NFPB members held their final meeting of the year in the midst of the election period and just two days after the London Bridge attack. Moving from our opening worship, Friends reflected in groups in response to the question ‘How are things?’ There was much to talk about.
During the meeting, we heard expressions of appreciation of the support that we can and do give one another, within and beyond our community as Quakers in Britain. Sharing news of peace-related activities around the North, Friends reported on various ways in which white poppies were being used to open up a different conversation around remembrance. Friends had been involved in an array of other initiatives to promote peace, from arts performance, to political initiatives, direct action, acts of witness and community meals. One Friend, who had attended parts of the performance in Manchester, of 24 Hours of Peace , commented on the great sense of solidarity and connectedness.
Lisa Cumming, Programme Manager for QPSW’s Turning the Tide programme, introduced some of the key ideas and future plans of the programme. The minute of this session read, in part:
“In the current social and political context of crisis, division, and structural violence, when do we want to hold out a hand saying ‘enough’, and the other outstretched in love – and how do we find the balance? How do we look after each other in turbulent times? Maybe we can look for ‘the cracks’, because that is where the light is.”
NFPB members Ann Bettys and Robin Bowles have been part of the core-group for Roots of Resistance [now Quaker Roots, as of September 2020 ] . They reflected on the action at the DSEI arms fair and on the process of preparation and follow-up facilitated by that core group. They led us in discussion and sharing ideas on how we as Quakers can witness and articulate our concern about the weapons trade and how this can be sustained and developed. The session ended in song when we sang ‘You can’t kill the spirit’.
Leeds Friend Martin Schweiger gave a brief but informative introduction to the US government’s activities at the ‘RAF’ base operating at Menwith Hill near Harrogate. It continues to be a very significant listening and communications base for the United States military. Martin supports the weekly vigil and other activities of the Menwith Hill Accountability Campaign and encouraged Friends to get involved and to find out more.
We reflected further on Extinction Rebellion Peace , drawing this time on the links through some present in Leeds with XR Peace. There continues to be support from NFPB for the initiative and for those involved, and NFPB will continue to publicise its activities whilst not at this stage becoming formally involved. We will keep this under review.
NFPB’s Trustees and nominations committee each reported to the Board. Support from Area and Local Meetings for the work of the Board is broadly in line with the budget, for which Trustees expressed their appreciation. The guideline figure for contributions in 2020 will be £9 per member for a further year. There is a need to appoint new Trustees, and the nominations committee will continue their work of discernment. NFPB members were asked to consider how they might give some additional service to the Board, although it was recognised that most Friends already feel very stretched.
At a cold time of year, we had been warmly welcomed: with a message of greeting on the outside of the Meeting House, warm drinks and soup, and Friendship and encouragement from local Friends – nourishment for body and soul.