Britain Yearly Meeting 4-7.5. 2018. Held in Friends House, Euston Road, London
What an amazing contrast to be in both Finland Yearly Meeting and Britain Yearly Meeting within a week. Our own YM with 17 Friends including Alvin aged 4 and Britain YM with over 1000 Friends and 6 groups for children and young people: New shoots (0-2) Fox Cubs (3-6) Penn Friends (7-9) Spiritual Adventurers (9-11) Young People’s Program (11-15) and Junior Yearly Meeting (16-18). But yet, the similarities seemed more striking than the difference in numbers might suggest. I took with me the quality of the Worship and Spirit that I experienced in Ilkko at the end of April and I found the same depth of Spirit in the gathered silence among the many of us worshiping in Friend’s House central London.
The final ministry from our Sunday morning worship in Ilkko brought us the message of how Quaker structures and ways of service have changed as Friends have learned to see what was not obvious to them before. Britain YM spent the whole weekend considering whether the time is right to revise the ‘red book’ Quaker Faith and Practice in Britain YM; not change for the sake of change, but because the world has changed, and Quaker experience has changed, and the new book needs to reflect this; not least because there is a new generation of younger Friends and more coming. We were asked to treat younger Friends as ‘the now’ and not ‘the future’. All the children’s and young people’s groups addressed the same question in their sessions and all sent their response to the main session.
Whatever is produced by the revision group must take into account new ways of doing things and truly reflect the diversity within Britain Yearly Meeting. Increasing numbers of Friends in Britain are convinced Friends (not growing up in a Quaker family but coming to Quakerism as adults) so an explanation of why things are done in a certain way needs to be present as well as guidelines for how things are done. This will also help YMs such as our own where most of us have not grown up in Quaker families and where in addition Quakerism is very little known about within Finnish society. We were reminded that the first generation of Friends, early Quakers, were also convinced Friends!
BYM has met continuously for 350 years. In my mind’s eye as we sat in the large meeting room in Friend’s House (the room is also called The Light) I could imagine generations of Friends preceding us, and I could also sense that spoken ministry might come through any one of us at any time. We are all channels for the Spirit and we all need to serve, though not necessarily at the same time and in the same way. There was also the sense that this community of Faith will continue into the future and I understood at depth that we in Finland are a part of this world-wide community; we are also a living community of Friends with a message to offer the world. We might now feel that the time is right to begin working on our own Faith and Practice in Finnish, including the ‘why’ as well as the ‘how’ and some of the fruits of our own Spirit as it has been, and is being, expressed within FYM.
FYM has been thinking about how we might request an annual contribution (money!) from Friends and Attenders. This theme was also discussed in relation to the BYM statement of accounts for 2017. I would like to highlight and explain the beautiful phrase which was used: ‘Give joyfully with equal generosity for a peaceful, just and sustainable world, whether our resources are small or large’. Giving joyfully should be clear, but equal generosity means equality in proportion to what you can afford. We might encourage Friends in Finland to give in this way and also consider what we are lead to support or do with money so raised.
As well as the main sessions I spent time in conversation with Friends and friends, sharing our lives and experiences. One Friend told me that there had been a young Friend from Finland at the famous Young Friend’s World Gathering in Greensborough, Carolina in 1985. Now who could that have been? Is he or she still in our YM?
I would like to thank Friends in Finland very much for sending me to Britain Yearly Meeting. I return with my heart full and overflowing.