One of our members attended a very powerful weekend gathering on 26-29 August to discuss Quaker responses to the climate change and ecological emergencies. It was felt important to share concerns with Quakers as widely as possible and a closing epistle was composed and agreed by all attenders. The epistle can be read below.
We are 63 Quakers gathered from across Britain, with a sense of urgency and under concern.
Addressing all Friends, as far as we can reach. We will outline our experience, own our own response, and issue a call to action.
We have heard clearly, with hope and excitement as well as fear and grief, an acute sense that this is an extraordinary time – a time of enormous challenge which can change us profoundly in ways we need to change. It is the great, holy work of our time, it is our privilege to be part of it and we must prepare our spirit for what is coming.
The climate and ecological crisis changes everything.
We value the work which is being done by Yearly Meeting staff and Woodbrooke on climate justice and encourage Friends to participate. We also see clearly that there is a need for grassroots action/response to the climate and ecological crisis in addition to that currently embodied in Yearly Meeting and Woodbrooke structures.
Local and area meetings are aware of the urgency and much is happening, both within Quakerism and beyond. Meeting for Worship isn’t just a place to feel comfortable, but a crucible in which we scrutinize our lives and see how they can be aligned more closely to our faith.
Arising from this gathering we know that there isn’t one right thing to do, the important thing is to do our best, and not give up. We each commit to listen to each other, love and support each other, work and worship together. We will find ways to ground ourselves and heal ourselves, and build resilience and inclusion wherever we can.
We carry forward from this gathering many strands of work, both large and small. We recognise that injustice in the ownership and control of resources raises questions about our entire political and economic system. We commit to work with children and young people; we have a concern to address the current cost-of-living crisis, including offering our meeting houses as warm refuges; we make a commitment to support those taking direct action; we will respond to promptings to work more on food and biodiversity; and we are led to support local communities in becoming carbon neutral, alongside many other ideas and actions.
We believe Faith groups can take a lead which will help the nation listen, and Quakers must play our part in this. We would like to see an Interfaith commitment to climate justice leading up to the next general election so that incoming government is clearly focused on this issue.
The last time Quakerism renewed itself was the 1895 conference which became the basis of 20th century liberal Quakerism. Quakers had to reorientate their faith.
Today, we are a similar position. Rather than evolutionary science tearing up our sense of the past, we hear the prophetic voice of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that is tearing up our sense of the future and ending the notion of the inevitability of growth.
The science and the events it chronicles, together with our increasing awareness of the legacy of extractive colonialism, are once again calling on us to renew our faith. This is the context of our gathering. We open ourselves to this pregnant sense of the present. Quakers and Living Witness can be midwives of the spirit.
The universe is participatory, there are no bystanders. Our commitment to climate justice encourages us to see everything we do as something which is of god or against god. We are called to be whole with creation and act on the Truth which we find.
(6 September 2022)