Testimonies and Concerns 2015 Annual Report:
The purpose of Third Haven Friends' Testimonies & Concerns committee is to help members and attendees of our Meeting intentionally enact the major testimony of Friends' practice of "letting one's life speak" one's spiritual belief. The Committee's work, therefore, relates to Friends' testimonies of simplicity, peace, integrity, community and equality, especially as they pertain to social justice concerns in today's world. Quaker values sit at the heart of what we try to accomplish in T&C.
2015 began with the Philadelphia Yearly Meeting Minute on Racism. This minute came from a meeting held January 10, at the Arch Street Meeting House. Nearly 400 Friends from over 80 monthly meetings, yearly meetings and other religious organizations attended this Called Meeting for Worship with Attention to Business to discern how we, as a faith community, are being led to address racism.
At the conclusion of the meeting a "Minute of Action" was approved, which reads, in part:
(We) "commit to increase our consciousness as Friends about the intersection of privilege and race in our culture and spiritual community. We know our knowledge is often limited by our own experiences and that we have much to learn from each other and from outside resources."
This minute became part of each of our T&C meetings as we discussed our understanding of the intent of the minute and its implications to us as Third Haven Quakers and as individuals. As we discussed different ways to bring our concerns to the entire meeting, it was suggested that in place of trying to arrange for a workshop on racism or white privilege, we might be better off trying to directly engage with local communities who have been impacted this racism and privilege. To this end, we approached friends at Asbury United Methodist Church to share ideas of how our two faith communities might become closer in this work. In the past six months, a small group of Friends met regularly over soup together with a small group of Asbury AME members.
Other work that the Testimonies and Concerns committee has undertaken, to "increase our consciousness" and "move forward with our entire community":
- Some Friends have become involved with the Maryland Alliance for Justice Reform: a bipartisan, statewide alliance seeking legislative changes in Maryland's correctional policies to support alternatives to incarceration, address inequities, and aid citizens returning from prison to lead productive lives, thus, strengthening families and communities.
- The committee has also followed, with interest, the creation of the Talbot Conversation on Race, which began through the Talbot Association of Clergy and Laity. Planning sessions for this conversation were held over the summer and public dialogue facilitation trainings were held in the fall. The first "conversation" will be held in St. Michaels on 8 November. Second is planned for early December to be held in Easton.
- In the aftermath of the mass murder of black parishioners at Emmanuel African Methodist Church in Charleston, S.C. in June of this year, we learned of several black churches intentionally burnt down. We then became aware of an effort led by Christ Church Cathedral in St. Louis, MO to raise money to rebuild these churches. T&C announced this effort and our meeting responded generously.
- In September, with the help and encouragement of American Friends Service Committee, Testimonies & Concerns arranged for what was billed as an "interactive art installation" to be shown at Third Haven. This piece of art, called 39 Questions for White People, was displayed and a group of about twenty gathered together for a worship sharing, inspired by these questions.
Looking forward, along with Philadelphia Yearly Meeting's committee on Undoing Racism, we will continue to follow and help promote the 17th annual White Privilege Conference, to be held in April 2016 in Philadelphia. From their website: "The WPC is a conference that examines challenging concepts of privilege and oppression and offers solutions and team building strategies to work toward a more equitable world." This conference is designed to examine issues of privilege that go beyond skin color, as we all experience some form of privilege, whether it is gender, sexuality, class, disability or skin color, or some intersection of these—and that we're all affected by that privilege.
Also this year:
- The committee arranged for five Faith In Action Events, where we invited the meeting to gather, over a simple meal, and listen to individuals who are doing work that reflect our Quaker values.
- Ralph Young created and led a reading and study group on the subject of peace. Along with the local P.E.A.C.E. organization (Peace Education and Community Effort) and first inspired by Coleman McCarthy's book "Peace is Possible", Ralph leads this monthly meeting and works with a different essay on peace and non-violence. After a two month hiatus, this group will begin again in December, first Tuesday of the month.
- Members of T&C (with some help from their spouses) continue to operate the lending library at the Talbot County Detention Center. This lending library has been in existence for over 13 years, and now houses over 5,000 volumes.
- A member of T&C in absence, Katie Claggett, is currently enrolled as a freshman at Guilford College in North Carolina. She reports to us that, along with American Friends Service Center, and through the Young Quaker Leadership Program, Katie is working on an immigrants' rights project. Part of this project is the creation of a video documenting her work and her thoughts, which was shared with T&C.
Some other Interfaith Efforts led by T&C members include:
- Marilla's Lunches/Interfaith Coalition against Hunger—nine faith groups gather every Wednesday to make and deliver lunches to people who need them in Easton. One week a month this is done at THFM with the help of usually about 6 Friends. These same groups are also responsible for providing six daily lunches to the Ridgeway House, the homeless shelter run by the Neighborhood Service Ctr. Four Friends work one day each week to help this effort. This adds up to about 5,000 Wednesday lunches and 1,500 Ridgeway lunches.
- This same "Interfaith Coalition against Hunger" is responsible for coordinating the annual Thanksgiving dinners prepared at Asbury UME. We are aiming for 150 meals cooked and delivered this year, with close to 30 Third Haven Friends involved.
- Christmas gifts for children through the Chesapeake Multicultural Resource Center and help for them in creating nutritious food baskets for their Thanksgiving celebration.
- Preparing food for and being present at the overnight homeless shelter, the Talbot Interfaith Shelter, (TIS) on the 17th of each month.
- Supporting P.E.A.C.E. demonstrations each Thursday at 5, in front of the Talbot County courthouse. This vigil has been going on for about 14 years now.
- Easton Multicultural Festival (held yearly in early May) this year with the help of the Outreach Committee, we had 3 tables, arts and crafts and Quaker literature to hand out.
The T&C Committee is also charged with distributing funds from the Shoffner International Education Fund. This fund began in 2010 with a loving donation following the death of member John Shoffner. 5% of this fund is donated yearly to organizations that support our Quaker testimonies. In 2015 the fund gave $960 to Aguayuda, an organization that began locally, to support their work to improve life and health in poor rural communities through clean water and education.