More than 1,500 Quakers will gather in Canterbury next week for their annual meeting to discern the way ahead for Quakers in Britain. The eight-day programme for all ages, will be a mix of worship, learning, celebration, business, spiritual growth and fun - including a ceilidh and the making of patchwork quilts.
The theme for the Yearly Meeting Gathering at the University of Kent, from Saturday 30 July to Saturday 6 August, is “Growing in the Spirit: changing the way we live to sustain the world we live in”.
More than 270 under 19 year olds will take part in a parallel programme, exploring the same theme, with 107 taking part in Junior Yearly Meeting for 15 – 18 year olds and 165 in the children and young people’s programme.
Recording Clerk, Paul Parker said: “Yearly Meeting Gathering is a high point of the Quaker year, a time when the Yearly Meeting becomes much more than the sum of its parts, the Spirit moves among us, and we have a chance to discern together what God requires of us in the world.”
The main business sessions will focus on economic justice and sustainable living.
Highlights of the fringe events include broadcaster, magician and Quaker, Geoffrey Durham reading extracts from his new book, “Being a Quaker: a guide for newcomers”. Events include discussions on crime, community and justice; Israeli peace activism; Responding to global conflict, led by Professor Paul Rogers of Bradford University; An introduction to Quaker United Nations Office (QUNO) Geneva.
There are four evening lectures open to the public:
On Sunday 31 July, 7.30pm, The George Gorman Lecture, will be given by Simon Best, “Sustainable, radical Quakerism: a faith for the twenty-first century”.
On Monday 1 August, 7.30pm, The Swarthmore Lecture is delivered by Pam Lunn, leader for the 'Good Lives Programme' at Woodbrooke Quaker Study Centre: “Costing not less than everything: sustainability and spirituality in challenging times”.
The Swarthmore Lecture, established in 1907, is under the care of Woodbrooke Quaker Study Centre trustees.
On Tuesday 2 August, at 7.30pm, the Salter Lecture, will be given by Tony Benn, who retired from the House of Commons in 2001 after more than fifty years in parliament. This lecture is under the auspices of the Quaker Socialist Society.
Wednesday 3 August, 7.30pm, sees The Retreat Lecture, “Friendship, community and mental health”, which will be given by Chris Holman, director of The Retreat, the mental health unit in York.
For the first time, journalists will be welcomed to the Yearly Meeting Gathering. In previous years, only those working for the independent Quaker weekly The Friend have attended.
However, at Britain Yearly Meeting in 2010, the Society of Friends considered the situation again and produced the following minute:
We wish to encourage Yearly Meeting normally to open sessions to journalists. In coming to this view we took into consideration:
• Survey evidence of public ignorance about Quakers or Quakers being seen as a secretive sect and the advisability of dispelling such myths
•The development of electronic media which means that what we do will be reported anyway
•Remaining concerns about how our methods might be misunderstood or misreported
•The need to be sensitive to Friends who may be reticent to speak in the presence of journalists
We have confidence in the ability of our media relations staff to offer appropriate briefing if needed and faith in the divine presence working through the meeting.