Testimonies and Concerns 2016 Annual Report:
From the Third Haven website:
"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."
Friends have worked for peace, equity and social justice from the early days of the Religious Society of Friends. Motivation for this work comes from individual experiences and leadings, and our belief in Quaker testimonies and teachings. Teachings based on the unimpeachable belief in the worth of every person and in the faith of the power of love to overcome violence and oppression.
Third Haven's Testimonies and Concerns Committee tries to build bridges between historic Quaker testimonies and individual concerns and leadings and the involvement of those in the meeting community and the meeting as a whole. The Committee is an open committee, meaning that while it has named members that meet monthly, all are welcome to attend a committee meeting at any time, no long-term commitment is required.
To describe our work and to borrow from a page from FCNL:
"We seek a world free of war and the threat of war, a society with equity and justice for all. We seek a community where every person's potential may be fulfilled. We seek an earth restored."
Our committee organizes speakers and fundraisers and participates in broader community events such as the annual Multi-cultural Fair in May and the Thanksgiving meals prepared for our neighbors in need. We encourage the meeting to maintain supportive relationships with local organizations with similar interests like the Talbot Interfaith Shelter, the Chesapeake Multicultural Resource Center, Asbury United Methodist, the Talbot Association of Clergy and Laity and the lending library at the Talbot County Detention Center.
T&C attempts to stay current with and engage with the national peace and social justice initiatives of the Friends Committee on National Legislation and the American Friends Service Committee. Examples of this from the past twelve months include AFSC's "Let Your Lives Speak" program and their "Love Thy Neighbor" effort. We worked with FCNL in their "The World We Seek" drive this past spring as we asked Third Haven Friends what their priorities might be for the upcoming legislative session in Washington. We kept friends informed of webinars and conference calls that AFSC, FCNL and Pendle Hill held over the year.
T&C is charged with the care of the Shoffner International Education Fund, established in 2010 with a bequest from Friend John Shoffner. This year our donation of $756.89 went to the Bolivian Quaker Education Fund, to support a student in Bolivia.
This year we had two unrelenting issues on our agenda, month after month. One was the horrendous plight of refugees fleeing Syria. We tried to engage the meeting with our concerns here by circulating a powerful letter written by a Friend from Westfield Monthly Meeting; by alerting our meeting to a conference call arranged by Philadelphia Yearly Meeting and a Google Group that was created following that call. We followed and shared fund AND consciousness raising ideas from other meetings and organizations; we wrote a letter of concern and mailed it to elected officials, both national and local, and had it published in the local newspaper. And twice we organized a fund raising effort and sent our donations to the Nationalities Service Center, a group supporting refugees arriving in the Mid-Atlantic region.
The other continuing concern is the grim obstinacy of racial injustice in our country. T&C holds the belief that if you are neutral in a situation of injustice then you have chosen the side of the oppressor. I can't report that we made any progress with this concern but we did continue trying to build a stronger relationship with the congregation from Asbury UME in Easton. We invited them to participate in our Carriage Shed Sale this year and shared the proceeds with them. This money was gratefully used by Asbury to help pay for the new stained glass windows in their church.
Individual members of the committee also followed with interest the TACL's "Conversation on Race" and the debate over removing the "Confederate Boys" statue on the courthouse lawn. We had a participant attending, with the meeting's help, the 2016 "White Privilege Conference" held in Philadelphia in April. We also brought the "Birmingham Pledge to End Racism" to the attention of Third Haven and provided wallet sized cards with the pledge to all those interested.
Information from the organizations "Showing Up for Racial Justice" and the "Maryland Alliance for Justice Reform" were shared throughout the year using our on-line announcement format. We read and discussed the Pendle Hill pamphlet written by George Lakey, "Powerful Beyond Measure", which challenges us to confront how class prejudice influences Friends' approach to leadership in the work of realizing social justice. We've purchased a handful of this publication and encourage all to read it.
We also shared and discussed the article in the Friends Journal from January 2016 entitled "Why Have a Peace and Social Concerns Committee?" and another from December 2015 entitled "Talk Less, Do More". Part of the reason that these articles spoke to the committee is the weariness we sometimes feel, as a committee and as individuals, with the ceaseless social justice problems we encounter. We spent many meeting hours discussing what we felt were the more urgent issues and how we might alert, inspire and involve the larger meeting in these issues. Some of us were frequently frustrated at what we felt was a lack of attention or curiosity from the meeting at large and our inability to better engage the meeting. Sometimes we wondered if our only purpose was to gather monthly and share our spirit-led feelings amongst the ten of us, and if indeed that was purpose enough.
We discussed changing the name of our committee to "Peace and Social Justice Committee", thinking that that might clarify our work and attract more Friends to it. These articles from Friends Journal reminded us that there are many Quakers across the country facing these very same issues: how to truly live our testimonies in the 21st century, how to actually let our lives speak, how to clearly articulate our beliefs and attract others to them. Both articles remind us that "as Quakers we must live our principles. We must reach out with our hands, because in the end, it is only our actions that will define who we truly are."