CHFM Meeting History Update, 1943

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Dona Garrettson uncovered this fascinating glimpse into our Meeting’s response to war in the archived business meeting minutes:

At Chestnut Hill Meeting on 12th month 8th, 1943 -

Seventh Query: Do you on conscientious grounds refuse military training and service, and do you work actively for peace and for the removal of the causes of war?

Answer: Last tenth month, it was reported that in Philadelphia Arch Street Yearly Meeting, there were four men in prison, 69 in CPS and 139 in the armed forces. At the present time, there are no members of Chestnut Hill Monthly Meeting in prison, and we have two members in CPS and three members in the armed services. The decisions of our young men probably reflect the considered positions of the Meeting in the very trying conditions we face.

We are fully mindful that in his own life, Jesus was able completely to rely upon spiritual forces. We all believe this to be the highest good, but many of our members are unable to risk all they hold dear, including their freedom, to a possible effective use of love and goodwill to stop the present aggressive forces in Germany and Japan.

The Meeting continues to hold that those who uphold the traditional peace testimony of Friends point a bright arrow of light in the present darkness, toward the dawn of a new day of peace which is desired by those who fight as well as those who cannot do so.

Most of us are interested in seeking to understand the causes of war and seek to make our influence felt in removing them.

Dona’ comments: This rather neatly sums up my impressions of Chestnut Hill Meeting’s attitude toward the war. They never stopped working for peace, nor did they stop trying to alleviate the suffering of the war’s victims (including the Japanese-American internees). It would seem at some point, they realized that war was inevitable, because even before Pearl Harbor (which is not mentioned in the minutes), Philadelphia Quakers were trying to ensure that there would be a fair and lasting peace. They encouraged young men to enter the Civilian Public Service (conscientious objectors) camps and supported them financially when they did. (George Hagner, Jr., who was Meeting treasurer at one time, was one of the two young men at the CPS camp). But when these young men decided to enter the service, the Meeting invariably asked the clerk to write "expressing our continuing support and love for them." Despite this impression, when I came across this answer to the seventh query, I was surprised that the majority of eligible young men in the Yearly Meeting were in the armed forces.