Last night I was honored to be able to share some of my experiences in building relationships with Native peoples with the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF). You can see my slide presentation here: https://jeffkisling.com/2019/11/02/native-and-non-native-peoples/
In the early 1970’s I moved to Indianapolis and was horrified to see the city enshrouded in clouds of smog. This was before catalytic converters were being used. It broke my heart to envision my beloved Rocky Mountains hidden in clouds of auto exhaust. I decided I could not contribute to that, and have lived without a personal automobile since then.
As a Quaker I was taught the way we make change in the world is by exemplifying our beliefs. Then others might follow our example. That totally did not happen regarding giving up cars.
That led me to consider who has provided an example of what I call environmental integrity. The answer, of course, being Indigenous peoples. The answer in this case led to the question of how I could connect with Native peoples.
Fortunately, I had a model to help me do that, Quaker Social Change Ministry, that I’ve written a lot about.
About five years ago the meeting I attended in Indianapolis, North Meadow Circle of Friends, decided to become one of the meetings participating in the pilot year of Quaker Social Change Ministry (QSCM). The model has the following components:
- Determine a justice concern that the whole meeting could work on together rather than the usual situation of meeting members working on their selected concerns individually.
- Bring a spiritual focus to this work. During QSCM meetings Friends review what has been going by expressing that from a spiritual viewpoint.
- Get Friends out of the meetinghouse and into the wider community by finding a group experiencing injustice right now, and forming a partnership with that group. The process for doing so is accompaniment.
We were blessed to be able to connect with the Kheprw Institute (KI) that was doing impressive work related to mentoring and empowering black youth. https://jeffkisling.com/?s=Kheprw
Accompaniment was one of the key concepts our meeting learned about from QSCM model. We learned that it is essential that we are led by the needs of the community we are working with (KI in this case). That we have to absolutely refrain from putting forth our own ideas. KI knew what they were doing and we (Friends) needed to learn about that. That worked brilliantly. As Friends came to the monthly book discussions at KI, the KI community had time to get to know and trust us, and eventually asked for our help. This can take a lot of time but you can’t force it. We had been going to KI for two years before I was asked to teach photography at KI’s summer camp.
So as I’ve worked to find connections with Native peoples I was able to use what I had learned from QSCM and our relationships with the Kheprw Institute. As occasions presented themselves, I worked from the following principles I had learned from Quaker Social Change Ministry. (PowerPoint presentation here:
ALL THAT WE ARE IS STORY. From the moment we are born to the time we continue on our spirit journey, we are involved in the creation of the story of our time here. It is what we arrive with. It is all we leave behind. We are not the things we accumulate. We are not the things we deem important. We are story. All of us. What comes to matter then is the creation of the best possible story we can while we’re here; you, me, us, together. When we can do that and we take the time to share those stories with each other, we get bigger inside, we see each other, we recognize our kinship — we change the world one story at a time.Richard Wagamese (October 14, 1955-March 10, 2017)
Ojibwe from Wabeseemoong Independent Nations, Canada
I strongly encourage you to consider learning about and implementing the Quaker Social Change Ministry model. My experiences are the model really does change both the Friends involved and the community we partner with.
Here is information about a couple of webinars to help you get started with Quaker Social Change Ministry.
Do you have a longing to work over time in collective spirit-based social change work in which you get to practice the kind of just community you would like to live in? Do you have an impulse to support folks most impacted by injustice in long-haul work to brings about deeper change?Lucy Duncan, American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) Director of Friends Relations
Working in small groups from a covenant derived from love and care and in a way where we can share our mistakes, be vulnerable together, and learn to support each other as we companion communities facing oppression helps us to experiment with living an alternative to the retributive justice system. The practices of Quaker social change ministry support sustainable, long haul work to lay the foundation for the Beloved Community. This work I will share with you was created by Unitarian Universalist ministers Kelly Dignan and Kierstin Homblette and extended by AFSC and offers a visionary pathway toward co-creating justice.
If so, join me in a two part webinar series on Quaker social change ministry, a powerful model of small group collective social change work that brings mystics and activists together to support one another in long-term sustainable social change work.
The webinars will take place respectively on November 13 and 20, from 8:30 p.m. EDT// 7:30 p.m. CDT // 6:30 p.m. MDT // 5 p.m. PDT. The first session will focus on the spiritual practices, the second on accompaniment.