These are two words with complementary meanings.
In general terms, sustainability is the endurance of systems and processes. The organizing principle for sustainability is sustainable development, which includes the four interconnected domains: ecology, economics, politics and culture.
At BYM Canterbury in 2009 Quakers made a corporate decision to become a sustainable low-carbon community. Receiving inspiration through the Woodbrooke funded Swarthmore Lecture by Pam Lunn Costing not less than everything: sustainability and spirituality in challenging times.
I’ve written about this before – click on the Sustainability tag on the sidebar to read all other posts on this theme.
There is also a recognition that we need to include our own processes and policies within that consideration – do we need this many jobs and committees? If our main purpose of existing is to be a worshipping group, then to give service to the world than what supports that and what drains it? Which leads us on to the other S…
Stewardship is perhaps more specific – it is the careful and responsible management of something, usually resources. Quaker Faith & Practice has this to say about our assets and how they are used:
14.04 Whilst the work of area meetings may vary, our assets are used for:
- strengthening the life and witness of our local meetings;
- spreading the message of Friends and interpreting and developing the thought and practice of the Religious Society of Friends;
- undertaking our service for the relief of suffering at home and abroad;
- funding the concerns of Friends that our meetings have adopted or agreed to support;
- providing for the pastoral care of individual Friends, including assistance to those in need and for education;
- maintaining and developing our meeting houses as places in which to worship and from which to carry our witness into the world;
- administering and maintaining the organisation of Britain Yearly Meeting.
‘…support meetings in their stewardship of finance and property; encourage accountability, transparency and integrity in all our affairs and enable Friends to work with statutory bodies, such as those administering charity law, on issues that affect all meetings and their associated bodies. ‘ (Quaker faith & practice, section 14.28) (Third Edition)
Stewardship, as I mentioned above, can also refer to the energy and time of people. Nomination committees are finding it hard to find enough people to fill all the roles they have to fill. This has meant that meetings – both local and area, have become aware that human resources need to be managed and cared for. Investigating what jobs must be done, which can or must be out sourced to professionals and which can be reduced to the essentials or even done away with.
One Quaker in a tiny meeting told me,
“we threw out everything and then said – what do we need? A place to worship – well we had a building already, so that was o.k. Next we thought we need someone to open up and drew up a rota for that. Slowly added back jobs, but only if someone wanted to do it. We still don’t have everything that Qf&P says we should, but we meet and we’re swimming now not drowning.”
15.02 Quaker Faith & Practice (fifth edition) starts Chapter 15 on Trusteeship with
As members of the Religious Society of Friends we are all called upon to exercise stewardship over the Society’s resources. This is stewardship in its widest sense: ensuring that money and buildings are used wisely and well; that business decisions are taken in right ordering; that all within a meeting, both its members and its employees, are supported and helped to play a full role in the Society’s affairs; that the meeting’s children are cared for and nurtured; that eldership and oversight flourish. We are all called to participate in building a responsible and caring community.
What has your meeting done to ensure the stewardship of the Society’s resources?
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