Tag Archives: Quakers

How We All Live To Let Our Lives Speak

2004_Jessica (Jess) M. Klaphaak

by Jess Klaphaak ’04

In recent years, I have come to be a rather active member of the Quaker meeting here in Copenhagen. Every Sunday I sit with Ulla and Mogens, both are over 90 years old, who lived through World War II and took part in the Danish resistance against the Nazis. It is quite an experience to listen to their stories of vandalizing fighter jets and sewing dresses from fallen parachutes to hide the evidence of soldiers escaping from battle. We have about ten regular members and at 30, I am the youngest of our little group by about three decades.

At the beginning of July, my family and I went to the Scandinavian Yearly Meeting in Gothenburg, Sweden. There were over 120 participants from Norway, Sweden, and Finland. The three of us went as the only participants from Denmark. One afternoon, I sat with the executive secretary of FWCC-EMES and we had a-one-on one conversation about the challenges that face all Quaker communities across Europe. I voiced my concern that our biggest challenge in Denmark is building community, getting people to stay and take on responsibility and that I personally struggle with a feeling of hopelessness for our community that has recently been affecting my motivation and drive.

Being a Quaker and going to Yearly Meeting and other Quaker retreats was such a big part of my childhood and teenage years, and subsequently my adult life, that it is difficult to witness the community that always seemed to sail so smoothly, struggle so hard to keep afloat. Here in Copenhagen, I often feel like I am alone on the mast of a sinking ship. What should I do? Should I jump into the lifeboat of mindfulness or Buddhism or should I climb down and repair the holes myself? For now, I choose to patch the holes. Quakerism offers something more than mindfulness and obviously something different from Buddhism.

As a whole, my experience in Gothenburg left me with the sense that we are all delicately connected—a connection that exists because we, as Quakers, reach out beyond ourselves to actively create community. Perhaps Quakers are particularly good at this because, in my opinion, a true sense of community is formed when we answer that of God in others.

Community is by definition something bigger than one’s self. It is a network of connections to which we belong. Even though un-programmed meetings face dwindling membership across the planet, the few who stick around often accomplish great things through service efforts and lobbying activities. Silence is merely a tool we use to listen to our inner Light, but it is what we do with the messages we receive that defines us, both as individuals and as a group. When a group of over 120 active and engaged Quakers meet, in spite of cultural and language barriers, it is impossible not to feel how we all live to let our lives speak.

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An Ongoing Commitment

by Sam Houser

At a time when transgender rights are again in the news, I am writing to affirm George School’s own commitment to welcoming and including students and employees who are transgender or gender non-binary, or whose families may include members who identify as transgender or gender non-binary. Similarly, we welcome the presence, active engagement, talents, and support of our graduates who identify as transgender or gender non-binary.

In April of 2015, the George School Board approved a policy stating the school’s intention to welcome and include transgender students in our community. This included providing appropriate accommodations and a supportive residential environment for those who are boarders.

In February of 2017, the Friends Council on Education issued a statement affirming that, consistent with the Quaker testimony of equality, Friends schools strive to create communities inclusive of all students, including transgender and gender non-binary students.

Last spring, the Friends School League (FSL) also adopted a similar policy regarding the inclusion of transgender and gender non-binary students into athletics programs among FSL schools.

All of these developments reflect a deep commitment on the part of George School and other Friends schools to foster healthy and diverse educational communities by valuing, respecting, and drawing upon the richness of differences to strengthen our education. This commitment stems from the very underpinnings of Quakerism that include teaching there is that of God in every person, that all people are equal and deserve equal respect and treatment, and that healthy communities are those that accept and nurture differences.

George School is a rare place. Here, people of many identities, from around the world, live, learn, and play together. Being a George School community member entails engaging with new and sometimes uncomfortable perspectives. This can be hard work, but the effort is an important one that will help us diligently mind the Light and prepare us to do good inside our school community and beyond.

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Filed under Faculty, Head of School, Life After George School, Parents, Students

The Things I Learned in the Silence

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by Shanti Lerner ’15

This post originally appeared here and was shared with permission.

The things I learned in the silence.

The attack on OSU last Monday definitely reiterated the idea that silence is important. During the event of the attack, I was sitting in a dance room that was under lockdown at the North Recreation Center with 50 other students. No one in the room was speaking to each other but I knew we were all experiencing the same emotions. Everyone was quiet, curious, and afraid. When the shelter was lifted I felt a sudden wave of emotions hit me. I realized that although I was not directly affected, I was definitely affected emotionally. I’ve seen stuff like this happen all the time on TV, but I never imagined I would be part of something like it in real life.  Days after the event, I was expecting many of the people I knew to be talking about it, however, I have yet to hear anything. I still wonder why it seems like the issue has been swept under the rug. Perhaps people are in shock, maybe they don’t have time to think about it, or they simply just want to move on from it. But I know that just because no one is discussing it doesn’t mean people aren’t thinking about it, which reminds me of the first place I learned about the value of silence.

Not so long ago, I was at a place called George School. For three years of my high school career, I attended a Quaker boarding school in Newtown, Pennsylvania. No, Quaker is not the same as Amish. The Quakers or the “Society of Friends” are historically members of the Christian religious sect but have more liberal understandings of Christianity. The Society of Friends is united in the belief that there is that of God in every person. Quakers don’t attend church, don’t read bibles, they avoid creeds, and hierarchical structures. However, they do attend meeting for worship.

Meeting for worship entails people coming together in a meeting house or any space and sitting in silence from 40 minutes to an hour. Usually, meeting for worship is set up in such a way that all people are facing the center of the room. During meeting for worship, if a person feels moved by the silence then one can share their feelings or thoughts to the people in the meeting house. I had to attend meeting for worship twice a week for three years. I wasn’t allowed to look at my phone, speak to the person next to me, or even fall asleep. It was just me and my thoughts. It’s almost like meditating except if someone in the room speaks and I resonate, there’s chance I can speak and share.

In my three years at George School I probably only spoke in meeting a countable number of times and every time I did it felt scary.  It was frightening to stand up and share my feelings, my thoughts, and my opinion on issues. But when my heart was beating fast and I was getting nervous I knew that’s when I had to speak. I had to break my silence and have the courage to set whatever it was that was in my head FREE. Once I did, it always felt amazing. I never felt judged because I knew for a fact that everyone was experiencing the same thing as me, people had feelings, problems, they were thinking, imagining, but were also frightened by the idea of standing up to speak in a vulnerable state.

I will admit that there were days where I dreaded going and it wasn’t until after high school that I realized the value of that silence. In my busy school schedule now, how I wish I had that chance to be able to go to meeting for worship and just relax and think to myself without any distractions. 40 minutes of silence may seem hard in this day and age but I think being able to just take a step back from whatever is going on in our lives is an important practice to maintain. It’s good for calming yourself, thinking, breathing, and forming an opinion. With all the technology and the constant interaction with people, we tend to forget to be holistically present with ourselves and our environment. While I was patiently waiting for the shelter to be lifted I felt like I was in meeting for worship again. The silence took me a step back from what was going on and it allowed me to realize that I was affected by this attack too and everyone I was with at the time.

Often times, people tend not to voice out their opinions on serious events to avoid conflict. Although I’ve been feeling bothered by the fact that a lot of people aren’t voicing out the magnitude of what happened or simply how they are feeling, I know all of this is happening in the silence. Which I realized is not a bad thing. Just like how it felt to speak in meeting for worship, its hard to voice out about an event like the attack that had just happened. But at the same time, its OKAY to just be silent and think about it and how its affecting you, your friends, and the greater community. Sometimes we need silence to be able to realize some things. But, if by chance your heart starts pounding fast, you get a little nervous, and you get the courage to speak out loud, go ahead. Breaking the silence might give you a feeling of relief.

Shanti invites readers to connect with her via email.

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Speaking of Squirrels

by Chloe ’16
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See more about our campus squirrels in “Lessons from Squirrels,” by Head of School Nancy Starmer.

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