2016 Australia Yearly Meeting Epistle
One hundred and eighty-two years ago James Backhouse and George Washington Walker came to Hobart Town with a concern for the just treatment of convicts and Aborigines. This week we have come from all States and Territories of Australia and beyond to meet at The Friends’ School, Hobart.
Winter School asked us:
“How can our faith and action inspire?”
The State of the Society address asked us to consider:
“How has the Spirit moved through me this last year?”
As a Yearly Meeting we face challenges and changes. The most evident this year was the change to a winter YM.
Our Earthcare Committee encouraged us to “walk country” in the manner of of Indigenous People so we can have a sense of belonging and a right relationship with the land. We need to pray/ read/ act/ celebrate the earth to begin the healing process in our “three minutes to midnight” world. An Indigenous Friend acknowledged the importance of right language, but impressed upon us the reality of poor health, despair and suicide in his remote community.
Our Membership is getting older; our children, Junior Young Friends and Young Friends wish to be engaged but face the difficulties of finding their own path. We celebrate the wealth of experience and wisdom in our elders and the freshness and enthusiasm of our Younger Friends. We are enjoined to accommodate both.
Ministry in the all ages Meeting for Worship affirmed our unity in diversity – and diversity in unity – reinforcing the importance of including children, Junior Young Friends and Young Friends in all aspects of the life of our Meetings. Young Friends remind us of our disquiet about Australia’s decisions and policies in our local regions – which have directly affected human rights and freedoms, not only of refugees but also of all of us.
We are reminded in the Backhouse Lecture that the base and the nourishment for our social concerns comes from the inward Light.
Faith in action is evident in the breadth and depth of peace and social justice work done by Australian Friends. We recognise the need for longer-term projects in areas of ongoing concern. We value the links we maintain with Friends in the Asia Pacific Region and the wider world. As always we are enriched by visiting Friends from overseas.
“Everyday prophets” in our midst demonstrate courage and heroic action in answering their leadings. This requires of us willingness to change, and being prepared to go in indirect and unforeseen directions, like the sailor tacking into the wind to move forward.
Isaac Penington said:
“When the life is at any time lost, the only way of recovery is by retiring to the invisible, and keeping there, and growing up there.”
Epistle of the Yearly Meeting of Aotearoa New Zealand Te Hāhi Tūhauwiri
Held at St Cuthbert’s College, Auckland, 15 18 July 2016
Tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou katoa, greetings to Friends everywhere.
Our Yearly Meeting gathering 2016 opened with mihi/greetings, worship and the honouring of our ancestors including the volcanoes that form the land here in Tāmaki Makaurau/Auckland.
What is it to be a Quaker? We talked about how our Yearly Meeting can help us to drink from the stream of Quaker spirituality and learn to become everyday prophets. We are working towards our Yearly Meeting structure strengthening the spiritual life of our local meetings. We have grappled with how to hear the calling to flourish in the ministry and the call to service. We are still threshing how best to apply our resources to living our witness within the wider world, using our heritage to support our activism and our mysticism at all ages. We aim to shift our attention to discernment and spiritual growth while living our social testimonies. What does God require of us?
Our monthly meetings are impassioned to continue our important work of peace-making and acknowledge the needs and concerns of young people in our society. We had the privilege of being joined by our Junior Young Friend’s from their gathering. Along with Young Friends they helped shape our deliberations. Our Quaker lecturer, Marian Hobbs and other speakers inspire us to be faithful in our responsibility to hold ourselves, our leaders and our politicians accountable to the challenges that face our planet and our communities. We need to advocate on issues from disarmament to climate change. We are a community dedicated to equality – how do we speak plainly to meet the challenges of inequality in our own community and worldwide?
We heard from Ōtautahi/Christchurch meeting who continue to move on from the earthquakes five years ago. They have moved into their newly acquired Meeting House and are feeling a fresh energy emerge. Whanganui-a-Tara/Wellington Friends are fundraising for the earthquake strengthening of their Meeting House.
Our developing diversity was woven as a thread through the meeting with regular use of Te Reo, our indigenous language and hearing the successful development of an app to develop parenting skills, initially targeted at the Pacific Island community but available for all families. This was made possible with one of our Quaker Peace and Service Loxley grants.
We sow seeds and we trust that they will blossom in unexpected ways. Often we wonder how effective we are being, but are aware that weaving the fabric of our community relies on organised activities such as gatherings, at the Settlement and elsewhere, as well as fortuitous growth from unexpected meetings, social media and personal journeying.