Questions from Central Philly About the Environment

Before Patricia McBee visits active Friends in Central Philadelphia MM, she sends this out to begin the conversation:

How Can We Live with Integrity in an Increasingly Disrupted World?

This is the question with which I am wrestling and with which I hope we can wrestle together. We know about disruptions in countries far from us, wars and famines and rampant diseases. And we are experiencing disruptions to our assumed way of life: rolling blackouts in California, long waits for appointments for medical care, diseases caused by environmental degradation, the events of September 11. As I have visited with other members of the meeting I have discovered that most of us have a nagging worry about the state of the world. Nearly everyone is doing something creative to be part of the solution, sometimes more than they realize. Clearly, though, given the state of things we are not doing nearly enough. How can we acknowledge that reality without being frozen by guilt or hopelessness?

We cannot go on disrupting the integrity of creation and expect to retain a viable sense of the Divine. Keith Helmuth, Friends Journal, August 2001

Americans represent 5% of the world's population and use 25% of the oil, 23% of the coal, 27% of the aluminum. We use more than twice as much
fossil fuel per person as Europeans and Japanese. Union of Concerned Scientists, 1999  People in some parts of the world do not have a consistent source of fuel to cook their food and none at all for light or travel. If the God of love requires that we love our neighbor as ourselves, can we define our neighbor broadly enough to be willing to look at how our personal behavior may be contributing to those inequities? John Woolman believed that the seeds of war lie in such inequities. Philadelphia Yearly Meeting's Faith and Practice asks us, "Do you live in the power of that Life and Spirit that take away the occasion of all wars?" Can we more fully free ourselves from the seeds of war?

Do I still have more than I need? Absolutely
Is what I do enough? No
Should I feel guilty? I don't think so. There is something in guilt that smells of separation to me; I think it is a trap
Could I be more faithful, find a fuller expression of this deep longing for connection, and an even better life? That is the question that engages me.
Pamela Haines, Friends Journal, October 2001

I am visiting you because I believe with Pamela Haines that together we can learn to live in greater and greater love of the earth, of our fellow inhabitants, and of the Divine weaver of the web of life. Along the way we can find joy and an even better life.

As I have visited others in the meeting I have discovered that people are not only making creative changes in their personal patterns of consumption, but also finding ways to contribute to the well being of the world through their professional lives, their charitable contributions, and other forms of public witness or political action. What are the life giving actions that give you joy? What are the next steps for you? How can your community support you? How can you help the rest of us?

This is how Patricia describes her ministry:

I am trying to visit all the active, local members of Central Philadelphia Meeting. That would be about 110 households. If I added attenders who are not members that might be another 20 or 30 households. I have done about 25, then have been away most of the summer on unexpected family issues. I will test my leading again with my oversight committee, but expect to resume the conversations.

I don't know that these visits are the "best strategy" for effecting change. They are just what I felt led to. Perhaps I'm really making pastoral calls and the environment is only my cover.The Spirit is sometimes like that in my experience. Meeting with folks one-to-one doesn't provide for interaction, other people chipping in new ideas or reinforcing ideas giving them weight. I would like to hear how the "meeting for listening" goes at San Jose.  What the one-to-one visits does, besides respond to my leading, is that it draws in everyone who will welcome me into their homes, not just those who are "interested." And I am learning an immense amount. My sense of the issues has been greatly widened by what I have learned from my visits.

One way that I am reinforcing the visits is with a report in the meeting newsletter each month. It is a way of weaving in the new visits with the old visits and of reminding those not yet visited that I am on my way. I will attach those reports to this message to give you a sense of how I am being broadened along the way.

And, yes, this is not the only way I express my concern for the environment. Even those of us who are most deeply involved need to go ever deeper to touch the root for healing in ourselves and in our culture.

What other questions are Friends asking?

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