From spueezing out the Spirit to Woodbrooke
Squeezing out the Spirit?
It seems to me that Stephen Feltham’s recent article (30 June) is the most important one the Friend has published for some time. But I think that he is worrying unnecessarily. Politics is, after all, about finding the best way to order relations between members of a community.
When Clifford Street Meeting House was reconstructed and renamed more than thirty-five years ago, a talk was given by John Kay, a respected member of the Meeting and no firebrand. He said: ‘From the very beginning Quakers were lobbyists, and we have been so for 300 years… And so we go on, and so we shall have to go on, trying to influence governments bit by bit. So in our minds there is no separation between the secular and the spiritual [my italics]. One cannot act without the embodiment in institutions of the other.’
I agree as strongly as any Friend that it is essential that we not be identified with a particular political party – which we are not. But I also feel that if we do not stand up for our testimonies – peace and equality among them – we are betraying our beliefs. Politics is not a dirty word and Friends have always been involved in trying to make our Society more peaceful and more just. I hope that we shall go on doing so.
In his opinion piece Stephen Feltman sets out his perception of political bias and bureaucratic control amongst staff at Friends House.
My experience is quite different. I find that staff take open, spirit-led actions and engage in discerning, servant-led leadership, which upholds and supports Friends across the Yearly Meeting. There is a commitment to presenting information clearly and transparently and to reflecting Quaker values in an intelligent, meaningful way. Any criticism is always given serious consideration and there is a genuine sensitivity to different views. Quaker discipline and right ordering are upheld through adherence to the processes the Yearly Meeting has agreed.
The outcome is not always perfect, nor is it always to every Friend’s satisfaction, but I am always thankful when we speak out together as Quakers.
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