Challenge and hope – NFPB meeting in Edinburgh on 28th September

For our third meeting of the year NFPB members from across the North gathered at Central Edinburgh Meeting House, beginning our meeting in worship and by reflecting on things giving us hope. A good number had been at the witness and action organised by Roots of Resistance [now Quaker Roots, as of September 2020 ] ahead of the DSEI arms fair at the start of the month, and spoke of the spirit-filled and vibrant Quaker presence of which they had been part. The vision and energy of young people in this, and in action to address the climate emergency, were welcomed. Friends spoke of the uplifting experience of gathering for a common purpose, of simple beauty in the natural world and of acts of practical solidarity and love.

We heard that both individual and collective effort continues to be needed to promote the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons encouraging politicians and civic leaders to unite around its vision and its commitments. NFPB’s working group on Nuclear abolition is offering workshops to support Friends and others wishing to learn about these issues and act upon them.

In broadly themed groups – on challenging militarism, climate crisis, and peace and conflict in society – members discussed the needs, experiences, insights, and opportunities that these issues raised for them. In the groups Friends were very aware of the connections between the current political and social discord in Britain, the distortion of our economy by the interests of military industry, the impact of the growth economy geared around consumption, and pressing concerns about climate and our fragile earth. Quaker contributions in these challenging times can include, creating space for listening as well as for speaking out, promoting integrity in political and economic life, and promoting understanding and awareness of the issues.

NFPB workshops have taken place in different parts of the country. Our workshops working group would welcome putting on more. Proposals supported at this meeting were that we should seek to be proactive in putting on one-off small events on specific current peace concerns, with both input and discussion. We are also keen to offer shorter workshops when appropriate, as we are aware that full-day workshops are not always easy to fit in with other commitments.

During our afternoon session we heard updates from a number of Friends around the North about their peace activities, and from Daniel Jakopovich from Quaker Peace and Social Witness . Common strands included work to welcome and support refugees and sanctuary seekers, and activities both against militarism and in promoting peaceful alternatives in fields of education, economics and public life.

XR Peace , a new coalition working with Extinction Rebellion, has invited us to join them ahead of action beginning of 7th October. Friends were positive about the links being made between these movements and wanted to support Friends who are involved. We did not feel we were in a position to make an active contribution at this stage but Friends looked forward to finding out more and to building connections.

Internally, as part of a review of our constitution, Friends were asked for guidance as to whether Friends serving as part of the Clerking team for Board meetings could also be trustees – as is our current practice. The practical benefits of having at least some in both roles was recognised and no significant changes to our way of working were recommended.

As part of the welcome from Edinburgh Friends, local Quaker Andrew Farrar shared some panels of the display which he had produced on first world war Quaker conscientious objectors. By coincidence, he was also one of two descendants of former NFPB Secretaries – Stanley Farrar and Robert Long – present at the meeting. Our meeting closed with a period of worship, with thanks given to those who had supported and welcomed us so warmly. NFPB next meets on 30th November in Leeds.

Members of NFPB were amongst 20 Friends who gathered for a Meeting for Worship at Faslane the next day, followed by planting flower seeds and bulbs, expressions of our hope and vision for a different world and in memory of those who have been part of Quaker witness there over the years.

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