Dear Friends in Canada Yearly Meeting,
Last summer, four Friends with deep ties to Quaker Religious Education were moved to invite others to join them in a Quaker religious education community of practice. We are calling it a Quaker RE Collaborative (QREC). We invite Friends who hold a sense of stewardship for the faith formation of Quaker children to join with us. This includes: First Day School teachers, Religious Education Coordinators, RE Committee members, Quaker parents and grandparents, and others. Our welcome and our reach are broad and international in scope. QREC is open to Quakers across the traditional branches of Friends’ organizations. We reached out to Friends in Canada YM last summer, and some have already joined our contact list.
At this time, we would like to share a press release from our first gathering, held in August 2014. We hope you might be able to share this document, as we seek to reach others who hold this same concern and are interested in the Collaborative.
We submitted the attached press release to The Canadian Friend in early October, and again yesterday, but the next issue is full and Sherryll suggested we inquire about posting on the CYM website.
Please let me know if I can answer any questions.
In faith and friendship,
Melinda Wenner Bradley
QREC Steering Group
‘Introduction to Quakers and Friends’ Ways’ , six lessons with a Study Guide: download, from the first accordion.
June 3 – July 7, 2013
The Stony Point Summer Institute is seeking Jewish, Christian and Muslim young adults, ages 19-29, who are grounded in their tradition and who have a passion for multi-faith social activism and civic engagement. We are offering a rich opportunity to live in community with peers from different faiths. Together we will study the wisdom of the three Abrahamic traditions and develop practices for faith-based personal and social transformation as we strengthen our relationship to the earth.
In peace and justice work, appreciation of difference and the ability to engage with people of diverse backgrounds have become virtues of paramount importance. At the same time, environmental science has demonstrated that variety and interdependence are crucial to the survival of life on this planet. These two fields of endeavor offer complementary insights into the highly interrelated nature of all creation.
At their core, our world religions have long honored and nurtured this relational understanding of creation. These ancient wisdom traditions offer teachings and practices that grow positive relationship, respect and compassion. Unfortunately, all too often, world religions have been tools of disrespect, discord and even violence. The Institute at Stony Point is dedicated to mining the profound wisdom and spiritual practices of the three Abrahamic faiths and using these ancient teachings and practices to train young adults to work in multi-faith coalitions for the good of all.
At Stony Point Institute we are dedicated to walking the road of social transformation by placing relationship and community at the center of our social justice program. The Stony Point Institute is a 5-week residential program dedicated to creating community based on listening, learning and living together. Students will live communally in a large residence with several separate bedrooms for women and men. Most weekday mornings, students will work together in the Stony Point vegetable gardens growing their relationship to the land.
Afternoons will be devoted to learning in three areas:
1. The study of Sacred Texts and Traditions
Judaism, Christianity and Islam each carry profound wisdom about how to connect to deep spiritual resources and how to live in a society for the benefit of all. We will enter into conversation with the sacred teachings of these three traditions in order to deepen our understanding of justice and peacebuilding work and to ground our social activism in the ancient wisdom of these three faith traditions.
2. Spiritual and Social Change Practices
We will work with spiritual practices of the three Abrahamic traditions that develop the attentiveness, sensitivity and resilience that help carry forward the work of social change. These traditional practices include mindfulness, clarity of intention, gratitude, critical reflection on experience, presence in struggle, healing and communal celebration.
We will also explore social transformation practices, including how to analyze issues, build coalitions and allies, work with various forms of media, lobby, and make use of the arts. We will also explore the power of faith-based nonviolence in support of social change, including boycotts, direct action and civil disobedience.
3. Bringing Consciousness to the Practice of living in Community
Practices in this area focus on intrapersonal, interpersonal and intercultural skills and include: listening with compassion to challenging points of view, supporting the growth of others and approaches to conflict resolution. We will also practice collective leadership, asking questions, sustaining hope in struggle and community building.
Early evening sessions: Practicum
Each student will come to the Institute with a defined social action or civic engagement project that the student is currently developing or would like to develop. The practicum sessions will give students the opportunity to present their projects and to receive support and suggestions from the Institute faculty and fellow students.
Friday, Saturday and Sunday each week, we will celebrate the Sabbath of each the three Abrahamic traditions. Some weeks we will celebrate on the Stony Point campus; other weeks we will celebrate with a Muslim, Christian or Jewish community in the region.
The program will also include full day and half-day field trips to learn from inspiring social activism projects in the area.
Reginaldo Braga, (Regi, as he likes to be called) is a Freirean Educator, a Pastor and a sojourner, committed to social justice, non-violent movements and community building. Regi teaches Religion and Education at ITC (Interdenominational Theological Center) and Language and Literature at KSU (Kennesaw State University).Brazilian from Recife, PE, Reggie came to the USA in 1994 to Princeton Seminary and after to Union Theological Seminary and Columbia University. As an immigrant, his interest for multiculturalism and the creation of non- oppressive communities marked his journey in the USA. Married to Domitila Bicudo, they have two incredible dogs and currently live in Atlanta, GA.
Rabbi Nahum Ward-Lev is the Scholar-in-Residence at Temple Beth Shalom in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Rabbi Nahum is a co-founder of the Jewish and Christian Dialogue of Santa Fe, and has taught in multi-faith settings, including Jewish/Christian/Muslim settings, for many years. Nahum is a Fellow of the Rabbis Without Borders Initiative. He is also Adjunct Faculty at the Northern New Mexico Family Practice Residency Program where he teaches spirituality and medicine. He is a trained spiritual director. Rabbi Ward-Lev was faculty for the Stony Point Institute last summer.
Rabia Terri Harris, Founder of the Muslim Peace Fellowship, is a Freeman Fellow of theFellowship of Reconciliation and Scholar in Residence at Stony Point Center. As a theorist and investigator in Islamic nonviolence and multireligious solidarity for justice, Rabia has written extensively and lectured and offered workshops nationally and internationally for two decades. Her more than thirty years of experience in spirituality and community service led to her being chosen as the first president of the Association of Muslim Chaplains.
For more information and to apply
There is no cost to participating in the Summer Institute other than travel to attend. For those who who are selected to participate in the Institute, scholarships to help with that participation will be made available on the basis of need.
For a flyer, click here.
My understanding has expanded and I feel that this internship helped enhance my knowledge about living togehter and communicating with different people in addition to nonviolence, food justice and multifiath. I enjoyed being here and I’m so thankful for being part of this amazing, lifechanging journey. – Huda Al-Sammarrai, 2012 Intern
Even though I have done extensive study on religion, nothing compares to living with people of various religious backgrounds–not only living with them but working with them, studying with them, cooking with them, and participating in their religious traditions and visiting houses of worship. The experience is priceless. – Eleanor Held, 2011 Intern
A majority of the activism work that I have done in my life has been very separate from my religion, learning how justice and Judaism are woven together is really encouraging. – Dara Wels-Hajjar, 2010 Intern
In 2002, I flew to Baltimore, Maryland to join my fellow pilgrims for the Quaker Youth Pilgrimage (QYP). From there, all 25 Young Friends would begin our journey, retracing George Fox’s 17th-century footsteps in the United States. While on my pilgrimage, I tried to journal every day to capture what an amazing time I had during that month. Some of my (deeper) journal extracts from that time formed the basis of my reports back to the Canadian Friend and my meeting. They still speak to me, so I’d like to include them here.
“I don’t know which thought is scarier: that I’ll never be able to return to my old life or that idea that I could, thus forgetting my experiences.” (August 14th, 2002)
“I’ve never seen fireflies before- we were catching them my first night here. When you look up at the sky, it’s impossible to tell the shooting stars from the fireflies, so I make a wish on both. You can never have too many wishes.” (July 12th, 2002/August 8th, 2002)
“I think I have mostly figured out why I hesitate to call myself a Christian. The word now has a negative connotation because people have done so many evil things in the name of Christ, quite literally giving Christians a bad name.” (August 12th, 2002)
“God is that which is good within us all. God is not some grey-haired old man up in the sky watching over us. God is the spirit that prompts right decisions, the space within us filled with love for all the things around us. And God is all around us- in the sunset, the frog and the leaves- all that is beautiful and necessary. But all this is just the tiniest portion of God’s power, mercy and love for us all.” (July 19th, 2002)
When I wrote my report after the pilgrimage, I described it as a “warmth in the pit of my stomach.” Like all strongly emotional events, I felt it in my gut. Looking back, the whole month seems to glow with a special light.
I wish I could say, six and a half years later, that I have changed as much as I thought I would. I already knew then that Quakerism was home and that Quakers were my family, but I have yet to find what I’m looking for in meeting for worship (likely because I rarely attend) and am therefore still not an official member.
However, I do still talk to some of my fellow pilgrims. We used to keep in touch via a MSN Groups website, which we only recently let lapse in favour of Facebook. Each pilgrim stands out clearly in my mind, their energies fuelling a diverse group of people that I was honoured to travel with.
It wasn’t just the other pilgrims that made an impression on me. For unprogrammed Young Friends, which we all were except for one semi-programmed North Carolinian pilgrim, it was a real challenge for me to connect with the more “churchy” Friends meetings. To quote my 2002 report, “I can see that a faith that cannot be questioned or challenged is a faith that is weak. I learned that sometimes we have to accept things without understanding them, but that we should never accept things without question. I learned that Quakerism is much bigger than my former vision of it. Programmed meetings with a much more Christocentric and politically conservative views flourish in the states and challenge me to figure out what it is that links Quakers beyond our roots. I still don’t know the answer to that one. I have more clearly defined my perception of God, as well as realizing that God defies definition by my limited comprehension. I’m still challenged by the silence- so often I find it filled with my own worries and insecurities instead of the calming presence of God, but I do feel the importance of seeking that presence in my life.”
This hasn’t changed. I wish I could explore these types of Quaker meetings again, as I found that discovering what religious practices simply feel wrong to me are often the best way to find out where I fit in our diverse, challenging, wonderful Quaker family. In some ways, I guess the pilgrimage never truly ends: the road simply changes.
By Nori Sinclair
January 12, 2009
2012 update: I know that the pilgrimage is still a strong and living memory for me because almost ten years later, reading over what I wrote during and following the pilgrimage speaks to me as strongly as ever. Since I wrote this 2009 piece, I have found a home in a Quaker meeting, the one I was born into in 1984 – Vancouver Island Monthly Meeting in Victoria. It intrigues me that for a faith so tied to people and their collective worship rather than church buildings, I can be so connected to a place, the almost century-old Fern Street Meeting House. It has my childhood footprints in clay on the wall and has a wooden floor and tall windows, all steeped in the weighty and peaceful spirit of decades of worship. After all the wanderings of the pilgrimage, all the testing and thinking it allowed me to do, it sometimes surprises me that I ended up right back in the same place where I started. The place is the same, but I am different.