Welcome to Southern Marches Area Quaker Meeting.
Southern Marches Area Quaker Meeting (SMAQM) covers a large geographic area from southern Herefordshire to mid-Shropshire and into mid-Wales. The Area Meeting has some of the oldest continually-used Friends Meeting Houses and is an active Quaker community.
Epistle of Junior Yearly Meeting
held at Frontier Centre, Northamptonshire 12-15 April, 2019
To all Friends everywhere, From 12 to 15 April 2019 70 participants and 13 adult team members met at the Frontier Centre in Northamptonshire for a weekend of inward and outward reflection on the theme “Diversity and Inclusivity: how can we use our ideals to change our reality?”
A strong undercurrent of this event has been privilege. Many of our sessions have had elements of examining privilege within them. This has led us to look at our own privilege and how it varies for different aspects of our identity. One of our early theme sessions included choosing different colour beads to represent our privilege.
Alison Mitchel, Libby Adams, Maud Grainger, Sadhya Darr, Teresa Parker and Matt Alton ran workshops that enabled us to look at different aspects of privilege in our society. These discussions have been difficult for some, examining our own privilege is difficult due to our unawareness of it. Our lack of diversity prevents us from sometimes seeing our own privileges, but our denial of its existence doesn’t remove the inequality caused by it.
After discussing Quaker business processes and having a Meeting for Worship for Business, we wrote a minute addressing the question “What is our reality as a Quaker community and how does our privilege affect how we understand it?” In preparation for this, adult team members facilitated sessions that explored this question in different learning styles, allowing everyone to engage in the question in a way that was comfortable to them. A point was made that if we do not allow for a diverse way of engaging certain topics, we are excluding those who don’t thrive in conventional learning environments.
In addition to theme sessions we have had a multitude of fun social sessions. Base groups (small groups) fostered community and inclusivity throughout the weekend and a quiz on Friday night broke the ice and allowed us to get to know each other better. The Easter Egg Eggstravaganza was a social activity that was for everyone as it had aspects for all to engage in, for example the competitive, sporty, or quiet in us. Our venue had activities on offer, so on Saturday some participants did archery, kayaking or went on the king swing whilst others watched the film Freedom Writers. The Open Mic was a resounding success with so many people signing up that later on in the day we had Open Mic 2.0. Dress up drama brought much hilarity and allowed us to reinvent classic fairy tales with a spin on different aspects of privilege. A highlight of all recent JYMs is the Ceilidh, with mocktails named with Quaker puns and this year was no different.
We began and ended our days with Meeting for Worship, giving us the opportunity to be calmed, settled and spiritual. Some focuses of these worship sessions were Kenyan Quaker hymns, the ocean and a bonfire. These helped us to centre down, providing some Friends new experiences.
Throughout the weekend, we were joined by several guests. Georgina Bailey, Clare Scott Booth, Iain Law, Max Kirk, Paul Parker and Naomi Major joined us in discussions, worship and games and provided insight to their aspect of Quakerism. Kai Weynberg and James Jenkins joined us as ecumenical guests from the United Reformed Church and the Methodists.
We have had an insightful weekend full of learning experiences and hope to go away and apply our new perspectives in making Quakers as inclusive as possible. We hope that the rest of Yearly Meeting takes the opportunity to listen to the opinions and perspectives of younger Friends, and other minority groups within Quakers and actively absorb our ideas. We ask older Friends to be open to change and differences in experience, recognising the diversity of lived experience within us all, just as we as JYM have been learning to do. We feel that all Quakers, young and old, must use our privilege for the betterment of society. It’s encouraging to see young Friends inclusion in national Quaker bodies and we wish for this to continue.
Signed in and on behalf of Junior Yearly Meeting 2019, Anya Nanning-Ramamurthy Lucy Cox Dodgson Junior Yearly Meeting Clerks 2019
Epistle from Britain Yearly Meeting event, held at Friends House, London on
4 – 7 May 2018
To Friends around the world:
Loving greetings from Britain Yearly Meeting 2018, gathered in glorious sunshine in and around London from 4 to 7 May. We have rejoiced in the voice and witness of Friends of all ages. Our diversity has been enriched by over 40 Friends and visitors from around the globe, with whom we have shared stories. We have experienced different traditions of worship, created art, sung, and danced together.
The sequence of annual Yearly Meetings in Britain has been unbroken for 350 years. This year our focus has been to discern whether we are led to revise our book of discipline, which we adopted as ‘Quaker faith & practice’ in 1994. This follows four years of work by our Revision Preparation Group, and study of Quaker faith & practice by many Friends and local meetings. Periodic revision of the book of discipline is an essential part of our witness, recalling the past and looking to the future.
Encouraged by the voices of younger Friends among us, we have united joyfully, to embark on a Spirit-led process of revision from much-loved foundations. We know that this will take time and energy. We are clear that we have the resources to undertake this, while continuing our witness in the wider world.
Many voices, experiences and identities are missing from our current book. Since the last revision, our Quaker community and the world around us have changed. We need a book of discipline that reflects more closely who we are now, and explains how and why we do what we do.
At each session, we have heard readings from books of discipline from other times or other yearly meetings. A passage from ‘Living Adventurously’, Central and Southern Africa Yearly Meeting, resonated with the ministry and our desire to see each other truly:
“Africans have a greeting that means ‘I see you.’… Seeing a person, in that salutation, means what is called eyeball to eyeball contact; recognising the presence of a person… someone as alive and as self-aware and as vulnerable as you are. I see you”
(Guy Butler, 1994).
This process of revision may become a renewal and transformation of who we are. Some of our younger children have asked: ‘What do we want to be? How would we like the world to be?’ We need to be bold and creative in our vision. As we heard in the Swarthmore Lecture, given by Chris Alton, ‘We must imagine this future, for if we cannot imagine it, we cannot speak it into existence.’
In listening to one another we have been both inspired and challenged by our religious diversity. Viewed from a distance, our Quaker community may seem like a single body. Up close, it sparkles in its infinite variety. Diversity in our beliefs and language is a richness, not a flaw.
We each choose our own words, and together our stories make a whole. We are not only individuals, but also part of a church. We want the language of our book to be accessible, and also to reflect the wealth of our tradition, and of our experiences today.
Making space to reflect our religious diversity may be painful. We should not shy away from expressing who we are. We accept our vulnerability. We need to be tender with one another, balancing truth in one hand and love in the other. By listening open-heartedly to one another, we will hear where words come from.
Change brings both excitement and apprehension. We have faith that our Quaker processes will help us follow the leadings of God, and take us where we need to be.
“And the end of words is to bring men to the knowledge of things beyond what words can utter”
(Isaac Penington, Quaker faith & practice 27.27)