Return within

Return within. Craig Bar­nett on the goal of the Quaker way:

Unfor­tu­nately, by the time that we come to adult­hood each of us is already to a greater or lesser extent opposed to the Light within us; some­how we have all armoured our­selves against the inbreak­ing of the light. The reli­gious path is sim­ply the process of dis­solv­ing these defences, becom­ing more aware, sen­si­tive and open to the inner guid­ance that is always available.

From concern to action in a few short months

rooftop3A grow­ing list of sto­ries is sug­gest­ing that black churches in the South are being tar­geted for arson once again (although one of the more pub­li­cized cases seems to be lightning-related). This was a big con­cern in the mid-1990s, a time when a Quaker pro­gram stepped up to give Friends the chance to travel to the South to help rebuild. From a 1996 Friends Jour­nal edi­to­r­ial:

Some­times a news arti­cle touches the heart and moves peo­ple to reach out to one another in unex­pected ways. So it was this win­ter when the Wash­ing­ton Post pub­lished a piece on the rash of fires that have destroyed black churches in the South in recent months… When Friend Harold B. Con­fer, exec­u­tive direc­tor of Wash­ing­ton Quaker Work­camps, saw the arti­cle, he decided to do some­thing about it. After a series of phone calls, he and two col­leagues accepted an invi­ta­tion to travel to west­ern Alabama and see the fire dam­age for them­selves. They were warmly received by the pas­tors and con­gre­ga­tions of the three Greene County churches. Upon their return, they set to work on a plan.

I’m not sure whether Confer’s plan is the right tem­plate to fol­low this time, but it’s a great story because it shows the impor­tance of hav­ing a strong grass­roots Quaker ecosys­tem. I don’t believe the Wash­ing­ton Quaker Work­camps were ever a par­tic­u­larly well-funded project. But by 1996 they had been run­ning for ten years and had built up cred­i­bil­ity, a fol­low­ing, and the abil­ity to cross cul­tural lines in the name of ser­vice. The smaller orga­ni­za­tional size meant that a news­pa­per arti­cle could prompt a flurry of phone calls and vis­its and a fully-realized pro­gram oppor­tu­nity in a remark­ably short amount of time.

A first-hand account of the work­camps by Kim Roberts was pub­lished later than year, Rebuild­ing Churches in Rural Alabama: One Volunteer’s Expe­ri­ence. The D.C.-based work­camp pro­gram con­tin­ues in mod­i­fied form to this day as the William Penn Quaker Work­camps.

Update: another pic­ture from 1996 Alabama, this time from one of my wife Julie’s old photo books. She’s sec­ond from the left at the bot­tom, part of the longer-stay con­tin­gent that Roberts mentions.


Are We Giving Enough of Ourselves?

Are We Giv­ing Enough of Our­selves?. Greg Woods with a great piece on giv­ing time and lis­ten­ing to God:

How are we respond­ing to these calls? Are we using our gift of time towards work­ing for racial jus­tice? Are we giv­ing enough of our­selves?… Some [Quak­ers] find this the­ol­ogy of con­tin­u­ing rev­e­la­tions dis­tress­ing, but I find com­fort in that because it hon­ors Friends’ long­time wit­ness that God is still speak­ing to our con­di­tion today, both as a cor­po­rate body and as indi­vid­u­als. We should always be lis­ten­ing for how God wants to use us and our abil­i­ties as dis­ci­ples of God’s grace within today’s ever-changing world.

Why Can’t We All Just Get Along?

Why Can’t We All Just Get Along?. Deb­o­rah Suess writes a guest post about trou­bles among North Car­olina Friends:

Many of you have heard rum­blings that our state denom­i­na­tion is in trou­ble. And you have asked, “What the heck is going on? What are we argu­ing about?” Well… it’s com­pli­cated. Of course.

Banishing the demons of war plank by rotten plank

In National Geo­graphic, Jane Brax­ton Lit­tle writes about the restora­tion of one of the most sto­ried protest boats of the twen­ti­eth century:

The Golden Rule project is an improb­a­ble accom­plish­ment by unlikely vol­un­teers. Mem­bers of Vet­er­ans For Peace, they are a mot­ley bunch that might have appalled the orig­i­nal crew, all con­sci­en­tious Quak­ers. They smoke, drink and swear like the sailors, though most of them are not. Aging and per­pet­u­ally strapped for money, the mostly retired men sought to ban­ish their war-related demons as they ripped out rot­ten wood and replaced it plank by pur­ple­heart plank.

Friends Jour­nal ran an arti­cle by Jane, Restor­ing the Golden Rule,  back in 2011 when the VFP vol­un­teers first con­tem­plated restora­tion, and a longer fol­lowup by Arnold (Skip) Oliver in 2013, The Golden Rule Shall Sail Again. Of course, the cool thing about work­ing at a estab­lished mag­a­zine is that it was easy for me to dip into the archives and find and com­pile our 1958 cov­er­age of the ship’s famous first voy­age.

You ca fol­low more about the restora­tion work on the VFP Golden Rule web­site or check out pic­tures from the re-launch on their Face­book page.