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Peace & Social & Earthcare Concerns: Gainesville Meeting

Gainesville Friends have been active in carrying forward their concerns for social justice, peace, and earthcare in a number of ways this year — hosting or organizing public events and working with other community organizations.

Here are some highlights:

Immigrant Justice & Sanctuary: Gainesville Monthly Meeting (GMM) hosted a community forum on Immigration & Sanctuary on April 2nd, presented by Madres Sin Fronteras (Mothers Without Borders).

The idea for a vigil emerged from the Ministry and Nurture Committee; and in May, Gainesville Friends began holding candle-light vigils on Bo Diddley Plaza on Monday evenings at 7:30 pm—a weekly silent witness to bring attention to the need for justice for our undocumented neighbors, their families, and those in need of sanctuary.

The vigil is a continuous work in progress. Banners and posters give voices to the vigil from out of the silence that express ongoing as well as more immediate concerns, from solidarity with and appreciation for immigrants in our community, someone in detention facing deportation, to the splitting up of families, and the effort to end the DACA (Deferred Action for immigrant Child Arrivals) program. Attendance at the vigil varies from 1 (just one Friend showed up one week– that was weird!) to about 20. There have been a number of folks from the immigrant community who attend with their children. One week some tourists from Philadelphia happened by and joined the vigil. Peter Harrell, Peace & Social Concerns co-clerk, writes:

“We are blessed by the help and participation of Madres Sin Fronteras in support of the vigil. On a recent Monday seven of us were easily outnumbered by members of MSF, adults and children. Even the smallest children there managed the silence well, despite being so full of energy. It was wonderful to see the children having fun running around the plaza after the vigil was over. One teen has been helping all of us as a translator, although we are trying to learn a little Spanish too.”

Friends are working on a handout that “combines a clear statement of who we are, that the witness regarding sanctuary everywhere and protection of our neighbors comes from our testimony of that of the spirit in all creation, and invites all who share that to join with us.” The vigil has been covered by student journalists from the University of Florida, and more recently by a freelance journalist who interviewed women from Madres Sin Fronteres. These events are being widely shared on the Vigil Facebook page> 

While the primary focus of the vigil remains our undocumented neighbors and their families, GMM has embraced AFSC’s Sanctuary Everywhere approach. As AFSC states “Sanctuary Everywhere is the simple idea that everyday people can come together to keep each other safe, especially in these uncertain times.” This approach extends the concept of sanctuary beyond buildings like churches to include schools, colleges, congregations and communities that create safe welcoming spaces for all people, including immigrants, refugees, LGBTQ people, the homeless, and African Americans (Black Lives Matter). The idea is to build solidarity and remember everyone in need of sanctuary while maintaining our focus on our undocumented neighbors and their families. Another general theme at the vigil is represented by FCNL’s #LoveThyNeighbor (No Exceptions) banner and buttons.

University Lutheran Church in Gainesville is hosting Baker Interfaith Friends which organizes groups of people to visit detainees at the Baker County Detention Center. Currently, one Gainesville Friend is visiting detainees, who come from various parts of the world, including of course Latin America. This provides us another opportunity to support our undocumented neighbors.

GMM’s Peace and Social Concerns Committee has raised $1,300 from the Gainesville community to assist families in need separated by detention and / or deportation. Unfortunately, as time progresses this need will undoubtedly increase.

In April Gainesville Monthly Meeting approved two sanctuary minutes, one in support of Westminster Presbyterian Church should they become a sanctuary church, and another in support of a campaign planned in large part by Madres Sin Fronteras and the Alachua County Human Rights Coalition to educate and reconcile residents of Alachua County to the necessity and justice of providing sanctuary for immigrant families.

Art of Fearlessness Exhibit: The Art of Fearlessness is a nationwide project of the Fellowship of Quakers in the Arts, intended to be a community conversation about using art to give voice to our fears or to transcend our fears.

 The Outreach committee organized an Art of Fearlessness exhibit held on May 13th at the Gainesville Meetinghouse. Ten artists participated, including several from the community. Displays and performances included visual art, dimensional art, music, and prose and poetry readings. Several participants from the community requested that Friends consider doing another art event in the future.

As a result of the Fearlessness Exhibit and subsequent conversations, Bonnie Zimmer (Gainesville MM)—who has been a member of the Fellowship of Quakers in the Arts since it began—is becoming more active, particularly in expanding the Fearlessness project to encompass more geographic areas. She is now on the board of directors for the Fellowship of Quakers in the Arts.

Earthcare Stories: The GMM Earthcare Committee organized an event held on April 30 at the Gainesville Meetinghouse. ‘Earthcare Stories’ was a unique interactive performance to engage the Gainesville community in meaningful conversation around the topic of earth care and sustainability. The Igniting Stories Playback Theatre ‘played back’ attendees’ stories of their individual actions of caring for the Earth. The session was a fun and rewarding way to consider the many ways that we individually act to care for the earth.

 Sabal Trail Pipeline Forum: Gainesville Friends regularly hold public forums that feature speakers on vital concerns. AForum on the Sabal Trail Pipeline was held Sunday, February 5, to learn about this imminent threat to the Florida water supply as it works its way from Georgia south through Florida. The featured speaker was Marrillee Malwitz-Jipson, an employee of the Sierra Club. Beverly Ward, SEYM’s Field Secretary for Earthcare, was also there to speak and share information. About 25 or 30 people attended the forum; most were from the meeting. The Peace & Social Concerns and Earthcare Committees organized the Forum and provided support to the water protectors protesting the pipeline.

 MINI-AVP Workshop: The Alternatives to Violence Project (AVP) mini workshop teaches participants the AVP process of creative community building, conflict management, and communication skills that are invaluable to those wishing to create positive change in self, the community and the world.

Gainesville Meeting held a Mini-AVP Workshop on June 24th. There were about 16 participants; almost a third were from the community. Ministry & Nurture and Peace & Social Concerns Committees worked with Beverly Ward and Jacksonville Monthly Meeting in organizing this event. Planning for a second workshop is underway.


—-contributors: Bonnie Zimmer and Peter Harrell, Gainesville Monthly Meeting


Monthly Meetings & Worship Groups are invited to send in stories of their Quaker witness, actions, and events. We’d love to hear from you!

Send submissions to the SEYM Office.