Spirituality and Mutual Aid

This continues my preparation for a discussion about Mutual Aid at my Quaker meeting this weekend. A couple of days ago I wrote about using queries (questions) to invite people to participate in the discussion. And began to come up with some queries.

It occurred to me that some of the queries we already have are relevant to the discussion about Mutual Aid. I’ve listed some of those in this table.

Advices and Queries of Iowa Yearly Meeting (Conservative)
OutreachIn what ways do we cooperate with persons and groups with whom we share concerns? How do we reach out to those with whom we disagree?
Civic responsibilityIn what ways do we assume responsibility for the government of our community, state, nation and world?
Environmental responsibilityWhat are we doing about our disproportionate use of the world’s resources?
Social and economic justiceHow are we beneficiaries of inequity and exploitation? How are we victims of inequity and exploitation? In what ways can we address these problems?
What can we do to improve the conditions in our correctional institutions and to address the mental and social problems of those confined there? (This one is related to Abolition of police and prisons)
Peace and nonviolenceWhat are we doing to educate ourselves and others about the causes of conflict in our own lives, our families and our meetings? Do we provide refuge and assistance, including advocacy, for spouses, children, or elderly persons who are victims of violence or neglect?
Do we recognize that we can be perpetrators as well as victims of violence? How do we deal with this? How can we support one another so that healing may take place?

Iowa Yearly Meeting (Conservative) is the yearly meeting my Quaker meeting (Bear Creek) belongs to. (Note: Conservative means maintaining/conserving the beliefs and practices of early Friends). There is an unofficial Facebook group for the yearly meeting. I share most of my blog posts with this group, hence the reference to mutual aid in the following that Marshall Massey wrote recently.

The Christian position, rooted in Deuteronomy 10:14 and Psalm 24:1, is that the Earth and all it contains belongs to the Lord, and we have no more ownership of any part of it than inheres in the right to enjoy a measure of its fruits without selfishness. Thus the early Jerusalem church went so far as to abolish private property, to hold all things in common, and to give to the needy amongst them “as anyone had need” (Acts 2:44-46, 4:32-35).

Friends from the seventeenth through the nineteenth centuries carried this ancient testimony forward, not going all the way to the abolition of private property but certainly giving generously from its fruits to their meetings, pressuring those who failed to give, and relying upon committees of overseers (the Quaker equivalent of deacons) to distribute what had been given to the meeting to those who were in need. In some corners a measure of this practice persists today. This is a testimony of communal sharing and mutual aid (hello, Jeff Kisling!) that we inherit and can revive and carry forward in the very teeth of the American obsession with private wealth, and it is eminently applicable to the right sharing of whatever is in our hands. A meeting can give of its funds to any threadbare storefront church, if it feels so led, without any need of royalty calculations, on the grounds of love and faithfulness alone.

Marshall Massey, member of Iowa Yearly Meeting (Conservative)


I had been having a lot of trouble for the past several years, especially now that I’m blessed to have many Indigenous friends, about Christianity in general, and Quakers in particular related to the institutions and policy of forced assimilation. The only times I’ve brought up Quakers with Indigenous friends are when I’ve acknowledged and apologized for what was done.

Well, there was the time I briefly explained Quaker worship and we spent a little time in silence, holding hands, during the First Nation Farmer Climate Unity March (2018). Each time we walked over the Dakota Access Pipeline as we walked together from Des Moines to Fort Dodge (ninety-four miles) someone would offer prayers.

I bring this up because a number of my Mutual Aid friends are Indigenous people. I first learned about Mutual Aid when I met Ronnie James at a vigil for the Wet’suwet’en peoples in February, 2020. Ronnie is an Indigenous organizer and now a close friend. He mentored me as I learned about Mutual Aid.

I think Quakers and other Christians should be very careful about speaking about our religious beliefs, especially when with Native people.

On the other hand, one of the most impressive things about Mutual Aid, with it’s flat hierarchy, is people aren’t treated as belonging to any particular group. My Mutual Aid community has the greatest diversity I’ve ever experienced in the Midwest and we get along so well because of the mutuality concept. That alone should encourage Friends to seriously consider joining in the work of Mutual Aid.

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