Quakers and conflict resolution (fwd)

Errol Hess errol at kitenet.net
Mon Jul 13 00:00:12 JEST 1998

Is this something Friends might consider for 1999 Yearly Meeting?  It was
sent me from Quaker House.

---------- Forwarded message ----------

Friends and Friends Meetings
I (Sandy) was sent this interesting report, which I thought you might be
interested in.  I certainly find it exciting.


     Friends Meetings and Churches as Training Centers for Peacemaking
Mary Lord 

     It happened as though on cue. Bette Hoover of the AFSC Middle
Atlantic Region staff and I were leading a weekend  workshop on the
Peace Testimony for the Southeast Region of Friends World Committee for
Consultation (FWCC).
     The room was filled with 30-40 Quakers, including several weighty
Friends. Bette was leading the group on the first night and just
starting to talk about living our peace testimony in a violent world.
Suddenly, an angry neighbor burst into the Meetinghouse. He was a big
man and he was very upset that someone had parked in the alley and
blocked the entrance to his home. He was loud and verbally abusive, but
physically threatening anyone. An out-of-state Friend who had mistaken
the alley for a driveway in the dark apologized and left to move her
car. A local Friend who knew the  neighbor accompanied her. The man left
after hurling a few more insults and curses at the assembled Quakers.
The car was moved and the conflict was resolved uneventfully. Bette
turned back to the planned presentation, but many Friends were very
upset by the incident and needed to process it. 

    As the group worked through the event, it became clear to Bette and
me that many of these lifelong Quakers were very uncomfortable dealing
with violence or the threat of violence. While believing in nonviolence
and peacemaking, many felt defenseless in the face of threat and
violence in the society around them. A number shared their discomfort at
dealing with conflict of any type, and told stories of minor conflicts
in Friends Meetings that had escalated or festered because no one knew
how to deal with them.  Friends tend to avoid or ignore conflict rather
than try to resolve it. That night   Bette and I restructured the
workshop, recognizing the group's need for more basic concepts and
skills. In a brainstorming session later in the weekend, I offered the
idea that we should turn our Monthly Meetings and Friends Churches into
training centers for peace and conflict resolution. 
There was a strong response to the idea. For the past year, we've been
experimenting at my Monthly Meeting (Adelphi) with ways to make conflict
resolution skills a part of learning to be a Friend. 

     Adelphi is a Meeting of about 250 Friends in suburban Washington
DC, not far from the University of Maryland. We have a lot of young
families, and half of the Meeting members and attenders are children and
youth. Most of the adults are convinced Friends, so the children are
virtually our only birthright Quakers. Adelphi Friends were interested
in learning conflict resolution skills for daily life. Conflicts with a 
spouse, with children, neighbors, or co-workers were the highest
priority. Like many Friends meetings and churches we have several
experienced trainers among us. We've relied on the CCRC (Children's
Creative Response to Conflict) model which focuses on community building
and has exercises that are easily adapted to daily life situations. Jane
Manring and Marcy Seitel, experienced teachers and CCRC trainers, worked
with me to design and lead the workshops.  

     We've now run three courses of three sessions each, all of which
have been fully subscribed with 20-25 attendees. For the week night
sessions when people are tired, we learned it was best to focus on one
skill a session: listening, needs analysis, and communicating
(I-messages) and give plenty of time for practice. It's also important
to Friends to leave time for worship and to address the spiritual values
that underlie the
skills building. Our most recent workshop featured educator Marty
Burgess who has been doing research on violence and the brain. The more
we understand about our own natures and inborn survival needs, the more
effectively we can understand the violence within ourselves and respond
effectively to conflicts. 

     The Pendle Hill bookstore has let us have books on consignment to
sell to Meeting members interested in learning more. A spin-off book
group has been reading Dudley Weeks' The Eight Essential Steps to
Conflict Resolution, a good basic overview written for the lay person.
Several Friends have indicated they now want to get deeper into dealing
with violence or potential violence. An AVP (Alternatives to Violence
Program) training session is planned, which we hope will encourage more
Friends to get involved in prison work and community violence projects.
For now at least, we plan to offer two to three courses a year, and to
integrate conflict resolution skills building into our approach to
learning about Quakerism. An able committee does all the logistical 
reparation and planning, allowing the trainers to worry only about
planning and leading the workshop. The work is jointly sponsored by our
Peace and Social Concerns Committee and our Adult Religious Education
Task Group. We hope to spread the idea to other Meetings and Yearly

     In December, about 20 people, mostly from Baltimore Yearly Meeting
attended a weekend workshop at William Penn House on Capitol Hill on
turning our Meetinghouses and Friends Churches into peace training
centers. It was led by Elise Boulding, Kevin Clements, and me. Elise
provided a framework with a discussion of the culture of peace,
including the experiences of our families and Meeting communities as
places that
are and can be a peace culture. She then led us in a visioning exercise
to encourage the imagination to create what our Meetings might be like.
I shared the Adelphi      experience and led a team-building exercise.
Kevin Clements, New Zealand Friend currently heading the Institute for
Conflict Analysis and Resolution at George Mason University in Virginia,
provided an invaluable overview of what has been learned from peace and
conflict research and practice. There was much enthusiasm for
implementing ideas in home meetings throughout the Yearly Meeting. 

     Individual Quakers like Kevin Clements and Elise Boulding have been
deeply involved in creating and developing the fast-growing field of
conflict resolution and management. There is now a considerable body of
research and experience on which Friends can draw. Individual Quakers
and Quaker organizations have also developed and spread CCRC,
Alternatives to Violence Project, Help Increase the Peace Program, and
many other training programs that are active throughout the world. Many
Meetings have trainers and practitioners in our midst. Our Meetings can
better support and nurture a larger witness in our communities and our
world by designing and conducting projects that help Quakers learn
skills of peacebuilding that are useful in daily life. Incidentally, we
may even learn how to work together more effectively across the
diversity of Friend's beliefs. 

     For nearly 350 years, Friends have testified "to that life and
power that [takes] away the occasion of all wars. ...[to] the covenant
of peace which was before wars and strifes were." (See The Journal of
George Fox, A Year in Derby Jail, Friends United Press, 1983.) Personal
pacifism, the renunciation of violence and war has been a consistent
Friends' witness since the Society was formed. It is one of the things
defines us publicly in the wider world. But believing a thing does not
necessarily mean we know what to do.  
     Often Friends peace testimony has been expressed as nonviolent
protest against war or injustice. That prophetic protest is still
needed. But we are also challenged to show ourselves and others that the
path of nonviolence is not only right, it's also pragmatic and
practical. For more information on how to turn your Monthly Meeting or
Friends Church into a training center, contact Mary Lord, 2623 Holman
Avenue, Silver Spring,
MD 20910, 301/588-0626. 
                    ***The means are the ends.***

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