Letters - 05 July 2024

From Meeting for Sufferings to Peace starts

Meeting for Sufferings

I am surprised and saddened to read correspondence in the Friend relating to the future of Meeting for Sufferings (MfS) that suggests that we are doing perfectly well as we are. If that were the case, why would MfS itself have discerned that the time is right to look at a different, more inclusive way of doing things?

Some Friends appear to be concerned that under the new proposals Area Meetings (AMs) would no longer be represented. At no time in the last eighteen months have all AMs been represented at Sufferings, despite the opportunities presented to attend by Zoom.

Sufferings itself has welcomed the proposals set out by the Group to Review Yearly Meeting, Yearly Meeting Gathering and Meeting for Sufferings (MfS/24/03/13 Review of Meeting for Sufferings). These contain a recommendation that AMs send representatives to the continuing Yearly Meeting (YM) and ask them to report back, which would help ensure continuity for YM and help Meetings feel connected to centrally managed work.

For my own part, I welcome the idea of a continuing Yearly Meeting where I personally can take responsibility for attending and taking part in our collective discernment whether or not I formally represent the Area Meeting.

For those who do not know anything about the proposal please see www.quaker.org.uk/documents/appendix-d-agenda-and-notes-yearly-meeting-2024 where there is also a link to the longer paper from GRYMM.

Above all, let us come to YM with hearts and minds prepared, not hearts and minds made up. Here is an opportunity for a change that could bring about greater clarity, a simpler structure, and increase accountability and participation. I don’t want to come to yet another YM where we simply go round in circles, unable to let go and live adventurously.

Ingrid Greenhow

I find myself in considerable sympathy with Anthony Gimpel (14 June) about his sadness over the decision to close Meeting for Sufferings (MfS). The use of Zoom may, as Anthony says, well have been a factor, as the ability to generate a gathered Meeting can be seriously weakened – and, consequently, the quality of discernment.

I don’t find the underlying reasons for closing down MfS totally persuasive. There is a lifeless, managerial smack to them. On top of that, there is the curious decision to abandon the name itself. MfS goes back to 1675 and while the way it functions may have changed greatly down the centuries, the name could hardly be more relevant today. Ours is a world of great suffering – something we have traditionally done what we could to engage with. Far from being an unnecessary archaism, Meeting for Sufferings is a title that aptly encapsulates all we stand for when it comes to faith in action. Might we be given the chance at Yearly Meeting to retain the name?

Jan Arriens

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