Report of Ireland Yearly Meeting 2014
Ireland Yearly Meeting was held in King’s Hospital School, Dublin, from Thursday 24th April to Sunday 27th April 2014. The theme this year was “Faith in Action; living our lives according to our spiritual experience”. It was based on James 2 v 26, “For as the body without the Spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also”.
The Ministry and Oversight session centred on “How do we embrace peace in our everyday lives?” Three speakers shared very different aspects of integrating peace into their lives. “Spirituality is about everyday, for everyone, not just Christians”.
Gretchen Castle updated us on the work of Friends World Committee for Consultation (FWCC) and commented on the wide variety of Friends in the world yet with the ability to worship, communicate and learn from one another.
Irish Quaker Faith in Action (IQFA) supports a variety of causes around the world by financing projects nominated for financial aid. We heard a moving report from Dr Mohammed Alltawi about the work of the Palestine Trauma Centre. He described how the Centre provided psychological support to traumatised victims of war. His pictures gave us a glimpse into their disorientated lives after loss of limbs and family.
First hand sight of how the money has been spent is always satisfying for the IQFA committee. Jono Pim travelled to see the developing Education Centre at Mutoto in Uganda which illustrates how faith has inspired the action of setting up a school for 200 children. We also heard of Sue Saunders’ visit to Bosnia to use the Givens Method of psychotherapy to help people come to terms with very traumatic war experiences.
During Yearly Meeting we had our usual reports of committees, minutes were made and read. After hearing an analysis of the statistics we entered into a discussion on being attenders and perhaps moving to membership. Much more work needs to be done on this issue by the Purposes and Priorities Working Group.
Each day began with a Thought for the Day on the theme, Faith in Action. David said we may send a cheque in response for a plea for aid but will be asked at the end of our lives “What have we done?” Another speaker commented, ” When we witness to God’s imperatives, it is simple. We are given tasks according to our gifts”. We heard, “a concern is God initiated, often surprising, always holy”. One such initiative by Quaker Service is the visiting of isolated prisoners in their project called Quaker Connections.
Each YM session ended with a short reading from Quaker writings or the bible. One reader alluded to the statement: “Speak out for those who cannot speak”.
It was a joy to have many young people with us as they also gathered in their various age groups during the time of yearly meeting. We had an inspiring time of reporting their activities including hearing how parents welcomed the impact of the Quaker youth work in developing their offspring socially and spiritually.
During Yearly Meeting there were many great moments outside the formal sessions. Many animated conversations took place at mealtimes. We enjoyed eating the buns made by the young people and it raised over £200 for IQFA. Saturday night was entertainment evening. Our own Gillian Armstrong gave us a splendid piano recital; we had flute music from Lori, an American visitor, and humorous readings of stories and poems from a former Church of Ireland rector.
One of the highlights of IYM was the annual public lecture given this year by Ian Kirk-Smith, the editor of The Friend. He spoke to the title “On principle not consequence” and delivered a deeply personal and passionate account of his journey of faith and his experience in broadcasting in Northern Ireland. He talked about the IRA bombing of the Abercorn being a turning point for him in 1972. Sectarianship was “fear of the other”. yet he found “they were a lot like us”. During his early life he learnt much as he did practical work in underground drains in Belfast, meeting very different folk and acquiring respect for people as a result. Voluntary service in Nigeria with Muslims taught him that if respect is shown it will often be returned. He observed that the way to do missionary work is “not preaching, but living it. Deeds, not creeds.”
His Quaker belief in the value of the individual very much influenced how he did his work in broadcasting and filming. His aim was to understand, to find out where the person was coming from and get alongside the individual being filmed. Through reading Thomas Clarkson’s writings as an abolitionist, two principles emerged about how we may respond to situations:
a) political expediency …….the way of consequences
b) morality and religion……..the way of principle
Sometimes folk chose the higher road, that of principle, like Levi Coffin of Indiana in the mid nineteenth century, and stood to suffer financially in his oil business for helping about 2000 slaves on the Underground Railroad to freedom.
How do we know the right thing to do? Ian suggested that, in silent worship, the Spirit of Love speaks to us and points it out. It was abundantly clear throughout that Ian was led by principle. Very moving address in content and delivery, stirring us to consider our motivation.
The overall feeling of IYM was very much centred on faith in action……it was as if the reports of work were dovetailed to illustrate the theme. There was a spirit of friendliness about and a meeting together from all parts of Ireland. Below are come comments:
Lee Taylor, BYM, noted the immediacy of the link between faith and action in Ireland Yearly Meeting.
For Margrit the speakers at the Ministry and Oversight meeting were inspiring; Myra, with her mention of salt both hurting and healing at the same time.
Rita said it was her best Yearly Meeting yet.
Margaret said there was a spirit of friendship, clerks had done their homework and were very relaxed.
It was said by Cathy that YM was a replenishment.
For Richard both the lecture and the youth work reports stood out.
Anne-Marie told how volunteering had gone well and folk offered to do more than she needed.
Ann, USA visitor, experienced a wonderful sense of trust in Ireland’s Yearly Meeting.
Carol, USA visitor, said,”You could tell as you did business that you cared for one another”.
Faith in action….we go from Yearly Meeting inspired and challenged to live out our faith this coming year!