Letters - 19 May 2023

From Our future direction to Universities and tapestries

Our future direction

I was pleased when Charles spoke of seeing himself as a defender of faiths, rather than as defender of the (Anglican) faith, as it seemed to show a broader vision than nationalism. So I was rather taken aback when I heard that the general public was being asked to take an oath of allegiance to Charles. This concerns me as a Quaker for a number of reasons. Human societies that are cooperative and peaceful outperform those that are riven by dissension. Yet in the UK we are seeing a drift away from unity and towards distrust.

The Society of Friends has a record of peacebuilding, and of encouraging fruitful discussion, yet at this critical time seems to have laid down many of its practical initiatives, such as encouraging personal contact across diplomatic and social divides, and spreading awareness of techniques by which trust can be built at all levels of social contact.

Nationally, our legal, political and trades union systems are all based on fundamentally-adversarial frameworks, yet all require trust to run smoothly, just as mechanical devices require oil. Our banners say ‘Quakers for Peace’, but, corporately, what are we doing to encourage dialogue across the climate divide, or to seek ways in which protest can be carried out constructively, or to encourage groups to concentrate on the interests which they may hold in common?

The Society of Friends has experience in building trust, and we believe at the deepest level that honesty, equity and truth are vitally important in all human affairs. Yet at this time it is easier to find Friends addressing our internal organisation than in looking outwards into society at large. Surely, it is in the latter arena that we need to live most adventurously?

We have a Light that is needed in the world. Should we not be doing more to set it where it can shine out to the best advantage?

T Roger S Wilson

Alarm bells

I found your report on the first three days of Britain Yearly Meeting (BYM) alarming (5 May).

If BYM is a kind of spiritual AGM of the Religious Society of Friends, then it would be normal and expected to hear the latest audited financial accounts, and a report on the health of the Society (number of members and attenders).

These were both absent.

Instead, there seems to have been a preoccupation with committees and processes.

The iceberg was always far more important to the Titanic than the deck chairs or the orchestra.

If this had happened at any other organisation’s AGM, alarm bells would be ringing very loudly.

To kick the most important items down the road a couple of months to another day in July seems worrying to me.

Simon Newton

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