Again, our hearts are broken by news of a school shooting.
Galen Hamann of Providence (RI) Meeting, Director of Friends Education at Moses Brown School, writes to us asking: “What do we say to our children who ask why schools aren’t safe places?”
She shares the first query raised by the students in the school’s Letting Our Lives Speak group: “How many kids have to die before we take action?”
Each tragic episode challenges our faith and calls us to live it ever more deeply. We mourn with communities who have recently lost children to gun violence. We mourn with communities—especially communities of color—who have been losing children to gun violence for many years and whose work to end it has gone unrecognized by those in power.
New England Friend Diane Randall, Executive Secretary of Friends Committee on National Legislation, calls us to move beyond “thoughts and prayers” to bold action.
Participants in our Young Friends program—teenagers from across New England who had planned to be on retreat in March in Hartford—have chosen to join the nationwide, youth-led “March for Our Lives.”
This is not a time to restate facts or to make new arguments about the need to prevent gun violence. We are called to testify to Truth, even when it may seem impractical or unpopular. William Penn reminds us, “Truth will not lose ground by being tried.”
As Quaker faith communities across New England, can we still proclaim as Friends did in 1660, “We utterly deny all outward wars and strife and fightings with outward weapons, for any end, or under any pretence whatsoever; and this is our testimony to the whole world...”?
New England Friends are deeply engaged in the education and nurture of youth. In our youth ministries retreats, at Friends Camp in Maine, Moses Brown School and Lincoln School in Providence, Friends School of Portland, Cambridge Friends School, Friends Center for Children in New Haven, and at Quaker gatherings large and small, children and youth are cherished. In our local meetings and in our families we strive to create communities where all are safe, where all are loved and where all belong.
But our testimony as Friends is not that we can create safe harbors in an otherwise dangerous world. Our testimony is that, wherever we are, we can hear and heed the promise of the voice that speaks in Isaiah 11:9, “They will not hurt or destroy on all my holy mountain... .”
We affirm that the whole world is the Holy Mountain. As a people called to faithfulness, we strive for a prophetic life that lives as if the Truth is true, that God’s Reign is here, now. Children and youth deserve to be safe in every part of their lives.
Friends, let those of us who are adults tell the children and youth in our lives what we will do to witness to this today—and let our words become actions.
Let us keep writing letters, making calls, joining demonstrations, and standing up. Let us counter the lie that violence is best met with more violence. Let us risk for love what some so readily risk for hate. Let us advocate for effective laws and regulations to prevent gun violence. Let us join our neighbors and rise with the fierce faith that inspires bold action.
In a blog post, Doreen Dodgen-Magee, a Friend from the Pacific Northwest who has lost family to gun violence, writes:
We can ... take small but powerful steps to usher in ripples of justice, love, and action. While they may seem small, such actions carried out boldly, consistently, and over time can disrupt a system that has become overly passive about violence and ... overly permissive about guns. I must believe that each of us, small and insignificant as we may seem or feel, have a part to play in creating a country and a world where the love of self and other reigns. Where we are willing to stand up for the rights of our neighbors and children to feel and be safe. Where we are willing to have difficult discussions and to listen and to be open to being moved. Where we can communicate effectively about our values, thoughts, and feelings and have the skills to handle the strong emotions of anger and rage. Where we feel capable of handling conflicts within us or between us with our words rather than with weapons.
The foundation of our witness is knowing where to stand—in the Life and Power of God’s Love—and to stand there together; with strength and courage, not giving up.
Fritz Weiss, Presiding Clerk
Noah Merrill, Secretary
New England Yearly Meeting of Friends (Quakers)