“Sacred Activism is the fusion of the mystic's passion for God with the activist's passion for justice, creating a third fire, which is the burning sacred heart that longs to help, preserve, and nurture every living thing.” Andrew Harvey
At the AFSC Corporation meeting this month Jenn Piper, AFSC’s Interfaith Immigrant organizer in Denver, talked about the importance of mystics and activists in faith communities working together. She said the activist often gets frustrated by the mystic’s focus on journeying inward for insight and not engaging in the world; the mystic gets frustrated with the activist’s constant activity which they feel is ungrounded in the Spirit.
Mystics can focus so inwardly, they forget the world and don’t ground their seeking in engagement; activists can be so engaged in activity and movements, they forget reflection, self-care and risk burning out. She said she’s seen how much more effective and spiritually powerful both can be when joining in witness together. The mystic invites the activist to slow down, reflect and center his or her action in community and a spiritual source; the activist invites the mystic to journey outward into community and grounds contemplation in relationship.
Piper shared a framework developed by Unitarians for doing social justice work within congregations in which mystics and activists partner with the communities they are working to support. That model includes tenets for doing social change work as companioning adapted from the work of Alan Wolfelt. The tenets arise from this understanding of how important engaging the heart is in all social justice work. The principles seem very connected to the work to which we are inviting Quaker churches and meetings. Here are a few of them, for reflection and to consider as you work in your faith community for change.
Companioning is going to the wilderness of the soul with another human being without thinking you are responsible for finding the way out.
Companioning is honoring the spirit as well as the intellect.
Companioning is listening with the heart before analyzing with the head.
Companioning is walking alongside; it is not about leading with expertise and solutions.
Companioning is discovering the gifts of sacred silence without filling up every moment with words.
Companioning is about being still and not about frantic movement.
It strikes me that the center of our work is seeking wholeness: the wholeness of real relationships across divides whether those divides are socially constructed like race and class; or divides of focus like that of the mystic or activist. In the end the deepest changes require us to join hands across such barriers and discover what we might understand and achieve together.
Lucy Duncan, Director of Friends Relations
P.S. Read Madeline Schaefer's thought-provoking reflections on Active Mysticis in which she explores these ideas more deeply in an Acting in Faith post. Please feel free to make comments, and extend the conversation.
This year AFSC staff will be leading or co-leading five intensive workshops at the FGC Gathering of Friends in the first week of July. Madeline and I will also be organizing a full schedule of afternoon events and Laura Magnani, AFSC staff in San Francisco, will be presenting the full gathering address on Friday evening. Would you like to engage deeply with AFSC folks on issues of concern among Friends? Join us at the FGC Gathering and explore spirit-guided activism. Learn more.
Join our next call for AFSC liaisons and other Friends on April 14th from 7:30 to 9 p.m. eastern daylight time. Aura Kanegis and Doug Bennett will present on Shared Security, the basic principles, and how Quaker meetings and churches can extend the conversation and bring it forward into their communities. Call 1-866-740-1260 and enter access code 2419995# to join the call. You can see all the future scheduled calls for Quakers here.
AFSC and Just World Books are co-sponsoring a U.S. author tour of several of the contributors to "Gaza Writes Back: Short Stories from Young Writers in Gaza, Palestine" from April 1st to April 24th. Find an event location near you or if you can’t make one of these, take a look at the video of the recent Google Hang Out AFSC hosted with several of the authors.
AFSC offices throughout the U.S. are participating in the #Not1More coalition protests on April 5th to call on Obama to stop all deportations as the number deported in his tenure surpasses two million. Invite your meeting/church members to join in an AFSC or coalition member sponsored event at the #Not1More coalition website, tweet officials to stop deportations and sign the AFSC petition calling for an end to breaking up families with deportations.
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AFSC’s newly appointed Board clerk, Phil Lord, explored the spiritual basis of AFSC’s work in the world in this recent post. He says, “Our seeking is rooted not only in silence but also in engagement. We must go out as well as within. If we reach out to the world, the still small voice we hear emerging from our re-centered consciousness can resonate with the cries of the oppressed.” Read more.
Pastor C. Wess Daniels delivered this message on the danger of the “single story” and the importance of angelic troublemakers during the semi-programmed worship at the Corporation Meeting. “We need in every community people whose relationships move from the veneer of sameness, to the depth of difference. We need in every community people who can look into the eyes of friend and foe alike and ‘answer that of God in everyone.’” Read more.
Read the Epistle arising from the recent AFSC Corporation Meeting, held March 6-8 in Philadelphia, which outlines the many activities and events that weekend: “Some Friends came on canes, walkers, crutches, or braces. But don’t be fooled: Corporation members representing U.S. yearly meetings traveled long distances through inclement weather to reach AFSC’s annual business meeting.As a community of seekers, we gathered in this sacred place to address peace and social justice issues of our contemporary world.” Read more.
American Friends Service Committee
The American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) is a Quaker organization that includes people of various faiths who are committed to social justice, peace, and humanitarian service. Our work is based on the principles of the Religious Society of Friends, the belief in the worth of every person, and faith in the power of love to overcome violence and injustice.
In 1947, AFSC was a co-recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize, for our work “…from the nameless to the nameless….” on behalf of all Quakers.