Christine Venner-Westaway, Queensland Regional Meeting
Welcome to Kaurna Country! Welcome to Yearly Meeting – my second! Welcome to Winter School – Ecumenism and Interfaith – an inspired choice. The content and discussions were excellent, but it yielded a further depth in the honest sharing of each participant’s personal spiritual journey: such rich, compelling stories springing from quite varied cultural and faith backgrounds but all interestingly and perhaps tellingly, culminating in Quakerism!
That initial experience of unity in diversity ultimately became my week’s mantra as I saw it demonstrated repeatedly, each time we gathered. I quickly began sensing the rhythm of the daily sessions as they rose and fell in attendance, energy, passion, concern and struggle, but each resolving in an eventual state of equanimity and unity – “this we can say”. This rising and falling was echoed in the visible and audible ocean waves a few metres walking distance from where we met each day. A song rose within me, one that I felt led to express in a Meeting for Worship.
Ocean breath breathing, Ocean breath breathing in me
Ocean breath breathing, Ocean breath breathing in me!
Book-ending each day, each session, each small working group was of course the silence – a hallmark of Quakerism that drew me through the door in the first place and holds me still. I witnessed each session receiving the same attention to detail, fidelity to process, respectful listening and appropriation of importance, be it First Nation’s Concerns, Earthcare or Publications Committee.
Our public witness of peace as we marched in silence to Adelaide’s War Memorial in the city and handed out pamphlets and white poppies and sang, was a natural and necessary flow on from our Peace Reports, David Carline’s Backhouse Lecture, and a hoped-for legacy to pass onto the next generation.
During one of our latter nightly Epilogues we were asked to share what astonished us: “…that YM represented a micro example of what we yearn for at the macro level – that here in spite of, or perhaps because of, all our differing personalities, quirks, vulnerabilities, experiences, perspectives and emotions we could find common ground, a unifying position again and again peacefully, respectfully. If we can achieve that here in this annual gathering it can be done elsewhere and by others!”
YM 2017 was an altogether blessed time that I was encouraged, led and supported to attend. I am heartily grateful. The world’s need for active peace-making, love and understanding is overwhelming and without individual, national and international co-operation, impossible. However this band of “peculiar people” with whom I was honoured and humbled to walk, talk, eat, sing, laugh, march, and listen and silent-sit with, has proved it is possible, that as Light bearers and holders we have the awe-full responsibility to be a presence and agent of difference in the world – a measure and message of hope. My bonnet is in the ring!