Deprecated – Piedmont Friends Fellowship and Yearly Meeting

Supporting the Separation of Church and State in the Matter of Marriage

Quakers from Piedmont Friends Fellowship meetings took note of the lawsuit filed in April, 2014 by the United Church of Christ (UCC) against the State of North Carolina with regard to State law making it illegal to marry a couple who, solely on account of their gender, can not obtain a marriage license.  This lawsuit charges that such a legal prohibition unconstitutionally interferes with the exercise of religious freedom and is in violation of the First Amendment of the US Constitution.   When the PFF Representatives met in June, action was taken to support this lawsuit to add our voice as a public witness.  The representatives approved the minute (below) and recommended that all PFF member meetings be offered the opportunity to specifically add their endorsement.  Most all PFF meetings have now responded and have unanimously indicated enthusiastic support for this action.

However, in late July, North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper announced that North Carolina, based on the verdict of the US District Court ruling on a Virginia case, would not further defend against lawsuits brought on behalf of same sex couples on the grounds of equal protection under the 14th Amendment.  The Attorney General did not comment on the UCC lawsuit which is being brought as a First Amendment case.  We are hoping that this lawsuit will be brought to trial so that this church-state issue can be specifically argued.

The PFF Minute approved in June is below.

John Hunter, Clerk, Piedmont Friends Fellowship

The Piedmont Friends Fellowship supports the principle of separation of church and state as presented in the lawsuit brought by the United Church of Christ against the State of North Carolina in April 2014. We note that in Western culture in general and specifically in the United States and North Carolina, the solemnization of marriage has been historically considered to be a function of religious communities. Quakers have a 360 year history of independently conducting marriages, and we are concerned with the intrusion into this practice by the recent legal requirements in North Carolina that place restrictions against freely doing so. We are concerned that current North Carolina law is unconstitutional in that it makes law breakers of priests, ministers, rabbis, pastors, and other church officials who as a matter religious principle wish to solemnize and support loving marriages in accordance with the accepted practices of their denominations.                                                                                                                                 06/10/2014

The FGC Gathering: Plan on attending in 2015!

It’s Sunday July 6th and I’ve just returned from the FGC Gathering. As usual my family and I had a fabulous time.

If you are unfamiliar, this is the annual event that pulls out all of the stops to provide a week of immersion in all things Quaker with something for everyone. Workshops and study, great teen and children’s programs (kids absolutely LOVE going to the Gathering), plenary speeches and family entertainment, dozens of opportunities for quiet worship and reflection and lots of possibilities for physical activities, field trips, singing, art, dancing, and endless socializing all are present for the 1,400 or so Quakers and seekers in attendance, primarily from the US and Canada, but spiced with visitors from literally all over the world.

But it’s hard to be everything to all, and FGC is keenly aware of this. Many Quakers are introverts and too much stimulation feels overwhelming. Consequently, there is special attention to provision of quiet times, and every activity is optional. One can pick and choose how much to be involved. So, from one perspective, the Gathering is filled with the paradox of competing needs and offerings.

There was a major demonstration this year involving over 200 Friends who went from the Gathering to nearby Pittsburgh to publicly protest the involvement of the PNC Bank in “mountain top removal” techniques of coal extraction and at the same time there were continual reminders that the theme of the week was the Woolman quote “Let love be the first motion.” The juxtaposition of these two ideas is, of course, not an oxymoron for Quakers as we have long tied love and the basis of our faith to actions in the world.

This year there were perhaps 35 or so adults and 15 children attending the Gathering from PFF meetings and I am sure that we all got something different from our experience. And that’s the point. As in life, one can always find fault with things that seem contradictory or are not just the way we would have ideally liked, but it remains a fundamental task to select out what feeds us and then to work to make the world a better place.

The 2015 version of the Gathering will be held at Western Carolina University in Cullowhee beginning on July 5th. Put it on your calendar now. You’ll be glad you did!

 John Hunter

Take a great summer vacation. You’ll be glad you did!

Every summer Linda and I look forward to a great week-long vacation.  Our annual vacation is a great true vacation; getting away from all of the pressures and anxieties of modern life with a great combination of relaxation combined with pleasant intellectual and spiritual stimulation.  A happy bonus is that this week of vacation is of a modest cost with lodging, three quality meals per day, and a carefully planed program balanced with activities and time to one’s self — all for a cost that is from half to a quarter of  the cost of a similar commercial convention.  For more than 30 years this great vacation has not failed us.

For 20 of those years we took our children on this vacation with great success.  This vacation opportunity also had a great program for children of every age, and best of all they absolutely loved it.  They looked forward to going back each year as much as we did and came away each year with new friends.

I suppose that it is no secret that I am talking about the Friends General Conference annual Gathering.  This is  the annual event that refreshes the whole family and we return to our home meeting with new insights and enthusiasm about being Quakers.  And this is the event which, in my opinion, is of seminal importance in cementing a connection to Quakerism for young Friends.   So often we see children growing up in our meetings who after high school drift away and are rarely seen at meeting again.  But it has not escaped me that the kids  (especially the teens)  who  attend the FGC Gathering are disproportionately the ones who return to meeting as young adults.  It is at FGC that they somehow “get” the message at a meaningful level.

So do yourself a favor.  See if you can arrange to get to the Gathering this summer.  It is within driving distance in southern Pennsylvania.  And remember, there is also financial aid available for those who can not afford the fees –from your meeting, from PFF, and from FGC itself.  Registration is now open -it is  time to sign up  and make the commitment to go.    You’ll be glad you did!

John Hunter

Piedmont Friends Fellowship

Piedmont Friends Fellowship and Yearly Meeting (PFF) is a collective of Friends (Quaker) Meetings and Worship Groups in North Carolina and nearby areas that gathers for worship and fellowship in the spirit of Friends’ quarterly meetings. The Fellowship includes a sub-set of member meetings that have committed to constitute a Yearly Meeting, the Piedmont Friends Yearly Meeting (PFYM).  For 45 years all affiliated meetings have participated in the activities of the Fellowship (PFF) including its annual retreat and business meeting held in the spring, while the PFYM member meetings, when that body is formed, will hold some additional sessions in conjunction with the PFF spring retreat on order to conduct business traditionally associated with a Quaker yearly meeting.

…See the “About” page for more information regarding PFF and PFYM.