New England Yearly Meeting

A community of Quakers and Quaker meetings across New England.

Report from the Prophetic Climate Action Working Group

Sep 21, 2018

We have spent much of this year discerning our call to further action. The Holy asks us to bear fruit (Rev 22:2). We meet monthly by video, and have met several times in person over the course of the year. And we also found that our time needed to be spent simply in faithful relationship, being with one another in prayer and worship.

At the beginning of our year we were swept up with an ambitious inclination in October. The idea arose to take action in Norfolk, Virginia, site of the United States' largest coal terminal. We were not clear or ready to take on such a large project 500 miles away where we have few existing relationships. As a few months passed, we questioned whether such a grandiose idea was driven by a true leading from Spirit or from our own sense of urgency.

Other ideas for action have arisen, and yet the corporate call has not been clear. We explored what it would mean to create action at the intersection of racial justice and climate change. We have looked at how gentrification and climate vulnerabilities go hand-in-hand. Still, we ponder where God is leading us. Perhaps, ideas as they have come to us have not yet been fully formed, and we have not had the patience or sufficient questioning to dig deeply into the potentialities.

Or it may be that we, in our busy lives, can only see our way clear to do something relatively time-limited (such as an action, or a singular pilgrimage) and cannot wrap our minds around—or change our priorities sufficiently—to take on the serious work of relationship trust building with local communities that a thought-out campaign needs. Several of us also feel the tug to work more locally.

We feel keenly how our distance keeps us from knowing each other as intimately as we feel we ought in order to do this work well, and how distance raises the bar to undertaking action together: The first steps of experimentation in faithfulness (to test if way will open) is much harder with an investment of six hours of travel necessary.

This spring we reluctantly withdrew from an action because the goal was more secular than prophetic. For us, the critical distinction in what makes an act of prophetic witness is the disclosure of the empowering nature of God. Micah asks us to “walk humbly with God.” When we do justice, can we unveil where the ultimate source of power resides? We had begun to get involved with an interfaith group (composed of clergy) that we believed would involve interrupting construction on a fracked-gas pipeline feeding a new high-rise tower of luxury condos in Boston’s Back Bay. We decided to withdraw when the clergy shifted to appealing to leaders in the Massachusetts State House.

Two of our members created and led the first part of an explicitly faith-based nonviolence training in March. Are Friends interested in a New Holy Experiment? Can we prepare ourselves grafting a Quaker splint onto the nonviolent movement? We hope to expand this training and offer it to monthly meetings and others across New England this coming year. And we look forward with anticipation to the new places we are being led this summer, including a July called meeting for worship for the purpose of mourning at the methane-gas power plant under construction in Salem, Massachusetts, and a smaller community gathering at Sun Moon Farm in August.

Peter Blood-Patterson (Mt Toby), Minga Claggett-Borne (Cambridge), Louis Cox (Burlington), Brian Drayton (Souhegan), John Humphries (Hartford), Meg Klepack (West Falmouth), Jay O’Hara (West Falmouth), Wendy Schlotterbeck (Durham), Ruah Swennerfelt (Burlington)

New England Yearly Meeting of Friends

901 Pleasant Street, Worcester, MA 01602

(508) 754-6760 - [email protected]