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When I told my parents I had fallen in love with a woman, my dad embraced me. He didn’t hesitate in supporting me. My mother said, “You will need to be very brave.” I fell in love with Graham, my life partner, after identifying as a lesbian for seven years. When our relationship became pretty serious, I didn’t want to leave behind my identity as a queer woman.
I had a dinner party for Graham and invited my lesbian friends. They had in mind asking him challenging questions like, “If you were a flower, what kind of flower would you be?” He enjoyed himself very much and seemed completely at ease with them. Both my parents and Graham offered me acceptance when I really needed it. They made me feel that it was okay to be me.
Last week I led an activity that I learned from AFSC co-worker Jordan Garcia. I invited participants to consider a time that was hard for them, to think of someone that was supportive, and to name what these allies did. People said, “Listened, let me cry, took responsibility, used their power in support, challenged other people, and took a risk.”
I asked the participants to think of a time when someone didn’t support them and what that person did. People said, “Judged me, gave advice, overreacted, shut me out, and joined others against me.” Then I asked what the relationship between the two lists – actions that are supportive, actions that are unsupportive—is. They said that when you’re supportive, you’re “open, empathetic, conscious, connected.” When you’re unsupportive, you’re “disconnected, reactive, passive, and closed.”
I looked at this list and thought how much being an effective ally is a spiritual discipline, related to how connected one is to the Spirit and to oneself. Sometimes grace and forgiveness are essential in moving back to being an ally, to being in strong relationship with those we are seeking to support. The same kind of gentleness and compassion is often needed toward oneself in order to become more awake, more conscious, and a better ally.
AFSC’s work is deeply grounded in this spiritual work of really listening, of joining our power with others in support. The work of the Quaker Meeting/Church Liaison program is intended to assist meetings and churches in developing the skills of being an effective ally, of really being there for those who need it.If you haven’t already, I hope you will join us in that work, connecting to your community and the broader work of AFSC. To learn more about the program, listen to an audio description and discussion of the program from last week. Please let me know if your meeting or church would like to participate.
I visited AFSC’s New Mexico farmer training program in August and got to visit with program director Don Bustos on his farm near Espanola. In collaboration with the community, Don is helping to grow a sustainable future by teaching underserved farmers the sustainable agricultural methods of his ancestors. Don says, “The principle of simplicity is a basis for our program—how much do you need to support your family? Community is a part of it, too—we are part of a bigger creation, and we are part of a bigger whole. Acknowledging the creator and the earth and how we all work together is central. We inherently live within the Quaker values.” Read more.
After the shootings at the Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wis., the local Sikh community west of Philadelphia invited neighbors to participate in a vigil to raise awareness and call for acceptance. I attended the vigil with a few other Quakers and wrote a reflection about the event. Read more.
In May, I presented the annual Weed lecture at Beacon Hill Friends House. They kindly gave me permission to republish an excerpt of the lecture at Acting in Faith: “My sense is that within the current chaos and tribulations there is a manifestation of God striving to be born, that the cracks revealed in our human systems, in our religious communities, in our treatment of the earth and fellow creation reveal new possibilities and ways we might live more faithfully. I believe we are called to assist in that work, to be midwives of the emergent spiritual transformation trying to be born.” Read more.
Each year since 2010, AFSC has invited youth from around the country to consider the U.S. federal budget priorities, the cost of war, and how they might prioritize federal dollars differently. In March many of the young filmmakers go to Washington, D.C. for a film festival and to spend a few days lobbying Congress about the priorities they would set.
AFSC invites Quaker meetings and churches to work with their youth to create submissions for “If I Had a Trillion Dollars.” There is a full curriculum and website to support the program. You can read more about the project in this guest Acting in Faith post by program director Erin Polley.
Erin will be introducing the program for Quaker meetings/churches and AFSC liaisons on a call on Nov. 7 at 7 p.m. U.S. eastern time. Contact me if you’d like to join that call.
Many of you may have seen the article in the November issue of Friends Journal, “Witnessing to Wall Street” by Jeff Perkins, Executive Director of Friends Fiduciary Corporation. He talks about the spirit-guided process in which the organization considered requests from monthly meetings to divest from companies that support or profit from the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian Territories.
Ann Arbor (in 2011) and Sandy Spring (in May 2012) Monthly Meetings sent minutes to Friends Fiduciary requesting that the organization consider divestment from a number of companies profiting from the conflict in Israel/Palestine. At the time of the article Friends Fiduciary had become clear to divest from Caterpillar and was still discerning about two other companies. Since the publication of that article, Friends Fiduciary has become clear to divest from the remaining two companies, Hewlett-Packard and Veolia Environment. Valero Energy Corporation has been taken off the divestment list because of changes in company practice.
Illinois Yearly Meeting approved a minute at their 2011 annual sessions, and other monthly and yearly meetings are considering the question. Inspired by Sandy Spring’s minute, Baltimore Yearly Meeting’s Peace and Social Concerns committee will be visiting constituent monthly meetings during the coming year “to engage in a corporate search for a Spirit-guided ways to address the conflict between Israel and Palestine.” If your Quaker meeting or church would like to get involved, here are resource materials to support your consideration of the question.
Read more: See this Huffington Post article on Quaker divestment.