Living Our Ministry in a Secular World – Retreat, March 17-19, 2017

Facilitated by Marge Abbott and Honor Woodrow

Apparently insignificant gestures, such as not tipping a hat, can have far reaching consequences. Is the grand gesture a necessary act of faithfulness and when is it right to be obedient in the small actions of daily life? Friends whose religious faith grounds their work in the world often encounter secular organizations which leave them feeling frustrated or isolated. What might happen if we develop a more ecological orientation to ministry, celebrate the everyday motions, and see how they might grow the strength and the community to sustain a public witness of our faith as it undergirds our work in the world?

We are each called to be faithful, to take up whatever cross is ours to carry. Noticing and attending to God’s call to service that is potentially there for all of us is at the heart of life among Friends. How do we find our base community that helps spread the vision and provide accountability? How do we develop the daily disciplines that aid in sorting through the anger that may surround us and avoiding the isolation that can cut us from our roots? How do we find ways to avoid getting caught up in pressure to be successful in the world’s terms?

We can stand with each other and hear our agonized cries, and we can testify to the sustaining joy that fills our hearts. We can bless each other as we walk together, reminding each other of the flavor of the divine touch that sent us on this path, as we acknowledge the false steps and the helpful learning — the despair and the hope — which have brought us thus far.

Our hope for this weekend is that we might raise up the everyday ways in which our lives are intertwined and knit together in and with Christ’s Spirit. May we better be able to go forth into the world bearing witness to the Inward Guide in ordinary actions as much as in radical proclamation.

The Friends Center in Barnesville, Ohio, is a retreat and conference center for exploring Christian unprogrammed Quakerism and its meaning today. It is rooted in Ohio Yearly Meeting (Conservative).

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Transition Movement training for sustainable communities Feb. 25-26, 2017

Many Quakers today, and others, feel called to a spiritually fulfilling, socially just, and ecologically sustainable human presence on our planet. The Transition Network began in the UK in 2006. Transition communities around the world are developing their own ways to confront issues such as climate change and peak oil, developing positive alternatives to “business as usual”. Transition is grass-roots and local, working to improve quality of life now and into the future in a sustainable, resilient, and enjoyable manner.

Friends in Bluffton, Ohio are involved in organizing a Transition initiative in Bluffton. Our group is sponsoring a Transition Training weekend seminar with experienced trainers from Transition US to learn about launching a local Transition initiative. Anyone interested in learning more about the Transition movement or starting something in your community is invited to attend. The training will be held February 25-26 in Bluffton. Details and registration information can be found on the Transition Bluffton website.

Transition Bluffton website
Quakers in Transition website of New England Yearly Meeting
Transition US website

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Black Lives Matter: Discriminatory Baltimore City Police Agree to Changes

Our plenary speaker at LEYM Annual Sessions in 2016, Natalie Finegar, who is in charge of public defence in Baltimore, shared with us her experiences of systemic violation of lower-income and black people’s civil rights by the police there.

A news article from the Associated Press that appeared in The Blade (Toledo, Ohio newspaper) on January 13, 2017, outlines an agreement reached between the city police department and the U.S. Justice Department, which had investiged discriminatory policing practices there after the death of Freddie Gray in police custody. Intended to correct consitutional violations particularly in poor, black neighborhoods which were identified in a scathing report released last year,  the agreement mandates that officers only stop and/or search people for cause, and has them use de-escalation techniques.

Now for the hard work of implementing the changes.

For a UPI article on the same subject, search on “Baltimore agrees to reform police department after damning race report”.

 

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Contemplation & Action: Contemplative Retreat April 27-30, 2017

Join April Allison and Roger Hansen for “Contemplation and Action: A Contemplative Retreat in the Manner of Friends,” at The Siena Retreat Center, Racine, Wisconsin from April 27 – 30, 2017. The Siena Center, on the Lake Michigan lakefront, will be beautiful as we move into the season of rebirth and growth.

April Allison of Red Cedar Friends Meeting in Lansing, Michigan, and Roger Hansen of the Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Meeting will lead the retreat, which is offered through The School of the Spirit.

Participants will experience the distinctly Quaker manner of knowing solitude in community. Along with individual silent times for prayer, reflection, time in nature, contemplative interaction with scripture, and meeting one-on-one with retreat leaders, there will also be group silence at meals; ‘active silence’ with participants gathered doing individual handwork, reading, journaling, artwork; and time for contemplative work.

At its heart, the retreat is a time when we can simply be with God, attend to the divine stirrings in our souls, and open to grace.

There is a flexible fee schedule; if the full fee seems challenging, you can pay a lower cost without asking for a scholarship while other attendees are invited to contribute more.

Details and registration

You can also reach April Allison at spiritualdirection@heronrising.com for additional information.

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Spiritual Deepening eLearning Program from FGC starting Jan. 9, 2017

FGC is offering an online learning opportunity for those interested in learning about the Quaker Way and seasoned Friends. Go deeper in your personal spiritual practice and build an online spiritual community through an 8-week exploration of Quaker thought and practice, beginning Jan. 9.

LEYM’s Advancement & Outreach Committee encourages Friends to take advantage of FGC’s new Spiritual Deepening program, which is also available for meetings to use locally.

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Exploring the Quaker Way – Pendle Hill on-line course Jan. 15-Apr. 5, 2017

Exploring the Quaker Way

A Pendle Hill Online Course

January 15 through April 5, 2017

“Exploring the Quaker Way” is an extended online course for people who want to learn more about the simple, radical, and contemporary spiritual path of Quakers, and explore its relevance to their own spiritual journeys. It will be of particular interest to North American seekers, especially those attracted to US and Canadian Quaker congregations that practice silent group worship, do not have paid pastors, and try to lead faithful lives of simplicity, integrity, nonviolence, community, sustainability, and justice. In this tradition, we believe every woman, man, and child on this planet has the capacity to directly experience divine love, presence, and guidance. We also believe that if we listen carefully to this “still, small voice” of God we can find the wisdom and power to help heal our personal lives, our families, our communities, and we hope, someday, the world.

The goals of this course are to help seekers, attenders, and interested members of Friends meetings: 1) deepen their understanding of the Quaker movement; 2) better understand the spiritual journey common among early and current Quakers; 3) reflect on their own spiritual journeys within this spiritual tradition; and 4) become more familiar with several key elements of building vibrant and caring Quaker meetings. It is designed for people who want to explore these themes through personal reflection, focused study, and deep dialog within a lively learning community gently guided by seasoned Quaker educators.

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Concerned about earthcare?

If you have a concern for earthcare, consider if you would serve on Lake Erie Yearly Meeting’s Earthcare Committee. If so, or you know of another Friend who might be interested, please contact Clemence Ravashon Mershon, the clerk of LEYM’s Nominating Committee, to let her know of your interest.

She can be reached at 814 587-3479 or at andre14 “at” earthlink.net.

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Openings in Residential Community at Ann Arbor Meeting

There are likely openings in the Quaker House Residential Community (QHRC) of Ann Arbor (Michigan) Friends Meeting over the next few months, so inquiries are encouraged. Enjoy community living with a commitment to diversity, sustainability, and open, honest communication.

Visit www.annarborfriends.org for a description of the QHRC and an application form.

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FGC News from October Central Committee Meeting

Central Committee 2016 Highlights

As our governing board, Central Committee members have the joyous and demanding responsibility of gathering with other Friends from across the US and Canada to discern how FGC faithfully can serve its member yearly and monthly meetings with vitality and spiritual depth.

FGC has been through two years of contraction in response to budgetary challenges. Having done significant work to make FGC more financially sustainable, Central Committee celebrated the opportunity to turn our attention in the year ahead to strengthening ongoing programs, and to preparing for an institutional assessment focused on addressing systemic racism and fostering faithful inclusion.

Here are some highlights of the governing board’s time together in worship, fellowship, and discernment.

Institutional Assessment on Racism

Central Committee united around the need to undertake institutional assessment to uncover structural racism within our organization – and to prepare plans for dismantling such structures. We heard from many yearly and monthly meetings about the importance of taking this step. As part of our commitment to collaborate with our affiliated yearly and monthly meetings, we will be sharing our learnings from this assessment with Friends across the USA and Canada.

Although structural oppression doesn’t diminish the presence of the Spirit in us or the vision of a “great people to be gathered,” it does create barriers that are stumbling blocks to full participation by many in our faith community. In dismantling these stumbling blocks, we must tap into the power of the Spirit while acknowledging the truth that structural oppression and systemic racism does spiritual violence to us all. To be faithful in this time we must do more than admit that such oppression and attitudes of privilege exist. We must act to eliminate them if we wish to be fully inclusive in ways that are more than mere words.

After getting bids from anti-racism consulting firms and building a draft budget, it’s become clear that this assessment may cost as much as $60,000. We will need financial support from meetings and individual Friends on top of their regular support for the FGC’s ongoing programs and services. We do have some pledges in hand for this work, but we need many more.

Spiritual Deepening

After careful planning and preparation, our long anticipated Spiritual Deeping Program launched on October 24. The first eight week online Spiritual Deepening group is underway and the next will begin in December. A number of local meetings have embarked on the small group portion of the program. Three topics comprising the first set of the program are available for use of Friends of all ages. Meetings are invited to engage with the Spiritual Deepening Program, which is a pay-as-led program with a suggested donation of $20 per participant per set. We look forward to additional sets of topics becoming available on a quarterly or semi-annual basis throughout 2017 and beyond.

Those of us attending Central Committee enjoyed a taste of the Spiritual Deepening Program through an exercise using a Pennington quote as springboard into reflections about the seed(s) God is sowing in our hearts at this moment. We were excited about FGC sharing this type of spiritual reflection and community building with other Friends. We encourage meetings who are looking to reinvigorate their religious education efforts to explore whether the Spiritual Deepening program would speak to their needs.

FGC Gathering

The 2017 Gathering will be in Niagara, NY, with the theme “Ripples Start Where Spirit Moves.” Plenary speakers have been chosen and their names and topics will be available online before the end of the year. We were reminded that People of Color have often experienced the Gathering sites as unwelcoming or hostile. Because of that, the Gathering Sites Selection Committee has been reconstituted to include a majority of Friends of Color in hopes of addressing this issue.

Budget

We have made tremendous strides toward cutting our expenses. As we move forward, we are focusing on communicating with Friends about the quality and impact our programs.  We expect that this will increase engagement with FGC, and will also increase financial support.  We need that increased financial support so that we can further reduce the amount we are drawing from reserves each year.

Other Programs

QuakerBooks FGC continues to operate a walk-in bookstore at Pendle Hill and an online bookstore, http://www.quakerbooks.org. Over the past year, we have improved our inventory control and customer service systems. We depend on Friends patronage to provide this important service.

Quaker Press is actively soliciting proposals for new books and pamphlets related to FGC’s major goals and programs.

Our Christian and Interfaith Relations Committee brings Quaker perspectives to ecumenical and interfaith events. It also connect us with faith-based conversations about truth, justice, and reconciliation.

The Quaker Cloud has recently undergone a number of technical improvements and a new way of providing customer support as we seek to provide meetings with an easy to maintain, low cost, and feature rich website that includes a minute manager and member directory.

Our Ministry on Racism offers assistance and support to meetings and yearly meetings that want to develop their racial and ethnic awareness, increase their diversity, and strive to address the impact of racism on our Society. Specific projects include the Pre-Gathering Retreat for People of Color and their Families, and organizing Friends to attend the annual White Privilege Conference (WPC). Last spring more than 400 people from Friends meetings and institutions attended WPC.

Faith & Play™ volunteers continue to create new curricula to explore Quaker practice and faith via the powerful Faith & Play methodology. This group works autonomously with support from FGC.

Friends Meeting House Fund provides loans for meetinghouse purchases and remodels, and some limited grants as well.

These programs and projects are only possible due to the efforts of hundreds of volunteers and donors across the United States and Canada. We are grateful for this support. Together we nurture the spiritual vitality of the Religious Society of Friends and nourish one another’s lives.

Download a PDF of the Central Committee 2016 Highlights

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7-Day mindfulness meditation retreat – Pendle Hill Mar 26-Apr 2, 2017

Present in Every Moment: Waking Up to Love and Compassion in Our Lives

A seven-day Mindfulness Meditation retreat with Mary Grace Orr, Anne Briggs, and Larissa Kitenko

Mindfulness meditation is a simple technique offered by the Buddha for awakening the mind and heart. This retreat will be a time of silence, with periods of sitting and walking practice, opportunities to talk about your own practice, and formal presentations. It is suitable for both beginners and experienced meditators.

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