To friends everywhere
Greetings from Australian Friends, meeting in the undulating bushland setting of the Nathan campus of Griffith University in Brisbane, situated on the traditional lands of the Yuggerah people. The temperature on the day of arrival for our Yearly Meeting reached 39° C, providing a lingering thermal backdrop to our discussions concerning whether we should continue to hold Yearly Meeting in January, at the height of the Australian summer, or at a cooler time of year. As we have proceeded with the discernment of the right holding of Yearly Meeting, in terms of time, place and process, we have become increasingly aware of the complexity of finding an optimal answer to these issues with many proposed solutions seeming to potentially prevent the attendance, or at least seriously disadvantage, some significant section of our Quaker family.
Summer schools gave us opportunities, in small circles, to renew friendships and meet new Friends to focus heart and mind on the Light which sustains us. As a concentrated Yearly Meeting community, living together and interacting in a wide range of activities, with the frictions that this may bring, we have been reminded of the words of Isaac Penington to bear one with another and, where there has been any slip or fall, to forgive and provide a helping, tender hand.
We delight that our Society is international in nature and we welcomed guests from Aotearoa New Zealand, India and the United Kingdom. Our FWCC – Asia West Pacific section visitor, Devdas Shrisunder, provided insights into the challenges facing Friends in India.
At this Yearly Meeting, the issue of relationship to the environment, particularly in face of accelerating extreme climate, was an area of considerable deliberation. At an earlier Yearly Meeting we developed an Earthcare Statement. This year we are grappling with how we can take the next step, including an Earthcare Testimony, as witness to the centrality of the concern for our right relationship with the Earth.
We have explored a wide range of issues relating to our Peace Testimony including our role with Friends Peace Teams in the Asia West Pacific and the Anzac centenary. A large group of Friends joined the long-established Queensland Regional Meeting Peace Vigil in King George Square, Brisbane.
The First Nations Peoples have been the custodians of this ancient land for more than forty thousand years. The relationship between these custodians and the settler community was explored during our Summer School with First Nations leader Wayne “Coco” Wharton, and in formal and informal deliberations throughout the course of our Yearly Meeting. Twenty-five Friends engaged with local First Nations peoples at a smoking ceremony at the Aboriginal embassy at Musgrave Park close to central Brisbane. The manner in which we can share sovereignty of the land between First Nations people and the settler community remains a continuing challenge for us and we have been urged to make personal contact with our local First Nations communities and initiate and continue a conversation as to how we can act together to this end.
We have been concerned about the inclusiveness of our practices, particularly in relation to our younger members. At last Yearly Meeting we supported the appointment of a children and junior young friends coordinator who was with us at this Yearly Meeting. In a remarkable Backhouse lecture, incorporating Quaker history, personal experience, song and family participation, we were further challenged by our lecturer, Tracy Bourne, on how to bring children into the centre of Quaker life and worship. We are strongly aware that a healthy and resilient Society cannot be sustained without strong inter-generational bonds, involvement and spirit.