Britain Yearly Meeting has just concluded for 2018. It was quite exciting for me to hear about – even all the way over here “across the pond”. I’m feeling encouraged to share some of the stories I encountered from that time in two separate posts. There are two threads for me – the preparation and discernment itself (by Quakers), and the more general non-Quaker “controversy” that might have sold some papers and spread some alternate facts. I was most impressed with how much I could share in the process and learn digitally – even remotely!
Part One: Revising Faith and Practice
A major item of business this year for Friends in Britain was the consideration of a Faith and Practice revision. This book of discipline has gone through revisions before, and Friends were clear in the past few years to form the Book of Discipline Revision Preparation Group to consider if it was time again to do so.
“The book is hugely significant. It inspires us in our lives and sets out our structures and procedures for how we work. It is what has kept us thriving as a church and it is the foundation that enables us to run great campaigns, like changing the law around slavery, conscientious objection and marriage.” – Helen Drewery, head of worship and witness for Britain YM
Here’s some information I found helpful in learning more about the process of Friends of Britain Yearly Meeting.
Unity in Diversity – Harry Albright, of the Book of Discipline Revision Preparation Group (Facebook note)
What’s the Question? Reading Quaker Faith and Practice, Yearly Meeting 2018, and books of discipline – Rhiannon Grant (for Woodbrooke)
Revision: Hopes and Fears – Sam Barnett-Cormack (Openings Blog)
The discernment at YM was clear: Friends will embark on a revision process.
Encouraged by the voices of younger Friends among us, we have united joyfully, to embark on a Spirit-led process of revision from much-loved foundations. We know that this will take time and energy. We are clear that we have the resources to undertake this, while continuing our witness in the wider world.
Many voices, experiences and identities are missing from our current book. Since the last revision, our Quaker community and the world around us have changed. We need a book of discipline that reflects more closely who we are now, and explains how and why we do what we do. (Excerpt from Epistle)
Revision: A reaction to the decision – Sam Barnett-Cormack
Quakers in Britain had a web page and questionnaire ready to go! They are now asking for advice and suggestions from YM members electronically. When Friends asked (online) how “shall we do this?” there was already a system in place to begin to gather information to refer them to.
I loved watching this unfold. It seemed to me that Friends who could not attend (within Britain YM) could still participate, hear updates, and feel connected. The discernment still happened in person, as is our practice in Meeting for Worship with attention to business. But to provide so much information as background preparation to so many Friends, seems a very good idea.
Of course, that background information created some controversy and confusion in itself – mostly from non-Friends unfamiliar with our process. Was it still good PR? How did Quakers respond to the challenge of false information and unseasoned internet debate?
My next blog post. It needs its own space.
Thank you to Friends of Britain Yearly Meeting for providing a clear and helpful example of support and digital access, while preserving our tradition of discernment in community.