Every year I ponder what the theme will be for the new Contribution pack – the annual fundraising appeal of Quakers in Britain. I think about what's going on in the world, the economy, or, from a more personal viewpoint, whether I want it to be hopeful, to convey a story, or be inspirational.
In a fast-paced world dominated by social media, building community is for me about creating connections, sharing stories, offering support, and an overall sense of belonging.
What inspired me to choose this theme, and why now?
Some time ago I came across the beautiful South African philosophy of 'Ubuntu'. It encapsulates this sentiment that we are all bound together in ways that can be invisible to the eye – that there is a oneness to humanity achieved by sharing ourselves with others and caring for those around us.
Community is a bedrock of the Quaker faith:
How can we make the meeting a community in which each person is accepted and nurtured, and strangers are welcome? Seek to know one another in the things which are eternal, bear the burden of each other's failings and pray for one another.
- Advices & queries 18
The case studies chosen for this year's Contribution pack show how so much of our work is rooted in community-building. One of these case studies – about our grant-giving programme – really spoke to me. To give you an idea of the difference your giving makes to Quakers in need of support, my colleague Ann Pfeiffer will now delve into this area of work:
The circle of giving and receiving
We often ask Quakers for support. This could be in the form of time – service on groups and committees – or money – regular or one-off donations, or gifts in wills. What we don't talk about so much is the support we offer to Quakers. We might give to Friends facing hardship, to meetings acting on a concern, or to young adult Friends putting their faith into action.
As Grants Programme Officer, I see firsthand how we strive to support all Quakers who ask us for help. I regard this support as the counterpart to our requests for contributions and other financial donations from Friends.
For me, this is all part of the extended circle of giving and receiving that's an enduring feature of our Quaker community. It's a circle that extends through time, with Quakers today benefitting from the gifts and donations made by Quakers in the past, sometimes centuries ago.
We administer funds that were set up by Quakers to address specific needs – study assistance, start-up grants for Friends looking to set up in business, or help for "women in necessitous circumstances". And there are funds drawn from donations made by many different Friends, like the fund that provides bursaries to help Friends attend Yearly Meeting.
This giving comes full circle when we see the beneficiaries of funding 'return the favour'. For example, some Friends who have benefitted from an Adult Education grant donate the amount they received back to the fund. They want others to benefit from the same support they were given. Others set up a donation to a specific fund or area of work they've taken an interest in or feel led to support. All of this ensures that help can be planned and delivered as needed to those who ask us for assistance.
Today's circle of giving and receiving reaches well into the future too, providing funding for Friends in the months, years and decades to come. Every donation made and every grant applied for builds and strengthens our Quaker community. We don't know what sort of world future Friends will inherit, but thanks to the community of Quakers past and present, we do know there will be support for them to call on.
Our new Contribution pack features just some of the exciting projects that focus on building Quaker community. This work is discerned and supported by Quakers across Britain, allowing us to take it forward on their behalf.