Each summer — as the program year winds down — we invite Fellows to reflect on their experience and write a testimonial to share with Friends. Maria Fernanda Landin, a young adult Fellow who served in Portland during the 2019-2020 program year, shares reflections on exploring the link between spirituality and activism.
Growing up, spirituality never came naturally to me. However, without consciously thinking about it, I looked for spiritual fulfillment through different stages of my life. For years, I failed to understand that my need to make an impact in the world and be part of movements that advocated for social change is rooted in spiritual longing.
My perceptions changed a year ago when I came across Quaker Voluntary Service (QVS), a year-long program exploring the intersections of spirituality and activism. I had already become curious about Quakerism during my time as an undergraduate at Earlham College, so I decided to embark upon a year of more in-depth spiritual exploration. For the past months, I have had the opportunity to live in an intentional community, explore the Quaker tradition, and work at a local nonprofit that advocates for a more healthy, just, and peaceful world.
“For years, I failed to understand that my need to make an impact in the world and be part of movements that advocated for social change is rooted in spiritual longing.”
When I first started the program, the interconnection between community, spirituality, and work in service was somewhat blurry. While I cared about all of these facets separately, I used to perceive them as independent bubbles. At the same time, I continued to converse with my housemates and other members of the community about what it meant for us to be spiritual and how we were listening to “the light within.” For many months, however, the more I asked myself what spirituality was, the more questions remained.
While I asked myself these questions, the only thing I was sure about was the passion I felt working at my site placement, Oregon Physicians for Social Responsibility. Every day has been an honor to be part of an organization advocating for the social justice I have always aspired to — by organizing communities, attending protests, defending the voices of the most impacted by health inequities, and pushing legislators to advocate for the common good.
I discerned that my form of ministry and worship is through social service during one of our community conversations. We were talking about spirituality and ways in which we had experienced the divine in our lives, when someone raised the question, “In what ways is spirituality informing your activism?” At that moment, the interdependence of community, spirituality, and activism became clear to me. It helped me realize that spirituality is continuously growing as the guiding force behind my activism and that I want to continue to cultivate both.
Today, I have discerned that my activism and spirituality are interdependent and essential to one another. I am committed to a life of service that advocates for a more sustainable, peaceful, and just world; and I want that service to be guided by an internal call borne of ongoing spiritual discernment. That would have not been possible without QVS.
More about Maria
Maria Fernanda Landin was born in Mexico City. At the age of 17, she received a scholarship to study the International Baccalaureate at the United World College of the Adriatic, in Italy. When she was there, Maria engaged in different types of social service and became passionate about social change. She recently graduated from Earlham College with a double degree in Psychology and Sociology-Anthropology. Although Maria was raised in a Catholic family, it was at Earlham where she got to know about Quakerism and became interested in Quaker Voluntary Service. She served with Oregon Physicians for Social Responsibility during her QVS year!
It has been my joy to be part of Maria’s community support. I’m sorry to see her leave but support and believe in her choices, and glad that she had some. I hope someday she returns to Portland, but who knows where she will be called? Follow the Spirit, dear friend.