Author Archives: Suzanne Watts

We have no time but this present time

In its last session, Yearly Meeting agreed a general epistle to be sent to Friends  everywhere. It is published here. By convention the epistle is read in local  meetings on the Sunday following the Yearly Meeting.

Friends House,

173 Euston Road,

London

NW1 2BJ

| T: 020 7663 1000

| E: enquiries@quaker.org.uk www.quaker.org.uk

| Registered charity number 1127633 

We send loving greetings to Friends everywhere 

We have no time but this present time 

Friends in Britain have gathered online at this time of great upheaval, amid the pandemic,  climate and environmental breakdown, and increasing social inequality and division. We  are grateful for technology, and the hard work of Britain Yearly Meeting staff, Agenda and  Arrangements Committees, the Woodbrooke team, and others in bringing us together. 

At this Yearly Meeting Gathering Friends have considered the theme ‘For our comfort  and discomfort: living equality and truth in a time of crisis’. We have been wrestling with  what it will mean to be truly committed to anti-racism and faith-based action for climate  justice. We have thought about how to better affirm gender diversity in our meetings. We  have discovered the challenges of attempting to make statements as a unified ‘we’ in a  way that acknowledges the different experiences among us

We have greatly missed the opportunities of being together as an all-age community that  we would have had in a face-to-face Gathering. We held a worship session during which  the children and young people shared their exploration of community, climate, equality  and truth. Junior Yearly Meeting asked how we could centre justice and equity in our anti racism and climate justice work. Only when all are listened to equally, may all be treated  equally. 

As in the days of early Friends, we sense this is a time of prophecy and want to uphold  the prophets in our midst and in the wider world. We must heed the Spirit’s call to urgent  action. Prophets are visionaries, calling out those in power, and reconcilers stand in the  middle of conflict: in this both run great risk.

A Friend of Colour spoke in ministry: 

All I have ever wanted for the longest time is to feel equal, 

and again, here in this room, I don’t. 

I hear people talk all week about George Floyd but we are here now, in the UK, in your meetings, feeling like outsiders every day. 

This is not the experience I was promised. 

Racism is systemic. To most white people – including white Quakers – it is largely invisible, like the air they breathe. As long as it stays unrecognised, systems and  institutions that perpetuate white power are left unchallenged. Racism and oppression  are often daily realities for those without the advantages conferred by white skin. 

As a Yearly Meeting in session we have declared our commitment to becoming an  actively anti-racist faith community. 

Our theologians and historians are helping us to root our action in our faith, reminding us  of the examples of Friends of the past who have listened to the voice of the Spirit and  followed the inward Light. They challenge the complacency of some white Friends’  perception of themselves as ‘good’ people. 

We have heard trans and non-binary Friends and their loved ones talk about their gender  journeys and of being in Quaker community. Acknowledging trans or non-binary identity  can be compounded by unfamiliarity, ignorance and prejudice. Providing support can  lead to greater self-acceptance, enabling Friends to flourish and contribute. Belonging is  being accepted as one’s true self. Who are we to resist what God has created and  continues to create in all their glory? 

As a Yearly Meeting in session we lovingly acknowledged and affirmed the trans, non binary and gender non-conforming Friends in our communities. 

It is ten years since Britain Yearly Meeting in session committed to becoming a low  carbon, sustainable faith community. Friends across the world have long held a concern  for us to live in right relationship with creation. We grieve for the planet we love – our  home – but we have no time to despair. We must act with urgency and imagination – the  consequences of inaction are upon us. 

For those experiencing injustice, the need for transformation is urgent. We know those  who have contributed least to climate and ecological breakdown are the most affected:  the poor, the global majority, and vulnerable communities everywhere. We recognise and  abhor the legion of violent, deadly impacts of economic and exploitative systems on both  the people, other species and lifeforms, and the body of our Earth. The climate crisis is  fuelled by a system based on growth, consumption and systemic inequalities. If life on  earth is to survive we must push for a more democratic, compassionate and equitable  world. 

Britain Yearly Meeting has asked its central committees to emphasise the urgency of  work on climate and ecological justice and to cooperate with others across the world in  this task. 

Our individual tasks are our Quaker spiritual discipline: loving our neighbour – on our  street and across oceans; and caring, cherishing and protecting our natural world. Let’s  not be self-conscious about speaking of the Quaker faith that underpins our action.

Epistle from Britain Yearly Meeting | August 2021 Quakers in Britain 

Friends have talked about the need to let go of stories we tell ourselves about our shared  near-400-year history and hold fast to the essence of the Quaker way. Is it time to look  afresh at systems, structures, processes and procedures – and possessions like meeting  houses that might hold us back? We’re already starting to address this by agreeing to  change some committee responsibilities next year, and through our Simpler Meetings  project. 

Our Quaker forebears were wild about their faith. And they challenged the establishment.  Suggesting that anyone could have a direct, unmediated relationship with the Divine, and  that our relationship with God should not be confined to the steeple house, was  revolutionary and upended the status quo. Is it time to rewild our Quakerism? 

We will often get things wrong. But we have been comforted by the reminder that Jesus’  disciples often did not understand, they argued with him about who he was and what he  should do. When Jesus said, ‘Feed these five thousand’, they said, ‘you must be joking?!’  When it got to the really difficult stuff, they ran away. 

Faithfulness is not about always getting it right, it is about committing ourselves to  carefully seeing and listening. We need to walk together in the Light, so we can see what  we are meant to do and find the strength to do it. 

We have been heartened to hear through their epistles that other Yearly Meetings and faith bodies are grappling with the same issues. It is vital we work alongside and be led  by Friends and others across the world. We do not have to do things on our own and have learned the value of sharing our skills, resources and insights with each other. We  have enjoyed welcoming international and ecumenical visitors, exploring with them  common areas of concern. One of the things we have gained through the pandemic is  new ways to meet with one another, so that we are no longer limited by geography. 

We can meet one another on kinder ground, in our personal relationships, meetings,  wider communities, and on social media. We can help create listening spaces using our  skills and resources. We can help create a climate where the pursuit of truth is not about becoming dug into our rigid positions. 

We need to quietly listen, and tenderly explore difference, disagreement and areas of  discomfort, and thereby avoid a false peace. A commitment to truth requires us to be  open to new experiences with a readiness to learn, while weighing up what we hear and  see through the light of our faith. 

There is so much to do but we have been inspired by the prophetic voices we have heard  throughout our Gathering. We have pledged ourselves to continue to be a ‘gentle, angry’  people who dare to live for truth and justice in such a time of crisis. 

Our Salter Lecturer told us ‘I didn’t choose politics, politics chose me’. She asked us:  what work is choosing us at this time? 

Friends, we have no time but this present time. We should now do what love requires of  us. 

Signed in and on behalf of Britain Yearly Meeting 

Clare Scott Booth, Clerk

Comments Off on We have no time but this present time

Filed under News, Woodlands and Climate Justice

Woodlands for all update

Our Woodlands for All project is continuing to grow.  At a steering meeting the week after our public event, which took place on 22 April on Zoom our agreed actions were .

  1. Organise group knowledge sharing and research around understanding the Dacorum Local Strategic Plan
  2. Work on mapping Hemel Hempstead’s existing woodland and tree cover 
  3. Decide on specifics of approach and key points to raise with Dacorum Council when our next meeting is arranged

We have made significant progress on point two and are about to launch a new website, called Woodland Towns  designed by group member Sherief Hassan, and Hemel Quakers clerk, Mermie Karger

We are contacting everyone who was involved up til now to get involved in a project to map woodlands, and the development areas immediately being targeted by Property Developers around Dacorum and the that of the local plan which aims to build 30,000 plus houses around Hemel alone.

There will be a series of meetings on Zoom on Thursday nights at 8.00 pm to prepare the website for a launch during big Green Week . This is a massive feat of organisation if it can be done. If you would like to help us and get involved in  the mapping project email : woodlandsforall @woodlandtowns.org.uk

This is a fun project and volunteers can spend as much or as little time as they like on mapping, but beware, as Mermie says “Its addictive”!

Comments Off on Woodlands for all update

Filed under Uncategorised

Our Woodlands Project Starts to Branch Out

Woodlands for all infographic

The story of our Hope for the Future event, 22 April 2021. Infographic by Rebecca Roberts, Enviro- visuals

Our Zoom event of 22 April 2021,   ‘Woodlands for All: Is it time for Hemel Hempstead to branch out’  can now be viewed online: 

Speakers

Attendees

  • Hemel Hempstead MP Sir Mike Penning,
  • Representatives of the Hertfordshire County,  Dacorum Borough Councils
  • 40+ concerned local residents.

Hosted by Emma Stevens,  Hope for the Future 

We have committed to work together in our joint enterprise.  Our next actions were agreed at a steering meeting the week after the event

  1. Organise group knowledge sharing and research around understanding the Dacorum Local Strategic Plan
  2. Work on mapping Hemel Hempstead’s existing woodland and tree cover 
  3. Decide on specifics of approach and key points to raise with Dacorum Council when our next meeting is arranged

We are grateful for the support and expertise of the team of talented and dedicated young people at the Hope for the Future charity.

This movement was inspired by Colin Cartwright , minister at the Carey Baptist eco – Church, who approached us to partner with him, following our Climate Justice seminar for local people in September 2020.

2021 marks 10 years of Quakers’ Canterbury Commitment to take action to become a low carbon, sustainable community.

Woodlands for All logoKeep our town a healthy and desirable place to live and work

 

Comments Off on Our Woodlands Project Starts to Branch Out

Filed under News

Rebelling for Climate Justice

Sue Hampton, Quaker climate change protester from Berkhamsted,  caused some ‘good trouble’ in Harpenden this  weekend.  This is what happened when she did a sit down protest. Read her story on her blog.

Author Sue’s book about her experiences as a Quaker in the Extinction Rebellion movement is her best-seller. You can order Rebelling for Life off her website: 

Quakers are committed to become a low carbon community. Because of this, we are taking action for climate justice and the economic transformation needed to achieve it.

Find out what that means on the British Quakers website.

 

 

 

 

Comments Off on Rebelling for Climate Justice

Filed under Uncategorised

Guest blog: Thirty Years a Polluter

We are delighted to host this guest contribution from Colin Cartwright, partner in our Woodlands for All environmental lobby project.
Colin is a minister at Carey Baptist Church in Hemel Hempstead.

A short, personal reflection for your thoughts and prayers and discussion. 

Thirty years a polluter. Yes, that’s me. Just the other day I realised that it’s 30 years since I learned to drive. Despite being an obsessive cyclist for most of that time and despite the fact that I haven’t needed to commute in a car to work, 30 years of driving round a petrol-driven combustion engine every week, must add up to a lot of polluting. Carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, hydrocarbons, nitrogen oxides, as well as carcinogenic particulates. Which is why I want to make the next 30 years look a lot different.

My hope is that 2020 is a ‘turning point’ year. It was a year when I started to undertake a journey of ecological repentance, in order to ‘redeem’ the last 30 years and to live in a more sustainable way for our planet. For starters, I am looking at replacing my existing car with a more environmentally friendly one. But I also want to be responsible for planting and growing one new tree, in a sustainable way that is appropriate for the environment, every year that I am on this planet.

Going beyond my own personal responsibility, I want to encourage those around me to take similar steps. And what would be most desirable would be to encourage Carey collectively to engage with drawing up a positive strategy, perhaps called: ‘renewing our community with God’s creation for the future’. This would help to generate much-needed new leadership in the church, by the church showing leadership about our environment. This might involve, for example, re-configuring our church buildings so that they are more energy efficient and at the very least, carbon neutral. Perhaps Carey might also partner with a local nature reserve or with a wildlife trust. However, the details of this new strategy will require a lot of further thought & discussion.

There are a whole number of things we have learned from this coronavirus crisis. But it has certainly shown us that:

  • 1) Together we can take drastic steps for the global good when needed.
  • 2) Humanity cannot just ‘revert to type’ after the pandemic. That way leads to mass extinction for many other species and ours as well.
  • 3) The natural world which we are part of, continues to astound us and we can learn so much from engaging positively with it.

I pray that our Creator and Saviour God will show us the way of life and lead us to build a new future together. And I look forward, once you have had time to think about all this, to hearing your reflections and to discussing this in depth, as we continue to emerge from this pandemic.

Colin Cartwright,  Carey Baptist Eco-Church 

Comments Off on Guest blog: Thirty Years a Polluter

Filed under News

Woodlands for All Lobby Training Update

 

On 25 January our first Woodlands for All Lobbying training took place. We learned all about non-violent ways of talking to our local MP about the things that we care about and affect us deeply. Following the session, we are formulating some simple questions to ask our MP, Sir Mike Penning. We want him to act in defence of trees and to support forestation  –  an effective action against climate change, for a healthier and more beautiful environment.

Our steering group is supported by members of the Dacorum Environmental Forum, Friends of Halsey Field, Dacorum Interfaith Network, and Carey Baptist eco-Church. We invite local people to get involved who are passionate about woodlands and what they do for us. Our lobby will include speakers on the importance of planting more trees in Hemel Hempstead and conserving the woodland we have for future generations. We are presenting evidence of the role of trees in combatting climate change and air pollution and the ways trees help the mental and physical health of residents of our town.

How you can get involved  

You can attend one of our monthly training and planning sessions,  through which you will be able to join a 1 hour online meeting with Mike Penning in April 2021.

Training  – Next session 3.00 – 3.45 pm 23 February

All our online training sessions are being provided by ecological lobbying charity, Hope For The Future

To join the group,  please contact Suzanne Watts, event organiser at HemelQuakerClerk @ gmail.com

Comments Off on Woodlands for All Lobby Training Update

Filed under Events, News

Hemel Quakers Celebrate the Light with other Faiths and Denominations

Light…

Mermie Karger is a member of Hemel Hempstead Local Quaker Meeting. She took photos of the countryside around Hemel Hempstead and edited this video for sharing with the Dacorum Interfaith Network’s end of year celebration held on Zoom in December 2020.

In the manner of Quaker silent worship, the video proceeds slowly, allowing reflection.

 

These are the spoken words:

We celebrate the Light which is sacred in all people ~ God, the light within, a universal goodness, love.

We worship in silence, listening to that Light within each of us, sometimes spoken, often not.

Our belief that the light of love is at the centre of existence, that all human life is of equal worth, and that each person is unique leads Quakers to ‘live in the virtue of that life and power that takes away the occasion of all wars.

Our belief that everyone is equal inspires us to try to change the systems that cause injustice and that stop us being genuine communities.

Living according to the deepest truths of the light of love means speaking the truth at all times. As we are guided by integrity, so we expect to see it in public life.

The light of love is in the Earth and all of its creatures. We campaign for climate and energy justice, and for an economy that is clean and fair to all. The light of love means living simply and celebrating what really matters: the people around us, the natural world, our experience of stillness.

We are the Light of the world and our role is to touch the world with that Light.

…and sound

At our Christmas meeting for worship on 20 December we listened to a beautiful recording ‘The mystery of Christmas’, narrated by Jane Levy. Thanks to our Friend, Jonathan Kempster, who produced this for churches around Berkhamsted. It can be enjoyed here:

 

Comments Off on Hemel Quakers Celebrate the Light with other Faiths and Denominations

Filed under Uncategorised

NEW DATE: The Climate Emergency in Dacorum – How You Can Speak Truth to Power

17 September 2020 

6.30 pm 

Online by Zoom  

Hemel Hempstead Quakers are holding our first ever online workshop to help build skills to advocate for climate justice. 

We’ll be talking about local government structures and what we can do to get elected representatives to act quicker on the declared Climate Emergency. 

The leader of the workshop will be Rebecca Woo

Rebecca is Campaigns and Advocacy Co-ordinator for Quaker Peace and Social Witness. As a lawyer and campaigner for climate and social justice, her role is to deliver expertise to local Quakers and help build skills in advocacy and lobbying in their communities. 

Why are Quakers holding this event for free? 

Quakers are working to build an energy and economic system that has equality, justice and sustainability at its heart. Find out more here:  https://www.quaker.org.uk/our-work/sustainability/climate-justice-1

 The workshop will be held on Zoom on 17 September 2020, 6.30 pm to 9.30 pm 

Register in advance for this meeting:

You are invited to a Zoom meeting.
When: Sep 17, 2020 06:30 PM London

Register in advance for this meeting:
https://us02web.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZAlce2opjwiEtUGA3Qh5haoOrGO8s_h_iZw

After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the meeting.

For more information contact us.

Comments Off on NEW DATE: The Climate Emergency in Dacorum – How You Can Speak Truth to Power

Filed under Events, News

What Love Requires

Westminster Magistrates court fined Berkhamsted Quaker, Sue Hampton,  £105 on Monday 28 October.

Sue had been arrested at the Extinction Rebellion at Trafalgar Square where she had taken the brave decision to glue her hand to a wooden tower. Risking her health, Sue remained glued for 21 hours, until she was arrested.

 

Comments Off on What Love Requires

Filed under News

People Not Borders – a local charity for refugee support

I am me picture book - quilted heart and wordsFront cover of Sue Hampton’s ‘I Am Me’, a picture book sold to support young refugees, illustrated by Hemel Hempstead artist, Paula Watkins.Our charity for May and June will be People Not Borders, one of whose Trustees, Sue Hampton of Berkhamsted Quaker meeting, will address the meeting briefly on 19th May to inform us about the charity’s work. Find out more about the latest appeals for support for refugees. https://www.peoplenotborders.org/appeals

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Comments Off on People Not Borders – a local charity for refugee support

Filed under Uncategorised