always kept things at a human level. He sought to make the kingdom of God a tangible reality for each person.

A New Benedict

John would sometimes jokingly refer to himself as the “abbot” of the Renaissance House. It was meant to be funny, but I felt it pointed to the deeper purpose of John›s ministry. In the midst of economic, social and spiritual chaos, John provided a space for healing and restoration. In a culture without clear guidelines for living, John was piecing together a new monastic rule that could provide stability and discipline for a shared life of Christian discipleship.

I came to think of John as walking in the footsteps of Saint Benedict, who is often viewed as the father of western monasticism. During the collapse of the Roman Empire, Benedict formed a network of monastic communities that provided a sense of safety, order and shared faithfulness for those who chose to walk in the way of Jesus. The Benedictine communities were a resource to the surrounding villages, anchoring the life of whole regions.

In our shared life as residents of Renaissance House, we maintained what was essentially a monastic rhythm. We prayed three times a day, recited our house’s liturgy and read the Bible together. We made ourselves radically available to one another and to whoever came to visit us. Walking our dogs throughout the neighborhood, we cared for our parish as a steady, stable presence.

An Example for the Church

In addition to the powerful influence that Renaissance House had in our local neighborhood, it also made a significant impact in the life of the church as a whole. It taught us how God calls each of us to love the poor and marginalized in tangible ways.

Renaissance House has invited Indiana Quakers into a deeper engagement with the concerns and struggles of the poor. It extends hospitality to everyone, including the more socio-economically comfortable followers of Jesus. Everyone is invited to come and see what it means to live in unity with all our brothers and sisters, to contemplate what we might have to surrender in order to be faithful to Christ’s call on our lives. It’s been a long time since I’ve lived as part of the Renaissance House community, but to this day John’s ministry convicts and inspires me. Renaissance House spurs me to consider how I might be living a more radical life of solidarity with the least of these in our society.

I live in a very different context now. Washington, DC, bears very little in common with small-town Indiana. Yet, I continue to wrestle with how I might engage in the spirit of Renaissance House here in my new neighborhood. What would it look like for me to help anchor my block, my region, my church in the same way that John anchors his? What would it mean for a Quaker-infused, new monastic community to emerge here in DC?

What might this witness mean for you? Do you sense God calling you into solidarity with those who are most marginalized in our culture? Are you longing for a life that is deeper than career, prosperity and security? Would you like to be part of a community that participates in Jesus’ ministry of reconciliation, making the kingdom of God tangible in our daily lives?

You’re being handed a hammer. Will you take it?

Micah BalesMicah Bales is the Communications and Web Specialist for Friends United Meeting and helps coordinate the Friends of Jesus Fellowship, a network of new Friends worship groups. He lives in Washington, DC.

Kindred Courage

By Cherice Bock

I used to worry about my public testimony: What is my particular calling? What area of injustice should I be focusing on? How would I live up to the stories I’ve heard all my life of my Quaker forebears?

And then I “met” Elizabeth (Betsy) Fry. At first, hers was an intimidating example: her face graces the £5 note, and people dubbed her the “Angel of Newgate Prison.” But then I read her journal. I read her tales of fearfulness, waking in the night to bad dreams. I read of her doubts and of her frivolity, her struggle to discern whether to speak and dress in the “plain” or “gay” Friends’ style, holding onto her purple boots with the scarlet laces, her small acts of faithfulness as she distributed food and clothing and began teaching neighborhood children to read.

I learned that Elizabeth Fry was born in 1780, 200 years before me. For some reason, this bound her to my heart. As I read her story, I can track mine alongside. From 1801–1816, she birthed 10 of her 11 children; I birthed my own two in the same years at the turn of this century. She tested her voice in public ministry in meetings for worship in her twenties and thirties, worked on Quaker committees, entertained traveling Friends, went through the process of being recorded as a Friends minister and dealt with questions of her vocation, as have I.

It was not until 1813, that Elizabeth Fry stepped foot in Newgate Prison for the first time. In my 20s, this gave me much courage and hope. If I worried that my “causes” flitted from thing to thing, if I wondered what it was that I would focus on and if I concluded that my life would forever revolve around the duties of my home and family. When I felt caught up in frivolity or the internal Quaker squabbles that define our time, I remembered Friend Betsy and her small steps of faithfulness, even when she felt she was moving in the dark.

A recent book of poetry by Julie C. Robinson also chronicles the life and impact of Elizabeth Fry’s prison ministry, Jail Fire. Through its pages I experienced the essence of Elizabeth Fry anew, connecting with her emotionally through the lyric phrasing woven by Robinson. Fry’s life and milieu, carefully
researched by Robinson, appear through excerpts from Fry’s novel, poetic vignettes from her childhood, reflections by the female inmates whose lives she touched and Robinson’s own discoveries of self and Spirit as she encountered this remarkable woman. As I read Robinson’s words, I encounter another kindred Friend, a public minister who brings alive our Spirittrod history to a new time. Through her poetry I hear that same Spirit, birthing in us hope and courage, compassion for others and for ourselves.

Through these kindred Friends and the Spirit that binds us to one another, I receive courage to take the next step. Without the public ministries of other Friends, would I have hope that these small acts of faithfulness were worth it?

I still ask the question, “What do we do now?” But now it is a communal question, borne up in the hope and courage of my kindred. It is an invitation and a joy.

We are merely sisters, vessels of gladness
who do not rebuff one another
but bear our courage up.
we dare to approach the invisible God
and reach, without shame,
for the hem of a second chance.
from “Ladies Society for the Improvement of Female Prisoners
at Newgate,” Julie C. Robinson, Jail Fire, p. 26