Epistle: FAHE Annual Conference, Guilford College, June 15-18, 2017
To Friends Everywhere:
We, faculty, students, administrators and others, with a loving concern for post-secondary education and its intersection with Quakerism, convened at Guilford College in North Carolina. Our theme for this year, “Global Education, Global Quakerism,” emerged throughout a program designed to help us discuss the global diversity of Quakerism, the changing educational landscape in the world, and how members of the Religious Society of Friends might engage these topics.
We gathered the first evening to hear from Diya Abdo, Associate Professor of English at Guilford and founder of the program Every Campus a Refuge. Hearing about the flood of refugees across Europe and the call from Pope Francis that every parish support one refugee family, Diya wondered what colleges could do. Drawing on campus resources of housing, teachers, and volunteers she shaped her idea and since the fall of 2015, Guilford College has served 27 refugees. Her program inspired seven other campuses across the country to join in this work. Diya challenged us to imagine what might be possible at our home institutions.
Listening the next morning to Guilford President Jane Fernandes’ welcoming address, we heard her say that though she did not know the specifics regarding the future of the college, she could sense that change is coming. In spite of what she does not know, she feels a sense of calling to be here, with these people, doing this work. The Quaker commitment to listening into and out of the silence takes us to a deeper place and builds stronger relationships. We were warmed by her honesty and inspired by her steady faith.
This year marked the 50th anniversary of the first World Gathering of Quakers at Guilford College and we celebrated this historic event. The prospect of hosting this event in 1967 leveraged the integration of the college five years earlier, in 1962. As we acknowledged this important history with appreciation, we also noted the status of our organization as remaining predominantly white. Friends named our intention to attract and be relevant to a wider multiplicity of voices.
We were inspired by the message from David Niyonzima, former Superintendent and General Secretary of Burundi Yearly Meeting. After escaping genocidal violence himself in an attack that took the lives of 8 of his 11 students, he dedicated his life to the work of trauma healing, to leadership development through education, and transformation through the practice of Quaker faith.
We listened to each other in both unprogrammed and semi-programmed worship. One message by an undergraduate student from Rwanda was read aloud to us. Its powerful themes of forgiveness and reconciliation were resonant on personal and generational levels.
We were offered two dozen sessions, ranging from Physics to Leadership to Quaker Theology and History. We learned of Quaker study centers’ use of technology to reach people around the world. Other presentations lifted up the writing and publications of several scholars. A featured book was our book series’ volume four “Quakers, Business, and Industry,” edited by Stephen Angell and Ben Pink Dandelion. We noticed that change, adaptation, and transformation were words that arose in many sessions.
The annual meeting for business included approving a surplus-generating budget. In spite of financial challenges we feel confident that the membership has the resources and will to meet future needs. To ensure a strong future for FAHE, we are committed to strategic exploration toward our own growth and strengthening.
We expressed deep gratitude for several friends who have faithfully served FAHE and minutes of appreciation were read for them. Special thanks were noted for Kimberly Haas, dedicated staff person, and for Donn Weinholtz who served with great faith as clerk for two years and on the executive committee for eight.
We look forward to future fellowship and exchange of ideas. Wilmington College in Ohio has gracefully invited us to gather there next year and we look forward to another Spirit-filled opportunity to evolve together, inwardly and outwardly, toward Beloved Community. We do not know what change the future will bring, but we know that we have gifts to share and courageous work to do. We invite you to join us.
Yours in Learning and Light,
Friends Association for Higher Education
June 17th, 2017