Monday night was when I gave the Backhouse Lecture. Friends gathered with me in worship beforehand to help me center and I have felt quite upheld here all week. The talk went quite differently than what you heard — this time I actually was confident and clear in what I had to say. Thanks so for the chance to practice with you and work out some of the nerves, improve the slides and take out some of the glitches. Knowing how you responded helped steady me this week. Thank you!
Thursday evening there was a follow-up conversation on the Lecture. With many good questions. It has been fun listening as various folk trade sailing stories and often come up to me so I might enjoy them as well. Many deep conversations also flowing out of this time together.
Tuesday night we had a number of people talking about the condition of Friends in Asia and the South Pacific. Long sessions during the day on how Friends can best walk alongside the First Nations people. This is something I have heard echoed in the Meetings across this country. A deep concern. One of the members of AYM who is of Aboriginal ancestry David Carline, is giving the Backhouse next year. Many questions about the nature of sovereignty, treaties, respectful language, “settlement” or “Invasion” as the right way to describe the European arrival–complicated by the fact that so many early Europeans who came here had no choice in the matter and arrived in chains as convicts (often for crimes such as stealing bread or trying to form labor unions).
I am very aware here of the US military influence and have learned of Pine Gap, the base in central Australia where the US centers its operations of drones. There will be a large peace vigil there later this winter. I have met the Quaker Grannies, who in their ancient Quaker bonnets have managed to slip through the fences at a military installation and served the soldiers tea and scones.
It took an full 90 minute session for Friends to describe the many actions they are taking on behalf of a more peaceful world. Then a similar time on climate change issues. I encourage Friends to look at the documents in advance on the AYM website to see the range of work they are doing and get a sense of the issues they deal with at their business meetings here. While some are internal housekeeping and quite ordinary, they do engage with critical issues in a way we might learn from.
AYM ends on Saturday mid-day and we will go to Sydney where I will have lunch with Friends after worship before going to Silver Wattle retreat center, then to Canberra to meet with Friends there. Silver Wattle is not just a center for Friends’ retreats and learning, but also a place where First Nations People gather to renew their energies, share stories and honor the land.
We are about half way through our trip. I speak in Auckland at Aoteroa/New Zealand YM a week from Saturday, then begin travel among Friends in that nation.
As part of Tuesday’s Asia-Pacific session, a Friend from A/NZ spoke of issues there. One wonderful hope was that there is serious consideration of legally designating rivers as living entities deserving protection. Two individuals (One Maori, one “European” who will be responsible for overseeing the care of the river. this Friend believes there will be real teeth to this measure if things go well.