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An International Gathering of Friends

Thanks to the outreach from Friends United Meeting (FUM), we connected Christ is the Answer International Fellowship with three Friends in FUM Ministry. Visiting from FUM were Ben Snyder, North American Ministries Coordinator; Dan Kasztelan, Communications Director; and John Muhanji, Director of the Africa Ministries Office. We shared an evening meal at my home on May 27th joined by Rodney and Ann Pierce and nine Friends from Christ is the Answer International Fellowship. After the meal, Ben Snyder spoke about FUM, and John translated into Swahili so everyone could understand. Ndanga then spoke about his church in Swahili and John translated into English. Others in Christ is the Answer International Fellowship then spoke too. Several issues came to the surface that Buffalo Friends were unaware of. These can now be addressed.

John Muhanji, left, Director of African Ministries for Friends United Meeting, talks to Ndanga Ramazani during a recent dinner gathering at Sue Tannehill’s home.

John Muhanji, left, Director of African Ministries for Friends United Meeting, talks to Ndanga Ramazani during a recent dinner gathering at Sue Tannehill’s home.

It was a rich gathering. Dan, who does the photography for Quaker Life took many wonderful photographs, one of which is included in this article.

In Scripture, it says both “Be still, and know that I am God” and “Make a joyful noise unto the Lord.” While Buffalo Friends and Christ is the Answer International Fellowship worship in different ways, we have much to gain from our shared roots and faith. I am very grateful that FUM Friends came to visit with us. I hope that Buffalo Friends will try to attend one of the Christ is the Answer International Fellowship meetings. These are joyful, full of music and testimony. This preparative meeting would welcome our visitation on any Sunday from about 4 to 6 pm in the Network for Religious Communities building basement.

Across the Divide

Farmington-Scipio Regional Meeting, of which Buffalo Meeting is a member, held its annual Spring Gathering in May at Watson Homestead in Painted Post, New York. Several of us from Buffalo participated, and we attended the key workshop on the conference topic “Seeing the Sacred Across the Divide.” Participants role-played different scenarios to illustrate opposing positions on a particular topic. We were encouraged to develop a “feeling sense of the condition of others,” much like John Woolman, who was able to feel compassion for both the slave as well as the slave-holder.

When engaged in active conversation or debate with someone who may not believe as we do, we learned how helpful it may be to identify the Moral Foundation which is at the base of the disagreement, and try to find some common ground.

Moral Foundation:

  • Care/harm

  • Fairness/cheating

  • Loyalty/betrayal

  • Authority/subversion

  • Sanctity/degradation

  • Liberty/oppression

(From The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion by Jonathan Haidt.)

Questions asked after the role-play directed our attention:

  • Was the divide bridged?

  • How was the divide bridged?

  • What about communication prevented/added to the divide?

November Advices and Queries

Each month this quarter, Buffalo Quakers are reflecting on brief passages from the British Yearly Meeting Faith and Practice as a challenge to us in our personal lives and in our life as a religious community.

Dearly beloved Friends, these things we do not lay upon you as a rule or form to walk by, but with the measure of Light which is pure holy and so, in the Light these thoughts may be fulfilled in the spirit, not from the letter, but from the Spirit that gives life.

November Query Reading

Remember your responsibility as a citizen for the conduct of local, national and international affairs. Do not shrink from the time and effort your involvement may demand.

October Advices and Queries

Each month this quarter, Buffalo Quakers are reflecting on brief passages from the British Yearly Meeting Faith and Practice as a challenge to us in our personal lives and in our life as a religious community.

Dearly beloved Friends, these things we do not lay upon you as a rule or form to walk by, but with the measure of Light which is pure holy and so, in the Light these thoughts may be fulfilled in the spirit, not from the letter, but from the Spirit that gives life.

October Query Reading

Live adventurously. When choices arise do you take the way that offers the fullest opportunity for the use of your gifts in the service of God and the community? Let your life speak. When decisions have to be made, are you ready to join with others in seeking clearness asking for God’s guidance and offering guidance to one another?

Sympathy Beyond Facebook

Cards, carnations and casseroles—that’s how we used to do sympathy. But, social media has changed everything. By now, anyone on Facebook has seen death notices by family, friends and acquaintances. These messages prompt us to reach out to each other—and we do. After posting about my own mother’s death over a year ago, I received hundreds of heartfelt sentiments on my wall. It was a little overwhelming, but, in the moment, much appreciated.

As the weeks passed, however, those electronic blips of kindness were forgotten. There were details to be settled, a memorial service and lunch to plan, accommodations and travel to be arranged. Like the February snow falling around me, the cold fact of Mom’s death settled in, and, with it, messy emotions. Grief is a hungry monster, and what I wanted (and found difficult to ask for) were practical expressions of support from my community. I’m lucky. After the initial tsunami of electronic sentiment, tangible signs of love eventually arrived.

There were the cards: carefully selected and handwritten, coming from friends, far off family, and, maybe most touching, acquaintances. I kept them in a stack on my desk, and in the months after Mom’s death, re-read them—proof that Mom mattered not only to me, but to others.

There was the cousin who hosted the funeral brunch at her club, paying the rental fee herself. A newer friend, who hadn’t known Mom, generously set up the food, served and cleaned up afterward. I was also blown away by the folks who came to the funeral: the work friend from 28 years ago who attended by herself; the estranged friend there anyway, because she knew and loved Mom; the entire choir my Dad once belonged to, who movingly sang the songs my mother requested.

And of course, I’ll never forget the friends and family who traveled from out of town to say goodbye to Mom—Cleveland, Florida, New Jersey, and Colorado. Their presence healed me—their thoughtfulness forever changing the way I respond to death. It makes me now want to be the one who shows up or helps out. And, when I can’t, send the card, bake brownies, or call—demonstrating the importance of their loved one.

The most moving correspondence I received was an Easter card from a cousin months after my mother’s death. She recounted how much Mom meant to her, signing off with, “My kids loved your mom too.” I kept that card and it still makes me cry.

What these expressions of sympathy have in common is that they are not reflexive, easy, nor (like a Facebook message) easily made, easily forgotten. In a very busy world, they require slowing down, thinking of another and taking concrete action.

It’s that lavish thoughtfulness during our darkest days that lets us know we’re not alone in our grief, and that our lives (and those we love) amount to something. For in the end, as a dear friend says, we are all just walking each other home. It sure helps to have some company on the way.

September Advices and Queries

Each month this quarter, Buffalo Quakers are reflecting on brief passages from the British Yearly Meeting Faith and Practice as a challenge to us in our personal lives and in our life as a religious community.

Dearly beloved Friends, these things we do not lay upon you as a rule or form to walk by, but with the measure of Light which is pure holy and so, in the Light these thoughts may be fulfilled in the spirit, not from the letter, but from the Spirit that gives life.

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September Query reading

Rejoice in the presence of children and young people in our meeting and recognize the gifts they bring. Remember that the Meeting as a whole shares a responsibility for every child in its care. Are you ready to learn from them and to accept your responsibilities toward them?