Conflict with my Quaker meeting

Recently when I wrote about life without a car, I said being led to live without a car and struggling to convince others to not use fossil fuels were the most important spirit-led actions of my life. This is a continuation of the discussion of life without a car.

My grandmother, Lorene Standing, said the will of God is often revealed in a series of steps. Which was the case related to my spiritual leadings to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Earlier I wrote about the beginnings of my spiritual guidance regarding our environment. But there were many times as life went on when I relied on that and further guidance. The series of steps along the way.

But there were also times when I somehow got off the right path of this journey. I made a lot of mistakes related to this over the years. Among other things, this created a great deal of tension with my Quaker meeting.

It wasn’t that members of the meeting weren’t concerned about Mother Earth. They were concerned and did many things to reduce their carbon footprint and pollution.

But I believed transportation was the single greatest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions that we had personal control over. It was a matter of scale. Emissions from even the minimal use of cars dwarfed the total emissions saved by all other efforts, such as turning off lights, reducing the use of heating and air conditioning, etc., combined. It was disconcerting to see Friends and others using air travel. The skies were full of planes.

There was also collateral damage related to fossil fuel transportation. Urban sprawl was premised on the use of cars for all transportation, including to work, school, grocery, church, healthcare, sports, and entertainment. That would not have occurred, at least to the extent is has, if we had focused on mass transit instead of personal automobiles.

Our communities would not have been fractured as they were when people drove to the suburbs and stayed in their homes when they got there. Not knowing their neighbors, not having a sense of community. Investing in armed police and prisons for a false sense of security. Spending incomprehensible amounts of money for a false sense of national security. And the greater horror of squandering the lives of soldiers on both sides of conflicts. So many civilian casualties. Crushing our souls.

Most importantly, we would not be facing the existential environmental crisis we are in now.

And the U.S. armed forces are the single greatest source of pollution.

Most importantly, we would not be facing the existential environmental crisis we are in now. With the strong storms, flooding, savage wildfires, heat and drought. Leading to mass migration, famine and deaths.

The root of the tensions with my Quaker communities was that many members lived in rural areas, small towns, or cities with no public transportation.

Indianapolis had a public bus system that wasn’t highly rated. The bus routes didn’t cover large areas of the city, didn’t operate during the night, and often not on weekends. They were often not on time.

So it is a paradox that I rarely used Indianapolis’s public transportation system, in part for the reasons mentioned above while being a strong advocate for mass transit. But these problems all need to addressed. Perhaps the most important thing we can do for Mother Earth is create good public transit systems. And stop military operations.

To live without a car, I had to carefully plan where I lived. There needed to be a grocery store and laundry within walking distance. And be within walking distance of the hospital I worked at.

I had to carefully choose the food I bought, limited to the weight and bulk I could walk with. That meant things like rice and not boxes of prepared foods. Another advantage was that also meant I had little trash.

I won’t deny it was often difficult to not have a car. Walking in inclement weather was a challenge. Sometimes I would just be tired. When I did use the bus system, the buses were often not on time. These were times when I would ask for some spiritual support. Some of the small steps my grandmother spoke of. Sometimes I’d receive that support, other times not.

There are many ways not having a car was a blessing. As I walked to and from work, I began to notice flowers and views. The more closely I paid attention, the more detail I saw. I began to carry my camera with me. It soon got to the point that I had to leave a little extra early for work, to account for the time taking the photos.

And there were many times I would run to the places I was going to. Besides my nearly daily runs for pleasure and fitness.

Rural transportation and fossil fuel usage

What did I think people in rural areas could do? The easiest would be to plan trips so multiple things could be accomplished on each. Friends were doing this. Friends could also coordinate trips with each other.

Rural towns could create inter-city transportation using school buses or electric vehicles.

People could install renewable energy systems. Perhaps community renewable systems. Including the meetinghouse.

Use electric powered vehicles or perhaps a return to animals to move things around the farm, pull plows in the fields.

These conversations went on for all of my adult life.

Invite the meeting into my concern

Finally, a f/Friend asked me if I had invited the meeting into my concern. And I realized I had not. We had fallen into a pattern of my expressions of concern, and often irritation actually. The physical separation didn’t help. I lived in Indianapolis my whole adult life.

With this change in perspective, and spiritual guidance as we considered this together, worshipped together, we came up with a statement (minute) we referred to as “ethical transportation”. We asked the yearly meeting (Iowa Yearly Meeting Conservative) to consider the minute, which was approved by the Yearly Meeting (below).

Junior Yearly Meeting, Iowa Yearly Meeting (Conservative)

Our Yearly Meeting has approved other minutes related to our environment. In 2015 we approved this minute.

Minute

We are deeply moved and appreciate the contribution of Junior Yearly Meeting to our ongoing concern regarding changes in our environment.  Their project to raise funds for FCNL’s efforts to address environmental concerns by selling flowers was both spiritually and artistically beautiful.

Junior Yearly Meeting sells flowers from the Scattergood prairie to raise money to support FCNL’s work related to our environment

And this was included in the approved Peace and Social Concerns Committee report.

We are exploring concerns of our younger Friends.  Junior Yearly meeting at this Yearly Meeting are concerned about greenhouse gas emissions and rebuilding infrastructure in countries ravaged by war.


Queries

It would have been good if we had reached the point of inviting the meeting into my environmental concerns much sooner than we did. We have a practice that might have helped, which is consideration of queries (questions) related to various parts of our Quaker community lives. There are twelve sets of queries, so commonly each meeting considers one set of queries each month.

4.  HARMONY WITHIN THE MEETING

“This is my commandment: Love one another as I have loved you.”   John 15:1

ADVICE

It is sometimes difficult to remember that love is a gift of the Divine Spirit and not simply a human emotion. As imperfect human beings, it is not always possible for us to feel loving toward one another, but by opening ourselves to the Light Within, we can receive and give love beyond our human abilities.

Relationships among meeting members take time to evolve. Sometimes misunderstandings develop. When differences arise, they should not be ignored for the sake of superficial unity. We believe disagreements which might divide or disrupt a meeting can be resolved through human effort and divine grace, and may result in a stronger and more creative meeting. True harmony depends upon each persons deep respect of and faithful attention to the Divine Spirit within us all. We endeavor to practice humility, attempting to understand positions of others and being aware of the possibility that we may be mistaken.

It is the responsibility of the Ministry and Oversight Committee to be sensitive to needs which may arise. Others in the meeting may be equally concerned, and because of greater understanding in certain cases, be able to give counsel. In reconciliation of differences, a position not previously considered may prove mutually beneficial. At times it may be necessary to confront individuals whose behavior is disruptive. A clearness committee or professional help may be suggested in some situations. We must always remember the power of holding one another in the Light, and the healing that comes from forgiving ourselves as well as others.

QUERY

  • What can we do to deepen our relationships with one another? How does gender affect the way we relate to each other?
  • How does our meeting balance the needs for honesty and kindness? What topics do we avoid for the sake of “unity”?
  • When in conflict with others, do we cultivate a forgiving spirit? Do we look to that of God in ourselves and seek to address that of God in those with whom we disagree?

Ethical Transportation

 Radically reducing fossil fuel use has long been a concern of Iowa Yearly Meeting (Conservative).  A previously approved Minute urged us to reduce our use of personal automobiles.  We have continued to be challenged by the design of our communities that makes this difficult.  This is even more challenging in rural areas.  But our environmental crisis means we must find ways to address this issue quickly.
 
 Friends are encouraged to challenge themselves and to simplify their lives in ways that can enhance their spiritual environmental integrity. One of our meetings uses the term “ethical transportation,” which is a helpful way to be mindful of this.
 
 Long term, we need to encourage ways to make our communities “walkable”, and to expand public transportation systems.  These will require major changes in infrastructure and urban planning.
 
 Carpooling and community shared vehicles would help.  We can develop ways to coordinate neighbors needing to travel to shop for food, attend meetings, visit doctors, etc.  We could explore using existing school buses or shared vehicles to provide intercity transportation.  
 
 One immediately available step would be to promote the use of bicycles as a visible witness for non-fossil fuel transportation.  Friends may forget how easy and fun it can be to travel miles on bicycles.  Neighbors seeing families riding their bicycles to Quaker meetings would have an impact on community awareness.  This is a way for our children to be involved in this shared witness.  We should encourage the expansion of bicycle lanes and paths.  We can repair and recycle unused bicycles, and make them available to those who have the need.

Minute approved by Iowa Yearly Meeting (Conservative) 2017



1 . SET CONFLICT RESOLUTION GROUND RULES:

  • Recognize whose lands these are on which we stand.
  • Ask the deer, turtle, and the crane.
  • Make sure the spirits of these lands are respected and treated with goodwill.
  • The land is a being who remembers everything.
  • You will have to answer to your children, and their children, and theirs—
  • The red shimmer of remembering will compel you up the night to walk the perimeter of truth for understanding.
  • As I brushed my hair over the hotel sink to get ready I heard:
  • By listening we will understand who we are in this holy realm of words.
  • Do not parade, pleased with yourself.
  • You must speak in the language of justice.
Harjo, Joy. Conflict Resolution for Holy Beings: Poems. W. W. Norton & Company. Kindle Edition.

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