Shining Our Collective Light

Lauren Brownlee is a member of the SSFS Board of Trustees, and a member of Bethesda Friends Meeting, where she is an active member of the Peace and Social Justice Committee. She is also a member of the Baltimore Yearly Meeting Peace and Social Concerns and Growing Diverse Leadership committees. She is currently the Director of Social Action at Stone Ridge School of the Sacred Heart. You can read more about her bio here

I consider being a member of the Sandy Spring Board of Trustees to be just as integral to my life’s mission of building the Beloved Community as my career as Director of Social Action at a school and the activism I do on behalf of justice. In fact, two years ago I gave an Ignite talk during Alumni Weekend entitled “Pacifism Isn’t Passive” that made explicit connections between the ways I experience the Quaker Peace Testimony at my Meeting, with my students, and through Sandy Spring Friends School. I cited SSFS’s strong stand against the bullying of Westboro Baptist church and the name of the Washington football team and as well as the organizing of a Youth Peace Conference to “promote stronger community ties and to dissipate the idea of the ‘other’ by simply getting to know our neighbors.” Wherever there are people being pushed to the margins, the Sandy Spring Friends School community shines a light on that of God within them.

Right now in the United States immigrants are being marginalized. I hear about that feeling of being “othered” when I am at Sanctuary DMV Congregation Network meetings representing Bethesda Friends Meeting, when I’m at teach-ins with my students, and when I’m attending marches, rallies, vigils, and lobby days as an activist. At the last Sanctuary DMV Congregation Network meeting, a Dreamer shared that as she had been lobbying Congress in the past several weeks, she had been asked where were the people of faith to stand with her. Not everyone at Sandy Spring Friends School shares the same religious faith, but we do share a faith in Quaker values. We share a faith in the belief that there is light in every person and thus we share a responsibility to support that light in growing, as our student leadership grows, from a spark to a flame to a torch. I have been proud to witness SSFS lovingly tending to the light of immigrant communities.

I was first proud of Tom Gibian’s blog post “The One about Immigrants” last February, in which he called on the SSFS community to be mindful of Quaker values as immigrant communities in the United States were feeling under attack. The Board of Trustees then answered that call in the spring with our “Minute of Support of Quaker Values at Sandy Spring Friends School,” in which we stated that as a school that “we affirm and cherish the inherent worth and dignity of each individual, and we stand in opposition to any discourse or initiative that seeks to demean and restrict others based on attributes of their personal identity. We stand in solidarity with the members of our community who are disrespected or discriminated against by any political rhetoric or policy.” Then in the fall Tom signed on to a Friends Committee on National Legislation open letter from Friends School leaders to President Trump, which stated, “DACA recipients have enriched our schools as students, faculty, or wider community members. All Dreamers are welcome at Friends schools . . . . All of us have ‘that of God’ within us and deserve a real chance to pursue our dreams, and shine our Light in the world.” This was not simply a political stand, but an affirmation of our values.

In Meeting for Worship last Sunday we held in the light all those who are working for lasting solutions for the Dreamers. I hope that the Sandy Spring Friends School community will join in sending love and light to all those who need it. As William Butler Yeats said, “Education is not filling a bucket but lighting a fire.”

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