The Friend - 27 April 2007

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Letters All views expressed are those of the writer and not necessarily those of The Friend

Queries for a long-time Attender I am grateful for Michael Oppenheim’s open and stimulating explanation of why he remains an attender (23 March). But has he repeatedly discussed these things over the years with elders (as Janet Gilbraith (6 April) suggests) and with other seasoned Friends? If so, I would have expected a more flexible understanding of Christianity and of the Society’s relationship to it. On whether God talks to us directly, and on the nature of inspiration, I commend William Littleboy’s 20-page classic The Appeal of Quakerism to the Non-mystic, and notably his thoughts in section 82 of Christian Faith and Practice (1960). All my life I have been deaf: deaf to the voice of God, in the meeting for worship or anywhere else; but convinced, after listening to Friends and talking with them, that it’s a matter of my deafness, not their delusion. People born blind take on trust that the world they do not see can be seen; I take on trust that God’s voice, which I do not hear, can be heard. Littleboy’s words have been invaluable to me. Has Michael read them yet? Alan Russell Cheshire MM

There are probably as many answers to Janet Galbraiths’s question (6 April) ;Why are you a longtime attender?’, as there are long-time attenders! Certainly my own reasons differ from those already aired. I have resisted becoming a member because of the procedure whereby one does this. Over the 20+ years of my attendership, whenever the issue has arisen, I have explained that as long as the decision to become a member rests, finally, with those already members, then there is a degree of exclusivity to the Society which I cannot, in conscience, embrace. Recently the Society has begun to experiment with the patterns of application/visits etc. but ultimately it is still the Monthly Meeting which decides who shall join it. Had it been otherwise, I would probably have joined long ago. In 1995 a correspondent to The Friend (John Gillie, 11 August 1995) suggested that once a year a book be available at Meeting and everyone who considered themselves a member of the Meeting whould sign their name. This seems to me an admirable solution, answering as it does the demands of equality, simplicity and integrity. Jan Lethbridge Carse of Ae Cottage, Lochmaben, Lockerbie, DG11 1SE


After attending my local Meeting for five years I felt ready to make the commitment of membership. I applied and was accepted. That was thirty-one years ago. I have enjoyed working and worshipping with Friends ever since. I am still an ‘agnostic Quaker’ – I was an agnostic when I attended my fist Meeting – although I find ‘God’ difficult, but accept it is a useful term for the many varying shades of belief amongst Quakers. I do accept however, that ‘there is a spirit which delights to do no evil’, but that does not necessitate the acceptance of an omnipotent God. The Bible, that great literary treasure, proclaims, ‘by their works ye shall know them’ and again George Fox’s exhortation to ‘let your lives speak’. Is not this too what our Quaker Testimonies teach us? Is it not the message of Jesus, whom I cannot consider divine but a great prophet? Furthermore Quakers do not believe we are born sinful, therefore there is no need to regard Jesus as a redeemer, to save us from our sins. I see no reason, nor would I wish, Quakers to renounce their Christian origins. It is I feel a healthy sign, an occasion for rejoicing, that the Society has accepted change, which is essential for growth. This is why it has existed into the twenty-first century. Although our membership may be declining, an increasing number seem to be finding the peace and support of Quaker community and worship what they are looking for whether they be Christian of some other faith or none. Isn’t that alone cause for hope and celebration? Joyce Preddle Alton, Hants.

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Climate change During a discussion group at Junior Yearly Meeting (JYM 2007) we addressed the issues of climate change and what can be done about it. In the second of two workshops we were inspired by the information and ideas of Laurie Michaelis about our responsibilities on various scales. For example we were shocked to discover that the CO 2 emissions for the approximately 190 people at JYM in travelling to and from the event was 5.6 tonnes – equivalent to the average produced by four people in India in a year! The scientific evidence for human contribution to climate change seems to be debatable, with science always having a degree of opinion for either side, however we felt that our western lifestyle is not sustainable and that action should be taken regardless of this debate. We suggested that the best way to combat this was to commit to change in ourselves in the hope of influencing change in others. It is far too easy to blame the powers in our society which are hard to change rather than accept our personal responsibility. This issue tied in with our theme of ‘Diversity: a cause of conflict, a cause for celebration’ as individuals we all have different and equally important was of contributing to a positive change. Something we felt necessary was to improve the image of environmentalism particularly among young people. Whilst at JYM this didn’t seem to be a problem, in the wider community it will be important to feel empowered by the shared attitudes of our workshop group. As one of the speakers Deepak Naik said, quoting the words of Gandhi, we should ‘be the change you wish to see in the world’. JYM 2007 Treading Lightly Workshop group

Conscientious objection In the past two months a Turkish conscientious objector, Halil Savda, has been sentenced twice for refusing to be a soldier. On 15 March this year he was sentenced to 15.5 months imprisonment for desertion and disobeying orders, and on 12 April he was sentenced again to a further six months for disobeying orders, making a total of 21.5 months. He will not be free even when he has completed these sentences. These judgments go against the principles of the UN and the European Court of Human Rights, both in not recognising the right to conscientious objection and in repeating a punishment for the same so-called offence. War Resisters International and the European Bureau for Conscientious Objection are doing what they can to make this case known and to protest to the Turkish authorities. Tim Brown 33 Windsor Road, Cambridge CB4 3JJ

Quaker Quest works I was glad to read Mary Hopkins article about Quaker Quest in Leicester. Poole Meeting is half way through our first cycle and after many differing previous attempts at outreach, we are already delighted by what is happening in our meeting. We have become more deeply gathered as a meeting in our preparation, with more study groups, largely on the series Twelve Quakers and...’ as well as an open-ended series of ‘How I came to be me’, when Friends share their spiritual journeys, all part of learning how to express our spiritual lives more clearly. After eighteen months of preparation, when we actually began Quaker Quest for real this month, 1000 leaflets, 100 posters later, we felt we had come a long way. We were thrilled therefore that fourteen newcomers arrived on our first evening, twenty on the second, almost all never having entered a Quaker Meeting before. We’ve never had such a response to an outreach event. The evenings have been light and deep at the same time, with enquirers asking lots of relevant questions, several having received information packs from Friends House in recent months, so with a serious interest about Quakers. An encouraging experience all round! Richard Bush 2 Grove Road, Wimborne, Dorset BH21 1BW

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