Thursday, August 30, 2012

Ohio Valley Yearly Meeting Sessions

Below are the epistles approved by Ohio Valley Yearly Meeting during their 192nd session held July 25-29, 2012, on the Earlham College campus. The 2012 Annual Sessions broke prior attendance records with 207 total attendees, and the theme for the session was "Love One Another as I have Loved Thee?" As ESR alum David Garman observes, "Our annual gathering seems to me to be like a family reunion; we do our best to love one another."

(All photos courtesy of Lonny Burger and can be found on the OVYM website:

Epistle from the Children’s Program

Fifteen school age young Friends met at the 192nd annual sessions of Ohio Valley Yearly Meeting at Earlham College in Richmond, Indiana from July 25 – 29, 2012 to consider the theme of “Love One Another As I Have Loved Thee.”  The peaceful and beautiful campus of a historic Quaker College was the background for a time of fellowship, a deep spiritual sharing, learning about Quakerism, ourselves and each other, and working of service projects.  Children learned about expressions of love and courage between friends of different races in the book, Freedom Summer by Deborah Wiles, which inspired their skit.  They could all relate to being hurt when excluded and how powerful love can be to heal this pain.  Children also learned about Quaker Elizabeth Fry’s work in prisons giving hope and dignity to people who were so rejected.  Children made pictures of love and hope for prisoners to make them feel less lonely and more cared for.  OVYM Friend Eileen, who also works in prisons, shared how important it was to understand the whole story of a person in prison.  Children also learned about Jesus’ acts of love to people who were rejected and learned that giving love makes real changes. 

OVYM Teens shared about their service trip in D.C. and expressed how important it was to look at someone who was homeless, not walk away.  Children learned that if you can think about it, you can actually do it and saw all the food teens picked and provided for hungry people.

Children shared love through making toys for and visiting animals in a shelter.  Their hopes for the future are that nobody would be poor and unloved, everyone would have a home and food, that people would treat each other and animals with care and respect.  Finally, we believe that we can give love without expecting anything back, in our own individual ways and that can change the world.

Epistle from the Middle Youth Program

Greetings from the Middle Youth who attended the 192nd session of Ohio Valley Yearly Meeting held at Earlham College in Richmond, Indiana the 25th day to the 29th day of Seventh Month 2012.

Six Middle Youth Friends from Bloomington, Oxford and Yellow Springs monthly meetings were present. 

We enjoyed many activities.  Rafting was super fun.  We travelled eight miles on the Whitewater River.  It took us a respectable and relaxed five hours.  On the way, we filled bags with trash and recycling that we found as a service project to help the river environment.  We saw a lot of wild life, such as a tortoise, several great blue herons and a school of fish.  We did many outdoor things on the campus, including tree climbing, hiking trails and playing with the skip disc we found.

We created a giant walking labyrinth with chalk, based on our experience making and learning about mandalas.  We all learned as mastered the art of making paper cranes for a peace project in Lexington to remember the Japanese victims of the nuclear bombing of Nagasaki and Hiroshima.  We received many positive comments from Friends about our paper cranes displayed in the stairwell and our labyrinth in the parking lot. Also relating to war and peace, we visited the AFSC Windows and Mirrors exhibit, where Emma guided us through the mural gallery of art portraying the suffering of war in Afghanistan.

We watched the movie “The Princess Bride” and then prepared and performed our own modified skit titled “The Quaker Bride”. 

We especially want to thank our visiting speakers, Ben, Kirsten, and Jean-Marie.

Overall, coming to OVYM brings us to a friendly, peaceful place.  Next year, we would welcome more Middle Youth to join our fun activities.

Middle Youth of the Seventh Month, 2012

Epistle from the Teen Program

To Friends everywhere:
The 192nd annual session of the Ohio Valley Yearly Meeting gathered together from Wednesday July 25th through Sunday July 29th on the Earlham Campus in Richmond, Ind. Twenty-one teens, three of whom were first-time attenders, gathered and centered on the message of love, considering the query,  “Love One Another, As I Have Loved Thee.”

Teens were inspired and challenged by plenary speakers Jean-Marie Barch and Ben Griffth, who offered us their gifts in meeting with us as a group and leading by example the opening of oneself for the creation of a loving community.

The teens contemplated queries about our spiritual life and daily life as a group, in small worship sharing groups and individually. Individual spiritual practices included running, listening to and making music, drawing, writing, and meditating.

This year the teen group had a mass exodus of graduating seniors. Six seniors (Emmett Olis-Cartmell, Adam Togami, Silas Bruner, Corrigan Eckert, Jonathan Birkel, and Adam Funck) will be joining the young adult friends this coming year. In addition the teen group has nominated and approved Rachel Logan-Wood to serve as Recording clerk and Dylan Cahalan as the new teen co-clerk serving with Lucy Grace. 

Teens powered the Intergenerational Service Project at the Cope Environmental Center, and highly encourage more people of all ages to join in this sharing of community building through service.

Teens bonded through the shared trials of the annual canoe trip, spending time together, playing music and games,

They accepted with gratitude the dialogue that Simply Speaking brought to us and appreciated the wisdom that an intergenerational activity can bring.

The universal language of music – the songs and chants – never stopped.

Our time together was emotionally and spiritually motivating, and we will carry the love we have for one another and OVYM as we go back to our home, creating communities of love everywhere

In friendship, until next year,
The Teens

Epistle of the Ohio Valley Yearly Meeting.

Ohio Valley Yearly Meeting Epistle
Seventh Month 29, 2012

To Friends Everywhere:

Greetings from the lovely Earlham College campus in Richmond, IN, where Friends are gathered for the 192nd annual sessions of Ohio Valley Yearly Meeting! Although our region is faced with a severe drought at this time, we have been blessed with an outpouring of Living Waters. Our time together has fostered the growth and development of our spiritual lives as a community grounded in love and faithfulness, and we look forward to seeing a bountiful harvest of fruits of the Spirit.
The theme of this year’s sessions, “Love One Another As I Have Loved Thee,” has aptly captured the unifying motion of the Holy Spirit in our plenary sessions, our business sessions, and our fellowship with one another. Friends in Ohio Valley Yearly Meeting have also expressed our care for all Creation through an intergenerational service project at Cope Environmental Center, workshop themes, children and youth projects, and impassioned yet hopeful calls to action from Quaker Earthcare Witness and the Ohio Valley Yearly Meeting Earthcare Committee. 
In our evening plenaries, we were privileged to hear two arias about love sung in different keys. Long-time Ohio Valley Yearly Meeting Friend Ben Griffith shared from a tender and vulnerable place about the personal sacrifice and transcendent forgiveness that God’s Love both requires of us and gives to us. Visiting Friend Jean-Marie Prestwidge Barch helped us to realize how we can know that we are loved and to appreciate that we are a sanctuary for the Love of God.
Despite a heavy agenda, tenderness and gentleness filled our meetings for business. Even when struggling for unity on one or two thorny matters, Friends listened with opens hearts and patient concern to one another. Friends enthusiastically approved revisions regarding close relationships for the Yearly Meeting’s Book of Faith and Practice and made a decisive commitment to action to strengthen our support for the youth of Ohio Valley Yearly Meeting and to explore how we can become a more diverse faith community.  We also had the pleasure of welcoming Englewood Friends Meeting into membership in our yearly meeting.
Many of our usual opportunities for worship and fellowship together were also infused with a deep sense of love and tenderness. For example, as usual, our Teens took under their care both an opening get-acquainted activity and frank sharing on a challenging topic in small groups. These events are always popular at Ohio Valley Yearly Meeting, and this year they were particularly helpful in bringing us together first as friends and then as Friends. We experienced similar depth in our early morning meetings for worship, our worship sharing, our workshops, the memorial meeting, the Living Witness presentation by our Friend Peg Champney, and our informal conversations over meals and in our free time. We have truly come to know one another better in those things that are eternal.
We pray that the Eternal Spirit may grant you the grace and love that we have experienced these past five days.

In the Light,
Ohio Valley Yearly Meeting

ESR alum Jeffrey D. Meyers

Jeff Meyers brings us today's post as part of our ongoing series of profiles of ESR graduates:

I started in May as the resident host of Lauramoore Guest House and Retreat Center, which Earlham School of Religion acquired a few years ago.

The house is used primarily for people visiting ESR or Bethany, so I see a lot of distance students, prospective students, guest speakers, adjunct professors, and even the occasional member of Earlham’s board of trustees.

One of the things that attracted me to ESR was the strength of its community. We learn together, eat together, and worship together. We become friends.

Lauramoore reflects and reenforces ESR’s strong community. I suppose the house could function like a hotel, where nobody interacts with anyone else. Fortunately, the opposite is true.

When ESR and Bethany students are staying in the house, its atmosphere is transformed. We gather around shared meals. We walk, bike, and drive together to campus. We welcome prospective students and make them feel at home. During this past August two-week intensive, we took study breaks together around the television, where we cheered on our favorite olympic athletes.

Lauramoore Guest House & Retreat Center
I haven’t been the host at Lauramoore very long, but I’ve already met many new faces, had many good conversations, and been blessed by people who make my stay more enjoyable.

I’ve already graduated, but I’m glad to remain a part of the ESR community for a little bit longer, even if it’s mostly at a ten-bedroom house on the corner of N.W. 5th and Richmond Avenue.

More information about Lauramoore Guest House and Retreat Center can be found at

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Richmond First Friends

We continue our series of introductions to area Friends Meetings in and around Richmond with ESR alum Jeff Wolfe's introduction to Richmond First Friends:

            Not too many years ago when I attended seminary, one of my mentors on ESR’s faculty encouraged my cohort and me to participate in a worship community outside of the seminary.  I am not sure I entirely understood why this was so important at the time.  In my experience, ESR was a vibrant setting that provided me plenty of opportunities for creative worship, deep spiritual friendships and space to flex my emerging leadership muscles.  I honestly didn’t feel a pressing need to engage with a local meeting or church.  I ate, slept, and breathed religion throughout my week, so I didn’t see the point in rolling out of bed on a Sunday morning to make it to meeting.

Having pastored a few years, I’ve discovered the wisdom in my mentor’s words.  I wish I had spent more time in a local faith community during seminary.  There is value in venturing beyond the corner of National Road and College Avenue.  I remember reading in Supervised Ministry that seminaries attract intuitive types; however, most congregations are composed of folks who fall on the sensate side of the Myers-Briggs spectrum.  As an intuitive myself, I have had to learn how to package many of the challenging ideas I explored in seminary in ways that are accessible to folks who don’t spend time reading scholarly religious literature.  Worshiping in a local congregation reminds an emerging minister of the concerns and thoughts of real life people.  Karl Barth is said to have commented "we must hold the Bible in one hand and the newspaper in the other.”  Seeking God in a local meeting or church is one way of exploring where theology and the concrete concerns of people intersect.

If you are looking for a place to belong, or just to stop in to visit, know that you are welcome at First Friends.  We are a semi-programmed meeting, which means we seek God in hymns, prayers, and joys and concerns as well as in a period of open worship in which all are invited to speak, as they feel led.  Once a month we set aside the pastoral sermon to create more space for open worship.  
First Friends was Richmond’s first church, and we existed prior to our yearly meeting, Indiana Yearly Meeting.  Our rich Quaker heritage continues to be important to us.  We nurture our Quaker identity in conducting our Meetings for Business through Quaker process, weekly readings of queries and advices, and regular forums on Quaker spirituality and history.            

In the past year, First Friends has spent a fair amount of time exploring who we are and who we want to be as a meeting.  From this work, we have been able to articulate gifts in hospitality, community and acceptance.  Within our fold, one can find Friends who identify as evangelicals as well as those who describe themselves as Universalists.  We are comfortable with theological diversity and see this as one of our strengths.
            My first encounter with First Friends was as a seminary student.  At the time, I was taking a course on prayer, and one of the requirements was leading a six-week class, exploring various prayer forms.  Several members of First Friends were receptive, allowing me a safe place to exercise my ministerial skills.  At other times, First Friends has embraced seminarians’ gifts for an extended period during Supervised Ministry.  If you are looking for a chance to practice pastoral care or assist in worship planning and leadership, you are welcome at First Friends.
            There is more that I could say about the meeting, yet the best way to get a feel for First Friends is to stop in for a visit.  We are located at 2010 Chester Boulevard, and meeting for worship begins at 9:30 am.  After meeting is an informal time of fellowship, which is followed by First Day School for children as well an adult forum.  If the topic of Quakerism and evil fascinates you, I would put in a plug for April Vanlonden’s evening Bible study, which begins on September 6th. 
            We would love to have you visit!      

--Jeff Wolfe

Friday, August 24, 2012

ESR's Incoming Class by the Numbers

We are thrilled to welcome our incoming class of students to ESR! 

We have students joining us from all over the country and all over the world - from Nagasaki, Japan, to Washington, California, Texas, Tennessee, New York, and North Carolina, among many others. 

Blessings to all on the start of a new academic year!

Total New Students: 26

MA: 2                                  
MA Access: 3
MDiv Cooper: 6
MDiv Access: 7
Occasional Residential: 3
Occasional Access: 4
W.O.R.D.: 1

Male: 12
Female: 14

Residential: 12
Access: 14

Quaker: 14
Other Traditions: Assemblies of God, Congregational, Lutheran, Metropolitan Community, Swedenborgian, Unitarian Universalist, United Methodist

The diversity we enjoy in our student body enriches the learning experience at ESR and we are looking forward to learning from these new additions to our community!

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Clear Creek Monthly Meeting

As the new year begins and students return to campus, we will run a series of introductions to the area Friends Meetings in and around Richmond. Our first entry is from ESR Professor of Peace and Justice Studies Lonnie Valentine about Clear Creek Monthly Meeting:

 (Image from Clear Creek Friends website)

ESR students are invited to visit Clear Creek Monthly Meeting. This Quaker Meeting is one of three in Richmond and worship in each one has its own distinctives.

This makes Richmond a fascinating blend of the various streams of Quakerism. At Clear Creek, worship arises from the silent gathering of those present and in this way we harken back to the original Quaker form of worship in the Religious Society of Friends, though the three Meetings do avoid arguing about which Meeting best upholds Quaker tradition!

We worship at Stout Meetinghouse on the Earlham campus at 10 am which makes it convenient for students who have stayed up late on Saturday...working on those papers.

Over the years, Clear Creek meeting has had many ESR students become actively engaged in the life of the Meeting. ESR students have served on committees, offered workshops for the meeting or been sponsored by the meeting to do so, and done their Supervised Ministry under the care of the Meeting. Since Clear Creek draws Earlham College students to Meeting, it is also a good place to connect to life at the College. Of course, ESR students not familiar with this form of Quaker worship are welcome just to come and visit. important note: during the school year, there are also good snacks after worship.

Among those most active in the Meeting are Earlham College teaching faculty who are ESR graduates. Michael Birkel teaches in the Religion department of the College, focusing on Quaker Studies. Mary Garman is also in the Religion department at the College and is also an ESR grad. Both Michael and Mary have taught courses at ESR and have worked with ESR students in a variety of ways over the years. David Garman was the chaplain at Reid Hospital for years, working with many ESR students in Supervised Ministry placements at Reid.

Please come visit us!
Lonnie Valentine

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Report on Brethren Annual Conference

ESR and Bethany Director of Academic Services and Registrar April Vanlonden shares her reflections on her recent trip to the Church of the Brethren Annual Conference:

226th Recorded Church of the Brethren Annual Conference
St. Louis, MO
July 7-11, 2012
Continuing the Work of Jesus: Peacefully. Simply. Together.

2,280 + strong, the Church of the Brethren (CoB)gathered at the St. Louis Convention Center for the purpose of conducting business, attending workshops, hearing reports from their organizations, and fellowship.  Bethany Theological Seminary, a partner with Earlham School of Religion, is an agency of this gathering and came in force to participate with their sisters and brothers.

The opening Saturday evening worship message was given by Dr. Walter Brueggeman, whose sermon was entitled, “Behind Bars:Freedom Uncaged”, based on Philippians 1:3-6 and Isaiah 56:3-8.  Brueggeman spoke of Paul, who although writing from behind bars, is a free man as he refuses to let the empire define him. He then went on to speak of how Paul redefines us in light of the gospel, not denying fear, but encouraging people to allow their love to “overflow anyway.” “Easter,” declared Bruegemman in this message, “defines Paul.”

On Sunday morning, CoB Moderator, Rev. Tim Harvey delivered the message based on Romans 12:9-12 and Genesis 50:15-23. His sermon title was the same as the theme of the conference, Continuing the Work of Jesus: Peacefully. Simply. Together. Many F/friends are either recently coming out of a painful period of conflict or still in the midst. A variety of denominations are in the same place we are, and The Church of the Brethren is clearly wrestling with the same issues. Rev. Harvey's message was clear. “Our conflict will not undo us. What we share is more important. We approach nothing from the opposite side of the spectrum because we are already on the same side in our baptism in Jesus Christ.”

The rest of the conference was interspersed with alumni luncheons, an offering of 10-14 different workshops per day, and reports from a wide variety of ministries addressing issues from everything from North Korea, Germany, and Intercultural Ministries operating on the borders of our country.  Throughout the entire conference, the American Red Cross held a blood drive, and there were lines of Brethren daily. During the agency presentations, I had the distinct honor of representing Earlham School of Religion, reading a letter of introduction written by Jay Marshall, Dean of Earlham School of Religion, sending greetings to the conference.  Many have heard of the partnership, but had never seen a flesh and blood representation of it.

In one of the conference halls, the displays were established for viewing and information:

Bethany Theological Seminary Booth

A variety of organizations were present: Ministry of Reconciliation Services to Congregations and Districts, Food Resource Bank, Church World Service, Global Women's Project, Brethren Heritage Center, and the New Community Project to name a few.

While walking through the Display Hall I was struck by the fact that in the same room, at the same conference, were two groups with opposing views.  The Brethren-Mennonite Council For Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Interests had their booth in the hall with information to distribute as well as the Brethren Revival Fellowship, a group that perceives the issues at hand differently than the Council. I don't know if either group appreciated the presence of the other. I don't know how the majority of the gathering felt about the presence of one or the other, but I do know that both were there, out in the open, in the same space, not hiding.  I also know I appreciated the open presence of both. I have been to a wide variety of Quaker gatherings from a wide variety of branches in the Quaker Family Tree, knowing that both groups as those represented by these two Brethren organizations exist in all those Quaker gatherings, just not out in the open for fear of being perceived as being “too liberal” or “too conservative.” 

I was also struck by the hard and faithful work done by the Bethany Faculty.  Many of them conducted workshops and insight sessions on a wide variety of topics. Many of them attended to the Bethany booth, answering questions, greeting old friends and alumni/a, and being a viable presence and witness to the importance of the seminaries in the continuing work of Jesus. Peacefully. Simply. Together.