The events that have happened in our nation’s capital are deeply concerning. Below is a quote from Faith and Practice followed by a message from your Philadelphia Yearly Meeting Co-Clerks, Jean-Marie Prestwidge Barch and Frank Barch, and the General Secretary, Christie Duncan-Tessmer
Friends are reminded that our Religious Society took form in times of disturbance, and that its continuing testimony has been the power of God to lead men and women out of the confusions of outward violence, inward sickness, and all other forms of self-will, however upheld by social convention. As death comes to our willfulness, a new life is formed in us, so that we are liberated from distractions and frustrations, from fears, angers, and guilts. Thus, we are enabled to sense the Inward Light and to follow its leadings. Friends are advised to place God, not themselves, in the center of the universe and, in all aspects of inward life and outward activity, to keep themselves open to the healing power of the Spirit of Christ.
The first Advice in Philadelphia Yearly Meeting’s book, Faith & Practice
At the beginning of this new year, an act of insurrection at the Capitol Building in Washington, D.C. shocked and horrified the nation and the world. Though we feel anger, fear and pain, we pray for peace going forward, and that we each take an active role in making peace a more likely outcome.
We expect that in every election, all votes count and succession should be orderly and peaceful. Elections are fundamental to our democratic system. The hard-won enfranchisement of all US citizens needs to be exercised at every opportunity. This aligns with our testimony on equality (one person, one vote) and allows each individual to examine their conscience and share in support for the common good.
We recognize systemic racism and a lack of integrity in the responses to protestors. During 2020, nonviolent protestors of color were arrested, beaten, and tear-gassed, while in 2021, those white extremists who stormed the Capitol building experienced significantly less violent response from law-enforcement. There is a parade of similar examples in the past year. We believe that peaceful protest is fundamental to our democratic system. Our testimony on equality requires fair and equitable treatment of all in response.
As Friends, we are called to recognize fundamental truths. In a time when pandemic and economic hardship disproportionately impact people of color and people who are poor, this is not the time for casting blame; this is the time for taking responsibility. In the tradition of Friends, we offer a set of queries to examine our faith in this moment.
At what point in the many months of escalation toward the violence in the Capitol might I have acted differently? How might that have changed the current situation?
Based on the events of 2020, how do I think the outcome of the violence in Washington DC might have been different if black, brown and indigenous people had been the primary participants? What does that mean to me?
Even with our many shortcomings, Friends are striving toward the Light. What does my faith demand of me in response to the events of this month?
How do I demonstrate in my way of living, and in what I teach children in my life, that love of God entails acknowledging “that of God in every person”? How will I grow in that?
In the coming days, let us each consider these queries and embrace opportunities to share our responses with others.
Jean-Marie Prestwidge Barch & Frank Barch, Clerks, Philadelphia Yearly Meeting firstname.lastname@example.org
Christie Duncan-Tessmer, General Secretary, Philadelphia Yearly Meeting email@example.com
Crisis resources for meetings and Friends are available on the PYM website