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Reflections on YM 2016 from Settlement Resident Friends

Reflections on Yearly Meeting  Aotearoa /New Zealand 15th to 18th July 2016

We write as Resident Friends at the Quaker Settlement Whanganui. We are here for 12months from June 2016

Quakers (Friends and Attenders) in Aotearoa /New Zealand number around 1400 with 23 Worship Groups (mainly in the North Island) and 8 Monthly Meetings. Aotearoa/ New Zealand has a geographical area not dissimilar to the UK with a population of around 4 million,1/3rd of whom live in Auckland. Yearly Meeting has no permanent paid staff.

So much for the background. Over 100 Friends attended the YM which was business orientated with no break out or optional sessions a marked contrast to Britain YM.

The key issues of the YM would, we are sure, resonate with Friends in Durham LM and Northumbria AM. How to: maintain the organisation essential for the efficient functioning of the Society without this becoming burdensome; support the many social justice and environmental issues with which Friends identify so closely; ensure that spiritual nurturing and exploration which should underpin all our work and interests are not overlooked; attract more young people and families to our Meetings .

For some months Friends in Aotearoa/ New Zealand have been grappling with these issues and had set up a working group which reported to the YM with a number of proposals which would radically change the way the Yearly Meeting handled the above. Many Friends were moved to speak on the proposals but by the end of the weekend there was agreement on a way forward which in fact was very closely aligned to the original document from the working party. There was, however, one marked addition a strong desire that for the next year the YM would concentrate efforts on developing the spiritual life of Friends in Aotearoa /New Zealand even if this meant leaving other matters on the back burner.

This was the longest Meeting for Worship for Business we have ever attended. It was efficiently organised and Clerked and at the end reached clear decisions as to the way forward. There were times, however, when Friends’ contributions seemed at best tangential to the matters under discussion and this eventually provoked some strong Eldering words which certainly echoed our thoughts. Again this is something that we are sure will resonate with UK Friends. How do we encourage Friends to keep ministry in business focused?

Saturday evening brought the annual  Quaker Lecture delivered by Quaker and Former Government Minister for Disarmament Marian Hobbs on “a Peaceful World : how can we make it so ?”- powerful , direct and  challenging. Equally so the presentation on Generation Zero (Movement working for a carbon neutral world), which, to us, showed Quaker business at its best. A sharp presentation with clear objectives containing proposals with a realistic workable action plan. In similar vein the report on the work of FWCC and the report back on Australia YM. Focused stimulating and very interesting in both cases .

On Sunday evening we were joined by Junior Young Friends who arrived at the end of their camp which had been held nearby (and which we had visited for a day before the YM commenced). At a time when many of us were feeling rather drained they lifted the mood and led us all in singing and dancing. They also spoke deeply and movingly of what they had gained from the camp.

We felt very honoured to be allowed to join our Aotearoa/New Zealand Friends for this key event. We were made to feel welcome and at home. Memories of YM and the friendships we made will remain with us.

Jeff Dean and Annette Morris