In the last month, I have had multiple opportunities to examine my privilege, my perspective and how I am working to promote inclusion in the work of the Friends World Committee.
The Section of the Americas is vibrant and growing, and covers a broad swath of geography with many different versions of Quakerism. In the course of choosing a theme for the next Section Meeting, the Executive Committee had a deep and honest discussion of these differences. We recognized the danger right in our own committee of seeing only one side and denigrating the other, intentionally or not. E.C. members found the love in the room gave them the capacity to offer and receive forgiveness. A Friend noted that the depth, care and openness of this discussion is rare. How can we best foster this kind of discussion? How can we infuse the larger gatherings of the Section with the depth and tenderness we experienced in our honest conversation?
We will be exploring how to prepare ourselves to go deeper while we are together next March. To be honest and brave, vulnerable and tender, and forgiving – these are Quaker values I hope we can share in our local communities and the worldwide.
Theme of the 2017 Section Meeting: Vivir La Paz – Living Peace
At their April meeting, the Executive Committee approved the theme for the next Section Meeting: Vivir La Paz – Living Peace (John 16:33).
The concept of Peace, capitalized, is deep and comes from God. How can we live that Peace in the face of the tribulations of the world, such as terrorism and fear, yearly meeting schisms, the current tensions of elections throughout the Americas? Peace may also include peace with the earth, as reflected in the covenant in Genesis. Peace with justice. Peace with disparity. All of these are aspects that we might consider through this theme.
In addition, the peace testimony is seen differently by different strands of our tradition. Some see it as primarily an internal peace, while others hear a call to work to end war. Have we lost the faith base on the one hand, or activism and outreach on the other?
At the Section Meeting in March 2017, we will be searching for ways to bridge the divergences in the Quaker spectrum. We are seeking pathways to an attitude of both/and rather than either/or. Stay tuned for more ways to prepare for this journey of exploration.
Traveling Ministry Corps – Deadline Extended! Applications due September 30, 2016
After the WPM: Traveling in the Ministry in South America
Suzanne Bennett, a British Friend with a traveling minute from her monthly meeting
in Dover, England, has been traveling in South America and reports back on her experiences so far. After attending the WPM in Pisac, Suzanne traveled to Arequipa, Peru and then on to Ecuador. She will continue traveling through Peru, Bolivia, Chile and Argentina until March 2017.
What has been a particular blessing in your travels?
A key time has been the last 4 weeks in Otovalo, Ecuador. I have been working as a volunteer nurse in a local health clinic, which features a mix of Western and Indigenous medicine. I am impressed by the holistic and fluid way the doctor I work with offers up a range of healing methods from blood tests and referrals for investigations, to acupressure, massage, Moxa heat therapy, advice on herbs, and plant medicine.
Then, on the 16th of April, the earthquake happened. I volunteered to be a part of a search and rescue team going to that area. The team I worked with are part of an international, entirely voluntary organization called Topos, which serves to offer help in times of disaster. It was very challenging and powerful, and I loved having the chance to work within this fantastic team, an honor and a delight. It has deepened my understanding of this lovely country. Ecuador and its people have touched my heart, as I have touched the hearts of many Ecuadorians, simply by being present to offer help.
Conditions in Pedernarles, and Portoviejo were terrible, the scale of devastation immense, tough going for all of us, but the team spirit and camaraderie were a constant source of uplift. I am now proud to say I am a member of the Topos organisation. I feel I have been called to this work, and strongly drawn to Otovalo, and the community I have got to know here. I plan to return here later in year to continue my work here.
What has been a challenge?
I’m aware of ways I may be “different;” I had a long term same-sex partner, I don’t consider myself Christian or know the Bible well, and yet I am a Quaker of the Unprogrammed tradition…I confess I ask the question, “will this be acceptable?”
What is next for you in traveling in the ministry?
I have plans in place to return to Peru, to walk the Inca trail and go to the Cusco Inca Inti Raymi ceremony and then to travel to Puno and meet again with some of the Peruvian Quakers I met in Pisaq. I have then arranged to go to La Paz , and stay in the Quaker house there and help out, particularly with teaching English with some of the Bolivian Friends I met in Pisaq. It will be hard to leave here, but I sense this is the right way forward.
I’m aware already of my understanding of Quakerism deepening and becoming broader also. So I will travel on, and my prayer is to remain ever open to the ways we connect, and inspire each other through the strength of our shared experience of how God works in our lives.