Who inspires you?

Quaker Voluntary Service grew out of the leading of young adult Friends to reclaim Quaker Service for our time. Though the model is different from previous incarnations of Quaker service and witness, QVS has directly benefitted from earlier generations and honors these stories. And those Quakers of earlier generations, who gave of their gifts to make this world more peaceful and just, continue to inspire. They served through Civilian Public Service (CPS), through Quaker work camps, through American Friends Service Committee and other relief efforts after wars and disasters, through Alternative Service programs for Conscientious Objectors, and in numerous other ways. Many of them are the models we think of when we aspire to rekindle that spirit and commitment to transformative Quaker service as envisioned by Quaker Voluntary Service.

As Quaker Voluntary Service offers new generations of young adults the opportunity to contribute to the expansive work for change, QVS wants to highlight the stories of those who have come before us. This is just the beginning of these efforts, but there is hope you will read these incredible stories and share with QVS others that you may know.

If you would like to contribute a story of Quaker service to this collection, please email: stories@quakervoluntaryservice.org.

Click here to read this beautiful collection of Quaker Service Testimonies.

Tales, Adventures, and Reflections of a Quaker Activist

Daughter Do Mi (Barbie) Stauber wrote to ILYM and shared –

I’d like to let you know about a new book by a Quaker author formerly of Illinois Yearly Meeting:

Feeling Light Within, I Walk: Tales, Adventures, and Reflections of a Quaker Activist

Peg Morton was a member of Illinois Yearly Meeting from 1965 to 1989. She has published articles in Friends Journal and is the author of a Pendle Hill pamphlet, Walk With Me: Nonviolent Accompaniment in Guatemala. She is an activist who has spent her life working in the civil rights, war tax resistance, Latin America solidarity, and peace movements. She went to prison at age 73 for civil disobedience at the School of the Americas. Peg has written of a life that spans eighty-two years, fueled by a deeply spiritual commitment to raise her voice in nonviolent protest against war and injustice everywhere, and give voice to those who have none.

Peg has many wonderful memories of IYM and sends her love and greetings to all!

Feeling Light Within is available from Quakerbooks.org, or directly from the author: send $15.00 plus $3.50 s/h to Cedar Row Press, 2809 Shirley St., Eugene, OR 97404. Peg’s website Feelinglightwithin.com will accomodate online ordering soon!

Quaker Peacemakers Project: Dick Ashdown

Richard “Dick” Ashdown is a member of the Clear Creek Monthly Meeting and currently resides in the same house where he was born, just down the road from the ILYM Meetinghouse in McNabb, Illinois. Dick has been a trustee of the yearly meeting since 1966. He spent six years overseas teaching as a civilian employee of the US government of a total 16 years teaching, then went on to sell insurance for almost 30 years. Today he is retired, working with timber and machinery most mornings. He has recently returned to flying his plane, often taking aerial photographs to assess crop damage for area farmers.

Click here to hear Dick’s reflections on peacemaking.

The Peace Resources Committee interviewed Dick in front of a live participatory audience at the 2012 Annual Sessions of Illinois Yearly Meeting. Listen in to hear his reflections on going to war, protecting freedom, being raised during WWII, the role of the military, teaching overseas in service, being raised in McNabb, farm life, the definition of community, how Quaker process is present throughout his life, and his love of nature. In 2011 Dick presented the annual Jonathan W. Plummer Lecture, which can be read here.

Click here to learn more about the Quaker Peacemakers Archive Project where you can nominate Friends in Illinois Yearly Meeting you think should be included in this effort. The project aims to compile and preserve an oral history of Friends whose contributions to peace building offer wonderful opportunities for reflection. As Friends tell their stories in their own words, these recordings will capture and preserve unique and inspired personal acts and thoughts which enrich our Yearly Meeting.

Music: “The Sun is Rising” by Longital (Gloria, 2008)

Living with a Peace Testimony

Pacific Northwest Yearly Meeting Faith and Practice states:

Since our peace testimony is not only opposition to active participation in war but a positive affirmation of the power of good to overcome evil, we must all seriously consider the implications of our employment, our investments, our payment of taxes, and our manner of living as they relate to violence. We must become sensitive to the covert as well as the overt violence inherent in some of our long-established social practices and institutions, and we must attempt to change those elements which violate that of God in everyone.

Our historic peace testimony must be also a living testimony as we work to give concrete expression to our ideals. We would alleviate the suffering caused by war. We would refrain from participating in all forms of violence and repression. We would make strenuous efforts to secure international agreements for the control of armaments and to remove the domination of militarism in our society. We would seek to be involved in building national and transnational institutions to deal with conflict nonviolently.

The almost unimaginable devastation that results from modern war makes ever more urgent its total elimination.

Pacific Northwest Yearly Meeting Faith and Practice

Searching for a peacemaker: Jane Addams

Last winter Hull House shut its doors.

The closing of Jane Addams’ experiment in peacemaking haunts my thoughts, even while attending to the immediate issues of supermax prisons and of drones dropping from the skies on unsuspecting families.  Little public notice seems to have been given this closing.  Are we forgetting Jane Addams?  Somehow, I am feeling that remembering our peacemakers, not just Addams but so many others in our communities, is vital to our civic lives.  Addams teaches what it means to live the life of a peacemaker.

One time, she taught me by her works as a builder of institutions and a doer of good deeds.  Twenty Years at Hull House remains a classic in our peacemaking tradition.  In time I have found myself attending to the less pronounced, often illusive, facets of her interior life where I think I glimpse meanings in her calling as peacemaker.   Her connections with Quakers, while seemingly incidental, are revealing.  Although her father forsook the Quaker meeting for the Presbyterian church and she kept her father’s faith, Jane felt an affinity with Friends in particular by way of the Fellowship of Reconciliation.  And yet on reflection she chose not to become a Quaker.  This Quaker connection, however tenuous it may seem, points to common sensibilities that guide the lives of peacemakers no matter their specific faith affiliation.

Respectful listening, patient reflection, and quiet courage—these habits of mind shaped her calling.  While guided by her beloved father’s principle of service, she came to wonder whether the truths she had learned from a privileged, Protestant, and Anglo-Saxon childhood could guide her work with poor, Eastern-European, and Catholic immigrants.  Or could those inherited verities, for example the explanation for poverty’s causes, carry the patronizing attitudes of the missionary?  As she listened to her new neighbors, she turned inward.  Sometimes the work was difficult.  While bearing witness against racial violence, she listened to painful lessons from her associates who reminded her that she too harbored racist attitudes similar to those that sparked the lyncher.   Democracy, she came to see, was something larger than legal forms guaranteeing the citizen’s rights.  It lay in the ability to listen to others, to reflect, and to realize that the truths passed down from past generations could easily become impediments to service in the present.  This quiet habit of listening, of opening oneself to others’ voices, and of reflection led Addams through long years of evolution.

As I read Newer Ideals of Peace, I discover a quiet courage to challenge the conventional and to risk the unconventional.  Writing at midcourse in her thinking, she was reconsidering time honored truths and unquestioned patterns of authority.  Reverence for the Founding Fathers and their constitution might blind oneself to the changing times and to needs once unimagined.  Prescriptive truths, as if written in stone, work to prevent the democracy from attending to different voices in the neighborhood.   Truth is unfolding.   Each generation finds it in the changing contexts of community life.  Militarism, she speculated, becomes more than the application of organized force but a manifestation of pervasive authoritarian impulses deeply embedded in the culture.  Militarism, she ventured to propose, included habits of mind that twisted relations with neighbors as well as with peoples abroad.  As she wrote, she sometimes stumbled in her effort to fashion new vocabularies to guide her thinking.  Yet she continued and in her steadfast, patient, spiritual quest demonstrated a remarkable and exemplary resolve and courage.  Later in life, as she watched the flapper generation of the 1920s, she felt bewildered, even troubled.  But she advised her associates to attend to young people and to beware imposing verities on them lest creative thought be stifled.

And so we return to Addams and the Quakers.   The affinity seems to run deeper than her public work against militarism.  It reveals itself in habits of  listening and reflection, of attending to truth emerging from the present, and of reconsidering prescriptions inherited by generations past.  Let me return to what seems contradiction: her affinity with the Society of Friends and her hesitancy to join that circle.   Clearness came to her when she was asked how public association with Quakers might affect her relationship with her neighbors—Catholic, Jew, Eastern Orthodox—in the Hull House community.  Would she create distances and stifle her ability to speak with them?

And so I ask myself: how do we understand peacemaking?  Is the peacemaker identified by the deeds well done?   A resume such as of Jane Addams would meet that standard.   Founder of Hull House, charter member of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, outspoken opponent of the First World War, leading light in the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom—her works earned her a worldwide reputation in the peace community.  Her persistence is also worthy of recognition.   While vilified for resistance to American entrance into the Great War and branded “the most dangerous woman in America,” she continued steadfast, though sometimes disheartened, to her calling.

But what if she had not done these deeds?   Is her inner quest for understanding the way to peace worthy of notice?  With this question I find myself turning to Rufus Jones and his reflections on the spiritual life.  Sometimes, he counseled, we are tempted to look to spiritual heroics, inspiring moments, for example and guidance.   Yet by so doing we overlook the quiet searchers.  We cannot all be Saul on the Road to Damascus.  Nor can many of us be a George Fox atop Pendle Hill.   Those dazzling moments may distract us from attending to the less visible, less eye catching, workers for peace.  And so who is the peacemaker?   To paraphrase William James who deeply admired Addams’ Newer Ideals and who inspired Jones’ writing we need to be alert to the varieties of the peacemaking experience.

Finally–remembering seems important for peacemaking.  This is why I am concerned that Jane Addams may be forgotten, even by today’s workers for peace.   Peacemaking can be lonely work, as Addams felt.   Forgetting can cut the young witness for peace adrift in time without a sense of an anchoring tradition and without awareness of others who endured and thereby teach and invigorate by example.  To be aware of a tradition of people who persevered and, perhaps most important, lived fulfilled lives may be essential to maintaining that spirit.   The drones will continue to kill, prisoners in our midst will be mistreated.  And continuing to keep courage may come, in part, from stopping to remember.

A marvelous peaceworker: Canadian Friend Elaine Bishop

“To many of the people she helps and the people she works with, Elaine Bishop is a saint, but the woman who runs the North Point Douglas Women’s Centre and lives in the impoverished neighbourhood is just doing her part to make her little corner of the world a better place.”

Click here to read this wonderful story of peace, courtesy of Winnipeg Free Press print edition – June 9, 2012.

A Letter To Other Occupiers by Staughton Lynd

On Tuesday, February 28, 2012 author Staughton Lynd published a letter to explore the role of consensus decision-making and nonviolence in building a community of trust. Upon reading it, Friend David Finke asked that Peace Resources Committee publish a link here, writing: “Staughton is prophetic, and we must help get this message out, I believe.”

Click here to read the letter in full, which addresses:

I – Every local Occupy movement of which I am aware has begun to explore the terrain beyond the downtown public square, asking, what is to be done next?

II – Here, in brief, is the history that I pray we will not repeat.

III – Although I am concerned that small groups in the Occupy Movement may contribute to unnecessary violence in Chicago, it is not violence as such that most worries me.

IV – So what do I recommend? I am eighty-two and no longer able to practice some of what I preach, but for what they may be worth, here are some responses to that question.

What are your thoughts about the Occupy Movement’s next steps? Are you an active supporter? What do you think this movement has to gain from consensus decision-making and nonviolence in building a community of trust?

Learn to develop good relations with your elected officials: workshop details

The Oak Park Friends Meeting would like to extend an invitation to a unique interfaith opportunity being sponsored by the Meeting: a training workshop designed to help persons of faith develop good relations with their elected officials. The leader of the session will be Jim Cason, the Associate Executive Secretary of Friends Committee on National Legislation in Washington DC .  FCNL is the largest peace lobby group in the USA , and Jim has had many years of leadership experience in this area.  We are very excited he has agreed to visit us in Oak Park and facilitate the workshop.

The training session will be held on Saturday, March 10 from 9:30 AM until 12:30 PM at the Oak Park Main Library at 834 Lake Street. Garage parking is available and it is about one block from the Oak Park Avenue stop on the Green CTA line. The training workshop is free and open to the public. There will be light refreshments during the session and an optional Dutch Treat luncheon following at a local Thai Restaurant.

We hope that a group of persons from your faith committee will plan on attending. If you need any additional details, please send queries to Wil Rutt (willrutt @sbcglobal.net) or call Kelly Maynard at (773) 824-0722.

Sharing the Stories of Quaker Youth “Walking the Walk”

I was recently contacted by Friend Greg Woods, wanting to know if I could help him to “tell some stories about young Quakers doing awesome things” as he prepares for an upcoming workshop with the Philadelphia Yearly Meeting Middle School program.

Over the past decade I have attempted to help tell the stories of my generation, Quaker youth living their faith in inspiring contemporary ways. For a number of years, Friends Journal supported this leading by publishing a series of pieces that I’ll share again here in hopes that Greg can use them and that you, dear reader, might enjoy them too.

Walking the Walk: Greg Woods
Walking the Walk: Ian Fritz
Walking the Walk: Rainbow Pfaff

In my life now as a radio producer, I’ve attempted to bring those skills to benefit the telling of these stories as well. In 2005, ILYM hosted the annual “Quake that Rocked the Midwest” and invited me to come record the youth gathered there. Friends Journal published that effort as well. Presented as audio stories, you can learn more about contemporary young Friends and their ideas of Quakerism here.

But Greg’s request made me want to see what else might be available online today showcasing young Quakers doing awesome things. What have you found? Did reading the stories of Greg, Ian or Rainbow resonate with you or remind you of Quaker youth you know?  What does “walking the walk” mean to you? And is that harder to do when you’re young?

Finding my way: reading historical texts for present day meaning

Author: Breeze Richardson

I have always been drawn to Pendle Hill pamphlets. I still remember the first time I visited Pendle Hill and came upon a long hallway mounted with display racks and pamphlets as far as the eye could see (or so it seemed).  Title after title intrigued me, and many of the selections I picked up that day remain on my bookshelf.

So after years of pondering how to bring Pendle Hill pamphlets more regularly back into my life, I took a moment to visit their website today hoping to discover a few titles I might order as summer reading.  To my delight, I actually found something even better: PDF downloads available for immediate consumption!  How wonderful.

And so I think I will begin a new task as part of my commitment to writing here on this blog, selecting pamphlets of interest and linking to them here, hoping Friends will indulge me in reading along and offering their thoughts.

“The Nature of Quakerism” was written by Howard Brinton in 1949. After clicking the PDF button it took about 15 minutes to read (with interruption – let’s be honest, with two children ages 2 & 4 it’s pretty hard to approach much of anything without interruption).  The reason this title compelled me to log here and share was how eloquently it communicated nearly everything I would include in my summary of the faith tradition I have experienced for nearly my entire life.  With so many interpretations and leadings, seekers and differing spiritual foundations, there are many ways Friends present Quakerism today. And lately, I have found myself in the position to better explain why I define Quakerism in the way I do.

My first smile emerged with Brinton’s explanation Friends’ primary doctrine: “the Presence of God is felt at the apex of the human soul and that man can therefore know and heed God directly, without any intermediary in the form of church, priest, sacrament, or sacred book.”

He then went on to state a flexibility of language that resonated with me: “Many figures of speech are used to designate this Divine Presence which, as immanent in man, is personal and, as transcendent, is super-personal. It is “Light,” “Power,” “Word,” “Seed of the Kingdom,” “Christ Within.” … Man’s endeavor should be to merge his will with the Divine Will, as far as he is able to comprehend it, and by obedience to become an instrument through which God’s power works upon the world.”

As Brinton elaborates on Quakerism’s primary, secondary and tertiary doctrines, I read a text that could have just as easily been written today, and it is the contemporary resonance with a document authored over sixty years ago that really compelled me to share it.

Lastly, I found Brinton’s discourse on meeting for worship and meeting for business quite aspirational (something I really need in my present moment) and his thoughts on harmony (peace making) and simplicity (absence of superfluity) clear and compelling.  Perhaps what most spoke to my current condition was the notion that peace making is in part an effort not “to constrain an individual to express feelings which he does not experience.”  While I fully recognize the Christianity present in both historic and contemporary Quakerism, I appreciate and strongly identity with Brinton’s focus on the commonalities of our primary doctrine in “various forms in all the great religions of the world.” It is this universalism and his notions of “an eternal gospel not exclusively related to particular historical events” that provided me language I did not so clearly have before.

Friends, what is your reaction to Brinton’s historic text? Does it relate to your experience?