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SUMMER 2000: v5i2 INDEX

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SUMMER, 2000: Volume 5 Issue 2

Philadelphia YM works on “Every Meeting House a Peace Center” by Mary Arnett

In response to Mary Lord’s article in the Spring 1998 issue of Peace Team News, members of Philadelphia Yearly Meeting (PhYM) decided to explore the concept of “Every Meeting House a Peace Center.” We started this exploration on two levels, the Yearly Meeting and the Monthly Meetings. At the Yearly Meeting level, several PhYM members had already formed a Working Group on Applying the Peace Testimony (APT). PhYM was in the throes of a total reorganization to give more initiatives to Monthly Meetings, during which all PhYM program committees, including the Peace Committee, were laid down. APT grew out of a concern of some PhYM members, most—if not all—of whom were on the Peace and Social Concerns Committees of their respective Monthly Meetings, to continue to lift up the Peace Testimony per se in the Yearly Meeting as a whole. Three of these members, George Willoughby, Lori Kintz, and I, were also on the Coordinating Council of Friends Peace Teams Project (FPTP).

As the APT working group sought ways to lift up the Peace Testimony at PhYM, its three members who were also on the FPTP Coordinating Council were taking the “Every Meeting House a Peace Center” concept, along with copies of Mary Lord’s article, to their Monthly Meetings’ Peace and Social Concerns Committee meetings. All three received encouragement from their Peace and Social Concerns Committees to explore this concern further.

At Central Philadelphia Monthly Meeting, George Willoughby and I, as members of the Peace and Social Concerns Committee, asked representatives of our Adult Religious Education Committee and our First Day School Committee high school teachers to meet with us. They agreed. We also invited the clerk of an ad hoc committee appointed to plan a series of programmed meetings as an educational experience for our Monthly Meeting. All present agreed in principle that “Every Meeting House a Peace Center” was a concern that should be explored. In addition, the clerk of the ad hoc committee offered to have “Peace” as the theme of one of the Programmed Meetings.

After intensive planning, we presented a peace program as part of this series which included peace hymns, a homily on peace, quotations from our book of discipline, Faith and Practice, and a peace circle activity in which we passed a yoke from person to person, each offering to the next a prayer gift of peace. It was a very moving service, attended by about 25 people. I felt we had made a significant beginning toward our Monthly Meeting consciously becoming a peace center. And I felt the weight of the yoke of building on this beginning by collecting bits and pieces of existing programs in a conscious effort to develop an integrated program that would become greater than the sum of its parts.

The APT working group continued to meet monthly at one another’s meeting houses with members reporting on the peace activities of their Monthly Meetings. At first we represented four Monthly Meetings, but were able to bring news of what other Monthly Meetings were doing in the way of peace programs. We would then ask to hold our next meeting at a ‘new’ meeting house with their members especially invited to be present. We also discovered that seven of our Monthly Meetings support a peace center, the Peace Center of Delaware County, as a Quarter, and we became attentive to Quarterly as well as Monthly Meeting activities.

As well as gathering information about Monthly Meeting peace activities, we had as early goals: receiving recognition of our work from the Yearly Meeting, creating a brochure to publicize our vision, and assembling for Monthly Meetings a suggested inclusive curriculum which would be helpful in exploring the broad scope of peace. By the summer of 1999, we had a brochure in circulation, and we had received recognition from the Yearly Meeting.

We have, however, come to look upon curriculum building as a by-product of our other work. We do seek to point out, whenever possible, that peace exists on many levels. It exists in the self, the family, the Meeting, the school, the workplace, the community, the state, the nation, and the world. In so far as all are part of the whole, they each require identification, study and training, and activation.

As we ended our first year, we had members of at least twelve of our 105 Monthly Meetings either attending our meetings or in regular contact with us. Many others we heard from sporadically. We were also alert to the programs of like-minded organizations, such as the Fellowship of Reconciliation (FOR), and sought to enhance the flow of information from them to our Monthly Meetings. Some of the programs in which our Monthly Meetings were—and are—active are: maintaining a regular Sunday afternoon prayer vigil for peace at the Liberty Bell; facilitating the Alternatives to Violence Project (AVP), Help Increase the Peace Project/Real Alternatives to Violence for Everyone (HIPP/RAVE), and Children’s Creative Response to Conflict (CCRC); offering Friends Conflict Resolution Programs; supporting nonviolence training and intercommunity dialogue in former Yugoslavia, the Middle East, and India; promoting gun control; lifting up drug concerns; clearing land mines; and networking with Abolition 2000 and FOR’s Decade of a Culture of Peace.

This year our concentration is on finding ways to share the information we have from Monthly Meetings with other Monthly Meetings. The Web site that PhYM has developed is becoming our principle aid in this effort. On it APT has a web page devoted to “Every Meeting House a Peace Center.” Fortunately at least two members of our APT group are experts in computer programming. The Yearly Meeting has authorized APT to post on its web page the Annual Reports of Peace and Social Concerns Committees of Monthly Meetings and any Minutes they issue concerning peace. In this way even Monthly Meetings which have their own web page may discover linkages not otherwise provided. You will also find our brochure—which is currently under revision—on our web page: www.pym.org/peace/apt. Next year, for members of our Yearly Meeting who do not have access to the internet, we will try to add a printout of our web page as a PhYM newsletter devoted to the peace activities of our Monthly and Quarterly Meetings.

The members of APT are conscious of being engaged in a work-in-progress. We feel we have many of the pieces of the picture in hand, but not the picture itself. Our vision is to have in each of our Monthly Meetings a program analogous to our First Day School program, in which Friends are rooted in their peace heritage as firmly as they are rooted in the rest of their spiritual heritage of which it is a part.

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