History of the NFN

At this 2021 New Year’s tide, I thought it might be interesting to have a look at our NFN (UK) history to help us reflect on ‘where we are’ and ‘how we got here’.

The earliest history directly on this site is our 2012 Minute and Epistle to be found here: https://nontheistquakers.files.wordpress.com/2016/09/nontheism-among-friends.pdf

However, there is even earlier history, from 2011, on our companion US site here: http://www.nontheistfriends.org/article/what-next-for-quaker-nontheism and here: http://www.nontheistfriends.org/article/new-nontheist-friends-network-in-britain
Going even further (way back to 1976) there is a report on the US site of an FGC meeting in New York in that year: http://www.nontheistfriends.org/article/report-from-nontheistic-friends-workshop-at-fgc-1976-2

An early and moving post by James Riemermann of (and at) Twin Cities Meeting, Minnesota from April 2005 can be found here: http://www.nontheistfriends.org/article/my-spiritual-journey-riemermann

The earliest post I can find on the US site concerns a gathering of nontheist quakers including David Boulton, David Rush, and Kitty Rush at Woodbrooke in January 2004, posted by Os Cresson here: http://www.nontheistfriends.org/article/greetings-from-woodbrooke-2004

That should whet the appetite for now and there might be more to follow!

AGM 9 December 2020 – Second thoughts

We now have a draft minute for the AGM on 9 December, which was sent to current members of NFN by email on our mailing list yesterday (Wednesday 23 December).

The clerk welcomed participants and expressed great pleasure in seeing old and new faces. She introduced the Steering Group. Altogether there were 35 people present. After clarifying some ground rules for the procedure of the AGM, an extract from QF&P was read (26.39, Charles F Carter, 1971).
(For full details, see the minute)

The Meeting appointed Piers Maddox (Clerk), Trevor Bending, Gisela Creed, Tim Regan, Kiera Faber, Steven Goldblatt and Roger Warren-Evans to be the Steering Group for 2021, and asks them to find ways of working with small, open planning groups for specific tasks.

One of these might be a working group consisting of interested members of the Steering Group and others to undertake an evaluation of the website and, if an entirely new website is required, come up with at least a created ‘proof of concept’ site.

The clerk (Gisela Creed 2017-2020) thanked the retiring members of the steering group for their work and especially David Boulton whose initiative started the group. She thanked everyone for attending, and ended with a quote by David Boulton from his introduction to ‘Godless for God’s sake, the collection of essays on Nontheism in contemporary Quakerism which David edited in 2006:
There is so much to do. So much in our divided, warring world, our atavistic religion, our polluted politics, our unexamined ways of thinking that we need to SUBVERT! Where shall we find the society of rebels, agitators, and outsiders, the partisan recruits to the underground army of subversion whose loyalty is pledged to the republic of heaven on earth? Who will choose to be Godless- for God’s sake?

The Steering Group page of the website has been updated with the new details, as has the Constitution amended by the AGM:
(a) In section 1, we agree to replace the words ‘listed informal group’ with the words ‘Quaker Recognised Body’ in accordance with changes in the Britain Yearly Meeting regulations.
(b) In section 2, we agree to add the words ‘and attenders’ after the word ‘Friends’ to reflect the open nature of our group.

One Friend at the AGM said that he found the name ‘Steering Group’ off-putting. This came about because a ‘planning group’, considering the setting up of the NFN (which didn’t then have a name) in 2011, eventually decided on the terms ‘nontheist’ (about which arguments have continued to the present day), Nontheist Friends Network and Steering Group (a temporary sort of name?) and that’s the way it’s been ever since our first full ‘annual’ conference at Woodbrooke in 2012. We never got round to changing the SG to ‘Committee’ – but it is not in any way exclusive, is appointed annually by the AGM (I think that means for one year) but, in accordance with normal Quaker practice and our Constitution ‘The appointments of Clerk and Steering Committee will normally be for three years’. Steering Group members may choose to stay as long as required or ask to be released at any time and especially at the AGM which in normal circumstances usually takes place after one year – but in this exceptional year (not to mention the ‘C’ word, well maybe, Coronavirus) took place on ‘Zoom’ after 20 months.

Whilst ‘membership (of NFN) is open to all who sympathise with the aims’,  to be a member of the Steering Group, in accordance with our status as a ‘Quaker Recognised Body’, you should be a member or regular attender at a recognised Quaker meeting being part of a recognised ‘Yearly Meeting’ such as Britain Yearly Meeting. (BYM also stands for Baltimore Yearly Meeting and there are many Quaker Yearly Meetings around the world – see FWCC website for details!)

AGM 9 December 2020 – First thoughts

The NFN AGM on Zoom on 9 December was well attended with more than 35 participants.
It was decided to continue the Network with some changes to the Steering Group and further details will follow shortly.
Thank-you to all who attended and especially those who indicated their willingness to join the Steering Group and/or assist with roles and the suggested planning groups.
More on this will also follow soon and the website will be updated.
We were pleased to learn from Helen Gilbert of the active Non-theist Quaker Facebook group including its numerous UK members and hope there will be links and communication established between this and the Network.
In the meantime, here is the link to that group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1631439757083868

It is an open group so you will be able to read all the posts and comments there (some of which have been about our AGM and very interesting) but will only be able to join in the conversation if you sign/have signed up to Facebook.

Living with absurdity

Not all, perhaps not many nontheist Quakers would describe themselves as existentialists (and surely not nihilists) but I thought this delightful post on ‘Canadian Atheist’ by 87 years old James Haught, editor of West Virginia’s largest newspaper,  deserved sharing amongst Friends.

Most of us probably wouldn’t share all the sentiments expressed (anyone for Trump?) and some of which might be very unwelcome to many Quakers in the world, but it moved me to smile (tickled my fancy?) so I hope Friends find it interesting too!

Living With Absurdity

Formal notice of AGM 9 December 2020 at 7pm on Zoom

The formal notice was sent to members, including those who have signed up in 2020, by email on 5 November and reads as follows:

Dear Members and friends of NFN,

Please accept this letter as formal notice of our belated 2020 AGM which will be held by Zoom on Wed 9 December 2020 at 7pm. Tim Regan, a member of the SG, will act as our host. To register please email: tim_regan82@hotmail.com (note the understroke between Tim and Regan!) by Saturday 14 November 2020. You will then be sent the link to join the meeting and any additional papers.

In these complicated times it is so much harder to keep in meaningful contact. Many of us are on a steep learning curve to develop ways of keeping in touch using digital means. It is all the more important therefore that we get a good turnout at our AGM to consider the future of the network. Though the AGM is primarily for members we warmly welcome all our interested friends as observers.

We need your active support to think about the Network’s focus and its place within the Society of Friends and this will be the main business of our AGM. We look forward to meet many of you there.

Please notify Gisela with nominations for Steering group and clerk, suggestions and any other business by 14/11/2020: jgcreed@btinternet.com

With best wishes

Gisela Creed (clerk)

Agenda:

1 Annual report including updates on: website, newsletter and finance, membership

2 Minutes of last Meeting (30/03/19)

3 Simple amendments to Constitution

4 The Future of the Network, discussion, introduced by David Boulton (paper)

a. aims and structure of the network

b. conferences/other activities etc (suggestions welcome)

5 Membership arrangements

6 Appointment of steering group and clerk

At present the following members of the steering group are willing to continue: Trevor Bending (website), Piers Maddox (Treasurer and newsletter), Roger Warren Evans (membership), Gisela Creed as ordinary member, and Tim Regan. Wishing to stand down at the AGM after long service are: David Boulton, Keith Ryecroft and Sarah Siddle, David Parlett resigned already in August 2020, and your clerk wishes to hand over this role. This leaves 4-5 vacancies to be filled by volunteers who can play an active role and a proposal for clerk.

7 Any other business

 

The Steering Group 2019-20: David Boulton, Trevor Bending (website), Gisela Creed (clerk), Piers Maddox (treasurer and newsletter), David Parlett (formerly newsletter editor and membership), Tim Regan, Keith Rycroft, Sarah Siddle, Roger Warren Evans (membership).

AGM by Zoom on 9 December 2020 at 7pm

AGM by Zoom on 9 December 2020 at 7pm

THIS IS FIRST NOTICE OF OUR FORTHCOMING AGM, WHICH WAS POSTPONED IN MARCH 2020 BECAUSE WE WERE OVERTAKEN BY COVID-19 LOCKDOWN.

AS currently paid-for membership was suspended until the next AGM due to Covid restrictions, all past and recent members and friends who have expressed an interest are warmly invited to this AGM. An agenda and any motions will be sent 30  10 days in advance, so please let us know if you do not wish to have further correspondence about this by emailing nontheistfriend@gmail.com.

WE NEED YOUR ACTIVE SUPPORT TO THINK ABOUT THE FUTURE OF THE NETWORK IT’S FOCUS AND OUR PLACE WITHIN THE SOCIETY OF FRIENDS.

Details of how to attend and how to submit agenda items or proposals will follow within 3 weeks. (Correction: a formal notice of the AGM will be sent out 30 days in advance as required by the constitution. Any agenda items to be submitted 20 days in advance and agenda will be sent out 10 days beforehand).

Careful Discernment or Spiritual Timidity

Friends might like to read this from Friends Journal:

https://www.friendsjournal.org/careful-discernment-or-spiritual-timidity/

(Friends Journal, the major publication of Friends Publishing Corporation, is the consolidation of two previous Quaker publications and corporations, Friends Intelligencer (Hicksite) and The Friend (Orthodox), at the time of reunification of the two yearly meetings in Philadelphia.)

WorlD QUAker day 4/10/20

Tomorrow is World Quaker Day and there is an opportunity to join Friends in meeting for worship around the world. (For example at 13.00 BST tomorrow 4/10/20)

The theme for this year’s World Quaker Day is: What does it mean to be a Quaker today? Living a Faithful Life in a Changing World.

For details, see the Europe and Middle East Section (EMES) of the Friends World Committee for Consultation (FWCC) webpage for World Quaker Day:  https://www.fwccemes.org/calendar/world-quaker-day-2020 

Friends might also like to read Rhiannon Grant’s post today on ‘Being a World Quaker:   https://brigidfoxandbuddha.wordpress.com/2020/10/03/being-a-world-quaker/

Finally, if you can write up your experiences of World Quaker day by Monday, please send them to Piers for the newsletter!:

https://nontheist-quakers.org.uk/2020/09/22/your-views/

Your views!

Piers Maddox is compiling a new NFN newsletter for October and sent this request for the website:

Do you have anything to share with the group? Thoughts? A book review? After a period of newsletter inactivity Piers has committed to produce a few. Please send contributions to him at piersmaddox@gmail.com. 400 words maximum please. Deadline for next issue is Monday 5 October. Thanks!

That’s 13 days to go.  I’m sure Piers will welcome any items of general interest to Quakers and perhaps how you have been faring with your meetings during the present pandemic.  Please turn your thoughts to this this coming weekend and I wonder if there are any reflections on ‘Nontheism and Spiritual practice in the time of the coronavirus’?  I have just completed a rather lengthy survey by the University of Coimbra on my feelings and experiences during this awful time.

Some Friends seem to have quite enjoyed the ‘lockdown’ but that is clearly not true for most people and I lost one very good friend to the virus in May.  Your thoughts, reviews of books read during this period or any other reflections on Quakerism, NFN or these times will be most welcome.

The Steering Group is actively considering what to do next; will convene an SG meeting by Zoom shortly I believe and we will be discussing whether and how to hold a conference and AGM at least partly by video link (probably Zoom) at that meeting, so your thoughts on that possibility too will be welcome.

Piers awaits your contributions with bated breath.

Wholly Human Experience

Our NFN Clerk, Gisela, wrote to The Friend in response to a letter by Martyn Poole in April 2020, entitled”Faith and Practice”. Her letter was published in the 19 June issue but I thought it worth reproducing here. It read (edited by The Friend) as follows:

Stirrings of the heart
Why be so concerned and negative about Quakers with diverse conceptions of ‘God’ airing their views? Where does the idea come from that nontheists (granted it is a bit of an unfortunate name) wish for the Society of Friends to change their practice?

Personally, as a nontheistic Quaker, I respect our Christian roots and the history of Quakerism and the insights that has given us. Like most Quakers, I too feel challenged to look deeply into my heart for the promptings of love and truth, for compassion, wonder, thankfulness and, most of all, honesty to live usefully and responsibly in this wonderful world together with all people and creatures.

For me, this is a wholly human experience to do with my feelings, where God language, used by others, is often like beautiful poetry to describe the stirrings of the heart.

Gisela Creed

Website/log of the Non-theist Friends Network in Britain