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As Way Opens

This extended weekend we celebrate Memorial Day and the 102nd running of the Indianapolis 500. With these events on my mind, I began pondering the roots of this special holiday weekend. My research uncovered more than expected. And yes, there was a racetrack involved back in May of 1865 on what historians have begun to consider the very first Decoration/Memorial Day.  

In the book Race and Reunion: The Civil War in American Memory, Professor David W. Blight made a case for Charleston, South Carolina, as Memorial Day’s birthplace. Charleston was the site of an obscure (possibly suppressed) May 1865 event held at a racetrack turned war prison where freed slaves properly reburied hundreds of Union dead found there and then held a ceremony to dedicate the cemetery. This event took place almost 3 years prior to Civil War General John Logan’s call for a national holiday in 1868.


To think that African American freed slaves founded Decoration Day at a graveyard of 257 Union soldiers is astonishing and an important story that needs to be known.

In recalling the day, David W. Blight compiled the following details from articles which appeared in the Charleston Daily Courier of that day.

The “First Decoration Day,” as this event came to be recognized in some circles in the North, involved an estimated ten thousand people, most of them black former slaves. During April, twenty-eight black men from one of the local churches built a suitable enclosure for the burial ground at the Race Course.

At nine o’clock in the morning on May 1, the procession to this special cemetery began as three thousand black schoolchildren (newly enrolled in freed slave schools) marched around the Race Course, each with an armload of roses and singing “John Brown’s Body.” The children were followed by three hundred black women representing the Patriotic Association, a group organized to distribute clothing and other goods among the freed people. The women carried baskets of flowers, wreaths, and crosses to the burial ground. The Mutual Aid Society, a benevolent association of black men, next marched in cadence around the track and into the cemetery, followed by large crowds of white and black citizens.

All dropped their spring blossoms on the graves in a scene recorded by a newspaper correspondent: “when all had left, the holy mounds — the tops, the sides, and the spaces between them — were one mass of flowers, not a speck of earth could be seen; and as the breeze wafted the sweet perfumes from them, outside and beyond … there were few eyes among those who knew the meaning of the ceremony that were not dim with tears of joy.”

The official dedication ceremony was conducted by the ministers of all the black churches in Charleston. With prayer, the reading of biblical passages, and the singing of spirituals, black Charlestonians gave birth to an American tradition. In so doing, they declared the meaning of the war in the most public way possible — by their labor, their words, their songs, and their solemn parade of roses, lilacs, and marching feet on the old planters’ Race Course.

After the dedication, the crowds gathered at the Race Course grandstand to hear some thirty speeches by Union officers, local black ministers, and abolitionist missionaries. Picnics ensued around the grounds, and in the afternoon, a full brigade of Union infantry, including Colored Troops, marched in double column around the martyrs’ graves and held a drill on the infield of the Race Course. The war was over, and Memorial Day had been founded by African Americans in a ritual of remembrance and consecration.

To the African American freed slaves, these Union soldiers had paid the ultimate sacrifice for their freedom. Too often today, Memorial Day is overly focused on glorifying war and promoting a glamorous patriotism through parades and family cookouts, while missing stories like this one. Quakers have always wrestled with supporting the goals of war and lives being given, but I believe if we promoted stories like this, we could honor the sacrifices made while giving credit where it is due. Let us respond on this weekend as the freed slaves did in 1865, together in honor, benevolence, and peace.

Grace and peace,  


Joys & Concerns


Let’s give many thanks to our food pantry volunteers for the food pantry last week:  Christie M; Dan H; Beth S; Linda and Rik L; Kathy and Bill F; and Carol and Jim D.  Thanks for volunteering!


It is a late-start gardening season and the gardeners are happy to be planting! Soon you will see more plants as the seeds reveal the miracles they have stored inside over the winter. A little kiss from the sun and some life-giving rain tend to renew. That which was dormant is now growing and bursting with life. Out of darkness, God has called creation into the light… again.

          Meanwhile, our compost bin is full of fall leaves. We are adding coffee grounds, eggshells and tea bags—no diseased or parasitic plants, weeds or pest-attracting garbage. Weeds go in a trash bin or in a pile behind the cistern to be hauled away later.

          Rebuilt and new raised beds are coated with non-toxic butcher oil to preserve the woods. Tools are sanitized and somewhat rust-proofed when we dip them into a mixture of sand and linseed oil stored in a galvanized, lidded garbage can (prevents fire).

          We share seeds, work, knowledge, laughs and produce. Thank you, Friends, for supporting our efforts. Take some walks around our plots throughout the growing season and be inspired as you watch the magic!

Quaker-Affiliated Organizations


Friends Peace Teams: AVP and Healing Communities – Friends Peace Teams, a spirit-led organization working for intergenerational transformation, is holding a workshop. They will be breaking cycles of oppression through investing in people-to-people exchanges and healing trauma. Here you can meet coordinators of the Asia West Pacific initiative: John Machaelis from Sydney Australia, and Nadine Hoover from New York. Please join us at Earlham School of Religion, Quigg Worship Room, on May 24, 2018, 7:00-8:30pm. For more information and to RSVP, please contact jeannemariemudd@gmail.com.

Announcements, Reports, & Opportunities


The Overman Family Scholarship, in memory of Jess and Mark Overman, is available again this year. High school seniors through graduate students are welcome to apply.  Undergraduate students will be given first consideration. The scholarship fund is designated to support the members and attenders of Indianapolis First Friends Meeting. Scholarship funds may be applied to any school related expense, i.e. books, supplies, tuition, housing, computer, etc. The deadline for application is June 30th, 2018. For an application please contact the office at  office@indyfriends.org.


Native American Crafts Needed! WYM Outreach Board is looking for donations for the Native American table during WYM annual sessions July 12-15. Items they would like: handcrafts (new) food, needlework, etc. Items need to be priced. Contact Norma W or Terry T for questions.


Women at the Well: A gathering of women who ponder current issues and topics, where differing views are discussed, no decisions are made, and food and drinks are enjoyed. It will take place every fourth Thursday of the month, and our next gathering will be on Thursday, May 24th, 7pm, at Redemption Aleworks (7035 E 96th St, Indianapolis/Fishers). Join other women of First Friends and enjoy a wonderful night of conversation together.


Make Plans for Memorial Day Weekend! Join us on Sunday, May 27th for Worship in the Big Oval! Memorial Day Sunday’s are really special at First Friends Meeting – we gather in Fellowship Hall and enjoy our own ‘Indy 500’ experience in the Spirit! Bring your family and friends and join us at 10:15.


Happy Memorial Day! Memorial Day Sunday is an opportunity for us to remember those we love, especially those who have died in service to our country—whether in the military or in non-combat support and care of our troops. In observance of Memorial Day on May 28th, please note that there will be no Monday Meditational Worship as the church/office will be closed that day. We hope you have a good holiday.


Meditational Woods Bird of the Month for May

Fish Crow – Immigrant: Welcome or Not?
By Brad Jackson

Note: In the drawing of the all-black Fish Crow, I tried to show how the sunlight causes a sheen on the feathers.  Besides the call, the shorter legs and smaller bill help distinguish it from the larger American Crow.

Note: In the drawing of the all-black Fish Crow, I tried to show how the sunlight causes a sheen on the feathers.  Besides the call, the shorter legs and smaller bill help distinguish it from the larger American Crow.

It took me a long time to choose my Bird of the Month for May. After all, the middle of May is the part of the year when one can find the largest number of species in Indiana. Ducks and other early migrants may still be around, while late migrants may have already arrived. Then there are all of the regulars in between. But while sitting in the Meditational Woods, once at the end of April, and again in early May I heard a sound from the north, beyond the woods.

Fish Crows are common on the Gulf Coast and the Atlantic Coast from New England southward. Many years ago they began moving up the Mississippi River, and I remember driving all the way to the southwest tip of Indiana to see the first Fish Crows in Indiana. Since then they have continued northward and have a colony at Eagle Creek Reservoir. Once at the end of April and a second time in early May, I was sitting in the woods when I heard the unmistakable nasal call “Ehn” of a Fish Crow. Quite unlike the “Caw” of an American Crow. Fish Crows have arrived on our side of town! I rushed out of the woods so I could find the bird, which had perched atop the giant power line tower just beyond the meeting’s north property line. Later this bird flew into the neighborhood to the east, calling continuously.

Most species that are forced immigrants, that is, brought in to a place for dubious reasons and released, cause havoc, often to themselves (such as released pet birds), but often to the detriment of other birds. Examples of this are House Sparrow and European Starling, both brought from Europe and released in the United States on purpose.

Fish Crows, on the other hand, have arrived by themselves. They hang around with the American Crows, and, so far, seem to be holding their own. Building a wall won’t keep them out. Besides, I like the addition of their nasal voices to the chorus of all of the other birds which one hears in and from the Meditational Woods. They blend in nicely, but retain their identity. I say, “Welcome!”


VBS Volunteers Needed! This year we are having Vacation Bible School from Sunday July 22nd through Thursday, July 26th. This year’s theme is Shipwrecked: Rescued by Jesus. We are looking for volunteers that can help either one night or the whole week. On Sunday VBS will be from 12-2pm, and the rest of the week will be from 6-8pm. This is a wonderful event that children look forward to each year and we are able to offer it free of charge thanks to volunteers like you! If you’d like to help, please contact the office at office@indyfriends.org.


Summertime Special Music! Do you have a musical gift in ministry you’d like to share in our Meeting for Worship?  As our choir takes a well-deserved hiatus for the summer, we are looking for volunteers to share their music. We need performers most Sundays from June 3rd through September 2nd. Please consider signing up for a date when you’d be willing to offer it in Meeting. Your ministry can be a blessing during this season of the year. Thank you!


Climate Change Policy Planning Workshop: POSTPONED ~ Please note that the workshop on climate change policy that was scheduled for Tuesday, May 29th is being postponed. Please keep an eye out for an update on the rescheduled event.


Fifth Tuesday: An Introduction to Human Trafficking in Indianapolis ~ The five churches of the Shalom Zone, Allisonville Christian Church, Cross & Crown Lutheran Church, Epworth United Methodist Church, First Friends Meeting, and St. Pius X Catholic Church, will be sponsoring “Fifth Tuesday Presentation” this year. Each month that contains a 5th Tuesday, a special presentation will be offered. The initial event is May 29, 2018. Subsequent presentations will be scheduled for July 31 and October 30, 2018.

On Tuesday, May 29, join us for our first presentation at Epworth United Methodist Church, 6450 Allisonville Rd. The topic is “An Introduction to Human Trafficking in Indianapolis”. An officer from IMPD and Sven Schumacher from Lutheran Child and Family Services will share information about Human Trafficking in Indianapolis.

The Indiana Attorney General’s Office has said human trafficking—which involves both labor and sex trafficking—is one of the largest and fastest-growing problems in the world, just behind the drug trade. Shalom Zone hopes to raise awareness about human trafficking and provide education on how to address the problem in our community.


Oak Leaf: Meeting for ReadingTruevine: Two Brothers, a Kidnapping, and a Mother's Quest: A True Story of the Jim Crow South by Beth Macy will be held Tuesday, May 29th at 7 pm in the Parlor.  If you'd like to read ahead for the June 26th discussion, the title is In the Garden of Beasts by Erik Larson.


AVP Annual National Gathering ~ All are invited to join the Alternatives to Violence Project (AVP) annual conference held this year at Earlham College in Richmond. It will be on Memorial Day weekend, May 25-28. If you’re interested in registering, please visit https://goo.gl/7Mhh9K. In an attempt to bring their work to high school students, AVP is also trying to raise funds to help send some of their students to the conference as well. They have included in the program a youth panel discussion which their students will participate with youth from AVP programs in New Jersey and New York. They have invited the Peace Learning Center to be a part of this as well. This is an exciting opportunity for the students. It costs $100 to send one high school student to the entire weekend conference where they will have the opportunity to meet and learn from experienced AVP facilitators from across the country. If you’re interested in donating, please visit https://avpindiana.org/.


SAWS Ramp Build- Volunteers Needed! The Shalom Zone is planning another SAWS ramp build for the morning of Saturday, June 2nd.  If you would like to volunteer to help or need more information, please contact the office at office@indyfriends.org.  Volunteers must complete the volunteer form before their first build.  This form can be found on the SAWS website at http://www.sawsramps.org/


Babysitting Co-Op ~ Our babysitting co-op is happening on Saturday June 9th from 5:30 - 9:30, hosted by Katie & Michael H. Dinner will be provided for the kids. Please contact the office at office@indyfriends.org if you would like to have your kids join in the fun that evening!


The Indianapolis Pride Parade will be June 9th beginning at 9am this year. We will be walking in support of the LGBTQ community. If you are interested in walking with us, please contact the office at office@indyfriends.org. For more information about the parade, please visit https://indypride.org/


Seasoned Friends Open Film Showing – Columbus ~ Everyone is invited to this Seasoned Friends event where we will be viewing the film Columbus. This will be in preparation for a field trip Seasoned Friends will later be taking to Columbus, Indiana. It will be held Thursday, June 21st at 6:00pm in the Parlor. Everyone, even those not in Seasoned Friends, are invited. Also keep your eye out for more information regarding the Seasoned Friends field trip to Columbus shortly after the film showing. We hope to see you there!


Worship in the Woods – Mark Your Calendars! Please note that our annual Worship in the Woods and picnic will be held Sunday, July 8. We will also hold a dedication of the new Mediational Woods path, in memory of Bob Hadley. We hope you will join us on that day.