Sunday, 14 September 2008

Quaker Quest

We are holding another series of Quaker Quest evenings at the moment, every Monday, 7pm at the Quaker Meeting House until 6th October. They are designed as a way for people to find out more about the Quaker Way, with three speakers on a different topic each week, some discussion in small groups, finishing with half an hour of Quaker Worship.

I just came across a couple of blog posts (here and here) on Ray's wonderful blog 'Dharmakara's Prayer', describing his experience of the Quaker Quest evenings he came to earlier this year, when he first started attending Meeting in Sheffield.

I'm speaking on 'Quakers and Equality' on 29th September. Any ideas welcome...

The Lambs Do Skip and Play

I've been reading a book of extracts from George Fox's letters recently. This is my favourite so far:
Sing and rejoice, ye children of the Day, and of the Light; for the Lord is at work in this thick night of darkness that may be felt. And the Truth doth flourish as the rose, and the lilies do grow among the thorns, and the plants a-top of the hills, and upon them the lambs do skip and play. And never heed the tempests nor the storms, floods nor rains, for the Seed Christ is over all, and doth reign.
This was written in 1663, during a period of intense persecution of Quakers, when many were in prison for their faith.
Fox was assuring his readers in the fragile early Quaker communities that despite the apparent power of their persecutors, their movement was the work of God.

It also speaks to me across the centuries though, in the present 'thick night of darkness', when growing climate chaos theatens us with despair. Can we discover a hope that will sustain us through the tempests and storms?

Tuesday, 2 September 2008

Transition Sheffield

A few months ago I went to Robert's screening of the film 'What a Way to Go' at the Meeting House. The film deals with the linked crises of climate change, peak oil, overpopulation and mass extinction. It spoke powerfully to me, making me face up to my own feelings of despair, anger and fear at our wholesale destruction of the living world.

Afterwards, I ordered a copy of Joanna Macy's book 'Coming Back to Life', which contains a set of group 'spiritual exercises' that aim to work through our collective suffering at the fate of the world, in order to engage in its healing.

Macy's work is based on the Buddhist-inspired insight that facing and acknowledging our own suffering at the fate of the world can be a path to rediscovering our connectedness with other living beings and ecosystems. By allowing ourselves to feel and speak our grief, fear, anger and despair, we can discover that we are not separate, isolated individuals. We suffer with the world because we are a part of it. By allowing ourselves to feel this suffering, we are also open to fully feel our love for creation and our desire and commitment to work together to preserve it.

Macy writes of the present time as a period of opportunity, when the overwhelming threat of environmental crisis may act as a catalyst for what she calls 'The Great Turning', away from the Industrial Growth Society based on limitless economic growth, and towards a 'Life Sustaining Society.

A life sustaining society requires a new economy, a new culture with different values, stories, spiritualities and power relations. It is not just a matter of individual lifestyle changes, or changed government policies. We need to create a form of human society that can enable us to live together, without destroying the systems we rely on for our existence.

Shortly after reading and slowly digesting this book, I came across a reference to the Transition Towns movement. This is a movement of towns and communities that are exploring how we can respond to climate change and peak oil by relocalising our economies, reducing our reliance on fossil fuels, rebuilding local community and sharing skills and resources. The aim is to build communities which are more resilient, less energy and carbon intensive, and which are also healthier and happier, offering the seeds of 'a better life beyond oil'.

Now there are the beginnings of a Transition initiative in Sheffield, which is starting off with a series of film and discussion evenings in Meersbrook, Nether Edge and Burngreave.

If you'd like to receive updates about future events in Sheffield, you can register for email updates at:

Transition Sheffield Film Programme

Tuesday 16th September - St Peter's Community Centre, Nether Edge, 7pm

Six Degrees Could Change the World

A National Geographic documentary based on the highly acclaimed book by Mark Lynas. Using stunning special effects the film looks at how each 1 degree of temperature rise would affect the life on earth up to six degrees.

Wednesday 1st October - Meersbrook Park Pavilion, 7pm

What a Way to Go: Life at the End of Empire

An intense and passionate film. After examining the problems the film looks at how we got to the state we're in - tracing humanity's past, cultural myths, psychology and more.

Monday 6th October - St Peter's Community Centre, Nether Edge, 7pm

End of Suburbia

High fuel and food bills, recession and unemployment are just the beginning of a crisis known as peak oil: the beginning of the decline in global oil supplies. The implications of this crisis mean a profound shift in the way we live.

Tuesday 14th October - Burngreave Vestry Hall, 7pm

The Power of Community: How Cuba Survived Peak Oil

The film opens with a short history of Peak Oil, a term for the time in our history when world oil production will reach its all-time peak and begin to decline forever. Cuba, the only country that has faced such a crisis, the massive reduction of fossil fuels, is an example of options and hope.

Weds 29th October - Burngreave Vestry Hall, 7pm

A night of film shorts: Carbon Weevil, The Story of Stuff, I Am Only a Child.

We kick off with an amusing animation about the carbon cycle and climate change, then delve into an enthralling and provocative animation of consumer culture, and round off with a compelling call to action from the Environmental Children's Organisation at the 1992 Earth Summit.

Monday 3rd November - Meersbrook Park Pavilion, 7pm

Designing Pathways from Oil Dependency to Local Resilience

Rob Hopkins, founder of the transition town movement, tells his inspirational story at the Positive Energy Conference in the Findhorn Ecovillage.

Monday 10th November - St Peter's Community Centre, Nether Edge, 7pm

The Power of Community: How Cuba Survived Peak Oil

Monday 17th November - Burngreave Vestry Hall, 7pm

Designing Pathways from Oil Dependency to Local Resilience