NFPB is currently arranging monthly opportunities for our members and others interested in our work to meet up online. At the most recent gathering, the strain of the continuing pandemic was acknowledged, with those working or volunteering in the area of mental health reporting significant challenges that people are facing. Alongside this, Friends who would have otherwise found it difficult to travel have found that online conferencing and engagement have opened up new connections, perspectives and possibilities. We were also reminded of the dangers to our well-being of too much online time (zoom-overload) and the importance of taking care of ourselves at a time of uncertainty and anxiety.
This is a time of transition and change, whether we like it or not. We heard of creative ways in which Friends have been using this unusual time. This includes reading groups on nonviolence, researching arms trade, recording and listening to experiences and narratives from people who find themselves marginalised, and being active local volunteers to help address issues of homelessness.
With so much happening online, we were challenged to consider the importance of being more visibly and physically present in our witness and action – but also how difficult this currently is. Some vigils, and other acts of public witness have taken place and more are planned. Friends are worried about the state of politics in this country, with democratic processes being ignored or misused, and the North-South divide again being a significant part of public discourse. In this context, assertion of ethical values, of care and compassion, in public life is important.
Our sense of inter-dependence, of being connected and supporting one another, will continue to provide foundations for further action. This theme was reinforced in the most recent international Quaker conversation, arranged by FWCC. During that, participants from across the globe heard from Andrew Lane of the Quaker Council for European Affairs, and from Diane Randall of the Friends Committee on National Legislation in the US. As the FWCC event concluded, one Friend reflected that we don’t always know what we might need to do, but the Quaker commitment to prepare, to learn, to reflect and gather in worship means that we can be ready to engage when opportunities and needs arise.
Take care, Friends.