This edition of the News from the HomeFront may be the first you have heard that I am the new Executive Director of Quaker House. I look forward to trying to match the quality of my predecessor’s reports in the future. For this first newsletter of my service, I am taking a more personal approach.
I grew up in Sandy Spring Friends Meeting. At the time, Sandy Spring, Maryland was a rural area that was just beginning to join the suburbs of Washington, DC. My classmates were a mix of farm kids (white and black) and the children of government workers. My friends had parents who were in the military, worked for the state department, or were in the intelligence community. By middle school, and usually as the only Quaker in my grade, I was having conversations about the meaning of being a pacifist. Sons and daughters of officers who worked at the Pentagon challenged me with the questions of justified war (“would you fight the Nazis”) or personal non-violence (“what if someone was attacking your mom”). I had to find ways to defend what I believed without sounding like I was attacking what their parents stood for. By high school the registration for the selective service had re-started. My father and I received training from the CCCO and together we talked with young men just a couple of years ahead of me in school who were considering whether to register for the draft and what that implied for their lives.
Those early experiences shaped me and my decisions about where to go for college, what I cared about talking about, how I chose friends, and taught me to value every person regardless of their background or opinions. I never expected that they would have a more direct connection to my adult life.
Soon after joining the staff of Baltimore Yearly Meeting in 2009, former director Chuck Fager called me. I hadn’t heard of Quaker House, and only vaguely knew where Fayetteville was. But I had heard of Fort Bragg. Listening to Chuck talk about the importance of Quaker House and of doing that work in a city enmeshed with the life of a huge military base impressed me. I paid attention to the reports about Quaker House. Then in December 2022, Baltimore Yearly Meeting’s Clerk forwarded an email announcing Quaker House’s Executive Director search. She said the work “might be something I would be good at.” In early February I was offered the opportunity to serve Quaker House.
I began my service this March, one week after the Ukraine War began. While trying to learn where the paperclips are, I was also meeting with Chuck and members of the Fayetteville advocacy community. One week later, we hosted a poster making session and we co-sponsored an anti-war rally in downtown Fayetteville. Approximately 50 people braved cold winds to call for the end of the war and to show support for the victims of the violence on all sides of the conflict. At the same time, I received messages from Friends who were finding themselves reconsidering their relationship to the testimony of peace in light of the war. Quaker House has hosted two virtual worship sharing session with Friends from across the nation seeking to discern their feelings and there are plans for future conversations.
Making connections with Quakers was one of my joys at Baltimore Yearly Meeting. Recently I attended Southeastern Yearly Meeting’s gathering in Florida and spent time with new Friends. I plan to visit with Southern Appalachian Yearly Meeting and Association, North Carolina Yearly Meeting – Conservative, Piedmont Friends Fellowship, North Carolina Fellowship of Friends, and Palmetto Friends Fellowship. I will also be visiting individual worshiping communities in several states.
I have been touched by the warm welcome I have received from every person as I take up this work. I also found new connections to old friends, including learning that Harry Scott was a director here in 1972. I am including a photo from his time alongside a recent one that I took of the same angle. In those 50 years much has changed at Quaker House, in Fayetteville, and in the world. But the core of our work hasn’t changed, the work of saying yes to those who serve while saying no to violence and war.