Saturday, 5 May 2007

Do you take sugar?

After so many videos, I better get in some text blogging as well. At the current count, over sixty people have viewed the 'minimeeting' video. It's freaking me out a bit, since when I made the recording I hadn't intended to read that A & Q and hadn't been particularly comfortable about saying 'god' after reading it. On video it all seems a bit stark and not me. Somehow these words seem less ambiguous in Advices & Queries than they sometimes can in ministry. I think when the video gets to the 100 mark, I might take it down.

It's been all Jesus tonight what with the Swarthmore Lecture. It didn't particularly speak to me, but was well-presented and the round of singing 'Building Bridges' worked very nicely. Last year's presenters, the Sawtells, introduced Beth Allen as is the tradition and I enjoyed that. There was a palpable sense of anticipation in the room and even a projector.

It felt to me that the point of the lecture was to get us to think about 'god', whatever that happens to mean to each of us. I don't feel I have much of a right to be annoyed or hurt since I've known from the begining that Quakers are sort of supposed to be C/christians. All the same, it didn't seem right that when Beth Allen described the extremes of the Christian-Atheist polarity in Friends that the latter came off seeming much less reasonable and likeable. So yeah, didn't speak to me.

In the afternoon session we had 90 minutes of what I believe is known as 'worship sharing' - a meeting for worship centred on a particular theme or topic and preceded by introductory ministry. We heard about Quaker work to abolish slavery in the 18th century and various more recent work by individual Friends, Meetings and Quaker organisations. Unfortunately, this one goes onto the list of worship sharing that didn't really work for me. It went on for what felt a really long time and even the minute took about an hour. We were given a couple of interesting general questions to ponder and minister to, but these were pretty much ignored and the ministry was very much about past projects and very rarely touched on anything visionary and prophetic toward the future. We've been doing rather better than this in Meeting for Sufferings recently. Having said that I found some of the Ministry very valuable for myself personally.

The 'A World Transformed' session made me wonder what Quakers would look back on 200 years from now and say, there we were being prophetic and made a difference. I can think of a few possible candidates, but I wonder if it will be brought about by a gradual change from person to person or if we will have a corporate witness to adopt a 'year zero' for living sustainably, for example. Whatever the next challenge will be that we bring to the world, it will not be easy or done from a position of comfort for Friends ourselves. In fact that is how we will be able to judge that we are being prophetic.

What else happened today? The staff of The Friend looked natty in their matching blue t-shirts and sitting together in their special corner. The Young Quaker stall appeared in the North Corridor complete with a laptop slideshow of photos from YFGM. Friends from other Yearly Meetings (including our own Wess) were asked to introduce themselves to the Meeting. The 14-18 year olds were present in the afternoon session & Swarthmore Lecture. Fab food at lunchtime from the Friends House Restaurant. Lots more people were present today than last night - the ground floor was full and the gallery half full.

I don't mean this in a horrible way, but it's hard to believe the weekend is only half over.

The title of this post refers to the fact that Quakers took part in a sugar boycott during the campaign to end the slave trade and nearly brought down the sugar industry. The boycott was also a great profile-raiser for the issues involved in the campaign.


A tenative Quaker said...

Interesting, issue what do Friends champion today in terms of Social Testimony today other then the obvious one of Peace. I know individual Friends are influential in the Green movement, Restorative Justice, international development so world poverty, And these are often reflected in corporate statements and strategies. I get a bit hazy around domestic social justice in that where are we in the design and quality of public spaces , social welfare etc. Have we decided that these agendas are secular political arguments only?

Love that I can react to events in Yearly meeting as they happen in the Blogsphere. I got round after a couple diversions on fellowship and what is Christianity to reminisce on my experiences of BYM.

Clare White said...

"The staff of The Friend looked natty in their matching blue t-shirts and sitting together in their special corner."

How kind!

Natty t-shirts are on sale for £5 each :) < /ad >

Anonymous said...

In response to the question of what future Friends will look back on and celebrate of BYM's corporate Quaker work the I hope that 'Circles of Support and Accountability' will feature highly:

This has moved me most as an example of what an Equality testimony means, i.e. that it is not just to blythly say that we are all equal but to challenge ourselves to find the hummanity (or light or god, if that is your preferred terminology) in those who have been demonised and dehumanised.

lauraxpeace said...

I agree that Circles is a worthy legacy. I hope its success has wider reverberations for general awareness and acceptance of 'restorative justice' which I think could be a significant gift of Quakers to the world.