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3 Thought for the Week:

Minimum pricing of alcohol Helena Chambers and Tim James 4-5 News 6 Marginalising religious education Jan Pawson 7 What is the Society for? Bob Johnson 8-9 Letters 10-11 Marriage equality? Symon Hill 12-13 Quakers and creation:

Quakers and the Green Bible Stuart Masters 14-15 The pilgrimage paradox Rowena Loverance 16 q-eye: a look at the Quaker world 17 Friends & Meetings

Cover image: Wedding ring. Photo: CubanRefugee / flickr CC. See pages 10-11.


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Roya courtesy the


Joan Mary Fry is one of the ‘Britons of Distinction’ featured in a set of ten stamps released on 23 February. The British Philatelic Bulletin reads: ‘Born into a rich Quaker family in London, Joan Mary Fry grew up to become a Quaker relief worker and social reformer who exercised a lifelong commitment to pacifism and social justice… On the outbreak of world war one, Fry became a prison chaplain. She supported and befriended many conscientious objectors and championed them at tribunals and court martials. Straight after the war she took the bold move of visiting the defeated Germany with other Quakers, despite initial opposition at home. They set up food-distribution networks, in recognition of which the University of Tuebingen awarded her an honorary doctorate. In the 1920s Fry worked in the coalfields of South Wales, where she established food centres for the children of unemployed miners. She also advocated vegetarianism and took up the cause of The Friends Allotment Committee, which allowed people to grow their own food on unused land without losing unemployment benefit.’

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the Friend, 24 February 2012 Thought for the Week

Minimum pricing of alcohol

For the first time, minimum pricing per unit of alcohol is being seriously considered in Westminster (Scotland is already in the process of pursuing it). If it were adopted at 50p, over four hundred lives would be saved in the first year. By the tenth year, this would rise to over 3,300 lives every year [Department of Health] – not to mention a reduction in the human suffering involved in less acute alcohol problems.

Could writing to your MP help save hundreds of lives? At Quaker Action on Alcohol and Drugs (QAAD), as we approach the date for the publication of the new national Alcohol Strategy, we think the answer to the question is actually ‘yes’.

A group of churches and charities believe this is a critical juncture and have joined together to add as many voices as possible to those calling for change. Our aim is for minimum pricing per unit to be included in the imminent Alcohol Strategy. David Cameron has expressed concern about NHS costs (of £2.7 billion) and acknowledged that the price of alcohol is a factor. Letters to MPs now could really help to tip the scales.

QAAD is part of the group and we have produced a briefing and an example letter that Friends and Meetings can send to MPs.

No-one sets out to develop a drink problem – and it can be difficult, even for medical services, to recognise the damaging use of alcohol before it becomes a formidable, more intractable, problem. Increasing requirements on GPs in the management of a range of conditions has provided them with the opportunity to ask the question ‘How much do you…?’ The cynical will always say ‘Hear the answer and double it!’ ’ However, there is a element of truth underpinning such attitudes. Heavy drinkers often do not want to accept the need for change – but once the problem is recognised there is a greater possibility that long term damage can be averted.

Patients presenting with depression offer the most common opportunity to recognise excessive alcohol consumption and are also the most likely to respond to support. Most are at a crossroads in their life and change is on their agenda.

Gullet and stomach problems are the next most likely to yield such an opportunity, although unrecognised stress is often a factor as well. Excessive alcohol consumption in the elderly and those suffering chronic illness can be one of a number of factors causing repeated falls. Weight loss and chronic malnutrition is often a concern in these situations as well.

Throughout these conversations, once the possibility of damaging consumption is recognised, one is constantly looking for a hint as to what the pain related to ‘a life or memories too difficult to bear’ [Dorothy Rowe, Face to Faith, Guardian 2010] is. This may be physical pain or emotional pain. Emotional pain may be related to things that have happened or a void left by things that have not happened; existential anxiety, as described by Paul Tillich, concern over fate, fulfilment and acceptance within community. Such insight is the beginning of healing.

For further information, and a copy of a sample letter, please visit

Helena Chambers, director Quaker Action on Alcohol and Drugs

Tim James, trustee

Quaker Action on Alcohol and Drugs and a former GP.

the Friend, 24 February 2012