Saturday, 9 May 2015

Living out our faith

At Britain Yearly Meeting held May 1st – 4th, the theme that pre-occupied and challenged friends from Saturday to Monday was “Living out our faith in the world”. Three times we met for worship and discernment on this theme, and each time the Yearly Meeting Clerks wrote a holding minute. Monday morning was the fourth and last opportunity to pull together the many strands that had emerged during these times together. At the close of the session the Clerks drafted Minute 36 which, when agreed, was discerned by the Meeting to be a landmark minute for our times. It was suggested that Minute 36 should be circulated as widely as possible, and so it will be in Sheffield Quaker News, on the blog, and sent to spiritual friendship groups – and elders are placing it in all our envelopes.

The Swarthmore Lecture this year, “Faith, power and peace”, was given by Diana Francis. It was an inspirational foundation to the sessions that fed into Minute 36, and as well as the book form, the lecture itself will be available soon on DVD. We are wondering whether our meeting would like us to arrange a time to see it, followed by discussion about it and the final minute, “Living out our faith in the world – are we ready to meet the challenge?” We would welcome your suggestions about how and when this might take place.

Rosie Roberts, on behalf of Sheffield Central elders.

Minute 36: Living out our faith in the world – are we ready to meet the challenge?

How are we led to live out our faith in a world where we see systemic injustice and increasing inequality?

We have been reminded that God’s work is where our deep gladness meets the deep suffering in the world.

As in Psalm 85:

“Mercy and truth are met together;

Righteousness and peace have kissed each other,

truth shall spring out of the earth;

And righteousness shall look down from heaven.”

We are all activists and we are all worshippers. Our worship and action spring from the same spiritual source. The light not only illumines us but pushes us to seek change.

We recognise the problems in the world and the urgency of acting on them. Our current political and (especially) economic systems only recognise and encourage part of the human condition, the selfish, competitive, greedy part. So much of what is good and beautiful and true in the world is being trashed. The model of power as domination needs to be challenged and replaced with a model of power as service to the community; in doing this, we need to live our testimony and hold firm to its source in faith.

The damage of the present systems, like the benefits, are not shared equally. We need to recognise how many of us benefit through the possessions we hold and the houses we live in, and to consider when we are part of the problem. In living out our faith in the world, we may be called to give up our privileges, but if we do so our voice and our lives will be all the more authentic and powerful. We can be at our most powerful when we are vulnerable.

The damaged and damaging structures of the world are not the only influence on our lives: there is also the power of faith and the leadings of the Spirit, which if followed will lead us, will push us, towards a better world. That, then, may be the first action we need to take: to be more faithful.

What are the changes which are needed to the systemic injustice and inequality that we see in society? We need to go deeper to find the roots of our social ills, and how we might uproot the powers that maintain them. We should rethink what needs to grow in this world and what does not. Can we transform the way the world is going and recognise that everyone and everything on the planet matters and can be thought of as a divine commonwealth, or kin-dom? Quakerism is all about putting our faith in a power which transforms us.

Many of us have spoken of the anger we feel about the current injustices of the world, and sometimes our hearts are heavy with all the things we cannot do. Anger can be a spur to action, but we need Light and guidance to use it wisely and sparingly. We already have a way of finding this wisdom in our corporate discipline and our testing in worship of leadings. Through these our righteous anger and passion can be transformed in order to tackle the root causes of injustice and inequality. Our action begins in worship, in seeking and reflecting before we act. Our practices of listening within and being open to what comes to us from without are rarer than we think, and are a precious gift that we should both use and share.

We are called to consider what we each can do and also make and build on connections in our communities and across the globe.

We are also called to be a community of Friends as a Yearly Meeting, pushed towards the important things we can only do together. We have a body of experience we can draw on and maintain. We are in this for the long haul.

As a Yearly Meeting we are restless to take corporate action to change the unequal, unjust world in which we live.

We ask Friends and meetings to engage with the evil of social and economic injustice which creates a world in which the wrong things are valued. To do this requires owning and upholding the work that is already being done by Friends and in our name; helping to fund that work as generously as possible; and becoming involved in however small a way. For ourselves we need to find some action however simple to do now.

We ask Meeting for Sufferings to take the work on social and economic injustice forward, coordinating the work of local and area meetings who might wish to become more deeply involved, and encouraging the deep spiritual and intellectual searching that could underpin a ‘true social order’ for our age.

We ask YM Agenda Committee to align their work with that of Meeting for Sufferings and to keep this issue before the Yearly Meeting for further consideration over the next two years. Between yearly meetings we should all try to share our experience.

We ask our Recording Clerk and staff to make our concern about social and economic inequality known as widely as possible and in particular to challenge the incoming UK government to adopt policies which decrease inequality and value equally the contribution which all can make to developing a more just and sustainable society.

We must remember that what makes the real difference is not adding further to the words in the world but being and living out the new social order, testing our leadings together and trusting to our Quaker processes "opening ourselves to the light to guide us in each small step".

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