Quakers In Transition: The Stirrings In New England

“We yearn for community that is intimately dependent on the earth, on our neighbors, and our own self-reliance to provide our basic needs, and allows us to see the consequences of our use of creation.”

- A Statement from a 2011 Young Adult Friends Gathering held in at Mt. Toby Friends Meeting in Massachusetts

The yearning of these young adult Friends is not new among Quakers. Back in the mid-1600’s, the early Quaker Movement in England also felt called by the Spirit of God to transform their way of life. Rejecting the imperial values of their day–-which worshiped power, profits, prestige, and plundering above all–-the Quaker Movement put forth an alternative vision of Beloved Community that was simple, just, peaceful, and sustainable. This vision was anchored in what Quaker founder George Fox described as Judaism’s and Christianity’s three great loves: 1) loving God with all one’s heart, soul, and strength; 2) loving our neighbors as ourselves; and 3) loving God’s good earth by acting in “unity with Creation.”

NEYMToday, contemporary Quakers are still called—along with millions of other people around the globe—to foster a more spiritually fulfilling, socially just, and ecologically sustainable human presence on our planet. The urgency of this spiritual vocation is growing even stronger as the world faces the unprecedented challenges of peak oil, climate change, and an increasingly dysfunctional global economy. Indeed, this summer, at its annual August gathering at Bryant University, the New England Yearly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends focused its attention on the longstanding concern of how the Quaker movement can faithfully help “heal a broken world.” 

Steve ChaseOne major answer that emerged at the gathering was getting active in the Transition Movement. The Transition movement idea was first raised by keynote speaker Steve Chase, a member of the Putney Friends Meeting and a co-founder of the Transition Keene Task Force in Keene, New Hampshire. Standing before 450 New England Quakers on the first full day of the gathering, Steve offered his keynote address entitled, Blessed Are The Organized: How Quakers Can Help Their Local Communities Transition From Oil Dependency To A Simpler, Just, and More Resilient Way of Life. (To listen to a recording of the talk, click here.) 

Steve also sold 48 copies of The Transition Handbook during the five-day gathering, and showed the movie In Transition 1.0 one evening, which received thunderous applause (something that is not all that common at Quaker gatherings). Steve also worked with Transition Charlotte organizer and fellow Quaker Ruah Swennerfelt to run several well-attended workshops on Transition movement themes throughout the week.

As a result of these activities, on the last day of the gathering, NEYM’s Earthcare Ministries Committee endorsed the idea of inviting all Friends to consider joining the global Transition Movement, and they asked both Ruah and Steve to launch an online Quakers In Transition project to help equip Quakers to engage with their neighbors in positive local Transition efforts to:

  • Dramatically reduce our overall energy use;
  • Shift from unsafe and declining fossil fuel resources to safe and renewable energy sources;
  • Enhance the heart and soul of what we love most about our communities–even as we face the end of the Age of Cheap and Abundant Oil; and
  • Relocalize our economies so our communities can increase the number of green-collar jobs and become more capable of producing many of the vital goods and services we need to survive and thrive in the years ahead.

The Quakers in Transition website has now been formally launched and one of its first blog posts announced that Cambridge Friends Meeting is hosting a weekend Training for Transition at its Meeting House from December 2-4. Storrs Friends Meeting in Connecticut has also contacted Tina Clarke, a certified TUS Transition Trainer, about their hosting a “T4T” in their area. Additional Transition talks and introductory retreats led by Quakers active in the Transition movement are also now scheduled for Durham Friends Meeting in Maine and the Woolman Hill Quaker Retreat Center in Massachusetts. 


The launch of the website is also being covered in regional and national Quaker publications like New England Friend, Befriending Creation, and Quaker Life. News of the new website has also been spreading on Facebook. The Quakers In Transition initiative even appears to have some potential to spread internationally. A recent comment on the Quakers In Transition website was from a group of Quakers in the Philippines who said, “Thank you for establishing the Quakers In Transition project. We would like to cooperate!”



Thanks to Steve Chase for sharing this story!


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