To mark International Day of Climate Action 2022 (24th October), EcoQuakers Ireland has released a video of the sustainability gathering it hosted in Cork earlier this year.
The title of the event was ‘From Disappointment to Hope: Actions and Responses to Climate Breakdown’ and the speakers were Brían Ó’Súilleabháin, Convenor of EcoQuakers Ireland, Rev Andew Orr, Chair of Eco-Congregation Ireland, and Caroline Robinson, a Cork-based organic farmer.
Fran Brady of Dublin Meeting, who is the Religious Society of Friends representative on Eco-Congregation Ireland and a member of the EcoQuakers Ireland committee, wrote the following report about the gathering:
On 23rd April 2022 the EcoQuaker Munster Gathering was held in Cork Meeting House, against the backdrop of the Loving Earth Project, an exhibition of textile panels created by Quakers to celebrate the earth and to highlight how the earth is endangered by climate change. Thirty-seven people attended.
The objective of the gathering was to encourage those present to be active on issues of climate justice, loss of biodiversity and other environmental concerns within their Quaker Meetings or churches, as well as in their everyday lives.
The gathering opened with a period of reflection during which attendees could briefly share something about their environmental story.
One nurse spoke of 80,000 trees planted by a Co. Cork nurse to offset the huge environmental footprint of health services.
A Sabbath for the land every seven years and a Jubilee year after 47 years to give the land a rest was lauded.
The many and varied contributions set the tone for an inspiring Gathering, where three excellent speakers spoke on the topic: “From Disappointment to Hope: Actions and Responses to Climate Breakdown”
Brían Ó Súilleabháin, actor and convenor of the Eco Quaker Ireland Committee, charted the work of EcoQuakers since the World Quaker Gathering in Peru called on Quakers to live out the changes needed to sustain the Earth as home to humans and the natural world. Following on this call, Ireland Yearly Meeting 2016 asked Meetings to develop sustainability plans no matter how simple.
A survey of Meetings early in lockdown showed a willingness to be sustainable but a need for a blueprint. This revelation led to the researching, compiling and publishing in 2021 of Regenerating our Common Home: Quaker Considerations for Restoration and Protection of the Environment. This book shows how our everyday activities can contribute to pollution, desertification, bio-diversity loss, extraction of fossil fuel and climate change. A step-by-step guide as to how to make a difference within and outside our Meetings, the book provides definitions and calculations for sustainability, carbon zero, carbon neutral and many other concepts. The final chapter is a case study of the eco-refurbishment of Cork Meeting House, which provided EcoQuakers with a wonderful space for the gathering,
Rev Andrew Orr, Anglican Priest-in-Charge of Youghal Union, Chaplain to Midleton College and Chair of Eco-Congregation Ireland (ECI) spoke about Eco-Congregation Ireland, founded in 2005, to encourage and mentor churches and congregations along their sustainable journeys. ECI’s affiliated congregations are Roman Catholic, Church of Ireland, Presbyterian and Methodist Churches and the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers).
Environmental measures can be incorporated into all aspects of life: Spiritual, Practical, Community and Global. It’s under these headings that congregations are assessed for an Eco Award. A Gold Award has been initiated for congregations who accomplish exceptional environmental work after their initial award and who mentor another congregation.
The gift of God’s creation is celebrated especially at the Season of Creation and Harvest Time while Climate Justice Candles raise awareness of environmental justice in churches and congregations. Andrew spoke about the challenges, and opportunities, of endeavouring to make buildings and land as sustainable as possible. Climate Stewards, a web-based tool, enables churches to measure the carbon footprint of different activities; energy, travel, food, waste, water and other expenditure. The All Ireland Pollinator Plan, an initiative to aid bio-diversity and sustainable land use, is ideal for churchyards and burial grounds.
Organic farmer Caroline Robinson, who has been growing food without chemicals for nearly a quarter of a century, said it is humbling to work with nature and iterated that, if chemicals are avoided, land gets better and better. Her belief is that healthy soil results in healthy vegetables, rather than trying to feed vegetables planted in impoverished soil. There is freedom and independence attached to growing food, especially in the current world situation.
Caroline and her husband produce local food for local people, making their food available at local Farmers’ Markets. In the small group discussions, and the plenary session which followed, food sovereignty, including indigenous food sovereignty, featured strongly. Indigenous crops grown over many years regenerated land rather than depleting it. Indigenous people have much to teach us about food and farming. Though climate scientists often overlook traditional knowledge, conglomerate farmers are devoid of the innate knowledge and wisdom gained over generations, which keep small farming systems in balance. Food conglomerates tend to homogenise food systems, reduce variety of crops and ignore natural harmony.
Andrew finished his talk with a quote from the Ecumenical Patriarch Batholomew of Constantinople: “The real crisis lies not in the environment – which suffers the consequences of our actions – but in the human heart. The fundamental problem is to be found not outside but inside ourselves, not in the ecosystem but in the way we think about, perceive, and treat this ecosystem.“
You can find out more about EcoQuakers Ireland here.
Jonny Wigham is a lifelong and active member of the Society of Friends. He’s an alumni of Newtown School and attends Churchtown Meeting in South Dublin.
Liberty Britton is a Young Adult Friend from New York Yearly Meeting. She is a political and social justice activist and works part-time in an animal refuge shelter in Philadelphia.
Joan Johnson is a historian and has been part of Waterford Meeting since the 1960s. She has written a number of books about Quaker history and was instrumental in setting up the Quaker Walking Trail around Waterford City.
This is the first series of the podcast. We would love to hear your feedback! Feel free to email your comments to Quaker House at firstname.lastname@example.org
World Quaker Day will take place on 2 October 2022 with the theme Becoming the Quakers the World Needs.
Sign up here to take part by visiting another Quaker group or welcoming Friends to yours!
World Quaker Day is an annual event where we celebrate the diversity of Quakerism around the world and build connections to make our community stronger.
This year, every Friends Church or Meeting is encouraged to send or receive visitors to or from another Quaker group, to bring greetings, build relationships and share ideas.
Intervisitation today is the easiest it has ever been, with many Quakers meeting online or in hybrid form. To make it even easier, sign up online and we can share details of Quaker groups especially hoping for visitors on the day. Alternatively you might like to visit in person, which we can also help with.
South Belfast Quaker Meeting is one of the meetings hosting a meeting for worship on behalf of FWCC-EMES that can be joined online.
If you would like to be part of World Quaker Day 2022, either by visiting another Quaker group or welcoming Friends to yours, please sign up using this form.
In preparation for the day, here’s a video with Tim Gee, General Secretary of Friends World Committee for Consultation inviting Friends to take part in World Quaker Day.
Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind. (Romans 12:12)
“We came as visitors, but you made us feel at home.”
“It was wonderful to have so many inspirational speakers. That gives me hope.”
“It’s important to have perspectives from across Europe and the rest of the world.”
“I want to say a big thank you for all the help.”
“It was a wonderful first visit to Ireland; now I carry Ireland Yearly Meeting in my heart.”
At the closing session, participants from other European countries rose to express gratitude for the four-day residential meeting. A member of the host Yearly Meeting added:
“I commend the clerking team and the Programme Committee for planning such a full and rich programme, expediting business to allow space for a truly enriching Yearly Meeting.”
“Hi folks. You here for the wee convention?” When the security guy at the campus gate of Stranmillis University College greeted us on the first morning, I knew that, at the third attempt (the first two years thwarted by Covid) we truly were gathering in Belfast. Like the other major denominations, Quakers have never accommodated to the political border set in place in 1921, and Ireland Yearly Meeting covers the island of Ireland.
During our opening worship Patrick Kavanagh’s poem, The Long Garden was read. It begins:
It was the garden of the golden apples,
A long garden between a railway and a road,
In the sow’s rooting where the hen scratches
We dipped our fingers in the pockets of God…
A letter of greeting from Britain Yearly Meeting was read out, together with a summary of other Yearly Meetings’ epistles. The effects of Covid and expressions of hope had been a theme running through all of them, with invitations to draw nearer to God being a common theme among the African and Latin American yearly meetings.
We heard that attendance at Meetings for Worship throughout Ireland had fallen during the pandemic. Responses to hybrid worship had been mixed, with some meetings not wanting to participate, and others engaging readily. At the Yearly Meeting sessions, we embraced it. In addition to parts of Ireland, Friends zoomed in from Britain, Burundi, the Republic of Georgia, Kenya, Lebanon, Mexico, Russia, and the USA. Between a quarter and a third of those present were on Zoom. It was also good to have the in-person participation of visitors from Belgium, Britain, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Switzerland and the USA. Visitors also joined us from the Belfast Jewish Community, the Catholic Church, the Church of Ireland and the Presbyterian Church.
Barbara Luetke zoomed in across the Atlantic to describe her ministry of writing Quaker historical novels. Given the disapproval of earlier generations of Friends of music, art and fiction, it was refreshing to hear of her approach as a means of outreach. Barbara’s novel The Kendal Sparrow features Elizabeth Fletcher, one of George Fox’s early community. Barbara said that while we often think of the Valiant Sixty as middle-aged, many were aged between 15-30. Women were less visible than men, because most were illiterate and did not keep journals. She invited us to compare early Friends with movements such as Occupy and Black Lives Matter. Our own Yearly Meeting youth movement was nurtured through parallel sessions for children and young people, and we delighted in Public Lecturer Lynn Finnegan’s baby, who attended in person.
Representatives of Quaker organizations addressed global issues. We heard from Tim Gee of Friends World Committee for Consultation, Jaqueline Stillwell of Right Sharing of World Resources, Esther Mombo of St Paul’s University, Kenya (via Zoom), Nozizwe Madlala-Routledge of the Quaker United Nations Office, Geneva and Joëlle DuBois, a board member of the Quaker Council for European Affairs.
Some of the lessons I took away are:
Intervisitation is our connective tissue.
George Fox’s 400th birthday next July will bring many opportunities for outreach and celebration, especially for children.
The power of ‘enough’ is an important spiritual discipline.
The love of God ripples out. Think of yourself as an instrument of change. God is walking with you. Remember that you are loved. That love will change your life – and someone else’s.
Many women in Africa experience discrimination through the sexism, culture, and legacy of colonialism. By joining together in prayer meetings, they challenge the patriarchy.
Writer and artist Lynn Finnegan gave the public lecture on Embodying the Quaker Testimonies in Service of a Living Planet: The Challenge of Asking Beautiful Questions. Among those who have influenced her are Naomi Klein, Robin Wall Kimmerer, Joanna Macy, John O’Donoghue, Parker Palmer and Victoria Safford. Some of what I learned:
How we talk about something affects how we think of it.
Nature is sacred.
Capitalism trains us to look at a world of commodities.
Don’t jump ship to one side, stand in the gap, the ‘tragic gap’ (Parker Palmer) between what is and what could be. The gap is where the action is.
The other main theme was encapsulated in the session called Peace in Europe and Beyond. It began with a reading of a passage by Archbishop Desmond Tutu on Restorative Justice, followed by passages from Scripture: John 14:27, 2 Corinthians 13:11, and Romans 12:2.
After suffering a year’s solitary confinement in Apartheid South Africa, Nozizwe Madlala-Routledge served as Deputy Minister of Defence. She reminded us of Nelson Mandela’s words that courage is not the absence of fear, but the ability to overcome it. After her release, and now a defence minister, she would sit quietly and ask for the Light to guide her to challenge the military doctrine that to achieve peace we must prepare for war. She invited us to prepare for peace.
Mikhail Elizbarashvili of the Republic of Georgia heard a call to collect medical supplies and take them, in person, to Ukraine. He described his two-day journey from Tbilisi to Kyiv and Irpin. He said that there are 20,000 Ukrainian and 40,000 Russian refugees in Georgia.
Our societies are becoming increasingly militarized, and ‘neutrality’ appears fragile. It’s complicated. The General Secretary of NATO often uses the phrase ‘pre-positioned’. How would it look if we were ‘pre-positioned’ for peace? How can the early days of the peace testimony inform the present? Or Isaac Penington’s Magistrate’s Protection of theInnocent (1661)? Sydney Bailey’s 1993 Swarthmore Lecture, Peace is a Process, offers a conceptual framework. The World Council of Churches has adopted the doctrine of Just Peace, replacing Just War, thanks to the work of Quaker and other Historic Peace Church representatives. One by one, Friends from various countries offered suggestions. We hope to explore further what our contemporary peace testimony might mean to us, individually and as a society.
For more than a decade, Margaret Fraser has accompanied North American Friends to Ireland Yearly Meeting. She has now moved to Northern Ireland.
‘Embodying the Quaker Testimonies in Service of a Living Planet: The Challenge of Asking Beautiful Questions’ was the title of this year’s public lecture, which took place on 12th August during Ireland Yearly Meeting 2022 at Stranmillis College, Belfast .
Quaker illustrator, editor and environmental consultant, Lynn Finnegan, delivered an inspiring and challenging lecture on the topic.
She encouraged us to be guided by the divine Inner Light and the Quaker Testimonies of peace, justice, truth, equality and simplicity, which she described as anchors to live by.
Lynn challenged us to each find our own way to love the Earth, reminding us that faith and action nourish each other.
She also asked us to consider whether surrendering ourselves to the way of Love might, perhaps, be our spiritual gift to the environmental movement.
EcoQuakers, which is made up of members of Ireland Yearly Meeting from across the island, hope that this new booklet will encourage Meetings to return to theirsustainability plans and update them with more ambitious goals and targets.
Suggestions included in the booklet include examining the insulation and sustainable energy potential of our Meeting Houses. We are also encouraged to examine our personal carbon footprints, e.g. from travel, and modes of transport.
• Acknowledge a climate and biodiversity emergency
• Apply the test of sustainability to all our decisions, at all levels
Once Meetings have updated their sustainability plans, they are encouraged to send their updated plans to EcoQuakers at email@example.com
In a letter to Meetings accompanying the booklet, the EcoQuakers committee said, “These actions are the proper spiritual and logical responses to the current state of climate disruption. They would also help us to continue to fulfil our response to the call from the Friends World Committee for Consultation (FWCC) World Quaker Gathering in Peru in 2016 ‘to preserve this Earth for our children, our grandchildren and all future generations to come, working as though life were to continue for 10,000 years to come.’
“After more than a year of research, writing, and editing, we are very happy to present this detailed guide to you, and hope that it will prove useful to both Meetings and individual Friends in responding to the climate crisis. As we begin to return to our Meeting Houses after nearly two years of restrictions, there has never been a better time for us to examine the sustainability of our Meetings and our own lives, and we hope you will use this booklet to do so.
“EcoQuakers Ireland strongly encourages your Meeting to once again prepare an ambitious sustainability plan and to reflect on every aspect of your Meeting to see where sustainability can be nurtured and improved. We encourage you to set sustainability goals and to work with other Meetings, faiths, and organisations to achieve those goals.”
Official Website of The Religious Society of Friends in Ireland