Tuesday, December 12, 2006

My Visit to Colorado

On November 3, 2006, I flew to Denver, Colorado to be keynote speaker for the Colorado Regional Meeting of Friends Fall Gathering. The theme of the Gathering was Creating Community: Confronting Power, Prejudice and Privilege. The Gathering was held at the YMCA of the Rockies in Estes Park, Colorado. Bruce Thron Weber picked me up at the airport, took me shopping at Wild Oats to pick up some corn & gluten-free products. We had dinner with his wife, Penny and daughter, Katya at a Thai restaurant before heading to the Rocky Mountains. It was dark when we drove to the YMCA, so I did not get to see the mountains until the next morning. They were beautiful, but those of you who know me know that I was really unhappy to be in the cold. Despite the fact that it was a bright sunny day, thanks to the wind it was cold!

Will Alsup agreed to serve as an elder for me for the weekend. We spent some time talking and getting to know each other a little on Friday night. I was scheduled to give my keynote address at 1:30 PM on Saturday afternoon, November 4th. So we agreed to meet after lunch so that we could spend some time worshipping prior to my talk. The title of my talk was Faithful to God's Leading, Moving Toward Wholeness.

Friends listened as I shared my struggle with God about what message I should bring to Friends in Colorado. In addition to that struggle I presented some of my work on the history of racism in the United States of America. After my presentation we had time for a question and answer period. Friends asked several questions. I felt good that they had so many questions.

After my keynote, I also facilitated an interest group. Fortunately my group was in the same room where my talk had been. God was moving very strongly in me that day. I was moved to throw out the design I had come to the Gathering ready to present and design a new one with different exercises. I was led to have the workshop focus on "Whiteness." 14 Friends participated in my interest group. This turned out to be the right area to focus on because Friends were not ready to leave when our time was over. I was willing to stay later, but let Friends know our time was over and gave permission to anyone who had another commitment and needed to leave to do so. No one left the room and we remained there an additional 15 minutes.
Participant in the workshop my workshop: What We Can Learn from Our Past.

Pelican Lee and her partner Rebecca Henderson came from New Mexico to participate in the weekend. Peli and I met in 1994 in Abiqui, New Mexico. Peli and I got a chance to spend time together last winter when she came East to participate in Niyonu's Beyond Diversity 101 workshop at Temenos in March. It was such a wonderful surprise to see them. Their presence also helped me feel less alone.

Rebecca Henderson & Pelican Lee

I was exhausted after my presentation and interest group. I returned to my room instead of going to dinner. I called Barry because I needed to hear and get energy from his voice. He and my mother were at a restaurant celebrating our eldest daughter's birthday. Our brief talk energized me enough to walk to dinner. It was nice that the YMCA had taken my food allergies in account and had a selection of foods in the buffet that I could easily eat. I sat at a small table with two other Friends.

As we walked back from dinner a Friend told me that she appreciated me sharing my struggle with writing my talk. She said she had come ready to argue with whatever I said, but that sharing my the extent to which I wrestled with God for my message made it easier for her to listen to me. Her words were very important to me. I feel vulnerable when I present my work, but this talk made me more vulnerable because I began it with sharing the amount of struggle I went through in writing it.

Later that evening, I attended the Cabaret, the traditional Quaker talent night. Will Alsup along with several other Friends performed. The performances ranged from singing while playing a musical instrument to an elementary school age Friend sharing a joke.

I attended one of the sessions of the business meeting and was surprised to learn that they were in the process of discerning if they should affiliate with Friends General Conference. In a letter dated September 2006, InterMountain Yearly Meeting sent several queries to their constituent monthly meetings for Friends to discuss, season and discern in your Meetings and Worship Groups.

Each Meeting was asked to share the queries along with the accompanying background materials. The yearly meeting requested that they prepare their responses to send to the Continuing Committee meeting. The meetings are to be held at Mountain View Meeting in Denver this coming January 26 and 27. Each of the queries suggested possible action to be taken by the Yearly Meeting. Here is the querie regarding the FGC affiliation:

Affiliation with Friends General Conference

Several Meetings in Arizona Half-Yearly Meeting have asked that our Yearly Meeting give consideration to affiliating with Friends General Conference. Background documents are posted under "Fall 2006 Queries" on the Yearly Meeting website http://imym.org that provide information about FGC, define what it means to formally affiliate with FGC and describe the process of mutual discernment that takes place when a Yearly Meeting or Monthly Meeting expresses interest in affiliation.

Query: How does your Meeting respond to the requests that IMYM explore affiliation with Friends General Conference?

The Gathering ended with lunch. As we drove back to Denver I was able to see more of the mountains and countryside in the daylight. When we got into town at Estes Park, we saw a big elk eating in a person's front yard. It was an unusual sight. I was sorry we did not have time to stop for me to take a photograph.

To see more photographs from my trip go to my flickr accout.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Friends General Conference Central Committee

Central Committee 2006!!

Vanessa & Janice Domanik (CMR Clerk)

New FGC Staff members, Naman Hampton and Angelina Conti with Frank Barch (personnel committee member)

Friends General Conference's Central Committee met October 26-29th in New Windsor, Maryland. It was a very good meeting. A lot of work was accomplished. The Committee for Ministry on Racism (CMR) gathered for dinner on Saturday night. We had our formal committee meeting in September in Philadelphia.

The development committee presented FGC's clerk, Marian Beane, a special fusia bonnet for her to wear. It was very popular and comfortable. Marian was very gracious and let many of us try it on.

Interim Program Staff Coordinators: Emily Stewart & Vanessa Julye

Central Committee approved making both the coordinator positions for the Committee for Ministry on Racism and Youth Ministries (YM) permanent positions. The CMR position was increased to a three day a week part time position and the YM position was made full time.

I have been serving as the interim coordinator for CMR over the past year. I have agreed to serve as the long term CMR coordinator.

Pastsy Martin & Traci Hjelt Sullivan relax after Saturday evening Plenary session.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Watching Crash!!

Central Philadelphia Monthly Meeting

On the afternoon of October 15th Central Philadelphia Monthly Meeting's Ad hoc Committee on Race and Racism sponsored the showing of the film, Crash. Unfortunately, it was a very busy Sunday in Philadelphia. We were competing with the Aids Walk. Around 15 Friends joined us to watch the film. All, but one Friend stayed to share ice cream and talk about the film. Our discussion was artfully facilitated by Barry Scott.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Official Pennsylvania Historical Marker honoring William Chester Ruth

Ida E. Ruth Jones with her brother William Chester Ruth

Bright and early at 7:00 AM this morning I picked up my mother and we drove to my brother's house. When we arrived we transferred ourselves from my car to my brother's. Then the three of us drove to Gap, Pennsylvania. Why did we do this?

We drove to Gap to participate in the unveiling of a historical marker for my Great Uncle William Chester Ruth. The Pennsylvania Historic and Museum Commission along with Marvin Stoltzfus dedicated a Pennsylvania Historical Marker honoring my great uncle. Nancy Hess, a local historian and Communications Coordinator of the Octorara Area School District organized this important event.

Several officials were there:
  • Joan Lorenz - Local Historian and member of Salisbury Township Historical Society
  • Bruce Bomberger - PA Historic & Museum Commission representative Curator from Landis Valley Museum
  • State Representative Art Hershey
  • State Representative Gordon R. Denlinger
The Octorara Area High School Chorus performed two hymns: "I Love Thy Kingdom Lord" (1800 by Timothy Dwight) and "Walking By the Saviour's Side (1895 Irvin H. Mack.) Dannon Stewart, a member of the chorus, read the biographical sketch for my Great Uncle.

William Chester Ruth (1882-1971)

He was an inventor who had at least 52 patents. As a child he had an uncontrollable urge to take his toys apart. This inquisitive nature led him to invent numerous pieces of farm equipment and machinery. He moved from Ercildoun, PA to Gap PA in 1917. My Uncle Chester worked for Luken's Steel when he moved to Gap. In 1923, he opened his own Blacksmith Shop. Some of the items he created in his Blacksmith shop were:
  • The Baler-feeder
  • The Automatic Tie Baler
  • The Manure Spreader
  • The adaptor for the grain elevator which enabled it to be plugged into a light socket
  • The Cinder spreader
During World War II the US government commissioned William Chester Ruth to design and manufacture secret devices for airplanes and bombsightings.

Uncle "Ches" married Gertrude Miller. They raised one son, Joseph. Joseph married Roberta States who gave birth to three children: Richard, Janie and Gwendolyn. Richard and Gwendolyn were both at the unveiling along with their children.

My Great Aunt Ida and her sister Lucy were also there. So many of my relatives came out for this 9:00 AM ceremony. I was happy to see so many people. Our second Ruth Reunion was scheduled for September 2nd, but it had to be cancelled because of the weather. The weather forecasted that it would rain all day and it did. So I thought I was going to have to wait until next fall to see members of the Ruth family. Having a second historical marker unveiled in Pennsylvania for our family was a bonus.

My Great Grandmother, Ida Ella Ruth Jones, (Uncle Ches' sister) was the subject of the first marker. Her historical marker is located in East Fallowfield, PA at the corner of route 82 & Rokeby Road. It was unveiled on Saturday, October 23, 2004. Many of the same family members were present for that ceremony as well. My great grandmother was a folk artist who created over 300 paintings and pencil sketches after the age of 70.

Here she is holding one of her paintings:

Cold Wave an oil
painting she completed in 1950.

I feel blessed to be a part of this family. My ancestors founded churches, were pastors, artists, entertainers, farmers and of course inventors. My paternal great great grandfather, Robert Allen Pinn, was one of 16 African Americans to earn the Congressional Medal of Honor in 1865 for his actions at Fort Harrison in the Battle of Chaffin's Farm in 1864. George Ruth, William Chester's brother, frequently performed at the White House during President Warren G Harding's administration. He conducted a 40-piece orchestra.

I am glad that I was able to be present on such an historical day in my family and proud to share it with you. Double click on my flickr banner to see more photos from this event.

Marvin Stoltzfus
Current property owner

Friday, September 29, 2006

Building and Sustaining Community

September 15-17, 2006 - Cape Cod Retreat for Friends of Color

Lynda Black, a member of my meeting, Central Philadelphia and I drove up to Falmouth, MA to participate in a weekend retreat for Friends of Color. West Falmouth Preparative Meeting has a house behind their meetinghouse. They agreed to host us for the weekend. They did a wonderful job. We had a great time. The weather turned out to be beautiful. However, it did not start out that way.

When Lynda and I left Philadelphia the sun had just come out. As we drove into New Jersey and got onto the turnpike we drove into the rain which had just ended in Philadelphia. It rained the entire drive up to Cape Cod. At times the conditions were absolutely terrible. We passed several accidents on the road and were thankful that we were not involved in any of them. The rain was not constant, it was off and on, sometimes misting, sometimes torrential. Many people were not driving cautiously. After driving for 8 hours we finally arrived at Falmouth Quaker House.

We were warmly greeted. Several Friends also were delayed because of the rain, so it was decided to wait until Saturday to hold any sessions. The four Friends who were there had spent the time socializing until we arrived. Lynda and I joined them as we ate, then we unpacked the car and made our beds so we could get a good nights sleep.

The next morning the rain had stopped and it was bright and sunny. We were joined by a Friend from Maine. After breakfast we had our first session. Ernie Buscemi facilitated a discussion on Community. We shared our experiences of being a Friend of Color. Some of us were the only Friend of Color in our meeting while others had several other Friends of Color. During this discussion two more Friends joined us, one from Connecticut and another from Massachusetts. It was a very nurturing and important session.

Our group piled into three cars into Woods Hole, MA for lunch. We ate at a restaurant called the Fishmonger (shown to your left.) It was a cute restaurant in a quaint town. While we were waiting for them to put some tables together for our group, the draw bridge opened. The draw bridge is in the middle of town. Traffic was stopped and we got a chance to see one boat drive into the harbor and a sail boat go out. By the time all of that excitement was over our table was ready. We were half way through our meal when another Friend from Maine joined us.

We returned to Quaker House to continue our talk about community. However, before we began we posed for a group picture. Two of the Friends who joined us for the retreat are not in this picture. We came from six different states; Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New York, Pennsylvania and Virginia.

In our afternoon session we continued our talk on Community and also talked about our next Gathering. We spent a significant amount of time hearing and talking about East Sandwich Preparative Meeting and Sharon's struggle with them. We focused our conversation on nurturing and supporting her. Then we turned our attention on our next gathering. We decided to meet in Philadelphia in the spring. It was time to break for dinner.

Our dinner was prepared by a fantastic cook, Vernon (Buddy) Pocknett. He served us a traditional Mashpee Wampanoag meal. We had a fantastic meal of stuffed quahog, freshly caught and baked fish, baked potatoes, acorn squash and string beans. Buddy, his wife, Renee Lopes-Pocknett, and son, Aquinnah Lopes-Pocknett, joined us for dinner. We had a very special dessert after dinner. Four of the people in our group had birthdays in September, so I birthday cake was brought out and we all sang happy birthday. It was a beautiful chocolate mouse cake. I am allergic to wheat, so I couldn't eat it, but everyone said it tasted delicious. We spent the rest of the evening talking, listening to music and having fun. Some members of our group stayed up very late enjoying each others company.

The next morning we cleaned up the house, packed up the left over food and headed for East Sandwich Preparative Meeting. Members on East Sandwich had prepared a welcome breakfast for us. Unfortunately, our caravan got lost on our way to the meetinghouse and we arrived late for breakfast, but in time for worship. It was a very gathered and powerful worship. Sandwich is a divided meetinghouse. Worship was held on the left side of the meetinghouse. It was nice to see some familiar faces in the meetinghouse. Anne Nash and K Brown were among the Friends who worshipped at East Sandwich that day. Paul and Mary Mangelsdorf were also there. The Friends who were there were very nice. They had organized a potluck lunch which included the food they had brought for the breakfast we missed. I had a chance to talk with a few Friends. I signed their guest book and sat down to eat my yogurt when it was time to leave. Lynda and I said our goodbyes. As we were leaving we found out that the Friends who were upset with Sharon, her mother and Friend Rachel had not come to worship with us that morning. I was sad to hear that they decided not to worship with us. I am not sure what they were afraid we would do during our visit. I am also sad that they missed such a wonderful worship.

Lynda and I had a nice drive home. It was a beautiful sunny afternoon. We followed Ernie Busecemi's car to right outside of New York City. We said our final goodbye when we stopped at a rest stop. They headed for the city and we went to New Jersey.

It was my first trip to Cape Cod. I am glad that I went. It was nurturing to spend the weekend with Friends of Color. We were able to cry and play with each other. Share our stories and find out that we were not as alone as some of us felt. One Friend had stopped attending worship and decided to return because of our time together. We have promised to stay in touch with one another. I created a yahoo group for us to be able to do that. However, sharing messages, pictures and calendars over the internet is not the same as face-to-face time together. I am really looking forward to our spring gathering!!