(NOTE: for non Quaker readers of this blog, Scattergood Friends School and Farm is a Quaker boarding high school in rural Iowa that many members of my family and I attended).
Scattergood School and Farm’s financial crisis is stimulating a re-evaluation of the purpose of the School and what it means to Iowa Yearly Meeting (Conservative).
Over the past several years, a vision of a new orientation for the work of the Yearly Meeting and the School has emerged. It is important to express that this has come from numerous spiritual messages received as I have struggled with numerous social justice issues.
One of the reasons I am excited about this possible new direction is because of how it provides the opportunities for us to live more faithfully in many areas of our lives that we have all been struggling with. Perhaps the best way to introduce this vision is to say it involves Scattergood transitioning to a place where Friends can live and work and worship. The community that lives at the School would, of course, do the work of the School and the Farm. The immediate effect of that would be to significantly reduce the money needed to continue the operation of the facilities and school, as those living there take over the salaried teacher positions.
Education would continue to be a central role of the community. With families with children of all ages, teaching these children would be a major focus of the work. But of course everyone would continue their life long learning. The recent work of the school to make the farm central to education would continue to be developed. The research into environmentally appropriate use of the land would continue.
Friends are well aware of the issues related to using fossil fuels. It has pained me to know, and to have told Friends, that we have to stop using fossil fuel immediately, knowing Friends who live where mass transportation is not currently available have very few alternatives. This vision of living at Scattergood would be a way for Friends to live nearly fossil fuel-free. Not only does that address deep spiritual concerns, but as the ways of addressing this at the School evolve, those solutions would serve as a model for others.
This is also a way for us to get out of an economic system that favors wealth and oppresses most of the rest of us. It is also a way to be able to significantly, though not totally, disengaged from a corrupt political system. I believe it would also be important to include people who are suffering injustice now in this community. From my recent experiences with communities of people of color, and those who are economically and environmentally oppressed, I firmly believe we are called to ask people from these communities to join the new Scattergood community. I am convinced that the only way to address racial injustice is to accept people of color into our daily lives. I have been richly, spiritually blessed by having been accepted into the KI community, a small group of people of color dedicated to mentoring youth in inner city Indianapolis. The AFSC’s Quaker Social Change Ministry program that I have been involved in is a framework for this very thing-providing a spiritual focus to help Friends as they learn to engage with oppressed people. I believe we can only begin to address racial injustice by becoming friends with those who are oppressed, and building a Beloved Community together. Refugees and those facing deportation would be other oppressed communities we could invite to build the new Scattergood with us.
I know some other meetings have also envisioned similar communities. Scattergood would not necessarily be the only such community Iowa Yearly Meeting (Conservative) creates. And this model could, and would, I think, be used by other like-minded people.
What a wonderful opportunity we have to live life as we are called as Friends to live.