Monday, June 6, 2011

New Priorities Network comes to San Francisco Friends

I just had some heartening news from Rolene Walker, a Friend from San Francisco who has been an ardent peace and environmentalist activist for many years and (among other amazing things) walked all the way to Chile to spread her message of living in harmony with the earth. She reported that San Francisco Friends have become enthused about the New Priorities Network and are bringing together people from different faith traditions to work on peace issues. This is something that hasn't been happening for quite some time, but this "peace revival" is long overdue. Here is a report from this project's catalysts:  Rolene, Jan Hartsough, and Sandra Schwartz (of the American Friends Service Committee):

San Francisco Meeting:  May 17, 2011: We came together to talk about how the faith community could speak out powerfully about the present skewed priorities of our nation. We brought forward the New Priorities Campaign and its four goals:

  1. end wars in Iraq and Afghanistan
  2. redirect the Pentagon Budget to our domestic needs
  3. fair share taxes from the rich, the banks and the corporations, and
  4. invest in our communities, our nation’s infrastructure and social needs to create jobs in a peaceful economy - as a possible tool to use to direct our actions together.
We first shared with each other one on one what we are currently doing on these issues, and how we might mobilize our congregations/organizations in the future? We also talked about what gets in the way and what would enable us to do more. We then came back together as a whole group and talked about ideas we could do in the near future. There was a desire to agree upon concrete steps we could take from the meeting.

 Most felt they could take the New Priorities information and petition back to their respective groups and ask for individual signatures, and group endorsement letters. The petition and much more information is available on the website:  . Another available resource suggested to all was to circulate the US Budget Priorities postcard created by

Several denominations offered to take the New Priorities Campaign information to their denominational meetings coming up over the summer for possible endorsement there (Methodists, Episcopalians, Mennonites, Quakers).

Two specific ideas generated a lot of interest, discussion and agreement. We will ask the New Priorities Campaign if we can have two “pages” added to their existing website – one for the faith community and one for military voices. On the faith community page, we would then post sermons, articles, actions, etc coming from various denominations as examples to inspire others (perhaps even videos). We would like to have veterans for peace, retired military generals who are speaking out about excesses in military, active duty service people who are acting from within to bring an end to war, etc all collected in a military page of resources we could all draw from as well. (New Priorities is willing to do this and is asking for input and suggestions of what to post).

Next Steps and Possibilities: We agreed to come together again in September, and reach out to others who were not able to attend this meeting. Perhaps some will choose to participate in organizing Town Hall meetings, and get 100 cities to speak out with resolutions about bloated military spending. There was excitement about having a “Peace Revival” tent – a day-long festival about the competing theologies around war and peace. If you want to stay in touch with this effort to join together and speak out as a the faith community, use the following email address: which we have created just for this purpose.
Another next step will be to bring up this concern at Pacific Yearly Meeting. I invited Rolene to take part in my interest group, "Friends and the Interfaith Movement," to share about why we need to reach out to people of other religious faiths to form coalitions if we want to make a difference.