From Still Green to Love over duty
During a presentation at Yearly Meeting Gathering (YMG) on the Friendship Cohousing Community, Jackie Carpenter urged Quakers to consider the cohousing model as an approach to sustainable living. Later that same day, Milton Keynes council’s planning committee approved an application for the major redevelopment of the centre of the Victorian railway town of Wolverton. The scheme will include Still Green, a self-managed cohousing community for people aged over fifty with twenty-nine owner-occupied and rented apartments, around a shared courtyard garden and common house, built to high eco-standards.
Still Green Cohousing was founded by members of Milton Keynes Meeting who were inspired to consider active ageing after a visit to Hartrigg Oaks during the 2009 YMG. Although initiated by Friends, those early members quickly acknowledged that it would be inappropriate to restrict membership to Quakers and that many others shared our values and vision to live actively and sustainably in our local community. While current membership only includes a handful of Friends, the Quaker ethos is still evident and we continue to feel strongly upheld by the local Meeting.
Having been a member of Still Green (www.stillgreenweb.org) for over 10 years, I have seen many people come and go, as enquirers and prospective members. One encounter which remains with me was a meeting in which a gay couple spoke tearfully but joyfully of the welcome they expected to find among Quakers, having had difficulty feeling accepted in other housing schemes for older people. Although they eventually decided not to join us, their confidence that they could have found a home with us was a significant moment in my understanding of the way in which Quakers are viewed in wider society as being welcoming of diversity.
It has saddened me to hear during this YMG that people continue to feel that such a welcome has not always been extended to them by Friends. I trust that we will take seriously and urgently the commitments we have made to becoming an inclusive and anti-racist community, living sustainably and in harmony with our planet and all who live on it. Developing intentional neighbourhoods which celebrate diversity and seek to live sustainably may be one tangible way for Quakers to do this.
Sarah Lawson (6 August) urges Quakers to adopt the May 2016 International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) ‘definition of antisemitism’ (www.holocaustrembrance.com).
‘Antisemitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of antisemitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities.’
It is arguable that this IHRA ‘definition’ is not a definition at all. If antisemitism really needs defining, then we suggest consideration of the March 2021 Jerusalem Declaration on Antisemitism (JDA, jerusalemdeclaration.org). This JDA presents a much neater, and rather more serviceable, definition.
‘Antisemitism is discrimination, prejudice, hostility or violence against Jews as Jews (or Jewish institutions as Jewish).
Eleanor and Philip Kestelman
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