Reflecting on Peace, in Peace

Every week, our school community gathers for Community Meeting, where we reflect on our Quaker values and share time together in the manner of a Quaker meeting.  Recently, when we started reflecting on Peace, I changed the format of Community Meeting.  Our habit in Community Meeting was to have a discussion and then a query, or question, which the students could reflect on in silence, or speak to, if moved to do so.  Lately, the silent period had been feeling more and more like a continuation of the discussion, and students were sharing out loud frequently and avidly.  While the students often shared fruitful ideas, I felt that we were starting to miss the quintessential Quaker experience of sitting together in silent, reflective, peace.  

In the last few weeks, I changed the format of our Community Meeting to now begin in silence.  This establishes a deeper sense of togetherness and stillness, and only after the group has sat in silence for some minutes do I give a query to the group.  This has helped us to be deeper and more reflective, and has made space for a feeling of group peace to settle.  In short, we can engage our bodies and hearts in stillness before we engage our brains in reflection. 

Today, after some time in silence, I asked: “Why is peace a good thing to have?”  

Answers varied.  Students mentioned safer communities, reducing the risk of harm from violence, and maintaining friendships.  One student said that peace makes all of the other Quaker commitments possible to achieve.  Service, community and equality all rely on peace.  One student said that if one person feels peaceful inside, its easier for others around them to feel peaceful (and vice versa). Finally, one student described peace and conflict in a metaphor from science class.  Conflict is like friction.  It makes everything harder to do.  Peace gets rid of the friction and lets things happen more easily.

We closed meeting by shaking hands in silence, and the feeling of peace in the room was palpable.  I wished the students to all to go forth in peace.  I wish this for you, too.  Peace DOES let all the other things happen.  I hope you have found a moment of stillness today in which you could feel peace.  Perhaps one of our students could show you how. 

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Karen Carney

is the head of school. Karen’s career demonstrates a rich and diverse set of skills: project oversight, curriculum development, educator training and mentoring, and classroom instruction. Prior to coming to Chicago Friends School, she worked as a senior specialist in science curriculum for American Institutes for Research. Before this, she oversaw educational programming at the Adler Planetarium, first as its director of education and then as associate vice president for visitor experience and learning. She has also worked in instruction and teacher development at the University of Illinois at Chicago’s Learning Sciences Research Institute and has authored more than 20 scholarly papers, book chapters, and conference presentations.

Karen is an active, dedicated Friend (Quaker) and has held various leadership positions at the Evanston Friends Meeting. She enjoys baking, cooking, and painting and is a member of the Playmation improv comedy team.