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Faithful Risk Taking

By Dorlan Bales

At its best, faithful risk taking is a response to the experience of God’s love and the Holy Spirit’s call to share that love with others. This study is an invitation to reflect on words and deeds of people described in scripture, Quaker history and people who took Spirit-led risks. What could it mean today to hear and obey a spiritual call to move beyond what is safe and familiar?

Biblical Risk Taking: Abraham and His Decendants

The story of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and the children of Israel begins with God’s call roughly 4,000 years ago: “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you (Genesis 12:1).” Abraham’s willingness to obey God and set out on a long, dangerous journey with his wife Sarah was a risky decision with huge consequences.

Isaac’s son Jacob, also called Israel, had 12 sons one of whom, Joseph, was sold into Egyptian slavery by his jealous older brothers. There Joseph interpreted the Pharaoh’s dreams and was put in charge of storing surplus food, making the Pharaoh very powerful when years of regional famine came. Jacob took his family south to Egypt in search of food and encountered a merciful Joseph who secured good land for them, so that the children of Israel multiplied.

After Joseph died a new Pharaoh came to power. Afraid of an Israelite rebellion, he decreed that Hebrew baby boys be thrown into the Nile River. One baby, Moses, was saved by the Pharaoh’s daughter and raised in her father’s court. However, after killing an Egyptian who had abused one of his relatives, Moses was forced to flee to the Arabian desert (Exodus 1-2). There he married the daughter of a Midianite high priest who worshiped Yahweh, revealed to Moses as the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (Ex. 3:1-15).

God called Moses to go to the Pharaoh and free the Israelites — a difficult calling with lots of risk! Despite his reservations, Moses obeyed God and at this turning point in Hebrew history, confronted the most powerful ruler on earth leading the Israelites to the land of Canaan where Abraham, Isaac and Jacob had lived generations ago.

Jeremiah was beaten, put knee-deep in a muddy cistern and nearly starved to death (Jeremiah 37-38). See also the classic confrontation between King Ahab and the prophet Elijah in I Kings 18:17-18. Ahab called Elijah a troubler of Israel and Elijah responded by saying, “I have not troubled Israel; but you have, and your father’s house, because you have forsaken the commandments of the Lord and followed the Baals [Canaan’s gods].”

A prophet’s calling was risky, because they often spoke words of reproof and pleaded for the nation’s return to the living God of justice and mercy. Their words of judgment were unpopular not only with the king himself but also with the many people who were depending on their king for food and protection.


Can you imagine leaving your country and relatives the way Abraham and Sarah did if God called you to do so?

Would you go at God’s command, inspired with the faithfulness of Moses and the prophets, to tell a powerful person to obey a just and merciful God?

Risky Discipleship in the New Testament

How did Jesus teach and demonstrate God’s justice and loving kindness, identifying with the risk taking prophetic tradition he knew from the Hebrew scriptures? In addition to characterizing powerful religious authorities’ names as hypocrite, blind fool, and whitewashed tomb (Matthew 23), Jesus infuriated them when he broke the letter of ceremonial laws in order to be faithful to their spirit, saying that, “the Sabbath was made for humankind, and not humankind for the Sabbath (Mark 2:27).”

Healing on the Sabbath, fellowship with those who did not keep the law, talking with women and other breaches of the purity laws made Jesus popular with crowds of common people, but Jesus left temple authorities shaking their heads as he refocused Jewish faith away from rigid rules toward God’s love for everyone.

It’s likely that Jesus would have had a much longer life and ministry if he had not spoken prophetic words to the scribes, temple authorities and Pharisees. His risky faithfulness led to crucifixion by the Roman occupiers at the request of the Jewish leaders who collaborated with them.

Jesus’ disciples surely knew that they could be next to die, but seven weeks after his crucifixion, on the Day of Pentecost, they experienced the outpouring of Jesus’ Holy Spirit (Acts 2). Peter and John began healing people’s physical infirmities and proclaiming in public that, “in Jesus there is the resurrection of the dead (Acts 4:2).”

The priests and Sadducees were furious and brought them before the temple authorities. Peter freely admitted that he had been instrumental in the healing of a crippled beggar made whole by the power of the crucified Jesus Christ of Nazareth, the cornerstone the rulers had rejected. Let off with a warning because the authorities were afraid to punish them, Jesus’ followers prayed for boldness and kept teaching and healing in Jesus’ name, rejoicing that they were worthy to suffer dishonor “for the sake of the name (Acts 4-5).”

The temple council’s patience ran out when one of the new leaders, Stephen, accused them of opposing the Holy Spirit and killing the prophets as their ancestors had done, of receiving the law but not keeping it. They dragged Stephen out of the city and stoned him to death.

Immediately a harsh persecution was unleashed against the Jerusalem church, scattering most members of that Spirit-filled community to other cities. A man then named Saul, later known as Paul the apostle, approved of what of the stoning and went to the homes of Jesus’ Jerusalem followers and dragged those he found off to prison (Acts 6:7-7:3 and 7:51-8:3).

That done, Saul headed for Damascus to arrest others. On the road Saul was knocked to the ground, blinded by a flash of light and heard the voice of Jesus tell him to enter the city. A disciple there named Ananias had a vision in which Jesus told him to go help Saul regain his sight. A risky thing to do, as Ananias reminded Jesus! However, Ananias obediently took the risk. Saul did indeed regain his vision, was filled with the Holy Spirit, and preached in the synagogue so powerfully that he had to leave Damascus quickly in a basket let down over the city wall (Acts 9:1-23)!

When Saul came back to Jerusalem and sought out the disciples, they were understandably afraid. It took Barnabas’ risky advocacy to gain the group’s trust. Soon, Paul, as he was now known, was accepted and speaking boldly. When enemies tried to kill him, it was the disciples who rushed him out of town and sent him far away to his home town for his own protection (Acts 9:26-30).
Those who responded to the preaching of Peter, Stephen and Paul immediately faced the possibility of physical violence at the hands of the powerful Sadducee aristocrats who were outraged by the disciples’ proclamation of a resurrected Jesus present in their midst. But very soon a difficult, divisive question emerged from within the group, one which threatened to divide Christ’s followers.

Peter, who had travelled to the city of Joppa, had a puzzling vision which concluded with the words: “What God has made clean, you must not call profane.” The day before, a Roman officer named Cornelius in nearby Caesarea had seen a vision telling him to send for Peter, who went to Cornelius’ house the next day, eager to hear the Roman’s story and share his own change of heart. The result was the Holy Spirit being poured out on “even the Gentiles” and Peter baptizing them with water in the name of Jesus Christ (Acts 10).

This caused no small stir in the Jerusalem church! Peter told his story again, remembering that Jesus had said: “John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit,” and concluded by saying that, “if then God gave them the same gift that he gave us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could hinder God?” This testimony convinced Peter’s critics, who accepted what seemed unthinkably risky to them, welcoming those who were not Jews into the fellowship of those who follow Jesus (Acts 11:1-18).


How do you extend your love beyond your own tribe and nation, proclaiming God’s love and justice for all the way Jesus did, and break today’s purity codes by risking friendship with those looked down upon by religious people?

Barnabas and Ananias were led to take a risk through the urging of Christ. When has Christ given you a leading that involved risk? Describe how you felt? How did you overcome your worries and fears?

Can you imagine how much faith would be required to change your heart and mind, like Peter did, in response to the Living Christ’s teaching about something you have believed all your life?

Risky Quaker Discipleship

The Quaker movement emerged in a time of turmoil just after the English Civil War, which ended when the Puritan New Model Army defeated the forces of Charles I, who was then beheaded in 1647. During the 1650s, as the number of Quakers was increasing, an unstable coalition of Puritan reformers in parliament governed England.

During this decade Mary Dyer, who with her husband had been expelled from Puritan Massachusetts in 1638 and had moved to Rhode Island, returned alone to England in 1650. She became a Quaker after hearing George Fox preach and returned across the Atlantic in 1658 to challenge Massachusetts’ harsh theocratic rule. In 1660, more than 20 years before Penn’s colony was founded, she was hanged in Boston for reentering the colony after being banished.

George Fox met with England’s Lord Protector Oliver Cromwell four times (1653-58). Although Fox and other Quakers were themselves put in prison for disputing with priests and magistrates, there were no systematic persecutions of Quakers during those years. After Cromwell died and Charles II was installed as king in 1660, however, mass arrests of dissenters began. Many of the great Quaker leaders died in prison or as a result of earlier imprisonment. Quaker refusal to obey laws requiring the taking of oaths resulted in imprisonment. Another law forbade all religious gatherings of more than four people other than family members. Failure to pay tithes to the state church brought ruinous fines and imprisonment.

According to Hugh Barbour’s The Quakers in Puritan England, only 119 Friends were imprisoned in 1658. But in 1664, 1,709 Friends were jailed in London and Middlesex. Quakers suffered more than other dissenting groups because they met publicly and regularly after their meetinghouses were boarded up. Children kept meeting while their parents were in prison. This bold behavior and the willingness to suffer for their convictions was part of the Quaker Lamb’s War.

Throughout the 1670s and 80s, over 1,000 Friends suffered in cold, wet, crowded dungeons. Epidemics were frequent and release could often be secured only by paying fines, which Quakers refused to do. George Fox spent more than five years in such dungeons. (Barbour, 228-9) American Quakers from the late 17th to the mid-18th centuries faced difficult issues that tested their faith. One such issue was that of slaveholding within the Society of Friends. Condemned by Anthony Benezet, John Woolman and other Friends, more and more Quakers became clear that slaveholding and using slave-made products was incompatible with Christ’s love and teachings. Coming to unity, however, was a slow process. The spiritual struggle put both the reformers and the wider Society of Friends at risk. In 1775, Philadelphia Yearly Meeting called on Quakers to free their slaves and conducted visitations with those who did not comply. Three years later, Philadelphia Quarter reported that most of its members were clear of slaveholding. (See Pamela Moore’s Quakers and Slavery article at

Another trial for Friends, who had a corporate testimony against participation in war as early as 1660, was pressure from their neighbors to participate in the Indian Wars and the Revolutionary War. John Woolman’s Journal, chapter 8, describes his risky visit to Native Americans on the frontier in 1762.

There was physical risk (see the Doyle Penrose painting None Shall Make Them Afraid, that portrays a war party bursting into a frontier meetinghouse) and risk of social ostracism and loss of business for Quakers who refused to support armed struggle. The Quaker testimony against participation in wars continued to be risky in the 19th and 20th centuries during the United States’ Civil War, two world wars, and more limited wars which followed.


Did you know that Quakers suffered imprisonment and death for their faith both in England and in the American colonies?

Under what circumstances could you imagine risking arrest or financial hardship for showing love and speaking in public for justice? Have you experienced your faith as risky in a large or small way?

Willingness to Respond to a Call That May Include Risk

Because God’s inward call to love and justice puts people of faith in tension with what George Fox called “the world’s ways,” obedience to the Spirit has always threatened the established order of individuals, faith communities and the wider society. For example, as a young man John Woolman felt an inward “stop” when asked by well-respected Quakers to write wills that included slaves as property (Journal, chapters I and III).

Friends are known for speaking and acting prophetically to end war and slavery, sometimes suffering for their conscience-based unwillingness to participate. 20th-century American Quakers Marion and Earnest Bromley were active resisters of racism and war taxes. Bayard Rustin, the chief organizer of the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, worked tirelessly for civil rights, economic justice and gay/lesbian rights. In our own century Virginia Quaker Tom Fox, in Iraq with Christian Peacemaker Teams, was one of four CPT members kidnapped in November 2005. Tom’s body was found three months later. The other three CPTers were freed soon after.

What injustices may Jesus be calling Christians to address today? What behaviors and attitudes are incompatible with loving God with all our hearts and loving others as much as we love ourselves?
As members of a fearful society increasingly fractured and led by the drum beat of wealth-seeking’s idolatrous short-sightedness, what risks may be necessary to follow a God who loves everyone and seeks the well-being of the entire creation? How may we hear more deeply and grow more obedient to the Holy Spirit’s persistent invitation to live with others in the fullness of God’s love, to be the light of the world, the salt of the earth and the bit of yeast with power far beyond its size?


Do you believe that Christ is present to teach you inwardly, using many gracious outward means? Have you experienced a call from God? What may be distracting you from listening, or blocking a positive response to a call you may have heard?

Is hearing and responding to a risky call only for a tiny percentage of extraordinary people of faith in special times and places? Why or why not?

If you were asked to speak and act in the name of a loving God against injustice, and if in doing so could result in suffering for yourself, your family or Friends you know, can you imagine being obedient to that call as Old Testament prophets, Jesus’ first followers and many Quakers have been?

Dorlan BalesDorlan Bales grew up in Northwest Yearly Meeting, the eldest child of pastor/teachers George and Elenita. Between ministry studies at George Fox University and Earlham School of Religion, he completed two years of alternative service at a children’s hospital in Vietnam. After studying theology in Chicago, he was led to Wichita, Kansas where he lives with his wife Kathryn Damiano, stays in touch with sons Micah and Andrew and writes grant proposals for Sunflower Community Action, which he helped found. He is a member of Heartland Friends Meeting, works for peace and justice, and enjoys playing and making violins.

Quaker Life – May/June 2014

Gathered for Mission: Equipping to Serve

One of the things I love about Friends is our radical assertion that we’re all called to ministry and all given access to God’s wisdom and power. The Spirit empowers us to move gracefully in the water of life even when we are in way over our heads. I believe and rely on this because I experience it regularly.

Learning to live in that Life and Power, then, as well as teaching and training others to do the same ought to take our best time and energy. Though we may have some natural instincts that incline us to know and follow Christ, most of us need to learn how. This is what discipleship is all about — being a student of Christ. It is essential that we share with one another what we know about how to listen attentively, walk wisely and minister gracefully. Expecting each of us to figure it out on our own, an unfortunate tendency among Friends, hinders us and undermines the central place of this in our life together.

Along with nurturing our spiritual depth, however, comes the opportunity and responsibility to train one another in the work of service and leadership. Instead of expecting our clerks, our pastors, our treasurers, our elders, our youth workers, our committee and board members to learn by trial and error — what if we resolved to mentor, teach and equip them to serve faithfully and effectively? What if we intentionally invested in their training for their sake and the importance of the work?

The thought of a spiritually energized and thoroughly equipped cadre of servant leaders and empowered ministers, ones who knew what on earth they were supposed to be doing and how best to do it, is not beyond the realm of possibility. It is, in fact, part of FUM’s hope for the future of Friends. A renewed commitment to this might just cause us to experience something akin to a baptism — a new and deeper immersion into God’s will and ways in our time.

Colin Saxton – General Secretary, Friends United Meeting

Christ’s Call to Mission: The Journey Outward - By Dorlan Bales

“The scriptures are far from neutral on economic questions. Income disparity between the top 1% and others was as great in ancient times as it is in today’s world. Prophets admonished the powerful not to just practice superficial piety; but, to deal justly and show mercy.”

Read more

Equipping To Serve: Through Work Teams - By Nancy McCormick & Linda Garrison

“In order for our yearly meetings to support work teams, we need to believe in them. We need to support them financially and we need to support them spiritually.”

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Equipping to Serve: Through the Work of a Missionary - By Henry Sabatia

“I told them ‘in my Kenyan culture, you cannot sit as other people are working. Either I stand, or I join you in working.’”

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Equipping to Serve: Through Caring

“Two ministries located in different parts of the world: one in the Kibera Slum in Nairobi and the other in the Amari Refugee Camp in Palestine, serve the children of the poorest of the poor.”

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Equipping to Serve: Through Training – By Eden Grace

“Ramallah Friends School is poised to equip the entire Palestinian educational system to serve children with disabilities, and by extension all children, as precious sons and daughters of the living God.”

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Equipping to Serve: Through Education – By Robert J. Wafula

“Friends, now that I am going back to FTC please join me in celebrating my recent appointment as principal. I feel honored to represent global Quakers in this position.”
Read more

Serving from Our Times of Worship – By Steve Olshewsky

“Our places of worship equip us to go out and preach the good news in other places thereby extending our community.”
Read more

Grassroots Ministry: Energizing and Equipping in Uganda and Tanzania - By Marian Baker

“Reconciliation, rejuvenation, new members, completion of a meetinghouse, wow! The conferences are energizing to all of us.”

Read more

Other Articles In This Issue:

Staff Columns

Out of My Mind – Colin Saxton
Amazing Grace – Eden Grace

Other Articles

A New People To Be Gathered – David Jaimes
Ask Tom: When did standing committees become so pervasive? – Thomas Hamm
Passages: Quaker Obituaries

Quaker Life – July/August 2014

A People to be Scattered: Risk Taking

I find it interesting to compare how people of faith are much like my family when it comes to taking risks. Some confess that they will be able to face the risk and move on, only to fall smack on their faces. They react to everything that comes their way and boldly make statements of faith that have no substance. With such an individual little time is spent in prayer, gaining discernment and understanding.

Others will take a chance only when they can see they are in a position of strength. Little trust is given to the Lord. They will take a risk only when they believe they cannot lose. Everything has to look like it will work before they move. They don’t act upon faith. Yet some have faith that they can take risks — but only when it will benefit themselves.

And finally, there are those who wait and move when the time is right. These individuals have seasoned their relationships with God in such a manner that they know the time to move and the time to sit back. Taking a risk is not something frightening, but a matter of the right move.

I wonder, in the walk of faith, which player describes you?

Annie Glen – Communications Editor, Friends United Meeting

Faithful Risk Taking - By Dorlan Bales

“At its best, faithful risk taking is a response to the experience of God’s love and the Holy Spirit’s call to share that love with others. What could it mean today to hear and obey a spiritual call to move beyond what is safe and familiar?”

Read more

The Risks You Take Will Make You Well - By Scott Wagoner

“If we are faithful, we also can hear the words of Jesus, ‘Courage, Friends and Quakers. You took a risk of faith, and now you are well.’”
Read more soon!

Re-Imaging Prophethood from within the Belly of the Machine - By Evan Knappenberger

“Here is the promise: thirst for justice, yearn for the voice of God in all things, hunger for right relation with God, with neighbors, with sparrows, and even with the text read-from-without.”

Read more soon!

The Balance Beam of Risk - By Mimi Marstaller

“I think God wants us to be spiritual entrepreneurs. I think he wants us to knock on new doors, explore unknown territory and embark on new paths, unimpeded by the fear of failure.”

Read more soon!

Towards a Practical Peace Movement - By Isaac May

“A great people gathers as they energize and equip others for reaching out for Christ to the whole world.”

Read more soon!

Investing the Quaker Way - By Norval Reece

“A great people gathers as they energize and equip others for reaching out for Christ to the whole world.”

Read more soon!

Other Articles In This Issue:

Staff Columns

Out of My Mind – Colin Saxton
Meanderings & Musings – Annie Glen
Spreading the Word – Micah Bales

FUM News and Updates

FUM News in Brief

Other Content

Time for the Highroad – Steve Olshewsky
Letter to the Editor – David Zarempka
Book Reviews
Passages: Quaker Obituaries

Equipping to Serve: Through Training

Equipping a Nation to Serve All Children

By Eden Grace

Approximately five percent of all children in the world, according to the World Health Organization, have a moderate-to-severe disability. In some countries, these children can expect to receive excellent care and education allowing them to reach their highest potential. In Palestine, however, there are no government-funded educational services for children with disabilities. The public schools will not accommodate them. There is an unfortunately high rate of institutionalization for these precious children. In all of Palestine, there is only one school that accepts these children: Ramallah Friends School. Friends don’t just “accept” them; everyone on the campus loves, cherishes and sees each child as important and fully-integrated members of the school community. The Friends School sees the face of God in these special children.

This approach is utterly innovative in the Palestinian context. The special needs program at RFS began about 16 years ago when a particularly-assertive parent and an unusually visionary teacher persisted in advocating for the importance of mainstreaming children with disabilities. Today, the school is able to serve two or three students with severe disabilities at every grade level. These students are fully integrated into the educational and social life of their peers, while also receiving intensive one-on-one support from trained learning specialists. In overcoming social stigma against people with disabilities, the school has become a model for how differentiated teaching in a diverse student body leads to better outcomes for all children.

But two or three students per grade — only about 40 students across the whole school — is just the tip of the iceberg compared to the number of Palestinian children with moderate-to-severe disabilities. Parents, school administrators and government officials are pleading for help. In response to this huge unmet need, Ramallah Friends School is preparing to become a training center in full-inclusion special education, teaching and mentoring those who are attempting to replicate RFS’s program in other schools. This idea is still in the planning stages, with many questions yet to be answered, but already the level of excitement is rising. RFS is poised to equip the entire Palestinian educational system to serve children with disabilities, and by extension all children, as precious sons and daughters of the living God.

Quaker Life – March/April 2014

Gathered in Community

Growth in ministry requires us to deepen our shared life with other people. Much of the authority to serve others that Jesus gives us comes from the quality of the relationships that we develop over time. Do people know that they can trust me? Have I established a track record of fairness, honesty, wisdom and compassion? When people interact with me, do they see Christ’s reflection? These are some of the challenging questions that we must continually ask ourselves as we seek to participate in Jesus’ work of reconciliation and peace.

No amount of process and procedure can create this kind of relationship. It is only through our openness to the presence and guidance of the Holy Spirit that we can live together in genuine community. In this Spirit-filled community, we find the strength to embrace the fullness and variety of ministry into which Christ invites us.

Where do you find support for your ministry — spiritually, emotionally, financially and practically? What does it mean to be part of a fellowship in which we find friendship, inspiration and a collegial community of fellow workers with a variety of gifts and callings? Do the patterns, focus and procedures of your local congregation facilitate this work of equipping each person for ministry? How can our communities become centered with a shared experience of Jesus, who calls us into his ministry of reconciliation?

Micah Bales – Web & Communications Specialist, Friends United Meeting

Gathered in Community: Growing in Ministry - By Dorlan Bales

“The heart’s response to the Spirit’s call is the decision to follow Jesus. That choice and continuing recommitment to Christian discipleship takes place in the context of a spiritual community.”

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Gospel Re-Ordering - By Chuck Orwiler

“Jesus was eminently practical. He taught the Kingdom way. He lived what he taught. He told his followers to go do the same. ‘Learn from me,’ said Jesus, and, ‘Everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man.’”

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The Growing Edge of Ministry – By Scott Wagoner

“Intentionality is one area where the Church falls short today. There just aren’t enough Christ followers purposely engaging in the discipleship of others.”

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I Want To Learn Peace – By Pete Serete

“All of the communities within this vast refugee camp have now embraced AVP, and the impact of this ministry continues to grow and transform lives.”

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Speaking About Christ Among Friends – By Rita Willett

“As we hunger for the love of our Creator and thirst for the spiritual nourishment of his Spirit, we become propelled into service with a great outpouring of joy.”
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Gentle Giants – By David O. Williams

“Longevity, adversity and community are three essentials for the healthy growth and development of Giant Sequoias. Three essentials for the healthy growth and development of spiritual giants as well.”
Read more

A Hidden Gift - By Sarah Katreen Hoggatt

“It’s because of those times spent with God, centering down into God’s presence, feeling Love embrace me, that I’m able to sit with others in their time of need.”

Read more

Other Articles In This Issue:

Staff Columns

Out of My Mind – Colin Saxton
Meanderings & Musings – Annie Glen
Amazing Grace – Eden Grace
Spreading the Word – Micah Bales

News and Updates

FUM News in Brief
Sarah Thompson appointed CPT Executive Director
Everence and Praxis Mutual Funds revamp environmental screening policy

Other Articles

The Joy of Everyday Ministry – Diane Andrews
Queries for Missional Communities – Colin Saxton
Ask Tom: How did early Friends develop and grow as ministers? – Thomas Hamm
We Are All In This Together – By Noel Krughoff – FUM representative to FCNL
Think Outside The Bus – Diane Raflo-Andrews
Passages: Quaker Obituaries

Passages: Quaker Obituaries – May/June 2014

ALLRED Gene Samuel Allred, 93, died at his residence after a long battle with Parkinson’s disease on March 13, 2014. Sam was born in Burlington, North Carolina, to the late William Stanley and Rose Grant Allred on August 2, 1920. He served in Africa and Italy as an airplane mechanic with the U.S. Army Air Corp during World War II. Sam was employed at Charles D. Roberts Co. for many years but his life-long profession was as a singer. He entertained audiences all over the world as a professional singer for over 26 years and with his beautiful voice comforted many bereaved families when he was called upon to sing at funerals. Sam was a loving and devoted husband to Becky Allred for 66 years and a wonderful father to six children. He was the light and life of their home and leaves behind a legacy to his children and grandchildren of loyalty, strong moral character and an enthusiastic outlook on life. He was a hard worker who could repair or build just about anything and will be remembered as a very talented cook whose stews, chicken, cornbread, fresh garden vegetables and peanut brittle fed many. He loved the Lord and was a member of Glenwood Friends since 1975, where he served as minister of music and choir director. Surviving Sam are his wife, Ella Rebecca Scott Allred; six children and their spouses, Marilyn Trivett, Sharon McMurry, Teresa Inserra, George Allred, Samuel Allred and Joe Allred; 14 grandchildren; three great grandchildren and many nieces and nephews. He was preceded in death by his parents and 11 siblings.

BRUSH Miriam Kelly Brush, 98, died peacefully on February 12, 2014, in Medford, New Jersey, with loving family at her side. Born on November 9, 1915, in Boston, Massachusetts, she was the only child of Richard Ernest and Susan Kean Kelly, a naturalized citizen who emigrated from Ireland as a young girl. A graduate of the Girls Latin School (1933), she received an A.B. cum laude in chemistry (Mt. Holyoke College, 1937), an M.A. in chemistry (Oberlin College, 1939) and a Ph.D. in nutrition (Iowa State University, 1946). Her professional, community and religious life were devoted to service and she was a friend, mentor and model for authentic living for many. A Professor Emeritus of Nutrition at Rutgers University, she retired in 1986 as Professor and Chair of the Home Economics Department and Director of the Graduate Program in Applied Human Nutrition. She served her department, Douglass College and the wider university in many roles over 30 years. The author of numerous scientific articles on human clinical nutrition, she was vice-chair of the task force on voluntary action by health organizations for the 1969 White House Conference on Food, Nutrition and Health and was on the editorial board of topics in clinical nutrition. Upon her retirement, she was recognized by a number of professional organizations for outstanding contributions and distinguished leadership. Active over many decades in Piscataway, New Jersey, she served on the board of education (1955-67), where she was the first woman member and the first woman president. As a member of Piscataway Library Board, in 1961 she was instrumental in municipalizing the then private library. She was a member of the Piscataway Charter Commission, which in the late 1960s initiated changes in the form of township governance. After retirement, she was a volunteer consultant to Head Start and a volunteer tax preparer. A member of the Religious Society of Friends, her Quaker faith and values were central to her life. In 1940, she participated in an American Friends Service Committee summer work camp on Little Silver Farm in South Carolina. After she and John met at Concord House and were married at Chicago’s 57th Street Meeting in 1942, their activities among Friends became an integral part of their lives. Members of Friends’ meetings in Madison, Wisconsin; St. Louis, Missouri and Plainfield, New Jersey. They were among several families with young children who founded New Brunswick Meeting in 1954. She and John were also among the founders and directors of Quaker House, an international, interracial, coeducational cooperative house (1964 to 1984) for Rutgers’ students with a concern for social issues, justice and world peace. Her active involvement with Quaker organizations included service as: presiding clerk of New Brunswick Monthly Meeting; presiding clerk of New York Yearly Meeting; board member, assistant presiding clerk and presiding clerk of Friends United Meeting; and board member of Oakwood Friends School. One of the founders of the New York Yearly Meeting retreat center, Powell House, she served for many years on the Powell House Committee, including time as presiding clerk. In 1963, she and John purchased rural property near Powell House as a family retreat. Upon learning of her death, many fellow Quakers noted her wisdom and the depth and breadth of her spiritual gifts. One wrote: “She was an amazing person who, while never presuming to have authority or expertise, was widely recognized as having it. It could well be that this was in part because she always seemed to exercise economy in what she had to say and when; and in part because she matched a wealth of experience with the discipline and the habit of examining it thoroughly, and not letting it go to waste.” Always up for a new challenge, she began a formal exercise routine at age 80 and, despite almost no vision, continued with determination until just weeks before she died. She enjoyed listening to WHYY and had a standing order from Recordings for the Blind for 30 books at a time. She is survived by her children: Jonathan, and his wife Anita Greenbaum Brush; Kamala and her wife Lucy Baruch; and Timothy and his wife Ki Brush; as well as by five grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. She was predeceased by her son Steven, in 2006 and her husband of 64 years, John, in 2007.

HADLEY Margaret Haworth Hadley, 92, passed away peacefully on March 1, 2014. Margaret was a life-long member of Dover Friends Meeting in Port William, Ohio, where she served a pianist for the past 50 years, as well as treasurer. She was also a strong advocate of several organizations serving children in need of a loving home environment. She was proud to be a member of Clinton County’s First Families, acknowledging the contributions of the Haworth family to the community since 1803. She was active in various other organizations including Church Women United, Turn the Corner Club and the United Society of Friends Women. She was a graduate of Port William High School and Earlham College. Margaret was a loving farm wife, mother and grandmother, pre-deceased by her parents and husband of 40 years, James Hadley. She will be greatly missed by her surviving children: Catherine Hadley, Sylvia Lankford Hadley (Larry Lankford) and Alton Hadley (Beth); her three grandchildren: Jim Hadley, Maggie Lankford and Willie Hadley; as well as her brother-in-law and sisters-in-law and many nieces and nephews whom she held dear.

HINSHAW Bernice “Bunk” Hinshaw, 93, died January 20, 2014, at Siler City Center, North Carolina. Ms. Hinshaw was born in Alamance County on July 10, 1920; the daughter of Harrison and Margaret (Pike) Hinshaw. Bunk was a member of Bethel Friends Meeting. She had worked at A J Schneierson but spent most of her working years as a floral designer, having worked at Friendly Florist, B & B Florist and Beckie’s Boutique. She was supportive and a faithful encourager of youth in their formative years. She served as a counselor at Quaker Lake, a youth Sunday School teacher and a 4-H Club leader. Bunk was known for her chocolate cakes which she shared at family reunions. She was preceded in death by her parents; brothers; George and Clinton Hinshaw and a sister, Glenna Blair. She is survived by brother: Zim Hinshaw and wife, Jeanette of Asheboro, North Carolina; and a host of loving nieces and nephews and their families.

JONES T. Canby Jones, 92, died February 13, 2014, at Paoli Memorial Hospital in Pennsylvania after a brief bout with pneumonia. Jones was born on September 25, 1921, to Thomas E. and Esther B, Jones who were Quaker missionaries in Karuizawa, Japan. He grew up on the campus of Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee; graduated from Westtown School, Westtown, Pennsylvania, in 1938; graduated from Haverford College, Haverford, Pennsylvania, in 1942, and Yale University with a bachelor’s degree in 1952, and his Ph.D. in 1955, specializing in Quaker founder George Fox. A lifelong pacifist and as a conscientious observer, he served in CPS during World War II constructing farmsteads and pouring concrete. He joined the faculty of Wilmington College in 1955, retiring from full time teaching 32 years later in 1987. He also taught briefly at Earlham School of Religion in Richmond, Indiana. Under a strong concern throughout his life to visit among Quakers for ecumenical purposes, Jones travelled all over the United States, to Europe, to Africa and four times to East Asia. He married Eunice Meeks August 19, 1945, who preceded him in death nine years ago after 58 years of marriage. He is survived by their son, Timothy H. Jones of West Chester, Pennsylvania and his sister, Catharine J. Gaskill of Orange City, Florida.

A New People to Be Gathered

By David Jaimes

The Latino people are the next face to be included in Quakerism. The great Quaker founder, George Fox, once saw a vision of people who were gathered together on a hill and recounted: “I came near a very great hill, called Pendle Hill, and I was moved of the Lord to go up to the top of it; which I did with difficulty, it was so very steep and high. When I was come to the top, I saw the sea bordering upon Lancashire. From the top of this hill the Lord let me see in what places he had a great people to be gathered (Rufus M. Jones (ed.), The Journal of George Fox, (Richmond, IN: Friends United Press, 1976), 150).”

I often wonder what Fox might have seen. How vast was this group of people? What kinds of people were they? What would set them apart? If today the various sects of Quakers would gather, and George Fox himself would be there to witness it, would his vision be confirmed? Does this great and gathered people include those who are of color? Is there room for those who are Hispanic? How diverse are Quakers? These are important questions for Friends to consider.

Quite honestly the answer to these questions offers a different picture than the one Fox proclaimed. At a glance, there seems to be little progress in reaching diverse people groups at home when compared to our efforts abroad. Recent statistics from the Friends World Committee for Consultation show that there are more than 377,000 Friends in the world, and 20% of them are from North America (Finding Quakers Around the World, 2012). Even though the numbers are seemingly low in North America, there is a tremendous amount of influence coming from North America that impacts the rest of the multi-faceted Quaker world.

Recently, I became connected with an organization known as World Relief as part of their Cross-Cultural Internship Program. I labored alongside church leaders in tackling the issue of immigration reform. This opened the door for me to see a broad perspective of injustices: such as, the criminalization of people that have not committed damage to the country, families being torn apart and the marginalization that is prevalent in the lives of so many families of different nationalities. Many of these people are of Latin-American descent. Through this experience, the Lord has revealed to me his compassion towards these growing peoples and how the church, mainly the Friends church, can embrace these people to become included in that greater vision of George Fox: “A great people to be gathered.”

Immigration is a politically charged issue in my home state of California. I was invited by World Relief to partake in an important relationship-building effort to assist the church in supporting their immigrant neighbors and connecting with their communities as Christ once did for us. I traveled to our nation’s capital for the purpose of advocating for a fair and just comprehensive immigration reform. There was an opportunity for me to attend a national gathering of Evangelicals called “Pray 4 Reform.” As we met with politicians and other leaders, I realized the goal of this event was to bring together Evangelicals from all across the nation to fight for the cause of immigration reform. I was able to gain knowledge about what it means to be an active citizen of the United States. Being from California, I visited the offices of more than five California congressmen and women and their staffers.

After returning from that trip and reflecting on many other meetings in Washington D.C., I have come to the conclusion that we as Christ’s ambassadors should be concerned about injustices in the treatment of immigrants in this land (Deuteronomy 10:18-19). The cause of immigration reform is a cause for every Quaker. The inhumane treatment of families that are torn apart because of deportations, the marginalization of an entire people because of their heritage and language, the abuse of their labor and not granting them a pathway to citizenship for their investment are some of the moral concerns that immigrants face today in these United States of America. It must stop.

To be a great people we must include the marginalized around us. Jesus said that the first shall be last and the last shall be first. There is not a greater posture than to put someone else before you. Christ did and so should we, as a people of the Light; especially as people called out by God, to gather his holy diaspora and reconcile each other to God. Latinos in this country are as much a part of George Fox’s vision as others. Let’s be attuned to the Spirit and keep gathering the great people.

David J. Jaimes is a graduating senior at Barclay College studying Bible/Theology. Born in Peru, and raised in California, David comes from a continuing lineage of pastors. In 2008 Rose Drive Friends Church planted a small Spanish-speaking church in Fullerton. David was impelled by the Spirit to serve alongside his father and establish “Iglesia Amigos Puente de Gracia.” He served three years as Youth Director and then pursued his degree in Kansas. David is called into Pastoral Ministry to persons who are marginalized by poverty, race, and hate. David hopes that he can serve wholeheartedly the Kingdom of God with the message of hope and love in Christ.

Ask Tom: When did standing committees become so pervasive?

By Thomas Hamm – Professor of History; Archivist/Curator, Friends Collection
Earlham College, Richmond, Indiana

Occasionally Tom, who lives for books and still takes all his research notes on 4 by 6 cards, concedes that digital collections can be useful. He often uses the Earlham School of Religion’s Digital Quaker Collection, which makes available on-line dozens of Quaker works published before 1923 and is keyword searchable. A search there for the word “committee” is revealing. In Quaker works published between 1650 and 1800, “committee” appears 22 times. Between 1801 and 1900, it appears 78 times. A post-1900 compilation, were it possible, would doubtless show an explosion.

Why did this happen? Obviously, it reflects institutionalization and bureaucratization of a sort. Friends moved in this direction as the functions and focus of Quaker organizations changed in the 19th century, because Friends felt called to a variety of new tasks as expressions of their faith. Reading the minutes of 19th-century monthly meetings, one finds typically standing committees on education (overseeing the monthly meeting school), the poor (relieving Friends in need), and facilities (usually looking after the meetinghouse and burying ground). The select meeting, or meeting of ministers and elders, functioned like the current ministry and oversight or ministry and counsel committee.

By the mid-19th century, however, Friends felt called to do more. Sometimes they copied other denominations, in setting up First Day schools, which needed a committee. Then came the Civil War, when Friends took up as a particular concern the needs of freed people. So there were “Freedmen’s” committees. After the Civil War, Friends formally assumed responsibility for certain groups of Native Americans, so there were Indian committees. Many Friends saw a need for formal work against the dire effects of alcohol, so there were Temperance committees. As Gurneyite Friends developed a strong missionary impulse after 1860, Missionary committees became common. The number of examples could be multiplied by the concerns.

The changes in worship adopted by most American Friends in the late nineteenth century also contributed to the growth of committees. Finance committees became important as pastoral salaries had to be raised. Music committees took responsibility for that aspect of congregational life. In back of all of this was a feeling that the most efficient church work required clear organization and s specialization, which would have been a given among Protestants at the time. And so God graced, or afflicted, Friends with committees.

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Grassroots Ministry: Energizing and Equipping in Uganda and Tanzania

By Marian Baker

Within a week of retiring, I had a deep sense that God was calling me to go encourage women in ministry in East Africa and not to be tied to any one institution. Since following that leading, I have been amazed at what God has done. It has been far more than I could have dreamed.

I travel in the traditional Quaker way, with a travel minute from my monthly meeting endorsed by my quarterly and yearly meeting. Following the advice of my support committee from the United States, I collected a committee of Kenyan women to advise me which of the places I felt led to go were most urgent and to assist me in finding suitable traveling companions. The Kenyan committee first chose Uganda. Pastor Eileen Malova from Kakamega YM also felt a calling to go to Uganda, but her duties as a pastor and head of a vocational college prohibited her to do so. She felt led to be a companion with me, but wasn’t sure how to travel or where to start. Together, we followed God.

We traveled as humble servants of Christ, willing to learn from those that need help. Throughout our journey we listened, provided encouragement, while we traveled by local means (crowded matatus, on the back of motorcycles, and on foot) to reach the Ugandan Friends.

These Friends were puzzled, since missionaries usually arrive in cars. If one uses an official vehicle, the visitors are welcomed like royalty, with songs and feasts. The people then share what they think the visitors want to hear and then ask for financial support. However by arriving through local means, the welcome is much different: one is treated as a friend and sometimes given the funds for the returning bus fare when the visit is over (an African custom).

Upon our arrival, Eileen told them the story of Peter and John who went to pray and a begging lame man. Peter said “Silver and gold have I none, but such as I have give I thee. In the name of Jesus of Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk (Acts 3).” She then shared that we had come to help them find ways to stand up, and encourage them that they had the ability within to help themselves.

We were led to follow Christ’s advice to travel lightly and accept any hospitality they offered (Luke 9:2-5). By staying in homes, we learned more about them and their needs quickly. The women kept us up until late each evening asking for advice and prayers on things they are facing. Throughout our visits, real sister relationships were developed with these women.

When we began, we feared that the leadership of the yearly meetings (in Africa almost all leadership positions are held by males) would give us trouble for working with women. Yet, the majority of all church members are women. The male leaders said if we helped the women, who in turn would teach others; the whole church would be strengthened. Earlier when I went with Dorothy Selebwa and Jane Mutoro to Samburu, I learned the value of women to women visits. The women were full of questions for us and had many issues they wanted advice on that they could not share with men in their culture.

In Uganda, we first felt led to visit the meetings all around the country, taking the general secretary and two women leaders with us. It was the first time for some of the Ugandans to travel outside their home areas. We rejoiced as we found three new meetings in their first year growing rapidly with active, motivated women. In Lira, located in northern Uganda, we were shown the graves of two leaders whose deaths were the catalyst for the demise of their meeting. Uganda Yearly Meeting had not known of these changes and began to see the need for more visiting and having better communication with all meetings. With the help of USFW Kenya, we helped three women from the new and three from the older meetings attend the USFW Kenya Triennial in Kaimosi to see how women can organize and run a conference (over 800 women attended!).

In Uganda, we found that women tend to depend on men to provide leadership. The men chose the women leaders and planned out the women’s conferences. The first time we gathered with the women leaders, Eileen and Pastor Olivia Salano spent hours in counseling and prayer. The Ugandans invited Eileen to be the main speaker at the women’s conference last year. We found we needed to help our sisters learn how to run the conference, which kept us very busy. (Meanwhile Pastor Margaret Musalia went to be main speaker at Tanzania’s USFW Conference. She similarly found she was called upon to preach, teach, guide, counsel — doing four jobs at once.)

This year we first organized a leadership training seminar in Uganda and asked Judith Ngoya and the FUM leadership team to help. The FUM trainers were excited to realize how ready and eager the new leaders in Uganda were for training. In response to the training, five leaders of Uganda Yearly Meeting sat down and pledged to collect within one week the amount of money needed to get the Friends Church registered with the government. (Registration is required to own land, hold bank accounts, and conduct weddings and funerals.) What a change Eileen and I have witnessed from our first finding Ugandan Friends as beggars but who now host us, raise their own funds, and work on detailed plans for their future. Praise God!

Pastor Joseph Kafuka from southern Uganda attended last year’s women’s conference as he was challenged by Modesta Guloba’s (new USFW President) lesson on agriculture. She said, “Don’t complain fertilizer and pesticide are too expensive. Just combine cow urine with red peppers and ash from your cooking fire, to make a free pesticide and mix cow manure with banana leaves/vegetable scraps, for free fertilizer.”

In her workshop at the women’s conference, Eileen challenged all to use their fertile soil (one of the richest in the world) to grow something that would be needed and marketable as a means towards self-sustainability. Joseph Kafula’s home meeting had many acres with squatters encroaching. Joseph was able to get a Quaker Earthcare Witness Mini-grant for tree planting in Uganda. Eileen delivered the tree seedlings and indigenous tree seeds to him at Uganda Yearly Meeting sessions in August. By October, Friends had planted 25 acres by hand (using small mattocks). The trees were five feet high! Eileen was frugal and managed to also give passion fruit seeds to all the leaders at the training seminar and gave cabbage, kale, and wattle tree seeds to all the women who registered at the December women’s conference. Now Ugandan Friends from all over the country are busily planting seedbeds, beginning their way towards self-sustainability.

This year we took a team of Kenyan women to the Uganda USFW Conference.

Pastor Juliet Namono, the only trained Uganda woman Friends pastor, was the main speaker. Eileen plans to return in April to help the Ugandan women plan their own conference, choosing the topics they want. Two Ugandan women leaders gave reports about their visit to the Kakamega USFW Conference. They returned to Uganda with so much joy of Christ and full of ways to improve their own USFW they said they were “jumping like frogs.” The Kenyans left the conference energized and feeling the need to return or go to other others to help build up other women in the work of the Lord.
I also took a team of four Kenyan women to Tanzania USFW Conference, which was held in a church with no roof and it rained. A young FTC student gave a lesson about giving/tithing/stewardship. The Tanzanians were so moved they raised 45,000 Tanzanian shillings ($28) which we six from Kenya matched. When the church was first started they’d planted some trees, — now large trees. Now they’re sawing the trees to make a roof. One local Friend was so moved that he brought five new iron sheets the next day!

As we were helping the Tanzanian women form a nominating committee to choose new leaders, the male leaders visited us one late afternoon. They explained they’d had problems with a former group in Mwanza (partially between rural poor and urban richer Friends), but one woman’s humble gifts of helping them with meals and making friendships, caused the women elect her as their new women’s pastor for Tanzania Yearly Meeting! The male leadership has changed and are now all supporting the new leaders. A time of reconciliation!

Reconciliation, rejuvenation, new members, completion of a meetinghouse, wow! The conferences are energizing to all of us.

Eileen continues her ministry in Uganda and Margaret in Tanzania with the support of USFW Kenya. Thanks to those who’ve been praying for us. We encourage you all to lift up your eyes and be willing to spread the Good News to people outside your usual circles. It doesn’t have to take large funds for us all to work for our Lord.

Marian Baker is a recorded minister in New England Yearly Meeting. She worked for FUM in Kenya years ago, teaching in Friends girls high schools and training Kenyan women to take her place. She now does volunteer ministry in East Africa for three to six months each year as way opens.

Serving from Our Times of Worship

By Steve Olshewsky

The old joke has a stranger wandering into an unprogrammed Quaker meeting and sitting in silence until finally asking the Friend nearby, “When does the service start?” The Friend politely whispers in response, “As soon as we finish worshiping.”

This joke, however, invites additional questions. When we come together in worship, does our joint worship experience propel us to serve others? How can we extend to the world around us the benefits of the faith communities we have built?

Many of us are already doing all we can to juggle our regular jobs, our family, our children, our health, our homes and the tireless demands of daily life. Having a time of escape and refreshment in worship anchors us as we navigate our week. When we rise from that time given to God — and these our Friends — to enjoy the after effects of worship, how do we share our blessings?

Individually, we share the benefits of membership in our churches and meetings by passing along the smiles exchanged on Sunday mornings, or by discussing what we remember hearing. It seems that Sunday afternoons are the best time to hold doors open for others or let the next person go ahead in line. However, even when we generously give of ourselves, are we serving the Religious Society of Friends. Where is the we or us in what an individual might do? Our actions, no doubt, express our faith.

At the same time, Quaker faith has traditionally involved more than personal goodness; it has led us to act for the common good. We still feel that passion, but do we use it fully? Even as we take our faith into the world, individually seeking to do justice and service, we can take our connections to the worshiping life of our meetings with us.

When nine teenaged Quakers from Florida visited the Immokalee tomato fields, as part of a weekend retreat, they were moved to take social action against the inhumane working conditions they saw. In the course of their discernment, and sharing their concerns in good Quaker order, they came to involve other teenaged attenders from around the nation. In turn, the full teen group involved the Friends General Conference gathering in their action last July.

The larger gathering of teens organized a protest march to a Colorado Wendy’s over fair pay for Immokalee tomato workers. It was well planned and advertised, but more importantly it expressed the coming together of Quakers to take a collective action. The efforts of these teens had a ripple effect throughout the community, and their work became that of the national congregation.

It seems that these teens were able to bridge the gaps that sometimes dampen other social initiatives. For whatever reason, we often fail to bring our concerns to our meetings where we could request a clearness committee to help test our convincement. Instead, we should strive to be responsive to leadings we become aware of, whether they are our own or our fellow worshipers.

Collective action was not invented by modern teenagers. In Luke 10:1-24, we see 70 sent out, perhaps as the Valiant Sixty felt called at the beginning of the Quaker movement to go as itinerant preachers and become known as Publishers of the Truth. While the 70 appointed in Luke went two by two, a style common to the Valiant Sixty, they were working in concert for a common good with their home group. The 70 in Luke, and the Valiant Sixty, heralded the immediacy of the kingdom of God which is at hand for everyone even today.

Luke 10 and the earliest Quakers provide models for going out into the world and sharing our good news that “the kingdom of God is come nigh unto you.” Verses 9 and 11 insist we share this message with those who welcome us and those who do not — so clearly, we want to share our experience of love and forgiveness beyond the place of worship where we gather with Friends. The personal encounters we have with God in worship can call us to share messages with others. So, too, an entire meeting can be called to witness a message to the world.

When it comes to experiencing the kingdom of God, no individual ministry can convey the sense of the meeting. Although a teenager presented Wendy’s with a request to join the Fair Food Program, it was the Religious Society of Friends marching tight loops on surrounding sidewalks that made it our witness instead of just hers. Collectively sharing this message catalyzed further actions. In Atlanta seven months later, this nurturing support encouraged six of the original Florida teens to organize a similar march on Publix with 63 Southern Appalachian Young Friends and 16 adults.

Ten of those Young Friends came home to Berea, Kentucky after their Atlanta experience, proposed a minute supporting the Fair Food Program, and convinced their monthly meeting to seek further endorsement from their yearly meeting. These teenagers provide a model that answers George Fox’s request to “be patterns, be examples” so that our “carriage and life may preach” in a way that reaches out to that of God in others. Not only have these Young Friends reached out to unite fellow Quakers in a common experience, they sparked a witness to the world that for Quakers, the Kingdom of God is at hand.

These teenagers revealed something essential about Quaker community and worship. Patiently experiencing the self-discovery that comes with waiting upon the Lord prepares us to respond to messages articulated by others. As individuals share their leadings, their voices need to be embraced and lifted up. If we can unite and carry through with supporting action, we can thereby reach out to the world. Ministering broadly in this way attracts people into the Light without being coercive.

Fox would ask that we “answer that of God” when hearing the ministries of those led to share their spiritual insight. This sharing is communal in an obvious way, but that communality can go deeper into the heart of what it means to be Quaker. As we open our hearts to God’s callings as expressed by others, we can share what we learn outside the immediate audience. Fox preached that “Jesus Christ has come to teach his people himself.” It is this people (the community), not individual persons, who can share what we have been taught as a people gathered.

This collective sharing attracts people to the Quakers. In this way, it is an effective form of evangelism available. Ideally, our ability to respond to our own callings, and those of our fellow Quakers, inspires in others confidence that they will be heard and nourished as they bring their activities into our corporate efforts.

I am personally encouraged by how Kentucky Quakers united in joint efforts to abolish the death penalty. Every Quaker in Kentucky has responded to this call for abolition according to their own measure, but the cooperative support of all Quakers facilitated more than the sum of individual efforts. As all three Kentucky meetings approved minutes of endorsement, all Kentucky Quakers made the work possible.

On the practical side, Kentucky Quakers helped each other get to Frankfort to meet with lawmakers. Lobbying for abolition, I can only share fully the good news of God’s love and forgiveness by demonstrating what all Quakers believe about love and forgiveness. In simpler terms, I can share my views, and other Quakers can even hold me in the Light as I do, but speaking Truth to power on behalf of those Quakers where I worship shares the religious teachings of a Quaker society. Lawmakers regard the exact same words more seriously coming from the Quakers, rather than from a singular Quaker.

Traditionally, when Quakers feel led to do something outside of their meeting, they are careful to consider whether their actions are a fair reflection of their religious community. For this reason we have clearness committees to help us know that our leadings are divinely inspired and not merely our vain egos. Armed with such validation, someone speaking Truth to power can share the endorsement of their Quaker society as a formal Minute addressed to decision makers. This puts an onus on the church or meeting to worshipfully consider the project and whether or not they are able to fully unite in approving of the action contemplated.

Opportunities for service come in the projects of our fellow Quakers as we are able to join in with their efforts. Some might say they are not able to understand enough to support or oppose an issue, but can we all understand enough to trust in the collective efforts of Friends gathered together for the purpose of discerning proper action? Can we create a place supporting right actions by lending our attention, our prayers, our signatures or our time to the activities of others proposed to our committees and business sessions?

Plenty of good Quakers are doing plenty of good things, but that can distract us from the responsibility of the wider body to reach out. As long as we know someone else is taking care of a concern, we can leave it to them. This is comforting, but untrue, as relying on others compromises our work. No individual proxy can convey the aggregate approval of Quakers, so we need unified bodies to join the efforts.

Our places of worship equip us to go out and preach the good news in other places thereby extending our community. Fox says that finding the right place within ourselves will empower us to “preach among all sorts of people, [all] over the world,” but can that be done alone? We all need the active support and involvement of the full Quaker body to accomplish the ministries we are called to do.

Steve Olshewsky works against the death penalty with Kentucky Quakers and state lawmakers. This article benefited from the Earlham School of Religion’s Writing as Ministry program.