Australia Yearly Meeting 2017 Epistle to Friends everywhere
Ta Marra, open hands
Ta Marra, open hands
Greetings from Australia Yearly Meeting 2017 where we were welcomed to the beautiful lands of the Kaurna people among the sand dunes at Adelaide Shores Beach in a moving dialogue between Kaurna Elders and Friends.
We gathered from meetings across Australia and with overseas Friends; mid-winter sun gracing our days and a full moon our first night. Amid a ‘community of cottages’, our children, young people and adults engaged with each other and the ocean environment, deepening the impact of Earthcare and other like ministries over our week-long program, urging us to make spiritual connections with nature, with one another, and with local First Peoples; while jets overhead from the nearby flight path reminded us of the cost of carbon emissions.
During an all-age meeting for worship the children hosting it asked: ‘How do we care for the earth and for people?’ and many friends reflected on whether they were doing enough. One small boy ministered: ‘I care for the bugs and other people’. Later, fFriends responded to a moving ministry of music by Junior Young Friends. We are deeply concerned at the impacts of climate change and recognise that business as usual is not an option.
Visual presentations by Friends in the Earthcare session on the theme of spirit of place were linked by the spiritual and emotional experience of connection with natural and green spaces. David Carline, elder of the Kooma/Gwamu nation, and his niece Cheryl Buchanan, Aboriginal rights activist and writer, in their Backhouse lecture deepened this idea of connection to country reminding us that for Australia’s First Nations Peoples this goes back tens of thousands of years through their ancestors. David and Cheryl shared stories showing how they have let their lives speak and are using their gifts in the service of their communities. The Earthcare committee also asked fFriends ‘If nature is a conversation, what is it saying?’ Cheryl Buchanan urged us to: ‘Speak to the land. Listen to it. It will heal you.’
From their epistle, we learned Tanzanian Friends were encouraged to ‘embrace the Eagle’s life style, its strength, power, patience, vision, eyesight’. A vision of a powerful Australian bird emerged when Cheryl spoke of the confirmatory welcome to country David Carline received from emus running toward him when he travelled to Kooma/Gwamu country, and of the Emu songline going from there across to the Kimberly and down to South Australia.
YM began with gratitude on hearing that the United Nations treaty to ban nuclear weapons was adopted by 120 countries. However without Australia’s signature, much is still to be done. From two winter schools came an afternoon of peace witness. Bearing messages in support of signing the treaty and explaining the health impacts of war, and a large banner with the words ‘Honour the War Dead by Ending War’, around sixty Quakers walked purposefully and prayerfully to the Adelaide War Memorial.
Australian Friends again felt connected to the wider Quaker community when American Friends’ epistles told of their challenge in responding to white privilege and Ramallah Friends of their continued struggle in this their 50th year under military occupation. With a bag packed full of funeral notices representing the weekly heartache that is common across many Aboriginal families and communities, the Backhouse lecturers spoke of the continuing consequences, injustices and trauma of colonisation.
An encouraging State of the Society address felt the pulse of each Regional Meeting and offered the idea that ‘We need in every community a group of angelic troublemakers’. The Australian Quaker Narrative Embroideries express our history of Spirit-led work and inspire us to continue our rich ‘tapestry’ of practical actions. We worry about our diminishing numbers and too few to fill the roles we have created; but in ministry were reminded that although small in number we are ‘a noisy people’. Despite some early unclear pathways, we see how the Spirit often then seems to call forth energies to work in new ways.
Let there be peace.
Australia Yearly Meeting July 15 2017
Epistle of the Yearly Meeting of Aotearoa New Zealand Te Hāhi Tūhauwiri
Held at El Rancho, Waikanae. 12-15 May 2017 – Tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou katoa.
Wellington Monthly Meeting welcomed 93 Friends to this place at the mouth of the Waikanae River – “the waters of the yellow-eyed mullet”. We acknowledged the iwi (tribes) of this rohe (territory) as well as the more recent settlers. We felt anchored by the sanctuary of Kāpiti Island.
The upholding of Yearly Meeting began with 28 Friends attending the retreat beforehand. The facilitator encouraged us to move from our relationship with ourselves towards our relationship with all at this Yearly Meeting. Every one of us has a role in this upholding process. We are all different and we can learn to recognise, respect and work with these differences. Tenderness towards one another, including recognising the darkness, is not mere kindness. Our Quaker process of spiritual discernment is paramount, and when we are faithful to it, it will lead to a good outcome.
While we sat discerning in Yearly Meeting, we heard that our Friend Ian Upton was continuing on his hīkoi (walk) from Cape Reinga to Parliament in Wellington. He will petition our Government to divert military expenditure to the promotion of the wellbeing of children in Aotearoa.
During our sessions, we were challenged often to put our passion, commitment and spiritual depth into urgent action. We were struck by the underlying connectedness of the key themes, despite their superficial differences.
Tracy Bourne, Australia Yearly Meeting representative, reminded us of our radical spiritual ancestors, for example Elizabeth Fletcher and James Parnell, who at a very young age suffered for speaking their truth. Children need to be valued for themselves and for what we can learn from them, rather than for what they are going to become. Bringing children and young people into the centre is vital. Our Friends of Philippines Evangelical Friends International Ministries, Betty Pulido and Hildegarde Lumabi, inspired us with their passionate commitment to involving children in their churches. The session on nurturing the involvement of younger people in our meetings made it clear that it is time to make progress in accommodating their specific needs, especially the needs of “older young friends” with young children. Young people need to be encouraged and mentored into leadership roles.
We were appalled to hear that current militaristic programmes reach our young people in schools and even involve pre-schoolers. We are led to live and teach another way, a peaceful way. As one Friend put it “Our silence needs to be heard”. The military are also not held accountable for their huge contribution to carbon emissions.
The Futures Committee raised the question of how we can respond to the FWCC Plenary’s call to action on sustainability – what two things can we do practically to support sustainability? We were encouraged by the radical action for transformation, presented by the young people of Generation Zero. They are on the way to presenting a proposed Zero Carbon Act to Parliament, which would require concrete action to eliminate net carbon emissions by 2050, backed up with legal sanctions.
Jane Kelsey gave the Quaker Lecture entitled ‘Transcending Neoliberalism: Moving from a State of Denial to Progressive Transformation’. She spoke of the urgency to take action to mitigate the disastrous changes resulting from neoliberalism. She highlighted the importance of Māori and Quaker values, and the role of audacious young people. We can help to form the ‘critical mass’. Our Meetings for Worship were deep, enriched by spoken ministry, and by the words of Isaac Penington expressed through song; echoed by the steadfast voice of the tui outside. We were reminded to be like our squeaky chairs, persistently nudging our fellow Friends to be active promoters of change. We had an impassioned plea to remain steadfast to our spiritual roots, especially in our outreach and public profile. We need carefully to balance this with challenging people to re-examine their values.
Ministry was given paraphrasing Samoa’s head of state, Tupua Tamasese Tupuola Tufuga Efi ‘I am the family, the family is me. I am the village, the village is me. I am a spiritual being.’ We Friends are a village of spiritual beings. We are not alone.
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.