Quaker organisation and practices
2 April 2012 - The Silent Society of 2007 is silent no longer!
Not much has been said or written yet about a recent big change concerning corporate statements and advocacy by BYM.
Quakers now have an effective voice to the media, thanks to our new Recording Clerk and the discernment by Meeting for Sufferings at the meeting on 31 March 2012.
You need only look here to see how it used to be: in 2005, two news releases – that was all. In 2006 none, in 2007 two. As far as the press was concerned we didn’t exist, had no opinion
It seemed that however much Quakers did, and whatever our concerns for changing the world, we were determined to keep them hidden. The guidance to BYM Friends and staff on making public statements and contacts with the media was extremely cautious and restrictive, with many people to be consulted in advance, and the almost inevitable result that our response to events sometimes missed the boat completely, coming out - if at all - when the media were no longer interested. To staff, it must hardly have seemed worth trying. I asked members of Meeting for Sufferings about this at Yearly Meeting in 2006, and was told in effect by one Friend that (to borrow a phrase) ‘we don’t do politics’. But evidently Friends on central committees were concerned too, and the momentum for change grew: ‘A Framework for action 2009-2014’ included ‘b. Speaking out in the world’.
In 2010 there were 16 releases by Friends House despite the restrictions, but they were still only about us and our own affairs - one was ‘Malvern Gardening show includes Quaker garden’, - and not about our concerns.
But in December 2010 Paul Parker, the newly appointed Recording Clerk, urged us (in a news release), to speak out on equality and climate change. Since then there have been 30 news releases, most of them on really important subjects, such as ‘Quakers support Occupy London’, ‘Quakers oppose unfair government cuts’. Releases are of course restricted to subjects of which we have direct experience and something useful to say. So we are speaking out again after years of silence, and now the formal advice on press statements will be reviewed and updated.
Not only that, but just as important, Meeting for Sufferings also decided in March 2012 that we could and should strengthen our advocacy in Parliament - so that Trustees should feel able to give it higher priority in future budgets. This is thanks – in the first instance – to the generosity of Southern East Anglia Area Meeting in offering to finance for a year an assistant to Michael Bartlet, our parliamentary liaison officer.
25 May 2012 - Yearly Meeting papers on Kindle and iPad.
Yearly Meeting organizers embraced electronic technology, so that all the main papers could be downloaded in the week beforehand on to iPads, Kindles and laptops, meaning less paper to carry to London. Where will this lead? How can the dull business of nominations, which still occupies too much time at YM, be done transparently using electronic means?
The Whoosh! Conference, held at Woodbrooke Study Centre from 27-29 July 2012, may turn out to be the precursor of radical changes in Quaker organistion and practices. Here is my report on it. Watch this space!
Craig Barnett wrote about our starting point on the Nayler blog at http://www.nayler.org/?p=594:
"British Quakers appear to be in the middle of a major cultural shift, perhaps on the same scale as previous ‘transition moments’ from prophetic to quietist, evangelical and liberal eras. It has been one of the ‘dogmas’ of Quaker culture throughout the twentieth century that we ‘let our lives speak’ exclusively through our actions, rather than telling anyone explicitly about the Quaker Way, and that ‘people will find us when they are ready’. One Friend at Woodbrooke spoke of the ‘culture of hidden-ness’ that has governed Quakers for a century, and that is only recently being challenged, primarily through the impact of Quaker Quest over the last decade".