In February 2009, a Consultation was attended by thirty-six Friends from across the country, representing such organizations as Beacon Hill Friends House, Guilford College, Haverford College – Haverford House, Powell House, William Penn House, AFSC-IMYM JSP Workcamps, 57th Street Meeting (Chicago), New England Peace Builders Camps, the QUEST Program, Vine Street Meeting (Berkeley), FGC, and Pendle Hill. Friends united at the Consultation around the desire and need for a national network for Quaker voluntary service open to all branches of the Religious Society of Friends. Friends also called four Friends to serve on a working group to convene this network. Additionally, Friends were intrigued by the possibility of creating new “service houses” to be sponsored by Monthly Meetings or Quaker organizations.
The idea for the creation of a national network is not new. In 1997, a group of over 100 Friends gathered in Burlington, New Jersey, to consider the establishment of a network for Quaker volunteer service. At that time Friends also united for the creation of such a network, but volunteer (or even paid) labor was not enough to support its creation at that time. Friends who led that effort, such as Mary Lord (former AFSC staff member and member, Baltimore YM) and David Finke (incoming Clerk for Illinois Yearly Meeting), were closely consulted in this new effort.
The original epistle written at the 2009 consultation is shared below.
Big Wind, Spirit’s breath
The gathered body hears, rush
From the Quaker Volunteer Service Consultation
Pendle Hill, Wallingford, PA | 12th to 15th of Second Month 2009
To Friends Everywhere:
. . . and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God? (Micah 6: 8)
We came together, led by our young adult Friends calling us to live the Truth of the prophet Micah’s words. The thirty-six participants, facilitators, elders and one very young Friend invited to this consultation, co-sponsored by Friends General Conference Youth Ministries Committee and Pendle Hill Quaker Retreat Center, came sharing a common purpose—to live into the possibility that through the volunteer projects to which we are connected individually the unique gifts of Quakerism can and will be made visible in the world.
The young adult Friends who carried these concerns individually and collectively for some years faithfully created a space for Spirit-led discernment for all of us as we considered our inspiration, our hopes and our challenges. With the assistance of the gathering committee’s attentive and intentional preparation, we experienced expectant listening, support, accountability, love and ministry between and among us. Three elders grounded our four days of meetings for worship with attention to Quaker Volunteer Service.
Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of working, but it is the same God who inspires them all in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. (1st Corinthians 12: 4-7)
Friends of many ages came together in response to a call from our young adult Friends, each as an individual pool of Light, isolated in our communities and projects. Through sharing joyfully our gifts of song, play, laughter, conversation and worship we allowed the Love of Christ to connect our individual pools of Light into a blessed, illuminated, loving community. Out of both large and small group sharing we came to know and name the truth of our condition in the following ways:
- We hunger to reclaim the power and vitality of our faith.
- We seek to be authentically Quaker and to let our lives honestly preach the Truth of our faith and practice.
- We heard the Spirit behind the spoken words saying, “Christ is Sufficient.”
- We realize the necessity of being faithful to yield to the work that is given us, no matter how small.
- We value the transformational service opportunities of our diverse projects and acknowledge that the transformation is the work of the Spirit and not of the project.
- We trust the experience of those who know that the fruits of our labors may come in a form and at a time over which we have neither control nor knowledge.
- We ask: Are Friends able both individually and collectively to expand sufficiently to embrace all which God offers us to place on our table?
- We celebrate the deep grounding and dynamic energy experienced through the Youth gathering here and across the Religious Society of Friends, calling us to our roots.
- We deeply understand the critical importance to the Religious Society of Friends now and in the future of these volunteer service projects specifically for Quakers which allow us to live honestly our faith through our service.
- We dwell in the possibility that the relationships made during this Consultation will not only enable our current projects to succeed but will also encourage our diverse visions to become reality.
- We unite in desire and a need for a national network of communication to connect Quaker Volunteer Service projects and struggle to know how to move forward and be open to continuing dialogue.
- We are mindful that those gathered here for this Consultation do not represent the fullness of the Religious Society of Friends and desire to reach across all branches of the Religious Society of Friends, beginning conversations and extending invitations to future consultations in whatever way they are realized.
The Spirit fed us through wind and song and in so many other ways during our time together. We came to know experientially the Truth of David’s words in Psalm 32: 8:
I will instruct you and teach you the way you should go;
I will counsel you with my eye upon you.
During our evening session on Seventh Day, the Lord’s eye was upon us and we were both instructed and counseled as messages arose out of deep worship calling us to account and lifting up the responsibility we carry to continue what has begun over these days together. We were cautioned not to allow confusion and discomfort to distract us from the Light. We leave here knowing the intertwining of our lives as we accompany one another in Spirit until we are together again as an expanded body.
On First Day morning we entered a process of witness and accountability one to another as we publically named and claimed our gifts, our conflicts, our commitments to God and to this body of Friends. Tenderly, we listened with the ears of our hearts as the baptismal power of Spirit flowed, gently anointing us with the balm of Gilead.
This epistle attempts to capture the words spoken during this consultation. The True and Necessary Epistle that will go forth is the one written on the hearts of each of the participants. It is the experience of this Living Epistle we carry out into the world, informing our work as we move forward in a way that is open to Spirit continuing to move in and through us—right here, right now.
On behalf of the body gathered,
Christina Repoley , Emma M. Churchman, Kristina Keefe-Perry, Zachary Moon
Conveners for Quaker Volunteer Service Consultation