Sunderland P. Gardner Lecture by Alastair McIntosh

The highlight of the Canadian Yearly Meeting (CYM) on Sunday and, to many, the highlight of the entire 2015 Yearly Meeting gathering, was the Sunderland P. Gardner Lecture by Alastair McIntosh.

Alastair McIntosh has been called an ecowarrior due to his ecological activism. Elaine Bishop, our Presiding Clerk, described him as an “uncomfortable Friend.” She also compared him with an Old Testament prophet because he was bound to make us feel discomfort.


Alastair McIntosh

Alastair McIntosh grew up in a close-knit community in Lewis, a remote island in Scotland. The theme of his talk was colonization in what we now know as the United Kingdom. He ran through a brief history of land evictions, starting with the Highland Clearances in the 18th and 19th centuries, and the Irish famine in the mid-1880s, which resulted in some one million deaths. Land, originally a Divine gift, a source of community, and the very source of life, was commodified. This colonization process was continued when the native peoples of overseas lands were evicted, driven into reservations and, in the case of some tribes, exterminated. Those evicted by the British in the British Isles had no choice but to become oppressors in turn, displacing native peoples. This process represents the replacement of soul by the rational.

Alastair has worked with the poor in a disadvantaged area of Glasgow, an area he considers parallel to an Indian reservation. In the 1990s, he successfully defended Lewis and Eigg against gigantic development projects. In the latter case, he and his fellow campaigners were instrumental in averting the stripping of a mountain to build a vast network of roads in England. To achieve this result, Alastair worked with a group of activists to create a great stir in the media, with headlines along the lines of “God’s mountain desecrated.” Alastair’s negotiations with and protests against  Lafarge, a  French industrial company specializing on construction materials and  planning the project, resulted in him working for 10 years with the company, on a range of issues related to environmental sustainability. His expenses were paid but he did not receive a salary.

For Alastair, the revolution to reverse colonization involves three stages:

–          Remembering (i.e., past pain and grievances)

–          Re-visioning how the future could be

–          Reclaiming (what was lost)

In closing, Alastair had a recommendation for the Canadian Yearly Meeting, which is currently at the stage of re-visioning its own future. He recounted the story of a wise old lady in Papua New Guinea. Finding Alastair and his colleagues sprawled out on the tropical beach, she exhorted them: “Don’t be lazy! Sit up! Our lives are short! We have only so much time to do what God has called us to do.”


Sheila Havard,

Coldstream MM

Reflections on Tuesday’s Meeting for Worship with attention to Business

I attended a Special Interest group focused on equipping Friends for serving as recording clerks. Ruth Pincoe was unable to lead it, as planned; yet, she made herself available in case we needed answers to questions our facilitators were unable to address.
It was a humid hot day so I was glad to be indoors for this session. M any of the attendees were notable recording clerks themselves. We started the session by introducing ourselves. Then, we shared our fears and uncertainties about the position, and I must say we were gifted with able facilitators, who took us through the resources Ruth had prepared.

These resources included

  • “Clerking with Attention to Recording ” compiled by Ruth Pincoe, with an accompanying “Selective Annotated Bibliography”
  • “Spiritual Responsibility in the Meeting for Business” by Patricia Loring of Hartford Monthly Meeting, and
  • “Quaker Business Method: the practice of group discernment” from Australia Yearly Meeting.

Some of the topics covered include  decision making methods, how to set and revise agendas, working as part of a clerking team, keeping the sense of worship, how to prepare a Meeting for Worship with Attention to Business, useful phrases and strategies for composing accurate minutes. The session also provided us with the opportunity to share real-life examples from our local meetings, and we were encouraged to look at the situations with fresh eyes while exploring solutions.

All the practical details had many of us scribbling madly. We aimed to capture useful methods, understandings and traditions developed to meet the requirements of local circumstances while removing barriers to business. Key to this process is focusing on the spiritual life of the meeting rather than gripping onto day to day mundane concerns.

The last portion of the session was spent roll-playing in a George Faux meeting for worship for Business. Tough concerns needed to be presented clearly, a worship meeting had to be facilitated, and a minute had to be composed. Neither scenarios were light, fluffy pitches aimed at the sweet spot on the bat; instead, they were complex issues tangled into deadlines, historic tender scars, and globalized issues visiting in an immediate sense; in one case, literally, on the front steps of the meeting house.

The clerking volunteer teams handled friends putting on their very worst behaviour while joyfully coaching and framing commentary as it was offered throughout by the facilitators. Members of the George Faux meeting had side conversations, meandered off topic, brought long winded historic metaphors to say what could have been said more simply, and had already been said repeatedly before. Clerks patiently gathered up the sense of the meeting in order to compose a minute after doing the tender discernment, using clarifying questions and redirecting/prompting the conversation, as required in real life situations. Reflective conversation yielded rich insights and supper put an end to a session the participants were caught up in, the most fearful coming out as the most astoundingly competent under such able guidance.

I hope they offer this session every year so that each meeting can access this incredible resource.  It would also be great to have those partaking in M4W4B sit in the clerks chair and see what is required of their Friends working to serve them in their discernment process.



Winnipeg MM