Bellingham Friends meet at 10 a.m. on Sundays at Explorations Academy
1701 Ellis Street (Creekside Building), Bellingham
Mailing Address: Box 30144, Bellingham, WA 98229-2144
Query: From the little red book, #36 (in most editions): Do you uphold those who are acting under concern, even if their way in not yours? Can you lay aside your own wishes and prejudices while seeking with others to find God’s will for them?
Calendar – May 4: Meeting for Worship with Attention to Business
May 11: Potluck Sunday (switched due to Mothers Day)
May 14: Mid-week worship at the home of Mary Ann Percy, 7 pm
May 13: Book group meets at 7 p.m. at the home of Joan Oftenness
May 28: Mid-week worship at the home of Mary Ann Percy, 7 p.m.
May 18: Personal Leadings and Forms of Witness; Singing Sunday
May 22: Spirit group meets at 7 p.m. at the home of Larry and Joanne.
May 25: Ski to Sea Parade / Memorial Day, therefore, no second hour
June 01: Potluck Sunday
Saturday, June 7th — A Day of Sacred Circle Dance, 9:30 am to 5:30 pm and 7:30-9:30 pm.For more information on this BFM-sponsored event and how to register, contact Don Goldstein at 671-1395 or
June 08: Meeting for Worship with Attention to Business
Other Events –Save the date (Friday, May 9th at 5:30 p.m.) for our potluck dinner celebrating incoming and outgoing clerks. All are welcome, and please rsvp to the Richardsons’ at 733-5477.
Announcements – Visit The Meadow
As she requested, Doris Ferm was given a green burial in The Meadow, a natural, native-plants graveyard at Greenacres/Moles at Northwest and Axton Roads. Doris’s grave is in the “A” section, toward the end of the right fork of the path. There is a native river rock headstone with her name and year of birth and death. Anyone is welcome to visit any time, but if you’d like help finding it, Virginia is willing to take interested Friends to visit the gravesite on a day with nice weather. Contact Virginia by email, email@example.com; if more than one Friend wants to go out, we can try to coordinate schedules.
…and Lopez Friend Gretchen Wing will be reading from (and signing) her debut Young Adult Fantasy novel, The Flying Burkowski at 7 p.m. Monday, May 12 at Village Books. Virginia Herrick copyedited the book for her and can vouch for it being a good read with some interesting twists and a charming voice. If you can, please attend the reading — it’s hard for beginning authors to get a turnout when they’re away from home. Let’s make Bellingham “home away from home” for Lopez Friends!
Viewpoint – Why Quaker Should Divest from Fossil Fuels
Our Quaker faith, with its values of peace, stewardship of the Earth, simplicity, and equality points to climate change as one of the most pressing issues of our time, a crisis that calls for immediate action. In May 2013, the Earth’s atmosphere surpassed the carbon dioxide 400 parts per million level; climate change, with its ensuing extreme weather and rising sea levels, can no longer be stopped, only slowed, according to climate scientists. And slow it we must.
Recycling, reducing our carbon footprints, and greening our meetinghouses are all valuable and important actions. But these actions feel inadequate in the face of a problem of such huge proportions.
Now Friends have an additional option – fossil fuel divestment. Bill McKibben, founder of 350.org, notes that when Nelson Mandela was first released from prison after apartheid ended, he didn’t go to Washington, D.C. to thank our government. He came to the University of California at Berkeley to thank the students, faculty, and regents for divesting from stocks of companies that supported the apartheid regime in South Africa.
While there are some differences in this campaign – the major one being that we are nearly all dependent on fossil fuels – there are enough similarities to make this strategy worth taking seriously.
Selling stocks in oil, coal, and gas companies will not bankrupt these mega-rich companies. In fact, they may be happy to have pesky shareholders out of their meeting rooms. But divestment could spur conversation at policy levels, bring awarness to the public, and weaken corporate political power of these power industries. Making fossil fuel corporations as unpopular as tobacco industries would pressure both the industries themselves and policymakers to change. In 2008, an election year, Exxon Mobil spent $29 million on lobbying.
Many feel that owning stock means that you take responsibility for what that business or company does. If it and you profit from the destruction of the Earth, you share responsibility for that destruction.
We hope that politicians will legislate needed changes, but so often politicians will be the last to change. They are, after all, dependent on corporate financial support come election time.
We must look at our own investments and consider the harm they are doing. Friends Fiduciary Corporation (FFC), a socially responsible investor based in Philadelphia, PA with $250 million in assets, holds assets for many Quaker meetings and organizations. In May 2013, FFC divested from coal companies. During that same screening and evaluation of their holdings, FFC also released its shares in Exxon Mobil and Chevron. Recently, it established a Quaker Green Fund that is fossil-fuel-free. Those of us favoring total divestment hope that Friends meetings and other institutions will move their funds to this Green Fund, which also features “cleantech” investments (see friendsfiduciary.org/quaker-green-fund for more information).
Regarding oil, FFC takes the engagement approach, or working from within. The summer 2013 newsletter from FFC states this clearly: “While divestment may be appropriate strategy for some investors, Friends Fiduciary does not believe it is an effective strategy for those of us who are actively engaging with these issues.” FFC retains three percent of its holdings in oil and gas, which computes to about $7.5 million. In an ideal world, and perhaps eventually, FFC will divest totally from oil companies.
Some Friends will say that we are hypocritical to divest from oil if we are still driving our cars. Perhaps, but currently we have poor choices in public transportation, and few can afford an electric car. Other Friends will say that reduction in demand and consumption, coupled with higher prices and higher taxes, are the only ways to achieve change. All these changes will help the cause. There isn’t only one way – divestment wasn’t the only tactic that dismantled apartheid in South Africa.
Funds divested from fossil fuel companies should be reinvested in companies expanding into renewable, efficient energy. Offering a green fund as a option is an imiportant step in the right direction, though it is not as strong a statement as total divestment would be.
Some Friends meetings have begun discernment around this issue by watching the “Do the Math” video that 350.org distributes and holding meetings to discuss options. Dover, New Hampshire Meeting issued an epistle advocating divestment after several discussions and decided to divest its Vanguard funds, which had significant amounts of fossil fuel stock. Dover Meeting has developed a packet listing resources, queries, and FAQs that they would like to share with other meetings to facilitate this process. The materials can be found through the Quaker Earthcare Witness website at quakerearthcare.org.
One of our most pressing tasks as a global civilization is climate change. Spirit calls us to act. Divestment is not a perfect appproach, but it is one way to put faith into practice.
Kathy Barnhart, Berkeley, California
Book Reviews – No Shame, No Fear by Ann Turnbull (Genre: Historical Fiction)
Plot Summary: The story begins in Shropshire, England in 1662. Susanna, a young Quaker girl, works alongside her mother to care and provide for her family after her father is taken away to a debtor’s prison. Suffering is commonplace to her family, and Susanna learns that Quakers maintain dignity and hold steadfast to their beliefs despite the circumstances around them. One day, her path crosses that of a dashing young man, William. William becomes quite taken with Susanna, who as chance would have it, has come to reside in his town as a servant to a printer. Their different social standings and religious backgrounds only seem to complicate their budding relationship. When their friends and parents disagree with their alliance, their new love is put to the test. Can their love survive the circumstances, prejudices, and persecution of their time?
Review: What really made this book interesting was that each chapter alternated the viewpoints of Susanna and William. This would be a great teaching tool for point of view and for catching the interest of both male and female audiences. As a historical novel, it was very enlightening to learn about the Quaker viewpoint and to realize how steadfastly they clung to their beliefs despite imprisonment and in many cases at the risk of losing everything. This novel is very eye opening to the dangers of religious persecution and of the prejudices that are all too often easily imagined and believed just because someone is different. This novel yields to a good lesson on tolerance and understanding of others. Over all, this book is an informative, interesting read.
…and Caught in Between: The Story of an Arab Palestinian Christian Israeli
By Riah Abu El-Assal (Bishop of Jerusalem); Reviewed by Merle Harton, Jr.
This book, by the Anglican Bishop of Jerusalem, is an enthralling, sometimes poignant, and often exasperating tale of several identities in crisis. This is less a book about the Episcopal church and far more a book about the Arab-Palestinian search for identity and the increasing isolation of the Christian community in Israel today. Written by a man who spent his youth and almost all of his adult life in Palestine, this is also the story of the hard consequences of Zionism, how God might be considered a real-estate agent, and how failure to come to terms with life as a Palestinian Arab Christian in Israel usually leads to emigration.
Riah has been priest of the parish in Nazareth for the past 32 years. This is also where he was born and where, as a child, he drank from Mary’s Well. Even apart from intervals of travel, including Episcopal divinity studies in India, Palestine is his home. His ethnic identity is Arab, his mother tongue is Arabic, his faith is Christian, but he is also an Israeli citizen who has nevertheless lived the majority of his life as either a refugee or under political occupation.
The 1947 United Nations partition assigned Nazareth and Galilee to Palestine, but these were forcefully incorporated into Israel in 1948, during which time many historic villages were destroyed. Of the villages that remained, many were later subsumed through real-estate transactions that left their Arab-Palestinians dwellers without homes. In 1948, less than six percent of the land in Palestine was Jewish owned. Since that time, 93 percent of the Arab-Palestinian land has been literally confiscated, a state of affairs Riah attributes to land management by the Jewish National Fund, which prohibits the sale of land to Arab Israelis.
Riah writes from a personal vantage point, which often colors the perspective, but his viewpoint is a novel one and inevitably heartrending. For both Jews and Palestinians, the Bible is not only a spiritual guide, but also a record of their history and proof of their roots in the land. Native Christians and Muslims in Palestine are alike in having been disenfranchised from their homeland. As one reads a complicated piece of modern Near East history through the eyes of this always-interesting witness, one is of course led to sympathy for the Palestinians’ situation.
If Riah has any complaint to make, it is not with the three faiths that find their place in this extraordinary land, but rather with the political aims of a Jewish hegemony that has torn apart both Muslim and Christian homes, as well as human lives, in the process of building a modern Israel. He has much to say about the role of communists in this saga, why he is unable to align himself with the Palestine Liberation Organization, and how a Christian is supposed to live in a land ruptured by the tremors of a unique socio-political force.
This is also a wonderful literary performance, well written, with engaging biography, taut vignettes of recent history, and challenging stands on Christian social responsibility. Friends who want to know more about currents of change in the historic region will find this little book to be stimulating and informative, sad but never dispiriting, and always well worth the reading time.
Appreciation – Several of us were part of an Alternatives to Violence workshop on the April 25-27 weekend. We were reminded that this program began in 1975 in a New York prison at the request of long term prisoners. Since then the program has grown and expanded to over 50 countries including the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Australia, Costa Rica, New Zealand, Costa Rica, Israel, Russia and South Africa. It soon became obvious that violence, and the need for training, exists as much outside prison as within; AVP began with support from Quakers but the program is non-denominational and works in many social and religious contexts.
The three facilitators in this most recent workshop were all from Bellingham, as were the 19 participants. On a personal note, this most moving workshop is directed at “where we live..” physically, emotionally, spiritually. It is non judgmental and the processes are fun and revealing. More workshops may follow, both at the basic and advanced levels.
I say, do it, you will appreciate the value for yourself and your friends and family.
(Check out the website, AVP International, and kudos to Allen Stockbridge for arranging this workshop.)