Epistle from Britain Yearly Meeting
held at Friends House, London, 23-26 May 2008
To all Friends everywhere:
Greetings, dear Friends, from Britain Yearly Meeting, where up to 800 Quakers, diverse in many ways, gathered at Friends House London. Of these over a hundred children and young people enriched our community. Friends House came alive as a place of meeting and greeting, renewing existing friendships and making new ones. As we opened our hearts one to another in the truth of God, we experienced the personal warmth of friendship and passed around infectious smiles that the children gave us. It was good to laugh, to sing, and to join in stretching exercises, yet there have also been times of struggle.
A major theme running through the weekend was that of deepening our spiritual life and discernment as the basis of our action in the world. We have our individual understandings of the source of our Inward Light, but acceptance of our diversity is at the heart of our unity as Quakers. Our spiritual practice enables us to share an experience of the numinous whatever language we may use. Our calling is to foster the divine in all we meet, to say ‘yes’ in a world that frequently says ‘no’.
Our community has considered what it can mean to be ‘the seeds of change’. We recognise a transforming spiritual power in our worship, whether it acts like dynamite or like the force that enables the seed to push slowly, patiently, sometimes overcoming enormous resistance, towards light and growth. When we plant seeds, we know they need nourishment and protection. But seeds also need to break open before they can grow.
This year we are beginning to reap the benefits of recent changes in our structures. Our trustee body has expressed increasing confidence in its role, while members of Meeting for Sufferings are conscious of a growing sense of community. We have faced up to some ambivalence towards the concept of power, so often associated with domination, but have been led to a Quaker vision of power as the energy the spirit gives us to bring about transformation. We affirm our trustees in their exercise of the responsibility which we have freely given them, knowing they are using this power with integrity, clarity and accountability. There is no ‘them’ and ‘us.’
All our Meetings have been able to take part in creating a Long Term Framework to prioritise the Yearly Meeting’s work. New ways of working from the grassroots are exciting and we welcome the shift to networks of local groups supported by the centre. In order to be an effective prophetic community we all need one another. Perfection is not required of us; but that we walk cheerfully in the right direction, seeking to live sustainably on our earth.
We leave, seeking to practise the discernment that allows the Inward Light to transform us. May we live in God’s will as if it were our own. We send you this epistle with our love and hold you in our prayers as we trust you are holding us in yours.
Signed in and on behalf of Britain Yearly Meeting
Martin Ward, Clerk