Wednesday, 6 January 2016

Faith, Power and Peace


Friends - a short holiday from the more traditional theme of this blog as I wanted to share my experiences from some courses related to peace, non violence and militarism.

Last May Diana Francis gave the Swarthmore Lecture, an annual lecture given at the national yearly meeting of Quakers in Britain. She gave it on the theme, Faith, Power and Peace. You can listen to her lecture here.

I sat and listened, and for me it was an experience that I am struggling to find ways to describe – it felt like I was alone in a room and Diana was talking directly to me, I remember it finishing and suddenly becoming aware of this room filled to the edges with Friends.

I feel very blessed to have been able to support Diana Francis and Steve Whiting from Turning the Tide as they put together 3 courses for Woodbrooke building on the themes for the lecture.

  • ·         Violence, Non Violence and the Power to Transform
  • ·         From Militarisation to Peace
  • ·         Speaking up Speaking Out.


There are quite a few upsides to my job, but these three courses and the experience of watching Diana and Steve work together was one I feel very lucky to have had.

Three courses gave us the opportunity to look at the themes in some depth, and to build close relationships among participants; we had some attend all three courses and some attend one or two.
I learnt a lot over these weekends, not just about what we mean by peace and the dynamics of peace and power but I learnt about myself and I learnt about groups and how they work.

One participant commented the preparation for these courses was the lifetime witness of these Friends. This was so evident to me, they shared some of their life and their ministry in peace making with us over these courses. We do have an excellent opportunity at Woodbrooke for Friends to share a little of their passion and love with us and I am full of gratitude.

What will I take away from these courses? What did I learn?

I learnt about the importance of process; of setting ground rules and following them, of managing expectations but allowing for flexibility and to be surprised by something.

I learnt that to look at peace ‘out there’ I must look at peace inside of me; to acknowledge the way I am, the culture I have grown up in, the power dynamics I am used to.

It was a reminder of how little I know about current situations aside from what I hear from mainstream media, and acknowledging this is only one part of the picture.

I kept on coming back to the need to unpick the dominant narrative and to tackling the persistent untruths.

But perhaps the most important message I could take was that these issues I care about, militarism, climate change, economic justice – it’s not enough for me to say I care about them, I need to do something about it. My response won’t be the same as yours, we will all find our own way to speak and act in response to these issues but these experiences of coming together to share, to learn, to listen and to find ways of acting are precious. 

These courses have reawakened my mind to the rising tide of militarism in our society, perhaps for a world that is preparing for a world in which resources are scarce and we feel we need to defend or fight for access. If as Friends, our experience leads us to an understanding that each ‘is unique, precious, a child of God’ then we need to do something.


The next event Woodbrooke is holding on Militarisation is in February 2016 – looking at Militarisation in our schools, in the media and in our community. If you would like to join us, details are here

Monday, 16 November 2015

My part in the pilgrimage to Paris.

Reflections

'Be patterns, be examples in all countries, places, islands, nations, wherever you come, that your carriage and life may preach among all sorts of people, and to them; then you will come to walk cheerfully over the world, answering that of God in everyone.' 
George Fox 1656

This passage from George Fox is one of my favorites in Quaker Faith and Practice.

To walk cheerfully answering that of God in everyone. Well last week I set off with 44 other pilgrims from St Martin in the Field towards Paris. I had planned and prepared to walk for a few days. The first day was through London and into Surrey. We set off after a service and it felt like a celebration.

We passed the Houses of Parliament, crossed the river, and a mile or so down the road were cheered by staff from the Christian Aid offices. Another mile on and perhaps the most touching part of the day was hearing singing as we walked down the road, as we approached, students from a primary school were on the road singing us on our way and playing instruments. They walked down the road with us to their local church where we gathered on the street for a second service.

Walking through London was incredible, one minute you are passing Big Ben, then through estates, parks, past students and commuters on their way home. Some commented, this is modern pilgrimage. It's not about a nice walk in the countryside, this is life - its business parks as well as fields. There is no hiding, you walk through it all.



On the way we stopped at churches for lunch, afternoon break and then for sleep and this was a pattern to be repeated. So many offered so much time and hospitality and it all added to the community and sense of pilgrimage.

As we walked through London, I thought about something I had written in my first blog, that this was an organised pilgrimage because any walk could be a pilgrimage. I now feel that any walk can be but not every walk is, there is something about walking with others for a shared purpose. It is something else.

We woke up the following morning to the news of the attacks in Paris, suddenly Paris wasn't just the final destination or the the location of the climate change talks. Everything changed. It was a rainy day, and one of the longest walks. We set off after short prayers and after expressing sadness and shock, there wasn't much else anyone could say. We were informed that a decision would be made in the next few days about what would happen and how far we would go in terms of the pilgrimage. It was a head down and walk kind of a day.

I am home now, earlier than anticipated because on day 1 I managed to not notice a blister and it had popped before I knew it, I struggled to put my shoe on day 2 and so with tears welling behind my eyes said I had to withdraw. I could sense all those feelings that bubble up inside me, and inside I called myself a failure and then felt guilty for thinking that on such a day.

One of my personal challenges is to think less negatively about myself and not compare my efforts with others. I must do what love requires of me, and in this case love required me to walk and walk I did. Sometimes what love requires of us isn't what we can do or what we want to do, its what we have to do.

The experience will stay with me, although I feel inadequate to find words. A few lasting memories will be the sense of community, the feelings of embodying my witness, a talk on the Pope's Encyclical Laudato Si on the second evening and the sense of comfort and discomfort of following one of those nudges from God.

My plan now is to give my foot some time to heal and then to continue and to do a walk every day of the pilgrimage to be with the group in heart and spirit.

Climate Change connects us all, affects us all. Those meeting at the UN talks need strength and encouragement to make the decisions the world needs and so whatever you do, I urge you to do something. I shall continue to walk, to attend local events and talks and to pray.

My last morning I awoke early, I have never seen a cross appear as if out of nowhere,  but this morning I saw a cross as light came through the drawn curtains. A cross with an extra line as if forming an arrow pointing in.




An arrow pointing inward towards Jesus, maybe it was just early in the morning but this felt like a clear sign. Keep listening, keep doing. The world needs both the comtemplatives and the prophetics amongst us.

To follow the pilgrims, search #pilgrimage2paris on twitter, and here for you tube videos from Operation Noah. 

Thanks to everyone for your love support and encouragement. 

Tuesday, 10 November 2015

Packing and Preparing


I have started to pack as we depart on Friday.

We have been sent a kit list which I have gone through, it doesn't all relate to me, as I won't be going through to Paris so I don't need to pack my passport. I have taken note of the need for waterproofs!

I am not sure if I feel ready, but perhaps that is just the way it goes. Are we ever fully prepared for anything? I have continued with my walking and swimming and I have looked for other kinds of resources to keep me going.

On the Peoples Pilgrimage website I have found some prayers and spiritual statements which I plan on taking with me.

One is from Thich Nhat Hanh

Be aware of the contact between your feet and the Earth.
Walk as if you are kissing the Earth with your feet.
We have caused a lot of damage to the Earth.
Now it is time for us to take good care of her.
We bring peace and calm to the surface of the Earth and share the lesson of love. 
We walk in the spirit.

And so as the butterflys in my stomach heighten I shall depend on these kind of resources, and knowing that there will be people thinking of us all.

I am looking forward to meeting others, to trying something new and to being one small part in the massive preparations ahead of the talks in Paris.

If you would like to hear updates as we walk, I shall endeavour to tweet from @maudward on twitter . I shall also be on instagram under the same name. Otherwise I will write something here on my return.

Please not that...

If you are at Woodbrooke Quaker Study Centre ahead of and during the Climate Talks in Paris you can write a message of support and encouragement to those meeting and we will send those messages on.

Tuesday, 27 October 2015

Under 3 weeks to go – Pilgrimage 2 Paris



Last week was what you might call a bad week, I have a condition which can result in fatigue and pain, and last week it reminded me of what it is capable of. I was out for the count, my legs wouldn’t work, my brain was fuzzy, and the slightest movement was riddled with pain, like I said it was a bad week.

Suffice to say I did not do much walking, other than from my bed to the sofa and back to the bed again. Days like that are tough, they are tough physically and they are tough mentally.  I began to doubt if participating in the organised pilgrimage to Paris was the right decision, those doubts stay with me, although I have since got back out there and done a few shorter walks to get myself back in the game.

Yesterday I was speaking to a dear friend, one of those people who just turn up on the exact day you need them and say the words you need to hear. She spoke of going on a pilgrimage recently, one of the many as a part of The People's Pilgrimage. She spoke about the nature of a walk with purpose and the joy she experienced as some joined their pilgrimage for the 2 days they walked and others who joined for a few minutes or a few hours and how that natural ebb and flow to her was as natural as the ebb and flow of our world.  She helped me realise that all I need to do is walk, for however long I am able and so I will. 

I will walk, and I will walk as long as I can.

One of the things I could do last week was peruse the internet looking for bits and pieces to get me in the mood. I read about Friends of the Earth organising trains and accommodation for those going to Paris, I saw articles on the BBC about the negotiations, I caught up on plans for a march in London during the talks and I was drawn to for the love of website where they are asking people to upload an image of what matters to you.

'If you love it, share it' 'Climate Change threatens the things you love about the world. But if you give your heart to speak up for them, you will help to make a difference' fortheloveof.org.uk

And so during the talks in Paris, we shall have hearts here at Woodbrooke for you to fill in and write a message, we can then uploads images of these to their website. You can also upload your images directly. Let us send a message of strength to be courageous to make the decisions and commitments we need for the future of people and planet.

And so, back to practice practice practice.


Thursday, 15 October 2015

Pilgrimage to Paris - preparations begin.

I have not written anything for a long time. I apologise. This will be the first of a few posts ahead of the UN Climate Talks in Paris. 

In under a month I am going to be walking my first pilgrimage, or perhaps I should say organised pilgrimage.

I have to say that having gone to a talk a few years ago on pilgrimage where it was suggested every walk was a pilgrimage and I haven’t yet thought that one through.

It’s called Pilgrimage 2 Paris, and the pilgrimage will end up in Paris ahead of the UN Climate Talks. I am only going to take part in the UK bit, from London to Newhaven.  

It has been organised by The Church of England, Christian Aid, CAFOD and Tearfund. It will begin on 13th November and complete on the 27th November ahead of the talks.

I applied having heard about it during an ecumenical service on a mass lobby of parliament on climate justice and I just couldn’t stop thinking about it. Call it a nudge from a God if you like, I felt pushed by something to go on the website and apply.

I spoke with one of the organisers and we talked through some details, including that it would be approximately 12-15 miles a day. At this, I paused a little. It’s been a few years since I have done a walk of this length so I took a few days to think and to walk and see how it felt. I managed 10 miles and I was exhausted but I survived so I called back and said yes, I’ll give it a go.  

So I have been getting ready, taking the longer route to work, walking around the area, popping out in my lunch break to walk around the block and heading out at the weekends for longer walks with my husband.  It occurred to me on a walk this morning, how essential the preparation is, not just in terms of fitness and stamina but also preparing my mind and spirit.

This pilgrimage is about the UN talks in Paris, but nothing is ever just one thing. This past year I have experienced some lows and whilst I work out how if ever I can admit to the vulnerability and sadness I have experienced, I am able to put one foot in front of the other and walk.  And whilst I am walking I am letting my mind wander, from the very personal to the international.

And so it’s doing a few things for me, walking is helping me process some of my ‘stuff’. I am discovering there is a whole largely undiscovered neighbourhood on my doorstep as I veer away from my usual routes and take a different path. And I am embracing the opportunity to respond to my concerns about climate justice in a different way. I’ve been to talks, I’ve read, watched and shared. I’ve protested and prayed and I’ve organised. Now I am walking.

Here are a couple of photos, taken out and about.




However you choose to respond to climate change, I urge you to do something whether it’s to attend or organise a talk, to educate yourself, to be a part of a vigil, to listen and support those who are very involved, to make changes in your lives and the way you run your homes, by talking to your MP. It is the issue of the time and it connects to everything. Ignoring it will not make it go away.


So please stay posted, I will add updates as I prepare and then during the pilgrimage I will do my best to keep you in touch with how we are doing.