A Sheffield Quaker has recently returned from attending the Central and Southern Africa Yearly Meeting. This is her account of it.
Going to visit Quakers in Southern Africa is like going to my second ‘Quaker’ home. I lived in Botswana from 1989–1990, during the closing years of the Apartheid regime in South Africa. Later periods in the region and intermittent visits have enabled me to keep in touch. So it was a pleasure to go to the Central and Southern Africa Yearly Meeting (C&SAYM) held near Cape Town, South Africa, from 28th March–3rd April, with about 130 others, especially as I was the courier for the lovely ‘greetings’ banner of stars prepared at the All Age Meeting for Worship at Sheffield Central on 17th March. The stars were greatly appreciated, by children and adults, who asked that they be strung across the main meeting room for everyone to see. On the final day, each person took a star home. To see the YM children’s response which I brought back, ask a member of the Children and Young People’s Work Committee.
The YM covers Botswana, Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Namibia, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe. Meetings vary greatly in size, with attendance each Sunday ranging from about 4 (Botswana and Durban) to around 20 in Cape Town. We heard reports from each one, including information about Friends’ contributions to service and social justice. Quakers are very active, despite their relatively small numbers. Amongst projects known to Quakers in Sheffield are the Cape Town Quaker Peace Centre, Hlekweni Friends Rural Service and Zimbabwe Food Relief Action. Some years ago, Sheffield Meeting sent funds to the Kagisano Society Women’s Shelter Project in Botswana and the Alternatives to Violence Project in Namibia. Both have made great progress and I shall write about them later.
C&SAYM has its own Book of Discipline, ‘Living Adventurously’, and I put the newsletter, Southern Africa Quaker News (SAQN) into the library. My close F/friend Shelagh Willet from Botswana delivered the Richard Gush Memorial Lecture (the equivalent of the Swarthmore Lecture) entitled ‘Reverence for Life’, drawing on the practices and beliefs of different faiths, and statements from Friends in different parts of the world.
As well as formal business sessions, daily worship sharing in small groups, special interest groups, seven-minute talks, a summer school exploring personal journeys and an outings day, there were numerous chances to talk with people at meals and tea breaks.
As always I came away feeling refreshed and joyful at the chance to renew links within the worldwide family of Friends. I hope to be able to show some photos of the YM one evening in the Meeting House.