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.
A 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?. 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?. 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.
Reddit AMA thread on Quakers. A new Reddit comment thread on Quakers will keep you reading for hours.
The seasons’s first violent thunderstorm came through South Jersey and knocked out power and cell phone service for hundreds of thousands. Just how bad is it? News reports say dozens of Wawa convenience stores are closed. It might be two or three more days until our power is restored.
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.