NFPB members met online and in-person on 18 June; 33 were present at the meeting during the day. Central Leeds (Carlton Hill) Meeting House provided the hospitality and technical set-up for our meeting, the first blended meeting we had held and the first time a number of us had met one-another in person. We made time Friends to talk and greet one another in smaller groups at the start of a full agenda.
The war in Ukraine was the substantive item in our morning session. We shared information about Quaker responses, from international to local and including input about our own work, and from Oliver Robertson about work by Quakers in Britain. From the practical and human tasks of supporting those who are victims of the war, to engagement with our government and the possibility of an international peace conference, Quakers are being led to take action in different ways. Alongside action, we heard of concerns regarding the challenges to our peace testimony and of seeking truth and integrity in the context of misinformation – the fog of war. There was a strong sense of solidarity with those most directly affected, including war resisters and sanctuary seekers, and with Quakers and others seeking constructive ways forward whilst things are moving in the wrong direction in so many ways. Trustees and staff were asked to look at how a fuller event for NFPB members and other Friends might happen, so that we have more time and space to engage with these issues.
Our meeting, as ever, included a ‘members forum’ where Friends shared news and concerns from their Area and Local Meetings. We heard of regular acts of peace witness starting, continuing and resuming, with a focus on other international conflicts as well as Ukraine. Covid has negatively affected the dynamics and capacity of groups in taking action together, but new opportunities and ways of working have also emerged, we heard. Friends are also taking time to research new issues, to reflect and to develop approaches of spiritual support and upholding.
Further reports we heard included: an update from Tracey Martin, on Woodbrooke’s continuing work providing learning opportunities on peace, and social and climate justice; an outline of a Brighouse West Yorkshire AM concern on alternative security scenarios and the need for advocacy for a radically changed approach away from militarism; and an update about the witness and awareness-raising activities of the Menwith Hill Accountability Campaign.
NFPB’s trustees report to the each of our members meetings, and on this occasion gave a short account of a recent ‘away day’ they had held. They also referred Friends to the recently completed annual accounts and trustees’ report, and the summary of our work that has been sent to Meetings and others. Printed copies of the latter are available on request. Funding from Area Meetings has been slower coming in this year, Friends heard; trustees hope that this source of funding will continue to make up most of our core costs. They will be drawing on reserves to make up deficits during this challenging period, and will consider further use of reserves in taking our work forward.
The meeting concluded with a time of worship-sharing on leadings and openings as we move through this difficult time. We were reminded of the interconnections between our concerns and testimonies, to truth, peace, social justice and planet care, and of the need to look deeply at roots of violent conflict. At a time of collective stress and trauma, we need to support one another, to speak out but also hold space for new ideas and actions that will emerge. Love is at the heart, we heard. The meeting concluded in gathered worship.