Richmond Friends Meeting Interchange Reports
The text of Interchange reports from Richmond Friends Meeting available below. To jump to a particular report, simply click the link below.
|Fall 2012||Spring 2012||Winter 2012|
|Fall 2013||Winter 2013|
|Fall 2014||Spring 2014||Winter 2014|
|Spring 2015||Winter 2015|
|Winter 2016||Spring 2016|
|Winter 2017||Spring 2017|
Last October, Richmond hosted a Fall Retreat at “The Clearing.” RFM followed its path of examining racial privilege by inviting Corey Roberts, a diversity trainer, to lead us in a thoughtful process of clarifying our own biases and energizing our interest in creating a more inclusive and welcoming Meeting. Plans are underway for our Spring (Memorial Day weekend) and Fall Retreats (October 28). We welcome others to join us. This is a great opportunity to listen deeply and to find community in a peaceful wooded setting.
Since last spring, Richmond has been assisting a refugee family from Iraq. Members of Meeting were excited about this opportunity to help a family get acclimated to our country and have been generous with time, money and other things needed by the family. The family had been given a good start with help from Catholic Charities, Reestablish Richmond, and International Rescue Committee, but needed more person-help from a community group like ours. Transportation was an immediate first need as the family does not have a car; we have responded with rides to doctor and social service appointments, shopping for groceries and school supplies. When the family wanted to move to the opposite end of town, our members pitched in with two pick-up trucks and five people. Several others took the children to and from their new school for two weeks before they moved. Members generously donated a couch, dining table and chairs, a computer, five sewing machines, 4 of which were further donated to a sewing class for refugees, various other items as well as food. In addition, thanks to financial donations, we have paid their utilities and will continue until at least July of this year, plus some extra financial costs related to their move. Looking forward to a “typical Thanksgiving” potluck at a member’s home, we celebrate these new friendships we have formed with this couple and their two winsome children. They won’t always need our help, but our friendship with them will continue.
Early in 2016, the Adult Spiritual Education Committee pointed out that the Meeting had not done a Quakerism 101 program for a long time. Unable to locate any archived supporting documents for this subject, the committee created “Living the Quaker Life,” working with currently available materials. They started by offering a free copy of BYM’s Faith & Practice to all who committed to attend as many sessions as they could. They gave away over 50 books!
The committee then broke out topics, with accompanying readings in F&P, as follows: (1) How We Worship; (2) Living our Testimonies [Parts 1 & 2]; (3) Appreciating From Whence We Came; (4) How We Organize Ourselves and How We Conduct our Business; and (5) Living Our Faith. For each topic, one ASE member worked with a member on another committee to develop each presentation which then included certain elements: (1) An introduction; (2) A “Quaker Speak” video, developed under FGC auspices; (3) Development of the topic, introducing…; and (4) Some interactive time, usually breaking into small groups. The program was considered a success with about 50 people attending each session and overwhelming positive feedback being received. Some thoughts on why the program was so successful are: the interactive time was essential to engagement and maintaining interest, keeping things experiential, and building community; the short video helped break up the time. Additionally, giving out BYM F&P helped interest, commitment, and attendance. It helped to spread things out over a lot of people and devote so much time to open community participation. The ASE Committee is continuing this general theme throughout the year and looking ahead, covering topics like “Clearness Committees,” the Hicksite Split, theologies of early Quakers—any topic relevant to Living the Quaker Life.
The Peace and Social Concerns Committee continues to focus on tree basic issues: Racism, the Environment, and the Israeli-Palestinian crisis to which Poverty has been added as an additional concern. To these ends, they held a March forum on reconnecting with nature through organic gardening and straw-bale gardening. They are also sponsoring a forum in April on co-housing as well as holding a listening circle about “Quaker House Program Development.” This committee will co-sponsor a forum in May on Palestine’s Ramallah Friends School with the Adult Spiritual Education Committee. This program will feature Joyce Ajlouny, director of the school.
Ongoing, once a month two members of the committee lead a two-mile silent walking peace vigil along one of Richmond’s main thoroughfares. This vigil is attended by other Quakers as well as peace activists of other denominations. Additionally, for several months the committee has offered Palestinian olive oil for sale to Meeting members and attenders. These sales support Palestinian citizens who are dealing with the difficulties caused by the conflict between their country and Israel.
Meeting has given P & SC approval to move forward to support a refugee family. A sub-committee will soon contact an agency to connect them with a family.
The Adult Spiritual Education Committee continues with the Living the Quaker Life series each second and fourth First Days of March and April. This series has been received enthusiastically and continues to have good attendance.
Peace and Social Concerns is considering once again becoming involved in supporting refugees in the process of resettlement in the U.S. RFM has a considerable history of such activity to build upon. The committee is also continuing its’ prison visiting activity and promoting prison reform.
A six-session series entitled Living the Quaker Live will be held on the 2nd and 4th First Days in February, March, and April. The series is designed for newcomers, long-time members and attenders, and those who are considering membership. One or more of our Meeting’s elders will facilitate each of the sessions. Each session will have assigned readings from the Yearly Meeting’s 2013 Draft Faith and Practice and other readings selected by the facilitators. Each session will include a presentation, experiential activities, sharing, and questions and answers.
The Peace & Social Concerns Committee joined with the organization Richmonders For Peace in Israel and Palestine and presented the film Five Broken Cameras. This film explores the reactions of Palestinians to their loss of land to Israeli settlers and the construction of a security fence by the Israeli government. This film presentation was the fourth in a series leading up to a discussion of the book The Lemon Tree to be held at the main branch of the Richmond Public Library in April.
In Tenth Month 2014, Richmond Friends Meeting approved a Minute affirming its commitment to sign marriage licenses for all couples married under the care of the Meeting and celebrated the legality of all our marriages at the tenth month pot luck with a “quilt wedding cake.”
In October Peace & Social Concerns (P&SC) presented the film The Wisdom to Survive and in November presented a summary and facilitated a discussion of Elizabeth Kolbert’s book The Sixth Extinction. These two programs provided an introduction to a series of programs to be presented over the next three years providing an in depth exploration of the worldwide ecological/environmental crisis and global warming. The RFM Adult Spiritual Education Committee joined with P&SC in presenting these initial programs.
P&SC has joined with Richmonders for Peace in Israel and Palestine, a new area organization formed to promote greater understanding and compassion in the Richmond community for the seemingly intractable problem facing Israel and Palestine. Currently the approach being used involves joint sponsorship of films and discussions held in a variety of community venues. Such films as Promises, Death in Jerusalem, and Five Broken Cameras are being shown and discussed.
RFM held a New Member/New Baby welcome on 6/15 for new members, Marjory Bertolino and Kat Sharp and Persephone Powell born to Kitty and Zack Powell on 2/27. RFM is saddened by the passing in May of Ann Ellms, former member of RFM, who had been living at Friends House in Sandy Spring, as well as, the recent death of Marie Clark on August 10. Marie was 92 and had been married to Bob Clark for 65 years at the time of his death several years ago. Marie and Bob allowed RFM to use their home as collateral for the mortgage loan of our current Meeting House. RFM celebrated the marriage of Cali Jackson and Jimmy Cloutier on May 17th.
One of the main concerns of our Meeting’s members has been the many problems with the mass incarceration, the extension of terms, and the separation from family and community support for these prisoners. After one of our members was arrested while protesting torture at the School of the Americas, our Meeting became more alert to the harsh conditions for prisoners.
We have, as Quakers, been long-time objectors to the Death Penalty, and several of our members volunteer in the Federal Prisons in Petersburg, VA. Many of our members have read The New Jim Crow, and this has expanded our focus on prisons. We have hosted presentations from CURE, Offender Aid Restoration, and a former prisoner who was wrongfully convicted. We also hosted a member who leads Quaker Meetings at the Goochland Women’s Prison. As a way of reaching out to more members on these issues, we host listening circles to reflect on these programs and to consider actions that we might take in the future.
We have also encouraged members to write their representatives, especially the President, to release the Torture report in full to the public. And we maintain regular pro-peace initiatives at festivals and on the day for world peace. We are seeking ways to share information about the Israel/Palestine Conflict, starting with organizing information in bullet points, which might also aid members in reaching out to their legislators. We will also be meeting with the Richmond Peace Education Center. One of our members will also provide a list of corporations that should or are now being boycotted because of their financial benefit from the destruction in this region. And last year we presented a minute to the Meeting on this topic, allowing time later for discussion.
We also had a very successful blood drive in June at our Meeting House working with the Richmond Blood Service asking members to donate blood and encourage their friends to also donate. Twenty three pints were collected.
Finally, like many Quakers, we have been looking to take supportive action on the needs of the environment. We expect to focus on education about fracking and on the policies of Virginia’s Dominion Power, which has one of the lowest ratings in working for renewable energy. Also, some members may travel to the March for the Environment at the UN in September.
In the fall of 2009, the BYM ad hoc Committee on Gender and Sexual Diversity Concerns asked Meetings to consider a query: Should we offer the same marriage under the care of Meeting—no more and no less—to all couples, while encouraging couples who are legally able, to have a separate civil ceremony? In the fall of 2010 a concern was laid before the Meeting to consider our role in the legal business of marriage. Ministry & Worship had under its care the worshipful exploration of this concern, which led to a variety of forums, Worship Sharings, and dialogues over the four year period. In 3rd month, 2014 Meeting for Worship with Attention to Business, Richmond Friends Meeting approved the following minute:
In keeping with our Quaker testimonies of integrity and equality, Richmond Friends Meeting offers the same marriage under the care of Meeting to all couples. Because civil marriage is not legally available to all in the state of Virginia, we lay down our practice of signing marriage licenses, until such time that it is available to all.
A Memorial Meeting for Worship was held for our long-time Friend, Bob Conklin, on February 22, 2014, at Richmond Friends Meeting. We celebrated his life with joyous stories.
For four First Days in Second and Third Months, Friends will be reading and discussing Michelle Alexander’s book, The New Jim Crow, with the session beginning with two speakers from the Witness to Innocence program. These sessions are co-sponsored by our Peace and Social Concerns and Adult Spiritual Education Committees.
For the past three years, Richmond Friends Meeting has been questioning its involvement in legal marriage in Virginia, specifically if it wants to continue the practice of signing legal documents for heterosexual couples being married in our Meeting when this same privilege is denied same-sex couples in our Meeting who want to legally marry in Virginia. Over the years, several listening circles have been sponsored by Ministry & Worship in an effort to discern what steps we will take. Our most recent session offered those immediately affected by Virginia’s inequality marriage laws to share their stories. Appreciation and gratitude was expressed by those attending and it was felt this session was beneficial in understanding and dealing with the pain felt by those involved.
While the Richmond Meeting still struggles with its involvement in legal marriage in Virginia, we are rejoicing in the legal marriage of two same-sex couples in our Meeting. One marriage occurred in New York City and the other couple married in Washington, DC. This is exciting and joyful news in our community.
Richmond Friends Meeting and Friends from 13 Virginia Monthly Meetings have a joint membership in Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy. During the current 2014 session of the General Assembly, several Friends from our Meeting will be meeting with their State legislators to encourage that budget cuts not impact the poor, as well as working for Medicaid Expansion, immigration reform, eliminating the “gun show loophole” in Virginia gun sale regulations, and keeping the ban on uranium mining in Virginia. Friends will gather with other VICPP members from throughout the state on January 21 to discuss these issues with their State legislators.
The annual Memorial Day weekend Spring Retreat held at the Clearing, our retreat grounds in Amelia County, fostered enthusiastic multi-generational participation by the many attenders. In June cheerful applause greeted the choral performance of QWACS, nine Friendly female acapella singers. At a Rise of Meeting celebration a few days later, the community honored four high school graduates: Melanie Bricker, Stephen Moliterno, Carter Pope, and Haley Pope. Each graduate has enjoyed performing and studying music; each also plans to attend colleges both near and far to study music, engineering, music therapy, and elementary education. A mid-July highlight was the marriage, under the care of Meeting, of Ted Heck and Laura Goren, active members in BYM and FGC.
The Meeting continues to be enriched by the Adult Spiritual Education series that featured discussions of privilege this summer. Pat Schenck and Elizabeth Duverlie from the Working Group on Racism shared their insights. Adult education will continue in the fall. Several Friends also plan to attend the Spiritual Formation retreat in early September. The Financial Stewardship Committee is offering guidance to Friends in our giving practices. We are encouraged to give (as generously as grace allows) regularly throughout the year, and not wait with our gifts until the end of the year.
Witnessing to the world, we have held a Gun Violence Listening Circle, written letters to Senators Warner and Kaine requesting fair consideration of social needs in the sequestration process, and supported the Peace Education Center in studying military spending. A candlelight vigil for Peace will be held at the Meeting House on International Day of Peace, September 21.
Shiloh Quaker Campers
A list of recent and upcoming opportunities for joy, service, and learning at Richmond reveals the vitality of our individual and corporate lives in community: Sacred Circle Dancing; Singing; Take a Second for Peace walk; a Rise of Meeting Forum about Martin Luther King; another Forum on Israel and its treatment of Palestinians; Listening Circles on Quaker participation in the civil act of marriage; VICPP Lobbying Day at the General Assembly and an earlier FCNL Training and Lobbying Day in Washington; and a Meeting for Muffins introduction to BYM camping. Additional activities have been delivering and serving First Day evening meals to Hull Street Shelter; contributing food for clients of the Fan Free Clinic as well as the collection of socks for local jail inmates; delivering used clothing and household items to the Thrifty Quaker in Midlothian to support the Peace Education Center; and holding a fund-raising chili lunch for an April trip to re-build homes in the tornado-ravished rural crossroads of Ider, Alabama.
Braced with the blessings of our vibrant community we are now reaching deeply into the life of the Spirit in response to the tragic wounding of an attender. Please hold the wounded individual and family and our Meeting community in the Light as we journey through the shadows into the grace of healing and understanding.
Three Young Friends who graduated from high school this spring were honored at a reception sponsored by Religious Education in early June: Mariossa Marinelle, Alec Shobe, Martin Slag. We hold them in the Light as they advance to college. Friends Bob Rugg and Sally Jennings were married under the care of Meeting in June. Summer was ushered in with the well-attended, multi-generational Spring Retreat at the Clearing. Discussion focused on Keith Helmuth’s pamphlet, If John Woolman Were Among Us: Reflections on the Ecology of Flush Toilets And Motor Vehicles. We continue to use both. The summer term of Adult Education’s First Day 9:30 sessions, always popular, has featured Friends sharing their spiritual journeys through singing, quilting, reading, prayer, and Sufiism. The recently formed Aging Group meets quarterly and remains focused on learning how to help older Friends negotiate living safely and independently in their own homes. Outreach continues with the active participation of Friend Sally Gudas at the Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy. Several Friends are working on the Global Concerns Committee of the Richmond Peace Education Center to advance peace not war with Iran. The committee has met with Congressional Representatives and U.S. Senators. The Fit for Freedom, Not for Friendship Friendly Eight discussion group continues to explore ways to bridge the historically deep racial divides in Richmond.
The Spiritual State of the Meeting Report for Richmond Friends Meeting , currently awaiting final approval, affirms
“We are a Meeting that continues to benefit from turnover in committee members and position assignments. The regular reconfiguration of personnel ensures that new perspectives are seen and appreciated. We have been well Clerked in recent years with the result that we corporately trust in good results from Meeting for Worship with Attention to Business and beyond.”
Our 2011 membership report records 166 adult members and 43 youth members for a total of 209 members. Together with attenders and guests, we have
- contributed over $500 and 141 pounds of canned food in a food drive to support the Central Virginia Food Bank;
- organized a group of twelve volunteers to travel by caravan in early Fourth Month to the impoverished area of northeast Alabama to join United Methodists and the Long Term Recovery Committee of Jackson and Dekalb Counties who are repairing housing and other structures damaged by the severe tornadoes in 2011;
- whared stories of their spiritual lives and been enriched by a ‘Testing of the Waters” retreat led by the School of the Spirit;
- joined in prison visitation to several inmates, and provided meeting space for Virginia CURE working on criminal justice reform;
- provided faithful and spirit-led leadership to the “Take a Second for Peace” walk each second Seventh Day;
- read and discussed Fit for Freedom, Not for Friendship by Donna McDaniel and Vanessa Julye;
- together with the presentations, “Unpacking the 2010 Census: the New Realities of Race, Class and Jurisdiction,” discussion is ongoing in search for leadings to combat racism in the community and the Meeting;
- appreciated everyone’s talents, joys and humor in the March Coffeehouse sponsored by our Young Friends.
Our future activity is looking towards the presence of Chuck Fager, Director of Quaker House, who will bring an update on “the unfinished issue of accountability for official US torture and the likelihood of continuing torture in the increasingly secret wars in Afghanistan, Yemen, and elsewhere.” We are also anticipating committee work in cooperation with the Richmond Peace Center on articulating concern and opposition to the threat of war in Iran.
In Ninth Month, Peace and Social Concerns Committee and the Richmond Peace Education Center sponsored the AFSC exhibit of Eyes Wide Open boots and shoes, representing Virginia‘s U.S. military and Afghan civilian casualties in Afghanistan at the Family Peace Festival. The exhibit was highlighted in an article about the Festival in the Richmond Times Dispatch.
Beginning last summer, and continuing intermittently through the fall and winter seasons, the Adult Spiritual Education Committee has hosted a series of First Day presentations by individual Friends, The Many Experiences and Expressions of Spirituality. These programs of deep and insightful witness are well attended. In Second Month, faculty from the School of the Spirit will invite Friends to explore “musical pitch,” a beloved gift that helps us embody listening, knowing, and oneness with “that of God” in our daily lives. In First Month, the Religious Education Committee held a First Day full morning workshop for parents, “Integrating Quaker Values into Family Life,” led by Harriet Heath. Activities and care were provided for children and a potluck lunch was also shared. New members of the Meeting are Jay Tubb and David Bartlett.
Occupy Richmond has been invited to use the Meeting’s facilities for planning and organizing purposes. Activist and Friend Al Schnitzius has offered locally designed Prayer Flags to interested supporters, who are encouraged to display them in their yards and homes. The funds he collects are designated for the Occupy movement. Plans are now being finalized for able-bodied Friends to journey to Alabama in Fourth Month for a week, as they join work camp efforts that are rebuilding areas devastated by last year’s (and the more recent) tornadoes.
With the legislature in session during First and Second Months, Friends are active in representing issues of concern to their legislators. Friend Sally Gudas, working with the Friends Committee on Commonwealth Legislation (FCCL) and the Virginia Interfaith Council for Public Policy (VICPP) reliably and regularly informs Meeting of action needed to lobby for or against particular bills. Of immediate concern are bills that would expand the death penalty. We continue to voice strong opposition to capital punishment. Several Friends are also regular correspondents to the editorial pages of the Richmond Times Dispatch. The paper has honored their witness on behalf of social justice and environmental concerns by featuring their letters as “Correspondent of the Day” on at least two occasions in the past year.
This summer, Richmond Friends Meeting Adult Spiritual Education Committee sponsored a series of First Day classes entitled The Many Experiences and Expressions of Spirituality. This series allowed members and attenders to explore spirituality from other world religions and a wide range other areas. The series was a huge success and was very well attended. Class topics included: Nature as a Gateway to Mystical Moments; Spirituality in Poetry; Spirituality through Story; Discovering Your Own Spiritual Truth; Non-Theistic Spiritual Experience; Spirituality in Song.
The Meeting celebrated the graduations of three high school seniors: Ashton Bressler, Matt Moliterno, and Dale Wolf. Our best to these fine Young Friends. A new Haugh! Oscar Paz Haugh was born on June 14 and the precious baby was delivered just in the nick of time by his father, Scott, along Interstate 64!! Our very best wishes to Oscar, big sister, Rubi, Rosana and Scott Haugh. Beth Stanford and Jay Tubb were married under the care of the Meeting on July 9. Congratulations!