A Selection of Friday Ministries

Saying No and Seeking Truth                                                                                                Linda Murgatroyd

It’s just gone 11 am in Dubai where COP 28 opened yesterday, and I’ve been holding all concerned in the Light, especially our Quaker representatives there. I expect many of  you have too.  

We know from experience that such loving attention, has an impact, even though we don’t know how. I have been grateful to know that at any time, someone in the world is praying. 

So we may also wish to hold in the Light others around the world, human and otherwise, whose homes and lives are being destroyed by human greed and violence. 

David Shulman, is an activist with Ta’ayush, a grassroots peace group of Israelis & Palestinians.  For the last week or so, he has been staying in a small Palestinian village in the South Hebron hills.  

I’d like to share a bit from his latest blog : 

It’s my first time in Wadi Jḥeish:  a tiny hamlet of some 60 souls … Houses of cement blocks and stucco with flat roofs of aluminum and plastic. A trellis of dry grapevines.…. Rock underfoot. Many children. … From every spot a wide-open stretch of the brown, stone-ripe hills. They’ve never been more ravishing. 

 ….   But, like other villages in the area, Wadi Jḥeish has been subjected to more frequent settler attacks recently. The villagers hardly go out for grazing: there’s no food for the sheep, and they are afraid. They can’t go anywhere, have no money and can’t even harvest their olives. 

Most of the villages have now been abandoned because of threats from settlers and soldiers but these people have stayed so far, despite the settlers breaking the satellite dish that had provided internet connection and the wind turbine that supplied electricity. The threat of violence remains constant, and the house has been rocked from time to time by bombs falling in nearby Gaza.  

David keeps watch at night. He writes:

What am I doing here in Wadi Jḥeish? I know I’ve come for Ibrahim and Mhammad and San‘a and all the others. That part is clear. In Susiya the young girls always ask us, “Will you sleep here tonight?” They live in fear, they need us there. It seems our presence in the villages is having some effect.

But this odd, gentle, crystalline peace I am feeling—where did that come from?

It seems we humans are born to say no to the wrong. That little word is our gift. It’s the best word in the language, if uttered or enacted without violence or inflicting hurt. You have to learn how to say it if you want to be free, and you have to find your own way to say it. There is never an end to those who would take away our freedom, and (even worse) that of others; we also spoil the little freedom we have by our own doubts, by our minds. 

Then a second axiom, a variation on the first. We are born to seek truth, and to understand it. Then to speak it. An endless task. It’s even harder than saying no. You have to strip away the lies, the stock in trade of governments, and the fog of forgetting, as the Greeks would say. Truth, aletheia, is a non-forgetting . It’s far more powerful than an Achilles.  That kind of truth is hiding right before our eyes. Sometimes you have to come to Wadi Jḥeish to find it.

Or so my body tells me tonight, not in words. Perhaps it’s coming from the rocky slopes and the fragrant, dusty cold. Something  unimaginably simple that you also know. …

David’s full blog (with photos) can be found at : 


Paul Hodgkin

And God said, ‘Beloved Eve, now you have eaten this apple from the tree of knowledge, so may you better wonder at all things on Earth and know the fullness of each and of yourself. Share the apple with Adam so that he too, may understand and follow you in this knowing, and together you can serve the whole of creation.’ [Genesis 3, 13-16]

Re-writing Genesis is enjoyable – what a relief to get rid of all that misogyny, all that fascistic ‘have dominion over’ - but also a bit sacrilegious. 

But one of the great strengths of Quakerism is that it asks us to renew our faith and our understandings in the light of the changing world.

And at a time when our culture has risked the safety of the whole Earth,  it is surely time to renew the stories on which that culture is built. 

And the word sacrilegious has meanings beyond simply desecration of the sacred. The original meaning comes from the Latin sacre – sacred - and legere - to pick up or take. This is the  sense that makes re-writing sacred texts helpful today – we need to pick up the sacred and move it out from our old ways that have caused so much trouble. 

Our deep stories need to comfort us and encourage us as we develop a new relationship with the Earth and its pain. So we need to move the stories that carry the sacred, into the world as we have now made it.

What if Advices and Queries 42 emphasised our dependence on the Earth, not our stewardship of it?  

The world maintains us and is the source of all the riches we have extracted from it. Understand that creation shows a loving consideration of us and seeks to maintain us as part of the beauty and variety of the world. Work to ensure that nature’s increasing power over us is received with reverence. Let us hope that the splendour of God’s creation continues to rejoice in us.

What if we re-wrote ‘Be patterns, Be Examples’ in the light of our clear need to answer that of God in everything, not just everyone?

And this is the word of the Lord God to all living things and a charge to you all in the presence of the living Earth: Be patterns, be examples, of how in all countries, places, islands, nations, in the wilderness and the deep forest, be examples of how all things are one in the living Earth. Wherever you come, may life preach among you, and to you, so that you, the peoples and the animals, the plants, the rivers and the seas, all of you that make up life itself, may come to dance cheerfully together over the Earth, each answering that of God in the other.

What if we lived our holy stories as if they were written for now, not the past? 


Original Texts

Genesis 3, 16-19 (NIV)

16 To the woman he said, “I will make your pains in childbearing very severe; with painful labor you will give birth to children. Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you.” 7 To Adam he said, “Because you listened to your wife and ate fruit from the tree about which I commanded you, ‘You must not eat from it,’ cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat food from it  all the days of your life. 18 It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field. 19 By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return.”


A&Q 42: We do not own the world, and its riches are not ours to dispose of at will. Show a loving consideration for all creatures and seek to maintain the beauty and variety of the world. Work to ensure that our increasing power over nature is used responsibly, with reverence for life. Rejoice in the splendour of God’s continuing creation. 


QF&P 19.32: And this is the word of the Lord God to you all, and a charge to you all in the presence of the living God: be patterns, be examples in all countries, places, islands, nations, wherever you come, that your carriage and life may preach among all sorts of people, and to them; then you will come to walk cheerfully over the world, answering that of God in every one.





A Walk in the Woods


Jill Green



Lamentation and Solidarity                                                                                                                     Paul Hodgkin

As the situation in Gaza deteriorates our feelings of helplessness deepen. As our crises increase, so this experience of helplessly watching a tragedy unfold is likely to multiply. So, as well as trying to be true to the pain of the situation in Israel/Palestine itself, I’ve been thinking about how we can deal with the pain of these disasters.

A week ago I realised I was trying to find a point of balance that was both just and fair. A place that did justice to all the roots of the tragedy.  But there is no easy point of balance and after a while the effort to not judge or to judge fairly or to accept, became exhausting. At that point I found myself left with lamentation and solidarity. Lamentation with everyone, solidarity with all sides. But how to do this? It is so easy to be simplistic and trite? How to do lamentation when it is not our direct trauma and who are we to speak of solidarity when both sides feel such understandable enmity?

Groping for something, we put a candle on the table with lemons and cloves. Kate adds rosemary.  I add some sea salt.  We sit in silence. Lamenting for the children we stick cloves in the lemon, feeling shame at the overwhelmingly male nature of the violence, I taste the salt. Did it help? Yes, a little. It gave another dimension to just trying to feel and listen. It helped to anchor our small lives, that still need living, to the spiral of violence that is causing so much suffering.

This kind of thing is what ritual space is about. Song. Dance. The beating drum. Rosemary, lemon, salt, vinegar, olives. Rituals help hold everything together that cannot be said or cannot be done. Rituals are a conscious breathing in of both sides and holding them.  Then breathing out. Letting them go. A place that threads a tiny, manageable portion of the pain of the Earth into our own worlds. A weaving of grief and fear and empathy into the smallness of our daily lives and helping us walk with an open broken heart across the world.  

But I don’t know any rituals of solidarity and lamentation. And rituals may be especially difficult for us Quakers who mistrust formality and theatre. Rituals aren’t easy to call into being, because they need to arise out of us.

Perhaps upholding is enough. But as the future unfolds I think we may need to deepen the ways of upholding. We are going to manufacture more Gazas,  more  Dafurs, more migrant crises, more droughts. Bearing witness is about to become more brutal and finding simple rituals of connection and containment for each situation might help.  Just as our communities help too – like this Friday one. Communities that consciously seek to deepen our collective spiritual response.

So now, each morning and evening, Kate and I light our candle and listen to as much of the news as we can bear, and then we taste the salt, hold hands across the table, and give thanks for our own sweet food and the safety of those we love.  We uphold and lament as best we can, in solidarity with all the peoples of Palestine/Israel – and beyond us all, with the Earth. It can never be enough, but it is not nothing.  



Alison Crane

I’m a gardener – I have an allotment. I love this time of year, when there is an abundance of locally grown food, and I can eat what I grow – fresh, zero food miles, unpackaged fruit and vegetables grown without pesticides. 

  1. In Cheltenham we recently hosted a Loving Earth exhibition, and in reflecting what I would do if I was making a panel, I think it would be the allotment. It’s a microcosm of life and its challenges and relationships – it gives me an acute awareness of changes in the weather and the seasons; A relationship with plants and animals and the earth itself, – but I want to encourage and nurture some plants and animals, and am less friendly towards others – what is the balance, how much in control can I, should I, be?

It is easy to be proprietorial about “my” allotment, comparing my plot with others – feelings of envy, resentment or superiority creeping in – astonishing to realise that this part of my life can contain the seeds of war! In times of food shortages, how happy would I be to share my crops, how would I feel if people helped themselves, or if my crops failed.




Last year we collected an abundance of sweet chestnuts from the Forest of Dean, and didn’t eat them all. A lesson in enoughness.

But I think gardeners should reclaim the meaning of the word “growth” from economists and politicians.

I am reading Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer – beautiful stories illustrating what we can learn from plants. I want to focus on love and gratitude, in this harvest time of year. So I particularly recommend the chapter “epiphany in the beans” and will read extracts from it.



 Laurie Michaelis 

Homo Imitans

Three Sundays ago a Friend spoke in my local meeting about imitation. It can be a way of developing empathy – with birds, ecosystems, even inanimate objects. Some forms of imitation –satire for instance – can pose a nonviolent challenge to injustice and abuses of power.

Listening to the radio the following morning, my ears pricked up when the French archaeologist Ludovic Slimac mentioned that whereas Neanderthals created tools that were original every time, our Sapiens ancestors produced thousands of copies of the same design.

It was hard to hear what he was saying so I bought his book. Reading it, I got the message that he likes Neanderthals much more than Sapiens. He sees them as more in touch with the ecosystem they were part of, bringing sensitive artistic creativity to each stone tool they made. In contrast, Sapiens follows social norms, which the community often imposes by force.

Slimac portrays himself as a divergent thinker, not fitting in well. And I can relate to that. I’m not good at copying, and can be socially awkward. I have a slight suspicion he may be projecting his own characteristics on Neanderthals.

This stuff initially fed my gloom about the state of humanity. 

Copying is a Sapiens superpower. Its part of how we created huge civilisations and complex technology, and how we’ve become so dominant and destructive as a species.

It may be the best hope for some kind of recovery, for a rapid change in human behaviour.

Our tendency to copy is a big part of how society works, and what makes it ultra-complex. People follow norms in their social bubble. In the 20th century broadcast media was a strong standardising influence. With the Internet, our social bubbles, our patterns of behaviour, the stories we inhabit, have become much more diverse and unpredictable.

20 years ago I was researching policies to encourage sustainable consumption.  I learned then that

When people are given information about the climate crisis, they more often interpret it in a way that rationalises what they are already doing, rather than being motivated to change
 Storytelling can be powerful as a way of strengthening social bonds, but not necessarily as a way of changing things. People tend to hear what supports their existing worldview.
We are most likely to change our habits because someone in our social group has changed.
The original idea of Living Witness was to support Quakers in Meetings and other groups to try out their own approaches to sustainable living, to act as social bubbles that could sustain counter-cultural lifestyles, and to act as examples that others might follow. I can’t say it worked very well, partly Friends didn’t buy this approach. We have strong social norms about how we expect change to happen, which is mostly through demonstrations and advocacy.

Telling people what they should do, expressing disapproval or anger, is liable to produce an angry, shouty response.

But kindness begets kindness.

Be the change you wish to see: reduce your carbon footprint, not because of guilt but because it helps build new social norms.

And this is the word of the Lord God to you all, and a charge to you all in the presence of the living God: be patterns, be examples in all countries, places, islands, nations, wherever you come, that your carriage and life may preach among all sorts of people, and to them; then you will come to walk cheerfully over the world, answering that of God in every one. (Qfp 19.32 from George Fox 1656)



Clíodhna Mulhern 

Friends, this morning I am choosing to reflect upon words I received from the Centre for Action and Contemplation (www.cac.org). Written by Cameron Trimble, an author and pastor in the United Church of Christ in the US (and once an airline pilot), her words and her questions have been much in my mind this last year.    

Cameron Trimble writes:

“We are going to hit some turbulence ahead,” [my flying instructor] went on, “and you will learn something about your airplane…. If you tighten your grip on the yoke, you reduce the aerodynamics of your aircraft. You, as the pilot, actually make the flight less safe, steady, and stable. So, remember: When the going gets rough, fly loose….” 

She goes on:

Our world today is nothing if not swirling, turbulent wind tossing us around. [Recently], we have experienced economic meltdown, climate countdown, racial throwdown, political breakdown, technology showdown, and religious letdown. We are living through the breakdown and breaking open of much that has defined modern life.  

She continues her reflection:

In the face of such extraordinary transition, it’s natural to look for solutions to our problems…. We tightly grip the yoke of our families, businesses, government, and communities, trying to regain control of people and systems that feel broken and dangerous to our safety and survival. Of course, no amount of control will create the conditions needed to traverse these rough winds of change. 

And then comes her advice:

We must resist looking to the frameworks of the past to lead us into the future. Doing so is a way to pretend to control, to tighten our grip and reduce our cultural aerodynamic flexibility. Instead, perhaps we turn to ways of wisdom that cultivate intuition, patience, and ingenuity. (We could go on friends to say humility, compassion, creativity, forgiveness, courage). We embrace the ways of a Mystic Wayfinder, one who purposefully gets lost in order to chart new ways forward. By getting lost and welcoming the reality that we do not have the answers or know the way forward, we enter a space of liminality and emergence. (A place of liminality and emergence is for me a place of surrender -in touch with the life force, the flow, the divine whisperings.)  





Finally, she says:

We are not attempting to fix “broken systems” but are, instead, summoning entirely new worlds…. We are not attempting to fix “broken systems” but are, instead, summoning entirely new worlds….   

We do not have the answers today. We have the wondering. We do not have the answers today. We have the wondering. We have the gifts of being lost to guide us. We must now use the wisdom of our wounds, both caused and carried, as portals into new ways of becoming…. new ways of becoming (

The words that draw my breath are:

‘We are not attempting to fix “broken systems” but are, instead, summoning entirely new worlds….  ‘


‘We have the wondering’

So, because I am someone who has spent a lifetime attempting to fix broken systems and still do until this very day, the questions I have been sitting with for some time now are: 

How am I nourishing the conditions for my own wondering?  And how am I nourishing the conditions for the wondering of other people?

How do lay down my old ways of thinking and reacting, my old valued (and maybe in their time valuable) certainties? What are these old certainties? How can they be made visible to me so I can see them and lay them down with compassion?

How do I open myself, mind and heart, to ‘new ways of becoming?’

In its essence this is a spiritual inquiry and I am learning that:

My first work is inner work.

Inner work takes practice, daily, dogged, routine, even boring,

Practice needs time, 

Time is only freed by less doing,

Less doing takes courage, and, for me, immense discipline,

Less doing nourishes the wondering,

It is this slowness that midwifes new ways of becoming.  


Paul Hodgkin

I have been thinking about hope and wondering why it makes me uneasy. I think it is because hope is always directed to the future – we hope that something will or won’t happen at some point in the future. But the Earth crises have changed our sense of the future itself. The future in which we hoped for things has itself become uncertain. How can I have hope when I am not sure of the future in which that hope can be enacted?  

Hope has to be a plausible outcome of our testimony to truth. Truth has to come before hope – and the truth that the icecaps and the coral reefs and the IPCC are telling us is that most of the futures we hope for, may not happen.  

If hope is not based on truth, it becomes the accomplice of cynicism. It becomes a wager, instrumental – something you’ve got to leave them with, as if we were performers or advertisers.

Misplaced hope is the source of what Matthew Fox, drawing on Thomas Aquinas and before him the desert mothers and fathers, calls the sin of acedia. Acedia is, he says, “a sadness about divine things” and “the lack of energy to begin new things.”

I think this names what I – we – often feel and see around us: a sadness about divine things – and a lack of energy to begin new things, a weariness, it will be better after we’re all gone-ness. This is acedia and I think its roots lie at least in part in this needy, desperate hope - we must hope, we must be positive. Otherwise everything will fall apart – but in our hearts we fear that everything is already falling apart. 

So if our testimony to the truth of the Earth crises renders hope superficial, what is left? 

Perhaps the first thing is one of its opposites – lamentation. Lamentation is the active mourning of what we have lost. Where hope is directed at an unrealistic future, lamentation is directed at the all too real past – this has happened. We have done this. Lamentation is another name for what Joanna Macy’s calls honouring the pain of the Earth. Lamentation begins by recognising the truth of what has happened. It is the active and honourable grieving for what we have become.

And Matthew Fox directs us to two other things:  joy and courage. 

Joy is the opposite of the cynicism and apathy. And joy interestingly is a very present way of being in the world. Joy is about now, not about then. I don’t have to lie to myself about the future to be joyful. To be joyful is to be present, here, now. When I am joyful I am not lamenting the past – though that pain is often contained within the tenderness of joy. And I am not placing hopeful bets on a dubious future.  

Joy cannot be commanded in the way that we can sometimes persuade ourselves to be hopeful. So joy feels daunting, it feels like we just have to happen upon it. But perhaps there is a practice of joy – as the world darkens perhaps we need a practise of looking each day for miracles, a practice of seeing the good, of being grateful, of seeing even this world as being so magnificently full rather than despairingly half empty. Of seeing the simple, amazing, wonderful ways in which people can act.

And the other virtue that can help replace an overreliance on hope is courage. Courage always feels like a word that belongs to other people, not me. But to quote Matthew Fox again:

 ‘Courage is everywhere, it is in all of us.  But we need some great love to call it forth’.  

And in these Earth crises we have that love – we can all feel the overwhelming, urgent love for the Earth, it’s beauty and it’s crises. 

 Courage is rooted in ‘couer’, the French word for heart – so to be courageous is to be big hearted – for our hearts to big enough to hold others as we act. I don’t think I achieve this often but what has been useful is to ask myself what is the more courageous path? What is the path that holds more heart? This doesn’t mean I will take that path, but it does help me see that there often is a path that does require courage, even just a little bit. And that I could take it. 

Asking the question ‘what is the more courageous path?’ also points me to what is it that I am afraid of. And bringing those fears to mind of itself is helpful in trying to discern what we should do. 

So, as we go out into the world again, let’s be hopeful if we can honestly be so.

But let’s also give ourselves permission to acknowledge that the Earth crises may make hope less meaningful than it used to be, and that lamentation, joy and courage may serve us better.


Good Friday Reflections                                                                                                                         Paul Hodgkin

I have been struggling with the mess of words that we have to describe what is happening to the Earth:  climate change, global warming, ecocide, habitat destruction. We have so many words yet none of them name what is happening in a single powerful way. And none get to the spiritual heart of the thing.  It feels like we need a word to signify the depth, the awe-full ness of what we have called into being for the Earth.

A few months ago, I found a word that comes close to naming the thing properly at the level we need. And that is the Hebrew word - shoah.

Nowadays we associate the word Shoah with the Holocaust but today, on this Good Friday I want to use it, in the way it is used throughout the Old Testament where shoah simply means destruction.

I think what we are experiencing today is the shoah of life. Climate breakdown is the shoah of life, ecocide is the shoah of life, mass extinction is shoah. I think the word shoah begins to do justice to what we face.

I am not a particularly Biblical Quaker but in thinking about Good Friday, shoah, destruction, must have been what Mary Magdalene and the other women felt on the first Good Friday as they laid body of Jesus to rest. Mary’s tenderness, Peter’s sense of having betrayed Jesus, Judas driven to suicide by the guilt of what he had done, the agony of wondering whether if only we had acted differently we could have changed things – all this feels very 21st century. The shoah of that first Good Friday speaks to us of our own times of shoah.

So, on this Good Friday, the crucifixion seems a holy metaphor for where we stand. The despair is very real, the fabric of the biosphere is rent, and we do not yet know whether the resurrection will happen. We stand around at Golgotha gambling for the last shreds of creation wondering, waiting, hoping for the first news of a resurgent Gaia.

At the same time as the shoah of life unfolds, so too does our love and our understanding of Mother Earth. As Joanna Macy says – a heart broken open by our situation is perhaps the only honest way forward. The flight of kingfisher, or the flow of river, the rush of wind, the splendour of sunset and night sky – knowing that the sacred imbues the whole of creation and that all this is threatened by our shoah calls us to the deep work that we need to do. As we stand in awe and wonder at the divine tenderness of our beautiful, singular planet, then at that same instant, we must also hold the shoah of the Earth in our hands– because both the awe and the shoah, call us to soul work.  

If Good Friday is a metaphor for us today, then what about the resurrection? The Easter story unfolds into hope very quickly and on Sunday churches will be celebrating the risen Christ.  For our shoah, the wait will be much longer – it will take centuries and millennia to know whether Gaia can resurrect herself.

Living without any certainty of climate redemption is the cross we carry. How can we live with the uncertainty and guilt? How can we know the shoah of life and still face each day with some lightness of heart? How can we live whilst everything breaks around us?

When you cut a magnet in half you might think the middle would be neutral, balanced, a place of neither north nor south. And I think this is often what I try and find as I hold both Earth’s beauty and the shoah in my heart. I want some point of balance, some quantum of hope. But actually, when you cut a magnet in half you get two magnets. The northness and the southness are indivisible. There is no middle ground, because north and south are two sides of being a magnet.  

I think it is the same with us. Each day I wonder if the Earth is dying, and each day I hope for rebirth.  These are the north and south that shape our lives. We cannot split them. If we are to be useful, if we are to align ourselves with the Earth and serve as compasses for the future, then I think the way forward is built from both north and south, from both love and despair. We have to contain these multitudes – both the light and the dark, the mysticism of our silent worship and the hard work of social witness.

Just like the disciples on the first Good Friday we have to hold all the possibilities of rebirth and all the fear that everything is ending.

Jesus on the cross and the destruction of the Earth both break our hearts open. But in the same breath, in the same ruach, they ask us ‘What makes you truly alive? How are you called to live?’

I think this is the soul work of our times – knowing everything fully, facing everything fully and yet still acting with love and wit and courage – this is what it makes it such a privilege to be alive at this moment.

Clíodhna Mulhern

Friends, here in the North West, we have been enjoying chilly, sparkling morns and warm, sunny afternoons in the midst of our usual wrap-around Irish-Sea cloudiness.  Always the light and the warmth draw me outdoors, like some mysterious enchantment. And there I linger to feel the warm brush of Sun on my face while I smile at the noisiness of our friend birds’ shameless mating and nesting frenzy. They too take their cue from the growing warmth and light.     Hunkering down close in my allotment I smell the soil warming and sense the growing stirring and I am filled with awe and gratitude. Everywhere I sense the relief that Winter has passed and that we are turning once again towards the light. No wonder our human ancestors went to such lengths to honour Sun in their festivals, traditions and in their great monuments. Reflecting upon Sun of late I came across Ten Love Letters to Earth, meditations to Earth written in intimate and simple language by Thich Nhat Hanh, Zen Buddhist teacher and writer.  And I offer one of these today in gratitude for the boundless generosity of Sun and for the life of Thich Nhat Hanh.  The Ten Love Letters to the Earth are available freely on-line. This is number 8 and it is called:

Father Sun, My Heart

Dear Father Sun,

Your infinite light is the nourishing source of all species. You are our sun, our source of limitless light and life. Your light shines upon Mother Earth offering us warmth and beauty, helping Mother Earth to nourish us and make life possible for all species. Looking deeply into Mother Earth, I see you in Mother Earth. You aren’t only in the sky but you are also ever-present in Mother Earth and in me.

Every morning, you manifest from the East, a glorious rosy orb shining radiantly in the ten directions. You are the kindest of fathers with a great ability to understand and be compassionate, and yet at the same time you are incredibly bold and courageous. The light particles you radiate travel over 150 million kilometers from your immensely hot crown to reach us here on Earth in just over eight minutes. Every second you offer a small portion of yourself to the Earth in the form of light energy. You are present in every leaf, every flower, and every living cell. But day by day, your great physical mass of fusing plasma, 330,000 times the size of our Earth, is slowly diminishing. Within the next ten billion years most of it will transform into energy, radiating throughout the cosmos, and even though you will no longer be visible in your present form, you will be continued in every photon you have emitted. Nothing will be lost, only transformed.

Dear Father, your creative synergy with Mother Earth makes life possible. Mother’s slight tilt in her orbit offers us the four extraordinary seasons. Her miracle of photosynthesis harnesses your energy and creates oxygen for the atmosphere to protect us from your blazing ultraviolet radiation. Over the eons, Mother has skillfully harvested and stored your sunlight to sustain her children and enhance her beauty. Birds can enjoy soaring through the sky and deer can enjoy darting through the woods because of your creative harmony with Mother Earth. Each species can delight in its element thanks to your nourishing light and the miraculous canopy of the atmosphere embracing, protecting, and nurturing us all.

There is a heart inside of each and every one of us. If our heart were to stop beating, then we would die instantly. But when we look up toward the sky, we know that you, Father Sun, are also our heart. You aren’t just outside of this tiny body of ours, you are within every cell of our body, and the body of Mother Earth.

Dear Father, you are an integral part of the whole cosmos and our solar system. If you were to disappear, then our life, as well as that of Mother Earth, would also end. I aspire to look deeply to see you, Father Sun, as my heart, and to see the interrelationship, the interbeing nature between Father Sun, Mother Earth, myself, and all beings. I aspire to practice to love Mother Earth, Father Sun, and for human beings to love one another with the radiant insight of nonduality and interbeing in order to help us transcend all kinds of discrimination, fear, jealousy, resentment, hatred, and despair.


Paul Hodgkin

I have been thinking about simplicity and how the Earth crises might call us to a different sense of simplicity. The early Quakers tried to live simply because they saw that extravagances led to what John Woolman called cumber and fuelled what he called ‘our wandering desires’ that take us away from God, awe and the sacred.  And I think we still all feel this: To live simply is to come closer to the light, to letting go of ego and attachment. This is part of a long tradition stretching back through Francis of Assisi, to the desert fathers and mothers and the Buddha, all of whom saw  living simply as  a form of worship.

But the early Quakers  lived at the start of the great pulse of fossil fuel that gave us Mozart, penicillin, education, science but also slavery, nuclear weapons, the Holocaust, clear cut forest and melting icecaps. By contrast, we are living at the end of that huge wave of energy.  As the Earth reaches the limits of what it can tolerate from us, it begins to impose its own non-negotiable limits. A&Q 41 tells us that a simple lifestyle freely chosen is a source of strength. But what if it isn’t freely chosen? What happens as we experience enforced simplicity due to climate breakdown and habitat destruction? What does a testimony to simplicity mean in these times?

Firstly, I think the traditional sense of simplicity as a worshipful way of life becomes even stronger: to practice simplicity now is a way to lovingly accept what is and what has to be as the Earth forecloses our time of plenty. Simplicity, as we found during lockdown, can be an act of acceptance of what is and what has to be.

Secondly, just as St Francis of Assisi’s simplicity expressed solidarity with the poor, today, simplicity is a deep and practical way to express our solidarity and repentance with the Earth and all her peoples and creatures.

Thirdly simplicity is social witness because each time we choose not to consume we are taking a political stand that aligns our soul against growth, the market and the commodification of our hearts.

And of course simplicity now has a metric – our carbon footprint. Reducing our 9 tons of CO2 per year to the sustainable 1 ton is, amongst other things, a measure of how simply we are living.

All this speaks to new understandings about what our testimony to simplicity might mean. Where simplicity used to be an inward act for the self, today, it is also an outward act of solidarity with the Earth itself and an act of witness against consumerism and capitalism.

But these outward facing aspects of simplicity can make it harder to hold on to its sacred inner-facing aspects. Focusing on my carbon budget, or recycling, or concerns for what I should eat, can easily make simplicity into something very transactional, and something that is all too easily co-opted by the market and the algorithms. So what might help us to see the true nature of 21st century simplicity? For this I think we need to speak the language of God. We need words that acknowledge and celebrate a new covenant with the Earth. We might start with the word sacrifice – which the market always uses with a faint sneer (‘why sacrifice your self when you could have what you deserve?’)

 Sacrifice, in its original sense, meant to make something holy. It comes from sacred, the Latin word for holy, and facere, the Latin word for making or doing. So to sacrifice something means to make something holy or to do something that is touched with holiness. Taking this into these times, sacrifice might be exactly what is called for because it helps us see that  to live more simply is to help to re-make the holiness of the Earth: A refusal to fly is a sacrifice to the holiness of the air. A refusal to eat meat is sacrifice to the holy sentience of the 400 million animals that humans kill each day for food. Forgoing a tourist holiday is to honour the societies on whom we visit our hotels, swimming pools and night clubs.

Simplicity is a compass for these times. It shows us the way to less ego, to solidarity with the more than human and it is a witness against the growth and consumption that are killing us. But beyond all these, to live simply is to bring sacrifice, the honour and ritual of making things holy again, into our lives. And given how much of the Earth we have desecrated, sacrifice and simplicity surely speak to our needs for repentance and forgiveness.


Clíodhna Mulhern

Friends, for many years now I have been committed to the study of cosmology , the study of the evolution of the universe and how to make meaning from that, where science and spirituality intersect. (Thomas Berry, Brian Swimme. Mary Evelyn Tucker and John Grimm are some of the names associated with this work. )

And I have come to understand from this 14 billion year story of the evolution of the Universe from the big bang through  the formation of galaxies and stars, to the creation of planets and  the formation of our solar system, and then the unimaginable burgeoning of life on our own little planet Earth from molten rock to what we see today -  I have come to understand that there is a life-giving patterning that is evident again and again, whether in a forest, in the workplace, in a galaxy or in the human body, this pattern is evident where life is thriving… 

You won’t be surprised to learn that some of these patterns include inter-relatedness, diversity, creativity, self-organisation, synergy, - there are more – I have come to see these as the patterning of god just as I have come to see the whole irrepressible creative impulse that is the vital energy of the still-unfolding Universe as the god impulse. So powerful has this understanding become for me that I look for the presence or absence of this patterning in almost every situation and in my own actions. 

However, in the midst of all these life affirming patterns there is one unexpected, and it is ‘cataclysm or disaster.   The story of the universe shows us that Universe evolves to higher levels of complexity, beauty, consciousness through moments of cataclysm – the death of a star leading to the birth a planet and solar system, the mass extinction 65 million years ago leading to the magnificence of life on Earth as we know it.    And we can relate to this on a personal level where some major pain or loss in life brought inner transformation or new possibilities or insights. 

In or time we are living through times of unimaginable loss, of mind-numbing destruction, of deepening and spreading pain in human communities, in other than human communities, in ecosystems,the collapse of institutions, of certainties and maybe also the collapse of delusions.  It feels as if all of life is in agony.  

And it is we, our generation, who is called to bear witness, to step forward to hospice the collapse of the ways that no longer serve life on Earth and to serve as midwife to the birth of a new way of being human…surely the work of the elder… 

Our Universe has embarked on another great evolutionary surge and we are called to assist…

No wonder Thomas Berry calls this a moment of grace…a privileged moment.