Friend Nancy’s trip to Honduras with Friends Peace Teams

Peacebuilding en las Américas Gathering in Honduras
January 19-27

by Nancy Shippen 

I was delighted to arrive Saturday with Shirley Way to join Lorena, Ondina, Salomón, Monica, Val, Allie, Charles and Harry in time for dinner and a Zoom call to the Asia West Pacific FPT gathering happening in Indonesia simultaneously. We were able to introduce ourselves, send best wishes for fruitful times together, and learn a singing/clapping game.

The Catholic retreat center where we stayed was simple in accomodation and food but rich in chances to sit together and share our lives and work.

I am so sorry I don’t speak Spanish and am hugely grateful for the simultaneous translation in all our sessions and when requested to speak individually to people. Unfortunately I did miss some general conversations happening around me and would have loved to have more understanding of the frequent laughter.

Read more about Nancy’s time in Honduras on the Friends Peace Team website here.

 

Invitation to the 2019 Annual Sessions Plenary

Invitation to the 2019 Annual Sessions Plenary

Jan 4, 2019
 
Lisa Graustein, Beacon Hill (MA) Friends Meeting

At Annual Sessions in August 2019, Lisa Graustein (Beacon Hill, MA, Friends Meeting) will facilitate a plenary (whole group) session designed to “ground ourselves in the decisions that have led us to this point, … call in the wisdom of our ancestors, create art and prayer together, and envision a future beyond ourselves …[to] learn, interact, engage, pray, and imagine together, bringing that sense of community, hope and creativity into the rest of our week … [seeking] understanding of where and how we have been the Beloved Community and where we have failed to live up to God’s vision.

In preparation for this summer, Lisa is inviting New England Friends—whether we plan to attend Annual Sessions or not—into an experiment with a “virtual plenary.”

See the video below.

Lisa will have more recordings in the coming weeks.

Quaker Dinner Church

Quaker Dinner Church Opens in Boston

 
Dec 11, 2017
 
Kristina Keefe-Perry

On Saturday December 2nd, 27 folks gathered in Somerville, Massachusetts for the first Quaker Dinner Church Boston. The cozy rented recital room in Union Square was transformed with tables, candle lighting, worship, song, and prayer. There was a brief period of reflection before open worship, followed by related queries we considered and responded to over our shared meal. When the came time to leave, folks lingered, not wanting to stop the conversation. The energy and enthusiasm was palpable.

Beyond Quakerism the dinner church movement has grown in the last 8 years. Every place where people are using it to experiment has its own feel, but one commonality exists across them all. Each dinner church is based on using a language spoken by all—food. Gathering for a hearty meal at a table with real dishes and silverware, the services aim to feel like a dinner party, fostering conversation among people who might otherwise never meet. Quaker Dinner Church Boston co-creates such a dinner with the goal of supporting formation, encouraging people to walk with one another, and fostering a space for people to bring their questions and desire for conversation. The event is a Christian space that is welcoming to folks who are brand new to Quakerism and hopes to be spiritually deepening for all who are present.

The next Quaker Dinner Church Boston will take place in early January. The planning team is looking for a larger (affordable) space and will announce the exact date and location soon. Check out our Facebook page to keep current on where and when we gather.

Buen Provecho!

Kristina Keefe-Perry, host
Quaker Dinner Church Boston

A Prayer for Racial Justice

A Prayer for Racial Justice

 
Apr 19, 2018
 
Callid Keefe-Perry

Callid Keefe-Perry of Fresh Pond Monthly Meeting is excited to report the publication of United Against Racism: Churches for Change, a book put out by the National Council of Churches and just released. Callid was invited to contribute a prayer to the volume and recommends the text as a useful resource for Friends searching for connections between a Christian faith and the work toward racial justice. The book is available online in print and e-book formats, and Callid’s included prayer is below–ed.
 

A Prayer of Reminder and Turning
 

O Holy Power,

We labor under the weight of the knowledge that our systems and structures
are built on the backs of those who have struggled most.

We know and name that those very same systems and structures remain pressing down
on the shoulders and souls of those who still toil the most.

And so today, God, we ask that you soften our hearts,
bend down our necks, and give us sight.

To those of us with power who believe we have done all that we can, grant a reminder of humility. Allow us to see how our words and solidarity are but shadows of the family we can be; of the family we already are in your sight. We ask for the evil in us to be weakened and the good raised up.

To those of us who suffer under power and turn at times to despair, grant a reminder that there is strength to resist. Allow us to see there are moments in every day in which we can push back and press on with a fierce love. We ask to know a full measure of Grace, experiencing that compassion and encouragement in the flesh.

To those who struggle daily to seek out some way when there seems no way, grant that we find one another, are humble as needed, and bold when required. Allow us to know one another in that which is eternal, to strengthen one another, and to lift one another up with tenderness. We ask for connection and the courage to use our lives in service to the dismantling of white supremacy, wickedness in high places, and the building up of that which we find in your peaceable reign.

In all days, keep us from idols, from thinking our way is the way, and that our path is the most holy. We know we will be tempted to think ourselves better than others and so we ask to remember that the steps needed only end in you. What we call “good” now is only a glimmer of what can be built and is to come in Christ. We say “justice” but know little of its depth. We say “equality” but struggle to see how much needs to change. We are like thieves; we take good words for our use and for our pride, but we know little of what they can be.

God, give us an opening to change, turn us from our idols of politeness and properness, guide us from certainty to confession, and in that space convict us and bring us through. We are yours in service on this day and for all days. And so we pray that we might have the courage to serve. Amen.

 

“Little children, keep yourselves from idols.” 1 John 5:21 (NRSV)

Our Anti-Racism Work

Apr 24, 2018

 
Will Taber

In June of 2015 concerns about  racism, white privilege, and injustice in our society appeared in the vocal ministry at Fresh Pond Meeting. At the same time, in business meeting we were considering a minute in response to racial violence and a slate of other minutes concerning a variety of social justice issues. We were not clear to adopt any of these minutes as speaking for the whole body, but this sparked conversation about what it means for the meeting, rather than individuals in the meeting, to hold a concern. Later, an ad hoc committee began to look at how Fresh Pond Meeting might be more welcoming to visitors and people new to Quakerism. One consideration was how we might be welcoming to people of color. So, the ground was already being prepared within Fresh Pond Meeting when the Yearly Meeting approved the minute on White Supremacy at 2016 Sessions.

In September 2016 our Spiritual Growth Committee decided to hold an open-ended series to explore racism and white supremacy, how it functions and ways in which we are complicit with it. In January Bruce Neumann spoke about a course in racism and white supremacy that he and Holly Baldwin had taken at the Louis D. Brown Peace Institute in Dorchester. Other sessions included watching and discussing “Allegories or Race and Racism,” a TED talk by Camara Jones exploring the differences between multiculturalism and interculturalism. At our final session in May 2017, Lisa Graustein led us in an exploration both of the ways that Quakerism exhibits the hallmarks of white supremacy and also antidotes that also exist in our tradition. We also held a well-attended series to watch Race, the Power of an Illusion. We shared a potluck meal and watched an episode of the video, and then discussed our reactions to what we had seen.

In September of 2017 we held a threshing session to explore next steps. It was clear that combating racism and white supremacy was still a major concern of the meeting, but it was not clear how that concern would be held in the meeting. The Spiritual Growth Committee felt that it could address issues of racism in its programming, but could not hold the entire concern along with its other work. Someone asked what our vision for the meeting was, and in February we held a mini-retreat that used collage, weaving and worship-sharing to begin developing that vision.

The meeting put off deciding what to do with its gift from Rachel Carey-Harper until we had completed the series on racism, so that we could respond if something concrete arose from that exploration. An idea arose to provide bystander training so that members would feel empowered to deal with racist incidents in public places. Another idea was to have marshal training so that the meeting could provide trained marshals for protests and demonstrations. We finally decided to raise funds for the trainings and to use the gift from Rachel to support the Metrowest Workers Center. We would never have had the discussion of what to do without that gift. The realization that we could do more with our own resources was itself a gift.

Fresh Pond Meeting is still feeling exercised by a concern for fighting racism and white privilege, but is still unsure how to proceed. We are continuing to take the steps that are clear and seeing what emerges from this for our next step. We are grateful for the many resources we are able to draw on in the Boston area, the Yearly Meeting, and elsewhere. We are also grateful for the resources available within our meeting, since we have people who have been working on these issues for a long time.

We have found that we don’t have to be experts to do this work. There are many books and videos that can provide a starting place for meaningful discussions. All that is required is an open heart and a willingness to face the reality of our world.

Experiment in Expanding Quaker Worship

Experiment in Expanding Quaker Worship

Apr 27, 2018

On April 21-22, 2018, Middlebury, VT, Friends Meeting hosted a wonderful workshop on Experiments in Expanding Quaker Worship: Forms with Life, created and led by Jonathan Vogel-Borne (Cambridge, MA, Friends Meeting) and Kristina Keefe-Perry (Fresh Pond, MA, Friends Meeting).

Together we explored what we mean by “worship” and reviewed a history of Quaker worship. In small groups we shared some of our experiences of attending to the Divine and centering in meeting. Then we created a worshipful “dinner church” under Kristina’s guidance. Together we made soup and fruit salad, set the tables, and prepared some songs and readings. Then we gathered with candlelight, sang, listened to the readings, waited in expectant silence, closed with a song, and sat down in small groups to eat and converse, prompted with some queries. We closed with a benediction. We included the children in many parts of this.

On Sunday after Meeting for Worship, we took the time to reflect with Jonathan and Kristina on Saturday’s experience, and share some thoughts and ideas their workshop had inspired.

This article first appeared in the New England Yearly Meeting newsletter.

Getting Arrested – The Poor People’s Campaign

John MacDougall

I was one of 16 people arrested on May 29, 2018, for sitting in at Massachusetts Governor Baker’s office when the governor didn’t personally accept a list of demands.

All of this was part of the Poor People’s Campaign (PPC). This 40-day campaign took place in 30 states and Washington DC, to commemorate 50 years since Martin Luther King launched a similar campaign just before his death in 1968.

On May 29, the PPC highlighted how the war economy leads to millions of deaths overseas because of wars the United States is involved in, at the same time as budget cuts at home lead to gutting of social programs, which especially hurts the poor and people of color. The campaign also focuses on other key systemic problems in the US: poverty, racism, ecological devastation and the suppression of voting rights. The PPC brings together everyone—in faith communities and elsewhere—who insists on making fundamental changes to moral narratives in the US. 

On May 29, 16 of us were arrested, including four ministers; one of the lay people was Joseph Gerson of the American Friends Service Committee.

At 5 p.m. the state police outside the governor’s office said the building was closing and everyone had to leave. But we 16 said we weren’t leaving till the governor accepted our list of demands, so we were then arrested. The state police then took all of us to various barracks in different parts of Boston, to be booked and fingerprinted. The police were considerate to me, and as far as I can tell, to the others who were arrested, and none of us resisted arrest or (again, as far as I know) were confrontational to the state police. The officer who escorted me out of the State House said “watch your step” as he led me down to the police car, then when two of us were in the car he offered to turn on the air-conditioning for us. The three men who went with me to one barracks had to wait about half an hour till the bail official arrived, and there were two officers with us, so with time to kill we had a friendly conversation, comparing notes about our respective lives.

The next morning all 16 of us had to be at the Boston Municipal Court, and with us were volunteer lawyers from the National Lawyers Guild (who give free legal representation to pretty much anyone who does civil disobedience). We waited for about 2 hours in one courtroom while other cases were heard: most of the defendants seemed to be young Latino or black men, accused of (if I could correctly understand the district attorney) things like assault and minor disturbances. Most of the time the judge seemed strict but quite humane, and told these defendants the charges were dropped but they should stay out of trouble. Then we were told our case was transferred to another judge in another courtroom. Here, the district attorney said she wanted four of us (who had been arrested for previous acts of civil disobedience) to pay fines of $200, and the rest of us to pay $100. We caucused with our lawyers and said we wouldn’t accept unequal fines, and that if there were fines they had to be $100 for everyone. This was communicated by our lawyers to the judge, who then consulted the district attorney, and in the end told us that the charges against us were dismissed but that if we were arrested again in 6 months things could be difficult. Nothing was put in writing, but he seemed to mean that we could have to pay the fines and also may go to jail.

All those who risked arrest had to have two rounds of training beforehand: a half-day session a few weeks earlier, then two hours on May 29. This covered, among other things, a briefing by the National Lawyers Guild, details of the PPC, and our motives for risking arrest. In the second training we formed smaller groups of three to five: a) among those seeking arrest, to support each other as much as possible; b) among those not seeking arrest, to provide logistical and moral support to those who were arrested. I was impressed by the thoroughness of the training and the trainers.

In general, it was a powerful experience. I was very nervous up till the moment the state police put the handcuffs on me; after that I felt pretty calm—and very supported. My experience was very benign, compared to that of thousands who have been arrested on grounds of conscience over the centuries. I also feel I am a tiny player in a long and crucial history of nonviolence. I’m standing on the shoulders of giants like Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks and Dolores Huerta.

I have for decades believed that nonviolence is a key part of creating a more peaceful, sustainable and socially just world. So finally it was time for me to walk the talk—in other words, I think I was following a strong leading.

Three books I heartily recommend—maybe good beach reading this summer?

  • Mark and Paul Engler, This is an Uprising: how nonviolent revolt is shaping the twenty-first century (Nation Books, 2016). This also has a good deal of history and an excellent analysis of nonviolence dynamics.
  • Van Jones, Beyond the Messy Truth: how we came apart, how we come together (Random House, 2017).  This discusses how conservatives and liberals in the U.S. can and must respect and help each other.
  • The Dalai Lama & Archbishop Desmond Tutu, The Book of Joy (Penguin, 2016). Less directly concerned about politics than the other two books, but it has lots of wisdom about leading a joyful—and nonviolent—life. And these two guys are funny!

This article first appeared in the New England Yearly Meeting Newsletter

Gifts

At our Adult Education session this month, the Gifts and Leadings committee led a discussion of Gifts in our spiritual community. We were reminded by texts from Paul and Lloyd Lee Wilson that gifts, while they manifest in an individual, are from God to the community. We spent time in small groups considering our own and each others’ gifts, and gathered again to reflect on our mutual responsibility in recognizing, naming, and supporting gifts.

Elevator Speeches

During one of our Third Sunday, Adult Ed sessions this year, we explored how we speak about Quakerism and why we come to Fresh Pond Meeting.

Some Friends wrote “Elevator Speeches” to practice what they might say if asked:

“Quakers believe that people of all ages are able in direct contact with the Divine.  By being faithful to Divine Guidance we are transformed, and by doing this we transform our families, our communities and the world.  This is a journey or process that we undertake together.  We do not travel alone but we learn from each other.  We are all ministers, not just by our words but by the example of our lives.”

“The Religious Society of Friends is a community of people who are working together to understand their own beliefs about God.  We have no creed but do read the Bible and Quaker writings.  The Divine Spirit transforms our lives.  The sense of our silent meeting is guided by God’s will. We govern ourselves by being attuned to God’s will rather than particular individuals.  It’s a Christian religion with no minister – God speaks through each person.  The testimonies are the closest to a creed that we have.”

“Fresh Pond Meeting is a community of spiritual seekers who come together weekly to listen to the voice of God within and help each other on their spiritual journey.  There is a wide range of beliefs among Friends.  Each person is welcome.  We meet in silent expectant worship and value our time together.  Our outward lives are transformed by our inward journey.  Sometimes when we listen to God, we realize that we are moved to do something different with our lives as a way to make the world a better place.  We often support each other following these motions.  When we accompany each other on these spiritual journeys, the opportunity for deep spiritual friendship occurs.”

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