In more detail
Northern Friends Peace Board (NFPB) was set up in 1913, after a conference of Quarterly Meetings (the then regional groupings and main administrative unit amongst Quakers in Britain) in February of that year. The conference minuted that the Board was to….
‘advise and encourage Friends in the North, and through them their fellow Christians and citizens generally, in the active promotion of peace in all its height and breadth.’.
That same minute requested that those Northern Meetings should provide sufficient funds for a full-time Secretary. This has been done since that time. The current Co-ordinator (the job title changed in 1986) is the seventh to work for the Board over that period.
The work of the Board has inevitably varied over this time, but common threads throughout are:
- Provision of information, comment and thinking on topical peace concerns, including work on exploring the conditions necessary for building peace in the world.
- Publicising peace-building as an alternative to prevailing military-orientated thinking.
- Supporting individuals and organisations in responding to current challenges — including those facing (during war-times) conscription..
- Making Quaker peace concerns visible and bringing Quakers together to reflect and to develop insights and thinking.
- Building bridges between individuals and groups.
Initially a concern just of some of the Northern English Quarterly Meetings, our supporting membership soon expanded to include Friends in Scotland, in North Wales and in Nottinghamshire, Derbyshire and Lincolnshire. The Quarterly Meetings were replaced by General Meetings in 1967 and at this point the responsibility for providing Representatives to, and funding for, our work was passed onto the Monthly Meetings in the area covered. In 2007/8 these became Area Meetings.
In 1985 the Board committed itself to:
- developing as a resource for supporting Friends in Meetings
- acting as a catalyst for action and thinking on peace, from the international to the personal levels
- ways of working that reflected our Quaker foundation and commitment to peaceful means and ends.
“We need to be both realistic and visionary” they minuted, reflecting on the gifts that individual Friends can each give to the endeavour and to the corporate discipline and clarity that need to be nurtured and developed.
What we do
The following is a short list of the type of activities undertaken by NFPB over recent years:
- Organising conferences, workshops and other events, for Friends and others.
- Producing written publications, from printed to web-based materials.
- Publicising opportunities for engagement and action on peace concerns, through our membership, through our links with Quaker meetings and through our web-resources
Networking and communications
We maintain working links with a number of other bodies, Quaker and non-Quaker. For example, we are members of the Network for Peace, the International Peace Bureau, Scotland’s for Peace and the Network of Christian Peace Organisations. We have cross representation with the Peace and Disarmament Programme of Quaker Peace and Social Witness and attend the annual Peace and Service Consultations of the Europe and Middle East Section of the Friends World Committee for consultation. Other relationships with individuals and organisations arise through our work.
We maintain and regularly update a well-used website, linked with other web-based resources. We produce two or three issues of a simple newsletter ‘The Peace Board’ each year, sending this, as well as other materials, to Northern Quaker Meetings, to individual Quakers and interested organisations and people. We also try to ensure a visible presence at meetings of Britain Yearly Meeting and other Quaker events when appropriate.
How we Work
The meetings of the Board and Executive are held in the manner of Friends, with quiet worship being the context in which discussion takes place and decisions are made. Decisions are minuted at the time, with some additional notes appended to minutes on occasion where a minute is not needed. The Board and the Executive each have Clerks to facilitate this process. Sometimes one person has Clerked both bodies, but more recently the roles have been divided. Our Treasurer is another key member of the Executive, with responsibilities for financial oversight, in consultation with other Executive members and the Co-ordinator.
The biggest part of our membership is composed of Friends (and some Attenders) appointed by Area Meetings as Representatives. There are four meetings a year for Representatives, taking place at different parts of the North, normally at Quaker Meeting Houses. A number of Area Meetings also appoint Deputy Representatives, ensuring fuller representation.
The role of Representatives can be summarised as:
- Being a two-way channel of communication between Area Meetings and NFPB
- Being aware of Friends’ peace concerns and guiding the direction of NFPB’s work.
- Serving in a range of capacities on various sub-groups and committees in partnership with the Co-ordinator to implement our work.
We co-opt some Friends to serve in addition to appointed Representatives. This is in order to help provide continuity in our work (a Representative may have completed their three-year term of service, for example, but still have much to give in a particular area of project activity), and to bring in particular areas of skill and expertise.
Charitable status and trustees
As with many other Quaker groups, NFPB was considered charitable through excepted status as part of the Religious Society of Friends. We became an independent charity in 1996 , registered in Scotland as Charity Number SC 024632. We report annually to the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator (OSCR) (the equivalent of the Charity Commission with similar reporting and accounting requirements). There is not currently a requirement that we also register with the Charity Commission but do try to work within its requirements as well as those of OSCR. Our Executive Committee serve as our Trustees, and in their turn meet four times a year. Eight Friends currently serve on our Executive Committee, these being appointed for no more than two terms of three years. Financial administrative tasks are currently undertaken by an Administrative Assistant who includes this in one day per week of work.
Our accounts and trustees’ reports can be downloaded here
In addition to the Board and Executive, we appoint sub-groups to undertake particular tasks. These range from our Nominations Committee to project groups. These report regularly to both the Board and Executive.
The Board’s current Co-ordinator and its Administrative Assistant work from an office in Bolton, Lancashire, in a town-centre Methodist building. This office is also used from time-to-time for meetings of sub groups. Rental for the office is less than the market-rate for a similarly sized space, reflecting the supportive nature of the landlord-tenant relationship. Executive Committee members undertake regular Health & Safety and Fire Safety inspections of the office and have been involved in practical assistance in the office from time to time.
Sources of funding
The core of our funding comes from Quakers in the North of Britain. Most of this is contributed by Area Meetings, whilst some Area Meetings have devolved the responsibility for financial contributions to NFPB to their Local Meetings.
Friends also provide funds through collections and through individual donations. A smaller amount of funding comes from Charitable Trusts that donate on an annual basis, and a smaller amount still comes from sales of our publications and from fees for events.
We do apply for and have, over the years, secured additional funding from charitable Trusts for specific areas of project work. This has given us scope for developing our resources and activities that would not otherwise be practicable.
Over the past five years we have received legacies from a small number of Friends.
Budgeting and planning
Our Trustees agree a budget each autumn, our Financial Year running from January to December. On the basis of this budget, we propose a suggested amount per member that Area Meetings might use as a guideline for their financial contributions to NFPB. Whilst some Meetings are not able to use this figure, due to insufficient funds locally, in general terms it has proved to be a very effective way for us to plan our financial affairs, with the support, generosity and cooperation from Area Meetings.
Development plan priorities
In 2009 we agreed a development plan, outlining our priorities for the coming few years. In summary it says….
- We wish to build, diversify and strengthen our relationships with Friends, in the North of Britain and beyond, through events, personal contacts and effective and appropriate communication.
- We wish to raise the profile of peace concerns, to provide support to others wishing to do that and to act in partnership with others.
- We plan to be sustainable as an organisation, in financial terms, in supporting growth and learning amongst our members and in our use of resources.
Relationships with Friends
As our primary purpose is to support Friends in the North of Britain, this will remain at the heart of our activities. We plan to make good use of our four meetings of Representatives a year, combining learning, linking with local Friends, discernment, planning for action and networking. We will also seek new and different ways for bringing Friends of all ages and backgrounds together and for contributing to existing Quaker events and activities. We plan to provide more support to our Representatives in their role as links with Area and Local Meetings.
We need to communicate – to Friends, to others concerned to learn about and act for peace, and to a wider audience of public, politicians etc. In doing so, we plan to continue to use new media when appropriate, trying out new technologies from time to time, whilst also using print-based and personal communications, so that we are accessible to as wide an audience as possible. We have a particular responsibility to help raise the profile of the Quaker understanding and practice of peace and to seek ways of including this when working with others. We also need to listen, so that our peace work is properly informed and responsive. We hope to raise the profile of Quaker peace concerns and of our own organisation, both amongst Friends and more widely and will develop a communications strategy to assist us in implementing these aims.
Building Common Cause
Our work has always been enriched by working with others and by actively promoting a spirit of inclusiveness in our own processes. These will remain priorities, along with action towards fostering links within the Society of Friends and with other, non-Quaker, groups. These are only enhanced by the spirit of collaborative working envisioned in the Yearly Meeting’s Framework for Action and by our continuing membership of a number of networking bodies at national and international level. We want to encourage the involvement of young people in our activities and to increase the accessibility of our resources and events.
Our work, and the building of peace in all corners of the world, is sustained by people, backed up with material and financial resources. To have kept going for so long is a testament to the shared commitment of Northern Friends towards promoting and upholding our peace testimony. We need to use resources entrusted to us with care and diligence; this applies to money, to the Friends who serve our organisation and to our own relationship with the planets resources. We have always been careful in our expenditure; we must now be ever more thoughtful in how our activities impact on the planet. We must also be imaginative and careful in how we nurture and develop the peace community of the Society of Friends – peace is and ongoing process.