Once a month Cambridge Friends hold an hour worship close to the entrance of  Textron Inc. in Wilmington MA. Textron is known for its

Quakers Public Witness
Quakers Public Witness

unmanned aircraft systems, armored trucks, battlefield and surveillance systems, precision smart weapons, and advanced cluster bombs.

I choose to worship next to the manufacturing of these weapons made by ordinary citizens

to pray for all of us. I pray for the Spirit to transform this war craft into products of health.  Smart weapons and grenades could be wheelchairs and rototillers.

Friends are clear that the making of such weapons for human destruction in many countries around the world is against God’s will. Quakers stand as “witness against all violence, and against the works of darkness; and to turn people from darkness to light; and to bring them from the causes of war and fighting, to the peaceable gospel.” George Fox,  1654.

I am not here to blame any workers at Textron. We are all complicit in our participation in the US war machine. I pray on this site to remind myself and to ask all Americans to turn away from our dependence on war. The US must stop using weapons

made here at Textron to bludgeon other countries into a US agenda. War and domination over other governments is an abomination. Quakers seek the withdrawal from all activities which lead to manufacturing, sale and use of the weapons made at Textron.

We witness at Textron each month at the same time that other Quakers are worshipping inside in the Cambridge meetinghouse.  We worship together, seeking peace, but in 2 locations. We worship so that God’s peaceable kingdom will reign and so that we, in the USA, can live in harmony and with justice to all peoples and all countries.

Questions on why we witness at Textron welcome

July 2011

A dozen Quakers carpool 10 miles out to Wilmington, MA to be a Quaker presence at Textron Industries every month. We go out during snow or flood or computer crash. John drove a Quaker carload out on July 17, a sweltering day. It was weather fit for salamanders and dragonflies. Most of us wear hats. We choose to worship even in heat and rain because we are shocked to know that Textron builds weapons that kill, often in suffering countries like Afghanistan. Affluent people are making a killing off building weapons that destroy homes and maim children.

We are a motley crew:  men with ponytails, college students with sunglasses, women in long billowy skirts. One of us is recently out of the hospital after surgery to remove cancer. One of us is a vet for peace and has a speech impediment. We pray in a rectangle with 2 signs as bookends. The signs say, Quakers worship for peace. At the end of the hour, we are bathed in sweat. It’s a bit like working out in the gym, afterwards you feel renewed.

We hear several horns honk. Most of the horns directed at us are friendly fire. Some yell, “Stop Al Queada. US is #1” Or they swear at us. But most horns honk for peace. A jogger comes by and taps John on the shoulder, alerting him to the fact that the sign facing the road is actually being held upside down. We all chuckle at the divine humor. We’re not pious nor do we mind if we make mistakes. We laugh at ourselves and return to contemplate in worship.

A few people offer reflections. Someone mentions how important it is to ask Jesus for help in a time of distress; someone talks about how some Quakers offered a scholarship to a teen who was persecuted in high school; someone said thacopy-of-p5100357t it’s important even when being oppressed, not to lose your voice. Friends are aware of living in this world but not being part of the world. Martin Luther King states, “Justice is indivisible. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. And wherever I see injustice, I’m going to take a stand against it. …the problem of racism, the problem of economic exploitation, and the problem of war are all tied together. These are the triple evils that are interrelated.” We sense the structure of the triple prongs of evil: race -economic exploiting -and war. We sink back to the seed growing in the silence.

Afterwards a Friend who got excellent medical care in detecting and intervening cancer. He was amazed at how doctors and staff treated him. He reflected and choked up on how lucky he was compared to the many war veterans who return home to spotty and below-standard medical care in the US. His sadness at this irony affected all us witnessing that day.

Do those that pass-by know why we sit in worship beside a huge marquee that says “Textron Industries.” It is not a vigil. It is not a exactly a peace protest. It’s worship and a witness. Quakers prefer to embody peace more than to protest war. Jaffrey who is very dedicated says, “I think it is important that I show up at Textron once a month as witness to our Quaker faith. I feel clearer about this witness than almost anything else I have done.”

Quakers have  been sitting in front of Textron for a year and a half. They feel a vital tugging toward health, like the tide pulling in the ocean waves. What calling do you have?  Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life? (M. Oliver)