and The Beginnings of Quaker House, continued
Times have changed, however, and Bob likes to point out that Quaker House currently enjoys the financial support of a variety of North Carolina yearly meetings, many unprogrammed and programmed monthly meetings throughout the country, as well as several Friends fellowships and yearly meetings.
Over the years, this unique effort of Friends and other peacemakers has had remarkable moments. On May 16, 1970, Quaker House joined Vietnam Vets Against the War to hold the largest antiwar rally in Fayettevilles history. Hundreds turned out, including many GIs dressed in wigs and sunglasses to avoid detection by military police. Four days later, Quaker House was destroyed by fire in an apparent case of arson.
The case was never solved and local authorities showed little interest in investi-gating. Previously unknown or ignored zoning restrictions were invoked to prevent repair of the house, and Quaker House staff began a search for new quarters.
Meanwhile, from May to October, with no house to use, the board, as well as the worship group which had sprung up soon after Quaker houses founding, met out of doors amidst the ashes of the burned building. Many who attended those meetings recall army intelligence officers parked across the street monitoring Friends silent reflection.
Ultimately, Quaker House solved its real estate problem with the assistance of the GI Bill. Bill Carothers, an ex-soldier from Fort Bragg, purchased a house in Fayetteville, the one-time home of former N.C. Governor and U.S. Senator Terry Sanford, with a VA loan.
In November 1970, Quaker House paid Carothers the equity he had in the house and assumed the mortgage.
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Quaker House as "Catalyst," April, 1970
While it would be difficult to think of a place more hostile to Quakers than Fayetteville, Quaker House cofounder Bob Gwyn thinks there are few places better for Quakers to pitch their tentnot only because helping soldiers is good for the world, but because its good for Quakers.
"Friends like to think that they are nice, peaceful, open-minded people who dont like conflict and try to avoid it." Too often in Friends ministries, he says, Quakers fail to "be involved in the lives of people who are quite different from us. Fayetteville is not a community thats favorable to things Quaker House stands for. Its not easy to embrace people who resolve conflict through violence. And thats exactly what Quaker House does."
Just as Dean Holland challenged Quakers 25 years ago, Gwyn says, Fayetteville and Ft. Bragg "presents a challenge to Friends to try to figure out how we can communicate to these people that we have a message for them. The message is not that we are peaceful and you are not, but that there is another way."
Adapted from an article by Rob Lamme, in Friends Journal, October 1994