All-age tax justice
Val Jenner reflects on her experience of leading an all all-age tax justice service.
For Tax Justice Sunday, on 14 June, I led a Quaker all-age meeting for worship themed around tax justice.
To help churches highlight the issues involved in tax avoidance around the world the CATJ website provided all of us with lots of material – a video version of a service, a short video illustrating some of the problems and other Bible-based materials.
For Quakers in Britain, who follow unprogrammed, silent meetings for worship - where, while an elder holds the worship space prayerfully, 'ministry' may arise through the working of the Spirit from anyone who is present, but should not be prepared beforehand - a Sunday dedicated to a special theme is a challenge. However with help from the excellent materials available, and mixing this with Quaker Faith & Practice, our book of discipline, we were able to do this at my local Quaker meeting.
The key to this was using the one semi-programmed format we are familiar with: all-age worship. This allowed us to keep our young people and their families with us for the whole hour, instead of going into children’s meeting as usual after the first fifteen minutes. It required looking at the language used in the materials and thinking about the meaning of the concepts to find accessible, child friendly versions, thinking about activities and story that would give us metaphors and holding forms.
And for this I worked with Friends from our children’s committee, two of whom, like me, are elders in our meeting. All of whom are used to, and skilled in, thinking about the needs of our young people and their religious education. We thought about activities that younger children might like and what our strengths were to facilitate these – for example one is an artist so she led a group in painting and drawing, another is an accountant so he was part of a discussion group. We also agreed we wanted to bring it back to everyone’s experience in lockdown – people’s needs and the experiences of sharing and kindness that we have had in different ways.
The other complication was of course using zoom in this changed time. Normally we would all be together in the big meeting room and activities would happen in the corners and children and adults might move around, make some noise and act as a background to, and sometimes swap with, those holding the silence. It’s not a problem for us usually, but the thought of that going on from different homes all in one screen felt too much. So we used chat rooms for the central twenty-minute activities. We finished up after meeting with a discussion chat room for those who wanted to explore practical next steps. I don’t think we could have attempted this at the beginning of our online experiments with worship, but it’s a sign that we’ve learnt a lot in the past months and are all more comfortable with the medium.
I hope you find the resulting format helpful. It’s just one response, from one worship community, but the materials on offer on the website are rich enough to afford a lot of fun with re-jigging, re-wording, cutting and pasting to produce something specific to your community’s needs. Enjoy!
Val Jenner is a member of Central England Quakers and an elder at Selly Oak Local Meeting. She is also a member of CATJ West Midlands.
The script that Val used is available here
Dr Justin Thacker is the National Coordinator for Church Action for Tax Justice