Between 28 First Month and 25 Second Month this year, I participated in three Earthcare-focused retreats, at Clearwater Monthly Meeting, Palm Beach Monthly Meeting, and Tallahassee Monthly Meeting. This is the second of three pieces where I share some of the concerns, gleanings, and hopes that emerged. While each setting and gathering was unique, I suggested a theme, “Unity with Nature: How am I Called to Care for the Earth?” and some common exercises in the hope of sharing with the Yearly Meeting a general sense of unity among Friends about Earthcare. One exercise that each retreat gathering shared was a variation of the Alternatives to Violence Project brainstorm, Roots And Fruits. The purpose of the exercise was to get participants to think consciously about what Earthcare is; to share our perception that Earthcare is care for the environment, period, and to gather a working understanding on what that means and how we are called.
Using a drawing a tree with the heading, EARTHCARE, a label ROOTS was written at the bottom; the trunk was labeled DEFINITION; and, FRUITS was written among the branches. Friends were asked to write or have someone write words and phrases without censorship or criticism. If there was disagreement, everyone was free to add another idea but not to argue. Processing included brainstorming on what the roots, definitions, and fruits of Earthcare might include. (As a facilitator, I added ideas with the task of ensuring that equity, social justice, and peace were included.) Additional processing included paying attention to what short-term, individual, collective, and long-term initiatives might be developed. This exercise took place early on in each gathering, immediately following reading and discernment of the Eleventh Month SEYM Queries and Advices “How do Friends meet our responsibilities to the community and the world?” Care of the Natural World.
The results of the exercise remained on the wall throughout each retreat gathering. In addition to incorporating thoughts and ideas from the brainstorm into other activities, Friends were invited to add to the display throughout the gathering.
The word cloud shown here contains the more than 20 words and phrases from the Definitions section of the three gatherings. The cloud was randomly generated. The Definitions included Friends thoughts and concerns that may support the fruits of Earthcare.
In addition to other exercises, each gathering reviewed the SEYM Draft Statement on Climate Change, several Quaker Earthcare Witness pamphlets, and a discussion on possible future actions.
Friends’ stated that their most important learning experiences included:
- To be kind and respectful to other’s points of view.
- To be open and listen to the other person with my heart and mind.
- Increased awareness of need for action, and
- Inspiration to take action.
In Part Three, I will share the results of the Fruits from the brainstorm exercises.
Thank you, Friends.
Beverly Ward, SEYM Field Secretary for Earthcare