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Ramallah Friends School

This summer I attended my first Gathering. Organized by Friends General Conference, these annual retreats bring together hundreds of Quakers and their families from across the United States for a week of community programming and spiritual nourishment. It was a life-transforming experience, and I am still going through withdrawal after being surrounded by 1,400 beautiful souls of all ages. Throughout the week, I wrestled with this year’s theme of “Seeking Wholeness,” and wanted to reflect upon what the pursuit of wholeness means to me as a Quaker who is gay and Palestinian.

At the Gathering, I grew to understand that we may aspire to become whole but not fully realize that possibility, given our scattered beings and lives in today’s world. We spent the Gathering week in a beautiful part of North Carolina, surrounded by lush green hills and cloud-capped skies. Despite meeting for worship every day and opportunities for meditation, yoga, hiking, and relaxation, the density of the schedule was exciting and sometimes overwhelming. It was not possible for me to attend every event related to Israel/Palestine or LGBTQ concerns, plus participate in all the programming for people of color. Furthermore, being present in North Carolina also meant that I had to leave behind my normal life for a number of days. During one worship, I came to peace with the cognizance that despite being pulled in so many different directions, my spirit at Gathering and beyond was whole. Our souls are able to hold all the various parts of who we are. And when we hold one another in the Light, we merge our spirits collectively in a community of love, nurturing our minds and bodies along the way.

Realizing wholeness is also a challenge when we are broken. It is not always possible to find the words to describe the pain we carry. While at Gathering, we commemorated the one-year anniversary of Israel’s war in the Gaza Strip last summer, which took the lives of over 70 Israelis (65 of whom were soldiers) and 2,200 Palestinians (the vast majority of whom were civilians). Friends from Zimbabwe spoke of the trauma of experiencing state-sanctioned homophobic violence in their country, reminding us of the anti-LGBT bigotry that is found in the United States and around the globe. African American Friends discussed the agony of watching the Charleston shooting and the subsequent burning of black churches across the South. One individual described feeling the need to join a Baptist church in addition to his meeting in order to be part of a black congregation during these difficult times. Another individual contemplated how to reconcile our faith-based devotion to pacifism with the possibility that she “might have still been a slave today if it were not for the Civil War.”

Ramallah Freinds School

As a Palestinian Quaker who is deeply committed to nonviolence, I must confront similar debates on the most efficacious and ethical ways for Palestinians to achieve our basic rights and dignity in the context of illegal Israeli military occupation of our ancestral homeland. Coming together with Friends in sharing our heartbreaks with one another was therapeutic and helped alleviate the pain. Knowing that we are not alone is such a critical step on the path to wholeness. Remembering the words of the Lebanese poet Kahlil Gibran has also shaped my understanding of wholesome resilience: “The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain.”

The spirits of our ancestors guide us in these lifelong journeys in search of healing and resistance to oppression amidst so much suffering. As a Quaker, I am proud of being part of a faith-based community that has a rich history of unwavering nonviolence and social justice in spite of a world that has long been mired in violence and injustice. From the abolition of slavery to women’s suffrage, LGBT liberation, and Palestinian human rights, Quakers have been at the forefront of countless struggles for equality, and this activism is informed by a spiritual imperative of speaking truth to power.

It was through the Ramallah Friends School, a Quaker institution established in 1869 in Palestine, that I was introduced to Quakerism. The school serves both Palestinian Christian and Muslim students, the former tracing their heritage back to the earliest Christian communities in the land the Romans called Palestine. The school’s environment of tolerance and respect, celebration of diversity, and high standards of education allowed me to thrive as an intellectually curious teenager who was coming to terms with his sexuality as a gay person.

When away from school, I seriously considered taking my life away. I did not think I could bear the conditions under Israeli military occupation during the Second Intifada (or Palestinian “uprising”) coupled with my traditional and patriarchal society’s expectations of masculinity. Yet the Ramallah Friends School enabled me to experience Quaker moments of silence, even while we could hear the sounds of Apache helicopters, Caterpillar bulldozers, F-16 jets, missiles and bombs, tanks and jeeps, as well as funeral processions, marches, and demonstrations. I also performed on stage in the school’s theater, participated in events at the chapel, and served as president of student government. Books and the spaces on the beautiful campus provided me with an escape from the harsh reality around me. I knew that I could do social justice work using nonviolent tools informed by a theology of compassion. And that I could make my dream come true of attending Swarthmore College, an undergraduate institution founded by Quakers in Pennsylvania, and then Harvard University for my graduate degrees. It became possible for me to find meaning and purpose while maintaining my belief in God. Being Quaker has enabled me to be part of a spiritual community that accepts me for all that I am and with all of my complexities.

I returned to Swarthmore at the end of this summer for a three-year professorship in peace and conflict studies, with the honor of teaching at the institution that offered the first peace studies course in the nation. I hope to keep alive the legacy of the Quakers there and everywhere who have recognized the Light of God in every human being. The steadfastness of the Palestinian people who refuse to accept displacement and dispossession and the courage of LGBTQ people around the world who refuse to languish in closets gives me strength. As I seek wholeness for myself and my sisters, brothers, and queer siblings in humanity, I remember the 1824 words of Elizabeth Heyrick, a British Quaker and abolitionist: “Truth and justice, make their best way in the world, when they appear in bold and simple majesty; their demands are most willingly conceded when they are most fearlessly claimed.” Quakers might be pacifists, but we are not afraid, and this fearlessness brings us closer to wholeness. Quakerism today is not only the most powerful source for my moral compass, it is also the ideology, practice, and community that saved my life. I am forever grateful to the Religious Society of Friends for these reasons, and I’m so happy to be continuing my journey of wholeness as part of the Quaker community in Philadelphia.

Our Beliefs

The Hutterian Brethren or Hutterites are a faith group stemming from the Radical Reformation of the 16th century (Hutterite History).

Hutterites and Mennonites (and thus the Amish who are of Mennonite descent) share common roots. Both of these groups are Anabaptists and both of these movements trace their beginnings to the same era, to the same movement, during the Reformation.

The guiding principals of the early Anabaptists are stated in the Schleitheim Confession. In 1527, a group of Swiss Anabaptists led by Michael Sattler, met in Schleitheim, Switzerland, and agreed unanimously on the following principles:

  • Baptizing babies is not biblical (Matt 28). The Bible requires the separation of church and state.
  • Christians should not wield the sword (be pacifist).
  • The Lord’s Supper is symbolic of the suffering of Jesus, and should be done in remembrance of Him.
  • The Ban should be applied to those baptised members who fall into sin repeatedly (Matt 15).
  • Pastors in the Church need to be responsible for teaching, disciplining, the ban and other duties.
  • Oaths are not to be taken by Christians.

Schleitheimer Title page

These points became the basis for this new movement. The followers of this movement are known as the Anabaptists or re-baptizers. They are called re-baptizers because they were baptized a second time in adulthood.

The religion of the Hutterites is unique in that they believe in community of goods, in which all material goods are held in common. This idea is gleaned from several biblical sources. Throughout biblical history God has separated His people from the world. Abraham was called by God and asked to leave his people and homeland in order to better serve Him. The Israelites historically have been separate.

We can also read that Jesus and his disciples shared everything (John 12) and they held a common purse. In Matthew 19, Jesus explains to the rich young ruler that he needs to follow the Commandments and to give all he has to the poor and then follow Him. Throughout the Gospel, Christ teaches us to “love our neighbours” and the manifestation of this love is in caring for each other and in the sharing of possessions. Community of goods was practised in the the early church: the apostles and the early Christians held all things in common (Acts 2: 44-47, Acts 4: 32-35). Therefore, Hutterites believe community of goods and working for each other to be the highest command of love.

All members of the colony are provided for equally and no assets are to be kept for personal gain. Hutterites do not have personal bank accounts; rather all earnings are held communally and funding and necessities are distributed according to one’s needs. Hutterites believe that all their work is to benefit the community and is a form of service to God.

Hutterites attend a 1/2 hour church service almost every day besides a 1 to 1 1/2 hour-long service every Sunday and on common religious holidays: Christmas, Easter, Epiphany, Ascension Day and Pentecost. In addition, special services are held for baptisms and marriages, and funerals.

Happy birthday, Odetta (December 31, 1930 – December 2, 2008)! Singer. Songwriter. Civil rights activist. Human rights activist. Influenced Harry Belafonte, Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, Janis Joplin, Carly Simon, among others.
~The Marginal Mennonite Society Heroes Series.

31b

Happy birthday, Ferdinand Domela Nieuwenhuis (Dec. 31, 1846 – Nov. 18, 1919)! Dutch ‪#‎pacifist‬ and political activist. ‪#‎Lutheran‬ minister who lost his faith and turned to socialism. In 1881 he became the leader of a movement that fought for universal suffrage and workers’ rights. Briefly served in the Dutch parliament. Later in life he moved towards anarchism.
~The Marginal Mennonite Society Heroes Series.

31a

Happy birthday, Peter Boehler (Dec. 31, 1712 – April 27, 1775)! #Moravian bishop. #Universalist. Sent to the Americas by Count Nikolaus von Zinzendorf to help establish Moravian communities in the New World. In 1740, Boehler led Moravian groups to Pennsylvania, where they founded the towns of Nazareth and Bethlehem. Boehler believed that God’s grace was so compelling that, eventually, everyone would be saved.
~The Marginal Mennonite Society Heroes Series.

31.jpg

Declaration of the

Marginal Mennonite Society

We are Marginal Mennonites, and we’re not ashamed. We’re marginal because no self-respecting Mennonite organization would have us. (Yet we consider ourselves legitimate heirs to the Anabaptist tradition.)

We reject creeds and doctrines, because they’re man-made, created for the purpose of excluding people. Their primary function is to determine who’s in and who’s out.

We are inclusive. There are no dues or fees for membership. The only requirement is the desire to identify as Marginal Mennonite. If you say you’re a Marginal Mennonite, that’s good enough for us!

We see God as Mother as well as Father, a heavenly parent who cares for all her children. (Isaiah 49:15: “Can a woman forget her nursing baby, or show no compassion for the child of her womb? Even these may forget, yet I won’t forget you.”)

We like Jesus. A lot. The real Jesus. The human teacher who moved around in space & time. The Galilean sage who was obsessed with the Commonwealth of God. The wandering wise man who said “Become passersby!(Gospel of Thomas 42).

We believe the Commonwealth of God is a state of being, a state of transformed consciousness, available to everyone. (Luke 17:21: “It will not be said to be over here or over there. For God’s Commonwealth is inside you & around you.”)

We are universalists. We believe the concept of “hell” was invented by the church to control people. In our view, everyone who’s ever lived gets a seat at the celestial banquet table. We claim kinship in this belief with Anabaptist leader Hans Denck, and Brethren leader Alexander Mack.

We oppose the proselytizing of non-Christians. In our eyes, religious diversity is beautiful. It would be a shame if all Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims, Jews, Jains, Pagans, Pastafarians, etc., were converted to Christianity. So we reject evangelistic crusades and missionary programs, no matter how well-meaning they claim to be. (Matt. 23:15: “Woe to you hypocrites! You scour land & sea to make a single convert. And when you do, you make that person more a child of Gehenna than you are.”)

We endorse the “Sermon on the Mount.” Or, rather, about half of it: those sayings identified by modern scholarship as most authentic. Especially the ones on the following themes:

  1.  Nonviolence (Matt. 5:39-40/Luke 6:29);
  2.  Generosity (Matt. 5:42a/Luke 6:30);
  3.  Unconditional love (Matt. 5:44/Luke 6:27-28);
  4.  Universalism (Matt. 5:45b/Luke 6:35d);
  5.  Mercy (Matt. 5:48/Luke 6:36);
  6.  Forgiveness (Matt. 6:14-15/Luke 6:37c/Mark 11:25);
  7.  Non-attachment to things (Matt. 6:19-21/Luke 12:33-34/Gospel of Thomas 76:3);
  8.  Freedom from anxiety (Matt. 6:25-30/Luke 12:22-28/Gospel of Thomas 36:1-2);
  9.  Non-judgment (Matt. 7:3-5/Luke 6:41-42/Gospel of Thomas 26:1-2);
  10. Compassion (Matt. 7:9-11/Luke 11:11-13).

We are pacifists, in the tradition of Martin Luther King, Jr., Bayard Rustin,Vincent Harding, Cesar Chavez, Dorothy Day, Mahatma Gandhi, Jeannette Rankin, Jane Addams, Leo Tolstoy, Adin Ballou, Lucretia Mott, George Fox, Margaret Fell, the nonviolent Anabaptists, and of course Jesus.

We are allies of the poor and dispossessed. We’re dismayed by the rampant consumerism and materialism of our age, and the way mainstream Mennonites have embraced the world’s money system.

We are humanists, feminists, and freethinkers. We are gay, carefree, and fabulous (or try to be). We believe in art, evolution, revolution, relativity, synchronicity, serendipity, the scientific method, and putty tats. We value irreverence, outrageousness, and a strong cup of tea.

We don’t want to take ourselves too seriously. As someone once said: “God is a comedian playing to an audience too afraid to laugh.” For us, hilariousness is next to godliness.

This Declaration is not a creed or doctrinal statement. It carries no weight of authority. We are anti-authoritarian.

The above “beliefs” are suggestions only. We could be wrong.

The Marginal Mennonite Society was created in February 2011. This Declaration last revised Nov. 25, 2015.

Please visit www.facebook.com/marginalmennonitesociety and “like” us.

Charlie Kraybill (MMS page admin): carlosnycity@gmail.com

Happy birthday, Rachel Foster Avery (Dec. 30, 1858 – Oct. 26, 1919)! ‪#‎Quaker‬. ‪#‎Pacifist‬. ‪#‎Suffragist‬. Staff member of the National American Woman Suffrage Association. Close associate of Susan B. Anthony.
~30aThe Marginal Mennonite Society Heroes Series

 

On this date, in 1663 (Dec. 30th), Anna Roleffes was burned as a witch in Braunschweig (Brunswick), Germany. She had been arrested in June 1663 and suffered through a long trial, including torture. The records, unusually well preserved, were published in English in 2005. They show that Anna was a poor widow, articulate and intelligent, about 63 years old, able to read, and aware of her rights.
~The Marginal Mennonite Society Martyrs Series.

30

“For Bach, music was a religion, he wrote creeds to play them in the service.” Leonard Bernstein aptly summed up with this sentence the importance of faith in the compositions of JS Bach. However, the religious situation was in Germany at the time when Bach was born, in 1685, extremely unstable:

The 30 Years War (1618-1648) had been started because of irreconcilable religious conflicts between Catholics and Protestants and ended up as a power struggle, which weakened Germany. After the severe damage caused by the war, it is mainly the courts of princes who run the country’s reconstruction. Religious conflicts have not been resolved at all. Even in 1685, about half a million Protestant Huguenots lived in France. Various Christian forms developed: in addition to the orthodox Protestanism, a Catholic mysticism also became important. The fundamental position of the baroque composers of sacred music is described by Johann Mattheson in 1739 as follows: The purpose of music is to praise God through song and sound every day and at all hours. All the other arts, except theology and his daughter, the music, are dumb. Even remotely touched by the hearts and souls so strong and varied .. “ Even Bach praised continually God in his works.

His first organ book is overwritten with the title: The honour is for the supreme God alone, He is teaching others. Author: Joanne Sebast. Bach, P.T. Capellae magistri S.P.R. Anhaltini-Cotheniensis “.

Bach’s musical involvement as court organist, concert master and cantor at the courts to Arnstadt, Köthen and Leipzig included secular and sacred music. It was expected from him to write a cantata, a vocal or an organ work every month.

Beside his profession Bach was interested and also educated composer in theology. He had a respectable theological library of nearly 100 volumes, including Luther’s Table Talk and the Manual of Piety, as well as numerous other writings of Protestant theology. His works were written not only for the glory of God. In his free time, he was dealing with all aspects of faith, due to this, he was extremely informed in theology.

Johann Sebastian Bach was deeply rooted in the Lutheran faith. In his chorales, the Bible and traditional orthodoxy are represented passionately. He understood as an image of creation, played for the glory of God and for the edification of the mind Even his purely instrumental music. So there are always relations between secular and sacred music. In cantatas instrumental movements that seem to come as from one of the Brandenburg Concertos, but also plays the trumpet in the highest terms the chorale “What God does is well done.”

Although Bach was rooted in a Protestant denomination, in St. Matthew Passion and the Catholic Mass in B minor he showed he is a non-denominational Universalist

Dietrich Boenhoffer (February 4, 1906- April 9, 1945) was a Lutheran pastor, university professor and doctor of theology, a pioneer of the ecumenical movement, a professional writer, a poet and a central figure in the fight against the Nazi regime. He was born with his twin sister, Sabine, in Breslau (then belonged to Germany, now Wroclaw, Poland), the sixth of eight children of Karl and Paula Bonhoeffer. His father was a prominent professor of psychiatry and neurology, while his mother was one of the few women of her generation to obtain a university degree. After he had completed his theological studies in 1927 in Berlin, Boenhoffer began to work as a pastor in Barcelona, in a German church in 1928. In 1930 he went to New York to study in the Union Theological Seminary there; In 1931 he started to work as a teacher in the Theological Faculty of Berlin and was also ordained as a pastor. At this time he started to be engaged with ecumenical relations.

In 1931 he was elected Youth Secretary of the World Federation for cooperation between the churches; from 1933 he became a member of a Christian network, “Life and Work” (a forerunner of the World Council of Churches). With Hitler ascension to power on January, 1933, a new hard and delicate time started for the protestant churches in Germany, also for Boenhoffer. Many German Protestants welcomed the rise of Nazism; especially the group of “Deutsche Christen” (German Christians), who became the voice of Nazi ideology within the Evangelical Church, even advocating the removal of the Old Testament from the Bible; In the summer of 1933, inspired by the national race laws, the Deutsche Christians proposed a church “Aryan pharagraph” to prevent “non-Aryans” from becoming ministers or teacher of religion.The ensuing debate led to a deep split in the Church: The idea of ​​”Jewish mission” was indeed widespread, but now the German Christians claimed that Jews, as a “separate race” could not become members of an “Aryan” German Church, not even through baptism – and this is a clear repudiation of the validity of Gospel teachings. Bonhoeffer came with vehemence against the Aryan paragraph, arguing that its ratification surrounded Christians precepts to political ideology; if “non-Aryans” were banned from the ministry, he argued, then their colleagues should resign in solidarity, even if this meant the establishment of a new church, that would remain free of Nazi influence. Boenhoeffer’s essay “The Church and the Jewish Question” from April 1933, was the first to address the problems the church faced under the Nazi dictatorship, reaffirming clearly his view that the Church would be obliged to oppose political despotism.

 

When the Aryan clause was adopted in September 1933 by the national synod of the Protestant Church, Bonhoeffer advocated that the international ecumenical movement would be informed and aware of the importance of this issue. He also refused a job as a pastor in Berlin, out of solidarity with those who were excluded on racial grounds from the church office and decided to move to a German-speaking community in London. In May 1934, was initiated by a minority within the German Evangelical Church called the Confessing Church, which National Socialism Barmener the declaration adopted in opposition. In April 1935, Bonhoeffer returned to Germany to take over the management of a Seminary in the underground for the Confessing Church, first in Zingst, and later in Finkenwalde.

 

Himmler declared the pastor training within the Confessing Church by decree as illegal. In September, the seminar Finkenwalde by the Gestapo was resolved in the next two years, Bonhoeffer secretly continued his work as a teacher; In January 1938, the Gestapo banned him from Berlin and in September 1940, they forbade him to speak in public. In 1939, Bonhoeffer approached in a conspiracy and resistance group against Hitler, which had formed around his brother, the lawyer Hans von Dohnanyi, Admiral Wilhelm Canaris and General Hans Oster and more. The theologian was an important link between the international ecumenical movement and the German conspirators against Hitler.

His assistance in the escape of a group of Jews led to his arrest in April 1943. During the two years in captivity that preceded his death, Bonhoeffer fathomed the meaning of the Christian faith in an “age world” and asks in his letters to his friend, Eberhard Bethge: “Who is Christ for us today?” Christianity is too often fled from the world, have tried to find a last refuge in God in a “religious” angle, safe from science and critical questions. But Bonhoeffer claims that it is this humanity is precisely in their strength and maturity that God claims and transformed in Jesus Christ, the “man who is to others” After the failed attempt to assassinate Hitler on 20 July 1944 Bonhoeffer was moved to a prison in Berlin, and later to Buchenwald concentration camp, and finally to the concentration camp Flossenbiirg, where he hanged together with other conspirators. During his life, Bonhoeffer published Sanctorum communio (1930), Act and Being (1931), Succession (1937) and Life Together (1938). The notes and letters he wrote during his imprisonment for his friend Eberhard Bethge, were published posthumously in 1951 as Letters and Papers from Prison, with other letters of Bonhoeffer to his parents and some poems also. After his death, his works constitute his greatest achievement: Ethics (1949), Temptation (1953) and the World Come of Age (1955-66).

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Dietrich Bonhoeffer

We must act and dare the appropiateness and not whatever comes to our mind not floating in the likelihood but grasp the reality as brave as we can be freedom lies in action not in the absence of mind obedience knows the essence of good and satisfies it, freedom dares to act and returns God the ultimate judgment of what is right and what is wrong, Obedience performs blindly but Freedom is wide awake Freedom wants to know why, Obedience has its hands tied, Freedom is inventive obedient man respects God’s commands and by virtu of his Freedom, he creats new commands. Both Obedience and Freedom come true in responsability (Dietrich Bonhoeffer)

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