On Tuesday 4 June Donald Trump will be visiting Britain for a state visit. To mark the occasion, hundreds of thousands of people will take to the streets to show that we reject the misogny, racism and climate denialism that he is a manifestation of.
Quaker socialists will meet at 11am by the steps of St Martins in the Fields church, near Trafalgar Square. It’s likely we’ll be there until around 12 before joining in with the wider movement. Look out for the Quaker Socialist Society banner.
We recommend bringing a drink, snack, suncream and hat (just in case). There is a co-op nearby, and there is a coffee shop (with toilets) in the crypt of the church.
We are not organising a Quaker Meeting for Worship this time, but if you need some quiet time, Westminster Friends Meeting House (3-5 minute walk) has its regular Tuesday Meeting for Worship from 13.00 – 13.30, see https://westminsterquakers.org.uk/ . There are also toilets there.
The Fellowship of Reconciiation and Peace Pledge Union will be meeting at the same location as us, and we are happy to be amongst friends.
The Quaker Socialist Society and Brighton Quakers extend a welcome all visitors to and residents of the Brighton area on 22 September.
Whether you are attending Labour Party Conference or not, you are invited to join us in stillness in a Meeting for Worship at 10.30am on Sunday morning at the Friends Meeting House, Ship Street, BN1 1AF, at 10.30am followed by refreshments and a lunch at 12 noon. Everybody is welcome.
The Quaker Socialist Society provides fellowship and a forum for people who believe that political affairs are an essential part of Quaker life. We stand for ethical socialism, social justice and a fair, safe and peaceful world. We are not politically partisan.
This is the first time we have helped organised a Quaker Meeting during a party conference, and if it goes well it opens the possibility of organising others with other parties.
If this will be your first time at a Quaker Meeting, you might find the below video helpful, made by QuakerSpeak – a project of Friends Journal in the USA.
What we learnt when we posted Quaker Faith and Practice quotes on social media
Last year it was decided that Quaker Faith and Practice – the anthology of Quaker spirituality – would be revised beginning in 2019. There’s a substantial section in the middle of the book on social action in which Quaker Socialists take a special interest. So to start preparing our contribution to the process we tried posting a passage every day to the Quaker Socialist Society Facebook page along with a picture, to see what would happen.
There’s a difference between social media interactions and traditional Quaker discernment. Nevertheless, part of our politics is also based on participation. With around 1000 followers of the Quaker Socialist page, we were interested in what we’d learn by freely inviting people to ‘like’, comment or discuss in an open way. As it turned out we learnt a huge amount. Here are some of the headlines:
There’s a lot of it
It took us from the start of the year to the middle of April to get through a single chapter (and it’s a 29 chapter book!). Interest dipped at times, and long verbose sections got very little traction at all. The length is potentially a problem if the book is to become something that a reader might peruse before coming to their first Quaker Meeting.
We could be much more feminist than this
The most popular three quotes by individuals (rather than
groups) are all by women: namely Ursula Franklin, Elizabeth Fry and Eva
Pinthus. Nevertheless, despite being the chapter that explores women’s rights,
only one in three contributors to the chapter is a woman, and in the first 30
entries only two women are featured at all. To make matters worse, too much of
the language of the male writers suffers from being gendered.
For a faith group that is majority female and has a long association with feminism, we can do much better than this, and this revision is an opportunity to do so.
We need to address white privilege
Despite several passages about racism and privilege, and a section on the Quakers’ anti-slavery activism, as far as we know there are no quotes by non-white individuals at all in this chapter. In the context of live conversations about power and privilege in Britain Yearly Meeting, including whose voices are heard and whose voices aren’t, this must be an urgent wake-up call, through the revision process and beyond. We can do much much better than this.
In fact we need to address privilege in general
Many of the contributions on poverty and unemployment come from those who seem to be richer, that exclude by implication some readers who are not. Although Quakers are known for philanthropy, many well meaning passages have not aged well, attracting such descriptions as ‘condescending’, ‘patronising’, and in some cases, even ‘uninformed’. This revision again offers a chance for reflection, and amending those sections that don’t represent who we would like to be.
We still love the classics
Our book is improvable – which is why we’ve decided to improve it. Even whilst acknowledging the problems though – for example of gendered language – some parts of it remain well loved classics.
The top ten most ‘liked’ quotations are listed here.
For 103 days, we posted the whole of the ‘social responsibility’ section of Quaker Faith and Practice on social media, inviting you to like and comment. Now we’ve had chance to go through and compare, we can reveal the most popular ten quotes:
In 2018 it was decided that Quaker Faith and Practice – the anthology of Quaker spirituality – would be revised beginning in 2019. There’s a substantial section in the middle of the book on social responsibility in which Quaker Socialists take a special interest. So to start preparing our contribution to the process we tried posting a passage every day to the Quaker Socialist Society Facebook page along with a picture, to see what would happen.
Obviously there’s a difference between social media interactions and traditional Quaker discernment. Nevertheless, part of our politics is also based on participation. With around 1000 followers of the Quaker Socialist page, we were interested in what we’d learn by freely inviting people to ‘like’, comment or discuss in an open way.
To start us off – here are the Quaker Faith and Practice quotes that were most liked on the subject of social responsibility: –
“I have never lost the enjoyment of sitting in silence at the beginning of meeting, knowing that everything can happen, knowing the joy of utmost surprise; feeling that nothing is pre-ordained, nothing is set, all is open. The light can come from all sides. The joy of experiencing the Light in a completely different way than one has thought it would come is one of the greatest gifts that Friends’ meeting for worship has brought me.
I believe that meeting for worship has brought the same awareness to all who have seen and understood the message that everyone is equal in the sight of God, that everybody has the capacity to be the vessel of God’s word. There is nothing that age, experience and status can do to prejudge where and how the Light will appear. This awareness – the religious equality of each and every one – is central to Friends. Early Friends understood this and at the same time they fully accepted the inseparable unity of life, and spoke against the setting apart of the secular and the sacred. It was thus inevitable that religious equality would be translated into the equality of everyday social behaviour. Friends’ testimony to plain speech and plain dress was both a testimony of religious equality and a testimony of the unacceptability of all other forms of inequality.” – Ursula Franklin, 1979
“It is the sense of this meeting, that the importing of negroes from their native country and relations by Friends, is not a commendable nor allowed practice, and is therefore censured by this meeting.” – Yearly Meeting in London, 1727
“Much depends on the spirit in which the visitor enters upon her work. It must be in the spirit, not of judgment, but of mercy. She must not say in her heart I am more holy than thou, but must rather keep in perpetual remembrance that ‘all have sinned and come short of the Glory of God’.” – Elizabeth Fry, 1827
“The duty of the Society of Friends is to be the voice of the oppressed but [also] to be conscious that we ourselves are part of that oppression. Uncomfortably we stand with one foot in the kingdom of this world and with the other in the Eternal Kingdom.” – Eva I Pinthus, 1987
“Much of current philanthropical effort is directed to remedying the more superficial manifestations of weakness and evil, while little thought or effort is directed to search out their underlying causes. The soup kitchen in York never has difficulty in obtaining financial aid, but an enquiry into the extent and causes of poverty would enlist little support.” – Joseph Rowntree, 1904
6. “Then I came to Waltham and established a school there for the teaching of boys, and ordered a women’s school to be set up at Shacklewell to instruct young lasses and maidens in whatsoever things were civil and useful in the creation.” – George Fox, 1668
“True godliness doesn’t turn men out of the world, but enables them to live better in it, and excites their endeavours to mend it… Christians should keep the helm and guide the vessel to its port; not meanly steal out at the stern of the world and leave those that are in it without a pilot to be driven by the fury of evil times upon the rock or sand of ruin.” – William Penn, 1682
“The word ‘testimony’ is used by Quakers to describe a witness to the living truth within the human heart as it is acted out in everyday life. It is not a form of words, but a mode of life based on the realisation that there is that of God in everybody, that all human beings are equal, that all life is interconnected.
It is affirmative but may lead to action that runs counter to certain practices currently accepted in society at large. Hence a pro-peace stance may become an anti-war protest, and a witness to the sacredness of human life may lead to protests against capital punishment.
These testimonies reflect the corporate beliefs of the Society, however much individual Quakers may interpret them differently according to their own light. They are not optional extras, but fruits that grow from the very tree of faith.” – Harvey Gillman 1988
“I think I have wasted a great deal of my life waiting to be called to some great mission which would change the world. I have looked for important social movements. I have wanted to make a big and important contribution to the causes I believe in. I think I have been too ready to reject the genuine leadings I have been given as being matters of little consequence. It has taken me a long time to learn that obedience means doing what we are called to do even if it seems pointless or unimportant or even silly. The great social movements of our time may well be part of our calling. The ideals of peace and justice and equality which are part of our religious tradition are often the focus of debate. But we cannot simply immerse ourselves in these activities. We need to develop our own unique social witness, in obedience to God. We need to listen to the gentle whispers which will tell us how we can bring our lives into greater harmony with heaven.” – Deborah Haines, 1978
We are all the poorer for the crushing of one man, since the dimming of the Light anywhere darkens us all” – Michale Sorensen, 1986
Catherine West MP will deliver the Quaker Socialist Society Salter Lecture 2019, at 12.30 on Friday, May 24, at the start of Yearly Meeting at Friends House, London.
The title of the Salter Lecture this year will be ‘Solutions for a Divided Society’ and it will be delivered by Catherine West, the Labour MP for Hornsey and Wood Green.
At a time when, after nine years of severe austerity, British society has become polarised not only between rich and poor but also between the socially disenfranchised and the metropolitan elites, Catherine will examine from a Quaker Socialist perspective the problems austerity has left us, and offer her own distinctive solutions.
Past Salter Lecturers have included Molly Scott Cato MEP, tax justice pioneer Richard Murphy and socialist campaigner and writer Tony Benn. This year’s lecture will be introduced by Haifa Rashed.
To attend, visit the Yearly Meeting website. Although attendees at Yearly Meeting are usually either members or attenders of the Society of Friends (Quakers) you do not need to be a Quaker to attend the Salter Lecture.