Articles & News

Adrian Moody Appointed as Head of the Ramallah Friends School

Friends United Meeting - Thu, 06/15/2017 - 8:29am

Friends United Meeting is delighted to announce the appointment of Adrian Moody to the position of Head of Ramallah Friends School (, effective August 2017. Adrian will succeed Joyce Ajlouny, who has served for thirteen years and who will be taking up the post of General Secretary of the American Friends Service Committee.

Adrian comes to the Friends School with an extensive background in international education, having served in school leadership positions in Australia, New Zealand, Tanzania, Thailand, Kazakhstan, Vietnam and India. His depth of experience with the International Baccalaureate and his masters-level specialization in teacher assessment will allow him to shepherd the implementation of the RFS Board’s new strategic plan which focuses on strengthening the academic programs. His professional expertise in the management of large multi-campus schools will facilitate a thorough analysis of long-term financial and physical needs and the development of strategies for sustainability.

A committed Roman Catholic with a master’s degree in theology, Adrian feels deeply called to the particular witness of a Friends School under occupation. As he shared with the school when he visited: “I am drawn to RFS for so many reasons. It has a long history of shared communities. It has a strong academic program and is able to offer its students wonderful opportunities. But RFS is not just a school – it is much more than that. I look at RFS and I see that the grace of God is working within your community. I see God carrying us all on a journey, together through moments of success and challenges which strengthens our lives and our bonds with each other and God.”

Adrian, an Australian national, and his wife Gillian, a New Zealander, will take up residence in Ramallah at the beginning of August while their teenage daughter continues in boarding school in New Zealand.

Adrian will serve as a member of the FUM Field Staff, with his salary, benefits, and expenses covered through designated donations to FUM. In order to prevent a gap in leadership and to facilitate a smooth hand-over as Joyce leaves the school, a generous FUM supporter has provided transitional funding to allow Adrian to begin without delay. As FUM and Adrian work together to build his support community, these funds will be repaid.

FUM invites all Friends to pray for Adrian and his family during this transition and to give thanks that God has called him to witness to the transformational presence of Christ amid the Friends community in Ramallah at this time.

For more information, contact Eden Grace, Director of Global Ministries, at

Categories: Articles & News

We Need a YAF

Friends Journal - Mon, 06/12/2017 - 7:00am

Creative commons from Flickr/zach_a

What four words do I not ever want to hear a member of a nominating committee say to me? “We need a YAF.” YAF stands for “young adult Friend” and is usually defined as ages 18 to 35 or 40, depending on the yearly meeting. Yes, I am a Friend under age 35. Yes, age is one type of diversity it’d be good to have on your committee. That doesn’t mean you skip discernment.

I remember a friend answering her phone while we were hanging out. She was angry when she hung up. She had served two terms on a committee and had reached its term limit. She could take a year off from committee service to recharge, or she could move to another committee. The person on the phone had told her, “We need a YAF for ____ committee, so we thought you could do that instead.”

I’ve heard from other folks my age that they feel the same half dozen YAFs are asked to sit on many committees at once. Beyond that being a recipe for burnout, they feel frustrated and tokenized.

Why do efforts at increasing the diversity of a committee easily devolve into tokenization? I believe it is because we have abandoned our theology of gifts. Faith and Practice of Baltimore Yearly Meeting says, “each of us has God-given gifts or talents, which we are obliged to develop and use to the glory of God. . . . We are obliged also to recognize the gifts of other Friends.” In 1 Corinthians 12, Paul asks, “Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? Do all have gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret?” Hint: the answer he’s pointing toward is “no.”

Faith vs. Practice

When I found Quakers in 2009, I did a lot of reading and made friends with the clerk of a nearby meeting. My understanding of the nominations process was that I should expect someone from nominating committee to approach me at some point, having prayerfully discerned that God has a plan with a part for me in it, based on their recognition of my particular spiritual gifts. This turns out to be more of a theory. We have a disconnect between faith and practice.

Instead, what I found at one meeting was a “committee fair” like the student organization fairs on college campus. At each table, a representative of a committee pitched people passing by on why we should sign up for their committee. At others, I found that emailing a committee resulted in the clerk of the committee approaching and asking, “Hey, can I refer nominating committee to you about my committee?” The optimistic view here is “Oh good, you’re interested in what we’re doing!” The cynical view is “That’ll teach you to speak up.” I do prefer the optimistic view.

In either case, this is not a nominating committee full of people who have put in a particular effort to get to know everyone in the meeting so that they can properly discern who God is calling to what service. This is nominating committee matching up a list of names given to them to a list of job openings.

Last year I asked a Friend on the yearly meeting nominating committee why it was that I hadn’t been tapped until the clerk of the Advancement and Outreach Committee went to them and asked that I be nominated. I’d served on committees in two local meetings over the last five or six years. I thought this made it clear I was willing to serve. The answer was that they typically only bother to ask people who are already involved in some way with the yearly meeting—already on a committee or at least attending annual sessions. I only visited annual sessions that evening because I was coming to my first committee meeting with a yearly meeting level committee. Friends, I’m not sure whether the committee or the committee member is the chicken or the egg, but in any case, there’s a chicken-and-egg problem here. The pool of potential nominees has been artificially restricted to people whose employment situation can support taking several days off from work and paying several hundred dollars for the privilege of doing so. Given all that has been written about my generation’s employment difficulties, I think it should be obvious why the half-dozen YAFs present at YAF business meeting said they feel there are a half-dozen YAFs asked to fill far too many committee slots.

Even without economic barriers, limiting the pool to mostly people who are already serving means never getting a break and being asked to serve more than might be sustainable. That problem isn’t limited demographically. Overwork is a problem.

Getting at the Roots

There are several contributing factors. The most talked about is the pressure to staff an ever-increasing number of committees. Another is about welcome and timing. And then there are the good-intentioned diversity efforts.

Quantity and Quality

Over time, as new concerns arise, meetings add new committees. Those committees hang around. They must all be fully staffed. They are rarely laid down, even as the meeting’s membership and attendance shrink. Instead, individual Friends are asked to serve on two or three committees, to ensure each committee gets its full headcount. This is a recipe for burnout.

I know this is not a unique problem for Baltimore Yearly Meeting Friends. The other BYM (Britain Yearly Meeting) has it too! In his 2014 Swarthmore Lecture, Ben Pink Dandelion discusses many issues facing Quakers today, including recognizing gifts and the difficulty of staffing all open committee slots.

This pressure to come up with a list of names that is possibly longer than the list of adults in active attendance negatively impacts the discernment process. Perhaps a different stage of discernments needs to happen first. What is the meeting being led to do? Is it still being led to all the activities in which it has historically participated? You know the saying: if everything’s a priority, nothing is. And having such a long list of service positions to staff must be overwhelming and exhausting. How much energy does it leave for the important prerequisite of getting to know everyone in the meeting sufficiently well that their gifts can be discerned? I would submit the answer is “not enough,” since the task of finding people often is delegated to the committees themselves.

Welcome and Timing

We hear many jokes about committee service. A card game was made about committee service called “Unable, Unwilling,” where the aim is to dodge committee service. We joke about people being scared away by attempts to put them on a committee after their second visit.

By all means, wait more than two weeks to get someone on a committee. Don’t wait so long, though, that the person frustratedly goes to a committee saying, “Oh for crying out loud, will you just let me help?” Sound funny? I’m sure many meetings have experienced an IT professional saying, “Oh please, just let me fix the email/website/wifi” due to frustration about its insufficiency. Or perhaps their frustration is that they know how to fix the window that won’t stay up. Or they have a leading, and the social witness committee is too busy with other ones to look into it. Or they are led to do a book discussion around Thomas Kelly, but the religious education committee is dealing with curriculum. Yes, this frustration can bubble up as regards many committees.

It’s not uncommon to talk in other groups about how getting people plugged into service is a way to make them feel involved and really part of the community. Similarly, it can be hard for individuals to judge when their contributions will be viewed as coming from an invested part of the community versus an interloper. Letting them know their contributions are wanted and valid is part of welcoming. I submit that after three to six months of regular attendance, a person is likely to feel sufficiently committed to the meeting to entertain the suggestion of service.

If a regular practice was made of meeting with people in this category to discern their spiritual gifts, we might find we have more people willing to serve and a better idea of where their gifts are most needed. There is no reason why clearness committees should be saved only for membership, weddings, and when someone is having a hard time making a major life decision. Get someone from nominating committee (and perhaps one or two others Friends) to sit down with the not-so-newcomer over their favorite hot beverage and start discerning the person’s leadings. Maybe they’re not being called to service yet. Fine. Check back in a year. Maybe they actually have some leadings, though.

If your meeting has such a high rate of growth that sitting down with each new person who has managed to stick around for three months would be burdensome, I salute you and wish to know how you’ve managed that. You could teach the outreach committee of every other meeting a lesson.


I was pressured, as a YAF on a committee, to come up with names of other YAFs who could serve on this same committee. I tried to think about who I know whose regular occupations or hobbies suggested they had the talents needed by the committee. My list was far shorter than the list of all Quakers near my age I knew. One Friend told me her concern would be that she and I have the same weaknesses, and so she would not be rounding out the committee’s collection of gifts, but instead contributing to lopsidedness. I conveyed this sense to the clerk of the committee, who suggested I go back and tell her that’s fine since what we really need is a larger YAF presence on the committee, and so her perspective as a young person was enough. I did not do so. I did not wish to insult my friend that way. Being a warm body that has not yet walked this earth 40 years does not trump her gifts.

The same, of course, goes for any other type of diversity. Failing to look beyond someone’s age, race, sexual orientation, or any other demographic category to see their gifts is insulting.

The desire to be more intentional and inclusive about who is serving on committees is a good one. This means doing much more than adding a quota though. Individuals must be treated as individuals. Be ready to name the gifts a candidate brings. That means doing the hard work laid out above to really get to know people and their gifts.

I think we’re up to it.

The post We Need a YAF appeared first on Friends Journal.

Categories: Articles & News

The Deadline is Approaching…Register Now to Join the Cuba Living Letters Trip in November 2017! (11-21 November 2017)

Friends United Meeting - Fri, 06/09/2017 - 2:07pm

JUNE 14, 2017 is the deadline for the upcoming Cuba Living Letters trip! 

Register here today!

Every year in November, Cuba Yearly Meeting celebrates the arrival of the first Friends missionaries to the island. The trip includes celebrating this anniversary and intervisitation with Cuba Yearly Meeting Friends.

Here are just a few highlights from last year’s November 2016 trip…

  • Meeting in Miami and visiting with Miami Friends Church
  • Celebration and performances for the Cuban Quakerism anniversary
  • Visiting Quaker meetings and engaging with Cuban Friends
  • Exploring Cuban history in the city of Holguin
  • Learning about Cuban Quaker history around the city of Gibara

Click here to learn more or contact Click here to register today!

Categories: Articles & News

Stoking the Fire Schedule Released

Friends United Meeting - Tue, 06/06/2017 - 1:50pm

The schedule for Stoking the Fire: Claiming Spiritual Power for Transformative Action has been set! Here’s the plan:

Sunday, July 9th

Friends will arrive between 3:00 and 5:00 pm. Dinner will run from 5:30 to 7:00 pm, and then Kelly Kellum will lead the opening session.

Monday, July 10th

Morning worship will be led by Nancy McCormick from 7:00 to 8:00 am, with breakfast to follow. Jan Wood will lead the morning Plenary Session, and blocks are set aside for both meeting with Home Groups and unstructured time.

Afternoon workshops will include Being Grounded in Spiritual Practice (led by Kathryn Damiano), The Third Way: Nonviolent Resistance and Civil Disobedience (led by Leslie Manning), Prophetic Witness I (led by Dorlan Bales), and Discernment for Spirit-led Action I (led by Patricia Thomas).

After a break and dinner, Friends will re-gather for Experimental Semi-programmed Worship with Eden Grace.

Tuesday, July 11th

Morning worship will be led by Nancy McCormick from 7:00 to 8:00 am, with breakfast to follow. Jan Wood will lead the morning Plenary Session, and blocks are set aside for both meeting with Home Groups and unstructured time.

Afternoon workshops will include Quaker Social Change Ministry (led by Lucy Duncan), Music as a Grounding for Action (led by Leslie Manning and Kathy Luethje), Prophetic Witness II (led by Dorlan Bales), and Discernment for Spirit Led Action II (led by Patricia Thomas).

Wednesday, July 12th

Morning worship will be led by Nancy McCormick from 7:00 to 8:00 am, with breakfast to follow. Home Groups will meet, and then following a break the Closing Session will be led by Scott Wagoner and Kelly Kellum.

You can download the schedule as a PDF here: Stoking the Fire 2017 conference timetable 6June2017. More information, including details about childcare and scholarship assistance for Young Adult Friends, is available on our Stoking the Fire site.


Categories: Articles & News

West Richmond Friends Meeting Seeks Leadership in Pastoral Ministry and/or Religious Education

Friends United Meeting - Fri, 06/02/2017 - 10:38am

West Richmond Friends Meeting (Richmond, Indiana) requests proposals from individuals who wish to explore a calling to full-time or part-time leadership in Pastoral Ministry and/or Religious Education. We will accept proposals immediately until the opening is filled. We hope to fill the opening by July 1, 2017. For more details, see

Categories: Articles & News

Reimagining the Quaker Ecosystem: June/July Full Issue Access

Friends Journal - Thu, 06/01/2017 - 2:05am
Members can download the full PDF or read any article online (see links below). Features: “Consensus Decision Making in Eusocial Organisms” by Barbara Dale, “What We Cannot Do Alone” by Noah Merrill, “Worshiping Online” by Rachel Guaraldi, “Finally Breaking Down the Hedge?” by Thomas Hamm, “Turning Somersaults in the Quaker Ecosystem” by Margaret Fraser. Online exclusives include: “ePublishers of Truth” by Kathleen Wooten, “We Need a🔒 Friends Journal Member? Sign in here!
Not an FJ member? To read this piece, please join us today! For $28, you'll get:
  • A year of Friends Journal delivered to your mailbox (11 issues) and email
  • Full, instant access to the world’s largest online library of Quaker information: every Friends Journal ever published, going back to 1955
  • Membership in a community that believes in the power of Quaker experience
Click here to join us! Already a member? Welcome back. Please use the Login box to sign in. If you would like to order by phone or have any questions, we’re here to help. Call toll-free: (800)471-6863 or contact us by email.

The post Reimagining the Quaker Ecosystem: June/July Full Issue Access appeared first on Friends Journal.

Categories: Articles & News

Life, Death, and Resilience

Friends Journal - Thu, 06/01/2017 - 2:00am
Among Friends June/July 2017

In the temperate rain forests of the Pacific Northwest, which surround the cities where I grew up, death and life are a continuum. The same is true for ancient ecosystems everywhere.

These damp, lush, wild places were magical to me as a child, and they are no less so today. The giants of the Pacific Northwest’s old-growth forests are towering trees: Sitka spruce, western hemlock, Douglas fir. These forests are remarkable not only for their beauty but also for their diversity and their resilience. Scientists who study the processes at work in forest ecosystems contend that biodiversity aids in resilience. When a canopy tree dies, the hollows in its standing trunk become homes for owls, its bark fodder for insects, its roots shelter and hiding places for small mammals. Amid a carpet of ferns and lichen, young trees draw new life from the nourishment of a soil enriched by the life, activity, and death of organisms large and small, a life and power compounding since the dawn of our planet. When a tree falls, the sun’s light reaches the forest floor with a new intensity, catalyzing new growth, making room for tomorrow’s yearning limbs.

Our giants do not, need not, and must not live forever in order to nourish the ecosystems of the future. When I see Quaker systems, processes, or institutions failing to serve us now the way they seemed to serve Friends in ages past, a reflection on the life of the forest is one I find not only informative but transformative.

Our institutions are important, but as four centuries of Friends following the Quaker way have demonstrated, none has survived unchanged, unbroken. Tall trees have fallen, and we hear the crack and thrash today of more still. Species have evolved—not because our ancestors or their ways were primitive, but because adaptation is a necessity for survival. Our experience is that God, the Divine, the universal Spirit, constantly reveals truths to us directly and as a community as we practice patient listening, waiting worship, and faithful ministry. By breathing in and living out these messages, we are changed. And the forest lives.

In this issue of Friends Journal, we invite you to observe and to consider. How are new Quaker practices, processes, even institutions emerging to serve us now? How must our structures adapt? What can we learn from that which thrives within our communities? How are we ourselves adapting to the Quaker ecosystem in which we function? As a unique individual and a participant in this sacred life, what is my niche and how does my life support the life of the holy whole? We invite your reflections, dear reader. Thank you for being our companion in this walk in the woods.


The post Life, Death, and Resilience appeared first on Friends Journal.

Categories: Articles & News

Forum June/July 2017

Friends Journal - Thu, 06/01/2017 - 1:55am
The steps forward Thanks for Dyresha Harris’s invitation to do more than contemplate problems (“The Shape We Take,” FJ May)—not only permission to act but the program and the very steps needed to move forward if we dare. For many of us 500 Friends who attended the 2016 White Privilege Conference, the question of what now and how is nicely laid out. And yes, there are many groups who could bring spiritual gifts. Emily Boardman Chester, N.Y. Impressed by student voices I am very impressed with the writings of the young people in the🔒 Friends Journal Member? Sign in here!
Not an FJ member? To read this piece, please join us today! For $28, you'll get:
  • A year of Friends Journal delivered to your mailbox (11 issues) and email
  • Full, instant access to the world’s largest online library of Quaker information: every Friends Journal ever published, going back to 1955
  • Membership in a community that believes in the power of Quaker experience
Click here to join us! Already a member? Welcome back. Please use the Login box to sign in. If you would like to order by phone or have any questions, we’re here to help. Call toll-free: (800)471-6863 or contact us by email.

The post Forum June/July 2017 appeared first on Friends Journal.

Categories: Articles & News

Love Cannot Be Overwhelmed

Friends Journal - Thu, 06/01/2017 - 1:50am
As Quakers, we participate in a free state of universal community. That community, some of us feel, is now immersed in a dark sea of predation that includes people who do not seem to realize that unchecked predation must ultimately consume itself. For those people who would live by generosity of spirit and who hear from the “other” the same heartbeat as their own, being caught up in a deluge of greed and indifference is repugnant and repulsive. Feeling powerless to check a flooding sea, they know despair and discouragement. It feels as though that predacious sea crashes against🔒 Friends Journal Member? Sign in here!
Not an FJ member? To read this piece, please join us today! For $28, you'll get:
  • A year of Friends Journal delivered to your mailbox (11 issues) and email
  • Full, instant access to the world’s largest online library of Quaker information: every Friends Journal ever published, going back to 1955
  • Membership in a community that believes in the power of Quaker experience
Click here to join us! Already a member? Welcome back. Please use the Login box to sign in. If you would like to order by phone or have any questions, we’re here to help. Call toll-free: (800)471-6863 or contact us by email.

The post Love Cannot Be Overwhelmed appeared first on Friends Journal.

Categories: Articles & News

Consensus Decision Making in Eusocial Organisms

Friends Journal - Thu, 06/01/2017 - 1:45am

During a chaotic senior year of college, I found religion in bees. Ants held the deepest truth I had ever known, and scientific papers on slime molds (a multinucleate amoeboid plasmodia) triggered existential crises. In the spring of 2015, I wandered around Earlham College in a hazy metacognitive state, looking at how groups and ideas interact through a stolen and unabashedly misappropriated scientific lens. As I tried to pin down wily concepts for my biology comprehensive exams, finish out my service scholarship program, and manage living in an intentional community of nine people, I found a strange manic solace in the decision-making processes of eusocial organisms.

Despite my stress-induced delirium, the question that plagues all college seniors did not leave me respite: “What next?” echoed around my head throughout the semester. Due to a timely recruiting visit, I found the answer to be Quaker Voluntary Service (QVS), a radical year of faith and service that fit into my buzzing worldview.


The crux of my existentialism lay in the similarity of decision-making processes in natural organisms. In studies of slime molds, bees, ants, brains, and primate groups, I saw scientists documenting how once a buildup of evidence reaches a critical threshold, a choice is made that impacts the livelihood of an entire codependent group.

The terms “superorganism” and/or “eusocial” describe a particular type of life strategy of some species that involves a division of labor and extremely high social cooperation. Eusocial insects (some ants, bees, and termites) are considered to be superorganisms because many worker individuals do not reproduce individually. Rather, one sole delegate—the queen—carries out reproduction for the entire colony. The term superorganism denotes an understanding that though there are many bees in a hive, it is functionally a single reproductive entity. The bond of a eusocial organism is fierce because it is a group of mutually dependent (and genetically identical) individuals. They have a single, common goal: survive and reproduce.

Nest Site Decisions—A Consensus

There is a joy I find in nest site decisions that I will share with anyone who asks, and with many who don’t. A eusocial insect group’s decision on nest site beautifully highlights a moment in which the colony relies on the transfer of knowledge from a few informed individuals to the clueless colony in order to create an accurate, cohesive movement vital to their success. This phenomenon provides a unique area of study in decision making, allowing for insights on universal themes, such as speed-accuracy tradeoffs in a decentralized system.

Small, rock-dwelling ants (Temnothorax albipennis) often have their homes disrupted. When a rock is overturned, scouts rush out into the world to inspect potential new sites. A worker finds an opportunity, runs back to the colony, and recruits another individual to come look at her discovery. (This is called tandem running.) The recruit looks at the site and makes an assessment. If she, too, finds it to be exciting, she’ll run back and begin recruiting. This is a positive feedback loop of information. Once there is a critical threshold of excited individuals (a quorum) running back and forth between the old site and the potential new home, the entire nest emigrates to this new, happy home.

Similarly, honey bees (Apis mellifera) recruit their sisters to new hive sites through an extremely cute method of communication called “waggle dancing.” The higher the quality of the potential new home, the more enthusiastically the bees waggle their abdomens and, consequently, the faster they are able to recruit and hit that threshold for emigration.

A vital aspect of these decision-making processes is that scouts recruit other workers to a site, but all scouts actually inspect the potential site for themselves before becoming recruiters. Through this amazing process, individual assessments are translated through the group to make a collective decision.

My Recruitment into QVS

In the midst of my stressful final semester, I was in charge of trying to dispel an alarming sense of apathy that had overtaken the Bonner Scholars service program. At a party I attended, a freshman asked me in a slurring drunken stupor: “Do you think Bonner makes meaning out of meaningless things?” I was incensed by this question and felt the need to bring to the attention of my peers the fact that they had skin in the game: finding meaning in service is the job of the individuals involved. The structure of the Bonner program existed for them to use and personalize, not to exploit for its financial benefits and then bemoan. I stood in front of some 50 pairs of eyeballs and asked questions, trying to spur communication and a sense of responsibility for the state of things. There was some lack of oversight going on, but that meant there was room to reclaim the narrative.

That night Ross Hennessy, QVS’s Philadelphia coordinator and part-time recruiter, was sitting in the back of the room. He got in front of our agitated group and began talking about why we might choose to be in community. Do we want to be a part of a system that is self-affirming, or something that is challenging? He lifted up the value of being confronted by people you love, and I saw the hum of bees in that idea. Feedback loops circled through my neuron system, and I fairly well made up my mind that the QVS program was going to be the right decision for me.

Quaker Voluntary Service: My Household Is a Superorganism

The cohesion of an ant group (and most social groups) is genetic, but the interconnection I found in Quaker Voluntary Service is ideological. I lived with seven other people for one year in the Germantown neighborhood of Philadelphia. We all worked at nonprofits in the city, coming home at night to cook dinner, do our chores, talk at length, and sleep.

In our “nest” there was a common commitment to the process we would use to explore our year together, and inescapable proximity to cooperative ideas and information sharing. I saw our communal narrative as a collective decision. If I tell you a story of injustice, am I not recruiting you into a different worldview? During my year in QVS I found that, in unbeknownst alliance with my admiration for eusocial insects, Quakerism theologically encourages individual assessment and transfer of information to the group.

Our house was often in conflict with competing ideas and assessments of what to do in order to live into sustained movement toward a better world. How much “self-care” is needed? What are the boundaries of community? How much space do men take up in this group? We pushed and shoved, ideologically. Sometimes, we agreed. I found beauty in the averaging, resilience in the skirmish. The divinity in my year of simple living existed in the positive and negative feedback of my housemates.

Speed vs. Accuracy Tradeoff: Quakers and Racial Justice

For house-hunting ants, harsh conditions during nest emigration make speed essential. One group of scientists found that quorum thresholds, or the number of individuals needed to make a decision, are lowered in Leptothorax albipennis colonies exposed to wind, and that these ants were less discriminating between sites. In contrast, in the presence of calm weather, the control groups were able to choose the best site at their leisure.

We cannot talk about consensus decision making without recognizing the excruciation found in hours-long deliberation over a collective choice. Quakers try to incorporate all opinions, giving each equal weight and recognition, and that can really take forever. This is laughable when we consider the question of which color to paint the walls, but can be problematic for a more serious decision, such as how to respond to racial injustice.

I have heard negative experiences trickle through the grapevine of my housemates. While advocating for racial justice within the Religious Society of Friends, they have come into cultural clashes with larger systems of Quakers, some of who cry out against movement because it is “not in their language”: not in the language of peace, inclusion, and tolerance. There seems to be a desire within Quakerism to choose the best way to move forward calmly, deliberately, accurately, and at leisure. When I told a black woman Friend that I was attending the White Privilege Conference, she responded with something along the lines of “Why do you white people need to keep talking to yourselves in rooms? Just do something!”

At the same time I was studying ants and their choices, I came upon an article that was being read by a classmate in a women’s and gender studies class: Audre Lorde’s reflections on anger. Her first example of how her voice as a black woman had been delegitimized by white women (even those “on her side”) is pertinent to the predicament of the larger structures of Quakerism today, and reflects a speed vs. accuracy tradeoff we face as an American society:

I speak out of direct and particular anger at an academic conference, and a white woman says, “Tell me how you feel, but don’t say it too harshly or I cannot hear you.” But is it my manner that keeps her from hearing, or the threat of a message that her life may change?

Lorde states later: “Anger is loaded with information and energy.” In the long negotiations of peaceful white folks, we are not able to hear the information and energy of the oppressed. A few Quakers of color and some white allies are unduly burdened in trying to drag the body to the living edge of radical faith. I am worried that Quakers will deliberate for too long as they wait in silence for the correct choice, all the while perhaps ignoring those they “cannot hear” due to harshness or the threat it poses to comfort. There is insidious white supremacy inherent in a religion largely comprised of the input of white individuals, and it often manifests as systemic complacency. This occurs while maintaining a high-minded narrative of being on the correct side of history.

There are some times when it is important to be quick, and other times when time is needed to be precisely accurate. In our current, stressful sociopolitical environment, it is necessary to be swift in listening to the energy of the individuals in our group who are angry, who need our help. I hope that the larger Religious Society of Friends can coalesce around the choice to support people of color however they can, to admit to systemic white supremacy, and to act in accordance with anti-racist principles.

The Relationship Between the Individual and the Group

Quakerism has been an important structure for me to learn in and from. I still live with housemates from QVS, and I feel clued into something larger than myself through my relationships with them. This household of former QVS participants still feels right to me in a way that the entirety of Quakerism and its social baggage does not yet. I have confidence that somehow the radical love and commitment to justice I find in my house is being translated and manifested into society through our individual efforts. I believe in the power and energy of an idea, like a waggle dance, to recruit. In my existential world of ants and bees, ideas don’t even necessarily live entirely in our brains or bodies but rather somewhere in the space between tandem running and Spirit. I have faith that, despite all odds, we will choose a more inclusive and just society than exists today.

The post Consensus Decision Making in Eusocial Organisms appeared first on Friends Journal.

Categories: Articles & News
Syndicate content