Foundational Stories: What’s next? 11/4/2022

[My foundational stories are related to the intersections between my Quaker faith, protecting Mother Earth, and photography. My faith led me to try to share my spiritual experiences and show my love for the beauty of Mother Earth through photography.]

Reflecting and praying about my foundational stories has taken a long and circuitous path. From how my stories began, how they evolved, and what their status is now. https://quakersandreligioussocialism.com/foundational-stories/

Having finally written about where things stand now, I’ve been led to see the process doesn’t end there.

What’s next?


Photography

As mentioned, photography is one part of my foundational stories. Photography is usually a Spiritual exercise for me. Something that soothes my spirit. And a way to share beauty with others. I’m about to go out into the pouring rain this morning. I like to capture raindrops on plants. Not so much getting cold and wet, but that’s part of it.


There are so many things to discuss and do about where to go from here. What follows is just one example of something that can be done now. Doing is the significant part.

Faith

Only the Creator knows what’s next. Faith has been and continues to be where I seek guidance. What role does faith play in the lives of others? How do we make Spiritual connections, build Spiritual communities?

What (more) can we do to acknowledge past and/or current injustices? What are we called to do about these injustices?

Mother Earth

Mother Earth is severely damaged and the many, severe consequences are increasingly widespread and catastrophic.

We cannot achieve a sustainable and just society unless we change to

  • Simpler lifestyles, much less production and consumption, much less concern with luxury, affluence, possessions and wealth.
  • Small, highly self-sufficient local economies, largely independent of the global economy. 
  • More cooperative and participatory ways, enabling people in small communities to take control of their own development.
  • A new economy, one that has no growth, is not driven by profit or market forces,  produces much less than the present economy, and is provides sufficient for satisfactory lifestyles for all.
  • Some very different values, especially frugality, self-sufficiency, giving, sharing and cooperating, and the rejection of acquisitiveness and competition.

The Simpler Way: Working for transition from consumer society to a simpler, more cooperative, just and ecologically sustainable society. https://thesimplerway.info/


Now?

Most of the world is overwhelmed by so many pressing problems. Rather than working on solutions, there seems to be a global malaise. My experience and Spiritual guidance have been to focus on a specific problem. One thing you can actually do.

As an example, I’ve been led to support the Wet’suwet’en peoples’ call for international acts of solidarity on February 5th as they continue their years long work to stop the construction of the Coastal GasLink pipeline through their pristine lands. Armed Royal Canadian Mounted Police have provided protection for the construction, and much of the pipeline is complete. There is great urgency now because drilling under the river has begun.

You can look for such an event near you here although there are only two events in the U.S. That’s discouraging but makes it all the more important to show up, even though I might be the only one at the CHASE bank tomorrow.
https://actionnetwork.org/event_campaigns/drilling-under-wedzwin-kwa-allid-mobilization

You can learn more about the Wet’suwet’en from this eBook I just completed:
https://designrr.site?i=gzmf&t=2bb0c9 To be an ally you must understand the history and issues.


Foundational stories now: Quaker faith

[My foundational stories are related to the intersections between my Quaker faith, protecting Mother Earth, and photography. My faith led me to try to share my spiritual experiences and show my love for the beauty of Mother Earth through photography.]

I’ve been praying and struggling for many days to discern how to express the state of my Quaker faith today. Quakerism is the faith community I was born into and have remained in. I was raised in a White Quaker family and community. I had a Spiritual experience at the Bear Creek Meetinghouse when I was about ten years old, an experience that I have drawn upon for the rest of my life. I attended Scattergood Friends School, a Quaker high school, and Earlham College, a Quaker institution.

One of the reasons I accepted the challenge of reflecting on my foundational stories is because of my crisis of faith now.

I think it is common for people to be disappointed by their faith community at various times, for a variety of reasons. That has been true for me. Coming of age during the Vietnam War I wished more young men had resisted the draft. I wish we all had done more to reign in the use of fossil fuels. And that White people like myself had worked, harder to acknowledge our complicity in the oppression of Black, Indigenous, and other people of color (BIPOC), of various gender identities, and certain social and economic classes. I wish we were working harder now on acknowledging and trying to heal these injustices.

This country was built on the historical injustices of the institution of slavery, and the genocide and removal of Indigenous peoples from their lands. And the forced assimilation of native children in institutions where they were often physically and sexually abused, where thousands of children were killed or died.

Many people, including Quakers today question how complicit our ancestors were in these injustices. There were White Quakers who were involved in the slave trade, and who enslaved Black men, women, and children. Our ancestors were settler colonists. As are we who are now living on these lands. Quakers were involved in the Indian residential schools.

being involved with others in wrongdoing

complicity

These issues often generate significant emotional responses. I don’t have all the answers. But I have had spiritual and community experiences that I am led to speak and work from today. Many of these experiences have led me to understand we are living in a country, a society of structural racism and white superiority. As much as many of us White Quakers wish it weren’t so, our skin color automatically gives us many significant advantages in this country.

Our mainstream social, economic, and political systems are predicated on White superiority and dominance. I say mainstream because many people, including myself, are building alternative systems today. I’ve been deeply involved in Mutual Aid for a couple of years and believe this to be part of the answer. Mutual Aid is included in the following graphics.

NOTE: White supremacy is different from white superiority. “White supremacy or white supremacism is the belief that white people are superior to those of other races and thus should dominate them.”

Wikipedia

I’ve also seen in the lives of my friends what I once thought of as isolated historical traumas have been passed from generation to generation. They profoundly affect the lives of people today. What does that mean for White Quakers now?


“…capitalism and colonialism created structures that have disrupted how people have historically connected with each other and shared everything they needed to survive. As people were forced into systems of wage labor and private property, and wealth became increasingly concentrated, our ways of caring for each other have become more and more tenuous.”

Dean Spade, Mutual Aid: Building Solidarity During This Crisis (and the Next) (Kindle Locations 111-121). Verso

Following is another way of looking at the relationships between White settler colonists and Indigenous peoples. White Quakers need to acknowledge that when our ancestors came to these Indigenous lands, they were settler colonists. And since we are still occupying these lands, we are settler colonists, too. Some White Quakers were involved in the forced assimilation of Indigenous children. We are implicated in most of the “negative” things listed below.

Acknowledgement of wrongs is the necessary first step in the healing process.


On the positive side are Mutual Aid, the Buffalo Rebellion, and the Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL). I’ve written a lot about my experiences with Mutual Aid https://quakersandreligioussocialism.com/mutual-aid/

I’m fortunate to be part of the Buffalo Rebellion, a newly formed Green New Deal coalition in Iowa formed to protect the planet by demanding change from politicians and convincing the public that climate should be a priority. Buffalo Rebellion, is a coalition of grassroots, labor, and climate justice organizations growing a movement to pass local, state, and national policies that create millions of family-sustaining union jobs—ensuring racial and gender equity and taking action on climate at the scale and scope the crisis demands. It was formed in November 2021 and consists of: 

The Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL) has years of experience advocating for legislation related to Native American affairs. Recently FCNL has been supporting legislation to form a Truth and Healing Commission related to the Indian Boarding Schools. I’ve been blessed to have many years of experience with FCNL and have been working with my native friends in creating connections with FCNL, including several visits to our US Senators.


Foundational stories now: Protecting Mother Earth

[My foundational stories are related to the intersections between my Quaker faith, protecting Mother Earth, and photography. My faith led me to try to share my spiritual experiences and show my love for the beauty of Mother Earth through photography.]

Yesterday I described where my story related to photography is at this time. Today I write about where I am regarding protecting Mother Earth. The beginning of my stories about protecting Mother Earth and the water can be found here: Foundational stories about care for Mother Earth.

Concern for Mother Earth has been a constant in my life. I was 20 years old when I moved to Indianapolis and was horrified by the thick, noxious exhaust from cars. I couldn’t be part of that and have lived without a car since then (1970).


My foundational stories now

Protecting Mother Earth

It took a while for me to become comfortable with the term Mother Earth. But vocabulary can affect how you feel about something. Having Earth as your Mother describes a living relationship. This is one of the many things I’ve learned from my Indigenous friends.

It is a dichotomy that today, despite knowing the many ways our environment and so many other things are collapsing, I have more hope than I’ve had for years. That’s because of the coalitions of people coming together to heal each other and Mother Earth. We can’t be so paralyzed with fear about what may be coming that we don’t enjoy the beauty all around us.

Following are some ways I’m involved in protecting Mother Earth now.

  • Buffalo Rebellion
  • Mutual Aid
  • Wet’suwet’en
  • Bear Creek Friends Meeting

Buffalo Rebellion

Last night I participated in a meeting of the Buffalo Rebellion, which I’m proud to be a part of. This coalition of environmental activists is one of the things that gives me hope. Realizing we are all working on similar things, this coalition is being built to empower our work and support one another. Last night someone remarked that we’ve all suffered trauma and are all in need of healing.

Following is a description of the Buffalo Rebellion, including a link to a recording of my friend Sikowis Nobiss describing it.

The topic this month is on a newly formed Green New Deal coalition in Iowa called Buffalo Rebellion formed to protect the planet by demanding change from politicians and convincing the public that climate should be a priority. Buffalo Rebellion, is a coalition of grassroots, labor, and climate justice organizations growing a movement to pass local, state, and national policies that create millions of family-sustaining union jobs—ensuring racial and gender equity and taking action on climate at the scale and scope the crisis demands. It was formed in November 2021 and consists of: 



The root causes of what we are fighting against are capitalism and colonialism


The subject of last night’s gathering (at Iowa CCI and via Zoom) was CO2 (carbon) pipelines, the latest man-made environmental threat. Iowa is at the center of this problem because most of the ethanol plants are located here, because ethanol is produced from corn, and releases carbon emissions in the process. The carbon dioxide in the carbon pipelines is a hazardous material and could cause deaths if there is a rupture. A CO2 pipeline in Satartia, Mississippi ruptured last year, sickening dozens of people. First responders’ vehicles could not run because of the absence of oxygen. READ: The Gassing Of Satartia” (Huffington Post, August 2021)

Sikowis talked about what is below the crust of the earth also being a sacred space, and we don’t know what disturbing that with pipelines and fracking will cause.

The only way to address fossil fuel emissions is to stop burning fossil fuels.


Mutual Aid

Des Moines Mutual Aid has been the focus of my work for the past couple of years. How is this related to the protection of Mother Earth?

  • Being in a Mutual Aid community, we support each other and help each other heal.
  • Mutual Aid members are encouraged to use critical thinking to anticipate and solve problems. And immediately implement solutions, not waiting for permission from anyone.
  • Mutual Aid is about eliminating vertical hierarchies and the damage those hierarches do to a community. And how they harm Mother Earth.
  • Mutual Aid communities are explicitly local. There is no need for fossil fuel transportation and energy production. Our Mutual Aid communities are or will be “walkable”.
  • Our Mutual Aid communities are an example to others of how we can escape capitalism and colonialism that are the root causes of injustice
  • Our Mutual Aid practices are about sustainability and protection of Mother Earth
  • “These spaces become intergenerational, diverse places of Indigenous joy, care and conversation, and these conversations can be affirming, naming, critiquing, as well as rejecting and pushing back against the current systems of oppression”. Maynard, Robyn; Simpson, Leanne Betasamosake.
  • “…capitalism and colonialism created structures that have disrupted how people have historically connected with each other and shared everything they needed to survive. As people were forced into systems of wage labor and private property, and wealth became increasingly concentrated, our ways of caring for each other have become more and more tenuous.” Dean Spade
Ronnie James, Des Moines Mutual Aid

…in Nishnaabeg thinking, knowledge is mobilized, generated, and shared by collectively doing. It’s more than that, though. There is an aspect of self-determination and ethical engagement in organizing to meet our peoples’ material needs. There is a collective emotional lift in doing something worthwhile for our peoples’ benefit, however short-lived that benefit might be. These spaces become intergenerational, diverse places of Indigenous joy, care and conversation, and these conversations can be affirming, naming, critiquing, as well as rejecting and pushing back against the current systems of oppression. This for me seems like the practice of movement-building that our respective radical practices have been engaged with for centuries.

Maynard, Robyn; Simpson, Leanne Betasamosake. Rehearsals for Living (Abolitionist Papers) (p. 39). Haymarket Books. Kindle Edition.

In another example of how our work is interrelated, my Mutual Aid friends support the Wet’suwet’en.

Wet’suwet’en

The Wet’suwet’en peoples have been struggling for years to prevent the construction of the Coastal GasLink liquified natural gas pipeline from being built through their pristine, unceded lands.

https://quakersandreligioussocialism.com/?s=wetsuweten+wet%27suwet%27en
https://jeffkisling.com/?s=wetsuweten+wet%27suwet%27en

There was one particularly significant Spirit-led event in my life related to the Wet’suwet’en. When I first became involved with the Wet’suwet’en peoples was when they were asking allies to spread the news about their struggles, since there was no mainstream media coverage.

In February 2020, some of us were already planning to be at Friends House in Des Moines. We decided to hold a vigil for the Wet’suwet’en on the street in front of Friends House prior to that meeting. I created an event announcement on Facebook, that was shared by my friend Ed Fallon or Bold Iowa, an Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement.

As anticipated just those few of us who were planning to attend the meeting at Friends House anyway showed up. But the Spirit-led part of this is that Ronnie James, who I didn’t know at the time, joined us. Ronnie is an Indigenous organizer with twenty years of experience. He was surprised anyone in Iowa knew about the Wet’suwet’en peoples, so he came to see who was attending, a good organizing technique.

Ronnie and I began to exchange messages over the next couple of months. I was intrigued with the stories he was telling me about Des Moines Mutual Aid community he was involved with. When I felt we had begun to know each other well enough, I tentatively asked if I could attend the food giveaway that Ronnie/Des Moines Mutual Aid held every Saturday morning. This was a continuation of a variation of the Black Panther Party’s free school breakfast program in Des Moines from the 1970’s.

I thought I would just attend a time or two to see how that worked. Instead, I’ve been there almost every Saturday morning for over two years now, and Ronnie is one of my best friends. One of the many good things about Mutual Aid is how it attracts and keeps people engaged.


I continue to do what I can to support the Wet’suwet’en. We are presently organizing another gathering at Chase bank to call attention to their funding fossil fuel projects. Some others from the Buffalo Rebellion will be involved.

Bear Creek Friends Meeting

The small, rural Quaker meeting I’m a member of continues today to try to find ways we can help protect Mother Earth. This is one way to bring a Spiritual approach to these problems which I believe is very important.

Members of the meeting have supported the annual Prairie Awakening/Prairie Awoke ceremony that takes place at the Kuehn Conservation Area, just a few miles from the meetinghouse.

Bear Creek Friends Meeting

It is difficult to reduce fossil fuel use in rural areas.

One thing we realized we could do was encourage more use of bicycles, since many members lived close to the meetinghouse just north of Earlham, Iowa. And encourage Friends in urban meetings to use bicycles when possible.

The Minute we wrote, and that was approved by Iowa Yearly Meeting of Friends (Conservative) was referred to as a Minute on “Ethical Transportation”.

 Radically reducing fossil fuel use has long been a concern of Iowa Yearly Meeting (Conservative).  A previously approved Minute urged us to reduce our use of personal automobiles.  We have continued to be challenged by the design of our communities that makes this difficult.  This is even more challenging in rural areas.  But our environmental crisis means we must find ways to address this issue quickly.
 
 Friends are encouraged to challenge themselves and to simplify their lives in ways that can enhance their spiritual environmental integrity. One of our meetings uses the term “ethical transportation,” which is a helpful way to be mindful of this.
 
 Long term, we need to encourage ways to make our communities “walkable”, and to expand public
transportation systems.  These will require major changes in infrastructure and urban planning.
 
 Carpooling and community shared vehicles would help.  We can develop ways to coordinate neighbors needing to travel to shop for food, attend meetings, visit doctors, etc.  We could explore using existing school buses or shared vehicles to provide intercity transportation.  
 
 One immediately available step would be to promote the use of bicycles as a visible witness for non-fossil fuel transportation.  Friends may forget how easy and fun it can be to travel miles on bicycles.  Neighbors seeing families riding their bicycles to Quaker meetings would have an impact on community awareness.  This is a way for our children to be involved in this shared witness.  We should encourage the expansion of bicycle lanes and paths.  We can repair and recycle unused bicycles, and make them available to those who have the need.

Minute approved by Iowa Yearly Meeting (Conservative) 2017

Foundational stories now: Photography

At this summer’s annual sessions of Iowa Yearly Meeting (Conservative), held at Scattergood School and Farm, we were challenged to examine our foundational stories. How they began, how they evolved, and what they are now. I was led to accept that challenge, especially because I had been sensing spiritual leadings that suggested I might change not the stories themselves, but a change in focus.

My foundational stories are related to the intersections between my Quaker faith, protecting Mother Earth, and photography. My faith led me to try to share my spiritual experiences and show my love for the beauty of Mother Earth through photography.

I described the beginnings of my foundational stories in the first blog post in the series, Our Foundational Stories: Beginning.

The path of my foundational stories was not a straight line. Which is the reason for the many stories I wrote about the path of my stories. My grandmother, Lorene Standing, told me the will of God is often revealed in a series of steps. That has been the case for me.

Many things I’ve read and my own experiences have shown me that stories are perhaps the most effective way to engage in discussions, especially when there are disagreements. And stories, of the past and present, are going to be important as we all try to find our way through the coming challenges.


If we are to find a new kind of good life amid the catastrophes these myths have spawned, then we need to radically rethink the stories we tell ourselves. We need to dig deep into old stories and reveal their wisdom, as well as lovingly nurture the emergence of new stories into being.

Pontoon Archipelago or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Collapse. By James Allen, originally published by Medium, June 18, 2019

My foundational stories now

Photography


We’re all aware of the revolution of digital photography. Besides being glad I no longer have to use a darkroom, digital photography has made me a much better photographer. Having the freedom to capture many images, not limited to 12 or 36 exposures, and such control with digital editing, I learn so much.

In the past I used photography in a lot of justice types of activities, but that has changed recently. I no longer take many photos at demonstrations and rallies because law enforcement uses such photos posted online to identify people to arrest.

There are demonstrations where there is no concern about the police. My new friends since I’ve moved back to Iowa have found out about my love of photography and I’m glad to be invited to take photos for them.

I still carry my camera everywhere. Now that I’m retired, I have a new daily routine. First thing in the morning I spend about two hours writing, while my mind is still “fresh”. Then I walk about three miles with my camera. For the exercise of my body and photographic eye. For some reason I usually end up with about seventy photos each day. Some days I have to force myself to stop.

After lunch I look forward to spending about two hours editing the photos I took that day. I really enjoy that. So all this fills about six hours a day.

One of the reasons I was led to accept the challenge of reflecting on my foundational stories was because I had noticed some changes. It is difficult to know, even with statistics provided, how many people read my blog posts. Or look at my photos.

The numbers aren’t important, other than making me wonder how I can most effectively tell my stories. Whether I should do more work related to writing, or photography. Facebook especially makes it possible to get an idea of how many people look at photos. And makes it easy for people to comment on them.

I’m comfortable with the current mix of this.

But there is something sad about one aspect of this. I love the photographs of Ansel Adams and others from his day that helped people appreciate nature and sometimes affected government policies. I just learned he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1980.

I had hoped in some small way the photos I was sharing would make people pay attention to the beauty all around us and sensitize them to advocate for protection of Mother Earth.

It makes me sad to think the photographs we’ve taken over the past several decades might be what people in the (near) future look at to see the beauty that once was and is no more. That is one reason I take so many photos today.

I’ve been so blessed to have made a number of Indigenous friends since returning to Iowa in 2017. One of the things I’ve learned from them is to recognize the spirit in all things, human and non-human. This has changed the relationship between myself and what I am photographing.


I post photos daily on Facebook. https://www.facebook.com/jeff.kisling.3/


(Barry) Lopez could not have known the effect he was having on one impressionable member of the audience. Yet I believe he established a connection with me that evening—a thin strand in the elaborate web that is community—by describing a path that was utterly new to me, and by suggesting that, as others had walked that path, it was safe for me to do so as well. This all happened in the space of a few seconds, as he mulled over the central question plaguing the men and women at the conference, namely: How could we convince lawmakers to pass laws to protect wilderness? Lopez argued that wilderness activists will never achieve the success they seek until they can go before a panel of legislators and testify that a certain river or butterfly or mountain or tree must be saved, not because of its economic importance, not because it has recreational or historical or scientific value, but because it is so beautiful.

His words struck a chord in me. I left the room a changed person, one who suddenly knew exactly what he wanted to do and how to do it. I had known that love is a powerful weapon, but until that moment I had not understood how to use it. What I learned on that long-ago evening, and what I have counted on ever since, is that to save a wilderness, or to be a writer or a cab driver or a homemaker—to live one’s life—one must reach deep into one’s heart and find what is there, then speak it plainly and without shame.

Reid, Robert Leonard. Because It Is So Beautiful: Unraveling the Mystique of the American West . Counterpoint. Kindle Edition.

Conflict with my Quaker meeting

Recently when I wrote about life without a car, I said being led to live without a car and struggling to convince others to not use fossil fuels were the most important spirit-led actions of my life. This is a continuation of the discussion of life without a car.

My grandmother, Lorene Standing, said the will of God is often revealed in a series of steps. Which was the case related to my spiritual leadings to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Earlier I wrote about the beginnings of my spiritual guidance regarding our environment. But there were many times as life went on when I relied on that and further guidance. The series of steps along the way.

But there were also times when I somehow got off the right path of this journey. I made a lot of mistakes related to this over the years. Among other things, this created a great deal of tension with my Quaker meeting.

It wasn’t that members of the meeting weren’t concerned about Mother Earth. They were concerned and did many things to reduce their carbon footprint and pollution.

But I believed transportation was the single greatest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions that we had personal control over. It was a matter of scale. Emissions from even the minimal use of cars dwarfed the total emissions saved by all other efforts, such as turning off lights, reducing the use of heating and air conditioning, etc., combined. It was disconcerting to see Friends and others using air travel. The skies were full of planes.

There was also collateral damage related to fossil fuel transportation. Urban sprawl was premised on the use of cars for all transportation, including to work, school, grocery, church, healthcare, sports, and entertainment. That would not have occurred, at least to the extent is has, if we had focused on mass transit instead of personal automobiles.

Our communities would not have been fractured as they were when people drove to the suburbs and stayed in their homes when they got there. Not knowing their neighbors, not having a sense of community. Investing in armed police and prisons for a false sense of security. Spending incomprehensible amounts of money for a false sense of national security. And the greater horror of squandering the lives of soldiers on both sides of conflicts. So many civilian casualties. Crushing our souls.

Most importantly, we would not be facing the existential environmental crisis we are in now.

And the U.S. armed forces are the single greatest source of pollution.

Most importantly, we would not be facing the existential environmental crisis we are in now. With the strong storms, flooding, savage wildfires, heat and drought. Leading to mass migration, famine and deaths.

The root of the tensions with my Quaker communities was that many members lived in rural areas, small towns, or cities with no public transportation.

Indianapolis had a public bus system that wasn’t highly rated. The bus routes didn’t cover large areas of the city, didn’t operate during the night, and often not on weekends. They were often not on time.

So it is a paradox that I rarely used Indianapolis’s public transportation system, in part for the reasons mentioned above while being a strong advocate for mass transit. But these problems all need to addressed. Perhaps the most important thing we can do for Mother Earth is create good public transit systems. And stop military operations.

To live without a car, I had to carefully plan where I lived. There needed to be a grocery store and laundry within walking distance. And be within walking distance of the hospital I worked at.

I had to carefully choose the food I bought, limited to the weight and bulk I could walk with. That meant things like rice and not boxes of prepared foods. Another advantage was that also meant I had little trash.

I won’t deny it was often difficult to not have a car. Walking in inclement weather was a challenge. Sometimes I would just be tired. When I did use the bus system, the buses were often not on time. These were times when I would ask for some spiritual support. Some of the small steps my grandmother spoke of. Sometimes I’d receive that support, other times not.

There are many ways not having a car was a blessing. As I walked to and from work, I began to notice flowers and views. The more closely I paid attention, the more detail I saw. I began to carry my camera with me. It soon got to the point that I had to leave a little extra early for work, to account for the time taking the photos.

And there were many times I would run to the places I was going to. Besides my nearly daily runs for pleasure and fitness.

Rural transportation and fossil fuel usage

What did I think people in rural areas could do? The easiest would be to plan trips so multiple things could be accomplished on each. Friends were doing this. Friends could also coordinate trips with each other.

Rural towns could create inter-city transportation using school buses or electric vehicles.

People could install renewable energy systems. Perhaps community renewable systems. Including the meetinghouse.

Use electric powered vehicles or perhaps a return to animals to move things around the farm, pull plows in the fields.

These conversations went on for all of my adult life.

Invite the meeting into my concern

Finally, a f/Friend asked me if I had invited the meeting into my concern. And I realized I had not. We had fallen into a pattern of my expressions of concern, and often irritation actually. The physical separation didn’t help. I lived in Indianapolis my whole adult life.

With this change in perspective, and spiritual guidance as we considered this together, worshipped together, we came up with a statement (minute) we referred to as “ethical transportation”. We asked the yearly meeting (Iowa Yearly Meeting Conservative) to consider the minute, which was approved by the Yearly Meeting (below).

Junior Yearly Meeting, Iowa Yearly Meeting (Conservative)

Our Yearly Meeting has approved other minutes related to our environment. In 2015 we approved this minute.

Minute

We are deeply moved and appreciate the contribution of Junior Yearly Meeting to our ongoing concern regarding changes in our environment.  Their project to raise funds for FCNL’s efforts to address environmental concerns by selling flowers was both spiritually and artistically beautiful.

Junior Yearly Meeting sells flowers from the Scattergood prairie to raise money to support FCNL’s work related to our environment

And this was included in the approved Peace and Social Concerns Committee report.

We are exploring concerns of our younger Friends.  Junior Yearly meeting at this Yearly Meeting are concerned about greenhouse gas emissions and rebuilding infrastructure in countries ravaged by war.


Queries

It would have been good if we had reached the point of inviting the meeting into my environmental concerns much sooner than we did. We have a practice that might have helped, which is consideration of queries (questions) related to various parts of our Quaker community lives. There are twelve sets of queries, so commonly each meeting considers one set of queries each month.

4.  HARMONY WITHIN THE MEETING

“This is my commandment: Love one another as I have loved you.”   John 15:1

ADVICE

It is sometimes difficult to remember that love is a gift of the Divine Spirit and not simply a human emotion. As imperfect human beings, it is not always possible for us to feel loving toward one another, but by opening ourselves to the Light Within, we can receive and give love beyond our human abilities.

Relationships among meeting members take time to evolve. Sometimes misunderstandings develop. When differences arise, they should not be ignored for the sake of superficial unity. We believe disagreements which might divide or disrupt a meeting can be resolved through human effort and divine grace, and may result in a stronger and more creative meeting. True harmony depends upon each persons deep respect of and faithful attention to the Divine Spirit within us all. We endeavor to practice humility, attempting to understand positions of others and being aware of the possibility that we may be mistaken.

It is the responsibility of the Ministry and Oversight Committee to be sensitive to needs which may arise. Others in the meeting may be equally concerned, and because of greater understanding in certain cases, be able to give counsel. In reconciliation of differences, a position not previously considered may prove mutually beneficial. At times it may be necessary to confront individuals whose behavior is disruptive. A clearness committee or professional help may be suggested in some situations. We must always remember the power of holding one another in the Light, and the healing that comes from forgiving ourselves as well as others.

QUERY

  • What can we do to deepen our relationships with one another? How does gender affect the way we relate to each other?
  • How does our meeting balance the needs for honesty and kindness? What topics do we avoid for the sake of “unity”?
  • When in conflict with others, do we cultivate a forgiving spirit? Do we look to that of God in ourselves and seek to address that of God in those with whom we disagree?

Ethical Transportation

 Radically reducing fossil fuel use has long been a concern of Iowa Yearly Meeting (Conservative).  A previously approved Minute urged us to reduce our use of personal automobiles.  We have continued to be challenged by the design of our communities that makes this difficult.  This is even more challenging in rural areas.  But our environmental crisis means we must find ways to address this issue quickly.
 
 Friends are encouraged to challenge themselves and to simplify their lives in ways that can enhance their spiritual environmental integrity. One of our meetings uses the term “ethical transportation,” which is a helpful way to be mindful of this.
 
 Long term, we need to encourage ways to make our communities “walkable”, and to expand public transportation systems.  These will require major changes in infrastructure and urban planning.
 
 Carpooling and community shared vehicles would help.  We can develop ways to coordinate neighbors needing to travel to shop for food, attend meetings, visit doctors, etc.  We could explore using existing school buses or shared vehicles to provide intercity transportation.  
 
 One immediately available step would be to promote the use of bicycles as a visible witness for non-fossil fuel transportation.  Friends may forget how easy and fun it can be to travel miles on bicycles.  Neighbors seeing families riding their bicycles to Quaker meetings would have an impact on community awareness.  This is a way for our children to be involved in this shared witness.  We should encourage the expansion of bicycle lanes and paths.  We can repair and recycle unused bicycles, and make them available to those who have the need.

Minute approved by Iowa Yearly Meeting (Conservative) 2017



1 . SET CONFLICT RESOLUTION GROUND RULES:

  • Recognize whose lands these are on which we stand.
  • Ask the deer, turtle, and the crane.
  • Make sure the spirits of these lands are respected and treated with goodwill.
  • The land is a being who remembers everything.
  • You will have to answer to your children, and their children, and theirs—
  • The red shimmer of remembering will compel you up the night to walk the perimeter of truth for understanding.
  • As I brushed my hair over the hotel sink to get ready I heard:
  • By listening we will understand who we are in this holy realm of words.
  • Do not parade, pleased with yourself.
  • You must speak in the language of justice.
Harjo, Joy. Conflict Resolution for Holy Beings: Poems. W. W. Norton & Company. Kindle Edition.