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Report from Noblesville

Posted on Monday, June 26, 2006 at 04:19PM by Registered CommenterMarshall Massey in , | CommentsPost a Comment

Noblesville, Indiana, has a simple, but lovely, old Friends church located in the heart of the old town. When we met there Saturday evening, June 24, nine Friends from the congregation were present, including the pastor.

The members of two other, nearby Friends churches had been invited to attend as well, but none of them came.

We met around a table, with refreshments at hand. This considerably reduced the intensity of the sense of gathered worship, but it also seemed to put the participants more at ease (which I somehow felt would be a desirable thing). As usual, I began by talking briefly about the nature of the Quaker process of corporate discernment, and then, again as usual, moved on to list the two questions I was asking for discernment about: first, what sort of environmental testimony might God be calling us to as Friends? — and second, how can we help Friends to unite in a common testimony?

The first Friend to speak remarked, “I’ve been very encouraged by developments in recent months; people are more willing to think about environmental issues than before.” Another Friend observed that concern over such issues moves “in a cycle”: “I don’t know where we’ll be in fifty years.”

A Friend asked, “How high are environmental matters in our priorities?”

A Friend commented on how helpless we feel before the magnitude of these issues. Another Friend responded that our testimonies, and in particular that of simple living, make make a difference.

A Friend suggested that when something is a divisive issue, as environmental issues are, a good place to start in addressing it is by finding points we already agree on, and building on those as a foundation.

A Friend pointed out that the testimonies (peace, simplicity, etc.) are not separate things, but rather, make up one whole with five aspects, each testimony of a piece with the others. He then observed that the same will be true of a Friends environmental testimony: care for creation will be of a piece with the peace testimony, the simplicity testimony, etc.

A Friend observed that education is important — making sure that all members are (environmentally or ecologically) literate. He added that framing the matter as an educational opportunity is not divisive.

A Friend noted that this is a wonderful opportunity for Friends to reĂ«xamine themselves, in relation to such callings as the calling to simplify, the calling to think peace in all avenues of life, and the truth that using up resources leads to violence. It’s an opportunity to ask ourselves, where do we stand in relation to the idea of “progress”?

A Friend asked, “How will my efforts to conserve water help women in Kenya?” Another Friend responded that how we use or exploit the environment has everything to do with peace and justice.

A Friend said, one helpful way of thinking about spirituality is, as how we live with our longing for connection. It might help us to continue to emphasize that environmental preservation is a spiritual issue, an issue of how we’re connected to Creation and to other people in love.

A Friend said that the whole thing comes down to whether we’re going to actually do anything about it.

A Friend spoke about ways or modes of approaching environmental matters. If your truth relies more on openness than on narrowly-reasoned argument, it’s a more trustworthy truth, is it not?

A Friend said that he was skeptical of the claims made on both sides of environmental debates; he regarded himself as somewhere in the middle.

This was the fifth Friends community I’ve met with in this journey. It was the first to focus chiefly on my second question (how can we help Friends unite on a common testimony). I think that, in many ways, the second question is actually more basic than the first — so I was grateful that they spoke to it at such length and with such care!

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