Friends General Conference

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On Memorial Day

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The query for Meeting for Worship on May 30 was: "It’s Memorial Day weekend. A ritual time set aside to remember and memorialize, especially those who died in wartime. Who do you remember? Do you have any rituals of remembrance? What might a Quaker Memorial Day look like?"

Friends shared several messages - about the refuge one Friend found in Quakerism when he was resisting the draft to Vietnam and how the older Quakers who provided him this refuge were war heroes also, about the many ways Quakers have sought to create alternatives to violence through the years in programs such as FCNL, about veterans and conscientious objectors in our own families and how war has changed them. One Friend shared how we pretend that "war stories" are tedious though they are compelling and need to be shared, especially when they are hard to share. This Friend noted that everyone who has gone to war has also lived through peacetime and their peacetime stories need to be shared also. Several Friends noted that their own associations with Memorial Day are focused less on war and more on the AVP National Gathering that always coincides with Memorial Day weekend and the launch of summer activities.

One Friend recalled meeting her first Quaker, Charlie Clements, a Vietnam War vet turned Quaker and doctor who worked in the war zone of El Salvador in the 1980s. A profile of this Quaker notes this passage from the Talmud that has sustained him through the years: "Do not be daunted by the enormity of the world's grief. Love mercy now. Walk humbly now. Do justly now. You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to abandon it."