Friends meeting houses serve in various ways the larger community where they are located. My Friends church in Bolivia usually lets local people have their non-religious events at our church building. The worship room that we call the “Tabernacle,” and the Sunday school classrooms are used often for teacher conferences of public schools, for local authority workshops, and for local development project events. I have seen, most of the time, Friends agree that church buildings are not only for Friends but also for everybody. Non-Quakers can use the worship room for various events, in which important topics or issues related to the well being of all are discussed.
This past weekend at Poughkeepsie Friends Meeting I attended the talk about genetically engineered (GMO) foods. The Peace and Service committee arranged this activity at this meeting. Most of the attendees were from the larger Poughkeepsie community: students, educators, neighbors, Quakers, and other professionals. Two professors from Vassar College led the discussion about genetically engineered foods. Some participants expressed their concerns for how many people today are upset and worried about their health because of GMO Foods. They said that it would be fair if GMO Foods are labeled, so people could decide if they want to eat GMO foods or organic foods. However, other attendees mentioned that GMO-food-labeling could only increase injustice, since poor people could not afford to buy organic foods. During the discussion attendees were able to share widely their thoughts and concerns regarding this social issue.
After this experience, in which people’s voices were heard, I feel gratitude to God for the role of the Friends community in society. Whether by lending the rooms of the church building or by arranging discussion groups about current social concerns, Friends are serving a mission from God.
Contributed by Emma Condori Mamani, a Friend from Bolivia.