It’s been a hard summer. From the bombardment on Gaza to the refugee children on the border to Ferguson, it feels as though the world is cracking apart and oppressive policies and the militaries or police that protect them are proceeding with impunity. The consequences of the twisted systems in which we live are being exposed. People all over the world are crying out for justice and connecting their struggles.
“How good it is, how pleasant for God’s people to live in unity.” – Psalm 133:1
The first time I experienced a gathered meeting was at Mid-Year Meeting of Iowa Yearly Meeting Conservative. We were in an old meeting house up on a hill that overlooked the prairie. It was a windy day. As we sat in meeting for worship, the wind whipped around us. The silence was deep and rich. As the wind swirled, stirring up dust and bringing a breeze into the meeting house, I could sense the Spirit also moving in the room. I felt as though we were one body, coming together.
I talked recently with Ng Shui Meng, the wife of Sombath Somphone, a Laotian man and close associate of AFSC who ran civil society programs in Laos until he disappeared in December, 2012. Despite having close circuit television footage documenting his abduction, the Laotian government has denied any knowledge of Sombath Somphone’s whereabouts. Shui Meng came to the United States recently to request the assistance of AFSC, Amnesty International, Quakers and others to take action to support the return of Sombath Somphone.
I started taking yoga again a few months ago in a well lit, open studio in west Philadelphia. The teacher started the class by saying that yoga isn’t a religion; it is a spiritual practice open to all. When she introduced each standing pose, she talked about how important alignment is: that taking time to pay attention and settle into the pose with attention makes all the difference in how you practice yoga and in the benefits you receive from it.
Note: Here is a slide show of the 2014 AFSC Corporation Meeting, the theme of which was, "Working Steadfastly for Peace in Israel-Palestine." Friends from throughout the United States gathered to learn together with AFSC staff, to conduct business, and to worship together. One Friend said, "I value the work of talented, dedicated staff and volunteers at all levels. I value the role of spirit/worship in AFSC's work. This meeting has been one of the best experiences of my life." Hopefully these photos convey the spirit and energy of the meeting.
The Friends Committee on National Legislation (@FCNL) and the American Friends Service Committee (@afsc_org) partnered in live tweeting responses to the State of the Union Address on January 28th, offering a distinctly Quaker perspective on the issues President Obama raised joined by other Quaker voices who also tweeted during the speech.
Before the end of the year I posted this question on Facebook and I received an amazing string of answers. To me such an exercise is powerfully expressive of Quaker faith, which is not doctrinal but expressed in the individual experiences of those who practice. I think these answers together create a lovely poem expressive of the multitude of ways that Quakers understand and experience Quaker faith.
Today people are traveling across the United States to make their way to the homes of loved ones to share food and celebrate Thanksgiving. Sometimes these encounters will be joyful, and sometimes they will be strained.
AFSC is a Quaker organization devoted to service, development, and peace programs throughout the world. Our work is based on the belief in the worth of every person, and faith in the power of love to overcome violence and injustice. Learn more
Where we work
AFSC has offices around the world. To see a complete list see the Where We Work page.