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A Message from The Quaker Institute, 2024

drafted by Rosa David and Benigno Sánchez-Eppler
Dear Friends,

The weekend of May 2-5, about 70 of us gathered at Pendle Hill for the 2024 Quaker Institute. We tuned out the external noise of our lives to form a magnificent symphony of spirits; a composition that included many notes and rests, crescendos and diminuendos. We were an orchestra that needed conductors but also deep listeners, both roles thriving in commitment and purpose. The challenge was met with an abundance of spirit. A deep love pulled us in as we addressed the “fierce urgency of now,” in all its facets. Some of that was inward work, talking openly about our own relationship with power, privilege, and comfort. Sometimes it was outward work, coming to terms with our own capabilities – what we are able to do, versus when we must step back and let it be someone else’s work to do. Those who have journeyed here many times and those who came for the first time, found that Pendle Hill can surprise and delight us, that at Pendle Hill we can learn boldly, and love tenderly.

The comfort we found in each other’s company was juxtaposed by the discomfort that must be endured in the outside world in order to effectuate change. It is only in that space where growth can happen. Quakers have found, throughout time, that change sometimes sounds like the terrifying clang of the jail door. Sometimes it starts with a shout from the other side of the street. When we are not heard we must deal with the discomfort of having to move in closer, invading personal space, and disrupting the established order. Sometimes change starts with silence. It can be a slap. It can be an embrace. It can be a book handed to us by a friend. We took each other to our pain and frustration for the killing fields of Israel Palestine, we prayed for college campuses, we acknowledge our interminable complicity with useless excess, climate destruction, incarceration, and racial wounding both in the world and in our Meetings and homes. Many of our conversations and workshop focuses on ways to prepare to respond in obedience to the demands of the Spirit.

We explored our grief and gratitude. We held and beheld the beauty of nature and community. We came together and drifted apart, allowing for discourse on the grand scale and listening in small circles. A small echo rose – “I am here … I am here,” assuring us that this immense burden is not borne by ourselves alone. You could hear it in the silences, you could hear it in the songs, you could hear it in the laughter, and in the hum of fellowship at the Seed Group tables.

James Baldwin said it and we heard it as clear, realistic, and searing prophetic ministry:  “Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.” Your monthly meetings can be fertile loving containers to face all that needs to be changed. The miracles we experienced at the Quaker Institute may be replicated in small and powerful seed germinators closer to your home with our non-Quaker neighbors. Minds will wonder, curiosity will invite us forward, hearts will sink into a teachable brokenness, and healing will happen as the reality of the Blessed Community becomes palpable.

More than once and in many activities at the Quaker Institute we were asked to think about a young person close to us, to envision their future, and to dedicate the fruits of our reflection, of our Spirit-led transformation and will to work to that beloved young person. This jolted many of us into the recognition that our responses to prophetic demands need to be charged with the power of something we will do for love. This recharged the meaning of “carrying a concern” as the fierce urgency of now opens up in fruits to feed the future of a beloved person.

– In the Love that makes us Friends