Details for the NFN 2019 Gathering at Woodbrooke have been updated today including further details about our speakers.
All members of NFN are invited to attend the AGM which will take place on the Saturday of our annual gathering at Woodbrooke. (30th March 2019).
Application forms for the conference have now been posted on the 2019 Conference page.
We hope as many of you as are able will attend the conference which is our best opportunity each year to gather together with like-minded Friends but if you are not able to do so please consider coming for the day on Saturday or just for the AGM.
NFN is pleased to reproduce here this notice of the SoF 2018 Conference, 24th to 26th July, received today from John Pearson, Chair of SoF Trustees:
The Sea of Faith Network’s Annual Conference this year is entitled, “The Necessity of Hope”. The guest speaker is Richard Norman, Emeritus Professor of Moral Philosophy at the University of Kent and Vice-President of Humanists UK. He is co-editor with Anthony Carroll of “Religion and Atheism: Beyond the Divide”, a book he describes as being all about Dialogue. The SOF speaker is Dinah Livingstone whose talk is entitled “Hope for Humanity – A Theology of Liberation and the Beautiful City”. Dinah is a poet, translator and editor of Sofia magazine. Her most recent publication is “The Making of Humanity – Poetic Vision and Kindness”.
SoF Conferences are informal affairs, a mix of talks, workshops and presentations. Those who attend are a friendly crowd, and much can be gained not just from the “set pieces” but also from the opportunities it offers to meet together in the free time slots, the bookshop we run, over meals and in the bar.
The conference will be held from 24th to 26th July 2018 at Leicester University Halls of Residence, Oadby. Further details and booking forms can be found at: http://www.sofconference.org.uk/annual_conference.html
Chair of Trustees, Sea of Faith Network
Members of the Network will have received the April newsletter with reflections on the 2018 Conference by email. After a little delay, the pdf version has now been added here with a slight re-structuring of the articles/newsletters pages.
The Newsletter might be read in conjunction with the 2018 Conference reports in the previous post.
I have prepared summary reports of the presentations by Linda Murgatroyd, David Boulton and Harvey Gillman here. (Each runs to 3 or 4 pages). The opening paragraphs below link to those reports (in Word). Trevor
Linda Murgatroyd’s presentation. (Friday evening 9th March 2018)
Responding to Change.
Under this title, Linda, of Kingston & Wandsworth AM and co-clerk of the Quaker Arts Network, developed an extended metaphor of gardening to explore the growth, development, decline and rejuvenation of different aspects of Quakers in Britain today and in particular used David Holmgren’s 12 design principles for Permaculture to structure a consideration of possible futures for Quakers in Britain.
Notes for her talk have been sent to conference participants but Linda didn’t feel they were in a form that was suitable for publication on the website.
David Parlett has summarised the talk for his article in The Friend as follows:
“Linda adopted a metaphorical approach by considering ways in which we could work towards a desirable position in 2032 by following the 12 principles of permaculture, defined as “thinking tools, that when used together, allow us to creatively re-design our environment and our behaviour in a world of less energy and resources”. She backed this by drawing attention to statistics on trends in religion in Britain and Jennifer Hampton’s British Quaker Survey: examining religious beliefs and practices in the 21st Century.”
Read more here: Summary report of Linda Murgatroyd’s NFN presentation (This is now a pdf edited by Linda replacing earlier Word version).
David Boulton’s presentation. (Saturday morning 10th March 2018)
‘Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow: – What our past tells us about our future
Preview of a talk to an Open Quaker conference, March 10 2032’
David addressed the 2018 NFN conference at Woodbroke with a ‘preview’ of the talk that might be given (by him?) at a Quaker conference on March 10th 2032.
In part this flash forward was looking back at 2005 and the years upto 2018 and beyond to 2032.
He begins ’28 years ago, in 2005’ with a study published then by George Fox University, Oregon, USA predicting that the last British Quaker (probably female) would turn out the lights of the last BYM meeting house in 2032.
Read more here: Summary report of David Boulton’s presentation
(Well, not so much a précis as a butchering of David’s fine writing and talk so, especially if you weren’t there, do read the original attached here in Word format.)
Harvey Gillman’s presentation. (Saturday morning 10th March 2018)
Why should the Religious Society of Friends have a Future?
Taking his turn after Linda and David, Harvey offered us his vision, not at variance with those foreseen by Linda and David but presented in a very different style.
David Parlett has summarised Harvey’s talk for his article in The Friend as follows:
“Later, delegates were stimulated – one might say enraptured – by Harvey Gillman, whose (literally) enthusiastic writings will be well known to readers of The Friend. Harvey declared himself to be an ‘unstructured’ thinker and speaker, and proved the value of this style in suggesting that our future will be the eventual outcome of living always in the here and now. The most important element in our spiritual life should be the ‘WOW factor’; the truly sacred is always ‘This moment, this place, these people’.” (emphasis added here).
Looking at what Harvey has written elsewhere and in the piece that follows that he read to us on Sunday morning, we might imagine him abbreviating this further to WE (or You, Us), HERE, NOW!
Read more here: Summary report of Harvey Gillman’s presentation
On Sunday morning, Michael Wright led a workshop on using ‘God, words and Us’ in local meetings and his notes are now reproduced here:
Michael Wright’s notes for using God, Words and Us. (Word.docx)
We have just had a very successful and enjoyable Conference at Woodbrooke and the website has been updated. Conference reports will follow in a little while.
Any comments on the Conference from participants would be welcome here below. (Will be moderated and possibly edited so appear after a day or two’s delay).
In case anyone is interested, here are some statistics about the visitors to the website:
1. Excel spreadsheet showing viewing patterns for the last 30 days, 365 days and all time by country and page: nontheist-quakers.org.uk_countryviews_day_03_04_2018_03_04_2018
2. Excel spreadsheet showing ‘How they found us’ – referring pages, searches or links: nontheist-quakers.org.uk_referrers_day_03_04_2018_03_04_2018
Perhaps more interesting is this referring page from the ‘Sea of Faith’.
Trevor will give a verbal report with Q&A at the conference and a short written note for the minutes.
The conference is now just 4 weeks away!
I have received a note about the AGM from Gisela Creed our NFN Clerk:
Notice of Annual General Meeting
To be held on Saturday 10th of March 2018 at 4.30 pm at Woodbrooke Quaker Study Centre during the NFN annual residential conference.
1. Minutes of last Meeting (26/03/2017)
2. Clerk’s report
3. Financial report and accounts
4. Website update
5. Newsletter report
6. Appointment of Steering group and office holders
7. Any other business
Please notify Gisela Creed, clerk, if you would like to raise any further business:
jgcreed (at) btinternet.com (Replace the (at) with the usual @ symbol – no spaces!)
All NFN members are invited to attend the AGM, and Conference attendees who are not NFN members (please join at the Conference!) are welcome to attend the AGM as observers.
We all look forward to the conference and enjoying our stay at Woodbrooke
Trevor (for the Steering Group).
In a post on 27th July (https://nontheist-quakers.org.uk/2017/07/27/meeting-your-maker/) I wrote:
And so, bearing in mind all the excellent (and personal and idiosyncratic) Quaker blogs out there, I thought I’d put a spanner in the works or a cat among the pigeons here by posting something personal in the hope of stimulating (provoking) further non- theist discussion.
As we approach the season of the birth of Jesus and later (in March) our conference considering the future of Quakerism, I felt it was time for another spanner or cat.
In an interesting article in The Young Quaker (magazine of Young Friends General Meeting) for October 2017 (page 7), Laurence Hall writes about the Seeds of a new Quakerism. He says ‘In essence the emerging New Quakerism is deeply aligned with movements that are now reshaping the world around us.’
Being myself blissfully unaware of the ‘New Quakerism’, I turned, as one does, to Google and whilst there were many results related to ‘Quakerism’ and ‘New’, there was only one (the first) which seemed to relate to a ‘New Quakerism’ as such.
That link was to ‘We need a new Quakerism‘ on the blog of Hye Sung Francis who styles himself ‘an anti-capitalist pentecostal quaker’. He writes:’It seems to me that many Friends, even those who consider themselves “convinced,” are hungry for more than what the Society has to offer. We keep coming back to the same point: we desperately need to re-imagine Quakerism.’ and later: ‘Without that conviction that God reigns and that God will reign, only the empty forms of Quakerism persist. That is the way of death.’ Is that what our conference will consider?
On his blog, Hye Sung Francis has a number of other rather interesting posts: ‘Jesus, a Failed Revolutionary‘ reminds me of David Boulton’s ‘Who on Earth was Jesus‘ and the fact that I haven’t yet got round to reading ‘Jesus the Terrorist‘. In that post, Francis writes:
‘There’s another lesson here: the destruction of the systems and authorities on this earth and the realization of God’s kingdom cannot be accomplished by one person. Christ’s ministry wasn’t a one-man show. It can only be realized through his people, through his body. Through us.’
Francis’s most recent post, ‘On Being Friends with Jesus‘, makes many interesting points to ponder including the wonderful “Any theology that values God above people is false.”
I hope non-theist Friends (and others) will follow the hypertext links above, both to the many excellent articles in The Young Quaker and to Hye Sung Francis, and consider how these viewpoints relate to non-theism among Friends, our forthcoming Conference and to ‘God, Words and Us’.
I look forward to your feedback and comments and, I hope, those of younger Friends, whether non-theist, Godly, ‘anti-capitalist pentecostal’ or whatever. We do indeed need to move outside our ‘elderly, white, middle-class’ comfort zone, where that applies to us, and perhaps all other comfort zones too!
God, Words and Us
Quaker Books – November 2017 £8
A review by Hugh Rock
The slight extent of this book, 98 pages, belies its heavyweight testimony. It is a conclusive demonstration of Quaker Faith. But it does not recognise this. It masquerades as an attempt to discover what the unifying principle of Quaker Faith might be, and assumes a starting point of doubt and conflict.
The subtitle ‘Quakers in Conversation about Religious Difference’ is a euphemism for the nagging subject of nontheism, that was identified by the Book of Discipline Revision Preparation Group as top of the list of topics that worried Friends and required more discernment before any revision might proceed. The twenty-four prominent voices gathered in these pages were engaged to discern, and concluded, (Hooray! Hooray!) that the polarising labels are a ‘misrepresentation’ (p79), ‘misleading and unhelpful’ (p80). Nobody identifies themselves as a theist, and the nontheists are themselves a mighty mixed bunch.
The chapter contents need some explanation beyond their headings:
‘Telling our stories’ reads like eighteen miniature Swarthmore Lectures. They are diverse confessions of faith.
‘Bringing our full selves to the conversation’, is a preparatory catechism for dialogue respectful of everyone’s feelings.
‘Sharing experiences of core Quaker practice’, assembles various views on prayer and Meeting for Worship.
‘Exploring the language of “theism and nontheism” ’, turns out to be a decisive rejection of any such simpleton polarity.
‘Reframing the issues: developing some alternative models, seeking new vocabulary, rediscovering Quaker insights’, is an ode to Isaac Penington’s ‘The end of words’ 1, 2. It sings the vain hope that at some deeper level the irreconcilable clash between believing in God and believing that there is no God, can be resolved.
So, what is the paradox of doubt, and conflict with no apparent answer, that this book contradicts? It is, in itself, an exercise of the unifying principle of Quaker Faith. It exercises the simple faith that, out of mutual respect for varied spiritual experiences, we can, and must, distill collective action of love for the world. Twenty-four people of varied persuasions listen hard, respect and validate the significance, for others, of worldviews that they do not hold themselves. That, in these times especially, is a pearl without price.
The Revision Committee have no need to fiddle with the ancient language of Quaker Faith and Practice. ‘God, words and us’ can stand as a supplement: it is definitive testimony to what Friends can say in their twenty first century cultural environment.