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Stories from the people of AVQM

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in Introduction to Quakerism, Stories from the people of AVQM

A member of Hartshill Meeting in the UK, dressed as Quaker founder George Fox.

Friend Carol Bradley recently visited with UK Quakers to attend Britain Yearly Meeting‘s annual gathering.  She brought back photos and stories of her travels to locations that were significant in the life of early Quaker George Fox.  Here are some of the things she saw and learned.  Quotes are from George Fox’s journal.

She writes,

Hartshill Quakers organized a day out by charter bus for folks attending Britain Yearly Meeting. A young man from the Meeting, dressed as George Fox, read aloud from Fox’s journal in each place where the tour stopped.  The Meeting provided a lovely lunch for 25. The folks at Drayton church receive frequent Quaker ‘pilgrims’ and were very hospitable, with tea and homemade ‘biscuits’. At Market Bosworth, we found the priest had not known the story of Fox being ejected from the church and was as entertained as we were.

[See more of Carol’s photos]

Fenny Drayton: Where Fox was Born

Fenny Drayton Church

“ I was born in the month called July in the year 1624 at Drayton-in-the-Clay in Leicestershire. My father’s name was Christopher Fox; he was by profession a weaver, an honest man and there was a seed of God in him. The neighbours called him ‘a righteous christer’. My mother was an upright woman; her maiden name was Mary Lago, of the family of the Lagoes and of the stock of martyrs…”

Mancetter: “Despair and Temptation”

Mancetter Church

“…after this I went to another ancient priest at Mancetter in Warwickshire and reasoned with him about the ground of despair and temptations, but he was ignorant of my condition; and he bid me take tobacco and sing psalms. Tobacco was a thing I did not love and psalms I was not in an estate to sing, then he bid me come again and he would tell me many things, but when I came again he was angry and pettish, for my former words had displeased him. And he told my troubles and sorrows and griefs to his servents, so that it got among the milk lasses, which grieved me that I should open my mind to such a one.”

Atherstone: “Glory and Life Shined Over All”

“…from Coventry, I went to a place called Atherstone and when I was two miles off it the bell rang upon a market day for lecture, and it struck at my life, and I was moved to go to the steeplehouse, and when I came into it I found a man speaking and as I stood among the people the glory and life shined over all, and with it I was crowned, and when the priest had done I spoke to him and the people the truth and the light which let them see all that ever they had done, and of their teacher within them, and how the Lord had come to teach them himself, and of the seed of Christ in them; how they were to mind that, and the promise that was the seed of God within them, which is Christ.

And they were generally pretty quiet, only some few raged and it set them in a hurry and under a rage. Some said I was mad and spoke to my outward relations to tie me up. And I passed away in peace in the power of the Lord God, and the truth came over all and reached into the hearts of many people.”

Market Bosworth: “We Passed In the Truth of God”

Market Bosworth Church

“Then I was moved to go to Market Bosworth on market day. He that preached that day was Nathaniel Stephens, who was priest of the town where I was born. He raged much when I spoke to him and the people in the steeplehouse and yard of the truth and light within people to guide them to Christ from sin. And he told the people I was mad (though he said before there was never such a plant bred in England), and he bid the people they should not hear me, and the clerk bid us to go out of the steeplehouse, for he was to lock the door. When we were in the market place Friends asked where was the place to try the ministers but in the steeplehouse, and bid them to come forth and prove their call and ministry. But the people of the town and market fell upon us and stoned us very sore, and abused us, hundreds of them with stones, a great way out of the town, that it was a wonder we escaped with out lives, and so we passed away in the truth of God, to the shame of both priests and professors, for there were many there; and Friends had but little harm.”

 

 

All My Relations: A Solstice Message

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in News, Public Updates, Stories from the people of AVQM

One of our members, who was called to work with the Indigenous Rights Committee  of Canadian Friends Service Committee, writes:

“This is from  the Ennis family. Dan Ennis lives in Tobique First Nation, near Woodstock, NB. He was one of the first Indigenous elders I encountered on my journey of working with Indigenous peoples as a Quaker. One major learning for me is the explanation and implication of the term ‘all my relations’ — the term he uses to end this correspondence. As is stated here, it is a world view that recognizes ALL are connected, not just all humans, but all including the animals and the earth – water, rock,  the rest of the universe, etc.

Please feel free to pass it on – including all as is intended.”

OUR WINTER SOLSTICE MESSAGE  OF LIGHT,
LOVE, PEACE AND HAPPINESS

The Peace of Spirit

Once again it is the time when our Mosums (Grandfather) Sun stops his journey south and turns to begin his journey north. It is Winter Solstice. Winter Solstice is the point upon the Great Hoop of Life where the sacred relationship between the Great Mother, and the Great Father becomes more observable to the People. Our original instructions teach The People that we should make special observances of this natural phenomenon through ceremony and through passing on those Original Instructions, which are our Traditional Teachings. We learn through this sacred relationship about how we are to create and maintain similar sacred relationships.

Relationships that are in balance and in harmony and that are loving, equal, respectful and nurturing. Winter Solstice is when our People slow down all of our activities and sit quietly in order to be in the Present, in the Now, in the Beginning.  It is also a time for remembering and honoring our sacred oneness with all of Great Creator’s Creation and our oneness with the Love and the Peace and the Joy that is Great Creator.

The love, joy, peace and compassion which is evident at this time is ever so good for our hearts; and what is good for our hearts is good for our Earth Mother.

To all of our relatives (and we are all related) we send you strong, loving and healing energy so that today your heart, your home, your lives and your spirit are filled with love, peace, joy and forgiveness.

We send strong healing energy to our relatives who are suffering, in pain, in turmoil, or are otherwise in need of love and healing. May the sacred life force of Love bring healing and may it lift heavy hearts.

We share your love, peace, joy and laughter. Your joy and happiness lifts the hearts of Grandmother and Grandfather.

Whenever we are in ceremony you are all carried within the light of our hearts and are lovingly remembered through spirit, through light, through peace and through love.

As human beings, and as the designated protectors of the land, we have a responsibility to all living things, all of creation: the two-legged, the four-legged, those creatures that fly, all creatures that swim, all plant life, the trees, the water, the air, the land – every living thing. It is our responsibility to love, honour, respect and protect all of creation. In doing this we honour our birth rights. We also honour the Ancestors who kept our traditional teachings alive and we honour the Seventh Generation yet to come.

We conclude by recognizing, acknowledging and respecting our sacred relationship to all other living things – past, present and future. Our sacred Earth Mother requires our love and respect if she is to continue to sustain us.

From our lodge to yours we send you light, love, peace and healing.

All My Relations,

The Ennis‘s

Quakers, Dr. King, and How I Changed My Mind

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in News, Quakers in the Media, Stories from the people of AVQM

Martin Luther King, Jr., speaking against the Vietnam War, St. Paul Campus, University of Minnesota (27 April 1967)

Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday last January brought the usual celebratory stories to the media.  How did we get here, and why do those celebratory articles sit alongside reports of backlash against Muslims and unarmed African Americans being killed by police?  As we celebrate Dr. King’s achievements, grieve his assassination at the age of 39, and inspire ourselves to act, I offer you a story about how he changed my thinking 48 years after his death.

 

“We do no honor to Brother Doctor Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy by forgetting how much he was hated during his life. Through the propaganda machine of public memory it is far easier to engage in self-congratulation about Dr. King the patriot and hero, than to own how many of us who embrace his memory at present may very well have considered him a scourge if we were one of his contemporaries.” (Indomitable – Chauncey DeVega)

 

At the the 1963 March on Washington, Dr. King gave the speech widely remembered as “I Have a Dream,” indicting discrimination against African Americans, and advocating freedom and equality for all.  A few months earlier, a poll by Gallup had shown that 54% of respondents who were familiar with King held a positive or neutral opinion of him.

The speech and the man are praised by people all over the political spectrum today.  So you could be forgiven for thinking that “I Have a Dream” rallied public opinion to Dr. King’s cause.  I did.  I was wrong.

Two years later, a repeat poll showed positive opinions had gone from 54% to 49%, and in 1966 it was 32%. 

32%.

Let us never forget that sometimes we change our minds for the worse.

Dr. King’s life offers a deep well from which white progressives like me can learn.  For example, when a white American appeals to poor and working class whites about how unfairly they are treated, he runs for President. When an African-American appeals to people of all colours about interfering in the business of why they are poor, he gets shot.

But that’s a lesson for another day.

The lesson I want to focus on today is about those polls. Can we be sure the polls were unbiased?  Of course not.  But as a group, white people are likely to have been well represented.   As early as 1963, no public figure included in the poll ranked lower than Dr. King except Khrushchev.

Gallup poll results: 1963-1966

So it’s especially infuriating to learn what happened when, after that 1966 poll, in the face of overwhelming and worsening public disapproval, Dr. King gave another famous speech. Called “Beyond Vietnam: Time to Break Silence,” it marked a culmination of 2 years in which Dr. King began publicly speaking out against the Vietnam War and the policies that created it.  In that speech, he weaves together the anti-poverty initiatives that were cut to help fund the war, the resulting financial necessity that pushed the poorest people into the most dangerous military roles, the racism toward African-Americans and Vietnamese, and the bitterly ironic fact that all this was justified in the name of defending freedom.

[T]he war was doing far more than devastating the hopes of the poor at home. It was sending their sons and their brothers and their husbands to fight and to die in extraordinarily high proportions relative to the rest of the population. We were taking the black young men who had been crippled by our society and sending them eight thousand miles away to guarantee liberties in Southeast Asia which they had not found in southwest Georgia and East Harlem.

True compassion … comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring. A true revolution of values will soon look uneasily on the glaring contrast of poverty and wealth.

[C]ommunism is a judgement against our failure to make democracy real and follow through on the revolutions we initiated. Our only hope today lies in our ability to recapture the revolutionary spirit and go out into a sometimes hostile world declaring eternal hostility to poverty, racism, and militarism. “

Reclaim MLK Poster, Movement for Black Lives campaign

From the Movement for Black Lives

Because there’s a lesson to learn here, for those of us who are white anti-racist allies, and it’s not exactly about Dr. King but about ourselves and our forebears.

A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.

In response to that message, “King became persona non grata almost overnight. He was savaged from every side as an ingrate, a traitor, an enemy of the state”,   Obery M. Hendricks wrote last week. Dr. King was called too “radical”, dismissed as a “communist”, and accused of having “diminished his usefulness to his cause, to his country, and to his people.”  Not only by the 68% of people who, Gallup tells us, already hated or dismissed him, but by individual progressives  and the white liberal media who had previously supported him.

Sidebar.

About two years ago, I was supported by my Meeting to attend a seminar at Pendle Hill Quaker Center for Study and Contemplation.  Between sessions, two or three times I found myself engrossed in conversation with the Friends in Residence.  They had both been active in the Civil Rights Movements of the 50s and 60s; they were engaged politically, intellectually, and spiritually; and they took time to sit with different people at every meal.  I remember being taken aback at how easily and deeply a group of strangers at a lunch table engaged in thought-provoking conversations about racism, Quakerism, and political strategy.  Pendle Hill is a special place, I thought to myself.

That was only part of the truth.

Barely a month later, the Pendle Hill newsletter announced that one of those Friends had died, mentioning his role as a leader in the civil rights movement.  Feeling grateful to have had a chance to meet and learn from this remarkable man, I did a quick Google search to see if I could learn any more about him.

I learning something, alright. The Vincent Harding I remembered from the lunch table wrote the speech called “Beyond Vietnam.”

I sat down hard, feeling my own perceptions shift under my feet.   Had I missed an opportunity?  Could I have listened and learned more carefully?  Why did I think more highly of him for being a famous speech writer that I didn’t know about, than for being a mentor whose effectiveness I had seen with my own eyes? In hindsight, I don’t think I fumbled my opportunity, and it’s his work that amazed me, not his celebrity.  Well, ok, I am a little star struck!  But I’m getting over it. 

Harding and his partner Al-Josie Aldrich Harding invited all of us into what felt like an urgent, yet contemplative, attention.  The setting at Pendle Hill helped.  All I missed was the opportunity to be nervous and awestruck.  I doubt that the Hardings would have appreciated taking any precious minutes away from planning fundamental social change, to squander them on fawning.  I owe thanks to my Meeting as well, for helping me cultivate that contemplative immediacy as a habit.  I do wish I had asked Harding how he decided that the time and place were right — to do and say things that people were not ready to hear.

But that’s the lesson for a different story.

The lesson I’m trying to learn from this story is about who gets lionized, and why.  Who gets dismissed or demeaned, and why.  It’s possible that as we did in 1963, 1967, and many other times, we’re still today both lionizing and dismissing Dr. King — for the wrong reasons. In keeping with my attempts to learn Quaker ways, I bring you my lessons in the form of queries.

  1. Who today is attacked as Dr. King was — for being too radical, too strident, too alienating, too soon?  How can we resist participating in these attacks without romanticizing away the radicalism that inspires the backlash?
  2. Whom do we praise today, after having left them to struggle alone in the past, in order to put ourselves on the right side of history?  Are we open about our change of heart, so that we and others can learn from it?
  3. Who from the past do we claim as our spiritual and ethical predecessors?  Are we willing to see them whole, or do we need to oversimplify them for our own comfort?
  4. Who from the present do we aspire to emulate?  Are we willing to hear them out when they are unfairly accused of extremism?  What about when they are accurately accused of extremism?
  5. What are we not doing because we fear people are not ready to hear?  How do we decide whether to go ahead anyway?  And how do we care for ourselves during times of backlash?

Hendricks writes of Dr. King’s spiritual practice: “From a biblical perspective, [we must] judge whether policies and laws and cultural practices treat the people’s needs as holy.”

Do we treat the people’s needs as holy? For that idea to have integrity, “the people” has to include ourselves, our attackers, and our historically distorted heroes.

Portrait of Dr. Vincent Harding

In Memoriam: Dr. Vincent Harding