Jarrod McKenna and the Peace Tree Receive Quaker Peace Award


Just today I got an email from Jarrod McKenna, a Christian activist who lives Down Under.

He says of himself, “I’m a lapsed vegetarian who’ll now eat happily my daily bread from dumpsters (but secretly longs for the flesh pots of evil big corporation burgers.) I spend my time as a nonviolence trainer for activists, students and whoever else will listen and sharing the gospel of a nonviolent messiah, (hopefully in more than just words!).”

The interesting thing about McKenna is not just that he and his team named “Empowering Peacemakers in Your Community” (or EPYC for short) are doing some incredible things in Perth Australia, but Jarrod has just been awarded the Donald Groom Peace Fellowship, an award Quakers in Australia have been giving out since 1975.

Now Jarrod’s been invited to speak at the Austrian Yearly meeting in Hobart 2007. This is a huge opportunity for McKenna because he is going to be talking to one of the historic peace churches about how he and his community follow Jesus. An article at We Can Be looks into this fact a little closer,

[McKenna’s speech] is bound to create a deepening conversation around how Quakers can live the work of peace generally, including how we reach out to young people, and where (or if) the kingdom of God informs our work. Is our peace testimony a tactic, or an embodied truth? If it is an embodied truth, can we name the body?

It’s a conversation that might be timely. We need to be tender, but also daring. In meetings, do we quote satyagraha from Gandhi, almost because he’s not Christian, avoiding the hurt of Christian fundamentalism, but thereby repeating the error of liberalism? Do we cite Buddha, because of his message of nonviolence, to again signal our openness to other religions, but shrink from pacifist developments in Christianity? Is Martin Luther King Jr mentioned more for the nod to our faith-in-action beliefs than for his constant references to Old and New Testament spiritual canon? The black pastor had seen the Promised Land, but do we only get as far as Martin Luther King? Was the “promised land?? a rhetorical flourish, or a central story of Christ’s transformational power, to be formed in and lived out of?

In many ways it sounds like McKenna fits the convergent Friends mold; his relentless focus on Jesus and the Kingdom, embodying practices, living out faith in a post-modern culture and his interest in what the Peace Church tradition has to say about being Christians today all sound really familiar.

The author at We Can Be concurs,

If twenty-first century Christianity is heading towards a post-denominationality, Jarrod is on reconnaissance. Based on these explorations, Jarrod thinks the future is not found in modernism’s twin theological children of unthinking fundamentalism (which causes so much damage) and unengaging liberalism (which merely gives itself over to the motifs of other ideologies.) Instead he explores new approaches (some call them post-modern) in which we allow ourselves to be experientially submerged in a “narrative theology,?? living with integrity something far more counter- or alternative-cultural, that is found, for example, in the Gospels.

…He nevertheless strives to avoid the “Constantinian shift?? which universally tries to impose convictions and values on others, also keeping abreast of narrative theologians such as Biblical interpreter Walter Wink (who coined the phrase “the myth of redemptive violence??), Mennonite John Howard Yoder, and N.T. Wright, pacifist theologians that could reignite our own Quaker thinking.

One thought that continues to pop in my head and leads me to prayer is that I hope that Quakerism as a tradition isn’t too far removed from it’s own Christian roots for a return to life and vitality as exemplified by McKenna and many others. But then again, Quakers gave McKenna, an outspoken Christian, this award. But there are many more reasons for hope because there continues to be people popping into the converging Friends conversation with growing curiosity and excitement. And we continue to learn that there are more and more people who are already on board with what we’re talking about and didn’t know it (I think this is the best part).

And so to hear stories like this always encourage me, even if McKenna isn’t directly related to the Quakers he has great respect for the tradition and has incorporated some of our practices into his own community. It is almost as if they could remind us how to be ‘Quakerly.’ It’s of little surprise then that people on the outside can help us get perspective on our own tradition.

I love hearing about what Christians are doing around the world to bring about peace and justice for their cities – I look forward to hearing more about Jarrod McKenna and his community in Perth.

Related Articles:
Overcoming ‘Unease Isolation’ with Mere Discipleship – Article by Jarrod McKenna
EPYC – A Dream for This Generation

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12 responses to “Jarrod McKenna and the Peace Tree Receive Quaker Peace Award”

  1. Wess,

    Thanks for bringing this award and article to light! (Light?) 🙂

    You said: “I hope that Quakerism as a tradition isn’t too far removed from it’s own Christian roots for a return to life and vitality as exemplified by McKenna and many others.”

    I don’t think so! Partly from personal experience. Also I take comfort that Walter Wink is now a member of a Friends meeting in southwestern Massachusetts! He used to be a Methodist. When I first encountered him in NYC in the early 90’s, he was still Methodist but attending Friends meetings more and more. He had a review in the November issue of Friends Journal that mentioned this meeting affiliation.

    I just finished his book The Human Being: Jesus and the Enigma of the Son of the Man. Have you read that?

    — Chris M.

  2. Chris – thanks for the comment – and you are right! Things are happening, and that’s what we should be focused on.

    “Walter Wink is now a member of a Friends meeting in southwestern Massachusetts!”

    WHAT?! That’s amazing! I hadn’t heard this yet but I can’t wait to find out more. We could use a power house theologian like Wink in the Friends Tradition.

    And no I haven’t read this but – is it a newer one? I’ll check it out.

    Thanks again and I hope you and your family have a wonderful Christmas season.

  3. It was a surprise to find my article about Jason McKenna here – and exciting to hear that Walter Wink is now with Friends. The Quaker processes, though, don’t belong to Quakers – I just see us as custodians. If Friends were to disappear these processes would be rediscovered sooner or later. I think we could do more to let people know about these processes, but I think there’s another corner that needs to be resolved first – and that’s the one to do with the heritage, both historical and spiritual, given by Christ.

  4. Adrian, Nice to have you comment here – thanks for stopping by.

    You said, “The Quaker processes, though, don’t belong to Quakers – I just see us as custodians.” I completely agree, if I alluded to anything else it was unintentional. I believe these processes are given to us by Christ and the Scriptures and thus we are called to share them with the world!

  5. Type your comment here.
    Dear Wes and other bloggers re. Friends converging!

    Thought I’d fill you in a little more about Jarrod McKenna and the Donald Groom Peace Fellowship.
    I’m writing from Perth, Western Australia, where I’m currently co-clerk of the W.A Regional Meeting. It covers one third of Australia, but there are only about 120 Quakers here!

    Donald Groom was a British Quaker who worked on nonviolence projects for many years in India. Worked and walked with Gandhi. (“Peace Came Walking” by Victoria Rigney) He settled his family in Australia in the sixties. After he died in a plane crash, revisiting his beloved India in 1972, Quakers and his family set up the Fellowship, which has been awarded over the years to people experimenting with, teaching, living nonviolence.

    I was happy to support Jarrod’s nomination for the fellowship. We’ve attended nonviolence workshops together, presented skillshare sessions together, are involved in the Alternatives to Violence Project, and participated in a delicious 30 day retreat with JOanna Macy nearly two years ago (Budhist scholar, anti-nuclear campaigner, deep ecologist, systems theorist): she’s San Francisco based so some of you will probably know her. Check out her website.

    Jarrod is well respected in such circles, speaking, living, being in the light of Christ. The Peace Tree Community ( a fabulous bunch of young people, prepared to live simply, on the edge of this affluent culture) visited our Meeting for Worship in August, and I think it’s fair to say they challenged us deeply. Some of them have read lots about Quakers and obviously admire EARLY Quakers – so what does that say about us middle class mob? I am rightly made uncomfortable by the commitment of this admirable young crew.

    I’ve been around Quakers for more than 35 years, and a member for more than 25. Sure I’m committed to nonviolence too, and have been arrested for peace a number of times, including spending time in the clink, even when I was a Senator in the Australian Parliament. It’s a continuing struggle, to find the pathway to peace and justice, and I agree with Claire’s comments about the gutsiness of early Quakers, and feel sad that many of us seem to have lost that extraordinary spark so many of them had which upset so many applecarts in not-so-merry England, and of course in the colonies across the pond.

    So, it’s great to know that you are there, searching and journeying, listening to the Spirit as you let your lives speak.

    I’m really glad you’ve connected with Jarrod – no doubt he’ll be informing us at our upcoming Yearly Meeting about your network as he addresses us as the Donald Groom Fellow. I look forward to that.

    Blessed greeting for peace, joy and simplicity at Christmas! (incidentally this has been for all my married life of 34 years, a household of no presents at Christmas. I do bake a traditional fruit cake, pop one candle on it, and we sing happy birthday to Jesus – that was a bit tough for our daughters when they were little, and for others who wanted to give presents to them, but I’m glad we persevered with that. So, we’ve always donated to some cause or other in lieu of presents, and now Quaker Service Australia offers that opportunity throughout the country)
    Jo Vallentine.

  6. Jo – Thank you so much for commenting here, it’s wonderful to hear more about all of this. I truly am excited about what’s going on in your neck of the world, and am also thankful for the wonders of technology to help make the world a little bit smaller, so we can hear your stories.

    May you and those in you sphere of influence continue to press for peace as you have been doing, and live for Christ!

    And what a great witness about Christmas, thanks for telling me about that – I don’t think I’ve ever heard of anyone doing that…and it sounds incredible.

  7. As another middle aged Aussie I want to add my name to those who rejoice in the work of young people such as Jarrod.I also wish to affirm the grace of my relationship with the Society of Friends, Tonight I will join Quakers and others who gather outside Brisbane City Hall on the first Friday of each month in silent witness to peace and non-violence.

  8. […] This is a guest post, reprinted with permission, Review and rant by Jarrod McKenna. Ever wonder what will emerge out of the ‘emerging church movement’? Watching from the very different context of Australia it’s interesting to observe some of the heat Brian McLaren’s new book “The Secret Message of Jesus??? is receiving on the very different (and sometimes bizarre and disturbing) landscape of American Christianity. While the title sounds like might be flaky text you’d find in a New Age book store along side crystals and tacky objects exploiting aspects of indigenous cultures, it is in fact one of the best pop communications of some of the most exciting biblical scholarship around. […]

  9. hey man… Peace out dude.. how are you jarrod?? im frm narrogin senior high… dunno if ya remember me or not ay… lol… YOUR SO COOL DUDE!! ” peace out “and keep tha kool stuff coming…