Message from the Pastoral Care and Eldership Team (PaCET) for Sunday Meeting 19th March 2023
Dear Friends, Helen Minnis wrote the Swarthmore Lecture in 2022. The chosen topic was racism. Helen is a professor of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. She has spoken out about race issues … Message from the Pastoral Care and Eldership Team (PaCET) for Sunday Meeting 19th March 2023
Helen Minnis wrote the Swarthmore Lecture in 2022. The chosen topic was racism. Helen is a professor of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. She has spoken out about race issues within the Society of Friends. The title of the book is ‘Perceiving the temperature of the water.’In 2019 Helen became an Elder of Glasgow Meeting. In her book she says “I am a Black Scottish Quaker, born in 1963 to a white English mother and a Black Caribbean father. I grew up feeling accepted as a fellow Scot.”
Its easy to see why the Society of Friends asked her to give the Swarthmore Lecture. She foresaw many difficulties, partly because her main interest is in mental health. But she understood that she was well placed to do it. Here are a few of her own words:
“Why was the topic of racism chosen for the 2022 Swarthmore Lecture? The tragic death of George Floyd at the hands of the police, on 25th May 2020, awoke the world from a centuries long slumber in which we had been ignoring the terrible impact of racism and colonialism on our planet. Yet global attitudes to race and colonialism have been woven into the fabric of our Quaker history since the very beginning. As you probably already know, Quakers were persecuted from the moment early Friends began to express the radical view that anyone has the right to minister without the need for ecclesiastical guidance. Many Quakers had to flee Britain, travelling to the new colonies that became the USA and the Caribbean.
In both Britain and the colonies, many Quakers became involved either complicitly or explicitly in the slave trade, or in owning enslaved people. Yet, from as early as the 1680s, some Friends began to publicly oppose the dreadful practice of owning and trading in enslaved people, eventually leading to an important Quaker role in the abolition of the slave trade which was finally enshrined in UK law in 1807.
Our role in slavery and colonialism is a profoundly important part of our Quaker history.… This is not simply a historical issue: racism and colonialism go to the core of Quaker spirituality. These forces touch all five of our Quaker testimonies: equality and community: truth and integrity; simplicity; stewardship of the planet and, of course, peace.”
Helen is showing us how ingrained racism is and how hard it is to recognise it in ourselves, if we are white, and in the society in which we live. But she calls for a willingness to explore the issues without getting obsessed with guilt. Hence the lecture was followed by five workshops the reports of which were added to the book before it was published. They show the value of exploring the issues and our feelings in a safe group context.
Christina has obtained a copy of the book for the Meeting House Library. If you would like to borrow it, contact her. You can also buy it from the Quaker Bookshop: ‘Perceiving the temperature of the water’ by Helen Minnis.
On behalf of the Pastoral Care and Eldership Team (David Hitchin, Chris Lawson, Tim Pitt-Payne, Theresa Samms, Nancy Wall)