Originally from Ontario, Canada, Tom Affleck came to Pendle Hill after four years living in Latin America , working with SchoolBox, a Canada-based not-for-profit organization he helped found to provide students and teachers in Nicaragua with much-needed school supplies. After hearing about Quakerism and Pendle Hill from a woman he met in Monte Verde, Costa Rica , Tom applied and was accepted to be a Resident Student at Pendle Hill for Fall Term, 2006.
“Before I came to Pendle Hill, I had never been to a Quaker meeting for worship, nor had I any experience with Quakers. I almost had a fear of silence and would pray constantly, with words. I’d never really take the time to listen, or to sit quietly. I’ve since come to realize through Quaker meetings and my prayer class the importance of a daily period of silence, of contemplative and meditative prayer, of taking the time to listen for God and to truly live out the words: “Be still and know that I am God.” Doing this, not just by myself, but with a prayer partner and in a group, has been so important to my faith development here.
“I appreciate that Pendle Hill is a very liberal Quaker environment. There are people here from many different backgrounds with many different ideas and beliefs around God. This has challenged me to be open and accepting of other understandings of God, and of spiritual people who don’t necessarily recognize Christ in their lives and in the language they use. This has given me a greater understanding of how I am called to be a witness in my own life and work.
“When I decided to come to Pendle Hill, I was very interested in meeting other people who’d been working in development or in service-oriented fields, to learn from them how I might incorporate my faith into my work, and maintain my spirituality in the workplace. The short course that I took, Soul at Work with Margaret Benefiel, gave me important tools for doing this successfully. Learning from other students and staff how they have served people, and how they are serving people in the long term, has helped me to be more grounded and stronger in my resolve to make a difference.
“I’ve also appreciated learning about early Quakers and their vibrant Christianity, that personal relationship with Christ that I need, that I’m striving for. Under the guidance of wonderful teachers like Marcelle Martin, Walter Hjelt-Sullivan (core teachers), and Ken Jacobsen (interim co-director), I was able to really grow as a Christian. I’ve learned about the Quaker testimonies, SPICES (simplicity, peace, integrity, community, equality, and stewardship) and what it means to really live those testimonies from people who are living them day to day. I’ve been able to grow with people at different points on their spiritual journey and to share my experiences with others. That fellowship has been so important. Being in a space with people from so many diverse backgrounds helps us to grow and be strengthened in our faith.
“With so many interesting things going on, it’s easy to get pulled in different directions. But my typical day usually starts off with morning worship. Afterwards, if I don’t have class, I’ll do some work on SchoolBox or go for a walk. I’ve appreciated the paths around Pendle Hill, and the space on campus, the variety of trees, and how beautiful it was here in the fall with all the leaves turning. I’ve been thankful to be able to retreat into the woods, to remove myself from the community, and from my thoughts and concerns, to really spend that time with God, to connect with God through prayer. For me, this only comes in a natural setting.
“Most of the rest of my time is spent reading, talking with other members of the community, and doing my weekly job (cleaning washrooms twice each week) and my daily job (washing pots after dinner.) I have also done quite a bit of art, mostly drawings, which I displayed for the community during Festival Week at the end of the term.
“Pendle Hill has helped me understand that life isn’t a hundred meter dash, we’re here for a long run, and that we need to take the time not only to help others, but to help ourselves.
“I’ve come to realize that the only way I can sustain my work is through God. Here at Pendle Hill, I’ve been able to concentrate on my relationship with God, to center in on what’s important, in the center of that love and strength in Christ. I have been able to strengthen myself spiritually, emotionally, and physically. I’m leaving Pendle Hill feeling grounded and refreshed, with a renewed sense of motivation to return to Nicaragua this winter to continue my work with SchoolBox. I feel supported by the students and the staff of Pendle Hill. I feel that the connections I’ve made here will endure, and that I will continue to be supported in the times that come.”