AS WE APPROACH the year’s end, it seems appropriate to reflect on our centenary. We have approached it in different ways, which seems appropriate given the height and breadth of what Northern Friends Peace Board has been about. At the very middle of our year, our Walk of Witness linked some of the earliest concerns – the treatment of conscientious objectors at Richmond Castle during the first world war – to far more contemporary matters, the role of the US base at Menwith Hill in spreading militarism around the world. During the week’s walk between the two, a community of walkers was built, supporting one another and drawing inspiration from worship, companionship and the natural world.
As we entered the year, still in dark winter months, we celebrated the birth of our organisation with past and present NFPB members and employees, friends and relations. It was a time for cake and candles, for sharing our new display, for recalling some of the inspiration and stories and to celebrate all that NFPB had done. From that point, our materials have been produced, distributed and shown throughout the country, talks and workshops have taken place and a major conference brought many Friends together in York. The last of these was again a time for reflecting briefly on our history but also for mapping out some of the key current issues that we need to address in the months and years ahead.
One thing we know from having delved into our history, and of course from our own lives and experiences, is that peace work isn’t always easy. We can find ourselves swimming against the tide, struggling to find unity ourselves at times and, if we’re not careful, worn out and weary. NFPB’s structure of having representatives appointed to serve for fixed periods of time means that we are always challenged by new questions, new approaches; but also, of course delighting in new friendships and opportunities. We find ourselves at a hub, drawing ideas and inspiration from the Northern Friends represented on the Board, drawing together in worship to develop joint work with and for these Friends.
Our final members’ meeting of the year found us in Kendal Meeting House, itself a building that doubles as a centre for sharing the history of Quakers through the Quaker tapestry. It seemed appropriate that we again had a candle as a source for inspiration and focus for reflection. As one of our centenary candles was passed from one Friend to the next, each shared something about what had brought light into their lives, peace work and witness during the year. That candle now sits on the mantle piece in the NFPB office – it still has plenty of burning to do.
Thank you Friends for all you have contributed to marking our centenary year. In some ways this has been a time to pause but has also been incredibly busy. We have valued the opportunity it has given us to think hard about the source of inspiration and the people behind the work, to make new connections and to celebrate those who have gone before us. As we approach the centenary of the first world war, we are as committed as ever to promoting peace in its height and breadth, to acting together in love, challenging militarism, deepening our understanding of alternatives to war and speaking and witnessing to peace as we understand it today.
[Postcript: we have set up new web pages with links to resources and action for peace during the centenary of the first world war. You can find them here ]