When we use the term “global change‟, we see it as being about “unity, integration and the inter-connection of all change. Seemingly different or unrelated changes are in fact aspects or facets of a single greater change.” 1 One of the main changes we refer to is the link between development, industrialization, degradation of land, atmosphere and water and the human contribution to environmental and climate change which threatens the very nature of the world we live in.
We sense there is a distinctive Quaker response to global change. This sense grows out of centuries of Friends‟ effort to embody in our lives and actions living a Godly life through our testimonies to peace, truth, integrity and justice. Testimonies grow out of the abundance of God‟s love (rather than from the fear which scarcity or change engenders), so that all are treated compassionately, justly, and equally.
We have set ourselves the task to ask: How do we articulate the spiritual basis for our response? What is our experience of global change? What do we, as a worldwide faith community, have to say to ourselves and to the world?
Query 1: How has global change affected our communities and ourselves?
Ease of travel and communication has facilitated and catalyzed global change.
ICT (eg. email, Skype, Facebook etc.) has enabled us to develop scattered rather than geographical communities but it cannot replace physical communication and intimacy, it can erode human connections and our local communities can loose out.
Global change has changed what we mean by community.
We can maintain friendships more easily through ICT and cheap travel.
To date the industrialized world has reaped the benefits of ‘perceived benefits’ of global change and others have born the costs; environmentally, socially
Our lifestyles are subsidised by poverty and suffering elsewhere.
Our happiness is based on material goods as these become scarcer we become more reliant on others globally. Our happiness being based on material goods challenges our whole social understanding of ourselves when they become scarce.
It’s a neccessity/imperative to know what is going on in the rest of the world as global politics now has personal impact on us.
Query 2: What actions have we taken in response to global change as experienced in our area, to express our responsibilities towards all creation? In what ways have my own activities or those of my community contributed to positive or adverse local and global change?
We have responsibility towards creation to ‘uncreate’ things which get created as much as preserving things which already exist. “God has no hands but ours”. Actively choosing to create good things rather than not sustain bad ones.
Our responsibility to the world is to learn to live within it. Neither polarity of human-free or human dominant is desirable.
Nobody owns anything in life – you’re always a tenant.
Our discussions and reflections have kept returning to climate change rather than any other facet of Global Change. We are aware of the other aspects, but haven’t reached a concensus that we as a group that these are things we need to take actions on or indeed what those actions should be. All creation should equal equality – people’s rights…
|increasing understanding and acceptance of other cultures and races||Involvement with Quakers means leaving local community and driving round the city.||Travelling leads to more understanding of other cultures – not imposing our values on others.||Assisting migration? International|
|Networks of local business sharing knowledge campaigning together.||Local family and community businesses under threat.||CAMPAIGNING
|Buying from or investing in corporations without ethical standards is nearly unavoidable and supports an inequitable global economic system|
|meeting local community by using local shops and visiting local park!||Migration from (British) villages/rural communities to cities.||bringing spirituality to bear in all situations.||Wanting everything cheap drives exploitation through cheap labour|
|Giving in to convenience of supermarkets||Prayer / reflection / concern||My ‘community’ = middle class UK is very reliant on cheap labour and keeping the poor poor to keep my living costs low and comfortable.|
|Assisting migration? International||Increased awareness of labour rights / standards for example through the fairtrade movement.||Cheap travel – growth in aviation|
|Decreasing tolerance of other cultures and races.||Travelling leads to more understanding of other cultures – not imposing our values on others.||fossil fuel consumption|
|The expectation of cheap and easy energy, travel, fuel & leisure.|
|Expecting / wanting fresh fruit and veg of all sorts anytime of the year.|
|Things I buy have environmental impacts elsewhere|
|Meeting needs of raising a family cheaply means living on others not being paid well (e.g. cheap clothes)|
|Community||Choosing to live with my parents for mutual support and assistance.|
|To get to know my neighbours and to talk with them regularly|
|Embracing cultural diversity|
|Talk about actions people could take/ effects our lives have on the world with others|
|Involvement with transition town group|
|Other||Balance positive of job with negative impacts of work pattern.|
|Thinking about moral implications of all purchases and only making the sound ones|
|Educating myself in sustainable agriculture and design|
|Use charity shops, freecycle, spotify etc rather than buy or buy new|
|Trying to find life balance between home, community and mobility.|
|Home||Living cheaply, not buying ‘stuff’.|
|Buying local produce.|
|Eating in season and avoiding processed, packaged foods.|
|Living with others sharing tools and resources.|
|Food reducing consumption of meat and non-local produce.|
|Trying to buy baby things 2nd hand. Being more organised planning shopping / washing etc.|
|Transport||Cycle, use public transport and fly less.|
|Moved house to live within cycle / walking distance from work and avoiding driving 40 miles a day to work.|
|I have the option to drive this is both a positive and negative choice.|
|Cutting down on driving /Going down to 1 car and using public transport|
|I cycle to work, don’t drive and try not to fly (despite having flown long and short distances a LOT in my life to date) \Use trains and ferries where possible for long journeys, walking and cycling for short.|
Query 3: How do changes around us affect our relationship with God? How does my relationship with God affect my responses to the changes around us? What role does faith have in my life and in the life of my community? In what ways do I and my Friends church or meeting community bear witness to our Testimonies in our daily lives? [Individual Responses]
The world around us surely affects how we envision, understand and relate to God. Equally, our understanding of God shapes our response to the world around us.
The fast pace of life and the barrage of media often alienates and distances me from God. My choices to simplify my life and unplug (disengage) from many aspects of digital-electronic-technological culture are motivated as much by a desire to make room for God in my life as by concern for social justice or my carbon footprint.
My faith in a God of love, and my ongoing effort to remain in a faithful relationship by doing the will of that God motivate me pursue peace, social justice, economic fairness, and environmental stewardship. Faith calls me to task and judges me for my failings, but also restores my soul and gives me hope and serenity when I am tempted to despair.
I live out the testimony of simplicity through my rejection of fashion and materialism. I live out integrity by refusing to let others/the culture at large dictate my interests and actions. I am more interested in being faithful to how God made me than in being “cool” or being popular.
Having little opportunity to impact world affairs and relations between nations, I endeavor to live out peace in my personal life by being slow to anger, cultivating calmness, emotional maturity and good communication.
Reflection: Relationship with God
When people come together, pieces of God come together. I like to think of these as angels – a part of God. God is the ultimate force made of the angel of mankind, nature (living, or inorganic) and any external forces that may exist. I suppose ‘angel’ is the community word for God.
I have felt public interests and sentiment to be fairly ignorant of Global issues, but also very unwilling to be educated. We want things bigger and cheaper with no thought of consequences. I feel angry at the Angel of Britain, played here by Boris Johnson. This is how my relationship is affected.
I don’t think feeling pissed will improve things. The angel too is a part of God – sacred, unique, and all that. I feel the best way to effect change according to the values I hold is to communicate with our communities; to talk to the sub-angels to start a wave.
In practice my own response to the changes are quite similar to those I get from people I try to discuss climate change with. I can be too stubborn in supporting ‘the old ways’ that I am taken advantage of paying over the odds for the product. In order to do this for my favourite select products means I should use my supermarket at convenience.
Faith Life of Community
It is good to share: views, values, time together
I don’t feel weird doing ‘green’ things with quakers (don’t feel pressure to be ‘green’ either). Not that many other faith groups like us. Our meetings support each other.
Part 1: Our relationship with “God”
- Global change is not just Climate Change.
- therefore the loss of spirituality o rationality is also part of global change.
- therefore the loss “God” (whatever this is) also means that we make ourselves Master of the World. Mystery and wonder are lost as is the sense tha we may need to be responsible and are a part of something greater than ourselves.
Part 2: My relationship
Firstly, the way I think about “God” varies on a daily if not hourly basis. Sometimes I know I am a part of the divine. Sometimes I think “God” doesn’t exist. Sometimes I still think of “God” as an angry tyrant. Sometimes I think of “God” as a universal Santa Claus. Sometimes I think of “God”’s love as nurturing. Sometimes I think of “God”’s love as obedience and an edict.
- My response therefore varies according to whether I think that “God” is in me, with me, around me or outside of me (in this case, I am “excluded”).
- Therefore my response varies accordingly. I can, for example, help with my neighbour’s shopping or the recycling, because I feel genuinely connected to everyone and our world (“God” in me) or because I think that I must do good in order to win “God”’s approval (“God” outside of me) or a continuum between both those points
Part 3: Faith
Crucial place in my life but as with Parts 1 and 2, I can have an ambivalent relationship with this.
My local meeting does its best to live up to the testimonies and nurture the spiritual life of the community. For example we have a “Living Simply” retreat at Warwickshire in June 2011. However, a meeting is human and not necessarily consistent and global change is often confused with climate change.
Changes around us can tempt us to compromise with the leadings of the spirit. This is not a modern phenomenon but something Friends have struggled with since their beginnings.
Notions of what is ‘simple’ today bear no resemblance to what was simplein the past; just as notions of what was profligate then bears no relation to today’s profligacy. The meaning of the simplicity testimony is in its spirit, not its letter nor in the following of the facts of Friends’ lives past to produce a list of prescribed actions.
Friends need the courage to follow the leadings of the spirit, rather than to follow new lifestyle gurus where those gurus impose easy answers and thus seek to absolve us the responsibility to struggle for ourselves with the impacts of our actions on global change.
The urgency and the complexity of global change in the 21st Century does not override the ‘articles of faith’ of Friends to discern the truth and to act in accordance with the leadings of the spirit in all things.
International tensions make me realise the simultaneous threat and promise that a belief in god can bring to communities.
Faith plays a smaller and smaller part in the lives of communities in the UK. This can make those who continue to have a faith more vocal and determined.
Global changes eg. poverty, climate change make me wonder whether we don’t need god more than ever (not necessarily because of the supernatural power of that divine force, but because of what adherence to “god’s word”, eg. Jesus, inspires us to do in the form of loving each other, loving the earth and reducing mankind’s selfishness).
Having a relationship with god should increase, not decrease, one’s responsibility to the rest of humanity, and to the earth. That is religion at its best.
Faith doesn’t have a big role in my life but seeking truth and god does.
My relationship with God is fluid, changing as I change, grow, age, develop. It flows through everything I do and see. Sometimes it is the summit I am aiming for, the purpose of whatever I am doing. At other times, it is more of a foundation, the rock I’m building on, that I am unaware of, even, until it is threatened.
My relationship with the world around me, and my community, is similar in some ways. All things are interconnected, and I take them for granted until they are threatened; I never really stop to question what life would be like without the natural world, or the strangers around me on a bus, or sunshine. I never really even question what life would be like without the internet, eBay, or the ability to pop into town and buy whatever I need for myself and my family, even though these things have by no means been possible at other points in my life.
My relationship with God inspires me to see beauty, goodness, in nature and in humanity, as gifts to be celebrated and respected. We are stewards of the world, put here by God to care for His creation. Although I’m not sure how literally I take that part of Genesis, I do think there is some truth in it – we can nurture or destroy what has been created, and it is up to us to make the choice God needs us to make. How can we remain faithful to God without taking good care of the world we share with Him?
Many of the parables are told through examples of good and bad care of the environment, as well as the gifts of the characters within them. I believe they are telling us more than how to have a relationship with God; I believe they are also revealing how a positive relationship with God is dependent on a positive relationship with the world, and with the rest of humanity.
I don’t feel I can call my Quaker Meeting my community at present; circumstances mean I can’t go as often as I would like. My physical community, the area in which I live, is dominated by people of faith, of many different faiths. They can all very easily be pigeonholed by what they, particularly the women, are wearing. In this community of people wearing their faith on their sleeves, as it were, my faith does not feel strong. I don’t feel persecuted, just less passionate, like my relationship with God is less vital, less alive, than that of those around me. The church my husband leads, and I attend, however, is very strong, with a fire burning at the heart of the community, a passion to witness God’s love to all communities, through faith and through action. With them as my example, and sustained as much as I will accept by my Meeting as well, I am encouraged to live the testimonies every day, as witness to how God calls us to relate to one another and the world, by walking and living what we believe.
Query 4: What stories and experiences from past times of catastrophic happenings such as major droughts – perhaps from Scripture, perhaps the record of regional or local events – might inspire us to respond to the changes the world is facing today?
Faith in goodness of humanity to overcome strength of our communities can enable us to get through catastrophic events. As a nation with the exception of war, the UK has faced few ‘catastrophes’ we have been very lucky.
We’ve lived in fear of the catastrophic consequences of a 3rd world war. Many of use haven’t had to live through a ‘world war’ which seems to belong to a nobler age. Would this generation cope with rationing? We’ve got used to living on the edge, we can no longer bring ourselves to think about the terror another world war would bring.
WWIII is such a devastating existential threat the human mind is incapable of comprehending it. It may be the ‘smaller’ catastrophes that may cause destruction rather than utter devastation that we need to deal with together. Faced with such a catastrophe we can be pulled together by resisting, not giving up. Currently we feel impotent against many UK areas e.g. bombing of Iraq, banker’s bonuses. It is harder not to give up if you don’t feel you’re being ignored.
Catastrophes aren’t just natural disasters they’re social catastrophes. They contribute to poverty traps, lack of infrastructure, transportation access. Our interpretation of our equality testimony needs to be cognisant of such impacts due to future economic upheavals. Whereas natural catastrophes such as Tsunamis can’t be prevented, economic ones can be.
We sometimes find it hard to be inspired by scripture or past events, as aspects of global change can feel unprecedented in their scale and damaging character. It can be hard not to feel weighed down by these.
We find the analogy of soil – as the medium that nourishes and sustains life – helpful in thinking about community. You can improve soil, making it healthier and more resilient to droughts, floods and other catastrophic events. Whilst we don’t know what is coming, we can, as a community, try to be lovingly ready to face it.
It is tempting to try to control nature and its faults, but we live in an uncertain world which has a mysterious nature. Perhaps man alone cannot “fix” our problems.
Query 5: How can we bear witness to the abundance God offers us and testify to the world about ways in which justice, compassion, and peace may address significant disruption, stress, and tension?
Quakers have always demonstrated their testimonies both spiritually and practically. This should not alter according to circumstance – the approach to issues can always be the same.
We can use the abundance God has given us by using it wisely and distributing it fairly (both through other generations, and to other creatures and life forms).
For Quakers, it’s about what we do, not what we say. How do we let our lives speak? We can bear witness to the abundance God offers us by letting other people see it through all that we do. This may not always be effective in persuading others, but neither is aggressively shouting your case. You may feel you’re making a difference, and this may best sit with your conscience, but it may not get you very far in persuading others there are other ways to live.
Disruption, stress and tension is inherent in life.
We rarely stop to give thanks or be grateful or aware for the abundance of what we do have. Media is geared towards painting the world in a negative way and focussing one’s thoughts on all that one doesn’t have, on what’s lacking in one’s life.
God is Justice, peace and compassion. Observing what one has enables peace, justice and compassion to lead on.
Sometimes to make radical changes it only takes a small shift in perspective.
Analogy of there being abundant apples, ‘but I want a pear!’
choices raise expectations, we therefore never get pleasantly surprised… if we had less choice – may be more happy.
insanity of materialism. people seem to have forgotten what enough is. Enough is not always, ‘more’!
Abundance is understanding what enough is.
Accepting that what you have is enough is a way of seeing abundance.
If we can accept that what we have in our own lives is enough then that’s great. If we can get others to do/notice the same (without being regarded as some kind of hippy cult) then even better.
discuss with others, (those around you in your community) and realise together the happiness in simplicity
all the fossil fuels on the globe and the people who’ve been exploited for the past couple of hundred years have harnessed less energy than that which is in a single day of sunshine. We’re not great at harnessing the sun’s energy, and the ways in which we do so currently produce much waste and pollution. In contrast there are many plants and organisms that do harness this energy very successfully and the waste which one organism produces is simply an energy source for another, very symbiotic 🙂
Query 6: How can we support one another in rekindling our love and respect for God’s Creation in such a way that we are messengers of the transforming power of love and hope?
The word ‘rekindling’ evokes the image of a flame. For a flame to burn three things are necessary; air, fuel and a spark. The love of God’s creation encompasses the love for God, human beings as well as all the other creatures, plants and animals, rocks and soil and water.
Our modern, industrialised way of living is a technological, fast-paced, media-led culture and society. It is found that these things can create a shell around us. The shell can be superficially pleasant to be in, it can protect us from the harsh realities of life that exist but that shell of media can prevent air reaching the flame of love that we need to keep burning within our hearts.
The testimony of simplicity is a way of trying to clear a little space around us so that the air can come in and nourish the flame of devotion, of love and respect, so that we are not smothered, so that our air supply is not cut off by flashy, fancy, colourful, meaningless, gizmos and gadgets.
We have reflected on the phrase “messengers of the transforming power of love and hope”. As Quakers we feel we should spend time being Quakers in the world and not just together. By coming together today we hope that we are enabling each other to go forth and act in the world.
We use the Quaker business method to conduct our business. We don’t have priests, we are all ministers and have to do it ourselves. While we may treasure those things and feel it’s the best way of putting our faith into practice, we hope it doesn’t restrict us from acting quickly on those things which we feel require immediate and urgent action.
We have considered whether the transforming power of love and hope is best expressed simply by having an attitude of love and hope. Early friends had a powerful approach towards their faith, “Walking cheerfully over the face of the earth”. We can often take God and our faith too seriously therefore loosing the ‘cheer’ of the Good News. Perhaps some of us do not know many people who are naturally cheerful with a joy for life and the abundance of God’s creation, but people are naturally drawn towards these people and the support they offer will naturally breed a transforming power of love and hope. We simply need to walk cheerfully over the face of the earth answering that of God in everyone.