Peace and Social Concerns Committee Interchange Reports Committee Report
For the next year, we have laid out some goals for nurturing Social Justice work between and among the BYM community and also reaching beyond ourselves. There will be some activities that people can participate in, and these will be announced as they are developed. We also will be adding a regular submission to Interchange on specific topics and ways Friends can get involved. With this edition, we are starting with Prison Ministry. Historically, Friends have been very involved in Prison Ministry with an eye towards prisoner re-integration into society. There are a few programs locally that people can get involved in, each with varying levels of commitment.
Alternatives to Violence (AVP): Training to become an AVP facilitator involves taking the 3 levels of workshops. (Basic, Second Level, and Training for Trainers) Community members can take workshops in an institution, which is a great place, especially if there is thought of working in the institution. Nancy Hutchinson of Annapolis Friends Meeting is one of the Mid-Atlantic AVP Representatives, and can be contacted at 301-668-8213 or email@example.com for more information. She would be glad to forward inquiries to specific prison programs. In addition, there will be an annual Regional AVP Gathering on Nov. 12 at Stony Run Meeting. For more information, go to http://www.avpusa.org/.
Re-entry Mediation: Community Mediation Maryland coordinates community mediation centers across the state. Trained mediators provide services for an inmate and one or more people from their family or community to help ease the transition back to the community. Mediators have taken a 50-hour mediation training, plus some additional hours for this particular program. Anyone interested in becoming a volunteer mediator, should contact CMM at www.MDMediation.org or 410-553-0206.
Prison Pen-Pal Program: Run by members of Sandy Spring Meeting’s Prison Committee. Many of the more than 2 million prisoners have little or no contact with family or friends. A word from the outside is a ray of sunshine, even from a stranger. All correspondence is passed through Sandy Spring Friends Meeting, so home addresses are kept confidential. This is a great way to reach out with little effort. For information, please contact Jack Fogarty (firstname.lastname@example.org">email@example.com), Mike Bucci (firstname.lastname@example.org">email@example.com) or John Worley (Worley.firstname.lastname@example.org">email@example.com).
Peace and Social Concerns Steps into the New Year
reported by Brad Ogilvie (abridged), Clerk, Peace & Social Concerns
“Peace” is a dance, not a stance. We can easily dance among ourselves, but when we also learn to dance joyfully with people we may not know, and with whom we may not agree, we are bringing greater peace. To joyfully seek that of God in all things is to see all people and things as dance partners.
We also recognize that the greatest marks left by Friends in the world–from influencing the ideals of our country, to the abolition movement, to voting rights for women–have often been the work, passions and leadings of individuals, not committees. What these individuals shared was a fire and a passion that could not be extinguished. Knowing their objectives would not be achieved in their lifetime, they remained undeterred in working towards how they envisioned the world should be. Quakerism was often the source and inspiration of their work, and what emboldened them to take leaps of faith, to speak their truths, and as a result, the world is better.
Within this Yearly Meeting, we know that there are many good things happening in the name of peace. Support for, and active involvement in, the works of African Great Lakes Initiative, the Zarembkas and Ann Riggs in east Africa; Bolivian Quakers; the work of the Intervisitation Committee and involvement with FUM are but a few. There are also the leadings of individuals within our Yearly Meeting, and some local Meetings that are doing wonderful works in their community. At the same time, we recognize that some PSC Committees struggle and may even be inactive. Just this week we heard, for example, that the Ad Hoc committee on gender and sexual diversity is laying itself down, and yet even in Friendly circles we hear people and things being called “gay” in a world where this kind of benign intent can do harm. So while a committee’s work may be done, there is still work to be done.
We recognize that all things are connected. Torture, hunger, and the fuel and energy we have all consumed to be here this week are connected. We cannot shy away from this fact, but should instead be willing to embrace it. A challenge for all of us is to take the learning, wisdom and passions we share to not only support the issues, causes and programs we care about and deem worthy, but to apply them in our daily lives so that in the communities where we live, eat, sleep and work, we can know that the world is ever so incrementally better for having had this day. Supporting programs and building relations in remote places – whether they be in prisons, in South America, on a Reservation, or in Africa – is necessary, but if we do not also expand our circle of dance partners in our own backyard joyfully seeking that of God in all, we are missing something. It is relationships – honest, genuine relationships that we live out every day – that bring unity to our global community.
As the Peace Testimony marks its 350th year, this committee will be looking for more opportunities to create more dancers and partners, seeking to nurture the leadings of some while creating opportunities for others to explore the world in new ways, with new lenses, learning new ways to engage or to simply re-contextualize the issues. Some examples of our work include:
• Prison Ministry. (see Committee Report)
• National and International legislation.
It is our strong hope that Friends can find their piece of the puzzle – their gift, their voice, their leading – and to invite this committee to be a part of nurturing it and being nurtured by it. Ultimately we are seeking to move towards the day when there are no destructive barriers of “us” and “them”. We welcome people to attend our meetings with their ideas. We encourage folks to join us on September 10 for our annual Networking Day, as well as at William Penn House for our Sunday 9/11 potluck when we will be talking about what we can learn from this past decade that we can take into our future with meaning and purpose, rather than lamentation. We also ask that active PSC committees share with us their works.
For the past six months, the Committee has continued exploring how Friends can engage in promoting peace in the Mideast while expanding relations in our local community. We do not have answers but feel we have better questions to lead us to the next phase as we invite people who share a desire for peace in the Mideast but may have differing investments and/or ideas of how to achieve that peace to join us. As part of this work, we are also reaching out to Local Meetings to invite ourselves to their Meetings as we seek to bring greater fellowship within as well. We are on course to submit a full report at Annual Session this August about this experience and how we envision this can benefit our shared desires for a more harmonious and just world.
As many Friends may know, Maryland Governor O’Malley is seeking to abolish the death penalty in that state, a move that is in alignment with Quakers and our work over the decades. Gary Gillespie, a member of Homewood Friends Meeting and the Executive Director of the Central Maryland Ecumenical Council, is actively involved in supporting this move. Maryland Friends are encouraged to get in touch with Gary to stay information about how and when to best get involved, including getting more information about an ecumenical event that will be held in Annapolis on February 6 (details are still being worked out). Gary’s e-mail is firstname.lastname@example.org.