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Archive for Quaker Life Magazine – Page 2

Passages: Quaker Obituaries – January/February 2015

BABCOCK Fern Elaine Carper Babcock, 94, died on October 21, 2014, at her home near Winchester, Indiana. She was born in Winchester on May 5, 1920, the first child of Harry Walter Carper and Vada Berniece (Love) Carper. She was later joined by her sister, Mary Kathleen and brother, William Frederick. They grew up in a rural home northeast of Winchester (the house now owned by Elaine’s daughter Sharon Reynard and her husband Terry). Her father worked for the New York Central Railroad. Elaine received her schooling in the McKinley Schools and spent her hours outside school helping at home with household and gardening chores and with her mother’s egg business. Elaine graduated from McKinley High School in 1938 and soon got a job at Anchor Hocking Glass in Winchester. About five years later, Elaine got acquainted with Raymond Babcock, a soldier in her cousin’s Army unit in Ohio. They exchanged letters for a year, fell in love and got married on August 5, 1944 at her family home. Elaine and Raymond set up housekeeping in a small apartment in Akron, Ohio near Raymond’s father. Raymond was then deployed to Europe for a year in early 1945. Soon after Raymond’s return from the war in March 1946, the Babcocks moved to Winchester where he found work as a welder at Anchor Hocking Glass. They moved back to Akron in 1947 for a year of trade school, then returned in May 1948 to Winchester where Raymond landed employment with New York Central Railroad. Elaine worked alongside him as wife, homemaker and mother to their daughters, Sharon and Carol, born over the next four years. Elaine’s life revolved mostly around her family and faith community. Elaine joined Winchester Friends Church as an 11 year-old in July 1931. She and Raymond became active participants at Winchester Friends and in the William Penn Sunday School Class after their return to Winchester in 1948. Elaine served on several church committees and in the work of the USFW, and her daughters also remember her faithful ministry of prayer for family, church and friends. As an expression of their faith to the community, Elaine and Raymond often worked together as volunteers in the local clothing center and the food pantry. She was a caring, quiet, happy person who loved to be outdoors working in her garden and flowerbeds, enjoyed reading and solving jigsaw puzzles when she had to be indoors. Elaine was preceded in death by her parents, her husband Raymond Babcock in February 2005, her sister Kathleen Hartzell, and her brother Bill Carper. She is survived by her daughters: Sharon Reynard (husband Terry) and Carol Thornburg (husband Max); by her granddaughters: Laura Noble, Emily Walton, Vicki Morgan and Britni Thornburg Hoover; and by great-grandchildren: Angellica Collins, Thomas Noble, Katherine Noble, Timothy Morgan, Annabel Morgan and Briggs Walton.

CARTER Peter Macauley Carter attended LeGrand Friends Church of Iowa Yearly Meeting faithfully since his birth December 29, 1979. Peter passed away on July 22, 2014, in Marshalltown, Iowa. Peter was born to Jane and Macauley Carter, Jr of Marshalltown, Iowa. He was educated at East Marshall Schools where he received his high school diploma in 1999, at Marshalltown Community College where he received an Associate of Arts degree in 2001 and at Wartburg College where he received his Bachelor of Arts degree in 2003. Peter was a member of the Boy Scout of America Troop 320 of LeGrand, Iowa from childhood. He was an Eagle Scout and, in recent years, an Assistant Scoutmaster. He was an athletic young man of unusual endurance and physical strength, a man of moderation in habits and tastes, a strong swimmer and triathlete, and a splendid and experienced long distance runner with a long record of distinguished performances in Iowa community road races. Left to cherish Peter’s memory are his parents: Jan and Mac; and his sisters: Catherine, Caroline and Mary Patricia, along with their families.

COOK Marie Cook passed away April 8, 2014. She was a member of Bear Creek Friends Church. Velma Marie Barnett was one of six children born to Bruce & Florence Wright Barnett. She was born on January 27, 1918 in Linden, Iowa. She was very involved in school and graduated with the “All Round Student” medal in 1935. On August 27, 1940, she married Leonard Ortha Cook. They made their home on a farm south of Linden where they resided for 17 years. Marie played the piano and organ for over 70 years at churches in Linden, Bear Creek, Stuart Guthrie Center and filled in several times at Earlham Methodist and Presbyterian Church. She served as a Sunday school teacher & superintendent, treasurer and was a member of the USFW at Bear Creek Friends Church. Marie wrote Bear Creek News for 15 years for three area newspapers. Marie was always willing and able to give a testimony, word of praise or word of gratitude for her Lord and Savior. She had a good and busy life and leaves to celebrate her life four sons: Marven (Melinda) Cook of Cedar Falls, Iowa; Noman Cook of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma; Marion (Dawn) Cook of Earlham, Iowa and Merlin (Jennifer) Cook of Harleton, Texas; 15 grandchildren; 10 great-grandchildren; brothers: Robert (Mary Ellen) Barnett of Newberg, Oregon and Rollin (Velma) Barnet of Salem, Oregon. She was preceded in death by her husband of 65 years; her parents; eldest brother, Paul Barnett; sisters: Celine Mendenhall and Wilma Applegate.

MAXSON Leon Maxson, formerly of Redfield, Iowa passed away on July 22, 2014. Leon joined Bear Creek Friends following his marriage to Eloise Coulter in 1963. He is remembered for loving his job as a car salesman in Earlham, Iowa. Leon was preceded in death by his wife Eloise, his parents, both of his sisters and a nephew. Leon is survived by two brothers-in-law: Eldon (Marilyn) and Marvin (Melanie) Coulter; one sister-in-law, Martha Mendenhall; five nieces; one nephew; five great-nieces and nephews; a great-great niece and nephew and many friends who will remember him fondly.

MURCHINSON Marian Kirkman Murchison died Wednesday, November 26, 2014 in Greensboro, North Carolina. Marian was one of a set of triplets born June 3, 1924 to Clark and Cora John Kirkman of Pleasant Garden, North Carolina. Within a month of the triplets’ birth their mother died. Their beloved aunt, Lelia B. Kirkman assumed the responsibilities, along with their father, rearing the triplets and older brother C. H. Kirkman, Jr. Marian received her formal education at Pleasant Garden High School, Guilford College and graduated from Woman’s College (The University of North Carolina at Greensboro) where she received a B.S. degree in home economics. She was employed by the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Services and served as Assistant Home Demonstration Agent in Vance County, Henderson, North Carolina. Marian married Victor Murchison, a Quaker minister, September 14, 1947. She was a supportive partner in his ministry for 59 years with Friends meetings in Winston-Salem, Goldsboro, Asheboro and High Point, where she taught in the children’s Sunday School department and sang in the choir. She was an active member of the First Friends Meeting at Greensboro, the North Carolina Yearly Meeting of Friends, as chairperson of the Christian Education Committee and President of the North Carolina United Society of Friends Women 1970-1973. In addition to her work in the church, Marian served as an active member of the Home Demonstration Club, Guilford County Professional Home Economics Organization and the Greensboro Exchangette Club. She was chairperson of the Flowers and Decorations Committee at Friends Home Guilford where she enhanced the attractive atmosphere of the retirement community. She was preceded in death by her parents, her aunt Lelia Kirkman, her devoted husband Victor Murchison, and brother, C.H. Kirkman, Jr. and triplet brother, Stacy Kirkman. Survivors include her cherished triplet sister, Mary K. Routh (Charles), sister-in-law Frances Kirkman and several beloved nieces and nephews.

STEPHENS Pandora Jones Stephens, 97, of Liberty, North Carolina, passed away October 19, 2014. Pandora was born on July 15, 1917 to the late Arthur McGruder and Bertha Jeannette Jones and was also preceded in death by her husband, Raymond Binford Stephens and sister, Lucille Andrews. Surviving is her daughter, Brenda Hardison (Jim) of Kinston, North Carolina; two grandchildren, Jennifer Veasey (Jay) and Jeremy Hardison (Amy); four great-grandchildren, Jacob and Jordyn Veasey, Ivy and Will Hardison. The family wishes to express their most sincere gratitude to Sherry, Jeff, Brenda, Shirley, Diane and Amy at Magnolia Cottage and Vickie and Pat in Liberty for the compassionate care given to Pandora during her declining health.
TURNER Carolyn Gabel Turner, 85, September 15, 2014, Plainfield Friends Meeting, Indiana. Carolyn was born November 17, 1928 to the late Albert and Ruby Rinkard Gabel. She was the widow of Dean F. Turner. They were married for 59 years and were farmers, where they raised dairy cows, pigs and crops. Carolyn was a graduate of Avon High School and a life-long resident of Washington Township, in Plainfield, Indiana. She was instrumental beginning the first Avon kindergarten and the Hendricks County Meals on Wheels program. She was past president of the Hendricks County Extension Homemakers, Avon Home Economics Club, Plainfield Woman’s Club, Hendricks County Hospital Guild and the Plainfield Quaker Homebuilders. Carolyn was also a Hendricks County precinct committee person, was the recipient of the Avon Citizen of the Year Award for 2008 and the Avon High School Alumnus of the Year in 2011. She and her husband were very involved with the Hendricks County 4-H Fair and the Indiana State Fair. She was a life-time member of Plainfield Friends Meeting, where she was married in 1950. She also served as recording clerk and presiding clerk for the church. Survivors include children: Cynthia (Roy) Simmons, Dean “Rocky” (Cindy) Turner, Jr. and Luanne Turner; grandchildren: Adriane Turner, Ryan (Melissa) Simmons And Gabel Turner; and a great-granddaughter, Amelia Ann Simmons.

Ask Tom: Who is the oldest known Quaker?

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

I can only answer this in the sense of: “Who is the oldest Quaker Tom has found any record of?” Before I answer the question, I must first offer some remarks on Quaker longevity. Observers, both Friends and among the world’s people, have noted that Quakers have tended to live longer than outsiders. In 1890, an otherwise obscure San Francisco health reformer, Louise P. McCarty, offered statistics that showed, among other things, that Quakers lived significantly longer than the general population, so much so that she predicted that by the year 2100, “the plurality of Quakers will be centenarians.” She explained Quaker longevity by pointing to their “methodical way of living,” which included, among other things, avoiding “boiling hot soup and frozen ice cream!”

But then, long lives may be linked in other ways to Quaker practices. Douglas Steere tells the story of a scholar who visited a Quaker burying ground and, after reading the tomnbstones, was impressed by how long Quakers seemed to live. When he mentioned this to a Friend, the Friend replied that was because Friends took so long to decide anything.

Who is the longest-lived Quaker I have found? That distinction belongs to a Friend born in Perquimans County, North Carolina (or perhaps Virginia) about 1729. His name was James Parisho, or Perisho, as most of his descendants spelled the name. The records of the Sandcreek/Azalia Monthly Meeting in Bartholomew County, Indiana, show that he died 5th Month 10, 1839, aged about 110 years!

His longevity was remarkable enough that Friends in Indiana sent a death notice to the Friend in Philadelphia. It recorded that he “lived a single life” until he was in his sixties. In 1797, he was married under the care of Westfield Monthly Meeting in North Carolina to Ruth Jessop, who was forty years his junior. They moved first to Ohio, and then to Indiana, where, remarkably, he apparently outlived his wife. Their youngest child was born in 1810, when James would have been past 80. A stickler for accuracy, however, would point out that James had no record of his birth, and the loss of early records from Perquimans Monthly Meeting means that we are unable to confirm his claim.

Does anyone know of any Friend who has lived to a greater age?

Do you have a Quaker history question to “Ask Tom”?
Send questions to

Missions Movement: Women caring for Women in Kenya

By Jeremiah Kehenzi Akoto, as told to Eden Grace

I first visited Kakuma Refugee Camp in Northwest Kenya in 2010, as part of a mission trip as a student of Friends Theological College. I was deeply moved by the passion the Kakuma Quaker community had for the word of God. It was then that I vowed to work with these refugees from Congo, Sudan, Somalia, Ethiopia and Eritrea to help them improve their lives.

missions movement_jeremiah akotoI began telling the members of East Africa Yearly Meeting North about our refugee Friends and in 2013 the yearly meeting invited the Kakuma Friends Choir to attend their USFW conference. As a result of that visit, the women leaders decided to visit the camp to see for themselves how these Friends live and worship. I agreed to accompany the team as their guide.

Twelve USFW leaders representing the quarterly meetings of North Yearly Meeting left Kitale on August 27 and started the long bus journey 481 km north to the camp that lies in the middle of the desert. From the very beginning of the trip, we felt the hand of God protecting our mission. We were late arriving at the bus stage and missed the 1 p.m., bus. Instead, we boarded the 7 p.m. bus. While we were still in the mountains, our bus broke down, and we had to wait for a part to be brought from Kitale. As the repairs were completed and we were beginning the journey again, the driver got word that the 1 p.m. bus had been ambushed by bandits and one passenger was shot. We took refuge in a police station for the night and began the journey again in the early morning. This is a dangerous part of the country and our team members were frightened, but we knew that God protected us by causing our delays.

When we finally arrived at the camp, we were met with such joy by the Kakuma Friends women. They had never hosted so many visitors before, and they had been praying night and day. The North Yearly Meeting women brought white headscarves with the blue USFW logo to tie on the heads of the Kakuma women — in Kenya the white headscarf is a sign of identity and unity among all Kenyan Quaker women. The refugees are not Kenyan, yet they are members of our body now.

During our time in the camp, the women were able to speak to the widows, widowers, orphans and the sick. They restored the broken hearted by visiting refugee homes and praying together. They brought food and clothing to donate and were able to give these out despite the fact that what they brought was small compared to the need. However, they were overwhelmed by the hospitality of the refugees. The visitors were cared for with so much joy and generosity; these refugees have so few material resources, yet they are greatly rich in Spirit.

After four days in the camp, Mama Margaret Chelimo, a visitor from Mt. Elgon, left Kakuma a changed person. She compared the Kakuma Friends to the Macedonian church — they had nothing, yet they were very generous. Just as Paul had said, “they gave themselves first to the Lord and, by the will of God, to us (2 Corinthians 5:8).” As Mama Margaret traveled home from Kakuma she felt God convicting her because she had not been faithfully tithing. Inspired by the Kakuma women, she recommitted herself to faithfulness in generosity.

Truly we saw the will of the Lord fulfilled, for “My goal is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ (Colossians 2:2).”

About the author: Jeremiah Kehenzi Akoto is a 2013 graduate of Friends Theological College and is currently serving as a church planting pastor on Mt. Elgon among isolated mountain people who have never heard the gospel.

Out of My Mind – January/February 2015

By Colin Saxton
FUM General Secretary

Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. — Hebrews 10:23-24

“I don’t believe in God,” the man said to me matter-of-factly. “I don’t see any evidence of a divine being in a world this screwed up, and I can’t think of any argument that would change my mind.”

Just so you know, the two of us were not arguing about God. This man simply asked me what I did for a living. And then asked what motivated me to choose a life of ministry, particularly when the impact of anyone’s good deeds seem to be like a droplet falling into an ocean-sized container of need.

While there are days when it is hard to argue the “screwed up” nature of things and the, at times, overwhelming nature of need, how can one who knows God respond any other way?

After all, and I presume like all of you, I have glimpsed Glory. I have felt that overwhelming wave of Mercy wash over me. In the stillness — I’ve heard the thundering Whisper that knew my name and spoke to the condition of my heart. Like you, I have been dazzled by Beauty. Been overcome by indescribable Joy. Felt the Life and Power reshaping and guiding me in ways that are inexplicable and undeniable. I have seen the face of Christ in the lives of the broken and the vulnerable and in the sacrificial service of saints that I love and admire. I have stood amazed at the entrance of the Empty Tomb and heard the Voice say, “Follow me.” All of us have felt the Kiss of Love upon our heads and trembled in the Divine Embrace. When it comes to “believing in God” it is not a matter to argue or a notion to debate. It is an experience to rejoice with and abide in.

And yet, how often do I — and maybe you — forget all of this? Despite the overwhelming “evidence” of God’s presence; I fail to remember. Inexplicably, I lose track of those moments where something sacred occurred among the otherwise ordinary, mundane, even “screwed-up” moments of my life.

My own bouts of amnesia have made me a bit less judgmental with the characters found in the biblical text. You know, those men and women who couldn’t seem to remember manna dropping from heaven, a sea conveniently parting for passage, a Voice sounding from heaven, baskets of extra fish or a dead man walking. It seems several of us struggle to remember that which is most memorable.

I am convinced this capacity to forget is one of the main reasons we are called to community. We need others around us who will remind us of what we have seen, felt, tasted and heard. I need — you need — companions who won’t let us forget where we left our shoes on the day the burning bush erupted into flame in front of our very eyes. We need Friends who heard us speak our vow of faithfulness — and will recite it in our ear when we might otherwise be apt to go our own way. I need a few courageous and committed Friends who lovingly and persistently prod me into action when I am tempted to retreat to the safety and security of my sweet sanctuary rather than wandering through the broken streets of our “screwed up” world. Left to my own devices, I am prone to forget and hunker down to focus on my own well-being and safety. Surrounded, however, by kindred spirits, my memory is apt to get jogged, my faith and hope rekindled, and my life awakened to the possibility that every drop of love and good deeds will one day fill an ocean-sized container of need to overflowing.

May the Spirit of Christ and a few good Friends muster up all of the energy and will needed to be God’s vessel for love and goodness!

Let There Be Light!

By Micah Bales
Web & Communications Specialist

We live in an age of isolation. Even sitting together in the same room, we live in private worlds. We stare at our personal screens, separated by our own hobbies, interests and ambitions. When we do connect, it’s often through shared consumption. We find shallow unity in products, images and ideologies: the spectacle.

We were made for something deeper. Our hearts long for a shared creativity that has the power to bind us together. We thirst for the creative Spirit to energize our lives. We have a hunger that can only be satisfied by a communion that transcends personal projects, lingering hangups and the fear of missing out.

We find true unity with one another in moments of self-forgetting creativity. Before all the arguments and criticisms come simple acts of joyful creation. We’re the spitting image of our Father when we cry out: “Let there be light!”

This is what we were made for. When we live with a heart-knowledge of our Creator — when our lives are drenched in love and wonder — the divisions that lie between us no longer divide. Disagreements become dynamic tensions that spur us to even greater acts of creativity.

In the face of all the world’s darkness, we say: “Let there be light!”

Dwelling in the beauty of this light, we submit ourselves to one another gladly. We no longer fear the power that others have over us, because we have become children of the dynamic, loving power who forged the stars. We are free to become the radiant creatures that the Father had in mind when he pulled us up from the depths and placed us on dry land. We have nothing to fear from chaos any more. The great Orderer is here.

In a culture that is shattered into warring factions, disconnected consumers and myopic interest groups, we are invited into an unexpected unity. In a world where there are many gods and many lords (1 Corinthians 8:5), we are discovering the focus and vitality that comes from serving God alone. Not our ideas about him, but Christ the substance. Not ideologies derived from words about him, but Jesus himself.

Our unity is in him. Christ in each one of us, the hope of glory (Colossians 1:27).

Real unity isn’t something we achieve through the force of will. Neither a perfect Quaker process nor a flawless interpretation of the Bible can provide the organic coherence that we experience when we follow Jesus together. This energizing, equipping, connecting unity of the Holy Spirit is a reality that can never be controlled, only invited to come and dwell in our midst. This kind of unity humbles all pretenses of human authority.

Are you ready to experience true unity? Are you prepared to face your fear of chaos and isolation, following Jesus far beyond the boundaries of your own reasoning, strength and desire for control?

Let there be light!

FCNL Spring Lobby Weekend

By Neil Snarr

This spring 186 young adults from 27 states, 16 colleges, five high schools and 20 monthly meetings arrived in Washington D.C. for the annual Lobby Weekend sponsored by the Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL). The purpose of the trip was to talk with participants’ own members of Congress about repealing the 2001 Authorization for the Use of Military Forces (AUMF) and the use of drones. All together they participated in a total of 42 lobby visits — 10 of which were face-to-face meetings with Congressional members. “Attendees spent four days in Washington participating in skill building, policy seminars and making change happen,” stated organizers.

In the late 90s, Wilmington College began to bring students to the annual meeting of FCNL. Slowly the number of students increased until FCNL appointed a director for young adult activities, and soon this annual event focused specifically on utilizing young adults as lobbyists. In each of the events, FCNL selected a focus for the lobbying effort. Usually, one day is geared toward teaching about the issue or issues selected, another day toward learning lobbying techniques and the third day visiting the offices of their Congressional Representatives. (Students were matched with their hometown/state congressional representative/staff.)

Students, at first, are generally apprehensive concerning the visits to offices. However that feeling seems to be short lived judging by the number of students that return for a second, third or even a fourth year. The sessions generally run from 15 minutes to an hour, and students usually visit three such offices.

When considering the age of those involved in FCNL’s various efforts at peacemaking and social justice, this influx of young adults has transformed FCNL’s lobbying and its impact. Quaker meetings/churches need to support this effort in every way possible!

Below are a few of the student’s responses of their experiences lobbying their Congressional Representatives:

Freshman, political science major:

The lobbying part was a much better experience than I expected. Learning about the drone/AUMF problem in class and through the panels helped me get acquainted with the issue over time and then showed me the reality of the troubles. I was a bit nervous at first, but once I started talking to the staffer, I realized that I knew and truly cared about the topic. The whole trip made me want to be more involved in the politics of this country and get real experience for the future. This weekend made me feel the connections through learning and interaction.

Freshman, biology major:

Not only did I have fun during our free time but I actually had fun when we were lobbying Representative Michael Turner. Lobbying is such a thrill. I didn’t think I could do it, but in the end, I have never felt so proud of myself for taking a stand in what I believe in and showing others that they could do it too. To me lobbying was a great experience, and I believe that others should lobby too.

Freshman, Accounting major:

As for the lobbying itself and working with FCNL, I thought it was great that they had so many people to come and talk to us. I loved the panel discussions where the audience could get involved. I was very happy that Maraya Wahl and I befriended Jim Cason from FCNL. He was able to come with us to our staffer meeting. I was surprised that I found myself wanting to talk about the issue as much as I did, since I’m normally very shy. I thought that FCNL did an excellent job of preparing us with the necessary information, useful tactics and developing the confidence to go in and say what we wanted to say with passion and taste. Overall, I was very happy with my experience and look forward to going again next year.

Senior, art major:

The 2014 D.C. Lobby trip was great this year! I loved everything about the trip and would definitely recommend it to any of my friends. The workshops and speakers helped out the process of lobbying a lot more than I thought they would. I went into my representative’s office confident, focused and prepared to lobby against drones. FCNL did a great job organizing our lobby visits, our workshops and free time in the most comfortable way. I plan on lobbying for FCNL for many years to come!

Freshman, education major:

The Washington D.C. trip was such a great experience. The trip gives students, like myself, a chance to experience something new. It is an experience that gets students out of their comfort zone to discuss something they are passionate about. It also gives students confidence because they know that their words are being heard by their representatives and that they can create change. In today’s society most people do not use their voice anymore because they do not believe they are being heard, but this trip teaches otherwise. This trip taught me that my voice does matter. If I’m passionate about a topic, then, I need to go out and pursue change within that topic.

Sophomore, agriculture major:

The visit with the Speaker’s staffer was a little tense. At first things were going great. He loved what I had to say about John Boehner buying my lamb at a junior fair, but when we started talking about the issue he became edgy. I really liked what his staffer had to say about the issue, though. I even got an e-mail from him thanking me for coming and seeing him in the office. I thought it was really neat and I knew they really remembered that I was in there.

Freshman, political science major:

My experience is Washington D.C. was absolutely incredible. I honestly think the weekend went flawlessly. Obviously the tourist part was a ton of fun but I absolutely enjoyed sitting through the meetings. I feel FCNL absolutely prepared me to lobby. Initially, I was extremely nervous about it but after hearing the many testimonies of retired soldiers and other men and women who care greatly about the repeal of the AUMF, I realized quickly that FCNL was equipping me with the tools necessary to lobby. I cannot wait to go back next year, I mentioned in a cover letter for my internship that I was going on a lobbying trip and I ended up receiving that job. I think that Spring Lobby Weekend is an incredible experience and I have and will continue to persuade others to go on the trip next year.

Neil Snarr, Emeritus Professor of Social and Political Sciences at Wilmington College in Wilmington, Ohio.

Private Quaker, Public Quaker – Part 2

By Norval D. Reece

Continued from Quaker Life, Nov/Dec 2014

The Society of Friends is not in great shape at the moment; we have an incredibly inspiring history with an impact on society way out of proportion to our numbers; there are some signs of new vitality and great potential — if we act on it.

We are the investors. The owners. We are the stewards. So, what could we be doing? What should we be doing?

Be Active Stewards

First, we need to do something different. As a religious group, we are perceived to be in decline. Membership is getting older and fewer in numbers. To return to Cape Cod for another analogy, there is a saying among sailors that, “When you’re racing a sailboat, if it’s not doing well, do something different.” When you’re sailing you are dealing with several variables: the speed and direction of the wind, the speed and direction of the tide, the set of the sails, the rudder and where the weight is distributed in the boat. Any of these things can slow down or speed up your efforts to get you to where you want to go. So, if we Quakers want to do better than we are doing, we have to “do something different.”

Second, it seems to me that we need to be more accepting of each other and of those who visit our churches and meetings. We need to be a big tent with an open door and a welcome mat. Each of us is in a different place in his or her spiritual journey, and we need to accept that with patience and love. We need more listening and less talking about our differences. Our history as a Religious Society of Friends has its own irony. It is punctuated on the one hand by courageous stands for people’s rights and liberties around the world, and on the other hand, by internal strife that has divided us into many factions.

This sounds odd to any group of Quakers, but I think we Quakers need to practice more humility and forgiveness of each other and spend less time being security guards on God’s highways. We need to leave the security and checkpoints to God. Our efforts should be to keep the highways open to everyone. I struggle with this all the time — having the humility to recognize that people are at different stages in their spiritual journeys and that someone else’s journey is at least as important and valid in God’s eyes as my own. At times, it’s tough.

Third, we need to share our beliefs.

These three points are all related — changing the way we do things, being a big tent with a welcome mat and an open door, and getting outside the tent to share our beliefs with others.

George Fox, of course, shared his beliefs — dramatically at times. He walked barefoot in the winter through the streets shouting “Woe to the bloody city of Lichfield!” And he interrupted a Church of England service by walking down the aisle shouting up to the Anglican priest in his elevated pulpit, “Come down thou deceiver!” He was not a private Quaker.

Quakers Going Public

In our present “age of spirituality” as contrasted to “organized religion,” there is considerable data to suggest that what we believe as Quakers is what a lot of people are searching for. I am told by a marketing professional that the word “Quakers” receives an average of 27,000 searches on Google each month. We’re not sure who these people are or why they are searching for the term “Quakers,” but it’s a lot of people.

Why then are Quakers not more dynamic, more visible and growing more as a Society?

Partly, because people don’t know we’re here. A marketing and branding specialist, Bill Fellows, a member of Newtown Meeting, recently gave a presentation to our adult class. He said he knew of no scientific studies of current public perception of Quakers but his distinct impression from contacts around the country is that when most people think of Quakers, they think: 1) we’re dead, 2) we’re Amish or 3) we make oatmeal.

We need to get out of our comfort zones in front of our metaphorical Quaker TV sets, get out of our Quaker cocoons and spread the word that we’re alive and well and receiving visitors. In our eagerness not to proselytize, we need to take care not to deny to others that for which they may be searching in their own lives.

I believe that proper stewardship of our local Quaker churches and meetings involves both outreach and in-reach. Outreach: making sure we are known and available to people in the wider community. In-reach: making sure we are taking proper care of our meetings and churches of which we are the beneficiaries, making sure we are “leaving our Doctor’s Boathouse” in better condition than we found it.

Newtown Meeting decided to “go public” 16 years ago. We opened our doors, told people who we were, where we were and invited them in. The results have been remarkable. While Quakers in North America have decreased in membership over the past 50 years by 36%, membership in Newtown Friends Meeting has increased by 46%.

From January 1, 1997 to May 4, 2014, the membership in Newtown Meeting increased from 210 to 307. There are now 244 adult members and 63 children members under age 18. And, there are a total of 77 (It’s recently been as high as 92) children registered in Newtown Meeting’s First Day School! And we have more applications for membership in process as we speak.
That’s steady growth of about 2 1/2 % or about 5-6 new members a year.

So what specifically does Newtown Meeting do and what are some things we can do to help Friends churches and meetings prosper?

Here is my personal list of suggestions:


Pick skilled managers for projects and clerks of committees. Relying on people to volunteer for jobs may not get the best people for the tasks. When running a business, one has to pick the most experienced and best skilled people for the task at hand. Quakers should feel the same burden of responsibility to our churches and meetings to try to match skills and experience with jobs to be done.

Delegate authority. If someone has the ability to do a specific job well, don’t saddle him or her with a committee unless the task requires corporate consideration. Name tags, press releases, notes of congratulations and condolences and web sites are all activities that can be done by an individual member. Sometimes even Quakers don’t need committees for a task.

Trust people. This goes with delegating authority. If there is someone experienced and knowledgeable willing to do a job, trust them to do it.

Periodically review the need for all committees. Down-sizing can be a positive experience. It can force one to look hard at priorities, trim the sails and become more efficient — it might even increase attendance at meetings for business.

Have term limits. Having term limits helps rotate responsibilities, avoid stagnation in leadership and involve new ideas and new talent.

Use Ad Hoc Committees for short-term tasks. Don’t burden standing committees with short-term jobs best done by a few skilled people. Shock everyone by laying down an ad hoc committee once the task is done.

Manage your money. Adopt realistic budgets based on current income. Protect your principle for major capital improvements or rainy days. Ask your most experienced finance and business people to handle the money.

In-reach and Outreach

Hold First Day classes for adults and children. A survey of members and attenders at Newtown Friends Meeting said this is second in importance only to the meeting for worship, and it is number one for young families. This can be a key factor for growth.

Have designated greeters. Our places of worship should be more welcoming than any commercial establishment. We need to go out of our way to talk with visitors, ask where they’re from and how they heard about us.

Host social events. Developing friendships is important bonding for any organization. Plan small group activities, have after-worship refreshments, ask visitors to introduce themselves at the rise of worship and sign a guest book, organize Friendly Eights dinner parties at people’s homes, schedule kids’ nights and family nights.

Monthly Newsletter. Provide hard copy for those who want it and put it on the website for others. This is your regular communication vehicle to those in college and remote locations as well as the homebound.

Encourage young folks to have their own projects. Simple Suppers, Lasagna Dinners, sales of donated books — these are great mixers and ways to raise funds for needy causes. Newtown Meeting kids have also helped make four popular “Healing Quilts” with handprints of meeting members to loan to people who are ill and give them a “hug from the meeting.”

Invite attenders to join committees, activities and your church or meeting. Put people to work right away. Be sure your guest book has space for kids’ names and ages, phone numbers and email addresses. It’s helpful to the person who follows up. Have “How to Become a Member” on your literature table (one page, five short steps). Don’t forget to ask long-term attenders to become members. Quakers have offended more people by not asking them to consider membership than by asking them to do so.

Get a website if you don’t have one. This is important. In political campaigns, we used say, “if you’re not on television you don’t exist.” Now, if your group doesn’t have a website, folks think you’re dead or dying. Include photos. For detailed information about this, ask a teenager.

Put up a new sign and get in the newspaper. It will cause tongues to wag. And people will know where to find you. Most towns have a local, weekly shopper. They have little staff and love getting articles — especially if you write them. Newtown Meeting has an article in its local paper almost every week. Keep it short and simple, attach a photo and always try to include something informative about the people who call themselves Quakers.

Don’t neglect your friends. Invite early and often to your church or meeting people in nearby Friends schools and organizations. If you don’t have any nearby, make your first day school/Sunday school into a religious education school for the community and promote it. “Quaker education” is an attraction with a strong brand name.

Contact new arrivals in town and update your literature. Every new family that moves into our area code of Newtown, Pennsylvania, gets a nifty 5″ x 7″ picture postcard that says “A Hearty Welcome from Newtown Quakers.” Update any Quaker literature on your table that has that “1957 look.”

Do QuakerQuest. Quakers are great entrepreneurs. British Friends a few years ago came up with “Quaker Quest.” It’s a proven step-by-step program for opening the doors of your meetinghouse to the outside world. The Friends General Conference Quaker Quest conducted an impact survey in 2010 of 62 Meetings in 30 states, and found that 76% of the Quaker Meetings which had a full day workshop or public session of Quaker Quest experienced growth! Check it out at their website

And, finally, announce Quaker Week this fall. Newtown Friends Meeting (PA) has done this and it is encouraging all others to do so. This is another gift from the British. Quaker Week 2015 is England’s ninth annual Quaker Week. It will run October 4-11. Quaker Week is strictly voluntary. Churches and meetings can take part or not as they feel led. And if they
don’t like the dates, they can pick another week to fit in with local events.

The goal is to get every Quaker Church or Meeting to have one event each year to which they invite the public — an open house, a short talk about “Why I am a Quaker,” or “My Spiritual Journey” by a member. Or it could be a talk about the founding of your local church or meeting or yearly meeting. Or about some well-known Quakers like John Woolman, Judi Dench, William Penn, Lucretia Mott, John Greenleaf Whittier, the Barclays of Barclays Bank, Joan Baez, Susan B. Anthony, the Cadburys of Cadbury Chocolates, or Bonnie Raitt. Or about some well-known people most folks don’t realize were raised as Quakers like James Michener, Daniel Boone and James Dean. You get the idea.This is something you can do right away. Send out news releases statewide and locally.

We need to open our doors, invite the world in and heartily embrace friends from all sectors of society — economic, ethnic, political, racial — get on with sharing the gift George Fox and others have given us. Fox extolled us to “be patterns, be examples in all countries, places, islands, nations, wherever you go, so that your carriage and life may preach among all sorts of people, and to them. Then you will come to walk cheerfully over the world, answering that of God in every one.”

To me, that’s being a public Quaker. That’s what we each need to be. That’s stewardship.

Norval D. Reece is a birthright Friend and former Chair of the Board of Advisors of the Earlham School of Religion, former clerk of Newtown Friends Meeting (Pennsylvania), and former Secretary of Commerce for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. He currently serves on the Board of Directors of Friends Fiduciary Corporation, George School, Haverford College Corporation, and the American Friends Service Committee’s Centennial Campaign Leadership Committee. He and his wife, Ann (Benson) have been married for 47 years and they have two grown sons, Tim and Stockton.

We’ve Got to Get Back to the Garden

By Katherine Murray

Lately I have been thinking a lot about right and wrong, good and bad. About the ways we experience events in our lives and quickly judge them to be one or the other. I wonder whether we are shaping our experiences — for better or for worse — when we name them this way. And, if we think we are helping to create our experiences (that is my working theory), another important question follows: “Is there a way to bring God into this process so we create can peace and harmony before things spiral into upset and discord?”

Being able to make quick judgments about whether something is right or wrong is a necessary protection that’s probably coded into our DNA somewhere. The original “fight or flight” impulse that gets triggered in the amygdala of our brains works overtime today, sending us into “fight or flight” mode for all kinds of occurrences, big and small. We have so many triggers, real and imaginary — bad news, worries about bad news, hearing about someone else’s bad news — we live floating in an ocean of media dramatizations of bad news. If we’re not careful, we can live in a state of high alert, under continual stress and near-panic, wondering how and what to react to next. That’s not a good life for our cells, our brains, or our spirits.

The heartbreaking mystery of Malaysia 370 is a clear example of our struggle to define — and thereby control — the unknown. If you followed this story at all, you saw and maybe felt the roller-coaster-like, grasping attempts we take at making sense of our experience. Sometimes mystery can be awe-inspiring, and at other times, terrifying — especially if our safety or the safety of those we love is in question.

Not knowing, whether we’re talking about a new job, an illness, a relationship or just the future in general, can cause such anxiety that it monopolizes our brains and elevates our blood pressures. When that kind of emotionally-charged loop is going on in our thinking, it’s hard to be open to anything else. We’ve defined whatever’s triggered us as “bad” and we’re reacting to it with anxiety or fear — which means “fight or flight” is in control. At that point, sitting in silence and listening for a new option — a different story, one with Light in it — is a hard, maybe almost impossible, thing to do.

Perhaps this trouble began for us back in the Garden of Eden. The tree Eve chose the apple from was the only one God had put off limits: the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Notice that it’s not the “tree of good and evil” but rather, “the knowledge of good and evil.” Deciding what’s good and what’s not was taken out of God’s all-knowing dominion and suddenly became the purview of the smaller brains of Adam and Eve. Looking out through their eyes, basing reactions on their limited experiences, having no ability to see how the whole created system worked together; now they would decide for themselves what was good and what was evil and react accordingly. Perhaps that’s when our powerful little amygdalas evolved into being. Suddenly our new “seeing” made it impossible for us to see Paradise any longer. And we found ourselves expelled from the Garden, launched into a struggle with life that involved fear and fight or flight.

But I wondered, what would the world — and our daily experience of it — look like if we were able to get a glimpse of our experiences through pre-apple lenses? What if we didn’t immediately push ourselves into labeling them “right or wrong, good or evil”? What if we were able to rest in a sense of God’s leading, of harmony emerging, of truth arising in a created order in which all is unfolding and revealing itself? That sounds a bit like Paradise to me.

George Fox believed strongly in the “perfectibility” of mankind, and he maintained that earthly perfection was possible for all who choose to turn to the Light. He said, God hath given to us, everyone of us, in particular a Light from himself shining in our hearts and consciences […by] which light we came to know good from evil, right from wrong, and whatsoever is of God, and according to Him from what is of the Devil […] and it is perfectly discovered to us the true state of things. He also connected this perfectibility to our pre-apple state in the Garden of Eden by saying, But I say you are redeemed by Christ […] to bring man to the peace of God that he might come to the blessed state and to Adam’s state he was in before he fell, and not only thither but to a state in Christ that shall never fail.

So, is it possible to invite the Light into our experiences before we name them Good or Bad? Can we turn away from our accelerating emotional reactions long enough to sit in silence and listen for the Love of God to help us understand what we see?

I’ve always counted on the verse in Isaiah where we are promised help in our decision-making: “Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.” (Isaiah 30:21) Some folks might think of this as listening to their conscience; others trust that inner voice as spirit or intuition. I think of it as listening for an inner opening, a space within that I have learned to recognize and trust as deeper than any emotionally charged thoughts I may be thinking. This deeper sense is at its most profound point a transcendent feeling of peace and connection, and it brings a momentary freedom from the circumstance, whatever it might be. I remember, gratefully and usually with great relief, God’s Allness and Love.

In the Forward to George Fox’s Book of Miracles, Rufus Jones offers us a clue about how to do this when he describes a time George Fox healed an injury to his hand. He writes,

There are many instances, given in his Journal, of the curative power of faith over his own body. Here is a characteristic instance of this power:

There was in the company a mason, a professor, but a rude fellow, who with his walking rulestaff gave me a blow with all his might just over the back of my hand, as it was stretched out; with which blow my hand was so bruised and my arm so benumbed, that I could not draw it to me again. Some of the people cried, “He hath spoiled his hand for ever having the use of it any more.” But I looked at it in the love of God (for I was in the love of God to all that persecuted me) and after a while the Lord’s power sprang through me, and through my hand and arm, so that in a moment I recovered strength in my hand and arm in the sight of them all.

I was fascinated by the phrase “I looked at it in the love of God” and wondered what that might feel like. Looking at something in the Love of God might be to invite its present perfection to show itself to us. Looking at something in the Love of God could involve an appeal to God to “Help us see this as You see it.” Looking at something in the Love of God might mean to hold to its inherent, non-negotiable Goodness as a part of all existence. Perhaps if we welcome it, if we look for it, if we desire it, this Look will arise for all of us in the moments before “fight or flight” kick in.

I would offer the possibility that none of our stories are wholly Good or wholly Bad, wholly Right or wholly Wrong. But they all have the potential to be Holy.

In real life, because our stories never end, perhaps what we need isn’t “fight or flight” but a turning — turning to Spirit, turning to listening, turning to a waiting on God to help us recognize the true state of things.

There are some practical ways we can help remind ourselves to invite Spirit’s input into our interpretations before we head down that slippery slope of emotional reaction.

We Quakers are generally comfortable with waiting in silence for Spirit to speak, and we have well-worn the path of turning within. But I think we can also, with some self-awareness, recognize when we are triggered by our emotions.

It is possible to experience fear, anxiety or racing thoughts as an invitation to turn and listen to Spirit. To slow down, seek rest, and calm our minds and breath. This allows us to release
our fearful interpretations of the circumstance — if only for a moment. As we turn toward Spirit, we may find the presence of heart and mind to understand what’s happening in a different way. We could experience the breath — and breadth — of peace. Our panicked sense of “fight or flight” can be calmed and brought to ease with a moment’s turning.

Father Thomas Keating teaches Contemplative Prayer as a way to help train our minds and spirits to pause and wait on God using a single word that has meaning for us. This simple practice can help us move beyond all the images and events we may be reacting to. In his teaching on Contemplative Prayer, Father Keating makes a point I think is very important — he says, “Doing this practice right isn’t the point; the point is, turn from your busy mind to your quiet spirit.” He maintains that losing our presence of mind is actually a great thing, because it’s the turning that teaches our brains the way back to peace. He says, if you forget your contemplative word 100 times during a single five-minute session, great! That means you’ve taught yourself 100 times in a single sitting how to remember God. Soon it will be second nature.

In their book, Mindfulness and the Brain, authors Jack Kornfield and Daniel Siegel provide scientific evidence of the importance of “turning” from outer events to inner ones. In studying the brain waves and CAT scans of Buddhist monks and nuns, they saw that states of deep meditation light up portions of our brain that are different from where our rational thought takes place. These areas are consistent with transcendent states of relaxation and peace. They even wonder whether this is a part of the brain that participates in and contributes to a collective consciousness.

Kornfield and Siegel also found that turning back to meditation after being interrupted dramatically strengthens our ability to reclaim our peaceful state. It’s the turning that matters, because it’s strengthening the pathway for our minds. So the turning — from fear to Love, from definition to possibility, from the world to God — is the important thing. Let’s keep trying, Friends. When fear or confusion invite us to paint our experiences as threats or tragedies, let’s speak peace to our emotions and turn in silence, inviting the Light to reveal to us what we need to know. My sense, my hope and my experience tells me that we will feel loved, comforted and supported beyond anything our rational minds can explain.

Katherine Murray is a long-time convinced Friend who attends West Newton Friends Meeting in Indianapolis, Indiana. She is currently in the recording process and serves as a hospice chaplain at Hancock Regional Hospice in Greenfield, Indiana.

FUM News in Brief – January/February 2015

Out of the Forest to Peace

By Getry Agizah, Coordinator, Friends Church Peace Teams

Mt. Elgon has experienced many conflicts since Kenyan independence. These conflicts are based on tribe, land and politics. The worst violence that took place was between the years 2006-2008 and began because of a land dispute at a settlement called Chepyuk. This happened because the scheme was aimed to settle Dorobo, a community that lived high up on the mountain. Since they were small in population, the government opened the door for other landless Sabaots in the region to share the land equally with the Dorobo.

out of the forest to peaceThere were many Sabaots that did not receive any land and as a result, formed an armed militia group called Sabaot Land Defense Force (SLDF) to fight for the rights of the landless Sabaots. But in reality they did more harm than good and terrorized the region with violence against their own people in the region.

After years of living in hiding in the forest, the SLDF approached Friends and said they were tired of living in fear but wanted to work with the community in making Mt. Elgon peaceful. They asked for a meeting with me and we planned two major activities. One of the events was to hold a community dialogue in each of the eight locations and have the administration, together with the ward representatives, attend a forum for the SLDF members to share an open apology with the community members that were invited. Then we planned on 10 members from two locations to be trained in a four-day training on trauma awareness. We experienced an overwhelming number of both SLDF and community members wanting to be trained.

In all of the eight dialogues, one thing was spoken loudly — fear in the perpetrators’ voice and eyes. Peter Serete, FCPT facilitator, said, “I could see desperation. I felt like I have gone to visit people in prison. I saw a huge responsibility of helping these people deal with their fear.”

As we ended this project, nine guns were spontaneously surrendered, and we hope more will be handed in as peace settles in on Mt. Elgon.

Athletic Competition

By Dale Graves

belize quakers athletic competitionSeveral weeks ago, Ms. Candi got a call from the 4-H in Belmopan, the capital of Belize, to see if the school would be interested in talking with some other groups about athletic competition. (4-H has a school that serves students like ours in the central part of the country.) Unfortunately, the government sponsored primary school competition is limited to students who are under the age of 14, which excludes about 1/4 of our students, while the high school competitions would be completely out of our league as ¾ of our students are between the ages of 12-13. However, representatives from some of the schools met in Belmopan and began to outline a private athletic competition.

The athletic event will be on a school day, and will take most of the day as teams will compete against several other teams. Mr. Jerome, the man who provided footballs (soccer balls), has volunteered to do a little football/soccer coaching for our boys after school. We must go about five blocks to the practice field. On the days when it isn’t raining since we are going through
some strong gang territory, Ms. Candi is not comfortable with our students walking to practice. So, I have been loading two teachers and up to 11 students into the little Ford Ranger Pickup
and driving to practice at about 3:45 pm.

We practice until 5:00 or 5:30, and then I drive the students back over to Canal Street where they can start their trip home. Some walk, one rides a bike, some catch a bus.

On November 12, we competed in football (soccer), hosted by Global Outreach. We got better as we played. We lost both games, 4-1 and 1-0. The 11 boys on the field and the 4 reserves comprise over 75% of our student body, which was way above the other two schools who each have 60 students. Ms. Candi, Ms. Darcel and I were very proud of our guys, the way they handled themselves and the way they played. We took a good bit of time during opening exercises to tell them so. Belize Friends School has subsequently purchased a small school bus. More information can be found on the FUM website.

A Visit from the Dentist

By Dale Graves

One Friday in September, the Belizean Department of Health sent a dentist and his helper to examine our students’ teeth. The dentist arrived unannounced and right before a guest speaker from MarAlliance, the local marine preserve, arrived to do a presentation.

a visit from the dentistAs this was a much needed service, we helped the dentist get set up upstairs and began sending up one student at a time. He examined each of the 11 students who were in attendance Friday and showed Ms. Candi the results of the exams. Only two of our 11 had healthy mouths. Many needed fillings and extractions. Nine had gingivitis. “Now what?” I asked Candi. Her reply was that for a
payment of two dollars per student, the ministry would return and do the dental work needed.

I replied, “Really? Two dollars? Will we do that?” She told me that we were the second school the doctor had visited. He had earlier been to Living Hope, a school similar to ours, and all the students there had declined the treatment. These children, and their parents, do not go to the dentist or to the doctor because it costs money, and consequently don’t want to hear what the doctor says. She then said, with some determination, “Can we fundraise the money? I will not let our students decline treatment.” The look in her eyes told me she meant it.

We are definitely adding a line item to the Friends School budget called Student Services for things like this.

Cuba Yearly Meeting Celebrates 114 years of Cuban Quakerism

cuba yearly meeting (Quakers) celebrates 114 yearsOn November 14, 1900, the steamship “Olinda” landed in the port town of Gibara, in northeast Cuba, and five Friends alighted (three Americans and two Mexicans). According to legend, the first act on Cuban soil was to sing “What a Friend we have in Jesus” in English. Every year on November 14, Cuban Friends celebrate this anniversary with a sunrise worship at the seashore (including singing the song in Spanish) and a special service focusing on missions in the evening.

This year, Friends United Meeting organized a small group of visitors to celebrate together with Cuban Friends. The five Friends, including Eden Grace, FUM Global Ministries Director, at the request of their Cuban hosts, sang the song in English. The evening service included a dramatic retelling of the early missionary story by the youth of the church, a sermon by Eden Grace, many special songs and poems from children and adults and an enormous birthday cake.

Violence Interrupted

Kakuma Refugee Camp, in the remote desert region of Turkana in northwestern Kenya, is over-crowded and underserviced. Nearly 200,000 people are essentially imprisoned in the camp, without the freedom to leave and seek work or education in Kenya. Even at the best of times, life is hard in a camp that houses displaced and traumatized people from all over the African continent.

In late October and early November, serious inter-communal violence erupted inside the camp. Stories conflicted and details were hard to obtain, but news sources indicated that two different Southern Sudanese communities — the Nuer and the Dinka — imported the current civil conflict from South Sudan into the camp. However, the refugees from the Great Lakes countries (Rwanda, Burundi and Congo) were perceived to be allied with the Dinka and were therefore being targeted in this chaotic situation.

chavakali quakers choir wins first placeThe Friends Church in the camp is primarily Congolese. Pastor Etienne Mogombe reported that most of the members took shelter in a police station and a church in Kakuma town (outside the camp). As the refugees were not legally allowed to leave the camp, several Friends — including children — were arrested.

Getry Agizah and Peter Serete of the Friends Church Peace Team made an emergency trip to Kakuma to hold listening sessions and AVP workshops with the various factions in the camp. They hope their efforts would interrupt the violence and address the underlying grievances.

The ongoing work of Friends Church Peace Team can be supported through donations at

Chavakali Friends Choir Wins First Place

Season four of the popular Kenyan reality TV show, The Ultimate Choir, from the Kenya Broadcasting Corporation was won by the Chavakali Friends Choir. The choir competed against other amateur groups from around the country to win the grand prize of 1,000,000 Kenya shillings (approx $11,500 in U.S. dollars). The finals were broadcast live on September 21, 2014 from Musinde Muliro University in Kakamega. Choir competitions are a very popular activity among Kenyan Friends, and clearly the commitment and hard work of these church members paid off.

Check out this TV news report about the competition:

Friends Theological College 2014 graduation prayersFriends Theological College 2014 Graduation

Thirty-four accomplished men and women graduated from Friends Theological College in Kenya on October 18, 2014 in a ceremony presided by the new Principal, Dr Robert Juma Wafula, who had arrived on campus a few days earlier. The theme chosen by the graduates was from Joshua 1:8; “a prosperous and successful ministry.”

The invited speaker was Rev. Dr. Emmanuel Chemingich, Executive Director of the Association for Christian Theological Education in Africa. In his message, Dr. Chemingich reflected that the biblical standards for measuring success and prosperity are completely different from the world’s standards. God’s formula is simply this: to desire and obey God’s will. He encouraged the graduates to meditate on God’s Word, to maintain a clear channel of communication with God, to use the Bible as a compass, to reflect the character of Christ within themselves and to focus on self discipline and courage as the marks of a mature Christian ministry. At the conclusion of the graduation, John Muhanji, Africa Ministries Director for Friends United Meeting, offered a commissioning prayer for the graduates as they moved out into new ministries.

bibles arrive at mt elgon quakers on bikeBibles Arrive at Mt. Elgon

Sabaot-language Bibles arrive on Mt. Elgon in Kenya to be distributed to new believers on the remote slopes of the mountain after FUM facilitated the planting of several new Friends Churches among the Sabaot people. Ethnic Luhya Quakers (the vast majority of Kenyan Quakers) are participating in a matching challenge to raise funds for the distribution of indigenous-language Bibles among non-Luhya Quakers in East Africa.

Ramallah Friends School Students’ Fears Channeled by Helping Others

By Joyce Ajlouny, RFS Director

It is always encouraging to see children give a bit of themselves to help others. It is even more remarkable when those same children are experiencing their own anxieties and are able to channel their fears and frustrations in a positive manner through helping others.

We saw this clearly this fall at the Ramallah Friends School (RFS). As we in the RFS community were haunted by the horrific images and stories stemming from the summer war on Gaza, our students came to our rescue and gave everyone a constructive and meaningful project that helped to ease the anxiety and pain.

Students at the Lower School, with the mentorship of our Preschool Head Teacher Duha Masri, led a campaign that raised abundant funds in support of books for Gaza school libraries and community centers. By saving their allowance, arranging bake sales and approaching corporate sponsors, the students generated over $20,000. Students also expressed themselves through writing and artwork created for their Gazan peers. Their work is now on display at the Qattan Center for Children in downtown Gaza.

Duha Masri offered these personal reflections on the significance of this project:

“It is strange how time passes slowly during times of crisis. It is strange how quickly a building is demolished and ruined, how quickly a person is wounded and killed, and yet how difficult it is to rebuild, create and heal. The act of war is painful and horrific, and no soul survives it and is able to stay whole after it. There are no winners of wars; there are only losers
on every level.

At the Friends School, we believe that education is a human right and key to ensuring long term and sustainable development and to nurturing upcoming generations to strive for freedom. We believe it is our role as a school to foster a constructive response to a bad situation and to provide students with an opportunity to act on their empathy.”

This successful effort was a vivid reminder of our students’ empathy and compassion; it reaffirmed their humanity and their acknowledgement that suffering, regardless of what form it takes or who it is affecting, requires their attention and action.

Quaker Religious Education Collaborative Is Created

On August 17 and 18, 2014, 33 Friends gathered at Pendle Hill in Wallingford, Pennsylvania, to envision the future of religious education among Friends. We left feeling exhilarated, believing that way had opened for a collective effort in Quaker religious education that reaches across the current yearly meeting, organizational and geographic boundaries. “Elegant in its simplicity, the meeting planted a thousand seeds,” is how one Friend described the gathering.

The gathered group confirmed these major underpinnings:

• Religious education for Friends is about taking people to their Inner Teacher.
• Each Quaker Meeting grows in its own way.
• Whatever we do must be theologically and geographically inclusive.
• Meetings need families, and families need religious education.
• Religious education is for children of all ages.
• From infant to elder, all of us are teachers, and all of us are learners.

The way this collaboration came about was amazing. Last spring, four Friends were led to expand their discussions on religious education resources and networking by inviting others from across the country to conduct Listening Circles focused on religious education joys and challenges. In faith, they reserved space at Pendle Hill to gather a first meeting of an emerging Collaborative. By August, 33 Friends from Texas, Tennessee, Oklahoma, South Dakota, New York, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Maine, Massachusetts and Washington, D.C. responded to the call to gather. Many more Friends added their voices from the Listening Circles. At Pendle Hill a steering group for the Collaborative was formed.
Our intentions going forward:

• Continue to build an international online community of practice using a contact list that has grown to almost 100 names and represents 15 yearly meetings and three countries.
• Create an on-line repository of Quaker curricula and teaching/learning resources that could be freely available to everyone.
• Establish a fluid structure that would allow us to raise money to pay for a website.
• Support the set-up of small, virtual working groups around religious education topics.
• Gather the RE community of practice together again in 2015.
• Offer an RE Institute in the USA within the next four years.
Interested in joining us or learning more about what is available for those in Quaker Religious Education and the work of the Quaker RE Collaborative? Contact:

Kickapoo Friends Center Report

Over the past two years, the Center has been working to develop a Work Study Program where Native American youth and others will be offered the opportunity to learn fundamental skills. They are now ready for an open house and for inviting the Kickapoo tribe to tour the facility and learn what opportunities there are for their youth. The Training Center features a wood shop, metal shop, mechanics shop and a class room equipped with a projector, flat panel monitor and seating for fourteen students. The plan is to offer entry level classes at first in all these areas and then move on to more advanced levels. Looking into the future, the Center wants to add cooking classes and others. Wednesday night is youth night where they play, have dinner and then go to Bible study, usually with around 40 attending.

RSWR Appoints Stillwell as General Secretary

The Board of Right Sharing of World Resources is excited to announce the appointment of Jacqueline Stillwell as the new General Secretary. Jackie has been a Quaker most of her life and currently serves as clerk of New England Yearly Meeting. Her international experience began in Norway where she did an internship in an educational program for mentally challenged youth. She spent nearly a decade in Guatemala, part of which she served in the Peace Corps. She has also led five trips to Cuba to visit NEYM’s sister yearly meeting there. Jackie has many years’ experience with not-for-profit organizations including 22 years as Head of School for The Meeting School in Rindge, New Hampshire. She will be leaving her current position as Administrator of the Tobias Community to take on the leadership of RSWR in January. She is known and well respected among Friends General Conference and many who met her for the first time at last summer’s Triennial sessions of Friends United Meeting.

Jackie received her B.A. degree in Education/Psychology at Friends World College in New York. She earned a master’s degree in Organization and Management from Antioch University in Keene, New Hampshire. She has served Friends General Conference on several committees that include Personnel, Ministry and Nurture and Executive Committee. Obviously very grounded in Quaker thought and practice, she has also served her own Monadnock Meeting as clerk. The mother of three grown sons and married to Travis, she enjoys contra dancing, sewing, quilting, knitting and singing.

Jackie says her experiences in Guatemala and Norway caused her to reflect on her own choices about what material possessions are wanted vs. needed and how God calls us to be faithful in the management of our own material and spiritual resources As an educator, she finds fulfillment in helping people recognize and develop their own possibilities and sense of spiritual wellness. It is those reflections that still drive her life style and make her excited to lead the team that manages the work of Right Sharing of World Resources.

Praxis invests in initial Education, Youth and Employment Bond

Bond purchase supports programs addressing education, youth and employment

GOSHEN, Ind. — The Praxis Intermediate Income Fund has purchased $2.5 million in the first ever Education, Youth and Employment (EYE) Bond through the Inter-American Development Bank, continuing the Praxis Mutual Funds’ commitment to making high impact investments.

Issued on September 17, 2014, the new EYE Bond offering is designed to support loans that specifically focus on education, youth and employment programs in the Caribbean and Latin America. The Inter-American Development Bank is a multifaceted financial institution whose projects promote sustainable growth, poverty reduction and social equity programs in that same region. In addition, the Inter-American Development Bank is committed to bringing about development in a sustainable, climate-friendly way. “We are excited to be part of this inaugural EYE Bond, and being part of an effort to improve the lives of children and young adults,” said Benjamin J. Bailey, CFA, Co-Manager of the Praxis Intermediate Income Fund. “This bond fits seamlessly with our goal to purchase investments that make financial sense and also benefit the global community. It’s one way we are investing in what matters.”

Praxis Mutual Funds, advised by Everence Capital Management, is a leader in green bond investments — and the Praxis Intermediate Income Fund has a history of purchasing bonds that make a social impact. In 2009, the Praxis Intermediate Income Fund became one of the first socially responsible investors to purchase a U.S. dollar denominated World Bank green bond. High social impact investments now make up more than 15 percent of the Praxis Intermediate Income Fund. In addition to the EYE Bond, market rate investments also include bonds in auto industry asset-backed securities, real estate investment trust green bonds, solar and wind installations, affordable housing, vaccines, medical research and community infrastructure. The Fund’s high social impact investments also include community development investments, benefitting disadvantaged communities nationally and abroad.

About Praxis Mutual Funds and Everence

Praxis Mutual Funds, advised by Everence Capital Management, is a leading faith-based, socially responsible family of mutual funds designed to help people and groups integrate their finances with faith values. To learn more, visit Everence helps individuals, organizations and congregations integrate finances with faith through a national team of advisors and
representatives. Everence offers banking, insurance and financial services with community benefits and stewardship education. To learn more, visit or call (800) 348-7468.

The Stranger Walking With Us

Then they told what had happened on the road,
and how he had been made known to them
in the breaking of the bread.

— Luke 24:35 NRSV

By Rita Willett

Five years ago at a retreat center in North Carolina, I heard the story of the walk to Emmaus (Luke 24:13-35) as if for the first time. My fellow participants in the School of the Spirit Ministry’s two-year program, On Being a Spiritual Nurturer, were gathered with our teachers. In preparation, we had been reading and reflecting on several topics — including liminality, a word that I had never heard before. I learned that liminality is an in-between-place, a threshold, a time-of-not-knowing, a time when faith sustains us. Cleopas and his unnamed companion — I imagine they were husband and wife — were surely in a liminal place as they walked to Emmaus, explaining to a stranger what had happened to the Teacher whom they loved.

the stranger walking with usI heard the Emmaus story at a time-of-not-knowing for me. Our family was struggling with a teenager’s drug and alcohol use. My mother’s worsening dementia was a gradual and ongoing loss. I found myself drawn to a deeper relationship with Christ and simultaneously unable to articulate quite who, for me, Christ was. Looking back at my journal, one page stands out — the words “child of God” drawn at the center and chaotic swirls of intersecting lines and colors filling the rest of the space. On the margin, I had written the word “liminality.” Like the disciples on the road, it was a time when I was accompanied and yet, could not clearly identify with whom I walked.

Traveling toward Emmaus, Cleopas and his wife accompany one another in their grief and confusion. Christ, the stranger along the road, is welcomed into the conversation — and he listens with compassion to the story that the couple shares. They in turn become the listeners and he, their Teacher, warming their hearts as he opened the scriptures with them. With words, Jesus teaches them about the suffering Messiah. With actions — in walking with them, in listening, in offering them words of spiritual nurture — Jesus teaches them how to accompany one another. Borrowing a phrase from theologian Roberto Goizueta, this passage from Luke’s gospel teaches us a “theology of accompaniment.”

Approaching Emmaus, Cleopas and his wife are reluctant to part with this stranger, inviting him to be their guest. A remarkable mutual hospitality ensues. Christ — the invited guest in the couple’s home — blesses, breaks and offers them bread. Only then do they recognize Jesus, the living Christ, as the one making the journey with them.

As a participant in the On Being a Spiritual Nurturer program, I was accompanied by classmates, teachers and a care committee from my monthly meeting. They walked with me, listened to my stories and helped open my heart to the warming presence of Christ. Together, we were learning about being spiritual nurturers. Listening to the story about the walk to Emmaus, we were taught by the example of Jesus to be present with those who are in liminal places and to practice mutual hospitality. Mike Green, one of the teachers, explained that “the spiritual nurturer must be grounded and rooted in faith, connected to the Divine Presence, while standing in that liminal place – from there, a safe and nurturing space is created in which one can truly listen.”

On Being a Spiritual Nurturer is a program under the School of the Spirit Ministry, a Quaker ministry “dedicated to helping all who wish to be more faithful listeners and responders to the inward work of Christ.” The School of the Spirit Ministry was founded about 25 years ago with the recognition that Friends were hungry for spiritual deepening. The first teachers wanted to foster spiritual nurture that “combines a clear Christian grounding with the ability to listen and recognize spiritual openings and committed journeys in whatever form they appear.” They understood that “this rare combination helps to lead one into deeper spiritual understanding and brings forth a greater tenderness with each other.”

A Christian grounding . . . listening . . . spiritual openings . . . committed journeys . . . tenderness. Fran Taber, one of the first School of the Spirit Ministry teachers, says “that is where the dynamic lies — in our ability to hold and articulate and stand clearly in a place of solidity and depth — and at the same time to be able to recognize and affirm a committed spiritual journey in whatever shape, whatever form, whatever words it appears.” This is the kind of nurture that Jesus exemplified as he listened and recognized the spiritual hunger of his disciples on the road to Emmaus.

In our final residency, our On Being a Spiritual Nurturer class reflected again on the Emmaus story. We were reminded that this story is extraordinary and that it is a lesson for our everyday journeys. I return to the story now as I prepare to join the next class as one of the teachers. The journey to Emmaus is such an extraordinary lesson. Jesus comes to us as a stranger on the road. We listen to one another, offer one another hospitality, and see Christ in the breaking of the bread.

Rita is a member of Richmond (Virginia) Friends Meeting, part of Baltimore Yearly Meeting. She is currently a student at Earlham School of Religion. Rita will join Evelyn Jadin (North Carolina Yearly Meeting FUM) and Beckey Phipps (New England Yearly Meeting) as core teachers for the tenth class of the On Being a Spiritual Nurturer program (2015-2017).