I found two interesting items in ‘The Friend’, 06.04.2018.
Quaker Life advertised for an ‘Engaging Young Adult Quakers Project Officer’. The advert says: ‘Young adults have been less visible in the Religious Society of Friends in recent decades. The way they relate to Quakerism is changing. To respond to these changes, Britain yearly Meeting has been exploring new projects, relationships and ways of working. We are now looking for someone to take these projects into their next stage…. This is a unique opportunity to lead a vital and exciting project. It’s a chance to serve Quakers in Britain, an organisation committed to peace, integrity, simplicity, sustainability and equality in everything it does.’
In the same issue, on the Letters page, was a message entitled ‘Young People and Quakers’. Sarah Sheard (Wooldale Meeting, West Yorkshire) makes a number of interesting suggestions and then concludes: ‘We live in a post-modernist society but for young people there has never been a greater need for them to find a voice and meaning. Quakers can be that voice, but unfortunately don’t do themselves any favours by having endless layers of tedious meetings, which with the invention of the internet we can now be free from. Let’s not wait for meeting houses to close down because they cannot attract young people. Let’s make these changes now and celebrate our unique voice within our truly Quaker tradition of dissent and speaking truth to power.’
While I was writing this up, Britain Yearly Meeting was sitting in session, reading and signing the Yearly Meeting Epistle. Earlier on in Yearly Meeting, I listened to what was said about the need to revise Quaker Faith & Practice, about the archaic terminology and the lengthy details. I contemplated the likely loss of some wonderful passages that many of us know and love. Then someone said ‘They won’t go away’. Others explained, we have to learn to accommodate diversity in our meetings. Alex Wildwood spoke about the costs of diversity. He said:
‘Appreciating difference takes time. We must not make light of real differences. Are we peacemakers or conflict avoiders? The language of Jesus is unique. We can do justice to the depths of tradition and also find new words. I am concerned for Friends with a different view.’
This is taken from my rough notes, so apologies if I have not got his view quite straight. But I think it captures the concern that many of us feel. As Quakers we can be inclusive. Internationally, we have ample room for Quakers who meet in silent worship and Quakers who have programmed meetings. We recognise what we have in common, and that is much greater than our differences.
Britain Yearly Meeting Epistle explains the foundations for moving forward into the revision of Quaker Faith & Practice. (Go to www.quaker.org.uk/ym for the full epistle). It says: ‘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.’
I think we are poised to move forward in a very positive way.