Why do we tell stories of Quaker Service?
QVS is part of a long stream of Quaker service, a “cloud of witnesses” who paved the way for young adults today. We honor and lift up the stories of those who have come before us, and have given of themselves to honor the light in all.
Quaker mystic, educator, and activist Rufus Jones once said:
“… Genuinely Quaker service, that is, intelligent, spiritual service, must be a method that is consistent with the way and spirit of love…Its way is deeply sacrificial and costly. It gives and shares, not merely goods and money, but life itself…One of the most important missions of a Society like ours is its prophetic service.”
For our relatively small numbers, Quakers have had a disproportionate effect on and involvement in social issues. From the abolition of slavery to women’s suffrage, from prison reform to peacemaking and nonviolence, Quakers have been at the forefront of these movements, often well ahead of the rest of society. For many years, beginning especially with the relief work during World Wars I and II which specifically gave conscientious objectors a way to do alternative service, young Quakers engaged in many direct service efforts which were explicitly Quaker in composition and self-understanding. For generations, Quakers found these experiences of direct service to play a formative and transformative role in their lives.
Quaker Voluntary Service grew out of the leading of young adult Friends to reclaim Quaker Service for our time. Though our model is different from previous incarnations of Quaker service and witness, we have directly benefited from earlier generations and we honor these stories. Those Quakers of earlier generations, who gave of their gifts to make this world more peaceful and just, continue to inspire us. They served through Civilian Public Service (CPS), through Quaker work camps, through American Friends Service Committee and other relief efforts after wars and disasters, through Alternative Service programs for Conscientious Objectors, and in numerous other ways. Many of them are the models we think of when we aspire to rekindle that spirit and commitment to transformative Quaker service as envisioned by Quaker Voluntary Service.
As Quaker Voluntary Service offers new generations of young adults the opportunity to contribute to the expansive work for change, we want to highlight the stories of those who have come before us. This is just the beginning of our efforts, but we hope you will read these incredible stories and share with us others that you may know. If you would like to contribute a story of Quaker service to this collection, please email: [email protected]
If you would like to give a gift to QVS in honor of one of the people profiled on our site, please note the person’s name in the memo line of your check or online donation. Thank you!