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Where Does Quaker Leadership Come From?

It Has Seemed Good to the Holy Spirit and to Us:

The Wellspring of Quaker Leadership

By Dorlan Bales

Has the Quaker approach to leadership and authority been remarkable since the earliest days of the movement? Absolutely! Rather than look primarily to tradition, human hierarchy, intellectual arguments or the translations and interpretations of inspired writings; the Society of Friends has put its highest confidence in the eternal Word, the present-tense Holy Spirit promised by Jesus.

Quakers, at their best, seek the guidance of the Living Christ, who gathers us and gives us power for ministry to one another and the world. This movement has kept the Gospel fresh by listening inwardly and corporately for the leadership of the Holy Spirit in every aspect of life. This precious heritage of practicing the presence of God alone and with other disciples may be the most important gift Friends have to share.

Leadership in the First Century: Jesus and the Prophetic Tradition

The message and actions of Jesus are closely related to the Hebraic prophetic tradition. He called hearers to repentance and embodied the healing presence of God among working class people. This Spirit-baptized prophet spent most of his time healing and teaching common people who had uncommon faith, particularly his small group of disciples. Jesus also pointed out the hypocrisy of the religious leaders who often asked questions as a ruse to discredit him.

Just before he was betrayed into the hands of his enemies, Jesus washed his disciples’ feet to warn them against self-promotion and urge them to serve one another (John 13:1- 17). Jesus’ teaching, example and spirit continued to unite his disciples even after he was taken from them bodily. After the Holy Spirit was poured out and the authorities began to persecute the young community (Acts 2), Jesus’ message and ministry continued to grow.

Peter, Barnabas, Paul, James, and the Jerusalem Council of 50 A.D.

There is no more important milestone in the earliest history of the church, following Pentecost and Paul’s conversion, than that of Peter’s vision on a rooftop that ultimately led to the Holy Spirit being poured out on the household of a Roman military officer (see Acts 10). This breakthrough set in motion a series of actions by courageous Spirit-led early church leaders that broadened early believers’ understanding of God’s intentions and created a new name, Christian, for Jesus’ disciples (Acts 11:1-26).

Some believers settled in southeast Turkey after fleeing persecution in Jerusalem. They founded a congregation in Antioch where Jesus was proclaimed to Greeks as well as Jews. Barnabas was sent to help this new church. After encouraging the Antioch believers and seeing that new people were joining daily, Barnabas found Paul in south central Turkey and returned with him to teach the new Antioch converts.

After they returned, some believers from the sect of the Pharisees in Jerusalem began to teach that all Christians (whether Jew or Gentile) must keep the Mosaic Law and be circumcised. After Paul and Barnabas had “no small dissension and debate with them; Paul and Barnabas and some of the others were appointed to go up to Jerusalem to discuss this question with the apostles and the elders (Acts 15:2).”

How would the earliest church contend with its biggest crisis? The issue of Gentile inclusion had the potential to split the fledgling church! Great wisdom was needed. Acts 15 describes what happened.

Paul and Barnabas were welcomed in Jerusalem by the church and the apostles and elders. They shared their news about what God had done. The believers from the sect of Pharisees shared their deep conviction that Gentiles who follow Jesus must keep the Law of Moses. There was “much debate” before Peter reminded those present that he had been called by God to speak the good news to Gentiles and had witnessed God’s gift of the Holy Spirit to them. For Peter, that was the compelling evidence that God loves Gentiles, as well as Jews.

Then, “the whole assembly kept silence, and listened to Barnabas and Paul as they told of all the signs and wonders that God had done through them among the Gentiles.” James stood up and proposed that a letter to be delivered by Jerusalem leaders, Judas and Silas, that said, “It has seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to impose on you no further burden than these essentials: that you abstain from what has been sacrificed to idols and from blood and from what is strangled and from fornication.” This decision was accepted by everyone including the Jesus-following Pharisees and was received by the Antioch church with joy.

According to this narrative the experience of Peter, Paul and Barnabas and the immediate guidance of the Holy Spirit in their midst had more authority for James and the earliest church than even Hebrew Scriptures and tradition.

The founding fathers and mothers of Quakerism in 17th-century England read of this incident depicted in Acts 15 and saw their own experience and emphasis on the Holy Spirit affirmed. These holy words, no doubt, gave them boldness!

Queries for Reflection and Discussion

Describe the way Jesus taught and led his disciples, spoke to the crowds who followed him, and responded to the scribes and Pharisees who tried to stump him with difficult questions. Is it surprising to you that some of the Pharisees became Jesus’ followers on or after the Day of Pentecost? Why or why not?

What seems important about how early Christian leaders took action, both in Antioch and in Jerusalem, to resolve the pivotal controversy about Gentile inclusion? Quaker Leadership in the 17th and 18th Centuries Early Friends, like the first Christians, experienced the Living Christ as the source of their unity and as their leader in all things. They practiced an active inward listening in both meetings for worship and business so they could be grounded in the presence of the Spirit.

Just as Jesus, the carpenter’s son, and his unschooled disciples were recognized by their hearers as speaking with authority, the authority of Quaker leaders flowed from the working of the Holy Spirit. Though many were literate and familiar with the scriptures and a few knew church history, Friends did not appeal primarily to outward authorities. Quakerism emerged early as part of a fundamental change from reliance on prevailing church and state hierarchies to a new foundation of inward authority and democracy. As George Fox put it, “Christ is come to teach his people himself, and bring them off the world’s ways.” (Journal, 1652) Truth, according to early Friends, was not to be determined primarily by what ancient authorities or contemporary bishops and kings said, but rather by the present inner workings of Jesus’ Holy Spirit, discerned by all who would listen together and come to a shared understanding of God’s will.

This theological conviction had consequences for leadership. During the 1650s, Quaker emphasis was on preaching the good news, particularly to groups of seekers who had stopped attending church services in order to wait together and listen for a word from God. The earliest Quaker preaching took place in the midst of seeker gatherings, Church of England meetings for worship, open air marketplaces and in public halls where people gathered to hear Quakers debate clergy of various sorts.

Then in the 1660s, King Charles II replaced Puritan Oliver Cromwell and the Parliament of Saints, ushering in a period of greater persecution for Friends. Quaker leader James Nayler, four years earlier, had publicly reenacted Jesus’ triumphal entry. Both events triggered widespread criticism and awakened Quakers to the importance of oversight by Friends communities. Though weak from a long and brutal imprisonment, Fox and others travelled to Quaker worship groups in the mid-1660s and to help set up order and stability to the movement. 18th and early 19th century American Quaker leaders, such as John Woolman, grew up in colonies where Spiritcentered community shaped their attitudes toward material goods and promoted openness to travelling with a concern.

At a time when it was tempting to be satisfied with a formal cultural Quakerism, ministers and elders offered important leadership in maintaining Quaker practices, including plain speech and dress, in order to promote unity and warn Friends not to conform to the world’s values. Self-centeredness was discouraged because it hindered discernment of God’s will.

Some Friends had the gift of sensing the pulse of a meeting for worship or business. Others met with families in their homes to encourage them spiritually, or offered vocal ministry during meetings for worship as they were inspired by the Holy Spirit. (See Samuel Bownas’ A Description of the Qualifications Necessary to a Gospel Minister.) Elders offered nurture to ministers and others, building meetings’ unity and offering an example of strong inward connection with God and neighbors. The practice of having separate men’s and women’s meetings for business, and the establishment of meetings for sufferings (assistance for those in need) encouraged women’s leadership. Ministers and elders, both men and women, typically travelled in pairs to keep Friends meetings connected with one another and grounded.

Queries for Reflection and Discussion

Why do you think Quakers were criticized for allowing anyone, including women, children, and people with little education, to offer their leadership during meetings for worship and business?

Why was the Quaker emphasis on shared leadership of their meetings under the guidance of the Holy Spirit important as new generations took the place of the founders? How do you account for the fact that many people were willing to become Quakers in the early years when that choice often meant loss of possessions and social standing, even imprisonment in terrible conditions? Why did later generations choose to be Quakers when Friends had become a “peculiar people.”

Quaker Leadership in the 21st Century

Today, as in centuries past, the most powerful examples of Quaker faith and practice flow from discernment of the Holy Spirit’s leading, whether the Quaker body is as small as a household or international like Friends United Meeting. Faithful decisions rely upon Spirit-led unity as to what is God’s call and a shared willingness to act accordingly. Such discernment requires both careful inward listening to the Guide by individuals and equally sensitive listening to one another.

Robert Greenleaf wrote an essay in 1970 that was welcomed by many Friends and influenced the writings of Stephen Covey, M. Scott Peck, Margaret Wheatley and others who were moving away from a “top of the pyramid” leadership model to a more organic power sharing approach that helps others develop and seek the common good. It is available online at (See also Lloyd Lee Wilson’s influential and more recent “Helping One Another Take on the Risks of Ministry” in his Essays on the Quaker Vision of Gospel Order.)

Quakers traditionally have not asked selected individuals to make a group’s important decisions, because the Holy Spirit is at work in and among each of its members. Ideally, there are no passengers on the good ship Quaker! All are invited to be members of the crew, exercising gifts that build up the church. The adventure of faithful response to the Holy Spirit’s leadership is not limited by genealogy, age, gender, disabilities, sexual orientation, race, class or academic credentials.

Everyone who responds to the Holy Spirit’s call is welcome on board, invited to share the journey’s labors and experience the spiritual bounty of the Captain’s table. In the midst of this inclusiveness, some Friends are recognized as leaders because they are called to serve by listening inwardly and outwardly, encouraging others to do so and discerning how meetings are being led by the Spirit.

In contemporary Quaker practice, there are unfortunately at least two ways in which Friends make individuals’ service difficult. On the one hand, Friends can sometimes assume that the work of the church is to be done primarily by those who are financially supported, theologically educated and/or blessed with winsome personalities. Church members not supported, educated or winsome assist these leaders as they are able. When problems arise, the church or meeting too often blames the paid Friend, who is urged to find a place of service elsewhere. In these churches and meetings, pastors and meeting secretaries are the crew who keep the ship’s engines running, the passengers fed and the vessel sailing toward a destination agreeable to most passengers. What should be a sense of spiritual partnership in a ministry shared by all, with released Friends equipping other members, easily becomes a secular business model that often leaves paid Friends feeling isolated and unrealistically responsible.

On the other hand, there are Quaker meetings and churches where the service of new gifted and called Friends is discouraged, especially the ministry of those who cannot afford to volunteer. That service is actively resisted and even dismissed as prideful self-promotion and a needless drain on the treasury. Leaders of these meetings and churches who pride themselves on defending the status quo against change have forgotten Friends’ history of creative insights and innovative action.

Fortunately, Quaker schools are leading the way in providing leadership programs that are equipping a new generation for leadership in the Society of Friends and the wider world. Guilford College, Earlham School of Religion, Friends University, Friends Theological College, Westtown School, Ramallah Friends Schools, and Wichita Friends School are only a few of the encouraging examples.

In this new century, Friends dare not rely on a warehouse stocked with spiritual food gathered by past generations. Like the manna in the wilderness, God’s nourishment must be sought and received constantly and lived out in fresh ways if we are to be faithful servant leaders. Let’s avoid the temptation to assume that only a few Friends are called by God to do the Spirit-directed work the world desperately needs, and reexamine our penchant for discouraging ourselves and others called to serve meetings and churches in various ways. Let us heed the Apostle Paul’s plea to the Ephesians in chapter 4: “Lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”

Queries for Reflection and Discussion

How can Friends today encourage those in our midst who are called to ministry? How can the recording of gifts and minister be of assistance or of hindrance? Who is doing the work of the elder?

What can we say to each other and the world that springs from Christ present among us now? How can we learn together to better communicate that Good News beyond our church’s membership and meetinghouse walls?

Can you think of an example or two of Quaker leadership in the 21st century, by groups and by individuals that have built up the church and advanced the kingdom of God?

What particular challenges in your Friends meeting, church, or organization require particularly close attention now to our Guide?

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

Silent Night, 1914

By Charles David Kleymeyer, PhD

Christmas Eve 2014 will mark the 100th anniversary of a remarkable event in the history of war and peace. Across two-thirds of the British-German front, and along the French and Belgian fronts as well, as the early months of that terrible and ironic “War to End All Wars” drew to a close, soldiers and officers on both sides of the hostilities spontaneously laid down their weapons and joined one another in the no-man’s land in what came to be known as the Christmas Truce of World War I.

This event was widely documented in letters home, photographs, and a shortlived spate of newspaper articles. But then the media fell virtually silent for decades, and accounts of the event were spread largely by word of mouth. Quaker Life, in its December 1981 issue, published an earlier version of the literary non-fiction below that had been inspired by one of these oral reports.

This piece, written in 1974, has been passed around ever since in photo-copy and digital form to large numbers of readers. Subsequent to its 1981 publication, a string of books and articles appeared — some by military historians—as well as a trilingual film (“Joyeux Noel”) by a joint British/German/Belgian team, and a poignant folksong and children’s book by Quaker singer-songwriter, John McCutcheon (Christmas in the Trenches). By now, earlier claims that the event was apocryphal have long been laid to rest by the indisputable evidence.

To mark this event of a century ago, Quaker Life is now reprinting the 1981 story, revised slightly for accuracy, for readers to ponder and share during the holiday season and beyond. Here lies hopeful evidence of the humanity that beats in the hearts of common people, even in the worst of times. There is indeed that of God in all of us — revealed on special occasions and at festive times, but also eternally present as surely as the sun rises and sets.

The Christmas Truce lives on in history — for those who seek peace in all spheres of life, it is a beacon pointing the way forward.

What you are about to read is absolutely true. A small, white-haired Quaker told me this story as the two of us waited in line at the United Nations to hear Henry Kissinger address the General Assembly in 1974. Fall was fading into winter and the nations of the world were at each other’s throats once again. My newfound friend spoke to me of his frequent visits to the UN to observe nations talking at one another about their conflicts. He told me also of his efforts over the years both in his native Britain and his adopted U.S. to halt or prevent violent discord between groups of human beings.

As we stood talking, a man standing behind me broke in with what many would consider an ingenuous question. Speaking English with difficulty and emphasizing each word, he asked my new friend, “Why do you think people fight wars? What brings men — like you and me — to want to destroy one another over their differences?”

My friend leaned his head back and smiled. “If I could answer your question, I would be famous.” He threw a quick glance at me. “Like your Mr. Kissinger!” We joined him in his laughter.

“Well, I cannot answer your question,” he went on. “’But let me tell you a story instead.” This, then, is his story:

“In 1914 I was a young man just out of school. I didn’t know much, least of all what I wanted to do with my life. But I did know one thing. I wanted nothing to do with the ominous war that had begun that year — what we now call World War I. I was an objector.

“Life forces its contradictions on one, however, and I soon found myself on the front as a non-combatant, a stretcher-bearer to be exact, with the Regiment of Welch Fusiliers. That was 60 autumns ago.

“Oh, it was dreadful. Cold, wet, brutal. Moreover, no one on the front lines really knew what he was fighting for. Or against. After all, Europe was barely into the 20th century. Nations were generally ignorant of one another. Radio and the airplane were new inventions. And, if you traveled, it was by horse or ship or steam locomotive. Not very fast and rarely very far. Even the city dwellers were provincial. And there we were, all of us green young fellows, shivering in desolate trenches way over on the Continent.

“The shaking was only partly due to the cold. Smoking bombs fell near us. Friends were torn limb from limb. And you see, we couldn’t really say what for. After all, as the officers told us, we weren’t there to think but to fight. So the soldiers fought, primarily to stay alive, and we stretcher-bearers carried their broken bodies back to the hospital tents. It was that simple. That terribly simple.

“December came and I longed for that miserable war to be over so that I could go back to Wales. Little did I know what awaited us! Such is life. I remember feeling hollow and bewildered. And as long as I live, I’ll never forget that first Christmas at the front. There were few of us who didn’t want to be home, safe and sound, roasting chestnuts on the hearth, eating meat pies, and spiriting a piece of plum pudding off to bed on Christmas Night.

“The morning of the 24th, we walked about with grim looks on our faces. Christmas Eve, and we at war. We may not have been very worldly, but we knew a bit about life …and now about death. We weren’t boys, after all, but men: blacksmiths and shepherds, waggoners and farm hands, masons and clerks. War was no lark for us, and we clearly saw the irony in shooting and being shot at on the anniversary of Christ’s birth. We still had our humanity, you know. We were no Christmas bombers.

“In any case, evening inevitably came, and after a special ration of dried meat and corn bread, I went out with B Company to help keep a few small fires going while they manned the trenches. The night sky was like obsidian, glistening from countless points of starlight. And as we talked, we could see one another’s words billow out in small clouds of breath that faded into the night along with the sound.

“We were all feeling, in our misery, even more solidarity than usual and a deepening distaste for where we were and what we were doing. Midnight was approaching. For some time there had been quiet. We had no heart for confrontation or for even keeping up the pretense.

“I stared deep into the night towards the German lines. There was little detectable movement there either. And yet I felt uneasy, as always. Who could be at peace with his world at such a moment?

“Down in a trench, I huddled my arms and legs together, trying to feel as much as possible like a small group of friends, and I blew warm breath into my hands. Then something caught my eye and I looked up. Off to my right a man had stood, his helmeted head facing the heavens, his thin body silhouetted against the stars. And then this heedless figure began to sing! As the first heartbreakingly beautiful notes reached me, I recognized the fine tenor voice of Wells, the cooper’s helper. He sang as he had never sung before:


“Each note of each phrase struck deep into me, into the farthest reaches of my troubled soul. Without a thought of danger, I too, stood. Transported, I felt a strong breath rush into me and the words soar back out in accompaniment,


“Tears welled in my eyes when voice after voice joined in, swelling the sound as in a cathedral and sending the song out into the cavernous night:


“Such a singular occurrence was not apt to end so quickly as it had begun. We all began again to sing this familiar first verse. After the second round something happened that was even more extraordinary. Floating back through the cold night air came the sound of the German troops answering us:


“Imagine! Our ‘enemies’ had joined us. The longings of brothers had locked arms. We sang with new joy — and new sorrow:


“The song rolled back and forth across the no man’s land. The distant voices gathered into one rising surge of wishful lament:


“Over and over we sang these resonant and simple lyrics until we were hoarse and emotionally spent. Then we went further. We clambered out of the trenches to do what one does with brothers — fraternize. All that night we sang and laughed and traded rations and gifts from home. German beer flowed as freely as British ale. Chocolate bars were pressed into our hands and we reciprocated with sticks of cinnamon and peppermint. Those of us from each side who knew a few words of the other language acted as stumbling interpreters, causing great hilarity. The dawning of Christmas Day found some of us dancing to a mouth organ, others smiling broadly as they pulled out tattered pictures of family members and girl friends, to pass around in the pale rays of morning light. “In the days that followed, the commanding officers were furious. They threatened to throw us in the nearest stockade and have us court-martialed. Only the fact that it was Christmastide saved us…and rightly so. We were ordered to maintain silence about the incident, but it was too late. Later I learned that similar occurrences had taken place all along the battlefront, and now I know this was neither the first nor last such event in human history!

“It must have been the same or worse on the German side because it’s said that their soldiers were the main instigators. Back home and overseas, many people heard nothing of what had happened, faraway on the killing grounds of France and Flanders, one silent night in nineteen hundred and fourteen.” My friend smiled softly and looked away. Deep inside me his story swept about, leaving trails of feelings wherever it went. The conversation around me turned back to high-level diplomacy. But 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 small piece of history, from the enormous story that this lively wisp of a man had just told.

[Originally printed in Quaker Life, December 1981, pp 22-23; Slightly revised for style and accuracy, 9/14]

Meanderings and Musings – November/December 2014

By Annie Glen – Communications Editor

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. Dublin Friends has nurtured a small group within a retirement apartment complex. The last Sunday of the month our congregation offers worship and a pitch-in meal in the common room of the complex. Several of the residents feel that our meeting is their meeting. Many of them do not hesitate to call me with prayers and concerns. Although they cannot get to meeting, they are considered a vital part of the meeting.

Midweek several of us attend a biker’s Bible study. Those that started this group felt led to provide the gospel to those who hunger and thirst after righteousness. Each person who has attended leaves with the sense that God loves them. Some stay afterward to talk further. It has been great to be able to be a support and a mentor to this group. I have seen them soak up the nutrients of the Spirit as they wrestle with questions and issues that are present in their lives.

Dublin Friends Meeting also touches lives within the community. Two of our members serve on the town’s council; one serves on the library board and one as president of a Kiwanis club. Both are asked often why they wish to volunteer and thus, an opportunity to witness to their faith arises.

Most of all, this scattered community is led by Christ in the presence of the living God. They personify George Fox’s exhortation. They are patterns, examples in all countries, places, islands, nations, wherever they go. Their life and conduct preaches among all sorts of people, and to them. Because of this, they come to walk cheerfully over the world, answering that of God in every one. They are a blessing, and make the witness of God in people a blessing to everyone.

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.

Amazing Grace – November/December 2014

By Eden Grace, Global Ministries Director

One of my favorite scriptural images for the incarnate God is that of a mother hen. “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem . . . How often I have longed to gather your children as a bird gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were unwilling.” (Matthew 23:37 and Luke 13:34)

God longs to gather us under the wing of protection, to save us from the consequences of our own waywardness, but we are unwilling. God’s wings are safe, God’s promises are sure, God’s love is unconditional, just like the mother hen watching over her brood. I know that as a mother, I long to hold my children tight, to keep them from the cruelties of this world, to protect them from hurts both large and small. God is that kind of a mother — longing to protect and comfort us, keening with love for us.

And yet, as a mother, I know that I can’t hold on to my children that way. They become too large, both physically and figuratively, to tuck under my wings. I have to let them go, knowing they will stumble and fall and get hurt along the way. God is that kind of a mother too — letting us make our own mistakes, even when it’s heartbreaking to hold back the urge to intervene.

For we are persistently wayward little chicks. Or at least, I am. My silly chick-self runs around in circles of confusion when the hawk passes overhead. I can cluck and chirp and squawk and never realize that safety is only a few steps away.

As a community, we behave sometimes like a scattered brood of chicks, making lots of noise yet going nowhere. But the good mother hen keeps watch over her clutch, wherever they are. The comfort of the wing is never far from them.

One of the more surprising things I got to observe, living in a Kenyan city, was urban chicken behavior. The majority of city dwellers in Kenya keep chickens. But there are no farm yards there; these chickens roam the streets and sidewalks all day long, venturing far from home. They look quite lost, at least to my unschooled eyes. Yet come nightfall, every chicken returns to its home compound and tucks safely into its coop. The entire chicken population of the city sorts itself out at 6 pm every night, and each bird knows exactly where it belongs. Like the chicks of a loving mother hen, they gather safely under the wings of protection, warmth and comfort before darkness falls.

Are we, as a community, scattered about the city during the day? Do we venture far from our safe haven and mix freely with other broods? And still, do we gather under the wings of the mother when night falls? Do we know exactly where our home of protection lies?

Passages: Quaker Obituaries – September/October 2014

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

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

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

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

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

My Visit to Baragoi in Samburu North

By Sammy Letoole

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sammy Letoole is Director of Samburu Friends Mission, Kenya

A Spontaneous Prayer

By Ruthie Tippin

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

FUM News in Brief – September/October 2014

Kaptama Health Centre Vision Camp on Mt. Elgon, Kenya

By John Muhanji

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

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

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

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

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

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

January/February Work Team Invitation

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

To register, go to:

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

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


Cost includes:

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

Cost does not include:

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

The First FUM Stewards

By Dan Kasztelan

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

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

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

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

2014 O&P Changes Approved

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

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

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

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

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

Closing Minute: Friends United Meeting Triennial 2014

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

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

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

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

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

Meanderings and Musings – September/October 2014

By Annie Glen – Communications Editor

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Out of My Mind – September/October 2014

By Colin Saxton – General Secretary

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

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

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

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

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

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

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