Valerie Joy, Queensland Regional Meeting.
Friends that I meet in several countries are actively engaged in practicing our beliefs, conversing on the things we hold in common, and sometimes too on where we diverge.
Face to face conversations are sublimely better than other communication.
I note how much spoken interaction takes place at our Yearly Meetings: during meal breaks, walking to sessions and sometimes later into the evening we plumb the depths of our hearts and spirits with concerns for a variety of issues.
We also use written words, which can arrive through the medium of books, blogs, online Journals, Facebook etc.
With the 6th World Conference of Friends almost upon us this dialogue will become richer, diving into more aspects of our shared faith, and trying to find the uniquely Quaker stance on problems such as Global Change, ethical living and respectful relationships.
At Kabarak University there will be 43 different “Thread Groups” each of which will look at one aspect of the theme “Being Salt and Light, Friends living the Kingdom of God in a Broken World”. The 1,000 participants will meet three times to examine particular questions on Climate Change, Food Security and Deadly Conflict; Did you visit me in Prison? Healing and Rebuilding our Community (Rwanda), socially responsible banking, Sexual Brokenness, Water Giving Life, Friends and the Interfaith movement plus 35 other choices.
After a full day’s excursion outside into aspects of Kenyan life, groups will reintegrate around common threads for plenary “weaving the threads”, and what emerges from this will point us to the future- with realistic guidelines on how Friends everywhere will focus our energies by finding uniquely Quaker responses to worldwide problems. We will leave Kenya with new Friends and clearer vision and messages to take home to share with our home communities of faith.
Sixteen Australian Friends will take part in the World Conference, and they will need space within their local communities to speak clearly on their new focus on their return. In all, 60 Friends from Asia West Pacific will be present from the wide diversity of Friends, evangelical to liberal- and we can help one another with our prayers, our giving and with informed visitation. In particular our Friends from poorer countries such as Myanmar, Nepal, Indonesia, parts of India, and the Philippines will be happy to share their struggles with us on a regular basis and I hope that some will be willing to write about these in the Australian Friend.
A more formal opportunity to deeply enter into the outcomes of the World Conference is planned to take place at Silver Wattle from 17-25 August in a course being presented by myself and Abel Sibonio.
The aims are to learn from the experiences of Friends globally, what it means to be a Friend, and how each of us can help develop the global spiritual community of Friends. The course is essential for current FWCC representatives and for those who have a broad vision and want to know more about Friends worldwide and their varied approach to Quaker Testimonies.
There will be three parts to the week:
Day 1: Interactive Introduction to the dimensions of Friends globally with papers made available from the speakers for study & reflection.
Days 2-3: Each participant to choose a country and person with whom to make contact and learn about. Using a series of queries about another meeting/church in another country, such as their work, their faith, their life at home, what makes them hopeful? What are they struggling with?
By using prior arrangements, participants will engage with Friends using Skype and email to undertake this task.
Days 4-6: Participatory Workshop where each participant makes a slow and thoughtful presentation on their research. Abel will use his stories on how “Salt and Light” came into the refugee camps and the changes that took place as a result. He will map where these Friends now are in the world and how they have settled into their new lives. Valerie will use AWPS stories from her experiences throughout the Asia-West Pacific Section of FWCC. The final day will track where the Spirit is guiding Friends in the four Sections, what will be the challenges and the opportunities in the decades to come.
The week will be held within the Silver Wattle rhythm of prayer, study and work, with times for worship sharing, for singing, and for relaxation and enjoying the property.
Friends will be introduced to the concept of journaling- for those not already using this process – and participants asked to spend time writing what is taking place in their minds and hearts – we will have silent periods set aside for this. Other techniques such as “mind mapping” may be explored.
a) Different theologies amongst the FWCC world (using the journals edited by Paul Anderson. He nominates a topic each quarter, and then invites Friends of varying theological backgrounds to submit papers).
b) Tracing the journey of Friends worldwide from 1991 to 2012.
c) Report of the World Conference- what we learnt
d) History of FWCC
e) Quakers at the UN, QCEA and other international forums (eg Friends Peace Teams, QSA, AFSC, EFI international and FUM).
f) Inter-visitation- a two way learning process- using our visit to the USA as an example- but also looking at the concepts and practice of inter-visitation.
g) Discerning our way into an uncertain future