≡ Menu

News

{ 0 comments }
in Events, News

We have arranged a full program including guest speakers, and members from our three Atlantic Friends Meetings.  Interspersed with programmed sessions are meal breaks, stretch breaks and longer free times. Sunday evening will be a cheerful noisy talent show for young and old. Enjoy sessions at your own choice, or enjoy your own communing with nature or Friends. Please feel free to enjoy the Weekend in your own way!

Location and Dates

Camp Geddie: a Church camp near Merigomish, NS
about 18 kms from exit 27 of Hwy 104.
Victoria Day Weekend, May 20 to 23, 2016
Friday Evening – Monday at Noon

Directions, details and registration at http://atlantic.quaker.ca/afg

Hope to see you there!

 

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

{ 1 comment }
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

May 20-23 2016: Atlantic Friends Gathering

{ 0 comments }
in Events, News

Save the dates of the May long weekend — Friends from the Atlantic provinces and beyond will meet once again for a weekend of shared company and spiritual renewal.

Where?

Atlantic Friends Gathering is an annual event linking members and attenders of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) from across Atlantic Canada.  We gather at Camp Geddie, a Presbyterian Church camp on Nova Scotia’s North Shore. The spacious grounds, with nature trails and a spectacular beach on the Northumberland Strait provide a natural setting for renewal of our individual and group spirit. 

What?

This year the themes include “Sharing the Spirit in Our Lives” and “Actions to Assist Healing Between First Nations and Settlers.”  The programme is not finalized yet, but previous years have included film screenings, nature walks, discussions on spiritual and social justice topics, games, storytelling, dancing, and of course Meeting for Worship. As in previous years, there are no compulsory activities — and there may be kayaks and canoes available to borrow. The healing atmosphere of being in a welcome nature retreat offers an opportunity to open ourselves up to whatever we feel lead us.

 

Top 5 Reasons You Should Attend Atlantic Friends Gathering

  1. There are activities and events for people of all ages.  “Just Being” is also an activity.
  2. You can propose your own discussion or action group, about faith, action, service, or other topics
  3. You can stay for an afternoon or the whole weekend
  4. This event is especially well-suited for those who are new to Quakers; there are lots of opportunities to ask questions, learn from experienced Friends, participate in Meeting for Worship, or just enjoy the spirit and the place. 
  5. This event is especially well-suited for those who are experienced with Quakers: co-create the programme by bringing your knowledge to a discussion, meet others who share your concerns, and maybe even be the person a newcomer is looking for.

More Info

Contact email hidden; JavaScript is required for more info or to propose a Special Interest Group.  You can also check last year’s AFG website to see example activities and registration details.  Signup for email notification (at right) to get this year’s info as soon as it’s published.

Announcements Coming Soon About…

  • Registration
  • Cost (but a sliding scale will be available)
{ 0 comments }
in News, Quakers in the Media

Our letter to the Chronicle Herald was published last week.  Full text is below, or read it on the Chronicle Herald website.

“Quakers are appalled at the bigotry and discrimination targeting Muslims in Canada. Canadians must stand against the deeply divisive and harmful political rhetoric driving growing hostility. We ask our politicians and news media to take firm stands against Islamophobia, hate, racism, division and inequity.

Like Christians and Jews, most Muslims live by creeds that honour peace, love and commitment to God and to creation. We support their right to wear clothing they feel is appropriate, including the hijab, burka or nijab. When human rights, such as the right to religious expression, are denied for any Canadians, rights are made vulnerable for all.

A truly tiny number of individuals claiming to be motivated by Islam have acted or planned to act violently in this country. Individuals acting violently have also claimed Christianity, Judaism and Sikhism to be motives. We condemn all expressions of violence, as well as its roots in exclusion, injustice and inequality. Quakers support services for all Canadians, such as adequate housing, employment opportunities and culturally safe mental and other health services. Such services foster healthy and peaceful communities.

While the state must ensure our security, we join with others in profoundly questioning Canadian actions that appear to disproportionately impact Muislims, indigenous people and people of colour. These include increasing surveillance, extrajudicial renditions, security certificates and closing the space for legitimate forms of dissent. We are deeply concerned by the flawed “Anti-Terrorism Act” Bill C-51 and changes to Canadian citizenship (increasingly restricted through Bill C-24).

Countless people of all (and no particular) faiths work for justice and peace and against the marginalization of Muslims or other Canadians. Quakers work with them to put our faith into action.

Barbara Aikman, clerk, Annapolis Valley Religious Society of Friends”

{ 0 comments }
in Events, News

Ethical Dilemmas in Synthetic Biology: a presentation by Annapolis Valley Quakers
Information and discussion open to all.

Wednesday September 4, 7-9 pm

NSCC Kingstec Campus, 236 Belcher St. Kentville Room C278
Google map: http://goo.gl/maps/2TJXg

For background info download this PDF document: www.bit.ly/SynthBioKit
Contact: email hidden; JavaScript is required

Below is a brief extract from the document referenced above. For full details, read particularly section three of the above linked document.
The document includes extensive references and links to relevant web sites.

Synthetic Biology: What is it and what is the range of views about its role?

Synthetic biology is the use of computer-assisted, biological engineering to create new biological systems and forms of life that do not exist in nature.

In 2011, a U.S.Presidential Commission defined synthetic biology as “an emerging field of research that combines elements of biology, engineering, genetics, chemistry, and computer science… [It relies] on chemically synthesized DNA [a building block of all living cells], along with standardized and automatable processes, to create new biochemical systems or organisms with novel or enhanced characteristics.”

Proponents of synthetic biology see its potential for developing new materials (e.g., a synthetic version of spider silk), foods (providing food in quantity in developing nations), medicines (e.g., production of an anti-malarial drug), energy sources (e.g. biofuels from algae), ways to remedy pollution (eg. detecting arsenic in water sources), and new means of computing. The military-industrial sector also sees potential weapons applications.

Those who are cautious about synthetic biology direct attention to what is absent in its development. They are concerned about what artificial organisms might do unexpectedly, since they have not yet existed in nature. They are concerned about the social justice aspects of synthetic biology: will the benefits of synthetic biology be distributed equitably among poor nations as well as wealthy ones? Will patenting of life forms lead to monopolistic control of benefits? Will large amounts of public funds be spent on unproven technology?

The Principles for the Oversight of Synthetic Biology, developed by a broad coalition of organizations from around the world (including the Biotechnology Reference Group of the Canadian Council of Churches) begins with:

Synthetic biology, an extreme form of genetic engineering, is developing rapidly with little oversight or regulation despite carrying vast uncertainty. To protect public health, worker safety and ecosystem resilience, it calls for risk research and development of alternatives, a robust pre-market regulatory regime, strong enforcement mechanisms, immediate action to prevent potential exposures until safety is demonstrated, ongoing monitoring for unintended consequences, immediate action to prevent potential exposures until safety is demonstrated…a ban on using synthetic biology to manipulate the human genome in any form, no commercialized or released (building blocks) without full disclosure to the public of the nature of the organism and results of safety testing, and … a  moratorium on the release and commercial use of synthetic organisms and their products to prevent direct or indirect harm to people and the environment (until government bodies, international organizations and relevant parties implement strong precautionary and comprehensive oversight mechanisms).

{ 0 comments }
in News
“Mother’s Day began in America in 1870 when Julia Ward Howe wrote the Mother’s Day Proclamation. Written in response to the American Civil War and the Franco-Prussian War, her proclamation called on women to use their position as mothers to influence society in fighting for an end to all wars. She called for women to stand up against the unjust violence of war through their roles as wife and mother, to protest the futility of their sons killing other mothers’ sons.”

See http://www.nationofchange.org/radical-history-mother-s-day-1336835841

Julia Ward Howe’s Mother’s Day Proclamation – 1870

Arise then…women of this day!
Arise, all women who have hearts!
Whether your baptism be of water or of tears!
Say firmly:
“We will not have questions answered by irrelevant agencies,
Our husbands will not come to us, reeking with carnage,
For caresses and applause.
Our sons shall not be taken from us to unlearn
All that we have been able to teach them of charity, mercy and patience.
We, the women of one country,
Will be too tender of those of another country
To allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs.”From the bosom of a devastated Earth a voice goes up with
Our own. It says: “Disarm! Disarm!
The sword of murder is not the balance of justice.”
Blood does not wipe out dishonor,
Nor violence indicate possession.
As men have often forsaken the plough and the anvil
At the summons of war,
Let women now leave all that may be left of home
For a great and earnest day of counsel.
Let them meet first, as women, to bewail and commemorate the dead.
Let them solemnly take counsel with each other as to the means
Whereby the great human family can live in peace…
Each bearing after his own time the sacred impress, not of Caesar,
But of God –
In the name of womanhood and humanity, I earnestly ask
That a general congress of women without limit of nationality,
May be appointed and held at someplace deemed most convenient
And the earliest period consistent with its objects,
To promote the alliance of the different nationalities,
The amicable settlement of international questions,
The great and general interests of peace.
{ 0 comments }
in News

Quakers from around the country are converging on Kings-Edgehill School for the annual national gathering of Canadian Quakers from August 5th to 13th.

(Note that Meeting for Worship will be held in Windsor at 11am on Sunday the 7th of August, in the Concert Hall at Kings-Edgehill. There will be no meeting at Hortonville on that day.)

For more information on the gathering see http://www.quaker.ca/gathering

Welcome to the new AVMM web site!

{ 0 comments }
in News

Look for updates and new features over the next week or two!

Click on the Calendar link above to see our schedule.

Quaker Spice      Quaker worshiop is based on silence. All are welcome.