Letters - 10 June 2022

From A gigantic amount of hope to A place simply to be

A gigantic amount of hope

I attended some of the Yearly Meeting (YM) sessions on Zoom, as our Quaker community thought about ‘learning uncomfortable lessons and how to take our witness forward’.

I feel drawn to say something outside the comfort zone of many, swimming into the cold waters mentioned in the Swarthmore Lecture. My witness is one way of thinking and Quakers can surely permit ideas to be spoken, avoiding the group-think of slave-traders in the past.

As we heard at YM, the slave-traders’ ideas were linked to economic growth: economic necessity as some of them thought. Our modern technological global trading economy depends on more economic growth, which is still considered by many to be a necessity. But perpetual growth on a finite planet is not possible.

More growth is based on fossil fuels which release carbon dioxide, leading dramatically towards climate collapse with the possible extinction of our species. There is no time to change to less damaging energy sources. Sudden cessation of the use of fossil fuels will lead to economic collapse, with little food, warmth or well-being for most people, in the UK as well as in countries far away. It seems that we are between a rock and a hard place. Some of us think we are already in a state of collapse: that our world is in its dying phase; that the end of the world is certain; and that it will be soon. Advices & queries 42 includes: ‘Rejoice in the splendour of God’s continuing creation.’ Perhaps it is God’s will that the creation will not continue? We don’t know what the future will hold. We can discern many things, but we cannot discern the future with certainty.

If there is a collapse, who is likely to suffer most, who is already suffering the most? White, brown or black? Rich or poor? The suffering will be very unjust, and this is the terrible, uncomfortable truth that was not spoken at YM during the sessions I attended.

The idea of accepting collapse and planning what to do is not the end of hope. It is not doom-mongering. It is about accepting reality, just as we accept our own death as something that will certainly happen. If our world collapses soon – if it is already collapsing and if mentioning this is part of truth-telling – then there is a huge amount of work for Quakers and all good-hearted people to do. We must maintain a gigantic amount of hope! Hope that we shall go through the collapse together, globally, summoning the love and justice required of all of us. Whether we live together in a new future, or die together as the world changes beyond belief, holding to our testimonies and living in a state of love and justice is the Quaker way.

Jackie Carpenter

BYM Sunday worship

I was very glad that it was made possible for so many to attend Britain Yearly Meeting (BYM) virtually as well as in person through the use of modern technology. I also understand the explanations and introductions that were necessary.

However I had to leave my Local Meeting for Worship and continue in our garden on my own because I found that it was actually impossible to ‘settle into worship’ as those performing pastoral care at the Meeting said.

This was because some of the ministry, I am not sure whether it was officially prepared ministry or not, seemed to me to be poorly discerned. Admittedly I was feeling fragile and unable to tolerate too much speech since I am still recovering from a recent depressive breakdown. But it seemed to me that the ministry was far too wordy. Perhaps the preamble stating that it was a privilege for so many to be able to be in the Meeting would have been better placed before the beginning of worship.

The point of ministry is that it should arise from a leading of the spirit and that even so careful discernment should be given to it before it is spoken. It is not a matter of simply saying what you think or what you want to say, it comes from a deeper place than that.

I am afraid that we are in danger of forgetting the value and necessity of Quaker discernment. Advices & queries numbers 12 and 13 refer to this, as does much of chapter 2 of Quaker faith & practice.

Isobel Lane

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