Last year Quakers decided to revise Quaker faith & practice, our book of discipline. This isn't just a case of looking at the current book and changing the odd word here and there, adding a section or two about new topics, and removing anything that seems outdated. It also won't be an exercise (as suggested in some media coverage) of going through and crossing out every reference to God!
Instead, it is an opportunity to start afresh. What do we want our book of discipline to be? What would be useful and helpful and inspirational to include?
We know that we want a book which can speak and be accessible to all present and future Quakers. Something that builds on the work and spiritual insight of previous generations. But it's not a quick process – anyone expecting the new book to come to Yearly Meeting, the annual decision-making body for British Quakers, for approval in the next two or three years will be disappointed.
It starts, as with most Quaker things, with appointing a committee. The hope is that the process of revision will act as a catalyst for renewal. As secretary to the Book of Discipline Revision Committee, I hope we can live up to the task!
Book of Discipline Revision Committee
In November 2018 Meeting for Sufferings, the national representative body for Quakers in Britain that meets throughout the year, appointed the co-clerks of the committee: Catherine Brewer and Rosie Carnall. We have already met twice, to start thinking about how the task might be approached.
Our Central Nominations Committee has been working hard over the past few months to find people to form the Book of Discipline Revision Committee. Quakers made suggestions of people to serve, and over 300 names were considered. Central Nominations Committee searched for people with different attributes, strengths, gifts and areas of knowledge.
Meeting for Sufferings has now appointed 24 Friends to form the committee. We have a great mix of people, with different lives, ages and experiences of Quakerism.
The project ahead
Prayerful, joyful, creative and bold.
Those four words are important. Yearly Meeting set these as aspirations for the committee and they formed part of the first conversations with the clerks. How can we help the committee become a community that can be prayerful, joyful, creative and bold together? Our approach needs to have these words at the heart of the whole process.
The committee is asked to prepare a book of discipline for the whole Yearly Meeting. So how can Friends help? Once the committee has got into its stride, it will consult on a variety of topics, to try to understand where we as Quakers are now.
For the moment, it starts with prayer and upholding the members of the committee. And continuing to share ideas of inspirational and helpful pieces of writing. This can be done online here: https://forms.quaker.org.uk/qfp-idea/ or by contacting me at firstname.lastname@example.org.