Recently in Epistles Category

Sixth Month, 2007

To Friends everywhere,

We pray for your tenderness of heart to listen beyond the imperfect words we are using to describe what the Living Spirit has done among us here this week. We know that the Truth is beyond any words we might use to describe it.

We are more than 80 Friends, young and old, from 17 yearly meetings in the US, Canada, and Ireland, gathered in Barnesville, Ohio, at Olney Friends School and Stillwater Meetinghouse. During our opening weekend, many Friends who had participated in Young Friends of North America from the 1950's to the 1990's came seeking reunion and renewal in the Spirit. The following week's Quakercamp attracted additional Friends who were hungering for Spirit-led community. We worked to find Truth together, and to support each other's ministries and leadings. During our entire gathering, we were blessed by the presence of Friends from the YFNA years and of a committed group of Young Adult Friends who seek to plant the seeds of a new Young Friends movement that can minister to the needs of our whole Society.

At our opening Meeting for Worship, one Friend prayed that we experience a fresh incursion of the Holy Spirit. We have been blessed by just such an incursion again and again. We have experienced this presence in open worship, in searching past words for common ground, and as we sought comfort in facing both the terrible suffering in the world today and past wounds in our own lives.

We have been grateful for the powerful presence of the Holy Spirit in our worship, worship-sharing, Bible study, song, interest groups, and play. Young and old have felt deeply connected, though not always comfortable with each other's ways. Older Friends have needed to learn restraint in speaking, to provide space for younger Friends to speak. Younger Friends have reminded all of us of the importance of expectant waiting on the inward voice of Christ.

We were enriched by Friends from Ohio and Ireland Yearly Meetings who spoke to us of their practices and traditions and the testimony of their lives to the power of their faith. We have been deeply touched and challenged by the experience of these Friends who root their spiritual life in listening for and obeying Christ's voice. Many experienced the Living Christ working with us in new ways as we engaged in intense study of the scriptures together.

Young Adult Friends among us are feeling deeply called to create new opportunities to meet with their contemporaries in all branches of North American Friends, knowing they will encounter God in deeply committed Friends from different traditions. We call upon Friends throughout North America to nurture and encourage these efforts.

As we met in this beautiful setting, we felt intensely the sadness and suffering of a world broken by war, injustice, poverty, hunger, and despair, and we cried out in lamentation. We have expressed a growing concern for the suffering of all of God's creation through misuse at human hands. At the same time, we have felt a deep joy in being called corporately to service in God's healing work.

We have felt painfully the intense divisions among Friends over sexuality and sexual morality. Many of those present this week felt led to explore deeply together what God requires of us in this area. Tender intergenerational sharing took place about these issues. This was enriched by open discussion of the brokenness we have experienced when sexual behaviors are not consistent with God's will. We have found a new degree of unity in the call to witness to the importance of mutual faithfulness and commitment in all sexual relationships.

We recognize that all branches of Friends bear great riches from our common roots, as well as great wounds. No branch has carried into the present the full revolutionary message and experience of the first generation of Friends. We affirm the ways we have been blessed to grow in understanding of different' traditions within the Friends' family this week. We call upon all Friends to work together to overcome the deep divisions of understanding among us today.

To us, the heart of Quakerism is in listening and responding to the voice of the Inward Teacher in worship and in shared discernment of God's will. To hear this voice as a community requires us to engage in a covenant of mutual vulnerability. We must examine our preconceptions about how we encounter God and our rigid assumptions about what the Holy Spirit is saying to us as Friends today. We have been open to language and religious structures with which we are not familiar or comfortable. We have received many gifts as a result of engaging in this vulnerability with each other across generational and theological separations. As we shared our leadings and concerns together, we became elders to each other in love, and for this we are deeply grateful.

We call Friends everywhere to enter into an adventure of mutual vulnerability, discernment and accountability - both in their own meetings and across the barriers that divide Friends. This journey will not be easy, but we trust that God will accompany us and will respond to our prayers for help and guidance. We need to find the courage to wrestle with each other, listen tenderly to each other's witness, and learn from each other's testimony.

Yours in God's love,
Ruth Raffensperger, Jonathan Vogel-Borne & Pamela Haines, Clerks

There will be another Quakercamp held at Stillwater Meetinghouse & Olney Friends School, on June 22-28, 2008. For more information, go to
2008 Quakercamp at Stillwater or email Quakercamp.

Over 300 Young Friends from 34 countries, 57 yearly meetings, and 8 monthly meetings under the care of Friends World Committee for Consultation, met at Guilford College, Greensboro, North Carolina in July 1985, to envisage the future of the Religious Society of Friends and to see how their lives should speak within that vision.

We have come together from every continent, separated by language, race, culture, ways we worship God, and beliefs about Christ and God... We have been challenged, shaken up, at times even enraged, intimidated, and offended by these differences in each other. We have grown from this struggle and have felt the Holy Spirit in programmed worship, singing, Bible study, open times of worship and sharing, and silent waiting upon God.

Our differences are our richness, but also our problem. One of our key differences is the different names we give our Inward Teacher. Some of us name that Teacher Lord; others of us use the names Spirit, Inner Light, Inward Christ or Jesus Christ. It is important to acknowledge that these names involve more than language; they involve basic differences in our understanding of who God is, and how God enters our lives. We urge Friends to wrestle, as many of us have here, with the conviction and experience of many Friends throughout our history that this Inward Teacher is in fact Christ himself. We have been struck this week, however, with the experience of being forced to recognize this same God at work in others who call that Voice by different names, or who understand differently who that Voice is.

We have often wondered whether there is anything Quakers today can say as one. After much struggle we have discovered that we can proclaim this: there is a living God at the centre of all, who is available to each of us as a Present Teacher at the very heart of our lives. We seek as people of God to be worthy vessels to deliver the Lord's transforming word, to be prophets of joy who know from experience and can testify to the world, as George Fox did, `that the Lord God is at work in this thick night'. Our priority is to be receptive and responsive to the life-giving Word of God, whether it comes through the written word - the Scriptures, the Incarnate Word - Jesus Christ, the Corporate Word - as discerned by the gathered meeting, or the Inward Word of God in our hearts which is available to each of us who seek the Truth.

This can be made easier if we face the truth within ourselves, embrace the pain, and lay down our differences before God for the Holy Spirit to forgive, thus transforming us into instruments of healing. This priority is not merely an abstract idea, but something we have experienced powerfully at work among us this week.
Our five invited speakers presented vivid pictures of economic, ecological and military crisis in this world today. We acknowledge that these crises are in fact only a reflection of the great spiritual crisis which underlies them all. Our peace testimony inspires us, yet we move beyond it to challenge our world with the call for justice. We are called to be peacemakers, not protestors.

It is our desire to work co-operatively on unifying these points. The challenges of this time are almost too great to be faced, but we must let our lives mirror what is written on our hearts - to be so full of God's love that we can do no other than live out our corporate testimonies to the world of honesty, simplicity, equality and peace, whatever the consequences.

We pray for both the personal and inner strength as well as the corporate strength of a shared calling/struggle that will empower us to face all the trials that we will necessarily encounter. We have no illusions about the fact that to truly live a Christian life in these cataclysmic times means to live a life of great risk.

We call on Friends to rediscover our own roots in the vision and lives of early Friends whose own transformed lives shook the unjust social and economic structures of their day. They treasured the records of God's encounters with humanity found in the Bible, and above all, the life and teachings of Jesus Christ. And we call upon Friends across the earth to heed the voice of God and let it send us out in truth and power to rise to the immense challenge of our world today.

This Epistle has been published as Excerpt 29.17 in Britain Yearly Meeting's Faith & Practice

Ministers and Elders at NYYM

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Experiences of the relationships of minister and elders

at New York Yearly Meeting Sessions 1991

by Jan Hoffman

When a message is to be offered to a gathered people, there are two motions necessary to its faithful delivery.  The first is the rising up of the message from deep within the speaker / minister.  The second is the drawing out of that message by elders.  These are people who nurture the place in the minister from which the message will arise and are attentive in preparing both the physical surroundings and the listening hearts in the attenders so that the minister's message can be fully liberated. 

This story tells of one experience I have had with these two motions.

Sometime in 1990, I was asked to give a series of three talks on corporate discernment to the 1991 sessions of New York Yearly Meeting (NYYM).  When I asked God if he had a message for me to give to New York Yearly Meeting, the response was "Yes," so I accepted.  After I accept such service, I ask God for guidance about the "eldering function" for that occasion.  What will help draw out my message most faithfully?  I know that while some of the message will come up through my own efforts, I need eldering to draw out most faithfully what it is I am to say.

Established Relationships with Elders

In this case, I knew that substantial eldering would come from a group of elders from my own Yearly Meeting with whom I had worked before.  Bill Kreidler, Fred Evans, Chuck McCorkle and myself had met often as a group, with three of us serving as elder for the one who was the "minister" (i.e. the one who had accepted a call to speak).  So when I informed them of my decision to speak at NYYM, I knew their prayer support would began immediately - that I would be rightly led in my preparation and faithful in delivery.  So as I prepared, I had a sense of the prayers of all three sustaining me. 

As it happened, Bill was also speaking at NYYM that year, so the prayers of the group had a double focus, and I had a particular sense of relationship to Bill since we would each be both minister and elder at those sessions. 

Another piece of eldering - of drawing out my message - was getting to know NYYM as much as I could, taking them into prayer, and allowing this heart knowledge of the Yearly Meeting to draw out what I might say.  So I asked to receive the minute books from 1989 and 1990 and a subscription to Spark, the YM newsletter.  I also asked that the state of society reports for 1989 be sent, as well as the state of society reports for 1990 as came in. Thus my own preparation began, both taking New York's "condition" into my heart and prayers after reading these materials, and allowing texts relevant to corporate discernment to rise up in me - which I then put in a folder to await further discernment. Much of this guidance happened in my prayer time, recorded in my prayer journal.

 

The Message Arrives Early

Quite early on in my prayers, I asked God what message he had for me to offer NYYM.  The response: "Tell them to repent."  "Well, you can forget about my giving that message," said I.  The second message God gave me was, "Tell them God loves every single one of them."  I immediately expressed my willingness to deliver that one.

As the work of letting a message rise up continued, I felt sustained by the prayers of my elders, though I rarely spoke with them.  The following description submitted earlier for the May issue of Spark shows the clarity I had reached by that point:

A Gathered People: Corporate Discernment Among Friends

As Friends, we have chosen not only to affirm and live out our individual integrity according to the faith we have been given through our life experience.  We have also chosen to live out our truth in a community of faith which seeks to affirm and live out a corporate integrity which is not the sum of the individual truths of its constituent parts, but a truth revealed to the corporate body gathered in worship.        

These three sessions will focus on the image of a gathered people seeking truth together. The first session will be reflections on Quaker history, some dynamics of meetings for worship with attention to business as I have experienced them, an exploration of the grounding necessary for corporate discernment, and disciplines which can help us find corporate truth.  I leave the second and third sessions to continuing revelation, though my sense at this moment is that they will be based on the experience of the actual sessions of the Yearly Meeting. My hope is that we will all be seeking truth together as we try to better perceive who we are as a gathered people and see more clearly our corporate call.

In May, Bill and Chuck and Fred and I met all day for an eldering session, first focusing on Bill, and then on me.  Fred would be accompanying Bill to NYYM, and would elder for both of us until he left with Bill, which would be after two of my three talks.  At this meeting, I received clarity about taking some handouts to accompany my talks.  My elders also affirmed the sense given in my description that I would only be given a clear sense of the first talk, and the other two would come out of the NYYM sessions themselves, when elders would be present to work with me. 

An Additional Elder Appears

In addition to these elders chosen by me, God sent an additional elder.  I received a letter from Carol Holmes, a women from NYYM I knew only slightly who said she was led to come to NYYM that year specifically to elder for me - so that added a third elder to Bill and Fred at the sessions besides the one praying at home (Chuck). 

A week before NYYM sessions began in July, Carol sent me a letter ("It came on me in worship today to write you a letter").  Her letter contained many things she had been led to tell me, from spiritual realities to the rhythm of the day at Silver Bay and the traditions and expectations of New York Friends to "Bring a beach towel if you want to swim."  This grounded me in the realities surrounding the release of my message and made me feel more at ease with an unfamiliar place.

The Message Persists

As I usually do, I took a retreat for some days before leaving for Silver Bay, allowing the first talk to clarify a bit more in me, and to feel consistently the place where my message would arise from.  On the retreat, the two messages God wanted me to give NYYM were still crystal clear:  "Remember God loves every one of you," and "Repent."  I still was eager to deliver the first and fighting with God about delivering the second.

Once arrived at Silver Bay, I ran into Bill and Fred almost immediately and reassured them of my prayers and presence as they reassured me of theirs.  We were also clear that their place during my talks would be in the front row, gazing encouragingly up at me - a solid presence to remind me of their prayers.  Also almost immediately, Carol Holmes appeared to remind me of her call to elder for me and to urge me to ask her for anything I needed.  Meanwhile, she would be praying for me. 

I spent the evening before my first talk with the person who was to introduce me. We began with simple conversation, as she asked questions about my spiritual life and journey toward faithfulness.  I then articulated the piece of eldering she could do to nourish that faithfulness here:  Arrive 30 minutes early to begin worship with me.  Be sure there was water on the podium.  Arrange for the set-up and sound test to be done earlier in the day.  In introducing me, she was not to focus on me personally, but to open the space in people's hearts into which I could speak.  She would also be responsible for closing meeting. 

For the beginning of the first session, the person introducing me did well everything we had spoken of the previous evening, and in introducing me did indeed open up a wonderfully deep space into which I could speak.   I was a little uneasy when she walked down into the body of the meeting after introducing me, so that I was alone on the stage, but there was such an atmosphere of prayer that I did not feel alone. 

The First Talk: Sustained and Faithful

For this first talk, I felt sustained and faithful. Normally when I speak I do not have a prepared text, but only "anchor threads" on paper. Then I'm led at the time to more extensive words - and in this case, I felt rightly led.  As part of the message given, I spoke one of the specific phrases given me:  "Remember God loves every one of you."

This talk was at 3:00 in the afternoon, and the second was the next afternoon at 3:00.  I saw Bill and Fred only briefly after this talk, as Bill was beginning preparation for his talk that evening, and I turned my attention to prayer and grounding for him.  I began serious preparation of my second talk on Tuesday morning, and was not nearly as clear at the conclusion of this preparation that I was close to the message God wanted.  The key words at the top of my page were "authority," "fear," and "evil."

Panic in the Second

When I arrived early for the second talk, expecting my elders, nothing was set up, and I felt very alone.  I began opening windows, moving the clerks' table and chairs off the stage, finding the podium.  Bill and Fred and Carol had somehow all been prevented from arriving early, so that we were not able to settle into worship until quite close to the time I was scheduled to speak.

Since no one from Ministry and Counsel had spoken to me about closing meeting, I fortunately had the foresight to ask Bill and Fred to close meeting if no one else did.  There was good reason in the old days for the responsibility of closing meeting to be given to the elders: as a minister, I know that when I have faithfully delivered a message, I am often exhausted spiritually, and need to just sink into the worship.  The necessity of closing meeting requires a complete switch of focus, from a focus on what is coming up in me to a focus on the group in order to discern when worship is over.  Elders can focus on the Spirit moving in the group during the entire worship and thus are more fitted to close it. 

Once we were settled into worship, I realized all three elders were in the body of the meeting.  Thus I was alone on the stage, and felt this keenly, which increased my sense of unease.  I prayed to feel God's presence and tried to remember the elders in the body of the meeting holding me in that Presence. 

During the talk, it seemed to me that I looked at my paper more than usual, yet didn't see things.  I seemed not to discern from a centered or grounded place.  At one point I realized I might just go on talking about the "organics" of meeting for business and not ever get to fear and authority, which was the rhythm God had given me for the talk.  At this point I said to those gathered, "I need your help.  I realize I could go on talking about meeting for business and not go on to fear and authority because I think I'm afraid of what I might be given to say ."  I was not able to feel such help forthcoming.

At the conclusion of my second talk, I burst into tears.  I felt terrible; hot, tired, sweaty and confused, and unclear if I was faithful - even though people were coming up to say how much they appreciated what I said.  When they went away, I was left with Carol and Bill and Fred - and I wept, "I was unfaithful.  For the first talk at least 'repent' was on the paper.  Today it wasn't even on the paper." 

An Elder Clarifies

Carol then asked, "But who in that room was more faithful than you?  Those who listen need to be faithful, too.  You can take some responsibility, but not all of it."

I said, "Yesterday I felt the group call me out.  Today I didn't feel that." 

Carol replied, "That's right.  You weren't called out.  Maybe the right listeners weren't there."  I then mentioned a conversation I'd had with someone wondering what to do with the suspicion that he was abused as a child.  I'd said, "Wait and pray.  You need to have the right people listen you into your truth - therapist, friends, whoever.  Sometimes you can't let your own truth out unless someone draws/ listens it out."

Carol commented,  "Did you hear what you just said?  That's what happened to you this afternoon."

Time to Go Swimming

Fred and Bill said, "Time to go swimming."   They took my sense of unfaithfulness seriously, but affirmed that what I said sounded clear and good from the outside.  Fred made a distinction between my speculating whether my message made sense - which it did - and my feelings about it, which only I know and would have to deal with.  However, they felt it was time to stop speculating and move our bodies, so they took me swimming in Lake George where we just floated about, letting go - a wonderful release.

I had a free day before my third talk was to be given, and so began the process of trying to listen for God again and faithfully speak what I was given to say.  In my own private worship the next morning, it came clear to me that I had not been faithful and that I needed to apologize to the meeting and ask for help - to repent, in fact.  Thus God was raising up in me a feeling condition of the message of repentance I was being asked to give.       

Prepare to Deliver Any Message

I called Kenneth, an elder in Philadelphia, to say I'd been unfaithful and asked for his guidance.  He said, "First, do not be afraid.  I know you know this, but I'm reminding you.  Second, I do not know if 'repent' is the message God is calling you to give, but I do know that until you are willing to deliver any message, you won't know if it is the message you are to give.  So there's your work - being willing to deliver any message - and I'll pray for you.  Remember also that God works through unfaithful people."

I also told Kenneth that I felt I might not be given a message with a "flow" to it, but some words on one subject, then silence - then words on another unrelated subject, then silence.  His advice: "If you speak and then have silence, think of yourself as clerk: don't let the meeting go.  Hold it in that silence with you."   

So I opened myself to give any message, and then I met with Fred and Bill.  They said, "Well, if you were to tell NYYM to repent, what might you say?"  Then words started coming out of me, drawn out by their listening.  When the flow stopped, they said, "That sounds right to us."  They were leaving Silver Bay immediately after this meeting with me, but assured me of their prayers and their faith in my capacity to be faithful.

Do Not Do This Alone

That night I woke up in the middle of the night with a message, "You can't be alone on that stage again.  You need to ask Carol to find people to sit up there with you to ground you and hold you in prayer."  This message repeated one I had been given in prayer, but apparently had forgotten.  In my prayer journal June 3 I wrote, "You need to have elders praying behind you at NYYM for you to be faithful - and to ask those in the body who feel such a call to do so as well.  There is a danger of evil.  Leave an item when you are no longer in worship about it, since that's when the spirit of strife and confusion enters."

At breakfast before I could find Carol, she came to find me.  "It came to me last night that you can't be up there on that stage alone and that I am to find people to sit there and in the audience to pray for you.  And I'm supposed to say some words before you speak." 

In addition to persons she asked through her own discernment, some came to her during the day to say, "It came to me that I'm supposed to pray for Jan Hoffman.  Do you know how I might do that?"  Again, God does much of the work, and we just have to accept it gratefully.

When I came into the room 30 minutes before the third talk, there were people on the stage and some in the audience, already in worship - so I entered a living silence in which for 30 minutes I could be with the message that was about to emerge, feeling held in a deep way.  I felt tremendous power in the prayer around me, and the possibility of a faithful, deep message being drawn out.

A Call to Deepen the Silence

Near the conclusion of that period of worship, Carol spoke, "In the kind of ministry that Jan Hoffman is bringing to us, it may feel more comfortable to understand that if Jan should go into silence while she is speaking, it's a call to center down with her, to deepen the silence, and to deepen the prayer around her.  If she should ask, as she did on Tuesday, Friends to call the message out, this would not be a verbal calling out, this would be calling out by virtue of a listening heart."

So my third talk began with the words, "I feel myself so bathed in prayer at this moment that I don't feel the need to verbalize one" (as I had the other days).  That sense of prayer was definitely the many elders at work, seeding a listening prayer that others in the room could join and make stronger.

Repentance

Then I continued by confessing my own unfaithfulness in the second talk and my need to repent of this unfaithfulness - which I then did.  I spoke some of my own efforts and those of others who had enabled this return, with God's grace and guidance.  Then I spoke the message God had given me for NYYM: "Repent."  Then a message that I had spoken the second day in anger - "I'm tired of hearing about your differences and your diversity" - was transformed in the third talk through my repentance and reconnection to God's love into "It's time to stop talking and start praying."  Thus God led me through my own need to repent before I could speak that message - "Repent" - to NYYM, using many elders as his instruments in the liberation of that message.

Gifts

Some of those elders had no conception of what power lay in the exercise of the gift of "drawing out." I later asked one of those who had been eldering from the audience about her experience.  She said, "I felt weird about doing this because I've never done anything like this before, but the strangest thing happened.  A question would come into my mind, and the next moment you would answer it, as if I had spoken it aloud."

"Yes, that's exactly how it can work," I responded.

I hope this story illustrates how necessary elders are to a minister in bringing a message to birth.  They must work together, each with his or her own function, to bring to life the message intended for a given meeting.  There are usually unexpected twists and turns along the way, challenges of cowardice or lack of faith, and much unexpected grace and mercy.  In the end, the fruits of the effort will hopefully be a sense that everyone was faithful together, participating in a larger Life which blesses and empowers.

1985 WGYF Epistle

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Epistle from the 1985
World Gathering of Young Friends

Over 300 Young Friends from 34 countries, 57 yearly meetings, and 8 monthly meetings under the care of Friends World Committee for Consultation, met at Guilford College, Greensboro, NC, July 19-27, 1985, to envisage the future of the Religious Society of Friends and to see how their lives should speak within that vision.

We have come together from every continent, separated by language, race, culture, ways we worship God, and beliefs about Christ and God... We have been challenged, shaken up, at times even enraged, intimidated, and offended by these differences in each other. We have grown from this struggle and have felt the Holy Spirit in programmed worship, singing, Bible study, open times of worship and sharing, and silent waiting upon God.

Our differences are our richness, but also our problem. One of our key differences is the different names we give our Inward Teacher. Some of us name that Teacher Lord; others of us use the names Spirit, Inner Light, Inward Christ or Jesus Christ. It is important to acknowledge that these names involve more than language; they involve basic differences in our understanding of who God is, and how God enters our lives. We urge Friends to wrestle, as many of us have here, with the conviction and experience of many Friends throughout our history that this Inward Teacher is in fact Christ himself. We have been struck this week, however, with the experience of being forced to recognize this same God at work in others who call that Voice by different names, or who understand differently who that Voice is.

We have often wondered whether there is anything Quakers today can say as one. After much struggle we have discovered that we can proclaim this: there is a living God at the centre of all, who is available to each of us as a Present Teacher at the very heart of our lives. We seek as people of God to be worthy vessels to deliver the Lord's transforming word, to be prophets of joy who know from experience and can testify to the world, as George Fox did, `that the Lord God is at work in this thick night'. Our priority is to be receptive and responsive to the life-giving Word of God, whether it comes through the written word - the Scriptures, the Incarnate Word - Jesus Christ, the Corporate Word - as discerned by the gathered meeting, or the Inward Word of God in our hearts which is available to each of us who seek the Truth.

This can be made easier if we face the truth within ourselves, embrace the pain, and lay down our differences before God for the Holy Spirit to forgive, thus transforming us into instruments of healing. This priority is not merely an abstract idea, but something we have experienced powerfully at work among us this week.
Our five invited speakers presented vivid pictures of economic, ecological and military crisis in this world today. We acknowledge that these crises are in fact only a reflection of the great spiritual crisis which underlies them all. Our peace testimony inspires us, yet we move beyond it to challenge our world with the call for justice. We are called to be peacemakers, not protestors.

It is our desire to work co-operatively on unifying these points. The challenges of this time are almost too great to be faced, but we must let our lives mirror what is written on our hearts - to be so full of God's love that we can do no other than live out our corporate testimonies to the world of honesty, simplicity, equality and peace, whatever the consequences.

We pray for both the personal and inner strength as well as the corporate strength of a shared calling/struggle that will empower us to face all the trials that we will necessarily encounter. We have no illusions about the fact that to truly live a Christian life in these cataclysmic times means to live a life of great risk.

We call on Friends to rediscover our own roots in the vision and lives of early Friends whose own transformed lives shook the unjust social and economic structures of their day. They treasured the records of God's encounters with humanity found in the Bible, and above all, the life and teachings of Jesus Christ. And we call upon Friends across the earth to heed the voice of God and let it send us out in truth and power to rise to the immense challenge of our world today.

This Epistle has been published as Excerpt 29.17 in Britain Yearly Meeting's Faith & Practice

1968 Richmond Declaration

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1968 Richmond Declaration on the Draft and Conscription

We call on Friends everywhere to recognize the oppressive burden of militarism and conscription. We acknowledge our complicity in these evils in ways sometimes silent and subtle, at times painfully apparent. We are under obligation as Children of God and members of the Religious Society of Friends to break the yoke of that complicity.

As Friends we have for many years been granted privileged status within the draft system. This has often blinded us to the evil of the draft itself, and the treatment of those not so privileged. We are grateful for all those who by resolutely resisting the draft have quickened our conscience. We are called into the community of all who suffer for their refusal to perform unconscionable acts.

We reaffirm the "Advices on Conscription and War" adopted at Richmond in 1948. We realize in 1968 that our testimony against conscription is strengthened by refusing to comply with the Selective Service law. We also recognize that the problem of paying war taxes has intensified; this compels us to find realistic ways to refuse to pay these taxes.

We recognize the evil nature of all forms of conscription, and its inconsistency with the teachings and example of Christ. Military conscription in the United States today undergirds the aggressive foreign policies and oppressive domestic policies which rely on easy availability of military manpower. Conscription threatens the right and responsibility of every person to make decisions in matters of conscience. Friends opposing war should refuse any kind of military service; Friends opposing conscription should refuse to cooperate with the Selective Service System.

We call for the abolition of the Selection Service System and commit ourselves to work with renewed dedication to abolish it. We shall oppose attempts to perpetuate or extend conscription, however constructive the alleged purpose, by such a system as National Service. We do not support efforts at draft reform; the issue is not equal treatment under compulsion, but freedom from compulsion.

We recognize how difficult it is to work through these complex issues, and to bear the burden of decision and action. We hold in love and respect each member of our Society as he follows where conscience leads. We know there are spiritual resources available to those who would be faithful.

Friends Are Urged to:

1. Commit our energies and resources in substantial measure to launch a concerted campaign to end the draft. Friends can serve as a catalyst in this effort, in cooperation with groups representing a cross-section of American life.

2. Prepare for Monthly Meetings three sets of queries designed to:

a.     clarify the responsibility of the Meeting to all young men of draft age.

b.     help young Friends think through their alternatives.

c.     assist Friends not directly subject to the draft to decide what actions they should take.

3. Appoint in each Monthly Meeting a Clearness Committee to assist all its young men in their search for clarity as they face the draft.

4. Set up procedures for called Meetings for Worship to share the affirmation of young men who engage in such acts of resistance as refusing to register, or disaffiliating from Selective Service or the Armed Forces.

5. Establish Meetings for Sufferings to provide for such needs of resisters as:

a.     jobs for those awaiting sentence

b.     help for families

c.     bail and legal aid

d.     meeting places for groups of resisters

e.     hospitality and shelter

f.      formation of a Resisters Service and Action Corps for those who choose to witness in this way.

6. Consider engaging in corporate acts of support for resisters in Friends schools, colleges and organizations, even when such acts involve conflict with man-made laws.

7. Provide draft information and counseling centers in the local community, supported by their Meetings, schools, colleges or organizations.

8. Respond to the needs of young men whose conscientious resistance to conscription and military service leads them to courses of action other than open disaffiliation. Included are some men in such situations as these:

a.     those who may become refugees in other lands for conscience sake

b.     AWOL military personnel

c.     men still on active military duty.

Affirmation of Action

We commit ourselves to validate our witness by visible changes in our lives, though they may involve personal jeopardy. We cannot rest until we achieve a truly corporate witness in the effort to oppose and end conscription. Let us hold each other in the Light which both reveals our weaknesses and strengthens us to overcome them.

[Friends Coordinating Committee on Peace organized a Friends National Conference on the Draft and Conscription, held in Richmond, Indiana, Oct. 11-13, 1968.  This declaration was used by many Friends who took the noncooperator position at their trials. It was reprinted in Quakers and the Draft, Charles Walker, editor: 1969.]

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Quote that speaks to me

Death Cannot Kill What Never Dies

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They that love beyond the world cannot be separated by it.  
Death cannot kill what never dies.  
Nor can spirits ever be divided that love and live in the same Divine Principle; the Root and Record of their friendship.
If absence be not death, neither is theirs.  
Death is but crossing the world, as friends do the seas; they live in one another still.  
For they must needs be present, that love and live in that which is omnipresent.
In this Divine Glass, they see face to face; and their converse is free, as well as pure.
This is the comfort of friends, that though they may be said to die, yet their friendship and society are, in the best sense, ever present, because immortal.
 - William Penn, More Fruits of Solitude, 1702.

Note: This passage was quoted by J.K.Rowling as the epigraph of her novel, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

Braithwaite on Outreach

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Men & Women with a Message of Power

It is as a "religion of life" that Quakerism will be presented in the future and is being presented now.

Its distinguishing note will be its resolve to bring all this human life of ours under the transforming power of spiritual life.  It will stand out against all divisions and compartments that separate the sacred from the secular, the sanctuary from the outward world of nature, the sacrament from the days' common work, the clergy from the laity. 

It will tell of a Christian experience that makes all life sacred and all days holy, all nature a sanctuary, all work a sacrament, and gives to every man and woman in the body fit place and service.  Its concern will be to multiply men and women who will have a message of power because they are themselves the children of light.  It will claim the whole of man's life, and the whole of life, individual, social, national international, for the dominion of the will of God.

William C. Braithwaite and Henry T. Hodgkin, The Message and Mission of Quakerism (Philadelphia, Winston, 1912), 25-26.