Letters - 25 January 2019

From small steps to democracy in Europe

Small steps to sustainability

It’s easy to feel paralysed by the scale of potential worldwide disaster. Instead, how can we move forward positively? David Attenborough told a recent UN conference that, with help, we can all identify and take small steps in simple everyday actions. He encourages a positive vision of the future.

We are addicted to stuff, travel, easy energy supplies and overconsumption. Alcoholics Anonymous workers know from experience that dealing with addiction step by step is easier when we support each other.

If we haven’t got a national Quaker group to support us (30 November 2018), there are plenty of other organisations to help us identify our own small steps. With one or two Friends who know what can be done, each Local or Area Meeting could be such a group.

A community of Trappist monks recently changed their traditional method of making the beer they sell. One said: ‘We are praying seven times a day to praise the Lord for his creation, but we were not working in the right way to stop pollution. We have had to translate our faith into sustainability.’

David Attenborough suggests we ‘just keep talking’ about living sustainably – not just with other Quakers. Some of us find this difficult, but chatting is easy! We can start the conversation at work, with neighbours, in shops, at the school gate, with family – and get the ripple effect going. We can start taking action by rejecting packaging when we shop, buying from the counter rather than the shelf and planning more vegetarian meals.

Beth Allen and Cherry Foster

Spirit of updating

The world changes around us. The language we use to describe our spiritual experience twists and turns. To be true to the truth of our roots we need to meet the challenge and reinterpret our practices, simplifying as we go, whilst remaining true to the essence.

A recurring concern is membership and what its structure ought to be. To function we need to avoid being woolly. Those participating in our Meetings need structures so they can contribute and we are all coordinated.

In 1995 we decided that our name London Yearly Meeting was an anachronism and changed it to Britain Yearly Meeting. Likewise, since then the titles Local and Area Meeting reflect where we are now.

Bringing this spirit of updating to membership is a challenge. Commitment is the key to being part of a community, so we could have the description ‘committed member’ rather than ‘member’.

Those who join with us could be ‘seeking members’, or ‘worshipping members’, rather than ‘attenders’. Is there a wordsmith who could bring prayerful thought to this?

Perhaps we need an update on ‘Travelling in the Ministry’, so that networking can happen with the exchange of experience?

Holding tight to the truth and changing (21 & 28 December 2018) collectively is a big challenge. We need to sit down in deep silence and bring prayerful creativity to bear on our situation today so it is a platform for tomorrow and our heritage is passed on, with the ‘seekers’ in today’s world having an opportunity to know about and experience Quaker spirituality.

Dawn Kent

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