Love and labour within Salem Quarter was released into our wider religious Society of Friends with PYM’s First Contact Reconciliation Collaborative. During the kick-off workshop at Annual Sessions 2017, participants leaned in toward understanding Tribal Sovereignty. Recently, following the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) convention in Denver, outreach was initiated by “extended family,” Rev. Dr. JR Norwood (Nanticoke-Lenape), co-chair for NCAI’s task force on federal recognition, to tribal allies, the SQ Indian Affairs Committee. Pastor Norwood brings to Friends’ attention the Nov. 2nd screening of PROMISED LAND, hosted by the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI) in conjunction with the NCAI and the Alliance of Colonial Era Tribes (ACET.) The documentary is an award-winning social justice documentary that follows two tribes as they fight for the restoration of treaty rights they’ve long been denied. In following their story, the film examines a larger problem in the way that the government and society still looks at tribal sovereignty. Pastor Norwood will be part of a post screening panel discussion at NCAI; details are posted on the PYM calendar. Coming First Contact Reconciliation Collaborative events will continue to help shed light on denials of tribal sovereignty, human rights, and social justice. The FCRC website offers a variety of “growing edge” opportunities; we are open to hearing how we might further serve Friends.
Indigenous Peoples’ Day Philly 2018
Blessings from Indigenous Peoples’ Day Philly 2018, a two-day celebration within Lenapehoking! Members of Indigenous organizations in Philadelphia came together providing a second year’s acknowledgment & celebration of their Indigenous cultures, shinning light on their unique presence in Philadelphia.
During the Friday evening Teach-In at Friends Center, Chief Brooks (Delaware Tribe of Indians, Bartlesville, OK) and Rev. Dr. J.R. Norwood (Nanticoke-Lenape, Bridgeton, NJ) spoke of Lenape Tribal history, culture, religion, and contemporary concerns; Christina Marie González spoke of Taíno identity and cultural development among Puerto Ricans and their homeland Borikén/ Puerto Rico; Peruvian musician, Richie Olivera, performed Andean Music using native South American instruments accompanied by a backing track; the short film “First Light,” an Upstander Project, focused our witness of genocidal “removal” practices – Indian children being taken from their homes and its inherent trauma; and finally, Felicia Teter closed the Teach-In with intentional reflective inquiries toward “breaking the cycles of abuse…so that we may all finally be free.”
The following day, in Hunting Park, during a mini-powwow, prayers and celebrations of cultural beauty unfurled – Nanticoke-Lenape Tribal Nation drummers, hoop dancer, grass dancer, womens’ fancy dancer; Andean musician; Taíno dancers and table display of cultural lifeways; Aztec dancers; Inter-tribal dances where all were invited to participate.
We can say WANISHI (Lenape) to express our gratitude for the work bringing everyone together. Being present, building relationship, matters. As way opens…may love and light guide a potential IPD Philly 2019!
Photo: Nanticoke-Lenape Fancy Dancer c) 2018 ALL RIGHTS RESERVED s, o’scheyichbi
Ujima Friends: Part of Us
At a recent meeting, the Quaker Life Council considered and celebrated the expression of Quaker Faith & Practice that is our Ujima Friends Peace Center. In the year that it has existed, the center has forged profound connections with the community in which it is located in North Philadelphia. Friends at the center established a summer freedom school, teaching young people an adapted peace curriculum called the Mpatapo Curriculum, which synthesizes African principles and Quaker values. The Ujima Friends Peace Center community also offers tenants’ rights classes every Saturday at 11am and organizes a monthly food give away. The community meets for worship every Sunday, and many PYM Friends who are members at monthly meetings also count themselves as members of the Ujima Friends Peace Center. Learn more about the center at ujimafriends.org.
As stated on their website, the work of the Ujima Friends Peace Center is to reduce violence and provide a safe haven with educational, cultural and recreational opportunities for adults and young people. The [center] is a ministry of the Fellowship of Friends of African Descent.
The word Ujima conveys the intention to make our brothers’ and sisters’ problems our problems and to solve them together. At its meeting held on Saturday, September 15, 2018, the Quaker Life Council honored this intention by recognizing that the Ujima Friends Peace Center is an imperative part of the wider body of PYM of Friends. The center’s ministry expresses a central message of Quakerism: with worship and spiritual practice at its core, it is possible for faith to reveal insights in unexpected and liberating ways that bring us closer to justice. Indeed, the emergence of the Ujima Friends Peace Center has tremendous historical significance. This is the first worshiping Quaker community conceived of and maintained entirely by Quakers of African descent. The center was envisioned first by the Fellowship of Friends of African Descent in their 2016 Minute Regarding State Sanctioned Violence. Read the full minute here. Some excerpts of the minute are included at the end of this story.
The Quaker Life Council approved the following minute of action:
“Friends around the table gave joyful and tearful spirit-led testimony to how Ujima Friends Peace Center in a short period of time has changed the neighborhood around the Peace Center, the lives of individual Friends, and Philadelphia Yearly Meeting. Friends sensed the joyful presence of the Spirit being witnessed and fed at Ujima. QLC sensed Spirit calling members to support the programs and efforts of the Center. Supporting the Center is in alignment with PYM strategic directions. Members acknowledged that the Ujima Friends Peace Center arose from a 2016 minute from the Fellowship of Friends of African Descent. The minute exemplified a minute of concern with clear action and designated resources committed to following it through. At the time, there was not a clear path for bringing a minute of concern to PYM.
1.Friends APPROVED $10,000 to Ujima Friends Peace Center from its General Fund and $5,000 from the Strategic Reserve Fund.”
The Ujima Friends Peace Center has asked that we hold their ministry in the Light. They are happy to hear from friends through email or receive words of encouragement through the mail.
For those who are interested in donation, you can give through their website here or by mailing a check made out to Ujima Friends Peace Center at 1701 W. Lehigh Avenue, 19132.
Excerpts from the 2016 Minute on State Sanctioned Violence:
“We grieve the loss of any human life, including the lives of police. However, the presence of the police too often seems like an occupying force designed to protect and serve an invisible elite instead of protecting those who reside in our communities. We also recognize that the violence and tragic killing of innocent civilians have touched so many in our communities. We believe that these evil forces cannot be overcome through retribution and retaliation, and can only be overcome through respect, resources and love. Jesus taught us that the love of God and our neighbor is the greatest commandment.”
“In the absence of real opportunities for employment and economic self-sufficiency underground economies rise up in our communities to fill the gap. People in these economies are criminalized and prosecuted even though they are only seeking to provide enough resources to support their families. We realize that we cannot have a meaningful conversation about ending racial oppression without also addressing classism, joblessness and wealth inequality.”
“In response to these realities, we, as Quakers and as people of African descent call for the following:
…2. PEACE CENTERS. The development and support of “peace centers” in our communities which will provide safe havens and educational, cultural and recreational opportunities for young people in our communities. Quaker Alternatives to Violence trainings can be redesigned to be rooted in the cultural experience of African people. These centers will function as spaces where Quaker worship and values can be modelled and developed…”
A New Creation Story: Embracing Love
As Friends, we understand that scripture uses stories about the natural world to describe the spiritual life. But, do we ever consider the facts of our biological existence as containing stories that can also illuminate our spiritual journey?
For O., a member of Central Philadelphia Monthly Meeting, carrying this query for pastoral ministry awakens joy in her heart. It raises important questions: Are we transformed by the power of love, during our biological conception as human beings? Might our lives be a measureless love story about creation?
It is a story that starts with sensational vibrations and biochemicals, in a catalytic universal converter. From a single body we evolve into an ever-unfolding system, recreating songs of universal rhythms. This transformation from the singular, the body, to the cosmic, conforms elegantly to the central tenets of physical and psychological evolution.
“We are, as conscious beings, a vital part of the environment. Spiritually and physically, we all exist as essential elements entangled within creation’s evolution. This entanglement lives in our bodies even if our minds have forgotten it,” says O.
O feels that this inquiry “…is an invitation to a holistic creation parable that we have all lived. I share this as a supplement to the Book of Genesis,” she says. It is a theology that retains Quakerism’s core insight regarding the creative power of the Dark and the Light and places it within a contemporary biological framework.
“Life begins in the heavenly body, of a generous universe! We forget how our miraculous journey as egg and sperm played out in the body of our mother’s womb. From inception we are attuned towards connection and cooperation. This cosmic womb functions as a part of the body of the world to express God’s compassion.
It’s how life is delivered to earth,” continues O. The word compassion in English comes from the Hebrew word (Ra-chamim) meaning womb. So, what do we do with this new narrative; what point of view might this information spur from the controlling ego?
It is here that the story can come to life for Friends. The Light can move us from egocentricity to love of God in others and ourselves, this we know. The function of this new creation story is to give us an awakened awareness of our role in the re-creation of our lives.
“It leads to an awakening to a more intimate and deeper relationship to our breathing that guides us towards our ability to be still, to pause and to listen viscerally. This process supports us in remembering that our only purpose here on earth is to love.
“For me,” says O, “if you are not loving me (or your neighbor) you are violating me (and the neighbor by breaking the laws of love), in one way or another. And if I am not loving you I am violating the laws of Love, the very laws that created the universe as a unified living eco-system.
“So, it is a new/old story of our creation. And, it is ultimately about soul care. It awakens the wisdom of the body. The inspiration of the spirit to guide us to giving care to the soul, our own and others. Through breathing into this this new personal/cosmic story (within this miraculous eco-Body of God) we are called to be alive and open to the creative and transforming power of love.”
O is available as a PYM Resource Friend in Ministry & Care to share her ministry with Friends. She can be reached at loveworks24.7@gmail
How-To: State of the Meeting Reports
This is the story of how one monthly meeting developed a great way to write a state of the meeting report that can also serve as a community-building tool.
Lancaster Friends Meeting has been doing state of the meeting reports for a long time. At least by the mid-1990’s, the meeting designated three people to write the report. These three individuals pulled things together from across the various groups and committees active in the meeting. With this process, the report gradually deteriorated into a very lengthy list of the all the things the meeting had done in the past year; it seemed the meeting’s newsletters accomplished the same basic task of listing all of the community’s activities. When this conundrum finally became apparent, no one really knew what to do.
There were a couple of years when there weren’t any state of the meeting reports written at all. [Read more…] about How-To: State of the Meeting Reports
Resource Friends at Annual Sessions!
At the 2018 Annual Sessions this year, there will be a booth during free time and dinner time on Thursday and Friday where Resource Friends will be available to talk with you about their work and what they might be able to support for you and your meeting. They will also be offering workshops on Friday and Saturday. Resource Friends help our community thrive by providing support in specific areas of concern in our monthly and quarterly meetings. They offer a diversity of gifts and an extensive “how-to” knowledge-base. [Read more…] about Resource Friends at Annual Sessions!
Community Building: Awareness & Empowerment
Beth Popelka has followed a leading about theatre as a transformative practice that connects communities to the sacred since early in her adult life. For the past twenty years, she has worked to continue the legacy of Augusto Boal and other innovators to create dramatic group experiences that open communities to hidden sources of healing and wholeness.
“The exploration of embodied imagery empowers communities to face issues which they might otherwise avoid,” according to Beth. It helps them access others way of knowing. Ways that tap into the body’s wisdom.
The Wisdom of the Body to Heal Itself
“The body knows our condition if you will. It holds our traumas and our hurts. But, it can also open us to so much wisdom about coping with life and overcoming trauma and pain. When we get to be in our bodies, to enact our stories of pain and of joy as a group, we discover that our awareness of our needs and of others expands. Creating a connection,” says Beth.
“Not only that but the stories we tell ourselves about life, especially our lives and our troubles with others, come to be seen in a new and often healing light.” This is what makes the work so exciting for Beth. “For me, it is a sacred practice because, like Quaker meeting, when it works well, it is a collected peak experience that connects us to the mystery and wonder of being alive.”
A Source of Empathy and Compassion
At the recent, PYM Pastoral Care Thread Gathering, Beth led the morning workshop on responding to conflict in meeting. As each small group presented its embodied dramatic image, the picture-story of its conflict, Friends watching could be heard expressing sighs of recognition and “a-ha’s” of empathy and insight.
The compassion expressed by everyone to the image and the wisdom revealed in its embodied presentation was profound and moving. It led to a strong sense of empowerment, knowing that the solution to many of our problems may be found in the images we hold about them. And, that creatively embodying these image reveals a deep wisdom that leads to transformation and renewal for communities and individuals.
Beth Popelka is available as a Resource Friend to conduct Empowerment and Community Building Workshops and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org