Action plan: Gill Sewell’s Thought for the Week

‘I need a “both/and” approach to my witness.’

'I have learned over time that my particular ‘charism’ or ministry may be made manifest in the ordinary.' | Photo: by Jess Bailey on Unsplash

I recently completed my autumn audit – looking at where I have committed my resources (time and money) for the academic year ahead, and then praying into that awareness. Am I following the call, or am I distracted by ego-led leadings? Are there things I now want to change?

Obviously my plan is fallible. The unexpected happens and I’m not aware of all the invitations that may yet fall into my lap. Last autumn my mother died, and I needed to be alongside my bereaved nonagenarian father. The plan was revised!

This year’s audit helped me realise I was too consumed with Quaker busyness. I was feeding the mechanics of the institution but this limited my capacity for witness in the world. All service can be given with compassionate regard for the task and others, but I sometimes fear that the Quaker bubble can be too self-satisfying. I need a ‘both/and’ approach to my witness.

I have learned over time that my particular ‘charism’ or ministry may be made manifest in the ordinary – meeting friends and deeply listening to one another. There is also the deployment of particular gifts. In co-editing Friends Quarterly I can choose topics to be explored and ideas to be shared. It doesn’t require my voice but my midwifery.

Our Yearly Meeting in May 2022 left me troubled – not because of the inspiring minutes, but by the tangled web we might find ourselves in as we seek to identify our part in the slave trade. I carry with me a piece of ministry from a black Friend on reparations: ‘I’d be £2,000 better off, but still two steps behind.’ As I have sat and prayed with this I realise that cash reparations might make ‘us’ feel better, but they won’t address the systemic injustices that continue to benefit the white middle and upper classes. I’m also concerned about all those diligent Quaker historians and treasurers committing to spending hours in unearthing ‘the truth’. So my voice (prophetic or not) wants to shout: ‘Let’s simplify this and take action now!’ The principle of tithing has biblical precedent – can we individually and institutionally commit one tenth of our savings to addressing race-related injustices? Could we identify Quaker initiatives that would benefit from this voluntary tax and expand their work and witness?

The initiatives that spring to my mind – you’ll have your own suggestions – are: contributing to the work of Anti-Slavery International (established by Quakers); supporting some projects of the Quaker Africa Interest Group; creating a bursary fund for Quaker schools to enable BAME students to attend in significant numbers; and funding the work of Quaker Social Action and Quaker Voluntary Action with the BAME community.

I may also need to take political action. Given the curious leadership election process of the summer, should I join the Conservative and Unionist Party and have my say in that unrepresentative bubble? The spirit may move in curious ways!

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