Last month, I spoke at Berkeley Friends Church’s Quaker Heritage Day, which was an honor and a joy. I had not been to Berkeley Friends before, and I received a warm welcome and met some wonderful people. They have a special community there, and I had so much fun getting to know them a bit and hearing their stories.
If you’re interested in hearing what I talked about, you can listen to my talks and see my PowerPoints on Quakers & the Eco-Reformation here. I first spoke about “Why an Eco-Reformation?” then discussed, “Quakers & Creation Care: Problems & Potentials in Quaker Theology.” After lunch, I spoke about “Joining the Eco-Reformation through Watershed Discipleship.” On Sunday morning, I gave a sermon on hope, and what hope looks like in the midst of the realities of climate change: “Stewards of the Vineyard.”
While in Berkeley, I enjoyed getting to know some of the Friends (and friends of Friends) I met there. I went to dinner the first night with a group of longtime Friends, several of whom faithfully protest a nearby nuclear facility, and have many arrests on their records for civil disobedience as they continue to draw attention to the issue of militarization.
The second night, my host invited me to a small shabbat service in a home, led by one of his friends who is a Jewish rabbi. The group welcomed me (and were quite surprised that I read Hebrew!). It’s interesting encountering Jewish rituals as a Quaker. I love the traditions, the reminder to take a sabbath, and the shared meals. I love that Jewish rituals include so many senses, and do a better job of incorporating the whole body than many Christian services (at least Friends ones—particularly unprogrammed Friends, where we sit still and try to ignore our bodies for an hour). I got to know those gathered over the shared meal afterwards. I heard the men’s stories of ways they rejected serving in the Vietnam War, which they considered unjust. As a Quaker, it was fairly easy to get out of military service, but it took a little more creativity for others!
On Saturday, Quaker Heritage Day, I got to spend time with members of Berkeley Friends Church, as well as Friends from Berkeley Friends Meeting and other unprogrammed meetings in the Bay Area. I enjoyed talking with them over lunch and after the event. I had them share ways that they and their meetings are already involved in caring for the environment, and they are already doing a lot, compared to many others. I felt inspired by their work, and I hope they begin to work together across meetings a bit more. One person shared about their “FUN committee,” Friends United for Nature. I thought that was a great name! I particularly enjoyed meeting a Kenyan Friend who’s studying in the US, and hearing his thoughts about creation care from a different cultural perspective.
Saturday night, my host and his partner took me to a beautiful German choral music concert in a nearby Episcopal church, a building well structured for that sort of sound. I enjoyed the music, and chatting with my hosts about life and faith as we walked to and from the concert.
The rabbi I met on Friday night offered to come hear me preach on Sunday morning, and she showed up! I was incredibly honored by that. I was also a little nervous, because a) I was preaching from a passage that has been used against Jews often in Christian history, and even though I was reinterpreting it, I’m sure it wasn’t comfortable, and b) because I was doing some Hebrew interpretation, and although I’ve studied Hebrew quite a bit, it’s not the language of my people. She was very gracious, though, and we had a wonderful extended conversation after meeting for worship about faith, hope, creation care, community, and how our traditions approach questions. It was an added and unexpected bonus to the trip to be able to meet her.
It’s a little strange jetting into a place for a weekend and sharing about this topic (not only because of the amount of fossil fuels used…). Caring for creation in ways that are lifestyle-altering and hope-filled is such a passion of mine, and while I’m glad that Friends in the Bay Area are already doing a lot, I can also see potential for them to work together and make a concerted effort in activism and speaking up in a more targeted way. With their history (and current practice) of activism around other justice issues, I think there’s a lot of potential there! I hope these talks were a beginning point, or an accelerator into continued work in this area, rather than a nice topic to talk about for a day.
I hope to continue journeying with these Friends, since they’re thinking about joining Sierra-Cascades Yearly Meeting!