Letter to Bear Creek Concerning VSM

To Bear Creek Monthly Meeting                  7/10/1971
Lewis Mott, clerk

Dear Friends,

I write in relation to a program sponsored by the Friends United Meeting (FUM) which I am now participating in. Known as the Volunteer Service Mission (VSM), the project is coordinated by Alan Inglis, director of Conscientious Objector Services for the Friends United Meeting. At present young Friends, especially those who wish to join the Volunteer Service Mission to fulfill their alternative service obligations, are being invited to join the project.

Following is a quote from a pamphlet describing the project:

“It (VSM) seeks to open a new mission frontier, bring into creative relationship the spiritual and material needs in our social order and the energy, ideals, intelligence and sacrificial concern of youth. At a time when youth and adults alike tend to feel helpless before the magnitude and complexity of the problems facing us today, we believe that the talent and good will of youth-power can be mobilized and directed in constructive ministries to the world.”

Initially the volunteer spends time becoming familiar with the neighbors, neighborhood, and the community’s problems. He finds a job so that he will have funds to support his full time community work at a later date, usually after one year at the project.

My unit is located in a poor, Appalachian white area of inner city Indianapolis. I live with another member of the Volunteer Service Mission who is working on the same project. We are supervised and work closely with the nearby Second Friends Church. The Church’s worship service is semi-programmed, consisting of long periods of silence, speaking by members of the meeting, hymns, and a message from the pastor.

I would like to have a minute from the meeting in support of this work. I understand that, in the past, minute were not granted for service in certain other Yearly Meetings. I am somewhat confused by this and anxious to hear what you have to say about it. Is the issue differences in religious practice, or the type of work these other Friends group are engaged in? I have the impression that it is the former. Although, as Friends, we feel we should dissociate ourselves from organizations involved in social or political actions we disagree with, should the same apply to matters of religious practice and belief? Was I mistaken when I wrote the following to Senator Hughes:  “I urge us all–young and old, radical, liberal and conservative–to unite our efforts to tackle the pressing problems facing us. Once we start getting our hands dirty, ideological difference will become very secondary, and solving problem will become primary.”

Or do Conservative Friends object to the type of social work some other Yearly Meetings are engaged in? Don’t we endorse the words of William Penn: “True Godliness doesn’t turn men out of the world, but enables them to live better in it and excites their endeavors to mend it”

I don’t know if you, as a meeting, approve of this program and my participation in it. I am concerned to know your thinking, since Conservative Friends most closely, I believe, represent my own religious thinking. I made the decision to join the project as a result of my Conservative background, and guidance from the inner light, as well as I could discern it. However I will consider leaving the project should you, as a meeting, feel that would be the appropriate action.

Yours,

Jeff Kisling

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