Topic: Power Quakers

Power Quaker Plans

Today we spoke with Gina about the Out of the Nest program.  If you think you might be interested, please see her.  You do not have to do it this year–the program can be flexible.

We discussed some other ideas.

1. Next Sunday we will be taking a field trip to Ithaca Paint and Decorating to pore over some paint color ideas for our room.  We will not sit with Meeting for the first 15 minutes but will set out by bike promptly at 10:30.  We will have car transport for those who don’t want to bike.  We plan to go no matter what the weather, so come prepared with gloves and with rain gear if it’s rainy.

2.  Our date for painting the Peace Room [our room] is Saturday, December 10th between 10 and 2.  If we have only a few people, we will all paint together.  The space is not that large, so if more folks want to paint we’ll organize shifts.

3.  The Hospitality Committee is  looking for ways to make our meetinghouse more warm and welcoming.  The pancake breakfasts were great!  We talked about other ways to create a warm welcome and came up with  the idea that we could prepare a simple soup for a Meeting lunch once a month.  Talking while while chopping and cooking would be fun, and we could entice the Meeting with good smells from the kitchen.  We’ll be talking more about this idea, but we’d like to try doing this the first weekend in December to see how it works for us.

4.  We also talked about the idea of having some time set aside only for fun.  This might happen during Meeting for Business.  We decided we would want to avoid scheduling fun for another time, which means being transported to the meetinghouse and trying to fit one more activity into busy schedules.  We’ll be discussing this further.

Power Quaker Plans

This year, the Power Quakers have been a bit disorganized, more concerned with fixing up the new meetinghouse and moving than with content.  We agreed we need to have a more structured way of going forward for next year.  We began our discussion about this on Sunday, and will be gathering ideas from all the Power Quakers who were not present at that meeting before making a final determination.

The ideas we discussed are below.  One other idea for adding more structure to our meetings is for the Meeting to buy a First Day School set of lessons for us to use.  The Power Qs present on Sunday preferred the idea of a structured series of discussion topics.

Bringing more structure to the Power Quaker meetings

The Power Quakers present at Sunday’s meeting would like to follow the format  below for the coming year.  Please note that this is a proposal and has not been discussed by the entire Power Quaker group.
Each Power Quaker to choose a serious topic for discussion and lead that discussion.
The topics would be chosen at the beginning of the First Day year in the fall.
If the Power Quaker responsible for the upcoming discussion cannot be present, s/he would ask another Power Quaker to step forward.

Every 4th meeting, we would have a more spontaneous discussion.  Each person present would put a discussion topic into a bowl and we would pull one to be the topic of the day.  ITts not yet clear who would lead that discussion; this might the the adult presence, but that has not been determined.

We would still continue to have “off” Sundays where Power Quakers would not meet and where an adult presence would be needed.

If there is a 5th Sunday in a given month, this would be a “pot luck” meeting and we would bring snacks and have social time together.

Things the Power Quakers might incorporate into their First Day room

Painting [we would do our own painting]:
Painting each wall a different pastel color
Painting each wall in more than one color, one color gradually fading into the other for a sort of “rainbow” effect
Painting most walls in a pastel color, but having one wall be in a bolder color
Painting the walls white or off-white and adding color and interest in other ways
Having a “graffiti wall” on the small, north-facing wall.
Having one wall entirely covered in corkboard to make a giant bulletin board
Making T-shirt flags or a wall hanging
Curtains [I would sew these]
Posters
Thoughtful sayings stenciled around the tops of the walls
Large pieces of paper [newsprint or art paper] for jotting down pithy sayings that come up.  These would be typed up every so often so all could have copies and a new paper would be posted.
Tissue-paper stained glass on the lower window panels
Prisms hanging in the windows to create rainbows
A book case with a lending library
A sofa
A table [not clear what sort of table]
An end table with a lamp

Power Quakers: Building this Year

Hello Everyone–
 
We have been discussing building, the theme for this year’s First Day School program [Building:  Family, Community, Peace].  We discussed what most of us think of when we think of the idea of building.  Many of us thought of adding onto something, of making something bigger or better.
 
We read a selection from “Global Citizen” by Donella Meadows.  She works with systems dynamics and lives in rural New Hampshire.  She has this to say about growth:
 
The Only Sure Result of Growth is Growth.
 
City councils and planning boards seem to be guided by one sacred belief:  It’s good to grow.  Why?  Because development will broaden the tax base and keep down taxes. 
 
Eeryone seems to know that’s true, but everything in my personal experience says the opposite.  When I moved from a big city to a smallk town, my property taxes went down and the quality of schools and services went way up.  Since then the town has grown 50 percent bigger and my property taxes has tripled.  So I have developed a sacred belief of my own:  Growth costs dearly for the people who are already here.
 
I hae a habit of testing beliefs against the evidence whenever I can.  A few years ago I plotted the equalized tax rate for everytown in New Hampshire against each town’s ten-year growth rate in population and total assessed value.  If growth really brings down taxes, those graphs should have sloped downward.  If, as I thought, growth raises taxes, the graphs should have sloped upward.
 
The graphs looked like the stars in the New Hampshire sky.  Pure scatter.  In some towns growth was followed by lower taxes, in other towns by higher taxes.  Neither sacred belief survived that test.  It seems that the kind of growth and the way the town spends money are more important to the tax rate than the simple fact of growth.
 
To show how that works, here is a sample calculation of the direct tax impact of a development proposed in my town last year.  The plan was for 60 houses on 280 acres.  Let’s assume first that the houses would be assessed at $100,000 each and that together they  put 60 new children into school.  At the current tax rate, those houses would bring in $127,000 in additional town revenue every year.  But if our per-pupil and per-household costs stay the same, the new development would cost the town $142,000 in school costs and $44,260 in garbage pick-u, road maintenance, and so forth.  Those 60 houses would raise the taxes of everyone else in town a total of over $60,000 per year.  (That comes to $30 for every man, woman, and child.)
 
On the othe rhand, if the houses were worth $150,000 each and put only 30 new children into school, taxes for the rest of us would go down by $75,000 per year.
 
These calculations do not take into account secondary effects–the necesity to build a new water system or school or the possibility of new stores or businesses.  If a 60-job industry came to town instead of a 60-home development, roughly 60 new families would move in nearby (since we aleady have nearly full employment), but maybe they’d settle and put their kids in school in another town.
 
So, growth can lower or raise taxes, or growth in one town can raise or lower taxes in another town.
 
I don’t know why we always talk about the tax implications of growth–which are close to unpredictable–whe there are other implications far more certain.  We can surely expect rom that 60-house development 60 more families, at least 60 more cars on the road, 60 septic tanks, 60 water and electricity hookups, 60 chimneys emiting air pollution, 280 less acres of field and forest, a town that fels and acts a lot less “small town,” some construction jobs for a while,, and (the real motivating force), profit for the developer.  The one certain result of growth is not lower taxes but growth.
 
Every town has a number of instruments with whch it can control growth, to maximize its benefits and minimize the costs.  They include zoning, subdivision regulation, land trusts, and conservation easements.  We would use those instruments more effectively if we dropped the sacred belief that growth is always bad or good.  We need to get much more specific.  Growth of exactly what, exactly wehre?  What concrete results wil it have in the near term and the long term in our town and the town next door?  Are those results fair?  How can we distribute the costs and benefits of growth as fairly as possible?
 
We then talked about how the news constantly informs us that the way out of our current economic woes is to “increase spending” and “expand the economy.” without discussing how the increased use/waste of resources will impact the planet. 
 
We then turned to a brainstorm of things we want to build in the coming year.  The new meetinghouse was a priority focus, and we noted that we are not making anything new and we are not expanding as we create a meetinghouse.  Instead we are refurbishing an existing building for a new use. 
 
The results of the brainstorm are [so far]:
Create a mural or large canvas for the new meetinghouse [both a handprint mural and a leaf mural have been suggested]
Beautify the outdoor space; plant flowers or bulbs
Make a movie about the new meetinghouse.  Possibly film now and later to show the progress towards completion.
Have a meetinghouse cat
Have comfy furniture in the First Day rooms
Possibly create a loft in the Power Q room
Have a slide from the second story or possibly a zip line
Repair/refurbish the elevated place to sit outside
Create a funny Power Q video set to music.
 
The Alternatives to Violence Project [AVP] will be presenting a Basic Workshop in cooperation with the YFIR program.  Unfortunately, this weekend will be the same weekend as the Christmas Pageant, so people would have to choose between those activities.  There was some discussion in which many felt that the “taste” of AVP offered at last summer’s camp really couldn’t provide the full experience of AVP, and therefore several people are considering attending this AVP weekend.  If you would like to attend, please contact the YFIR program at yfirinterns@gmail.com.

Courtyard Cleanup

This week a group of us organized an informal work party to clean up the courtyard of the new meetinghouse in preparation for Porch Fest. The group included Larry, Jasper, Rosie and Zoe (Garry and Connie’s grand-daughter). Porch Fest will be from 4:00 to 5:30 on Sunday September 12th. The musical side of our Porch Fest contribution is being coordinated by Wendy, and the bakin’ Quakers bake n’ beverage sale is being coordinated by Rosie. Contact either or both of those two if you can help out!

Here are some before and after photos of our cleanup operation.

Power Quakers

This past First Day we met to consider some planning details that will make our year run more smoothly.  Gina Varrichio, our liaison to CALM, met with us.  We decided it is best to keep our meetings to the first and third First Day, without exception.  This makes it easier for everyone to know when we meet and plan events around these dates.  If I am not available, a substitute will be found to cover the group, and I will provide the substitute with materials and/or topics to be presented.  Gina will come up with a list of willing substitutes.  On any fifth First Day, the Power Quakers will hold a pot luck celebration.  The first such event will be in May.

On the Sundays Power Quakers do not meet, adult volunteers will be sought to be with this group as it gathers for informal discussion or other activities.  Gina will also work on creating this list of volunteers.  It has been requested that the volunteers be adults other than parents of anyone in the group.  Until we have our own meetinghouse, these activities will be held in the Hillel Lounge if it is available.   Once the weather is nice enough, the group may opt to meet outside.   Those Power Qs who wish to remain in Meeting for Worship can do so on any given First Day.

We further explored things we might do to expand our awareness of and appreciation for other spiritual practices and cultures as a way to build peace.  At first we considered visiting several different houses of worship, but decided that inviting speakers to meet with us was a better option, since this will give us the opportunity to ask questions.  If we are drawn to visit any particular house of worship, we will plan for this after we have  been visited by a variety of speakers.  We are interested in hearing from the peace churches [Jehovah’s Witness, Mennonite, Amish (if possible)] and also from the Muslim, Jewish, Ba’ Hai, and Mormon spiritual communities.  We are also considering visits to both the Perry City and Poplar Ridge Meetings.

In the future, both Power Quakers and their parents will be contacted by email with reminders, updates, and other information so that we can all be on the same page.

Power Quakers: Year so far

Recently CALM asked me to provide an overview of what has been happening with the Power Quakers.  I thought it would be helpful if what I shared with CALM were posted here as well.

Power Quakers

The Power Quakers have been considering what it means to be every peacemakers and peacebuilders. We brainstormed peacemaking/building skills, and came up with a list of personal skills that would be useful in everyday peacemaking/building. We plan to consider which skills each of us brings to the table, and which skills we want to strengthen. We plan to have some activities that will help us better develop our skills.

We assisted with planning and carrying out the Christmas Pageant.

In January, we considered what we want to welcome into our lives in the coming year. This differs from making a New Year’s Resolution in that we left room for way to open or a leading to develop rather than listing specific things we hoped to accomplish or do. We wrote what we chose on papers and sealed them in envelopes. Next year, we will revisit these hopes.

We discussed the possibility of some field trips. One the Power Qs were enthusiastic about was a trip to the Cayuga Share Farm. This farm was not long ago deeded to the Cayuga people by its former owners. I am currently trying to contact the Share Farm to see about planning this visit. Another option was a trip to Poplar Ridge to experience a programmed Meeting. At the start of the First Day School year, CALM had discussed planning such a trip for the entire First Day School, so I have waited to hear more before making specific plans for our group. In the interest of building cross-cultural peace and understanding, Power Qs may want to learn more about other religions and visit other houses of worship. This is still in the planning stage, and these visits conceivably might continue into the summer when schedules may be more flexible.

Currently, the Power Qs meet on the 1st and 3rd First Days. Some parents have requested that there be something for the Power Qs to do on the days we don’t meet. One parent made a specific request to convene the group on those “off” days to hold informal discussions or other activities. I asked about using the Hillel Library every Sunday rather than every other Sunday, but as yet did not get a response.

My own schedule is very busy, and I find I can’t meet regularly on all 1st and 3rd Sundays. This has meant some tweaking of the Power Q schedule. When a change in schedule has been necessary, the change has been made with full Power Q group discussion and approval.

I would be open to meeting every First Day that I am available, with coverage arranged for when I am not available [by a parent or a co-leader]. However, any changes in the schedule or program should be brought to the Power Qs for their input before being put in place. We will be discussing these possibilities on February 28th.

I have been posting to the First Day School Blog, and contact Power Qs with a reminder each time we meet. I also notify them if there is an emergency cancellation.

Looking ahead to 2010

Last time we met, we began considering the question:  “What do you want to welcome into your life in 2010?”  This is not a new year’s resolution, but rather a way to consider being open to positive directions, leadings, and other positive things that may manifest in the coming year.  We will put our hopes in writing, seal them away, and open them a year from now.

In future meetings we will begin to consider what skills and strengths we bring to the peacemaking/peacebuilding process.  We hope to plan a trip to visit Poplar Ridge [a programmed Meeting] and also a visit to the Share Farm, a Cayuga Nation endeavor under the wing of the Akwesasne Task Force on the Environment.

Qualities and skills that help with peacemaking

Power Qs met last First Day and discussed what gifts or strengths would help the peacemaking or peacebuilding process.  We felt these qualities would foster the peacemaking process:  remaining calm, [or having a sense of peacefulness], courage, courtesy, diplomacy, effort [being willing to work hard, having a good work ethic], listening, neutrality [being unbiased], not being above the crowd [not “special”], organization, patience, problem-solving, self-control, waiting to consider both sides, finding a way to take a break or an acceptable way to vent.

If you have qualities to add to this list, please send it along to one of the Power Qs to bring to the discussion next time.

Thoughts from the Power Qs

Last time we met, we considered what differences, if any, were called to mind by the words “peace maker” and “peace builder.”  We started from the premise that peace is not the absence of conflict, but rather how we respond to it.  Our discussion brought these ideas forward.  It seemed to us that a peace maker makes peace at the moment, trying to break up fights or arguments, trying to make someone feel better, or trying to solve a problem.  There are risks in this role of peacemaking:  you might be pulled into a situation in ways you had not intended; you might get hurt or “caught in the crossfire;” you might not know what to do or say; and you might not feel empowered to do anything constructive at all.

We felt a peace builder would work over a long period of time, trying to keep problems from coming up or to lessen the impact of a problem.

We felt that everyone brings differing skills to peace making/peace building, and that anyone would need a good set of peace-making or peace-building tools.   We also felt it was important to acquire new skills, or to hone the skills you have, so that you are better able to act when you need to.

On a totally different topic, we discussed how we might contribute to this year’s Christmas Pageant.  We are waiting to hear more about possibilities.

Thinking ahead for Power Q’s

Hi Everyone–

First a business notice.  We will not be meeting on our usual date of November 15th, since I will be at Representative Meeting.  Instead, we will gather on November 22nd.

Thinking ahead:  What field trips would we like to plan as part of this year?  Are there differences between a “peacemaker” and a “peacebuilder?”  If so, what would the differences be?  I’d like to brainstorm this next time.                        Susan