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How can Quaker communities thrive in 2019?

Nurturing our communities, and being open to the change and challenges this may bring, will support Quakers in Britain this year as we keep working to change the world says Paul Parker.

Photo: Shaun Holloway on Unsplash
Photo: Shaun Holloway on Unsplash

Let's face it, 2019 is probably going to be a challenging year. Continued political uncertainty, the relentless advance of climate change and rising inequality are just a few of the external factors we'll be wrestling with.

Within our Quaker community we'll need to support small and often struggling meetings, examine our diversity and privilege, welcome newcomers, reconcile differences over gender issues, manage our 345 meeting houses and find willing Friends to populate our sometimes over-complex governance structures.

And each of us will face personal challenges too – not just whatever life throws at us in all its joys and sorrows, but the constant challenge of taking heed "to the promptings of love and truth" in our hearts and trusting them "as the leadings of God".

So what does being faithful to these promptings mean in 2019? Where are we led? What is our collective ministry as Quakers in Britain today? How should our national organisation, Britain Yearly Meeting, respond?

Deepening worship

Our Quaker faith is grounded in our worship and witness. These go hand in hand: our experience in meeting for worship gives us the strength to work in the world; our experience in the world draws us back to meeting for worship. And, crucially, our meeting for worship deepens when our Quaker communities thrive.

That's why in 2019 we need to focus on finding ways to nurture our Quaker communities. How can we be more loving, more inclusive? How can we learn together, find new ways of worshipping together, deepen this worship, and welcome more seekers in?

Whatever your Quaker community is like – a Sunday-morning meeting, a young Friends group meeting over supper one evening, a camp or a worship group round the kitchen table – these questions matter.

As I wrote in The Friend before Christmas, that will mean we need to be open to changing how we do things, to simplifying our structures and practices, even as we hold tight to the essence of what it means to be a Quaker.

A basis for action

Thriving Quaker communities give us the strength to change the world, to realise the Kingdom of Heaven here on Earth.

Finding ways to live sustainably today may be our greatest challenge; as inhabitants of the fourth-richest country in the world, with our fossil-fuel dependent economy, we are complicit in the problem.

Is our own privilege blocking us from seeing the way through? What creative ways can we find to challenge governments and businesses to change, while maintaining our integrity by living our own lives in sustainable ways?

The inequality in our world, increasingly driven by climate change, is a major barrier to peace. If we are truly a people who "seek peace, and ensue it, and…follow after righteousness and the knowledge of God, seeking the good and welfare, and doing that which tends to the peace of all" then we have to look at questions of justice, of inequality and the knee-jerk recourse to violence or the threat of it in responding to conflicts.

A source of strength

We have resources for this. As well as our spiritual resilience we are privileged to have money, places, people and a respected voice in the public realm. We should treasure all of these, steward them, and use them well and wisely.

No-one ever said being a Quaker was going to be easy. We're a people of faith who are up for a challenge.

Bring on 2019; let's face its challenges together!

Find out more about Quaker work in the world