Quakers warn we are stealing the future
Amid nations' increasing uncertainty and insecurity, Quakers in Britain say that inequality has become vividly apparent. More than a thousand Quakers meeting for their annual gathering, said, "We are distressed by the trashing of our planet, and angry at the greed, ruthlessness, lies and violence which blight the lives of so many."
Concluding their week of work and worship, they said, "We are stealing the future. Change is urgent. We need to recognise our own selfishness and privilege: to be changed ourselves, to live as if the Kingdom of God were already fulfilled."
Yearly Meeting Gathering is an open, inclusive event. Programmes run for all ages from babies to young people and not so young. There are many Young Adult Quakers keen to be more vocal and active. Any Quaker can attend.
In workshops, plenaries, lively groups and quiet conversations, they discussed how to build movements with others and to hold together their quiet contemplative practice and active engagement, working for peace, equality, simplicity and truth in the world.
They listened to each other, to visiting Quakers from around the world, to two politicians, to toddlers and teenagers, all ages, to quiet Quakers and activists, and interfaith guests (Roman Catholic archbishop, and those of Sikh, Muslim and Zoroastrian faith), and many more.
The full text follows of an Epistle, to be shared with Quakers globally.
Epistle from Britain Yearly Meeting held in Coventry at the University of Warwick
29 July to 5 August 2017
To Friends everywhere
"For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also." [James 2:26]
"We send loving greetings from Britain Yearly Meeting gathered in community.
"This is the third year in which we have explored our theme of Living Out Our Faith in the World; this time we have considered how we work with others to make a difference and build a better world. We have been delighted by the presence of Friends from other Yearly Meetings and visitors from other churches and faith groups. They have helped us to recognise the way bonds form between different communities for the common good, and to value the richness which comes to us when we welcome diversity in our meetings.
“Action may demand courage. This may mean taking part in public protests or acts of disobedience. We may be led to challenge rooted injustices and to use our energy to bring about radical change.- Epistle, Yearly Meeting Gathering 2017
"Since our last Yearly Meeting our nations have experienced increasing uncertainty and insecurity. Inequality has become vividly apparent. We are distressed by the trashing of our planet, and angry at the greed, ruthlessness, violence and lies which blight the lives of so many. “What do you mean, says God, that you grind the faces of my poor?" [Isaiah 3:15] In this fractured world, how can we respond? What does Love require of us?
"We ourselves are part of the problem. Many are too rich. We damage the land, the sea, and all living creatures. We are stealing the future. Change is urgent. We need to recognise our own selfishness and privilege: to be changed ourselves, to live as if the Kingdom of God were already fulfilled.
"Throughout our Gathering we have heard examples of Friends' work and involvement in the world as Meetings and as individuals. We are reminded that we all find different ways of being faithful. Inspired by the Fox Cubs (3-5-year-olds) we have worn the ribbons which they gave us to share their concern for hungry and homeless people.
Sometimes listening will lead us to stillness, at other times to practical action. In all things the Spirit will direct us.- Epistle, Yearly Meeting Gathering 2017
"When we engage with the brokenness of the world, one of our tools can be our willingness to listen: to the vulnerable, to each other, to those with whom we disagree, and to the leadings of the Holy Spirit. This will enable us to work alongside others powerfully, telling the truth of what is wrong in the world. Sometimes listening will lead us to stillness, at other times to practical action. In all things the Spirit will direct us.
"Working with others gives us strength. Their insights may lead us to see our own shortcomings. We can also hold conversations with those in positions of authority and influence.
"Ours may be a supporting role. We may be called to comfort and uphold, to practise small kindnesses, to admit our own weakness, and to undertake practical tasks which enable others to act. Sometimes being there is enough.
"Action may demand courage. This may mean taking part in public protests or acts of disobedience. We may be led to challenge rooted injustices and to use our energy to bring about radical change. Jesus overturned the tables of the money-changers in the temple. He taught that the blessed community was formed of the poor, the hungry and those suffering loss or persecution. [Luke 6:20-22]
"When our call is clear, we need discipline to test it, and faithfulness to carry it through without counting the cost. May God give us strength and grace to be instruments of change."
"Therefore, dear Friends, wait in the Light, that the Word of the Lord may dwell plentifully in you." [Qf&p 29.19]