Evaluation

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1 INTRODUCTION

Evaluation of the essay in relation to the Friends Quarterly competition is a matter for the adjudicators. You the reader, must make up your own mind whether what I say is well written or whether it ‘speaks to your condition’,1 whether ‘I speak your mind’.2

But it is appropriate to ask whether my solution is valuable and likely to succeed as a way forward for Quakers in Britain. There are three considerations or points of view.3
• Is it consistent with Meeting for Sufferings4 Framework for Action 20010-14?
• Does it meet the requirements that arose from my review of the state of Quakerism?
• What barriers and difficulties do we face in following this path?

2 FRAMEWORK FOR ACTION 2009-14

On 6 September 2008 Meeting for Sufferings, after widespread consultation with local meetings, agreed a framework to guide and unite Quakers in Britain and their central organisation, Britain Yearly Meeting, in their life and work at every level. It builds on the complex lives and experience of Quakers over 350 years, drawing on our Christian roots. It reflects in particular our Testimonies to Truth and Integrity, Equality, Peace and Simplicity. The Framework is a strategic focus for activity, not a straightjacket; it outlaws nothing but provides a focus for work for and of Friends across Britain and an opportunity to achieve a more
Meeting for Sufferings’ consultation report identifies seven priorities for 2009 to 2014:
1. Strengthening the spiritual roots in our meetings and in ourselves
2. Speaking out in the world
3. Peace
4. Sustainability
5. Strengthening local communities
6. Crime community and justice
7. Using our resources well.

Embracing science and technology and focusing our attention on spiritual craftsmanship addresses the first priority directly and comprehensively.

Spiritual craftsmanship takes us out into the world because we have no monopoly on personal relationship or on improving them. Through personal relationships at an individual level through groups a societies to a global level we address priorities two to seven. Peace, sustainability and justice are specific issues of present concern to Friends which I have chosen not to address as individual issues – there are many others of similar importance. I have tried to find a lever to move the whole world rather than address specific issues.

The matter of using our resources well I have addressed full on at a spiritual as well as a practical management level. We need to reconsider how and with what priorities we make our decisions. I claim that through attending to the social relations and applying objective knowledge and real evidence to “coming with heart and mind prepared” in our business meetings, we will not only use our resources well but deepen our spiritual experience, strengthen local communities and indirectly make the world a better place.

The evidence collected and summarised by Meeting for Sufferings is positive and exciting. I have tried to look beyond the present to what will amplify those efforts and mend the world.

3 SOLUTION REQUIREMENTS

My solution to the challenges that 21st century Quakerism faces will need to satisfy several conditions.
• It must reach inward to inspire, enthuse and stimulate individuals and the RSoF as a unit. At the same time it It must reach out and speak to the condition of people who are not and may never be Quakers. We al have social relationships and we cal all improve them, so no one whether Quaker or not is barred from participation. Naturally some people will be prevented, some will choose not to take part and so on.
• It must be consistent with our Christian and Quaker roots while taking full account of universalists and people of other religions (or none). I have claimed that Quakerism, Christianity and probably other religions are about personal relationships. my suggestions are not exclusive to, although they arise out of, a particular view.
• It must support and enhance our Testimonies while developing them and adding to them. Our testimonies spring from concern for people and from experience with mending the world. Crafting personal spiritual relations is directly in line with this.
• It must respect and support the mystical strengths inherent in Quakerism. Exploring the application of science with a Quaker framework, integrating scientific knowledge and applying scientific methods will help to define and develop the role of mystical in Quakerism. Exploring and crafting interpersonal relationships will challenge as well as employ mystical aspects of subjective experience.
• It must take full account of our human nature and of our humanity – both the light and dark sides. Exploring and crafting interpersonal relationships of all types is about as human as one can get.
• It must not focus on a single issue. That would alienate people with other concerns. It It must minister to all conditions. I have contended that the pursuit and improvement of all the traditional areas of Quaker concern and social problems depends on good, well-crafted relations. Thus my suggested way forward supports all these issues and need not alienate anyone.
• It must support and enhance the inner life of our meetings and ourselves. I identified three classes of relationship: my relationship with myself, with God and with other people. Thus one or more persons working on these relations will also be enhancing the inner life of our meetings and ourselves.
• It must support and enhance the many good works and practical ministry of individual Friends, local meetings and central committees. See focus on a single issue above.
• It must take account of changes, developments and the unknowable future. I have pointed a direction and suggested ways forward. It seems to me that the development of or most successful and most human characteristics offers the best chance of success in the future – what ever that is.
• It must take account of science as well as religion. I have suggested ways I which we might integrate the best of both these domains.
• It must address relationships with commerce, business and financial worlds. Personal relationships apply and are driving forces in these worlds and so will address these problem areas.
• It must address the way that we reach and take decisions. I have specifically addressed this issues and made some suggestions for both personal and corporate decision-making.
• Needs to take into account not only physical encounters but also virtual and cyber communities. It must take account of living communities like families and interest, occupation and other fragmented communities. The general nature of well-crafted relationships includes the special and reduced bandwidth communities of cyberspace as well as the real communities and families. In all cases ethical considerations apply
• It must reach out to future generations through younger people. Good, well-crafted relations are timeless and ageless.

4 BARRIERS TO OVERCOME

I deal with Barriers To Overcome in the last of the essays in the main body.

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