FWCC Asks: What’s Happening in Spirit-Led Climate Action Among Quakers?

Epistle from Friends World Committee for Consultation, Section of the Americas (FWCC).

To all Friends Everywhere:

On Saturday, 19th day of the 3rd month, a Consultation was held by FWCC entitled: Spirit-Led Climate Action Among Quakers: What’s Happening? This Zoom event was attended by approximately 40 Friends, primarily from the Midwest region, from 14 yearly meetings. Our purpose was to better understand how Spirit guides our actions against climate change by sharing and listening about experiences with spirit-led climate action in our lives and among Quakers.

We were blessed with two Friends invited to speak from their experiences before opening things up for worship sharing. These Friends were:

  • Hayley Hathaway, Communications Coordinator, Quaker Earthcare Witness (QEW), attender of Santa Fe Monthly Meeting, Intermountain Yearly Meeting.
  • Paul Christiansen, Eastside Friends Monthly Meeting, Bellevue, WA, who travels in the ministry with a concern for climate change.

As Hayley said. “The climate crisis is, ultimately, a spiritual one.” This set the tone for our explorations on this day. She noted that climate change is not a separate issue from the other issues we address as Friends.  That is, work to address white supremacy is linked to environmental injustice.  She spoke to the need for more youth-led work, supported by older Friends who can afford to be arrested for speaking their witness to the climate catastrophe that is ongoing.

Paul travels in the ministry with the message, “No Arks.”  That is, we cannot expect to save some things and some people, while letting other people and things go. In response to asking congregations “How do you feel?” and getting answers like “that will never work,” he realized he was seeing symptoms of depression around climate change work. He shared that the most important thing is to get started on this work.  And you can start anywhere.

Friends were then separated into breakout groups for worship sharing using the title as query: Spirit-Led Climate Action Among Quakers: What’s Happening? Friends returned to the larger group to share what had risen for them in the small groups:

Clearly, Paul’s idea of “depression” around climate change resonated for many Friends. Another Friend was intrigued by the idea of climate change work as a “chore” to get out of the despair. One Friend spoke to the term “depression despair” and would like to add “trauma” to that idea.  He feels a responsibility for causing other people’s suffering. The idea of “kinship” was raised up as a replacement for the Quaker Testimony of “Stewardship.” Stewardship is too hierarchical.

Another Friend felt that he “wanted more” of this kind of consultation work. Noting that we hadn’t quite reached the “spiritual taproot” that can lead to action on climate change and other issues. He suggested further consultations on this issue, perhaps in a small, committed group of Friends, a “cohort,” as he put it. He wondered, could traveling ministers spread this concern for discussion and action?

One friend challenged us with a comment: If climate change is caused by something spiritual, what is it, and what practice(s) can we adopt that resolve this challenge?…What can bring love, gentleness, and light into the world?”

The consultation was concluded with Waiting Worship, followed by a 15-minute optional time for Friends to discuss the issues further and exchange resources. Several issues arose in the immediate aftermath of the Consultation, leading to these questions:

  • Is there interest in further Consultations on Spirit-led climate change issues? Suggestions?
  • Is there interest in further Consultations exploring deeply into how Spirit leads our actions on issues such as climate change, etc.? What is the Spiritual “taproot”? How do we find that place?

Chuck Schobert, 
Madison Monthly Meeting, Northern Yearly Meeting, FWCC Section of the Americas Executive Committee