Epistle from Yearly Meeting Gathering, held at the University of York, 25 July-1 August 2009
To all Friends everywhere:
We send our loving greetings from the campus of the University of York. For the first time, we have held a combined Yearly Meeting, Summer Gathering and Junior Yearly Meeting. This has enabled a wide range of people with links to our Society to be present: 1,700 altogether, including 300 children and young people. Yorkshire Friends and many helpers made us very welcome.
We have been both a spiritual and physical community. At the heart of our Gathering lay the lake around which the buildings of the University are grouped. Like the surface of the water, our work was sometimes ruffled by the stiff breeze of change. At other times the waters lay still, reflecting the quiet strength of our gathered meetings.
We have participated in a wonderful variety of groups, sessions, and creative activities. Vivid images of connections and community will remain with us. All-age opportunities were particularly appreciated. The breadth and value of projects undertaken by Friends has been evident. This has all been a cause for celebration.
We have found our community of loving Friends to be a fellowship of smaller communities and groups, each arising from a common interest, each enhanced by listening to and respecting others.
We became conscious of the value of our connections: tender conversations in kitchens and corridors; deep connectedness in large meetings for worship; our complex relationships with Quaker history, traditions and the wider Quaker family; and our response to the beauty and pain of the world.
If we stay in the light, we will find spiritual energy to help us create new relationships and renew existing ones. In our dialogue and connections we are challenged to be inclusive, nurturing and constructive.
We have worked with openness and courage to discern the next stages in the recognition of same sex committed relationships, following the extensive consultations that have taken place over the past three years. Over many years attitudes within our yearly meeting have developed and shifted radically. We are now resolved to make significant alterations to our procedures, whilst remaining sensitive to those who would like us to move at a different pace.
Hearing personal accounts of a variety of patterns of relationships has greatly helped our discernment. We have heard moving examples of experiences of meetings for worship to celebrate committed relationships.
We are led to enable same sex marriages in a meeting for worship under the care of a meeting as we currently do for opposite sex marriages. We see this as embarking on a new phase of our life together. Registering officers are not, however, asked to step outside the law at this time. Revisions to Quaker faith & practice will be prepared. We are led to uphold this affirmation to the testimonies to truth and equality. Marriage is God’s work and we are the witnesses.
We have heard the benefits of the revision of our governance. The sharing of responsibilities between our Trustees and Meeting for Sufferings is working well. The document, A framework for action 2009-2014, is giving us structure and focus. The impact of the current economic situation is affecting many Friends and their meetings, yet may create opportunities for fresh approaches to our work. At all levels we can continue improving our stewardship.
Sustainability and caring for the environment have been amongst pressing issues raised. Looking for what each one of us can do has been emphasised. We welcome the public statement, A Quaker response to the crisis of climate change, in advance of the UN Conference in Copenhagen in December and urge Friends to take up its recommendations.
We return to our local meetings and daily lives strengthened by our experiences here. God called us to make the most of what we have; always to remember the good, the true and the beautiful; to be inspired and inspiring.
Signed in and on behalf of Britain Yearly Meeting
Martin Ward, Clerk.