Vision For Quakerism

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Vision

A vision gives focus to one’s thinking and action; a powerhouse for motivation and enthusiasm. In Quaker terms, it is the point for application of our beliefs and principles and for the integration of our testimonies. Quakers of the past have all had a vision to which they were committed and which drove their efforts to mend their world.

Martin Luther King famously said, “I have a dream”. I wish I had half his complaint. I hope that Quakers will one day lead us to a better society.

My dream

I am up in a balloon. Laid out below me is a landscape: a countryside, a village, a city. At a great distance, the landscape looks passive almost static. As I watch I see it change, through the day and the seasons but it also develops and evolves. Closer, I see animals and people moving about. I identify some of the people with imaginary grey bobble-hats, I watch how all the people move in patterns and how they interact and build relationships. They keep doing the same things over and over again and yet the patterns evolve and mature, die away and give rise to new patterns. The patterns are not random; the people encounter one another and work together (or against each other) in dynamic tension.

I focus on the interactions. They are not easy to see, so Ithink of them as music. At first it’s a cacophony of noise. As I watch and listen it begins to sound like an orchestra tuning up: there are snatches of order, finger exercises, adjustments of pitch, even a tune or two. I keep watching and listening. The snatches of melody become longer and more frequent. Here and there I see some people pushing and pulling others trying to create structure and order but mostly it doesn’t last long. I can’t see any orchestral conductor, but gradually the music of the interactions becomes coherent and melodious.

I notice that the grey-hats often seem to be there when the snatch of order appears. The grey-hats ebb together in small groups, interact among themselves and then flow out again into the other people. I begin to realise that the grey-hats are working with the interacting people so that they are more harmonious, helping them craft their relationship to work together more enjoyably in a better society. Grey-hats are a part of the concert without being players or conductors but they have the effect of moving the whole concert to towards a harmonious performance. The grey-hats are the catalysts that transform the cacophony into harmony. They don’t write the score or the script, but they help to make the concert.

As my balloon goes down I no longer see the big picture. I see a smaller and smaller piece of the action. I begin to see individual encounters, sometimes happy and sometimes violent. I hear sounds and conversations. But now I can’t see the patterns so easily, it’s more confusing. I can’t see inside the people, I don’t know what they are thinking or trying to do. Further down still, I am bumping into people and they are bumping into me, I talk to them they talk to me, some encounters are good and pleasant, others are rough and uncomfortable. Some are fruitful some draining and exhausting. I am joining the people-scape and taking a part in their patterns. I am trying to make the best of a very difficult and confusing situation. Sometimes it’s very, very good and sometimes it’s horrible. Sometimes it’s my fault, sometimes things just go right. I find it frustrating not knowing what people are doing, not knowing how to work with them or how to get them to work with me.

I notice I am beginning to encounter grey-hats. My hand touches my head and I realise I am wearing a bobble-hat; just its bobble is grey.

I find I am meeting the grey-hats. I begin to feel them encourage and support me as I execute my own routines and habits and move round my daily and weekly patterns. I realise that I understand more of what the people round me are doing and how they are working with each other. I can see I am getting better at working with them too and sometimes they seem to work with me, my life is richer and more satisfying, the music seems to be getting better.

After a while my hat is now all grey and I am working deliberately with my personal encounters, crafting, tuning and restoring them so that they make good music for me and for the people in the relationships with me. I get mentoring, training and education from the grey-hats and I find myself working with them as my own experience and spirit deepens. Some grey hats have special experience and, knowledge and insight in particular areas.

Looking back I realise how much my attitudes and thinking have changed, and how much better my life is compared to what it was when my balloon first landed. Working with peoples’ relationships in this way I find a profound experience, uplifting and truly mystical.

My vision of the Quaker future is a vibrant community that reaches throughout the general public (at least of Britain) working at a personal level (as well as at corporate and institutional levels, as at present) to enable and help individuals to craft, engineer and maintain good relationships with each other. Quakers will create a new Pennsylvania: an ethical and Spirit-led community. Quakers will embrace science and find new conceptions of God and a new basis for ethical and moral behaviour that is fit for purpose in the twenty-first century – the mystical ‘glue’ that holds us all together as a community. Quakers will craft the relationships in its Meetings, and committees to build the secular strength of the ethical community. I see Quakers speaking to the condition of all men with the passion and commitment of early Friends, but appealing to the jaded and sophisticated twenty-first century consumer. I see Quakers working in local groups in Britain and throughout the world to address the pressing issues of justice, equality, poverty, peace, integrity, abuse and sustainable environments, enabling local people and powerful people to form constructive well-crafted relationships that will enable them to solve the problems. I see individual Quakers as happier, more fulfilled and more secure in their own relationships and with strong, effective support from other Friends.

I see Friends answering that of God - in themselves, in each other and in the world around them.

Quaker village - an analogy

1 Introduction

This is my vision for a Quaker community. At the time of writing it is no more than a dream, an idea. It may never come to reality.

At this time it is a work in progress – not a polished picture. If it ever becomes reality it will take Quakerism to the next level.

This development of these ideas was prompted by application to Bamford Community.

2 Traditional English Village

Village is an analogy. It is not appropriate to modern life to attempt to recreate any form that is no longer adequate or appropriate – but models can be used and improved on.

A village was a viable community for hundreds of years and is well understood but the modern public sees a village romantically. Its purpose was the survival and life of its members and of the community that they created. It was an all-age, lifetime community. It was localised and based economically on the land. It had dual lines of authority: church and manor. It had a strong spiritual base, especially in the Middle Ages. Its natural leaders were: lord of manor (in politics and economics); priest (in spiritual, moral and religious matters); teacher (in intellectual matters); doctor (in science and medicine).
It had multiple functions: labourer, farmer, carpenter, innkeeper, blacksmith, post office, school and so on. Its members often had multiple skills and multiple roles.

Although it was a stand-alone community it was never isolated but with others formed networks and collected into larger organisations, eventually nations. Some grew into towns and cities.

The traditional village was destroyed by colonialism and cheap imports, industrialisation and technological advance based on science.

3 The Quaker Village

The idea of a Quaker village takes both the notion of Quakerism and the notion of a village to the next level. It has a physical, localised presence like a traditional village but also a virtual presence. It has a sound economy suitable for the twenty-first century (and beyond), taking into account the land, food production, manufacturing, craftwork, science, technology and the internet in a global economy. Like a traditional village it is a worshiping community, but based on Quaker beliefs, principles and practices. It has multiple functions in business, family care, worship, community care, outreach and so on. Its members will have multiple skills (crafts) and occupy multiple roles – some of them simultaneously.

The Shakers are a better model than Pennsylvania (Penn’s Great Experiment), the Amish or Soviet Russia. Except, of course, for their celibacy that led to their demise.

It is not a retreat or an escape, although it has aspects of protection, sanctuary and renewal. It is not a therapeutic community but can tolerate and is enriched by a limited number of people with special needs. Everyone needs periods of respite, support, renewal and regeneration. The Quaker Village must provide this.

What takes it to the next level is a profound focus on the detail and practice of person-to-person relationships and all that this implies. In this service the Quaker Village draws on the wealth of spiritual and secular experience in the world, science, the arts, engineering, commerce, the internet, games, medicine and so on, not just the Quaker literature and experience – important as they are.

The essence of the Quaker Village is engagement not only with survival, the issues of the day (moral and otherwise) and with the worship of God, but with the fabric of our society, with our human relationships, how we behave to ourselves and to each other and more importantly, how other people behave to yet other people. This is more than the principles of good behaviour or Quaker advices and queries – its about face-to-face encounters and behaviour. Bringing the wealth of human experience in religion, the arts, science, politics and business into realising those principles.

In time, the Quaker Village will evolve new ways of living, and working together. Its members will use their abilities outside the community and hopefully become in demand from the wider community. Through these contacts and through their work and careers they will pass on their abilities and change the world. They will be catalysts and the agents of change.

One core characteristic of the Quaker Village will be a commitment to learning through research (fundamental as well as personal); exploring, developing and testing knowledge, skills, and products, formal and informal methods of courses, workshops, seminars, conferences, books, websites, films; deploying the results of these activities within the community and to those outside the community.
Has a strong support function for children, the needy and the vulnerable.

The village needs functions of research, study and experiment.

People in the Quaker village need to be able to address and deal with human and global situations.

4 Quaker Village's role in the wider society

In today’s global world the Quaker Village cannot be an island – a monastery of healing and worship. It is embeded in and part of many local activities, commercial, political, social, health and education, local amenities. It is also be a part of and embeded in intangible functions including the Quaker movement, media and the web.

Its mission is to work through the communities of which it is a part, towards a better society for individuals and the world as a whole. It must to focus on how we relate to each other. Of this, communication in all its forms is critical. Communication is an essential for cooperation and organization. This leads to interest (study, development, teaching, publication) in games, strategy, management, planning, safety, risk management and care for people.
Enabling, encouraging, organizing, coordinating, being catalysts (individuals and corporately)

Directly confronting pernicious and insidious evil in attitudes, easy decisions, avoided responsibility, arrogance, self-centredness, violence, ruthlessness and so on.

5 Media relations

The Quaker Village, as a twenty-first century citizen is scientifically and technologically aware and it makes good use of the media and Internet. It:
• Makes films,
• Makes commercials,
• Makes training videos,
• Writes computer games
• Publishes newsletter
• Publishes pamphlets
• Has a web site presence
o information about QV
o Discussion and development sites – wikis
o Village website business sites
• Uses the internet for
o keeping in touch
o Researching
o Communication and entertainment

++6 Viability
The Quaker Village’s prime directive is to be viable, to sustain itself. In the modern world it is no longer practical to live alone on the land or to survive for long on charity and bequests. The Quaker village must work and treat with the physical and social world around it.

Without profit it can not survive to continue working for a better world.

6.1 Living together

Living together on a daily basis – getting the work done and caring for one another is the fundamental purpose of the Quaker Village. The hierarchical or tribal model has served humankind well for at least 20,000 years. More modern alternatives, beginning with William Penn’s Great Experiment in Pennsylvania and including the Soviet Republic, have not been noted for their spectacular success. In a recent book Tom Lloyd proposes a new society based on leaderless multi-agents dedicated to mutual self-respect, which has great attractions for Quakers. The bottom line is that all the participants in a community must have a satisfactory role, respect and responsibility within that role, contribute to the community in that role and receive benefit appropriate to that role. Collectively the members of the community must have the knowledge, skills, and maturity to sustain and hopefully develop the community. The community cannot be isolated or insulated from the world around it. The community must be connected to and contribute positively to the wider community in which it finds itself: good neighbourliness, health, education, welfare, security, local government and so on.

6.2 Business and economics

Sound individual and community economics: food, money, material things. A sustainable community must have a viable business or economic model. There must be a way of generating income and of paying expenses. Income and expenses must be in balance and there must be provision for both unexpected expenses and for continuing activities. Ideally there will be several sources and streams of income. Hopefully one or more of the business models will become something at which the community excels and for which it becomes widely known. I have listed just a few of the possibilities in Section 8.

6.3 Governance and decision-making

Ways of making decisions. Quakers are rightly proud of their tradition of discernment for making moral and spiritual decisions. But not all decisions of a community or an individual are so weighty. Individuals and the community need ways to make trivial and day-to-day decisions. There needs to be proper authority, responsibility, research and consultation in the decision-making processes. There also needs to be transparency, accountability and tender support. My two essays on Quaker decision-making are at www.fqatog.wikidot.com.

Community governance. We have not seen Bamford’s constitution or its governing documents, but in today’s world it is important that the community should be constituted formally in law as well as in accordance with Quaker usage. Further it must be open, accountable, transparent and above all viable. In other words it must work and its people must be masters of their own fate. This may be something that will be rewritten for the new community. A legal constitution is essential, see Section 6.6.

6.4 Neighbourliness

Getting on with the neighbours is vital in any community. Fitting into the local community – social services, health education, the people next door and so on, is a well known problem and is taken very seriously by the Quaker Village.

More difficult is: who are your neighbours in hyperspace and the virtual world of the internet?

6.5 Activities for celebration,

Getting to know each other (community building), rites of passage, just having fun together, entertaining one another, celebrating achievements and sharing are vital parts of any community. Conversations, just chat and gossip are important ‘glue’ in the community.

6.6 Legal matters and property,

The Quaker Village community has a legal constitution for its own protection and for the protection of its members. I have been involved in creating constitutions for The Quakers and Business Group and for what is now North West London Area Meeting. In both cases the constitutions were based on Quaker faith and practice.

It is important for people to be able to join and leave the community in a way that is fair to both the community and to the individual.

7 Quaker Worship

The Quaker Village is a spirit-based, worshiping community, and a Quaker community. Weekly, or for some daily, worship in the manner of Friends (based on silent waiting on god) is a characteristic and fundamental pert of its life.
Formal business is also conducted in a Meeting for Worship.

The Quaker Village has elders who care for the spiritual needs and growth of the Village and overseers who care for the pastoral needs of the Village. These are both aspects of ministry in worship.

8 BUSINESS IDEAS

The following are a few ideas that I collected over a few hours’ thought. The ideas are suggestive only. Turning any one of them (or any other) into a profitable business depends on the resources and dedication of the Quaker Village members and their numbers. No idea should be implemented with out proper research of the possibilities, the market, the technology, the skills and personal resources associated with it.

• Revive furniture for local people
• Furniture Restoration
• Upholstery
• Cleaning for house-bound or vulnerable
• Furniture for people starting their first home
• Recycling and remaking clothes for children or others
• Baking – bread, cakes local four
• Catering for business or parties
• Pie-making
• Craft work: baskets, quilts, jewellery, cane or rush seats
• Paintings, ceramics, sculptures for sale
• Photos for sale
• Handyman odd jobs
• Farmers market
• Local food co-op
• Home grown/ organic food
• Computer support
• Computer games
• Illustration and graphic arts
• Computer software production
• Film production
• Project management
• Business consultancy
• Training (courses, workshops, seminars, conferences, books, websites, films) in Quaker Village relations
• Spiritual adventure camps

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