Whoosh! Epistle - July 2012
To all Friends in Britain,
We are 57 Quakers who have gathered at Woodbrooke for the Quaker Life threshing event ‘Whoosh!’ - united by our determination to energise the Religious Society of Friends in Britain, and to help it build on the vitality of the past and present to create fresh fizz and purpose for the future.
We discern a growing confidence within the Religious Society of Friends that our experience-based religion is increasingly what many people are looking for.
Growing numbers of people have rejected all claims to absolute truth, but are hungry for a path of personal and social transformation. This could be a ‘transition moment’ for British Quakers, as we discover a new radicalism in response to turbulent times.
We have been reminded that at the end of the 17th Century Quakers made up 1% of the British population – the equivalent of 600,000 members today. We are convinced that the UK would be a better place with 600,000 Quakers in it.
Our Meetings are facing many challenges from a changing world and the pressure of Quaker business. We need to give ourselves permission to think positively, so that we can recognise our gifts and potential, and be open to transformation.
We have been asked to consider which parts of our lives bring us closer to God. We share a desire to build joyful communities, places that help us live faithfully, and recognise that vibrant Meetings are a channel for God’s love. Should we be more rigorous in testing what we gain from our Quaker roles, being ready to spring-clean our structures when they are not helping us?
How can we use our premises to renew our sense of purpose and reach out to the people who live and work around us?
Do we have the courage to speak with passion and conviction about our spiritual lives? Can we acquire the confidence to find our own words to express the ways in which we understand the divine? Can we encourage others as they reach for the language that is right for them?
How can we share our collective experience and wisdom with and between Meetings? How can we become learning communities, which recognise and foster each others’ gifts?
This conference has been characterised by a clear affirmation of the need for growth, vibrancy and the enrichment of faithful lives. We acknowledge our need for experimentation and openness to change.
We have been inspired by the observation that ‘Quakers are ready to take off’, and by the insight that we do not do this only in our own strength. We ask all Friends to consider how we are led to respond to this challenge to participate in realising God’s purposes for our Society in these times, when a confident Quaker voice is needed more than ever.
Signed in an on behalf of the Whoosh! conference
Paul Parker & Helen Rowlands