Monday, 28 February 2011

Energy and inspiration

Our new logo received its first public airing on Saturday, as Northern Friends Peace Board members travelled from throughout the north of Britain to get together in Chesterfield. There was a real buzz throughout the day; not just because of the logo, but also from the reflection, discussion, conversation and companionship. The warm welcome and enthusiastic participation from local Friends all helped too - more visitors than I can recall at one of our meetings for a long time. We were also joined by Laurie Michaelis, of Living Witness (also now with a new logo and website), Jasmine Piercy, wearing a Living Witness hat as well as Quaker Voluntary Action and visiting us from the depths of Somerset. Sunniva Taylor of QPSW's Sustainability and Peace programme was with us too, contributing valuable background to current Quaker work on sustainability. Our work in groups on different aspects of the theme was stimulating and challenging; I've yet to write it up, but I think we'll be able to identify some clear strands of concern from that exercise.

In the afternoon we shared news and information about our own work; the work is progressing well, but we'll need to put more energy into fundraising over the next few years. If you want to, you can support us online .

We also had a powerful half-hour session reflecting out of worship on the tumult and transformation taking place at the moment in the Middle East and North Africa. Friends reflected on the foundations for positive nonviolent action that many had been able to build on. Gene Sharp got more than one mention during the day, with his decades-long work on understanding nonviolence (see now getting wider recognition throughout the world.

I think our new logo reflects the energy and forward-looking feel of our gathering on Saturday. I hope it serves us well in reaching out and communicating the nature of our work and of the community of committed and loving Friends.

Sunday, 23 January 2011

Peace and war - love and awe

I’m now beginning my 21st year of working for Northern Friends Peace Board. This also coincides with the beginning of the first Gulf War and the birth of our first son. I have a strong memory of feeling his movements one morning as he fidgetted around inside his mother whilst I listened to the radio news coverage in which a reporter was likening the bombing of Bagdad to a firework display. We would more recently be presented with the term ‘shock and awe’, and these twin emotions were certainly with me that morning. Shock at what was unfolding in Iraq and awe at the prospect of becoming a parent in just a few weeks.

I heard recently of the term ‘Awe and wonder’, which is used in the educational world to describe a goal of encouraging imagination and awareness amongst children. Imagination is so important in our lives together. William Penn set the simple challenge to ‘Let us then try what love will do’. Love and our attempts to put it into practical action, are for me at the heart of what peace work is about and at the heart of what being a parent is about.

Alongside love, I am in awe of the great potential and example that so many ordinary people have shown me for making creative contributions for a better world. But also in shock at the continued capacity for hurt and for uncaring that manifests itself from the personal to the global scale. I give thanks for those who have inspired and supported me over the years in this work, ensuring that it is rooted in love and awe and still able to be shocked.