Report on Global Change Consultation at Western Half Yearly Meeting

As a preparatory activity before the worship sharing. Different years (from 1650 to 2100) were written on pieces of paper and put into a hat. Friends were asked to imagine that they where born in the year they picked from a hat?

Friends were asked to imagine what their life would be like during that time period. Then in comparing that life to the life they live now. What have they gained and what have they lost.

After doing this exercise for 45 minute we had a worship sharing during which we considered the Query below.

  • How do changes around us affect our relationship with God?
  • How does our relationship with God affect my response to the changes around us?
  • In what ways do I/community bear witness to our Testimony in our daily life?
Peter: This reminds me of bible study at CYM – different perspective as to whether we see large world events as acts of God or acts of human. Global change for me is very complicated. I can’t go along with the assumption that all of this global change is simply part of God’s plan our response needs to be to look heavenward and not do anything practical about the events. On the other hand, it is so difficault to think about all these changes and wrap my head around it. Hard to imagine we need a group of “smart people” to come up with a plan and if we follow the plan we’ll be all right. It feels sometimes like all we can do is be faithful to what we feel God is calling us to do. If I hadn’t grown up at this tie fo change, then perhaps I could go along with one or the other perspectives but it just seems to complicate this relationship.

Robert: A sense of global change that is very real for me. Ten years ago, before I became a Quaker, my life was on a trajectory in a society that seemed very stable. I was on an academic path, with clear direction. I knew where my life was headed. I don’t have this anymore. I’ve become disillusioned. It’s scary and exciting, where my previous life had become boring. I feel more dependent on my relationship with God, because of my vulnerability and need to be connected to something bigger than me. I’m reminded of Bible Study at CYM a couple years ago—Tom Findley’s daughter spoke of crossing a river in a fog, one stepping stone at a time. This is what my life feels like right now.

Celia: I sometimes feel Quakers have been chugging along concerned with all the things that society is now becoming aware of and getting involved in. I don’t see the change as different, as Quakers still work on these issues. Sometimes it is hard to be with people who come on with the zeal of a new convert. This is what we’ve always been working on. I don’t feel the change has affected my relationship with God. I do feel to remind ourselves of why we do these things—the groundedness/truth of our testimonies—is helpful. I think we can continue to be slightly ahead of society as what we see is needing work and what we see is a way forward. I am proud of the way we have been “ahead” of society in many cases, and that society has then come on board. Change takes a long time, and there need to be people who are ahead, defining and living these truths—the way to live, act, treat other people—all these are the same. The core of Quakerism hasn’t changed. It all comes back to personal responsibility and a personal relationship to God and this is as relevant now as 350 years ago.

Kitty: Celia’s comments are very interesting. I agree completely but my experience with them is completely different. For the first question, I go back 30 years, when I regained my faith (not Quakers). It was only then that I could throw off complete cynicism. For the second question, my faith is now crucial. It is because of my Quaker faith that I can work in secular and multi-faith groups on environmental concerns without losing my spiritual grounding. Without the faith, I would burn out with the secular groups.

Betty: For me, these are the wrong questions. My relationship with God has nothing to do with the changes around me. Some of the changes are ways God would want to be happening, and the changes don’t impact my relationship with God.

Frank: Betty speaks my mind. I do what I do because it is the right thing to do, and this is entirely separate from my relationship with the Divine. I also feel uncomfortable with this set of queries. Every single question is profoundly leading, which strikes me as contrary to Quaker practice.

David: I am struggling with the first two questions. I don’t make a connection intellectually and spiritually to these questions. I don’t understand how global changes affect my relationship with God. I don’t understand how my relationship with God would affect changes around us. I don’t see anything different today from the way Friends have been doing things since 1650.

Maxine: I need to pay more attention to my relationship to God and where this can lead me. My 19-year-old grandson is a vegan and this gives me something to think about. He is reducing his impact on the environment. What do I need to be doing? For various reasons, I am not as tuned in as much as I need to be; just too busy with other things. I guess I need to get onto the Godly internet and check for messages.

Wes: I don’t have misgivings about these questions. If there was one person I credit for me becoming a Quaker, it is George W Bush. As I felt the world becoming more ideological, I felt a need to seek something deeper. There is a direct link between the global changes and my relationship with God. Through my relationship with God, and my relationship with all you guys, I now have a sense of a Leading. Prior to now, I felt guilty – that I didn’t want to participate in protests; I don’t like banners and marches. And its okay. It’s not my Leading. Maybe my Leading is to cook with healthier food. To talk to somebody that maybe no-one else is talking to. And this can be just as valuable as marching. My relationship with God has made that okay.