Minneapolis Friends Meeting
Continuation of Meeting for Business Minutes
Threshing Session for Peace and Social Concerns, June 9, 2013
11:30AM – 1:00PM
35 Friends participated in the session
Presiding clerk established the parameters for the threshing session through instructions emailed earlier in the week. The threshing session will consist of three sections. The first will feature representatives of volunteer groups within Minneapolis Friends Meeting who will talk briefly about their program and answer three questions. The second section consists of speakers from outside groups that have MFM representation. The third section is for general responses and ideas for moving forward. Participants are asked to move to the front circle of chairs, to keep their remarks brief and to use the microphone. Much effort has been made to involve just about every volunteer group and many speakers have been preselected. A general invitation was made for additional participants connected to programs not represented by a speaker.
The three questions speakers were asked to address:
- What has your group focused on during the last six months?
- What will your group probably focus on during the next six months?
- What do you most need from the Minneapolis Friends Meeting during the next six months?
Section One – volunteer groups active within MFM
Representatives in the center circle: Annette – Winds of change, Pat – speaking for various groups involved with education of children and newcomers about Quaker witness and Quaker action in world, Mary Jean – the group coalesced around global climate disruption (Minneapolis Friends for Climate Stability), John – former clerk of Peace and Social Concerns (P&SC) , Judith F. – speaking for Phil (he is the most recent clerk of P&SC), Annette – Winds of Change. One group that was not represented – White Envelope Gift at Christmas time
- Winds of change – started with 12 people … dwindled with attrition to a core of 6 … important to keep as vigorous committee in meeting … picnics and barbecues with people from north side confronting housing crisis … presentations in meeting were well attended … and sessions where meeting members shared their personal experiences of white privilege were much appreciated … right now things are at a standstill … need people with passion and commitment to revitalize it. At Northern Yearly Meeting there was a discussion on testimony of equality with the conclusion that we are not well equipped to deal with this … we don’t see others as God sees us … we still confront delusions and false stories … there continues to be a need to be conscious – to be open to find new ways forward … to have God clear us of these things.
- Various groups in meeting with social consciousness impact – individuals have presented specific messages as part of religious education/adult program including the underground RR, social and religious challenges in Kenya and Quaker testimonies. MFM maintains a file with statements from pacifists on their beliefs about war, draft counseling and draft registration.
- Climate Change – a Friend’s comments during prepared ministry in February challenged us to become aware and to get involved … led to education sessions in meeting from members with expertise in this area and first hand experience … core group of 8 people have met four times and have brought lots of energy … natural progression from political to practical to spiritual … began with political … Google group … letter writing … testifying before public utility commission … political activity is down in summer … good time to focus on spiritual and practical … work with religious education … property committee has already completed an extensive energy audit of the meeting. One specific concern is frac sand mining, which directly impacts three members of MFM. Overall, amazed at what has happened with climate group … feels this is too important a topic to consider it a “subgroup” or a “working group”.
- Peace and Social Concerns (P&SC)– committee has been laid down before … Cheryl got it going again and John clerked it for 4 -5 years. Committee did not see itself taking on all the peace and social concerns issues for the Meeting. They acted as a clearing house for correspondence and issues referred to it by monthly meeting; and for a long time they were responsible for the adult program hour every 3rd Sunday. These monthly programs were an important way to open doors to strong messages from outside that are important to us while exposing us to outside speakers on a wide variety of social, peace and activist topics. Recent experience has been very painful and the committee is inactive, now. Past clerks have left MFM. The Meeting needs a way to stay open to the rest of the world. P&SC was the Meeting’s doorway to the rest of the world. It was not set up to do the work itself, but to be an ear and a doorway.
- Letter from Phil (most recent clerk of P&SC) – some recent accomplishments: provided a number of adult program speakers, held regular meetings, paid MFM dues to MN Alliance of Peacemakers (MAP) and provided a representative to MAP, used the weekly bulletin to send message that their meetings were open to anyone to attend, three people from MFM attended Day on the Hill sponsored by Joint Religious Legislative Commission and devoted an adult program to promoting Day on the Hill. He is not sure what the future holds for P&SC but states that communication is the primary thing wanted from the Meeting. This would include: email, telephone, regular mail, talking with P&SC members, maintaining the file in blue box on the long table and visits to P&SC meetings. He has never understood the angst about P&SC from the Meeting, and over the last number of years has been disturbed by a feeling of anti-Christian sentiment from some people at Meeting.
Section 2 Outside groups that have MFM representation
Representatives in center circle :Terry – Alternative to Violence Project, Doug – Friends Committee on National Legislation Connie – Friends World Committee on Consultation, Jeannette – American Friends Service Committee, Mary Jean – Joint Religious Legislative Commission, David – Friends for a Non-Violent World
- American Friends Service Committee (AFSC)– a large national Quaker program in which many from the Meeting have participated. AFSC recently started a Friends Liaison Program that seeks to have one representative from every Quaker meeting in the nation. They are looking for more project ideas in addition to the four they currently pursue, including Healing Justice and Ending Solitary Confinement.
- Joint Religious Legislative Commission – this is a program seeking consensus action from faith communities across the state to address current issues before the state legislature. It strives to find issues that all faith communities can agree on, which means not every important topic is addressed – for example, gun control. Issues they have considered are a working minimum wage and human trafficking. This year about 8,000 people descended on the capitol for Day on the Hill. It has been noted that JRLC’s mission statement on the environment is very outdated and needs work. Also, Quakers are not listed on their participation list.
- Friends World Committee for Consultation (FWCC) and Right Sharing – the goal of FWCC is to bring together all branches of Quakerism around the world and to work to build the larger community of faith. Kenya has the most Quakers of any country and they are still growing in numbers and are very inspirational. Right Sharing is a program that has joined with FWCC. Its’ board explores projects around the world and decides where funds are to be sent. Connie represents Northern Yearly Meeting on FWCC. One way we can help is to contribute to both organizations.
- Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL) – this is a very effective and respected lobby operating in Washington. Doug has been appointed, recently, to serve as a MFM representative to FCNL. FCNL is working on many issues and Doug is a conduit to channel information to and from Washington. A committee is not needed. Many from MFM are signed up to receive the FCNL online newsletter and legislative updates, but it would be good to have more on the list. FCNL provides timely announcements on current issues and lobbying efforts as well as giving information on how to visit your legislators and how to influence local politicians and how to work with other lobbyists in the area.
- Alternative to Violence Project (AVP) – this is a program that trains individuals to learn new ways to confront challenges in a non-violent way thru intense multi-day training sessions. The focus is on prison inmates. In Minnesota there are about 30-35 trainers and they host weekend workshops in prisons almost once a month. The AVP national headquarters is in St Paul and they receive financial support from Friends for a Non-violent World. There are five volunteers working with AVP who are associated with our Meeting.
- Friends for a Non-Violent World (FNVW) – David has been on the board of FNVW. It was formed in the 70’s when AFSC moved its’ offices from Minneapolis to Des Moines, IA and local Friends wanted to maintain an organization in the Twin Cities that focused on peace and social change. While FNVW is not a specific Quaker organization it is “Quaker inspired”. It helps sponsor the Alternative to Violence Project and has active education programs and conferences focused on peace issues and various faith communities, including Christians, Muslims, Judaism, etc. Every August, it sponsors a week long People Camp. The FNVW Holiday Craft Sale, that MFM hosts every December, is a major fund raiser for FNVW.
Other Organizations or Initiatives in which MFM shares a social or peace interest –
- Loaves and Fishes – preparing, cooking and serving food at a large shelter 4 or 5 times a year
- White Envelope Gift – an ad hoc process to contribute designated funds donated at Christmas
- Northern Yearly Meeting and their committees
- MFM annual budget process – where part of the budget is dedicated to support local or national organizations
Section 3. Selected Responses and Discussion – looking for a way forward
- Friend expressed concern about too many acronyms and requests their elimination. [note and apologies from recording clerk – it is really hard to eliminate them completely in a document like this]
- Long-time member finds it hard to get to know people well … presentations on racial justice were an excellent way gain in depth knowledge of people in the Meeting … appreciates that P&SC meetings are always open to everyone … if not P&SC, what other ways can MFM continue to nurture and to explore social awareness.
- Peace and social concerns often draws people to Quakers … a Friend left Meeting when they did not see a focus on activities concerning peace and social concerns … returned later … realized much activity takes place within the committees … there needs to be a way to see what everyone is doing and to become connected with these issues within the Meeting … suggests a member of Ministry and Counsel sit in silence with the Climate Change group to provide spiritual support and guidance when they are meeting.
- There is wide variation in the social justice issues that come directly to monthly meeting and the topics that come via other committees … need a way to sort this out … also, the Meeting is a refuge for those who are engaged in social justice activitism and the Meeting needs to support them.
- I wonder about the distinction between individuals and the larger group role of the Meeting … how to be tender and open to all the issues needing to be addressed without becoming splintered and overwhelmed … can there be a “corporate witness” … is there a way for individuals to participate?
- A new attender stated it would be helpful to have a master calendar so everyone would know when committees were meeting or when special activities were planned.
- There is a reason to do your own thing within a spiritual community … part of purpose of Meeting is to care for those doing ministry in the Meeting … we find joy through trust in God and trust in community … where and how do we find that trust so we can have joy individually in these projects while supporting and celebrating the ministry of others in the Meeting … challenge is how to find intimacy and love for each other so we can find the joy.
- Friend has energy to put into this … could help with a calendar or newsletter highlighting what is happening and what people are doing … not just for within the Meeting but for other interested parties … they are concerned and motivated by challenges with health care which has not been addressed in the present discussion.
- Previous experience using an open Google group was effective … minutes can be posted … anyone can post anything of interest anytime … effective tool to help learn about a meeting
- Friend recounted how Lucretia Mott was so outspoken on anti-slavery issues and women’s rights that she was eldered, but that did not stop her from saying her message …. concern about letter expressing perception that some Quakers seem to be anti-Christian … there is a thin line between being religious and being political … how might we bridge the line between those two sides?
- Shared observation of an outsider’s view of Quakerism: other churches express the Father and Son part of the Christian message. Quakers do a good job bringing out the Holy Spirit.
- One of the Quaker testimonies concerns community … as individuals, we are often at odds with community. If the community is not functioning handling issues, we need to reorganize to bring the community into better focus. If we are doing our own thing, why have a community?
- Member of nominating spoke about background of recent deliberations regarding P&SC … feedback from some in Meeting was that P&SC functioned differently from other committees, and while it was always open to anyone attending there was slow turnover of actual committee positions … sense that it was becoming ingrown … people would continue to re-up from year to year or stay active on it even when they rotated off … nominating struggled a lot with this … sensitive to the angst expressed in the discussion today and about how the members of P&SC have felt the loss of support from Meeting as a result of the recent changes brought about by nominating and monthly meeting … the threshing process is important to sort out future directions … P&SC has filled an important role in the past and monthly meeting has frequently referred letters and issues to them … issue has been how the committee was functioning … maybe it is time to reappoint the committee with a greater emphasis on regular turnover of committee positions.
- One Friend gained a broader view of the Quaker world view when attending a Pendle Hill workshop – we are very married to our forms … we may need to shake things up … focus more on how we are being led by the spirit … going forward, we don’t have to do it the same way … there is a new energy
- A common thread in the discussion is communication. Communications has always been a big component of P&SC. How do we find out what is going on? Web site, weekly bulletin, announcements at close of worship – all can be used more effectively
Clerk brought discussion to close with a moment of silence.
Volunteers were sought to give consideration to the information raised in the threshing session and to bring some recommendations forward to monthly meeting in July.
David W, Mary G, Mary Jean , John R, Kyle J, Roland B and John S volunteered.
Business Meeting and Threshing Session adjourned at 1:00 PM
Carolyn VandenDolder forwarded these notes to me after the threshing session, capturing key points raised and consolidating the questions into some queries to help us move forward:
Peace and Social Concerns threshing session notes:
Needs of MFM (that seem committee-ish):
- doorway / point of entry for those outside Meeting to carry concerns to Meeting
- process by which statements, letters, minutes of corporate witness may be created and/or seasoned
- specific people or person who will consistently notify Meeting community of events, protests,
- opportunities for activism
- specific people or person to receive requests for seasoning – money; MFM sponsorship or
- education around issues
- maintaining and publicizing a master calendar of meetings – interest groups, activist groups – and opportunities for action
- What vehicles can we use in our Meeting to continue to discover what each other is doing and how we can nurture and support each other?
- How can we preserve meeting as a place of refuge and renewal for those engaged in activism?
- How can we bridge or combine the spiritual and political?
- How can we be tender and open to all the issues that cry out to be addressed without having our energies splintered and scattered; becoming inactive due to the sheer number of opportunities/needs?
- Can we have a witness as a Meeting that we each as individuals support and participate in, focusing on one or two issues, even if it or they are not “my” passion?
- If everyone is doing their own thing – where is the community?
- How can we know and support one another – taking joy in each other’s interests and pursuits, even if we don’t share them?