Sunday, September 18, 2016

same journey, many paths

Many have returned home from Yearly Meeting enthused and invigorated by the move to spend the coming months focusing on Spiritual Nurture and Outreach. We have much to offer that is different from other churches. Rather than having a set creed we see ourselves as on a journey, seeking as did those early Friends, a spiritual path, together. But that doesn't mean it is the same path for all—often it feels more like a scribble than a linear progression. With the nurturing fellowship of other Friends to hold us in the Light as we worship together we find our way forward.

Our social testimonies’ was a common response when Friends were asked what is it they want people to associate with the word Quaker. One of those testimonies is sustainability. As with our faith, our journeys vary considerably, we have no creed here either.

That we need to act is not in doubt, and we need to act to the best of our abilities, in whatever form that may take. For some that may be avoiding non-recyclable plastics or air travel, only buying secondhand clothes or locally sourced food.

There is no one size fits all answer, what is important is that we are on the journey, supporting each other and celebrating our progress as we work together towards a common goal.

In this time of spiritual nurture, I hope we can remember the words of Isaac Penington: Our life is love, and peace, and tenderness; and bearing one with another, and forgiving one another, and not laying accusations one against another; but praying one for another, and helping one another up with a tender hand.”

Editorial for Aotearoa New Zealand Friends Newsletter, Sept 2016

I normally have to have my arm twisted rather hard to write the editorial for the Newsletter, but this time I volunteered. I was getting rather fed up of the tone of various articles we'd received over the last year or so that were busy telling Friends what they 'ought' to be doing to tackle climate change. Maybe it is because of the work I'd been doing getting unrealistic/irrational 'oughts' out of my own life that it hit a nerve so strongly, but also if there's one thing that has been guaranteed to put my back up for decades it is being told how I 'should' live my life.

I obviously wasn't alone in feeling somewhat put out either, and to me there's something very wrong when Friends feel vilified for not buying in to someone else's pet 'cure' when it is glaringly obvious that there isn't a magical panacea that will solve all the problems and each of the solutions creates or exacerbates other issues which may in some cases prove to be more problematic down the line.

If we required all our members (and presumably attenders too) to adhere to every one of the 'solutions' put forward we might as well give up now on restructuring our Yearly Meeting as there'll be no-one left. Not even the most ardent campaigners, as none of them can incorporate all of the lifestyle 'requirements' being pedaled, well not and continue to live comfortable lives connected to the rest of the outside world and I've yet to see any evidence of anyone giving that up to such an extent. 

I'm pretty sure we don't want to revert to the days when Friends got disowned for breaking certain expectations, and we'd be hard pushed to find anyone with enough moral high ground to stand on to enforce such if we did. There are enough things in the world aimed at guilt tripping us into striving for unachievable, and often undesirable 'ideals', most of which are fairly superficial in the greater scheme of things. Dealing with climate change is a much bigger issue than fashion, body shape, the latest game craze etc, so don't put people off engaging with doing what they can by setting it out in the same way as a list of things the cool kids are doing and if you don't you are substandard, lacking, or unworthy... 

Surely it would be better to foster a supportive environment where folk feel encouraged to question, query and explore the issues and possible solutions together. We can share stories of our successes, and failures, in a way that inspires others to follow and try to reduce their own environmental impact, rather than leave them feeling inadequate and chastised. Make it manageable, like the 'Less Stuff' Facebook group I'm in that encourages people to tackle the clutter in their lives 5 things, and/or 5 minutes at a time. Lisa has a great website with all the prompts and worksheets on, but it is being part of a sharing virtual community that is willing to be vulnerable and share our 'before' photos as well as our 'after' ones, and acknowledge to ourselves and remind each other that we each have different factors limiting our capacities to be 'perfect' (whatever that might be!) that keeps many of us chipping away at the task. As someone said recently it's nice to have the warmth and support of the group when no-one around them would appreciate their efforts!

In the Quaker Lecture at Yearly Meeting this year Marion Hobbs spoke of wanting to start a blog for sharing the successful peacebuilding stories as so often what we hear about are the conflicts rather than the solutions. We need that encouragement that things are possible to keep going, we need to feel it is achievable, it is within our grasp and capacity to create change. We can all keep chipping away at things in our own lives even if we can't all stop international conflicts, but we need to feel empowered to do what we can, not criticized for the things we aren't doing. 

So please do continue to share your ideas, your challenges, your journeys, I've learned so much from reading many a blog post and journal article. But please remember to be mindful that the journeys of others may take a different route, and that is okay. I'm sure several of those whose articles have caused hurt would be mortified to know that was the case, and I'm certainly not accusing them of doing it deliberately. Meanwhile I'll keep trying to cut back on the plastic in my life and try not to feel uncomfortably guilty when I get on a plane from Auckland to Wellington to save myself 11hrs of road travel on top of around 8hrs I'll have already done to get to the airport.

1 comment:

MaryFisherrow said...

Thank you for voicing my thoughts, Anna! I get so frustrated with the letters page of The Friend for the same reason: so many people telling us we MUST become vegetarian, vegan, do this, don't do that: where is the lovingkindness that acknowledges that the way that seems right for me is not necessarily the way that is right for you...
I love the idea of sharing '5 small steps in decluttering' with supportive people: it's something I keep chipping away at but at times am so overwhelmed by the clutter that simply comes from Living And Doing A Lot that I despair of ever achieving the sort of physical and mental clarity and simplicity in which I want to live and move and have my being.
Thank you for your blog, your encouragement, and your example: and for being part of my life from the other side of the world: thank God for the blessing of the internet and the possibility of sharing on-line worship and taking part in the same on-line course: being connected to people all round the globe is a splendid and wondrous thing indeed.
Huge hugs