Not in our name: Pilgrimage for the welfare system
The dismantling of the welfare state is harming the most vulnerable in our society and the fabric of our community. Kendal and Sedbergh Area Meeting is organising a pilgrimage to bear witness.
Finding our concern
Our story begins with a concern raised by a family from our meeting. The Nicholls family attended a summer camp of Southern Marches and Mid Wales Area Meetings. There they discussed a growing frustration at the dismantling of our welfare system. Along with other Friends, they expressed a wish for a Quaker voice to be heard. As a result, those present drafted a statement under the heading 'Not in our Name'.
Returning from the camp, the Nicholls family shared this statement and it struck a chord. Many Friends in our area had personal stories of the damaging effects of welfare changes. We felt led to give witness to this concern and to reach the national consciousness.
Acting on our concern
We've decided to organise a pilgrimage. Between 10–13 April, we'll walk from Sedbergh to Barrow (once home of one of our nearest tax offices) over four days, with silent worship on the morning of each day. We are walking to bear witness to our testimonies as so many Quakers have before us and are doing still.
The pilgrimage will give witness to our belief in our common humanity and our solidarity with the poorest and most vulnerable in our society. We hope it will show our support for the welfare system and our willingness to pay a level of taxation that supports the care and dignity of all. Finally, it is a statement of our desire for an inclusive society in which all are considered of equal worth.
Testing our concern
We settled on the idea of a pilgrimage after testing our concern with Turning the Tide. This process helped us reflect on what we have to say which is distinctively Quaker. We questioned how to avoid being divisive and ensure the concern is a shared one – what processes and procedures are needed to enable this?
By testing our concern, we've gained a greater understanding of the work of Quakers nationally and in meetings visited. And within our area meeting there is a unity, purpose and energy as we plan our pilgrimage.
There are many practicalities to organise but we are meeting regularly: accommodation is being offered at the homes of Friends and in meeting houses; a school mini-bus and private cars are being sorted to transport luggage and those who can only take part for a short period of the pilgrimage; we have one MP's support and hope others of various political persuasions will do so too; we have visited meetings outside our area meeting to speak about the project and are making links with other religious organisations; police are being informed and the media, and we are preparing what we might say so that our witness does not get lost in translation.
We welcome any who have the time to join us for all or part of the pilgrimage. Offers of meals, transport or refreshments en route are also very welcome. Alternatively we can offer support to anyone wishing to do a similar action in their area. Quakers at tax offices or town halls all over the country on Thursday 13 April would certainly make an impression!