Meeting for Sufferings: Appeals, sustainability and truth

The Friend reports on Meeting for Sufferings, which met on 7 April at Friends House in London

Friends travelled from all parts of Britain to Friends House on Saturday 7 April for Meeting for Sufferings with appeal processes, sustainability, truth and integrity among the concerns addressed.

This Meeting for Sufferings was the final one of the current triennium. Friends are appointed as representatives or ‘alternates’ to represent their Area Meetings for a period of three years.

Sufferings was very ably and efficiently clerked by Anne Ullathorne, clerk of Meeting for Sufferings, and the assistant clerk Margaret Bryan. In the morning the main item on the agenda was the report of the Appeal Review Group, which looked at how Friends deal with conflict at a local level.

The Group was appointed by Meeting for Sufferings in December 2016 to review the appeals procedures in Quaker faith & practice (4.25-4.26) and to propose any alterations – clarifications, improvements and simplifications – required (see ‘Meeting for Sufferings: Final report on Appeal Review Group’).

Meeting for Sufferings was established in 1676 to consider the sufferings experienced at the time by Friends and the title ‘Meeting for Sufferings’ has been retained for more than 340 years.

The practice of recording the names of Friends in the ‘Great Book of Sufferings’ gradually lapsed, but in 1997 Meeting for Sufferings decided to maintain a register of Friends before the courts or imprisoned for matters of conscience.

In the morning session Sufferings noted the names of Friends who had been arrested at the Defence and Security Equipment International (DSEI) arms fair held at the ExCeL exhibition centre in London Docklands.

After the morning break Jane Stephenson spoke to the report of the group appointed to review the work of the Britain Yearly Meeting Sustainability Group (BYMSG) and to consider its recommendations. Consideration of the report continued after lunch.

In April 2017 four Friends were appointed by Meeting for Sufferings to review the terms of reference of the BYMSG and to consider whether it ‘is the most effective way to oversee and encourage progress towards our shared commitment to become a low-carbon sustainable community’.

The Review Group acknowledged the hard work of the BYMSG and its achievements, but stated that ‘the work of the Group appears to have been beset by confusion, frustration and poor communication on all sides’.

It highlighted a ‘lack of clarity over the level of its authority’, the constraints on time and resources, and that the group ‘sits outside the Quaker structure’.

The report stressed the urgency of the need for action on climate change and for a more coordinated and coherent approach within the Society.

Friends at Sufferings were reminded not to repeat the ‘same errors that have been made in the past’, to be clear in making recommendations, to work within the organisation, and not to set ‘open ended aims that are unachievable’ (report in the Friend on 20 April).

Meeting for Sufferings agreed a Letter of Greeting from Britain Yearly Meeting to Ireland Yearly Meeting 2018. The letter acknowledged the ‘major impact’ that the UK vote to leave the European Union would have on Friends north and south of the Irish border.

Among the minutes received from Area Meetings was one on the post-truth world and the Quaker response to it (report in the Friend on 20 April).

A report on the latest meeting of Britain Yearly Meeting trustees was given in the afternoon session.

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