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Archive for Quaker Life Magazine – Page 3

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).

Listening and Learning at FUM Triennial

By David Herendeen

My decision to attend the FUM Triennial this year arose from a desire to act on a long-held concern that New York Yearly Meeting Friends remain engaged and connected with FUM. Coming to terms with my reservations (and fears), I felt I was ready now to follow through on my concern. I am thankful for the generous support of Northeastern Regional Meeting and New York Yearly Meeting, which enabled me to attend this year.

listening and learning at FUM triennialAttending FUM’s Triennial also enabled me to reconnect with old friends I had known during my 12 years of pastoral ministry in the Midwest (1982-1994). Many changes have taken place in FUM since that time. FUM has grappled with some tough issues. Some of its Midwestern yearly meeting members have suffered painful and divisive conflict. Friends meetings have separated from Indiana Yearly Meeting and formed a new association. I wanted to hear their stories personally, rather than rely on reports and internet blogs.

Indiana Yearly Meeting served as gracious hosts of this gathering, which met at the modern and comfortable campus of Indiana Wesleyan University. Meals were abundant and pleasing. There was ample time for conversation at mealtime and after evening programs. This was a time for me to sit in on some challenging and difficult conversations concerning issues of concern within the FUM family. I strove to listen lovingly. While Friends shared stories of pain and woundedness, I also heard stories of hope and new beginnings.

The theme for the week was, “A Great People to Be Gathered: In Christ, In Community, For Mission.” Plenary sessions began with a devotional worship or hymn singing. And, how these Friends love to sing! Gospel hymns and praise choruses projected on an overhead screen were mostly familiar to me. Although some of the texts no longer speak to me, still, I found joy entering into song with other Christian believers! FUM gatherings provided an opportunity to meet and hear from field staff working in global ministries. One evening session was devoted to hearing their stories, and slides and videos of this work enlivened my sense of these ministries. The story of Cuban Friends, who have developed their own unique indigenous Quaker identity, was uplifting. We sang a song, based upon Isaiah 61:1: “Si el Espíritu está aquí hay paz, Si el Espíritu está aquí hay amor . . .” A touching end to this evening was the laying on of hands and prayer offered for all new field staff.

A more recent development among FUM global ministries has been a renewed call for reconciliation and peacemaking. A Peace Panel held Saturday evening consisted of representatives from
Friends Church Peace Teams (Kenya), two Cuban Friends sharing about their Peace Institute, Quaker Volunteer Service and FCNL. Kenyan Friends have worked in Trauma Healing Reconciliation (in
partnership with African Great Lakes Initiative) and have even developed a peace curriculum (with FUM assistance) for Kenyan schools.

Three new yearly meetings/associations were welcomed to the FUM family: Chebuyusi Yearly Meeting (Kenya), Highland Yearly Meeting (Kenya), and the New Association of Friends (Indiana). I sat in on an interest group this new association led. They are still in the formative stages, but stated they are considering the highest authority to be in the monthly meeting. They are interested in invitations to other yearly meetings who would welcome getting to know them and hear their story.

I also attended a workshop on Indiana Yearly Meeting history. Many other mid-western yearly meetings were birthed out of this yearly meeting as Friends moved westward. They were also active in the evangelical Quaker transformation and the development of the pastoral tradition among Friends in the 19th century. FUM has been working hard to bridge the differences, which sometimes hinder the work of the body. Colin Saxton, the new General Secretary of FUM, is providing strong, yet gentle leadership. Many took part in an FUM Forty Days of Prayer devotional and Day of Discernment in preparation for this Triennial. I felt a depth of spirit and prayerfulness undergirding this gathering.

Does FUM have enough common ground for us to remain in ministry together? I am convinced that it does. Great care had been given by a Restructuring/Prioritizing committee of the General Board (sound familiar, NYYM Friends?), which brought a proposed revision of Organization and Procedure. Changes were made taking in account the process by which new member yearly meetings become part of FUM. Also addressed were how to develop an organizational structure that is sustainable, and how to continue to nurture global partnerships that are truly equitable, given the cultural and economic diversity of FUM. They did a good job of informing Friends of these proposed changes.

I served on the new business committee, which forwarded a concern from United Society of Friends Women International that FUM consider meeting concurrently with their triennial rather than consecutive years.

Speakers called attenders to be the great people we are called to be NOW, being attentive to the urgings of Spirit to make a prophetic witness to the world. We were challenged to be about energizing, equipping, and connecting Friends to participate in God’s transformative work in the world. We were invited to be a people who sit at the feet of Jesus, listening and learning how to be a beloved community witnessing to a redemptive love realized in the world.

A recorded minister, David A Herendeen has served pastoral meetings in Indiana, Illinois and New York. He currently cofacilitates a group of Friends who visit and encourage meetings and worship groups within New York Yearly Meeting. He also instituted a meeting intervisitation program within his Regional meeting. He has been an active attender at Easton (New York) meeting for the past 11 years. He is now serving as pastor of Manhattan Monthly Meeting in New York City.

Meanderings and Musings – January/February 2015

By Annie Glen
Communications Editor

I remember a time when meeting for worship did not energize my soul. Throughout the silence I would strain to hear the voice of God, but invariably just at the moment when I felt I was finally settled, someone would stand up and give a message from the silence. Many times, during that fallow period of my spiritual life, I would listen and then judge the message. Most generally the judgment was not positive and would cloud the rest of the meeting for me.

One Sunday, three people stood up and gave what I could only describe as “wacky” messages. One lady shared while she was doing dishes she looked out the window and saw a good tree. Then she turned her head and saw a bad tree. That was her message! My eyes rolled.

Two minutes later, her friend stood up with her hands over her head, swaying while she sang the Beatles song, “Let it Be.” About a minute later, a man stood and said he was walking into his house, saw crocuses popping their heads out of the snow. He said it made him so happy that he went in and baked some brownies. It was at that point, my cynical mind wondered what these people were thinking.

Right after meeting, I asked to speak to the Ministries & Oversight Clerk. As we sat down, I abruptly asked, “Just what is the statement of belief here?” He asked, “What is causing you to be so agitated?” With as much indignation and self-righteousness that I could muster, I asked him if he had heard the messages in worship. He simply smiled and nodded.

Then there was silence. Finally, I couldn’t take it anymore and disgustedly said, “Well?” The clerk turned to me and asked, “Do you see that of God in those individuals?” I chortled, “No!” The clerk’s eyes met mine and said, “Why not?”

The silence that followed was deafening! It was then that I experienced the truth of Proverbs 27:17, “As iron sharpens iron, so man sharpens another.” In that sharpening split second — that seemed like an eternity — I realized that each of those individuals offered a prayer to God of gratefulness from the spot where their feet were planted on their spiritual path. I was in a different spot, but in all these places God was at work in each of us. I had to ask myself, “What made my experience more right than another?”

God within each of us, works. It is particularly a special event when people can be unified for the mission God breathes into an organization. May we within the confines of FUM, see that of God working, nurturing and enriching the ministry he calls us to do. And through that unity, may we be energized.

Quaker Life – November/December 2014

Leading a Scattered People

All organizations go through seasons. During the spring there is a sense of renewal and vibrant growth occurs. Spring turns to summer and more and more activities progress. As pastor of Dublin Friends Meeting in Dublin, Indiana, I have noticed that the meeting is in the season of late autumn. They are prepared for winter, yet the congregation believes they still are to be an influence in the community and in the world. The activity has lessened, but not stopped. Though many leaves have fallen and scattered, Dublin Friends knew they needed someone to lead and guide them to be a scattered people—scattered to be of influence in the lives that surround them.

Like leaves on a tree we grow, bloom and mature. As autumn arrives, the winds of the Spirit scatter Friends into the world to influence, sustain and nurture new growth. Some of us will be gathered together to provide nutrients in a garden that has been seeded for the spring. Others will be placed in a compost pile to be purposely recycled at a later day. And some might lie moldering on the forest floor, surrendering constituent nutrients and fiber in the underbrush. Yet, none of us believe we are to stay still.

In this season though few in number, we continue to be alive and vital to the spiritual growth of a new generation. It is too easy to be distracted by what limits us — our age, our number, etc. Our season may be autumn and we may be scattered. But that does not matter. We are placed in an area where we are to be vital and nutritious to a world that seems to be hungry for Christ.

Leading this scattered people is a blessing to me, and I am honored to be called their pastor. As we prepare for winter, I see this community preparing for new growth. What our garden will look like in the spring is not apparent as yet. But this I know: the Master Gardner is tilling the soil, planting the seed and providing the nutrients through the scattered leaves of Dublin Friends. The whole process is beautiful to behold.

Annie Glen – Communications Editor, Friends United Meeting

Where Does Quaker Leadership Come From? – By Dorlan Bales


“Rather than look primarily to tradition, hierarchy, reason, or interpretations of inspired writings, Quakers put our highest confidence in the Holy Spirit.”

Read more


Abraham and Isaac: A Pacifist Story? – By William H. Mueller


“The main message of the book of Genesis is the goodness of God’s creation and our responsibility to avoid the causes of violence among people.”

Read more


Friends helping Friends in Jamaica – By Melissa Partin


“Let God use you — the end result could lead to salvation for others and reconciliation of you to God as you live out your purpose in him.”

Read more


Private Quaker, Public Quaker – Part 1 – By Norval Reese


“Quakerism is in rough shape, but I think the Religious Society of Friends has turnaround potential.”

Read more


Finding my Joy in the City – By Hannah Williams


“Through this experience I realized that with Christ there is hope!”

Read more


Silent Night, 1914 – By Charles David Kleymeyer


“I was still seeing and hearing those young men rising out of the trenches dug into that perilous frozen field. Nothing could tear my thoughts from this…”

Read more


Other Articles In This Issue:

Staff Columns

Meanderings & Musings – Annie Glen
Amazing Grace – Eden Grace

FUM News and Updates

FUM News in Brief

Other Content

Ask Tom: Have Quaker ideas of what it means to be a leader changed over the years?
Passages: Quaker Obituaries

Ask Tom: Have Quaker ideas of what it means to be a leader changed over the years?

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

The first generation of Friends had no doubt that they had leaders. Historians argue about whether George Fox was THE leader of early Quakerism; some assert that he came to be perceived as “first among Friends” because he outlived almost all of his contemporaries and was able to shape writing about and the memory of the beginnings of the Quaker movement. But no one questioned that some had gifts for speaking or conducting the business of the Society, and so Friends were willing to defer to them. Indeed, they felt it their duty.

Friends of all persuasions have always been clear that God calls and makes leaders. No human education or training could qualify a man or woman if that divine gift was absent. For much of Quaker history, Friends tended to equate wisdom and leadership ability — weight — with age. Most Friends adopted the pastoral system in the late nineteenth century because they were convinced that changing circumstances required new practices and institutions. Congregations that often included large numbers of new converts needed regular preaching and pastoral care. Opposition to the development of the pastoral system among Friends who remained committed to unprogrammed worship was based in large part on the fear that appointing one person as the leader of worship would crowd out other potential leaders — those who also had the ability to speak and preach. (Interesting note on some forgotten Quaker history — in the 1880s even Hicksite Friends debated developing a paid ministry.)

In the twentieth century, the greatest change was the embrace by most Friends of the idea that education and training could help Friends develop their gifts, especially gifts of leadership. The Quaker colleges increasingly focused on this. Pastoral Friends opened Bible colleges and training institutes. Woodbrooke in England and Pendle Hill were founded to help shape leadership among unprogrammed Friends. Perhaps the final step was the founding of the first accredited Quaker theological seminary, the Earlham School of Religion in 1960.

The nature of Quaker leadership today is a matter of lively debate. Some Friends believe in a Quakerism so egalitarian that they regard any assertion of leadership skeptically. Others still regard it as vital to the Quaker future. The discussion continues.

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

Passages: Quaker Obituaries – November/December 2014

ANDREW Wilma George Andrew, 98, of Snow Camp, North Carolina, died August 16, 2014. Mrs. Andrew was born August 6, 1916, in Westfield, North Carolina; the daughter of Edgar and Emma (Simmons) George. Mrs. Andrew was a native of Westfield, North Carolina. Wilma was a homemaker, a member of South Fork Friends Meeting, where she was in the Genevieve Lindley Sunday School Class, Women’s Missionary Society (as secretary), Silk Hope Home Demonstration Club, Circle of Hope Missionary Society and worked in the Silk Hope School as a volunteer for many years. Wilma loved poetry and wrote many original poems. She is survived by daughter: Susan Thomas and husband, Joe of Snow Camp, North Carolina; son: Gary Andrew and wife, Joann of Huntsville, Alabama; grandchildren; Amanda Brown and husband, Mike; Neil Andrew and wife, Lisa; Karen Welton and husband Steve and Joseph Thomas and wife, Paula; great-grandchildren: Reagan Brown, Andrew Brown Paige Welton, Trenton Welton, Bailey Andrew, Aiden Andrew, Taylor Thomas and Noah Thomas. JARVIS Thelma Talton Jarvis of High Point, North Carolina, was born in Newport News, Virginia, on September 10, 1932. Thelma graduated from Radford High School in Radford, Virginia, and relocated to Raleigh, North Carolina, to attend Rex Hospital School of Nursing. After graduating she moved to Chapel Hill and worked in the labor and delivery unit at North Carolina Memorial Hospital. In 1958, she and her husband, Dr. W.C. Jarvis, moved to High Point where she taught in the Nursing School at High Point Memorial Hospital while he was teaching in the dental school at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill. She ended her nursing career working with her husband until retirement. Thelma was very active at Springfield Friends Meeting and enjoyed close companionships with her many friends. She was a member of two “Red Hat” societies and several exercise groups including yoga, Zumba and water aerobics. She and two friends formed an entertainment trio, Comedy Inspirations, to encourage those that have health and age related issues. Thelma’s motto was “aspire to inspire before we expire.” She was preceded into death by her mother, Swannanoa Thelma O’Neal Talton, father Thomas Evans Talton and four brothers; Thomas, James, John and Glenn Talton, and her husband, Dr. William C. Jarvis. She is survived by two brothers and sister-inlaws; Douglas (Maria) and Bobby (Betty), three sons and two daughter-in-laws Thomas Lewis Jarvis, Dr. William David Jarvis (Dr. Bennie) and James Talton Jarvis (Dana); five grandchildren; William David, Jr., Faith Lamm O’Neal, Glenn Talton, Grayson Charles and Justin Lewis.

JERNIGAN Hugh Watson Jernigan, Sr., 89, of Greensboro, North Carolina, passed away on August 8, 2014. He was born, one of seven brothers, on October 13, 1924 in Wayne County, North Carolina, to John Lewis and Mary Helm Jernigan. He was member of New Garden Friends Meeting, where he served on various committees and as a meeting usher for over 50 years. He was also a member and former president of New Garden Friends Brotherhood Class. After retirement as a dairyman, he was employed by Guilford College and Friend’s Home in grounds maintenance and landscaping, and volunteered in restoration activities at the historic New Garden Cemetery, identifying and restoring Revolutionary War grave site locations and grave markers. He was a valuable community asset, receiving recognition for his work with the Boy Scouts of America. As a charter member of the Guilford College Civitan Club, he had a 58 year perfect attendance record and was involved in numerous local and state fund raising projects. He received awards for Civitan of the Year in 1976-1977 and Citizen of the Year in 1967-1968. He was also a member of the Guilford Grange for over 55 years. He is survived by his wife of 67 years, Leila Mae Jernigan, two hildren and their spouses, Hugh Jernigan, Jr. (Mary Susan Dobyns) and Patricia Ann Martinez (John Martinez), two brothers, Horace and Harold Jernigan.

KRITSCH Clarence Walter Kritsch died on August 11, 2014. He was born on September 2, 1924, in Traverse City, Michigan to Walter and Mae (Grindsted) Kritsch. After his family moved to Indiana, Clarence tragically lost both of his parents when he was just six years old. He and one of his sisters became residents of the Moorman Orphans’ Home west of Winchester, Indiana, under the care of house parents Stella and Fred Moore. For all of his formal education, Clarence rode the school hack to the Lincoln schools west of the Moorman Home. After school and during the summers, being a resident of the Home meant regular chores to help grow food and keep the building and grounds clean. Doing those chores taught Clarence an excellent work ethic and gave him his start on becoming a first-rate farmer. Clarence recounted that after the chores were done and the kids had free time, the big barn’s floor would be cleared for basketball games involving the Home’s kids and many others from the surrounding area as well. Clarence became a skilled basketball player and a leader on his Lincoln High School team. Clarence occasionally would speak of walking with friends through the woods west of the Moorman Home to the edge of Winchester Speedway. He and his buddies climbed the trees to a point high enough to see over the mound of dirt around the racetrack so they could watch the races. He clearly remembered the extra excitement of the day when a race driver lost control, came up over the dirt mound and crashed into the very tree the boys had climbed. Clarence graduated from Lincoln High School and in July 1944, married his high school sweetheart Maxine Funk, whose parents owned the Speedway and the farmstead west of it. Their wedding took place in the Funks’ house, and the newlyweds set up housekeeping in a small cottage nearby. He began farming for his father-in-law and ended up being a lifelong Randolph County, Indiana, farmer west of Winchester. Even in his final year, Clarence remained as active in his three-generation family farm as his health allowed. In October 1949, Clarence and Maxine became members of Winchester Friends Church where Clarence had attended since childhood with a group from the Orphans’ Home. Over the decades until their deaths, both were tireless workers and faithful participants in the church’s ministries and the William Penn Sunday School class. They made their home a “country refuge” for a long succession of pastors. For as long as he was able, Clarence assisted the trustees in caring for the meetinghouse and parsonage, and he provided spiritual grounding and leadership to the church in many other ways as well. Above all, he loved spending time with his family, and he leaves to them and to his church family a legacy of quiet strength and spiritual faithfulness. Although a man of few words, his was a life that spoke. He was preceded in death by his parents; by his wife Maxine L. (Funk) Kritsch in September 2007; by two sisters, Anna-Marie Werking and Margaret Crist; and by a brother, John Kritsch. Survivors include his two sons, Ben (wife Ellene) Kritsch and Tony (wife Marsha) Kritsch, both of Winchester, Indiana; four grandchildren, Scott Kritsch of Ridgeville, Indiana, Michael (wife Lana) Kritsch of Indianapolis, Indiana, Trent (wife Christa) Kritsch of Winchester, Indiana and Angie (husband Corey) Graff of Westfield, Indiana; eight great grandchildren, Alex, Victoria, Ethan, Addison, Lyla and Carol-Anne Kritsch, and Chase and Kaylee Graff; and a church family and many friends who will miss him dearly.

MARLEY Cafer Ingman Marley, age 93, formerly of Pleasant Garden, North Carolina, passed away on August 22, 2014. Mr. Marley was born January 9, 1921, the son of Arthur B. and Mary Hanner Marley. Mr. Marley was a native of Guilford County, North Carolina, and was a veteran of the U.S. Army proudly serving our country in World War II. He served as a recorded Friends minister in many places including, Woodland in Goldsboro, North Carolina; Corinth, Ivor, Virginia; Somerton, Suffolk, Virginia; Bethel, Franklin, Virginia; Statesvillle, Statesville, North Carolina; Farr’s Chapel, Vonore, Tennessee; and Rafter Chapel, Tellico Plains, Tennesee. He also served as interim pastor at Rocky River Friends Meeting, Siler City, North Carolina, Liberty Friends Meeting, and Centre Friends Meeting, Greensboro, North Carolina. In addition to his parents, he was preceded in death by his wife, Virginia Garrett Marley, daughter: Judy M. Dawson and brother: Eli Marley. He is survived by his daughters: Elaine (Allen) Kerns of Franklinville, North Carolina, Lelia (Clint) Harrell of Suffolk, Virginia; grandchildren: Matthew (Lindsay) Harrell of Chesapeake, Virginia and Hannah Kerns of Franklinville, North Carolina; son in law: Grant Dawson of Brown Summit, North Carolina; siblings: Branson and Philip Marley and Linda Trogdon.

PEDIGO Nathan M. Pedigo, 20, of Westfield, IN died July 4, 2014 in Indianapolis. He was born in Chicago, IL on November 24, 1993. Nathan was a 2012 graduate of Plainfield High School. He attended Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI) where he was studying Criminal Justice and worked for UPS shipping. This summer he was serving as an intern with Plainfield Friends summer Sunday morning outreach program. He was a Sundesmos (Young Adult Program) intern with Western Yearly Meeting of Friends Church (WYM) following his graduation from high school. He was an active member of the Western Yearly Meeting Youth Cabinet during his high school years. Nathan enjoyed music, superheroes, good food, video games and trying new things. During his time on WYM Youth Cabinet, he frequently wrote the skits that were presented for the Youth Cabinet Road Shows presented to several Meetings each year. Nathan is remembered by family, friends and Friends particularly for his gifts of service, generosity and humor. A memorial service was held in the Western Yearly Meetingroom on July 12 by Plainfield Friends Meeting where he was a member. The Nathan Pedigo Memorial Fund has been established by Westfield Friends Church, 324 S. Union Street, Westfield, IN 46074. Contributions may be mailed to the church. Condolences may be sent to the family at 17172 Tilbury Way, Westfield IN 46074. Nathan is survived by his parents, Steven and Marlene Morrison Pedigo; brother, Joel Pedigo; sister, Anna Pedigo; his grandmother, Jean Morrison, several aunts and uncles and many cousins. Memorial Minute submitted by Plainfield Friends Meeting of Western Yearly Meeting

PLUMLEE Justin Gary Plumlee, 29, of Sophia, North Carolina, August 31, 2014. Born September 14, 1984 in High Point, North Carolina, Justin was the son of Gary and Terri Plumlee. He was a birthright Quaker and was a member of Marlboro Friends Meeting. Justin graduated from Randleman High School in 2002 and from Guilford College in 2010 where he majored in history and minored in religion. A devout Christian, Justin spent several summers as a counselor at Quaker Lake Camp fulfilling his passion for helping young people find the Lord. During this time, Justin also served as chairperson of the Young Adult Committee for North Carolina Yearly Meeting. Most recently, he worked as a Media Assistant at Randleman Middle School and served as assistant coach on the school’s baseball team. Justin received the honor of Employee of the Year at Randleman Middle School for the 2013-2014 school year. He was an avid outdoorsman and loved trout fishing, mountain biking, and hiking. Justin also enjoyed all sports and was a huge fan of the Boston Red Sox and Manchester United. He was preceded in death by his paternal grandparents, Cecil “Whitey” and Vada Plumlee, and his maternal grandparents, James Hanson and Linda Hanson Sellers. Survivors include his parents, Gary and Terri Plumlee, of Sophia, North Carolina; his sister, Morgan Plumlee, of Asheboro, North Carolina; his grandfather, Fred Sellers, of Shallotte, North Carolina; aunts and uncles, Evelyn and Gray Warren, Mark Plumlee, and Warren and Cherrie Hanson; cousins, Kyle Warren and wife, Sara, Ben Warren, Connor Hanson, and Tyler Hanson. Loved by many, Justin is also survived by numerous extended family members and friends.

RYAN Sara Jane (Kekkum) Ryan, 73, passed away on June 19, 2014. Sara Jane was born March 14, 1941 to James and Roberta (Jones) Kellum of Camby, Indiana. She was the second of three girls; the others are Mary Ann Cottrell and Susan Kellum. She graduated in 1959 from Decatur Central High School in Marion County, Indiana. She attended Earlham College and completed her degrees in Education at Indiana University. Sara married Larry D. Ryan D.D.S., January 1, 1961 at the Fairfield Friends Meetinghouse in Camby. After Larry’s professional schooling and military service, they resided for forty years in the two-story brick farmhouse just south of the Fairfield Friends Meetinghouse with their three children. In 1980, the same year that her oldest child Gregory started college, she began teaching third grade students at Northwood Elementary School in Mooresville, Indiana. After retiring in 2001, Sara spent several semesters as a Student Teacher Evaluator for Franklin College in Franklin, Indiana. Sara served on the Board of Trustees for Earlham College for three terms which expired in 2013. Also, she was a liaison to Earlham School of Religion. Sara Jane was a birthright Quaker and served on several committees and boards for Plainfield Friends Meeting and Western Yearly Meeting in Plainfield, Indiana. She previously served as clerk of ministry and counsel for Plainfield Friends. She especially enjoyed serving on the decorating committee that chose the furniture and accessories for several rooms in the newly remodeled Western Yearly Meeting basement. As a child she enjoyed attending Quaker Haven Camp and later volunteered as a camp counselor. Sara Jane was a very involved 4-H’er while growing up. She especially enjoyed showing her Cheviot lamb. Later, she became a 4-H Leader with her girls, Luann and Melissa, who also showed Cheviot sheep. She was a leader for her son Greg’s Cub Scout Pack. She and Larry spent many years restoring and renovating their 1870s brick home. The property has been in the family since the 1820s. Her Kellum, Hockett and Hadley ancestors settled in Guilford Township, Hendricks County, Indiana, in 1823, after leaving North Carolina. They were some of the first to enter the county and were instrumental in establishing White Lick Friends (now Mooresville Friends), Sugar Grove Friends and Fairfield Friends Meetings. Her Quaker Roots were deep as her grandfather, I. Lindley Jones, was a Friends Minister from Lost Creek Friends Meeting of Jefferson County, in east Tennessee. Sara Jane and Larry have frequently attended Ball Play Friends Meeting of Monroe County in Tellico Plains, Tennessee. Her Friends upbringing was instrumental in her strong faith in God and the nurturing of her family and community. Sara enjoyed traveling and visited eleven foreign countries. She especially liked attending her children’s and then her grandchildren’s 4-H activities, musical programs and athletic events. Survivors include her husband, Larry; sisters: Mary Ann (Larry) Cottrell and Susan Kellum; children: Gregory (Diane) Ryan D.D.S., Luann (James) Heald, Melissa (Jerald) Hackett; grandchildren: Stuart and Grant Ryan, Andrew, Morgan, and Natalie Heald, and Raegan and Sadie Hackett.

SHORT Jo Ann Elizabeth Beeson Short, age 79, of Sophia, North Carolina, died July 31, 2014. Jo Ann was a native of Randolph County and a school teacher for 36 years. She was a member of Marlboro Friends Meeting, Alpha Delta Kappa Honorary Sorority and Friends Missionary Circle. Mrs. Short is preceded in death by her daughter, Ann Marie Short and her parents Colbert and Halcie Beeson. She is survived by her husband: James “Jimmie” Short; son: Sid Short and his wife Jennie of Norwood, North Carolina; daughter: Kathleen Naron and her husband Joe of Asheboro, North Carolina; grandchildren, Jordan and Grayson Short and Joseph and Sidney Naron; sisters: Marie Pugh, Sue Pugh, and Karen Hinshaw; brother: Elmer (Adis) Beeson all of Sophia, North Carolina.

STEELMAN Roy Arnold Steelman, 92, passed away on Saturday, August 16, 2014. Mr. Steelman was born October 9, 1921 in Yadkin County, North Carolina, to Arnold and Alma Dobbins Steelman. He served in the US Army during World War II after graduating from Yadkinville High School. Mr. Steelman was a lifelong member of Deep Creek Friends Meeting where he served as a Sunday school teacher and sang in the choir. He served with the North Carolina Friends Disaster Service and was a long time president and member of the Yadkin County Farm Bureau Board. In addition to his parents, Mr. Steelman was preceded in death by his loving wife of 53 years, Helen Hobson Steelman; a brother and sister-in-law, Frank (Susan) Steelman and a brother-in-law, Roy Coe. He is survived by three sons, Rick (Sharon) Steelman, Terry (Sonja) Steelman, and Don (Pam) Steelman; seven grandchildren, Alex and Spencer Steelman, Rebekah (Jon) Vermeer, Seth and Caleb Steelman, and Ashlyn and Rhett Steelman; two sisters, Dot Coe and Ina Sheek; and several nieces and nephews.

WILSON Louise Brown Wilson died on June 23, 2014, in Virginia Beach, Virginia. Born in 1921, the first child of David Heston Brown and Christine Frazier Brown, Louise was raised in rural North Carolina by a family deeply rooted on both sides in Quaker values and Southern hospitality. Louise was educated at Westtown Secondary School (where she gave up cheerleading to star on the varsity basketball, lacrosse, hockey, tennis teams and also broke the record for receiving the most letters) and Guilford College, where she met and married in traditional Southern style fellow Quaker Bob Wilson from High Point, North Carolina. After marriage, Louise and Bob settled in High Point and, in 1952, moved with their two young children
to Virginia Beach. Here they started a Quaker (Religious Society of Friends) Meeting in their Linkhorn Park home. In 1954, Louise became a recorded Quaker minister, or “Minister among Friends” as her grandfathers had before her. The following year, she co-founded the Virginia Beach Friends School that held its first classes on a campground in Seashore State Park. In her book, A View from My Window (1995) Louise, who was head of Virginia Beach Friends School for many years, outlines the history of the meeting and school and how she and several fellow young Quakers and friends, notably Jane Waller, did everything, from driving the school bus to making the lunches during the early months of the school. Louise’s ministry and leadership extended outside of Quaker circles. She was active in prison ministry and the Junior League and served on interdenominational ministerial boards, committees and other civic organizations, resulting in her being named First Citizen of Virginia Beach in 1960. A natural storyteller, Louise became a popular and respected speaker and workshop leader amongst Friends meetings and educational institutions and served on many educational boards and committees, including Pendle Hill, Earlham School of Religion and Guilford College, where she became a trustee emeritus. Louise’s 1996 memoir, Inner Tenderings, recounts her spiritual journey and ministry across these years. Louise remained active on the Virginia Beach Friends meeting ministry and oversight committee until shortly before her death. Although the tonal quality of her speaking faded as she aged, she never lost her gift of capturing the essence of the moment and translating it into a message that spoke to the condition of those who heard her. Throughout her life, she received countless letters from people across the world thanking her for having touched their lives. In 2000, Louise lost her husband of almost 60 years, and after his death she moved to Atlantic Shores Retirement community where she made dear friends. She was active in the community’s writing group and had pieces published in The Poet’s Domain as well as national Quaker periodicals. Louise is survived by her brothers David Brown (wife Mae) of Greensboro, North Carolina and Benjamin Brown (wife Myra) of New Hampshire and Virginia Beach, as well as her son Bob Wilson Jr. (wife Janet), her daughter, Diane Hofheimer (husband Charles), and seven grandchildren and 12 great grandchildren. An avid sports aficionado, Louise was the quintessential Tar Heel fan and always had her television tuned to a sports channel. Although extremely active outside of her home, Louise was also a beautiful homemaker, beloved parent, grandparent and friend. She would want to be remembered not by her resume but by the individual hearts that became a part of her heart and not by her words but by the spirit and shared silence from which they were born.

Finding my Joy in the City

By Hannah Williams

When we think of missions, it is easy to focus on ministry in foreign fields. Many tend to neglect the need for missions right here in our own country and the needs that are literally right down the street or right next door. When Jesus commanded his disciples to feed the hungry, clothe the naked and care for orphans and widows, he didn’t place restrictions on where this ministry was to occur. This command is for everyone — anyone who follows Jesus Christ. We don’t need to go very far. We can start with our next-door neighbor.

This past summer I had the privilege of serving hundreds of children and youth in inner city Cleveland through an internship with The City Mission. The City Mission is a non-profit gospel rescue mission that desires to provide help and hope to all people through the transforming power of God’s love. This inner-city mission works incredibly hard to provide the children with a safe, fun, and loving environment and to ensure that every child who walks through the door does not leave without hearing the gospel message of Christ and offers youth and family outreach services (the department in which I worked).

Each day for 11 weeks, The City Mission ran a summer day camp for more than 250 kids who were from first grade to eighth grade, 98% of whom were African American. This ministry provided campers with breakfast and lunch, games, crafts, a Bible lesson and a two-hour intensive core group of their choice (e.g. drumline, gospel choir, praise dance, intramural sports, drama and poetry, graphic art and design, etc.).

Getting involved in urban mission work has been something I have always wanted to do. The Lord has given me a passion for the inner city and youth. Serving with The City Mission this summer only deepened that desire. It is easy to be overwhelmed by the significance of the number of the poor and homeless that this mission serves. It is very easy to lose sight of each person as an individual, but God is far beyond numbers and his desire is for all people to know him.

The first few weeks were extremely humbling. Extremely! I hated knowing about the poverty and pain that the children have to live with and the way they were growing up, but I am thankful that God chose to use me, and I know that somewhere along the way he was planting seeds in the garden of each child’s heart.

My heart would break when the children would talk about their home lives and their sense of normal. Our campus was right in the heart of things. We were surrounded by government housing projects for several blocks in Cleveland; so many of the kids came from the surrounding neighborhoods. It is not a safe area, but because of God’s provision and grace I did not have to live in fear, although I did worry about our kids walking around in the area by themselves. I loved each child as if they were my own, and I loved feeling like I had a sense of purpose and vision for how to help the people with whom I worked. God pushed me to do more than I knew I was capable of, and this experience revealed my strengths as well as many weaknesses.

One way that I saw God at work was in the life of one of the junior high girls, named Aniyah. This young lady came to camp looking angry most days. It was apparent to me that her life circumstances were blocking her from experiencing the complete freedom and joy of the Lord. As Aniyah and I got to know each other better, we became good friends. She would often follow me around at camp. Slowly through the weeks, I started to see a glimmer of change.

One thing I did with Aniyah each day was to sing the song, “I’ve got the Joy, Joy, Joy Down in My Heart” to her. I would grab her hands and sing and dance until she was either laughing or joining in. To my surprise, after several days (maybe weeks) of doing this, Aniyah came running up to me one day, smiling from ear to ear, with a note that said, “I’ve got the joy, joy, joy in my heart.” At that moment I realized that the message had finally clicked for her. Jesus had taken hold of her heart and was filling it up with His joy. What a blessing it was to be a part of his work in little Aniyah’s life!

It was tremendously difficult to leave these kids when the summer came to an end. Though they would suck the energy out of me, push every button, test my patience and drive me crazy, their smiles and presence would fill me right back up again with love. They would laugh and play with me, hold my hand, wrap their arms around me, ask questions, allow me to pray for them, smile, cry and let me in their lives a little more each day.

This summer’s experience was an eye opening and a heart shaping one. Through this experience I realized that with Christ there is hope! After leaving Cleveland, there is hope! I know Christ is at work, and I know he will not forget his children. I miss each of the campers every day, but I trust that the Lord will protect, provide and guide them in the way he wants them to go. More importantly I know God is loving them in every possible way he can. My experience with The City Mission completely changed my life. It is my prayer that my desire to love and serve people in the inner city would only increase as I continue, by God’s grace, to commit myself to the work of his kingdom.

Hannah is a recent graduate from Barclay College with a major in Bible and Theology. She is a member of Haviland Friends Church and is very grateful to be a part of such a rich heritage of Quakers. She is the daughter of David Williams, Professor of Discipleship and Spiritual Formation and Director of the Master of Arts in Transformational Leadership-Spiritual Formation program at Barclay College and the new General Superintendent of Evangelical Friends Church-Mid America Yearly Meeting as of July 1, 2014. Hannah’s grandfather is John Williams, former Friends pastor and Academic Dean at Friends University, and is the great granddaughter of Walter and Myrtle Williams. Her great-great grandparents, Walter and Emma Malone, were the founders of Malone University. Hannah feels extremely blessed to call all of them her family and hopes to be a blessing to others as she continues in inner city ministry.

Private Quaker, Public Quaker – Part I

By Norval D. Reece

Quaker Lecture
Western Yearly Meeting
July 17, 2014

The theme for these sessions, stewardship, is something with which I have often wrestled.

What does stewardship mean? What does it involve?

What should we be doing to be good stewards?

Like many, I have traditionally thought of stewardship in terms of giving – money, time, talents and skills. Giving is central to stewardship.

But I’ve begun to think more in recent years of that part of stewardship that it is about preserving and protecting. Being stewards of the world around us, from our values to our form of government and our natural environment.

For many years I was a private Quaker. Now I’m a public Quaker. It has to do with stewardship.

I want to talk tonight specifically about stewardship of the Religious Society of Friends — of our churches, meetings, yearly meetings. Quakers have been around for 350 years.

Many of us have assumed Quakers will always be around. I no longer believe we can take this for granted.

We Quakers are more prone to think about righting the wrongs in society at large — feeding the hungry, preventing the next war, providing equal opportunities for all — than to think about ourselves. To do the latter seems somewhat selfindulgent. Self-promotional. UnQuakerly.

I will suggest otherwise in this presentation and make some specific recommendations for your consideration. I do this not as a theologian though I have studied theology, nor as a social activist though I have been one, nor as an historian though I’m a history buff, but as a pragmatist from the bottomline world of politics and corporate America and as one who loves the Religious Society of Friends.

My comments are in four parts: 1) a review of some personal experiences to indicate how I have become a public Quaker, 2) a look at the perception of religion in today’s world of high technology and individualism, 3) a brief, candid appraisal of the Religious Society of Friends, and 4) some suggestions about what we might do as stewards of the Religious Society of Friends.* (The fourth part will be in the Jan/Feb edition of Quaker Life.)

So, this talk is part confessional and part a call to action. I have just come from Cape Cod.

Down the beach from our house, across the salt marsh, is a wooden shack on the shore which all the children consider to be full of mystery, great treasures, and answers to all their questions — the “Doctor’s Boathouse.” Dr. Horatio Rogers was a fishing buddy of the father of my wife, Ann. He was gruff in manner with a heart of gold and the owner of this wonderful shack. “The Doctor’s Boathouse” had the best tools for miles around for fixing boats, fishing tackle, broken toys and almost anything.

But the Doctor had certain rules. 1) You had to be invited to enter the Doctor’s Boathouse. 2) If you were really special, the Doctor would let you borrow a much-needed tool. And, 3) what you borrowed had to be returned in better condition than it was when you borrowed it. “Had to be,” otherwise you might not be invited back, an inconceivable thought. The “Doctor’s Boathouse” and its contents were in very good condition — always.

I think of the Religious Society of Friends as being the Doctor’s Boathouse. It’s a magnificent, mysterious place with everything we need. All of us who share it have met the Doctor’s first two rules. We have been allowed in and we have “borrowed tools” from time to time. We have benefited from our Quaker faith communities. But what about Dr. Rogers’ third point: are we leaving it in better shape than we found it?

I like the quotes selected from the Gospel of Luke and John Woolman regarding stewardship. They are action-oriented and provocative. From Luke 12:42, “Who then is the faithful and wise manager…?” and from John Woolman’s Plea for the Poor, “To turn all we possess into the channel of universal love becomes the business of our lives.”

These quotes are action-oriented in capital letters. They are transformative in nature. We are not being asked to just “do something” for someone or for society or for our Friends Church or our Yearly Meeting. We are being asked to be someone, to become someone. “Be” a wise and faithful manager and “become” a channel of universal love. They are provocative because they challenge us to be better.

Whenever I am challenged to be better, to do better, I find it helpful to keep in mind three radical theological assumptions of Quakers: 1) all people are equal in the eyes of God and have the light within, the Christ within; 2) continuing revelation is possible, of understanding more about God and our life on this earth than we now know; and 3) the perfectibility of man, the promise that we can become better people, improve our behavior, our attitudes and our thoughts regarding other people and the world around us.

These three basic, radical Quaker concepts have punctuated my own improbable life and multiple careers.

Personal Experiences

I grew up in a wonderful, protective, comfortable Quaker cocoon. Every child should grow up this way. I stretched my intellectual and social world in college, and stretched my spiritual and theological world in divinity school and in India. My beliefs were refined, tempered and case-hardened by travel abroad and by my professional life as a social and political activist in the ‘60s, a state government employee in the ‘70s, a corporate executive in marketing and finance in the ‘80s, and an international cable television entrepreneur in the ‘90s.

Aristotle said there should be three phases to one’s life: the first phase should be devoted to the best possible education, the second to working and raising and caring for a family, and the third to serving society.

I unintentionally have done this, though I managed to rearrange Aristotle’s last two points into three separate careers — one with the Quakers doing service work, one in politics and government, and one in cable television.

After graduating from DePauw and Yale Divinity School, I went to India with the American Friends Service Committee for two years running an international affairs group at the Quaker Centre in Delhi and organizing work camps in Indian villages and Tibetan refugee camps.

When I finished my term in India, I cashed in my plane ticket home to hitchhike around the world. Along the way, I trekked in the Himalayas, climbed Mount Kilimanjaro in Africa, went down the Nile on a barge and spent six weeks in the Soviet Union at a work camp/seminar on a collective farm.

When I returned home, I plunged full time into working in the civil rights movement and organizing protests against the Vietnam War. I ran political campaigns, lobbied, met with candidates for president, marched with Martin Luther King. Jr. in Selma, ran for the US Senate in PA as a candidate against the War in Vietnam, lost, but helped elect Milt Shapp Governor and became his Special Assistant and then the Secretary of Commerce in Pennsylvania.

After state government, I entered the private sector as Vice President for New Market Development for Teleprompter, the largest cable television company. Later I started my own cable company, which helped bring independent news to Communist Poland and held the first public stockholders’ meeting there in fifty years.

Through all these years my religious life was that of a private Quaker. It’s not that people didn’t know I was a Quaker. It’s just that I left it there. For twenty years I was immersed in political and human rights issues which seemed to be, and sometimes were, matters of life and death. For another twenty years I was involved in corporate America and starting my own business ventures. I was very comfortable in my Quaker cocoon, being a private Quaker.

Along the way, I did manage to fall in love, marry Ann Benson, and we had two boys.

We didn’t attend Quaker Meeting on a regular basis during this period until we moved from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania to Bucks County so I could commute to New York City for my new job in cable television. We joined Newtown Friends Meeting, in part, because it had an active religious education program for kids.

I learned a lot from being involved in social activism, politics, government and the competitive corporate world. It puts a huge magnifying glass on ordinary activities.
Here’s what I learned.

In order to be successful, one has to be: 1) very well organized, 2) focused in one’s message, 3) direct and simple in one’s comments for mass media, 4) self-promotional as a candidate for public office if one expects to convince people to support you and your campaign issues, 5) aware that the style and manner of one’s presentation are important (Hence, thousands of students went “Clean for Gene” for the McCarthy for President campaign in 1968 by getting haircuts, shaving and wearing “real clothes”) and 6) patient when delivering one’s message, realizing that some people’s perception of what is true may be more important to them than the truth itself. These were new lessons for a Quaker kid from Indiana.

In protests, politics, government and business, I readily used strategic planning, prioritizing goals, advertising, promotion and fund raising to get my message across. It was absolutely
necessary for success, whether the goal was civil rights, to end the war in Vietnam, to double the size of our company or to bring uncensored news to people in a communist country.

I was very comfortable during this period in keeping my life-long Quaker faith to myself. I compartmentalized my religion and kept it separate from my “worldly activities.”

The thought never occurred to me that the skills I put to good use in the secular world might have any relevance to the Religious Society of Friends.

The thought did occur to Thom Jeavons when he was General Secretary of Philadelphia Yearly Meeting (PYM) in the early 2000s. We were having lunch one day and talking about my various ventures and adventures when Thom asked, “If you’re willing to use these skills for politics and business, why not for your religious beliefs? Are they less important?” Good question. Good question for all of us. Before long, this “private Quaker” became a “public Quaker.”

The State of Religion in the United States

So, what is the relevance, if any, of all of this for the Society of Friends, for Western Yearly Meeting, for our local churches and meetings…and stewardship?

Public opinion polls have indicated for many years that “organized religion” is on the decline in the United States. Membership is down and attendance is down in virtually every religious group. More people now consider themselves to be “spiritual” rather than “religious.” This turn away from organized religion seems to most observers to be a negative reaction to traditional top-down, creedal religions. People today seem to want to define their own truth and follow their own insights rather than those of “the church.”

That should be good news for an independent-thinking, individually-oriented group like the Quakers.

The State of the Religious Society of Friends in the United States

But, we are also on the decline numerically. Some Quakers like to take comfort in the fact that we are small in numbers but big in influence. That what counts is quality not quantity. This is true to a large extent, but this is only part of the story. Quakers have been in the forefront in many ways historically.

Quaker business people helped launch the industrial revolution in 17th and 18th century England by having fixed prices, agreements based on trust, and caring for the interests
of their employees.

William Penn helped launch American-style democracy by establishing the “Holy Experiment” in Pennsylvania based on a staggering number of firsts: freedom of religion, women’s rights, limited power of government, private property, free enterprise, free press, humane penal code and the right to trial by jury.

It is no wonder that Thomas Jefferson called William Penn “The greatest lawgiver the world has ever known.”

And, of course, the Religious Society of Friends became the first religious group to ban slavery in the United States, and Quaker women were in the forefront of the women’s suffrage movement. In 1947, “all Quakers everywhere” were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, accepted on their behalf by the American Friends Service Committee and the British Friends Service Council.

So, yes, a small group can have a big impact. And Quakers have had a huge impact historically. But what about today? Earlham School of Religion published in 2005 its Comprehensive Case for Support with some sobering statistics. “Over the past 30 years, membership in North American Yearly Meetings of the Religious Society of Friends has dropped precipitously. Between 1972 and 2002, total membership in these meetings has declined by 28,594; from 121,380 to 92,786….”

The report goes on to say, “This signifies a drop in membership of approximately 23.5% in just 30 years.” And later adds, “If these downward trends in the Society’s membership were to continue unchecked, American Quakers would become extinct sometime late in the 21st century.”

Friends World Committee for Consultation, Section for the Americas, provides some more recent data — the number of Quakers in North America fell further to 88,053 in 2007 and to 77,660 in 2012. Overall, we have seen a 36% drop in 50 years. Yet during the last 17 years, my home meeting, Newtown Friends Meeting, in Bucks County, Pennsylvania has increased in membership by a whopping 46%. Why? And how? Keep tuned until later in this talk.

I used to have a financial consulting company which provided valuations of media companies, cable TV companies, TV broadcast stations, cable programming channels and so forth. We appraised them for banks, the IRS, private equity firms, pension funds and others considering buying these companies or investing in them.

If my company were evaluating Quakers in America today as an investment opportunity, what would we find and what would we say?

My summary might read something like this:

Dynamic, aggressive, history-altering past performance; currently holds some valuable real estate; perception of Quakers historically is of high quality, integrity, prudence, trust and dependability; little knowledge or understanding by general public of current Quakers who seem to have no plans for growth or expansion. In short, investing in Quakers today would involve a strong historic brand name with considerable risk — a good, undervalued entity but a risky venture.

I also asked my friend John Spears, a deeply religious and generous member of Princeton Friends Meeting, a stock analyst and one of four managers of the $20 billion Tweedy Browne financial management firm in NYC, for his independent judgment of Quakers today. I asked if he would invest in Quakers if they were listed on the stock exchange. Here’s what he said:

“If it were a public company, no, I do not think I would buy it. I think the Quaker brand and old Classic Quaker product is a great brand/a great niche product that used to have wider appeal, but it has been mismanaged, mispackaged, mismarketed, undermarketed- and the numbers on membership and attendance and financial support over the last few decades show that the Quaker product is losing market share and financial support . . . the message, the benefit to people of Quakerism, is generally not selling well in competition with other religions . . .”

John goes on to say, “But I think the Religious Society of Friends has turnaround potential. Some of the franchises of the RSOF, such as Newtown Meeting, have been competing well, offering a product that appeals to people, that is gaining market share. The organization has speculative potential over the long run. For that turnaround to occur there needs to be significant adaptation of best practices at the local level. It is not a slam dunk at all that this will happen given the corporate culture.”

Did I say John Spears is one of Wall Street’s most highly regarded analysts?

But, lest we despair, here are some remarks made last March by a young convinced Friend, Ross Hennesey, who set aside his intentions to become a college professor to work with the Quaker Voluntary Service (QVS) as the director of the Philadelphia unit. Quaker Voluntary Service is the two-year-old dynamic organization started by thirty-five-year-old Christina Repoley that now has offices in Atlanta, Philadelphia and Portland, Oregon, with one year service internships for 10-12 young Friends at each site, which operate under the care of a nearby Friends meeting or church. The young interns share a house, meals and regular worship together and are assigned to different charitable agencies in the area for their work assignments. Here’s what Ross said:

“I have on more than one occasion been told I am part of a dying religion. My non-Quaker friends are baffled by why I spend so much time and energy with you. They don’t get it, neither the silence, nor the tired debates we circle around and around long after they have ceased being relevant. Our congregations are aging. . . . And while we may be great listeners, we are terrible at communicating the things that matter most to us. . . . Who among us is laying the plans for Quaker utopias? Who are the innovators who are speaking relevant Truth and organizing us into communities that will not only survive, but thrive, that will change the world to be more just, more peaceful, and more equitable?

Ross continues to say,

“Quakerism for the 21st Century . . . needs a panoply, a bouquet, of individuals and organizations, old and new, that move us forward. . . . Rufus Jones’ idea of continuing revelation . . . reed Quakers to pursue Spirit beyond the confines of tradition or text. But more than that, this idea . . . also contains within it both a promise and a threat. It is the promise that each generation which inherits this ongoing story acts as midwife to an unfolding of Truth lived out. But if we ever let this generational pact be broken, Truth will arrive to us still-born. This is why I have thrown my lot in with you peculiar people. This is why I am a Quaker. It is the faith commitment that the greatness of our community is yet to come, that we still remain a great people to be gathered.”

I don’t know about you, Friends, but I find that flat-out inspiring.

These descriptions are anecdotal perceptions of the Society of Friends today. They are from different perspectives and say different things but share a common theme:

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 we have great potential — if we act on it.

But, returning to the John Spears hypothetical analysis of Quakers today, we are not potential investors. We are the investors. The owners. We are the stewards. So, what could we be doing? What should we be doing? (See the Jan/Feb edition of Quaker Life for the conclusion of this lecture.)

Norval D. Reece is a birthright Friend and former Chair of the Board of Advisors of 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.