Recently I attended the funeral of Jean Talbot, for many years the anonymous poetry editor of The Australian Friend.  Towards the end of the service we sang a hymn which I was familiar with, but had never heard at a funeral.  The first verse is:

 Eternal Father, strong to save,
Whose arm does bind the restless wave,
Who bids the mighty ocean deep
Its own appointed limits keep;
O hear us when we cry to Thee
For those in peril on the sea.

I was surprised at this choice of a hymn, and asked who had chosen it and why.  I was told that Jean had chosen it, because of her concern for the safety of refugees fleeing by boat.  I thought it wonderful that in planning her funeral Jean was not concerned for her own legacy, but for the welfare of people she had never met.

Jean is not alone.  For this issue we have received a number of articles about the plight of refugees and asylum seekers, particularly those who have made it to Australia and found themselves unwelcome.  This was not our intended theme for the magazine, we had expected articles arising from our Yearly Meeting.  But the plight of refugees is a concern which has taken a hold of many of our members and spurred them to action. Quakers are not alone in bearing this concern, and so they find themselves working with like-minded people of different faiths and ethnicities, finding That of God in everyone.

Every concern calls upon us to return to our spiritual roots, and David Johnson’s article calls us to “practice a New Covenant Life”.  The organisers of our recent Yearly Meeting continued the struggle to combine technology and community, faith and action.  Maxine Cooper’s article describes the experiment with “pods” where people could gather to participate in zoom meetings while also sharing conversation and cups of tea. 

At every yearly meeting we lament that we are few in number, and that we keep getting older.  But reading the articles in this issue, I feel that the Spirit still has plenty of work for us to do!    

Rae Litting

Australian Friend Editorial Committee

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