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YM 2012 Epistle

Epistle from YM 2012, held at Totara Springs May 11-14 2012

Greetings to Friends everywhere

Eighty Friends gathered at Totara Springs Christian Centre, Matamata near Hamilton in the centre of the North Island, Aotearoa/New Zealand: looking across a valley to the Kaimai ranges, mist-capped against an azure blue sky.

‘Dear Friends, let us tell you how we feel. You have given us your presence, we welcome you!’

Our meeting opened in the traditional way with this waiata (song) greeting from our hosts, Waikato/Hauraki Monthly Meeting.

As an isolated country in the South Pacific we were delighted to hear from six of the eleven participants from Aotearoa at the Sixth World Conference of Friends in Kenya, in April 2012 . One Young Friend repeated the talk he had given there embracing the theme ‘Brokenness is in the Eye of the Beholder

We found this to be inspirational and it led the gathering to feel that the spiritual future of our Society is in good hands. Contributions by young Friends who were at the Conference revealed passionate dedication to promote and explore our Quaker values and testimonies in the sphere of global understanding in a ‘broken’ world, acknowledging the dire effects of human degradation on our planet Earth. Other contributions were about peace making initiatives, building water filters and working through the diverse issues that arose in the multinational group: through diversity towards unity.

The theme of this Yearly Meeting emerged as ‘brokenness transformed through love into wholeness’. Christchurch Friends shared their account of the effect that the multiple earthquakes are having on their lives. Some lost their homes. The Meeting House and its land must be abandoned. Despite this, Christchurch Friends told us they are in good heart.

We are concerned about the high level of imprisonment in our country and heard from the Penal Reform Group about the proven links between income inequality and crime.

The Treaty Relationship Group distributed and spoke concerning their new resource booklet for Quaker discussion on the issue of constitutional reform. It is important for our Society in Aotearoa New Zealand to engage in a process of learning so that we are able to enter into a dialogue, on an informed basis with our networks and the wider community. This booklet lays out a framework for expressing the values and aspirations we have for Aotearoa and which we can present to the Government Constitutional Advisory Panel in due course.

We acknowledged the episode of non-violent resistance at Parihaka led by the indigenous prophets, Te Whiti and Tohu. This occurred at the start of an armed intervention during our colonial past. Some Friends aim to make the history of this event and its consequences more widely known to New Zealanders.

Another political action by which we are expressing our testimonies is our opposition to the sale of state assets. Yearly Meeting is endorsing a petition for a citizen’s initiated referendum. We are also opposing the mining of lignite coal.

A Young Friend introduced us to the Generation Zero movement. This is an initiative of young people who are passionately determined to reverse environmental destruction. It is a collaborative, inclusive, well-informed and fun group. They believe they can energise us all to achieve net zero carbon emissions in Aotearoa by the year 2050.

In the end I think the answer is the same as it’s always been. Only love will get us through: our love and faith – our faith in love. I don’t think our reason is going to get us through – nor our science, nor our religion; for these are human made things. They are fallible, incomplete. Only something truer than human thought can save us. Our conscience, our faith, our unconditional love – for the Spirit and for each other.

Thomas Owen, 6th World Conference of Friends, Kabarak, Kenya, April 2012.

Claire Gregory and Linley Gregory