Healing Rift Around Racism

Background: Those gathered at Quaker Spring in 2016 agreed to ask our planning committee to take up a painful rift in our community arising from a racial incident at our 2014 gathering and propose a plan to move forward toward reconciliation and healing. In December the planning committee asked Angela Hopkins, Angela York Crane and Annie Patterson to develop such a plan. They submitted this report. We are deeply grateful for their faithfulness. We unite fully with this report’s conclusions and have agreed to use it as the basis for moving forward in healing the rift among us.

For the Quaker Spring Planning Committee:

Ann Armstrong, Doug Armstrong, Peter Blood-Patterson, Deborah Haines, Angela Hopkins, Mary Lord, Randy Oftedahl
June 13, 2017


QQuaker Spring has a rich history. This history includes times of faithfulness and blessings. It also includes a time of hurt. Deep pain was and continues to be experienced and felt by many members of our community from racist incidents that occurred 3 years ago. This pain is evident within the body of our Quaker Spring community even though some may not be completely aware of it. One way that this hurt is evident is that there has been and continues to be an intentional lack of presence due to an act of conscience by Friends of Color and white allies. This act of conscience has been an act of love.

Whether you were aware of these past hurts in our community or not, we invite everyone involved in Quaker Spring to join in beginning the process of working on healing from racism in our community. We long to heal and become whole.

If we are being afflicted, it is for your consolation and salvation; if we are being consoled it is for your consolation, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we are also suffering. Our hope for you is unshaken; for we know that as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our consolation. (2 Corinthians 1:6)

As a result of this longing, this working group was charged to suggest specific work for us to do as a community moving forward. In writing this it is not our intention to lay blame on any one member, or on the community but instead we are led to call us to witness as a community the hurt within the body, being faithful to God in our journey towards wholeness.

Indeed, the body does not consist of one member but of many. If the foot would say, ‘Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,’ that would not make it any less a part of the body. (1 Corinthians 12:14-16)

After much prayer, faithful discussion and leadings we feel the rightness in the spirit of where we are standing now to suggest several actions moving forward:

Name the Racism
We are called to name the racist incidents that happened in our community.

Apology
Friends are called to apologize as a community for our non-actions and any actions that may have been hurtful or demeaning to Friends of Color.

Invitation
We are called to issue an invitation to the Quaker Spring community to come together as one body for a workshop/retreat time one year from now to specifically work on racism within our community and the past hurts that have caused pain to the body of Quaker Spring. This would be a specific time to do the work on racial justice that we are being called to do (potential leaders: Dr Charley Flint & Jeff Hitchcock).

We feel it’s important to take a year to prepare for this retreat. This will provide time for all Friends to season and prepare in both body and heart.

Faithfulness – Witness to the Call
Friends around the country and world are being called to do this work. New England Yearly Meeting issued a minute (Minute 2016-38) last year calling us to speak “Truth to power”. In the introduction to the minute we are told:

We long to find the right words, but we do not know the right words. Yet we are clear we want to do this work. When we know Truth experientially, but do not know each other’s experience, we only know a portion of the Truth…We want to grow; we want to become whole. We have received this minute and have been exercised. We want to invite others into the same experience. With our hearts broken open we approved the following minute; uniting with it with both joy and pain. This is the truth God has brought us to at this time. We feel the Love in these words.

We are complicit in white supremacy. We at New England Yearly Meeting have been ‘colonized’ by our white supremacist culture and fall short of our full potential as a gathered body of Quaker Meetings because of this colonization…

It moves us deeply to see the ways in which Friends are listening to the call to move forward in interrupting white supremacy within the Society of Friends. We at Quaker Spring are not alone in longing to become a whole body and we feel the same confidence that was expressed by the clerk of New England Yearly Meeting to “go forward in love” and that “God is with us” in this work.

In looking back on some of the early letters, epistles and reports of Quaker Spring we found important queries and reminders of our early intentions and leadings. We feel these early writings can guide us today. Here are excerpts from some of those writings (along with a few notes for clarification):

Ten years ago, in 2007, Micah Bales wrote the following in his blog post entitled “Revival in Barnesville”:

I also praise God for the opportunity that I was given this weekend to experience more deeply the reality that I am not a lone individual, nor even a member solely of my own generation. I am an extension of my parents and they are an extension of me; my generation is an extension of past generations and they are extensions of us. When one of us lives in that Life and Power, it affects us all. When one generation sings, it affects all generations. We are not individuals. I am thee, Friend, and thee is me. Our faithfulness or lack thereof resonates between us, yes, throughout the entire Church. We are not individuals, not even family. No, we are something different, something more. We are the Body of Christ. We are the Children of the Light.

In a 2008 report summary, clerked by Susan Smith, we read this query:

What do we feel God encouraging us to do, or to do better, in our meetings at home to encourage and deepen ministry in our meetings for worship?

Here are excerpts of our response from this report summary:

We need what God is offering us through the gift of ministry.
…Corporate naming of a gift encourages its continuing development within the person to whom it has been given.
…Naming the gift also encourages the group’s ability to support it.

…What can we do to support ministry in our meetings?

  • Consider and do something to meet the spiritual and the outward needs of people whose vocal ministry speaks to your condition.
  • Encourage discernment…about the spiritual gifts and the readiness of Friends who are appointed to represent our meetings to other groups…
  • Encourage accountability in both directions between ministers and their meetings.
  • Fears about spiritual authority and accountability quickly becoming oppressive need to be recognized and addressed.

In the 2009 Minute of Exercise on Brokenness, recorded by Susan Smith, we considered the following query:

How does brokenness affect my experience of the Light of Christ?…spiritual affliction can be the trigger that brings us to the feet of Christ. Brokenness shakes me out of complacency and comfort.

We are all broken vessels of God.

The 2009 Minute of Exercise on Community, recorded by Ann Armstrong, gives us these powerful words about community:

You sustained me through all…Give me the courage to keep listening. Show us how reaching out across boundaries, between people, meetings, denominations so we can serve you better…We want to be branches on the vine. Hold us, prune us so we are more fruitful.

When we are broken, God’s light shines through the cracks and we can be filled with God’s Light. Our brokenness is within us. We need to name it and own it. This includes White Supremacy, fear and compliance.

From the 2011 Minute of Exercise on Healing Rifts within the Meeting Community, recorded by Peter Blood-Patterson, we read:

Sandra Cronk taught us that the strength of community is in the power of powerlessness.

Friends attending Quaker Spring in 2011 felt open to:

…I don’t want you to act in my name to set yourself against others in my body.’…Our wars are often a result of how caught up we are in the world which will not be healed just by listening to each other…It takes a willingness to be taught about that which we do not understand.

…we need to make sure the meeting is a safe place to express our different understandings of truth freely…to start healing we must stand fearlessly in the truth of what we are, even if that is very hard and painful.

Can we stand in our truth and stand with each other in love with God’s help?

The closing minute in 2011 states:

…we experienced the intimate presence of the Inward Teacher leading us, challenging us, opening us to share deeply with one another, and guiding us into new ways of living in Love, especially in and with our beloved meetings.
…a deeper understanding of Christ’s teaching that those who are ‘poor in spirit’ – who know their need of God – are truly blessed. We learned in new ways how acknowledging our loneliness, brokenness and need of God’s ever-present Love opens the door into wholeness, community and authentic faithful living. Choosing to be vulnerable about our experiences, our wounds, and our need to mourn is a choice that leads to Life.

The above minute on Healing Rifts within the Meeting Community also reads:

Recognizing our brokenness. Christ’s commandment to love others as ourselves is rooted in our ability to love ourselves and to recognize God’s true voice within us. It requires embracing the lost and rejected parts of ourselves – asking for God’s grace to love all aspects of ourselves…It is in our nature as humans to need to be forgiven. We experience God’s forgiveness as we practice yielded-ness…What underlines peace in the meeting community is trust in God.

Jesus humbled himself.

…His ability to live with that sense of betrayal can inspire us to ask for the same grace. Can we bear the unbearable together?

Yours faithfully,

Angela Hopkins, Angela York Crane & Annie Patterson
June 1, 2017

In the evening, Friends participated in a session, naming and further defining the incident which was referenced in the “Racist Incident at Quaker Spring Report” sent to Friends and attenders of Quaker Spring

After a timeline of the incident and responses was presented, the original report was read out loud. It was noted that there are many who feel unable to gather with us, and because of this witness, the community is incomplete. Then, Friends settled into a worship sharing about the information presented and the report.

I was reminded of the verse Jesus wept, of how many times during the gathering the topic of lament, repentance/forgiveness, and absolution arose. That we have not struggled well with how to get under the weight of the sin of institutional racism that allowed the incident to go unaddressed, that we have a need to make amends, without knowing what that might look like.

Friends expressed their sorrow at the pain that has caused part of our community to need to stand apart from the gatherings. A Friend shared that this was not their work. Friends expressed their frustration at how long it has taken for the incident to be named publicly, how long it has taken for full understanding and repentance. A Friend shared that a feeling of being a rider on the bus, and had just learning of the boycott, and now needed to get off the bus, by leaving the worship sharing and Quaker Spring.

Friends shared of their experiences, with different Quaker groups of doing similar work, and the life that can come forth, and also the diligence and tenacity required to stay in the hard parts. To stay in, allowing the Inner Light to search us and bring us to brokenness and repentance, and to know community coming back together. A Friend shared encouragement and a sense of the weight and rightness of the work we need to do.

There were concerns expressed of governance issues of accountability for the listening committee and planning committee, cautions of not stepping further than their guide. Friends expressed commitment to the work of repentance and reconciliation.

There was a sense of unity that a conclusive formal apology be prepared and accepted by the body. There was a sense of unity that we continue the work of repentance and reconciliation. I felt as if there was a sense of unity in continuing to get under the weight of the sin of racism in our community. Part of that weight is accepting that grace and forgiveness are not cheap or quick (see Minute of Exercise on Healing Rifts within the Faith Community, Quaker Spring 2011)

Clerks: Randy Oftedahl and Angela York Crane
Elders: Bre-anne Brown and Anne Armstrong

Cover Letter

Dear Friends,

As most of you are aware, the community of Friends that has been involved in Quaker Spring over the last decade has been wrestling with some difficult issues the past several years. Last June we sent out to our entire QS mailing list a “Report on Racism within Quaker Spring”.

Those gathered at Oakwood School later that month for Quaker Spring 2017 spent time exploring what we felt we were being called to do as a community in response to the rift that has divided us. During that time we worked on naming the acts of racism among us and writing a much needed apology. After much prayerful discernment, those gathered this year felt unity in issuing the attached Letter of Apology, which was sent to Friends of color and allies during the summer.

We want to emphasize strongly that all of us have been wounded by the sin of racism in this country. It is our intention to accept corporate responsibility for the hurtful actions that took place including the acts of omission and commission.

We as the planning committee would like to rewrite the next to last paragraph of the letter apology to read:
We are united in the desire for the entire QS community to come together to address the racism in our midst and seek to heal our brokenness. We realize that preparing in both body and heart will take time, and are willing to take all the time that is needed.

The complete Letter of Apology as it was sent out in the summer of 2017 is attached below.

In Christ’s love,
For Quaker Spring Planning Group
Ann Armstrong, Peter Blood-Patterson, Jonathan Vogel-Borne, Bre-Anne Brown, Angela Hopkins, David Morse, Randy Oftedahl, Earl Smith, Sylvia Thomas


Letter of Apology

To Friends of color who are part of Quaker Spring
To those who have absented themselves as an act of conscience –
From the body gathered at Oakwood, June 23-28 2017

Dear Friends,

The body of Quaker Spring is wounded and is diminished by the absence of Friends of Color. We long to be made whole.

As Friends of European Descent, we apologize for how stubbornly blind we have been to the pervasive injustice inherent in white privilege.

We apologize for the racist incidents that marred our gatherings in 2013 and 2014. The most serious event occurred in 2014, when a white Friend on the Listening Committee confronted a Friend of Color with words and gestures that were not only offensive but racially demeaning. The Listening Committee failed to share information with the wider Quaker Spring body concerning any of these incidents. This silence, and the continued membership of this individual on the Listening and Planning Committees, gave the message that we did not take seriously what had been done.

We apologize for not acknowledging those incidents at the time, so that they could be fully and honestly addressed. We on the Listening Committee in particular recognize that we have been complicit in racism, because we did not take steps to name it, own our responsibility and seek to heal the wounds it had caused.

All of us gathered at Quaker Spring 2017 join in this apology, whether we were present or not at any previous Quaker Spring. We apologize for our lack of transparency and our failure to insist on Truth. We recognize that an apology is long overdue. We grieve for the pain caused by our sins of commission and omission.

We are deeply grateful for the faithful persistence of the Friends who laboured to help members of the body of Quaker Spring to see our blindness and acknowledge our racism.

We are united with the suggestion to invite the entire Quaker Spring community to come together as one body for a workshop/retreat sometime in 2018, to address the racism in our midst and seek to heal our brokenness. We realize that preparing in both body and heart will take time, and are willing to take all the time that is needed.

We long to move forward in openness and trust, knowing that Christ’s love can heal even the deepest wounds.
Marcelle Martin, clerk
(adopted June 28, 2017)

Meeting for Discernment – Healing of Rifts within the Faith Community
Sunday Evening, June 19, 2011 – The Meeting School, Rindge NH
Minute of Exercise

The Query: All our meeting communities suffer from rifts. How do we allow and stand with the tears, and mend the tears, moving with God toward forgiveness?
The rift. As members of a meeting, we are co-members of Christ’s body, but sometimes a rift develops within the body. When we are in conflict with each other, Christ says to us: “I am not the leader of a faction! I don’t want you to act in my name to set yourself against others in my body.”

Around issues like bricks & mortar, people easily get caught up in the urgency of the moment. Our wars are often a result of how caught up we are in the world – which will not be healed just by listening to each other. It takes more than forgiveness. It takes a willingness to be taught about that which we do not understand.

Preventing rifts. We can try to avoid labeling each other and to really hear each other as the unique children of God that we are. We need to let go of our personal agendas and projects if we are to be in unity.

A meeting was divided on a major decision with a large majority wanting to take one action and a small minority disagreeing. A member of the majority spoke very critically in Meeting for Business of a member of the minority group in a hurtful way. Seasoned Friends in the meeting who shared the majority viewpoint stood with the member who was attacked to say that we value our diverse viewpoints and need to make sure the meeting is a safe place to express our different understandings of truth freely. They worked to create and maintain a culture of safety to ensure that personal views don’t come before our common love and commitment to each other and our sense of that of God in each other.

Parker Palmer has spoken of a monastic vow of “stability” – a commitment to remain in community with each other even when things got tough and not to move into the monastery down the road. Friends often run to another meeting when conflict develops or simply stop going to meeting.

The baptism of translation. We have many refugees amongst us who have held onto the pain of the languages that hurt them before. Some of us have been given the gift of being able to walk with different languages that describe our journey with God – and hear the Spirit speaking through them all. We need to receive Gilead’s balm to put on the ears of the injured. We can’t be afraid to speak the language that we have been given. Perhaps the kind of Pentecost that is being offered to us in the 21st century is a spiritual baptism that enables us to understand each others’ languages of the heart.

Standing in our truth. Sometimes it feels as if we are silenced and will lose our truth if we stay where we are. It is far easier to recover from being yelled at than to recover from avoiding key questions out of the fear of getting angry at each other. To start healing we must stand fearlessly in the truth of what we are, even if that is very hard and painful. Can we stand in our truth and stand with each other in love with God’s help?

Sometimes it is right to leave a meeting community, but that doesn’t mean our work with that meeting is over.

Healing rifts through listening. Those who need talking to are those who need to be listened to. Ministry and Counsel can meet with the most vociferous Friends on both sides of a rift and just listen.

We need to ask more questions and make fewer statements, to be more curious than threatened, to look at situations as lessons rather than crises. We can turn from fear to trust. I can look at my past as an opening to what was stuck and open up the gate.

Often all we can do is just love the different warring parties.

Too often when we ask someone “how are you?” we want the short version. We want the quick and easy way. Grace and forgiveness aren’t cheap or quick. I want others to say to me: “I really want to listen: how are you today?” Are we willing to take the time to talk about the areas where we’re broken?

One Friend expressed a longing to continue talking with each other in this session in the darkened room until the sun came up.

Recognizing our brokenness. Christ’s commandment to love others as ourselves is rooted in our ability to love ourselves and to recognize God’s true voice within us. It requires embracing the lost and rejected parts of ourselves – asking for God’s grace to love all aspects of ourselves.

It is in our nature as humans to need to be forgiven. We experience God’s forgiveness as we practice yieldedness. As we enter God’s kingdom, we are asked to yield to others, to forgive others and to accept their forgiveness. This is a contradiction to our culture which maintains that each man is his own island. Sondra Cronk taught us that the strength of community is in the power of powerlessness.

Jesus’ experience with abandonment. When Jesus was in anguish and fear and uncertainty, he asked his friends to just stay awake with him. As a human, Jesus experienced human outrage and despair and the sense of betrayal of being abandoned by one’s spiritual community. His ability to live with that sense of betrayal can inspire us to ask for the same grace. Can we bear the unbearable together?

One Friend suggested that Jesus must have loved Judas so much that he tried to follow him out of the Upper Room to reach out to him and be reconciled with him. When we feel abandoned or betrayed or separated from each other, we can love each other and run after each other in the same way.

The rift is over. What underlies peace in the meeting community is trust in God. With that trust there is no need to defend our walls and positions because there is nothing there but God’s power and love. It starts with recognizing our need of God and God’s trustworthiness. If we live in that trust, it spreads out and fills the gaps between us.

A Friend once gave ministry in meeting about the wrongness of walls erected within the faith community and the need to tear them down. A stranger came up to her after meeting and said, “You are wrong about that. The victory is already won.” We don’t have to solve or fix the walls as Christ has already walked through them.

—Clerk: Janet Hough
—Elders: Leslie Manning and Susan Smith
—Recording Clerk: Peter Blood-Patterson