Canberra Quakers – A Community of Activists

Canberra Quakers are a community of activists. Our actions spring from core Quaker values of Worship, Simplicity, Peace, Integrity, Community, Equality and Earthcare.  These values, embedded in truth as Friends see it, are expressed as Testimonies and commitments.

Of course, worship is the central activity for Canberra Quakers. For more on the nature of Quaker worship, see our page Meeting for Worship.

Aside from worship, the following activities and commitments have been identified as the most important by Canberra Quaker community members.

Building Our Community and Deepening Our Spiritual Life

Friends are mutually supported and nurtured through a variety of activities within the Meeting, for example:

Friends Fridays. Friends Fridays, usually held monthly at the Meeting House, are opportunities to come together to explore topics of interest or to hear a speaker. Recent topics include Palliative Care, Equity in Health Services and a Friend’s Experience in Occupied Palestine. These meetings include a shared meal, which provide an opportunity to socialize with each other.

“We want everyone who walks through our door to feel at home with us.”

A Canberra Quaker

Interest Groups & Committees. Friends also value hands-on activities such as gardening as well as arts and crafts and singing. There are a variety of committees through which Friends can make a positive contribution to the life of the Meeting, for example: Ministry, Peace and Social Justice, and Pastoral Care and Oversight Committees.

Enjoying fellowship after Meeting for Worship

Residential Weekends. Residential Weekends, conducted at the Silver Wattle Quaker Centre, are opportunities to spend extended time with like-minded people to more deeply explore, learn and grow our inner life.

Spiritual Nurture Groups. Spiritual Nurture Groups are small gatherings of Friends that come together to deepen their spiritual lives through topic discussion and reading of Quaker and other spiritual materials.

Welcoming Through Sharing. Of course, we enjoy sharing tea and coffee following Meeting for Worship on Sundays. This is a time to deepen connections and enjoy each other’s company. Making all in attendance, including visitors, feel welcome and included is an important part of Sunday Meeting.

Reaching Out to the Larger Community

In alignment with our Testimonies, Friends feel that it is important to reach out to others who are in need. In doing so, we aim to both make a positive contribution and create an interchange between members of the larger community and the Meeting. Here are some ways we do this:

Charity Donations.  We donate funds to many causes each year, both as individuals (through special collections) and as a Meeting. In this year alone the Meeting has made contributions to Manus Lives Matter, Safe Shelter, Australia Yearly Meeting Peace & Social Justice Fund, the Australian Red Cross for the Food Crisis in Africa, the United Nations Assn., the Aboriginal Literacy Foundation and the Broken Hill Art Exchange.

Garage Sales. Garage sales are held several times of year to raise funds for special projects including the Quaker Service Australia (see below). Through our garage sales, the community learns more about Quakers and our work.

We provide scholarships through Canberra Refugee Support

Quaker Quest. Quaker Quest is a series of public open meetings on Quaker topics. The sessions follow a lively format which engages those attending intently for two hours. During each session three Friends speak briefly from the heart about the evening’s topic. The group then divides into small groups each facilitated by a Friend who makes certain that everyone has a chance to share. The three presenters then offer a second, shorter set of talks. A question and answer period follows. The program closes with a 30-minute Meeting for Worship.

Scholarship Programs. Canberra Quakers contribute to the Canberra Refugee Sport Scholarship Program and a 5-year Quaker scholarship for Indigenous students attending Canberra University is currently being established.

“We like that other groups use our Meeting House for their activities.”

A Canberra Quaker

Sharing Stories. Canberra Quakers, in cooperation with Committee on Racial Equality (CORE), often host Sharing Stories events, which are gatherings in which Aboriginal speakers share stories about their lives, visions and concerns.

Venue hire. As well as providing a space for our own regular worship meetings, the Meeting House is a resource that supports the local community, particularly non-profit local organizations. It’s currently hired by a diversity of groups such as English classes for migrants, singing and music groups, yoga groups, civil liberties organizations and 12-step meetings.

Working for Peace and Non-Violence

Because Quakers believe that there is “that of God” within each of us, it follows that we cannot deliberately harm or kill another person without also harming the spirit within.

But peace and non-violence are more than not causing physical harm to another. It is an active process of working to eliminate conditions which induce or make it likely that violence might occur. Here are some ways that we do this:

Non-Violent Communication. NVC is used successfully around the world to resolve conflicts and to deepen connections in personal relationships, between individuals and organizations and within organizations. We routinely offer workshops on nonviolent communication. These are led by Quakers and other qualified persons.

“We passionately oppose war and violent solutions to political problems.”

A Canberra Quaker

Non-Violent Direct Action. NDVA is a successful means of bringing issues to the attention of the public and elected governments so that social and political change can be achieved. Direct actions include public meetings, rallies, marches, sit-ins/occupations, protests and blockades. Canberra Quakers have established a small working group to explore how our Meeting  in particular might become involved in fostering Nonviolent Direct Action in areas congruent with our values.

Preparing for a demo against the arms trade

Submissions in Support of Peace. Canberra Quakers have made submissions to Parliament on the implications of anti-terrorism legislation and the dangers of nuclear proliferation. As part of the Quaker Peace & Legislation Committee, we regularly produce briefs, information sheets and submissions, for example see the Watching Brief: Building a Culture of Peace.

Working for Equality and Social Justice

Because Quakers believe there is “that of God in everyone”, it follows that everyone is equal. We therefore actively work for equal rights for all people, regardless of age, race, religious belief or sexual preference. Here are some specifics:

First Nation Peoples. Canberra Quakers are long-standing supporters of the Aboriginal Tent Embassy. In line with our Equality Testimony, we support constitutional recognition of our First Nation Peoples as expressed in the Uluru Statement from the Heart.  Australian Quakers are adding their voices to finding a way forward toward reconciliation with our First Nation Peoples.  See the recent issue of the Australian Friend devoted to this topic.

“We actively work with like-minded organizations to advocate for peace and social justice.”

A Canberra Quaker

Prisoners’ Aid. Canberra Quakers are active in Prisoners’ Aid.  Justice for prisoners is a Quaker concern going back to the 19th Century, when many prisoners died and starved in jails. Today we provide support to prisoners and their families both while they are in custody and following their release into the community.

Quaker Service Australia (QSA). Canberra Quakers are strong supporters of QSA, which is the service and overseas aid organization of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) in Australia.  It’s purpose is to build a more peaceful, equitable, just and compassionate world. It works with partners in Australia and other parts of the world in the areas of health, education and human rights with a focus on providing people with the skills to create small vegetable gardens and earn a decent livelihood.

“Whatever their mode of transport, we advocate for refugees and asylum seekers to be a part of our Australian community.”

A Canberra Quaker
Friends students visiting the Sievx Memorial

Refugees & Asylum Seekers. Canberra Quakers provide support for individual refugee families and make representations to Government on Asylum policies. We participated in the campaign for a permanent memorial to the victims of SIEV-X boat that sank with the loss of over 300 lives on its way from Indonesia to Australia. Our Meeting House has been offered as a place of sanctuary for asylum seekers. See our page Justice for Refugees.

Same Sex Marriage. We Quakers believe that the Spirit of God dwells in all people equally and we value all relationships which are committed and loving. We have therefore made a submission in support of same-sex marriage and statements in support of proposed civil union legislation in the ACT. See our page on Marriage Equality.

Earthcare – Working for a Sustainable Environment

If there is “that of God” in each of us, then it follows that there is also that of the divine in the natural world. Of course, all of life depend upon the health and integrity of the earth.  Therefore, we are committed to working for a peaceable and whole earth and sharing the earth and its gifts with all peoples, not just for now but for the future generations as well. We do this through demonstrations, petitions to government, joint actions with like-minded groups and the lifestyle choices we make in our daily lives. See our page on Earthcare.