One Quaker's View on:

Classic Quaker View: Thoughts on Sustainability by Lawrence Carter


First, I want to say that, in questions about the physical world we can never do better than take the results of peer reviewed science. Scientific knowledge is based on theories, which are tested by careful experiments, and the results published in peer-reviewed journals. To get to publication, a paper must endure the severest scrutiny by other scientists. Once published, it represents our best possible knowledge at that time. Over time, new theories might emerge, which could fit the observed facts better. These are subject to the same rigorous process, which decides whether these new ideas are better than the old, or not. The point is that, at any given time, peer-reviewed science gives us our very best knowledge: we can't do better!

I say this because sometimes people who don't like what science is telling them, will try to argue against it by using a quasi-scientific approach, using perhaps a scientific guru to strengthen their claim. However, such an approach is invariably found to have avoided the peer review necessary for credibility.

We seem to be in a period when multiple environmental crises are happening. Overpopulation, loss of forests, pollution of air, land and sea, decline of resources we use, loss of species, ocean acidification, the list goes on. But the one that focuses my attention the most, because of its far-reaching consequences, is climate change. In simplified summary, the problem is this: increased carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, since the start of the industrial revolution, causes an increase in global warming due to the so-called greenhouse effect; this warming causes polar ice to melt, and this extra, warmer water causes sea-level rise. This is likely to cause flooding problems for our cities, most of which are built on low-lying coastal margins. Nelson City Council is basing their planning on an expected sea-level rise of about one metre by 2100, which is realistic. This is the problem of climate change as outlined by our scientists, but some people in power, and especially those connected to the fossil fuel industries, refuse in public to believe these scientific truths. So we all have a problem that is even bigger than it needs to be!

I guess these concerns have come about through reading about the issues, but mostly through my association with Engineers for Social Responsibility (ESR), a group of professional engineers who accept that the professional engineer's duty extends beyond the client, to include people generally and the environment we all live in. Over the last four or so years ESR has carried out a programme of education about climate change, sponsoring peer-reviewed information sheets on various aspects of the problem, and publishing these both in print and on our website I have helped with this, and so become aware of some of the issues, especially with regard to sea-level rise.

While these concerns and actions have not come about directly through contact with Quakers, I believe they fit pretty well with Quaker values. Quakers value people. In fact each person is held to be of infinite value. Quaker values are embodied in the acronym SPICE: simplicity, peace, integrity, community, and equality; to which has been added stewardship, or sustainability, so SPICES. Basically, it's about caring for people and the world in which we live. Quakers try to take practical steps in their lives to improve the world.

How can we live more sustainably? We all need to put a lot less carbon into the air. If we make a big effort to do this, we can take the edge off the worst effects of global warming. We need to live simple, low energy lives. Of course that's easy to say, and not so easy to do! For myself, I need to work on emitting less carbon when I travel. I have a small, low emission car, but it still burns petrol. I would really like to switch to an electric vehicle, and I need a bike too.

The real progress will be made when we realise that decisions have to be made at government level to curb our emissions. In New Zealand this hasn't happened yet - our emissions per head are amongst the highest in the world, which is really shameful. We desperately need political leadership to take the hard decisions. We in our turn need to be prepared to support our politicians in taking these politically-risky decisions, which may in the short term lower our quality of life.



 What is true? How can you tell?   Jan Marsh reviews recent Quaker writings on these questions


The two Quaker publications I'm reviewing originate in the UK against a backdrop of Brexit and Covid, occasions of great social change accompanied by misinformation and disinformation. They challenge us to form our own understanding of what Truth is.

In Friends Quarterly (i) , four Friends reflect on truth from their professional and philosophical perspectives. They define 'truth decay' as being characterised by:

• increasing disagreement about facts

• blurring the line between opinion and fact

• the increasing volume, and resulting influence, of opinion over fact

• declining trust in formerly respected sources of facts.

John Lampen writes about “doing truth" (John 3:21). He gives an example of founder George Fox refusing the King's pardon in order to be freed from prison in the 1650s for challenging the state church because it would 'dishonour truth' to be pardoned when he had not committed a crime. There are other examples of early Quakers acting 'in truth' as well as speaking truth. One such is Friends' well-known business ethics.

The issue of Truth is an urgent one. Is a post-truth society in fact a culture of lying? We all have our own inner guide, so we have the capacity to recognise truth, and we can choose to act with integrity. What collective action are we  being called upon to do today to show the importance of Truth?

Jane Dawson takes her starting point from Keats: 'Beauty is truth, truth beauty.' Keats implies it is beyond mere mortals to know Truth. She looks at the rise of social media and disinformation but demystifies the medium by pointing out that we have always been guided by our emotions and a tendency to only believe sources we agree with.  A diet of tabloid newspapers in Britain has long been a source of biased information. The same could be said of other publications.

Social media simply speed up the process. Changes in the law eventually become changes in moral and cultural truths – and, I would say, vice versa. She comments that 'England is deeply scarred by the Norman Conquest' i.e., creating a definition of England that served the conquerors and impoverished the people already living there - she describes a process familiar to those of us who reflect on colonisation in Aotearoa. Our myths, stories and language give us a framework for truth, and she questions whether, outside these contexts, we can ever really know an objective truth.

Bob Ward draws on his experience as a scientist and a prison minister. While scientific evidence may reveal the truth in a given context, methods and knowledge evolve and change. On the other hand, spin and metaphor might disguise the truth. To get at the truth, Ward recommends the procedures of mediation: careful listening, respect for different views, fairness, acknowledging just criticism and seeking positive outcomes. 'Facts' may be established but their interpretation depends on context. We achieve social coherence by agreeing to shared 'truths' but outside of mathematics, the absolute is elusive.

David Brown brings Carl Jung's map of psychological functions to bear on the subject. We may experience truth through our Spiritual, Thinking, Intuition, Feeling and Sensation functions. They can be used as tools to assess both absolute and relative Truth. There will be those who draw more heavily on one function than another. Combined perceptions, i.e. collective discernment, will give a more complete view. In short, we can ask questions such as 'Does it sound right?' 'Does it feel right?' 'Is it rational?', 'Is it moral?', or 'Is there more than meets the eye?' We need to align our experience of inner truth with our perception of truth in the world.

Thomas Penny's Swarthmore Lecture (ii) covers different territory. A journalist and political correspondent of wide experience, he takes the reader on a step-by-step journey around the subject of truth, beginning with the 'argument, games and chicanery' over Britain leaving the European Union, followed by the confusion over the pandemic. Using biblical and Quaker writings, Penny guides us through the ethics of truth and conflict resolution.

A point Penny makes, as does Jane Dawson in the Friends Quarterly, is that misinformation is not only the invention of modern social media. Penny takes us back to the turbulent times of the mid-seventeenth century, when the Religious Society of Friends was emerging. The new social medium then was the printed tract. Wider access to printing encouraged literacy and reduced hierarchies. In the ferment of ideas as the civil war raged, propaganda and wild invention circulated through newssheets, ballads and tracts which crossed the country with stories of outlandish supernatural events, grossly exaggerated massacres and lies about all parties. The church had lost its grip as the main source of dogma and for a time a 'post-truth' era reigned.

As Quakers emerged in the 1650s, they too were slandered and vilified. From these roots, it is not surprising that Friends developed a strong concern for truth and in time their commitment to being truthful in word and action allowed them to thrive and become trusted. However, Penny calls out a certain amount of Quaker spin. For example, in spite of the earnestly stated peace testimony, there were many Quakers in the army.

Quakers felt themselves to be 'Watchmen' as described by Ezekiel, that is, those who are called on to monitor their community and call out behaviour which jeopardises another's spiritual well-being. John Woolman is a shining example of this, living his life with the utmost integrity and writing of the difficulties of accepting a Friend's hospitality and yet challenging their failings as he felt he must. That he did not spare himself might have made his challenges a little easier to bear.

As people take strong positions, they become more polarised, and divisions develop in society. So where does truth lie? Penny says that early Friends found truth 'at the meeting point of facts and lived experience.' I found that phrase spoke to me. When Fox concluded that the answer to his search was in the importance of a direct relationship with Christ, it was the culmination of years of study, searching and experience. His assertion 'This I knew experimentally' was no simple flash of intuition. Quakers value both the experience of the individual life and the group discernment in which conclusions are tested. This is very like the scientific method in which results are never certain and are always open to new information, or 'new light' as we might say. Doubt is not the absence of truth but a creative force inspiring further searching.

Penny gives a moving example of his own in which he witnessed the police shooting of a terror suspect who had driven a car into pedestrians on Westminster bridge. He shows in generous detail how he went through stages of 'truth': what he saw, how he and a colleague made sense of it to share the information as journalists, how he gave a minute step-by-step account to the police and how, on his way home after the attack, he cried in the bus as he reached the emotional truth of the event. He followed up with several sessions of counselling to examine the experience and its effect on him. This layered approach shows how complex even the truth of an eyewitness really can be.

So how do we assess truth? Drawing on his journalism skills, Penny encourages us to be open to different perspectives and to interrogate our sources with key questions: 'Who is telling me this? Why are they telling me this? What is their evidence? What do they hope to gain? Who is their audience? What do they want the reader or listener to think? Who's paying them? And so on.'

Even so, opinions can become polarised, especially as people trust entirely different sources of information. Penny urges us to find space to communicate, space within ourselves and in our meetings, in the way that QUNO (Quaker United Nations Office) offers space for delegates to quietly talk with each other.

The title of the lecture comes from hearing a farmer say that as the weather grew harsh, she would bring her animals down to 'kinder ground.' Penny encourages us to find a respectful, compassionate place where we can meet with and listen kindly to those whose views we do not agree with.

I found both these booklets thoughtful and helpful in a time of overwhelming amounts of information and conflicting opinions. They are also interesting and well-written. I encourage Friends to seek them out and read them.

i. The Friends Quarterly Issue number four 2021: Truth decay. Authors: John Lampen, Jane Dawson, Bob Ward & David Brown

ii.  Swarthmore Lecture 2021, Kinder Ground: Creating space for truth. Thomas Penny.  



 Can we stay friends?  By Jan Marsh


In Thomas Kenneally's book 'Flying Hero Class' there's a line that has stayed in my mind over the years. The situation is the hijacking of a passenger plane. A group of passengers has been singled out by the hijackers to show an example to the others. Stripped to their underwear and humiliated, they've been shoved into the hold where they are cold and without toilet facilities, increasingly filthy. They are trying to make a plan to overwhelm the hijackers and one of the focus characters says, 'The chances are most of us will survive this. Let's not do anything we can't live with afterwards.'

Covid has changed our way of life and caused governments to impose restrictions which are usually reserved for times of war. Even though we will soon reach over 90% of New Zealanders fully vaccinated, so it must be a small minority who object, vaccination is causing rifts. In my own family there are those who consider the vaccination and other restrictions unwarranted, even dangerous, and those who are immune-compromised and keen for protection. The same is true among my friends and other social groups and in some cases, animosity is rising.

 As for me, I'm fully vaccinated because it seems the right thing to do for the good of the community: to lessen the grip the virus has on our way of life, to make sure our already stretched health system is not over-burdened and to reassure friends and family who are concerned for my health or their own. I don't often get sick so I'm not particularly afraid of the virus for myself but as I'm approaching 70, perhaps I should be a little concerned. A recent bout of a (different) respiratory virus took longer than usual to shake off, showing I'm perhaps not as resilient as I was 20 years ago.

I'm also not afraid of vaccines. I've had a few in my time: the first I remember is lining up at school for the polio vaccine in the form of drops on my tongue. I don't recall any children being exempted by their parents - the memory of the terrible effects of polio was still vivid. My own grandfather was affected and had his withered leg amputated, a source of fascination to us kids.

When I set out on my OE I had to have a number of vaccines for diseases such as cholera, typhoid, yellow fever, and I had to carry a card which recorded that I had had those. The card was checked at every border, and I would not have been allowed to continue without it. I can recall one unscrupulous guard at the Turkish border trying to tell me I needed more injections and expecting to be paid off to let me through, but I stood my ground on both scores and after some delay went on my way.

Most recently, prior to Covid, my daughter asked me to make sure my pertussis vaccination was up to date before meeting my new granddaughter. I saw my doctor about that and got a shot with a tetanus booster thrown in. I wouldn't have sought those out but they did me no harm, reassured my daughter and all is well. In no case did I have any idea what was in the vaccines – disease-defeating stuff, I assumed. I trusted that my doctor would have my best interests in mind when she offered what was needed.

My main thought about the present situation is that the greatest risk to most of us is not to our health through having the vaccine or even through getting Covid, but to our relationships by having conflict over it. Can we hear each other's points of view without having to shout them down? Can we respect each other's choices and do whatever it takes to help each other feel safe? That might mean wearing a mask when it doesn't seem really necessary, staying home when we have a cough or keeping our distance in some circumstances. If we love our family and friends, of course we want them to feel safe. Perhaps we want to argue with them in order to make sure they are doing the best for their health, but we each have different views about what's best. Can we respect that?

Most of us will survive this. Let's make sure we can look each other in the eye when it's over and still be friends.




 Classic Quaker View, from the archives: Spring again.  By Jan Marsh


photo by Yoksel Zok Unsplash

Once again, the early birds are waking me with their calls. I can feel the change happening as I'm more ready to get up these mornings and less likely to huddle under the duvets (yes, two in winter!) resisting the sharp bite of a frosty morning.

A pair of tuis were in the pear tree this afternoon, glossy and fat, diving and flapping their wings at each other. Were they courting or fighting? Hard to tell. A simple tune rings out over and over as they fly from one treetop to another around my garden. The hellebores are flowering thickly under the plum tree, their shades of mauve and green dusted with little white petals which drift down from the tree. The daffodils are beginning to droop and the crocuses have disappeared back into the earth after briefly popping their heads above the surface.

Soon there'll be more blossom – the cherry, the pear – but this year the Granny Smith apple tree is gone. It fell down at Easter, the ground too sodden to hold its roots. I've cooked and frozen the last of the apples which I had stored in the shed. That's the second apple tree to die in that patch of lawn so I won't plant another there. A magnolia might be nice – I'm admiring their display all over town just now. It's a short but glorious shout out to spring and makes me think of Walt Whitman's Louisiana oak 'uttering joyous leaves of dark green'.

The spring has given me a boost to get on with some chores. The concrete has been cleaned up and I'll seal it to keep the moss at bay; the house too is washed and shiny but the windows are streaky. Small repairs inside and out have been done but there's some paintwork to touch up when we get another fine day. It's all part of loving my home.

It also feels as though I'm tidying it up to a point where I could leave for a while. Where to, I wonder? Maybe this is just the restlessness of spring and when summer comes I won't want to be anywhere else but here in my home among my friends.


I Saw in Louisiana A Live-Oak Growing

By Walt Whitman

I saw in Louisiana a live-oak growing,

All alone stood it and the moss hung down from the branches,

Without any companion it grew there uttering joyous leaves of dark green,

And its look, rude, unbending, lusty, made me think of myself,

But I wonder’d how it could utter joyous leaves standing alone there without its friend near, for I knew I could not,

And I broke off a twig with a certain number of leaves upon it, and twined around it a little moss,

And brought it away, and I have placed it in sight in my room,

It is not needed to remind me as of my own dear friends,

(For I believe lately I think of little else than of them,)

Yet it remains to me a curious token, it makes me think of manly love;

For all that, and though the live-oak glistens there in Louisiana solitary in a wide flat space,

Uttering joyous leaves all its life without a friend a lover near,

I know very well I could not.

Source: Leaves of Grass (1891-2) (1892)



 Whats up with Rocket Lab? Rocket Lab Monitor and Auckland Peace Action have the answer 



The following information was published by Auckland Peace Action to support their demonstration against Rocket Lab on June 21st 2021. Supporters of APA gathered outside the Auckland Headquarters of Rocket Lab to highlight concerns about NZ being entangled in the US Military Star Wars programme. It is reproduced here to help widen the spread of this vital information, with thanks from Quakers in Nelson to Rocket Lab Monitor and APA for bringing it together. 

Who owns Rocket Lab?   Rocket Lab was founded in New Zealand in 2006 by Peter Beck and Mark Rocket.  Early investors included the likes of Stephen Tindall's K1W1 Fund and ACC along with US venture capital funds and more recently the world's largest weapons manufacturer Lockhead Martin. Rocket Lab is now owned by Rocket Lab USA and plans to list on the NASDAQ with a value of over $4 billion.

Who does Rocket Lab serve? Rocket Lab customers include weapons dealers and military clients, mostly from the US but also Germany and Australia. 

Weapons targeting systems deployed by Rocket Lab like the Gunsmoke - J payload in March 2021 for the US Army can control both conventional and nucleur weapons. Intelligence gathering technology deployed by Rocket Lab serves US military, economic and political interests.

What do Locals think?    Rocket Lab's launch site at Mahia received consents from Wairoa District Council in just nine days, with no public consultation on the untested claim that local Maori supported the proposal. Mahia residents, including veteran peace activist Pauline Tangoroa, have made it clear that Rocket Lab representatives including Peter Beck misled locals to get support from Mahia residents. Rocket Lab negotiated a long term lease for the launch site  with only the trustees of the Maori land block the site is based on. There was no other consultation with other owners of the land. Many locals are now strongly opposed to the Rocket Lab base at Mahia.

What is the Government doing?    Cabinet agreed on principles which prohibit payloads that may damage or destroy the environment or other infrastructure but is silent on payloads of technology designed to damage or destroy people.  

New Zealand should push the US to support the UN Treaty for Prevention of an Arms Race in Outer Space (PAROS) which to date has been blocked by the US but supported by the majority of countries at the United Nations.

What can we do?  Stay informed: find out more by doing your own research and have a look at 

Share information: talk to your family and friends about whether they think New Zealand should be permitting military payloads.

Contact politicians: >write to PM Jacinda Adern, Minister for Economic and Regional Development Sturat Nash, Minister for Disarmament and Arms Control Phil Twyford, and/or Minister of Foreigh Affairs Nanaia Mahuta to ask them to explain why they allow weapons systems to be launched from NZ for foreign companies and military agencies.


 Get Involved:  Rocket Lab Monitor - collects information about Rocket Lab, the New Zealand Space Agency and relevant legislation and the activities of Rocket Lab clients.

Space for Peace Aotearoa -

Auckland Peace Action -

Global Network against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space -

Space for Peace Petition - This petition asks the Government to refuse consent for Space industry activities which contribute to organised international warfare and the weaponisation of Space:  



 A history of concern for Palestine and the Palestinian people   By Christine Gillespie


Quakers have lived alongside Palestinians in Palestine since the 1860s, when the first Quakers from the US arrived in Palestine and Lebanon. Palestinians encouraged them to found a girls school in Ramallah, which was built in 1869. In 1901 a Quaker Boys School was started. Both are now co-educational and provide education from kindergarten to pre-tertiary level. After the partition of Palestine in 1948 the school catered for the refugees from the coastal areas taken over by Israel. Its scholarship programmes attracted students from across the Middle East. After the 1967 war and Israeli occupation of the West Bank students from other countries were unable to attend. Today the schools have almost 1200 students, and over 90% go on to further education. 65% of students are Muslim, 35% Christian. The life of the school is firmly based on Quaker principles, including non-violence and equality, focusing from the beginning on the education of women and their right to be equal members of their community.

Quakers’ peacebuilding and relief work is well known. In early 1948 American Quakers began to raise funds for refugee relief in Palestine. The United Nations asked Quaker Harold Evans to serve as Municipal Commissioner for Jerusalem. The Quaker peacekeeping principle is to support both sides equally – called ‘balanced partiality’, they do not take sides but care about both parties and believe that increasing mutual understanding will help those in conflict to find ways forward on which both can agree. However, it was clear that there was great inequality and so Quaker relief focused on the welfare of Palestinians. The hope was to soon be able to help the refugees return home. It quickly became clear that Israel would not allow that, and Harold Evans resigned.

A major refugee crisis was developing in Gaza, now under Egyptian control. The United Nations asked Quakers to take part in a one-year relief programme. They agreed but only on the basis that resettling refugees would be a UN priority. Quaker Relief workers began arriving in Gaza in 1948. The conditions they found were appalling, a quarter of a million refugees were living in rudimentary shelters, food supplies were limited, there was heavy shelling with dead and wounded being brought in every day. Quakers worked with the World Health Organisation to create a public health service, a malaria control programme, sanitation, and a weaving and sewing programme. Tent schools were established for Palestinian children. By March 1949 there were 16,000 students. When it became apparent the UN was not pursuing resettlement, they saw relief work as an impediment to a political settlement and withdrew. Their work was taken over by the UN Relief and Works agency.

However, Quakers continued to work with Palestinians and Israelis. Currently the same organisation (American Friends Service Committee) runs a youth programme across the occupied Palestinian Territories with offices in Gaza, Ramallah and East Jerusalem. In Gaza in the 1970s they established 13 kindergartens which have been supported by Norwegian Quakers since 1993. They pay a large percentage of the teachers’ wages. From 2006 the project has included training for all teachers and parents to help them deal with the many cases of trauma they see in the children in their care.

British and Irish Quakers manage the Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel, founded in 2002 in response to a call from the Heads of Churches in Jerusalem. It has more international human rights monitors on the ground than any other organisation in Israel and Palestine. They bring people from around the world to the West Bank to offer a protective presence to vulnerable communities and to monitor and report human rights abuses, creating eye witness accounts for the world’s attention. They join Palestinians and Israelis who work in non-violent ways for peace, with the vision of a future in which the military occupation of Palestine (the West Bank, Jerusalem and Gaza) has ended and both Palestinians and Israelis enjoy a just peace with freedom, dignity and security based on international law. Ecumenical Accompaniers work to change the international community’s involvement with the conflict, urging them to act against the injustice in the region. They use their witness to open the eyes of the world to the realities of occupation, campaign in their local communities and countries for a just and peaceful resolution to the conflict.

Quakers in Aotearoa have been among those acting as accompaniers in different programmes.

In Britain in 2011 and in Nelson in 2018 Quakers have agreed to boycott products from the Israeli settlements in the West Bank. In May 2021 Quakers in Nelson agreed a boycott of Hewlett Packard and we have asked our national body to do the same.

Quakers support Israeli Peace Groups such as Rabbis for Human Rights, New Profile, Yesh Din and Combatants for Peace. Quakers in Nelson is an interfaith member of the US organisation campaigning for Palestinian freedom, Jewish Voice for Peace. We highlight the grave abuses by apartheid Israel of the Palestinian people on our website and Facebook page. We support the work of Te Tau Ihu Palestine Solidarity. We intend to continue our efforts toward freedom for the Palestinian people.



 Being a good ancestor.    By Jan Marsh 


After the deaths of both our parents we, their five children, received some money, quite a significant amount from the sale of their house and their savings. They had not received any inheritance from their parents, there was very little left from our grandparents' lives, but our parents were very clear about wanting to leave something for us, which was generous of them.

However, beyond a material inheritance, what we bequeath to our children and grandchildren are memories of our lives and our relationships to them and others. How do I want to be remembered and what will I contribute to the moral and emotional lives of my descendants? Put like that it seems a big responsibility.

A few years ago, in a time of transition, I had a period of therapy with a skilled practitioner. My thought, beyond relieving the immediate stress, was to clear up old hurts and resentments. I had observed how old age makes people become their unvarnished selves, whatever they have been in life they become more so. My truth-in-jest quip was that if aging was going to reveal me, I wanted to make sure it revealed the best of me. At this point I can't guarantee that but as a result of the therapy I have felt calmer and more content.

The losses of aging provide keys to a deeper way of life usually sought by monks and nuns who consciously give up material things while relatively young. Old age gives us a spiritual life whether we intend it or not. As we become less busy there is time to enjoy the little things and to marvel at nature – sunrise and sunset, the sea, the trees, the light, the sky are always with us and always changing. As a friend in late stages of dementia once said to me, standing in the rest home garden with wonder in her eyes, 'Who would have thought there were such riches?'

Time polishes our egos, shows us what is really important, makes us transparent and simple. The Japanese aesthetic of wabi-sabi values worn, fading or rusted objects, how time reveals the structure in nature, such as in skeleton leaves, and shows us beauty in decay if we pay close attention. My brother-in-law was a keen amateur photographer and as he aged he took photos of dead leaves on the path or in the gutter, which were poignant and appropriate.

As I become worn, transparent, what do I hope to have shine through? What would I like my grandchildren to think of as my essence? I recall my grandson, then about two years old, running across the room to throw his arms around my legs and say, 'You love me, Jan!' I told him, 'I do! I'm so glad you know that!' I hope all my family and friends will know that.

I hope too they will see courage, and the ability to be happy in my own company, and a willingness to see a job through. Some of my mother's diligence and my father's loyalty will be there too. I hope they will see someone always keen to learn but also always testing new information against experience to seek the truth while accepting that we may never really know what is true.

By being my best self, I hope to become a good ancestor.



 Faith, worship, community and the Quaker way of living.  By Maia Tanner


Earlier this year the national Quaker Outreach Committee invited five Friends to write about their experience as Quakers on these four topics. One of those is Maia Tanner who attends Nelson Meeting.  Maia's contributions form part of five leaflets currently in production. Here is Maia's story from which her contribution was drawn:

FAITH: As somebody who isn't quite sure if I believe in a God, the Quaker faith has been a safe harbour in which to open my mind and explore my thoughts and feelings on the matter. I find inspiration in the ministry of friends at meeting which usually takes the form of very accessible personal stories or reflections from day to day life.

There is no shared creed. We don't all say we believe the same things, because we don't and we don't pretend to. But Quaker friends do have shared values which resonate with me and shine a light on my path ahead, inspiring me to uphold these values in my everyday choices. Since joining the community of friends who live by these values, my personal resolve to live by these principles is much stronger and at the same time I feel lighter with it. These shared values - equality, justice, sustainability, simplicity, truth and peace - link directly into my own personal ethos and the way I strive to interact with people and the world around me, and so I found a home in Quakerism.

WORSHIP: I find coming to Quaker Meeting gives me a setting to find stillness and to quiet my mind in amongst the whirl of modern life that urges us to be always moving on to the next thing. I don't think of it some much as worship but as an opening up, letting my soul settle.

Listening, deep attentive listening, isn't a skill that most of us use often in everyday life. I value the chance to practice it in the stillness of Quaker Meeting. I feel it has given me a greater capability for active, engaged listening in daily life at work and in my personal relationships. Being mindfully present in a Meeting for Worship, hearing the sounds in the room, the birds outside, feeling the mood of the meeting, listening to the words shared among Friends grounds me to my present experience and is good exercise for my mind. I miss it when I don't come to Meeting the way I miss running as exercise for my body if I'm cooped up inside.

For several months I attended Meeting for Worship but was sure what I was doing was not worship in the traditional religious sense of the word. I wouldn't have called myself a Quaker, just someone who went to Quaker Meeting to soak up the stillness, silence and peace that I found there. But the more I learned about Quakerism that more I found things that spoke to me and echoed aspects of my own life. In a world increasingly polarised along the lines of religion and politics I found the Quaker acknowledgement of God in everybody to strike a chord with me and my understanding of humanity. Quaker faith has provided me the tools to navigate through a world ever more divided. And I have come to realise that finding stillness and connecting with my deepest self is my version of worship.

COMMUNITY: Being part of a the Quaker community among people who don't tell you what to think or even necessarily ask you what you believe has been refreshing and a great strength to me starting out in a new place. I have found myself accepted, encouraged and welcomed even when joining a well established group where I am only able to come to meeting sporadically. I have struck up friendships with people I would never ordinarily have met in other aspects of my life.

QUAKER LIVING: I think about the future a lot and mull over what choices I should make and wonder what lies around the corner. Quaker living and staying true to the values that Quaker Friends share has helped me to make decisions that are true to myself. I feel secure in my choices as I am supported by the community of friends, gently and informally guiding me. Knowing I can turn to others for a listening ear and some reassurance from those that share my values has been such a help in my twenties - a time of much change in my life. Quakerism has helped me to find and celebrate wonder in this very beautiful, but also challenging world in which we live.



 Believing in God is just another conspiracy theory? By Jim Batson

photo by Marc-Olivier Jodoin Unsplash


My Quaker friend and I were sitting one morning in a café, in the sun, drinking coffee and eating cakes. We were talking about this and that including conspiracy theories which were topical at the time and then I said, “I have been thinking about God and thinking that a good topic for a home discussion would be `Believing in God is just another conspiracy theory.’” He looked puzzled. Then, he smiled. I went on, “I feel a bit cheeky and hesitant in raising this subject in a Christian group like the Quakers.”   He responded; “I am a Christian and I am not offended.”  A few days later I hosted a small gathering in the lounge in my home. There were six of us. A good number.  As the host, I not only got to choose the topic but I was free to make an opening statement. I was enthusiastic. I had enjoyed my research and I was eager to learn.

Inadvertently, the discussion took me to the heart of my matter. Looking back, ten years or so ago, my motivation for attending Quaker meetings was because I wanted to find out about being `spiritual’. I was certain my personality had a spiritual aspect but I did not know it. Naively perhaps, I expected that if I attended a gathering of a religious group frequently enough and for long enough, my hither-to-fore hidden spiritual dimension would emerge, if not by osmosis then as if by magic. At the time I felt as if something in me was under-developed especially when I heard others use words like `spirit’ and `spiritual’.  I could not feel what they were talking about. I felt deprived, not in an under privileged sense, but more because others seemed to have what I think I ought to have. I wanted what they had.

I grew up in a godless family. The word God was never used, not because of some atheistic principle, but more because God did not have a place in our family’s existence. I think, if push came to shove, both my parents would have recognised the existence of God, though he/she/it was never called upon nor mentioned. I imagined my parents would write `Christian’ on the census form if there was place for `religion'. I found out about God by attending Sunday School for a few weeks; by attending church parades when I was a `wolf-cub’, and from assembly readings from the bible when I was at secondary school.  We also had weekly `religious instruction’ classes at secondary school.

A conspiracy theory, as far as I can tell, is an unverifiable explanation for something or for an event attributable to a force or an organisation that is operating covertly. One has “…to be in the know…”, as my mother would say. Adherents share a `nod-nod, wink-wink’ type of relationship and although the explanation lacks validity, adherents act as if it does. Faced with this blind belief I have sometimes felt ignorant, and when there is a group, I have felt excluded in the face of collusion. I have felt ignorant, and sometimes ashamed that I did not know something that is so obvious to others. A conspiracy theory is unprovable; it lacks validity and whatever validity it does have is generally attributable to the commitment that its devotees give to it. They share a mutual devotion. I put belief in God in this mould.

During our home discussion I realized I had a different attitude to the believers in God than I had to conspiracy theorists. Instead of feeling diminished in the face of their collective knowing, I felt superior. I was not intimidated by their collective devotion. Quite the opposite. Instead, I thought of God believers as having been duped; they were either fooled or they fooled themselves. I felt superior because I could see through the charade.  Believers, as I knew them, had overlooked their own part in the God-creation process; or so I thought.  As a consequence, I had held God-believers in contempt.  I realised, I was holding in contempt those people whom I was trying to emulate. A weird paradox. It is no wonder that I could not possess what they had. I lacked belief and I lacked commitment.

I have spent a life-time trying to understand and create peace, non-violence and harmony, in my work and in my relationships. During the home discussion I thought about what was helpful in this pursuit. I had long kept in store a bundle of attributes any of which would contribute to more harmonious relationships. I believed that harmony was better than disharmony; that love was better than violence; that peace was better than war. I had long been convinced that violence does not work. In the long-term peace and non-violence are much better options. I concluded that this is my God: a bundle of attributes which promote peaceful harmonious relationships; empathy, compassion, love, generosity, honesty, trust etc, etc.  Perhaps this was my own version of God.  When I am faced with a relationship within which I am struggling I call upon my God to suggest something which I may be overlooking. To me, my God is a resource I call on when I am struggling. I felt relief, I had achieved what I set out to achieve.




 Spring again.  By Jan Marsh

photo by Yoksel Zok Unsplash

Once again, the early birds are waking me with their calls. I can feel the change happening as I'm more ready to get up these mornings and less likely to huddle under the duvets (yes, two in winter!) resisting the sharp bite of a frosty morning.

A pair of tuis were in the pear tree this afternoon, glossy and fat, diving and flapping their wings at each other. Were they courting or fighting? Hard to tell. A simple tune rings out over and over as they fly from one treetop to another around my garden. The hellebores are flowering thickly under the plum tree, their shades of mauve and green dusted with little white petals which drift down from the tree. The daffodils are beginning to droop and the crocuses have disappeared back into the earth after briefly popping their heads above the surface.

Soon there'll be more blossom – the cherry, the pear – but this year the Granny Smith apple tree is gone. It fell down at Easter, the ground too sodden to hold its roots. I've cooked and frozen the last of the apples which I had stored in the shed. That's the second apple tree to die in that patch of lawn so I won't plant another there. A magnolia might be nice – I'm admiring their display all over town just now. It's a short but glorious shout out to spring and makes me think of Walt Whitman's Louisiana oak 'uttering joyous leaves of dark green'.

The spring has given me a boost to get on with some chores. The concrete has been cleaned up and I'll seal it to keep the moss at bay; the house too is washed and shiny but the windows are streaky. Small repairs inside and out have been done but there's some paintwork to touch up when we get another fine day. It's all part of loving my home.

It also feels as though I'm tidying it up to a point where I could leave for a while. Where to, I wonder? Maybe this is just the restlessness of spring and when summer comes I won't want to be anywhere else but here in my home among my friends.


I Saw in Louisiana A Live-Oak Growing

By Walt Whitman

I saw in Louisiana a live-oak growing,

All alone stood it and the moss hung down from the branches,

Without any companion it grew there uttering joyous leaves of dark green,

And its look, rude, unbending, lusty, made me think of myself,

But I wonder’d how it could utter joyous leaves standing alone there without its friend near, for I knew I could not,

And I broke off a twig with a certain number of leaves upon it, and twined around it a little moss,

And brought it away, and I have placed it in sight in my room,

It is not needed to remind me as of my own dear friends,

(For I believe lately I think of little else than of them,)

Yet it remains to me a curious token, it makes me think of manly love;

For all that, and though the live-oak glistens there in Louisiana solitary in a wide flat space,

Uttering joyous leaves all its life without a friend a lover near,

I know very well I could not.

Source: Leaves of Grass (1891-2) (1892)



 Simple Words.  By Jan Marsh


Some things sound so simple. I puzzle over why they prove so difficult in practice. On caring for the environment, David Attenborough says, Don't waste." He elaborates: don't waste water, don't waste plastic, don't waste trees. His lifetime's work summed up in two words.

The Dalai Lama says, Be kind."' The longer version is, My religion is kindness. Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible." Discrimination is not kind, nor is poverty. War is definitely not kind. So with that one word, we could have supportive communities, world peace, loving families.

When I was a young mother I volunteered some of my time at the Peace Foundation. I would drop my son off at school and bring my three year old daughter with me. I worked alongside Les and Kath, retired people who were mentors and role models for me. Les had been a minister and was instrumental in setting up Marriage Guidance in New Zealand. His work had taken him to conferences around the world and he was a great raconteur. When we took a break over tea and shortbread he would tell us a story. One of these concerned a conference of church leaders, held in Africa, with a highly respected keynote speaker. Les told how the room was filled with expectation as the speaker took the podium. He said, God is Love." Great opening. But no! This was his entire presentation, his message to the churches.

Thirty years later, retelling this anecdote to my daughter (who remembered Les well) I realise how profound that statement is. Not just that God is filled with Love, or the term 'God' is a metaphor for Love, but God is Love. As Keats might say, that is all you need to know. How different the world would be if all those who profess belief in any kind of god accepted that. It is there in all religions: love thy neighbour, do to others what you would have them do to you. But do all religions really encourage us to seek the most loving path in life, being loving not just to those in our church or those like ourselves but to everyone? Could they truly manifest God in their communities, showing that Love doesn't discriminate, Love is for everyone.

John Woolman grasped it: Love was the first motion" in his desire to visit Native Americans, treating them with respect and showing a willingness to learn from their spirituality, an attitude that was unheard of in the dealings of arrogant Europeans with local peoples. He seemed to gain a lot from the experience, including an enhanced appreciation of our Quaker Testimony of simplicity.

Why is it not so simple? If I had stayed with my Catholic upbringing perhaps I would still believe in Good vs Evil and the notion that the Devil (possibly these days a more abstract concept than the horned red horror of my childhood) implants evil thoughts. All I can say is that human beings are complex and our needs and desires conflict in ways that at times can bring out the worst in us. Yet most of us love our family and friends, want the best for them and will do kind acts to care for them. Most of us are good-enough citizens, keeping the rules, paying our way, smiling at strangers or holding the door open for someone with a load to carry. Could we broaden it beyond our immediate lives? Be easy on the environment by taking only what we need? Refrain from vilifying a group we don't know? Check ourselves for prejudice which is bound to be there?

Don't waste.

Be kind.

God is Love.



 Reaching for the Light: Good intentions are not enough.   By Quentin Abraham 


Revelations come from unexpected sources. Shortly after returning permanently to Aotearoa/NZ in 2002, I was at a ten day residential Playback theatre workshop in Paekākāriki. There was much hilarity as we shared improvised adverts. My friend Ngapaki started to cry part way through her advert on selling te reo Māori. Through her tears she was coaxed to tell her story. She spoke about the anger she felt at not being able to go into a shop and speak her own language in her own country. It was as if she had channelled the riri and injustice of her tūpuna in that moment. I heard the truth of her words.

As a Friend when I hear such a Truth I am compelled to act. My partner had already signed me up for te reo Māori classes at the hospital with Te Wānanga o Aotearoa. However, it was from this moment on that I redoubled my efforts. I reduced my moaning about how hard it was to learn te reo Māori, the lack of sleep on noho marae, the sacrifice of social commitments, the feelings of alienation, confusion and anxiety by being immersed in a language and culture I did not understand, and being in a minority. As Quakers we were never promised that leadings would be an easy path.

It is strange to be writing about this during the Covid-19 lockdown. To date we can be immensely proud of our leaders. The majority of our country has responded to the ethical principles of kindness and connection, prioritising the collective wellbeing of our communities and caring for our elders and those less fortunate than ourselves. If we overlook the scrabble for toilet rolls, face masks and guns, it feels like we are all orienting to values that continue to also be held in high regard within many parts of Māoridom. As private hospitals and hotels are commandeered for the needy, temporarily we seem to be rejecting the priorities of a few privileged, wealthy individuals. However the stark reality of the inequity caused by colonisation is ever-present. Wealth and resources are still distributed unevenly. There is no reason to believe that the first people of our country will fare any better than they did in the 1918 flu epidemic.

At Summer Gathering at Wainui, Horomaka (Banks Peninsula) this year, I gave ministry about the previous night’s warm up activity. We were asked to position ourselves on an imaginary map of Aotearoa according to our mountain or river. This activity was offered with good intentions. It was similar to a previous year’s activity where we positioned ourselves according to the major towns where we lived.

However, can we really claim or identify these as our maunga and awa? Are we really Tangata Tiriti and are we at the stage where we can claim these places as our tūrangawaewae? Do we speak the first language of this land and/or the mita of that rohe? Have we read the Treaty of Waitangi claim for these regions? Do we know about past and current injustices carried out on these lands? For example, the farmers who still reap the financial benefit by paying peppercorn rents from lands stolen in Taranaki.

The following day, a Friend ministered in response. She had changed her academic course to learn te reo Māori. She had stood by her friend when a taxi driver implied as Māori she was cheating by studying the Māori language. She spoke of the connection as non-Māori she felt to Taranaki maunga. This was her home.

As Friends we are open to continuous revelation. How could two pieces of seemingly opposing ministry hold truth? I approached two elders to see if there was something else that could be discerned. One stated, “I’m with (our other Friend) on this one…as long as you acknowledge mana whenua we can claim our connection to Taranaki...How long is a piece of string? How far back do we have to go? After all we are all migrants…This was a personal and individual matter.”

The other elder was not so quick to agree. There were issues about whakapapa and requiring more information about the relationship our Friend had with the land, people and tūpuna.

As Pākehā we are often accused of wanting definitive, correct answers to messy complex situations. We are not always so good at sitting with uncertainty. On the Facebook Group, Māori for Grown Ups, Jasmine Taankink asked if Pākehā/Tauiwi should use local iwi pepeha and received over 269 different comments in November 2019. Here are a few of the responses.

No one should claim mountains/rivers they claim us; we need to ditch this outmoded practice;

Pākehā should research the history of their own ancestors and whakapapa back to their own ancestral lands;

be generous and share this land;

the maunga protects everyone;

Pākehā should be admired for citing their pepeha and acknowledge the local maunga;

make no claim on mountains and rivers as it triggers historical trauma;

it is ongoing cultural appropriation;

Pepeha is about bloodline;

this Māori construct is not suited to Pākehā;

focus more on your other connections;

Whakapapa-a-iwi belongs to Māori as it is not just about the whenua but the stories of struggles;

after a Pepeha is performed it is often forgotten so avoid tokenism;

it is not about what “moves your heart”;

find out who you are and your identity;

encourage and then give positive constructive feedback;

ask the local hapū...and get seventeen different responses;

Pākehā do not bury their ancestors’ bones in the mountains;

if we remain ignorant we will continue to colonise;

it is unacceptable for Māori as it is Pākehā to claim someone else's maunga/awa regardless of how many generations you have been away from your own traditional lands;

it is too easy to teach pepeha from a template;

everyone feels intertwined with Papatūānuku, stop treating her as a commodity;

choose to mihi to them all;

pepeha to elements that have spiritual significance;

replacing “tōku” with “te” does not fully remove the 'my' aspect;

the blasé way of teaching pepeha has led to a situation where Pākehā are claiming mana whenua status;

it sets people up to being shot down for reciting whakapapa wrong; this conversation is part of the restoration/decolonisation space in Aotearoa;

people need safe spaces to explore their own place and responsibilities as citizens of Aotearoa;

are good intentions enough?;

If we want our Pākehā whānau to understand our world view, we cannot shortchange them with an easy fix;

our non-Māori ancestors should be acknowledged, they are part of the story of how we came to be.

The Summer Gathering organising committee did a tremendous job at including themes from Te Ao Māori. They created a space for some of these issues to surface with the inevitable tensions. They invited Nui Robinson, a local kaumātua. He began his session with a huge flourish about his English whakapapa, keeping the British flag flying and how this shaped the future of Aotearoa in relation to the influences of the French colonialists and the formation of Te Tiriti.

Asked how Pākehā/Tauiwi might pepeha, he replied that your DNA needed to be in the water of the rivers. He did not believe he could go to England and claim a river even if very distant ancestors had lived there. To whakapapa to these rivers, your DNA needed to be in the water. However, he stressed that we can all be kaitiaki. We did not have time to ask him who had the rights/responsibilities to make decisions about those rivers.

From this kōrero I did have a sense of how strange it would be for our Friend who ministered to claim a river from their European ancestors, just as it seems disingenuous for me to google a large mountain on the Afghan/Pakistan border to pepeha from my unknown Indian side. To really connect we need to find meaningful tohu (signs/symbols). In a te reo Māori class a kaumātua asked us to recite our pepeha. We were collectively told that he could not smell the haunga (stench) of our pepeha. Our pepeha needed to be infused with more resonance and meaning in order to connect.

Toi te kupu, toi te mana, toi te whenua. Language culture and land are core markers of power in Te Ao Māori and arguably in Te Ao Pākehā. It is not enough to focus on changing our words with kind platitudes. We need to give up our privileged power position and embrace a broader framework of decolonisation.

One reason progressives love committing to anti-racism rather than, say, decolonisation is the former requires nothing more than a state of mind. “I’m not racist” – drop the spoken or unspoken “but” – and congratulations, you can wash away the guilt.

...But the trouble with recognition and its attendants, like the glossy history-tellers, is it’s a cunning standard. Does recognition restore Indigenous peoples’ power to develop and protect their land or does it just reinforce existing power relations?

As Friends we all search our individual consciences, discern how we will act in accordance to the principles of our faith. Collectively we have a testimony to acting with integrity. Our Pākehā ancestors failed to uphold the Treaty promises. Although we tell stories of our Quaker tūpuna avoiding violent conflict with iwi we were also complicit in surveying the land so it could be taken in an unjust manner. In our Advices and Queries we are explicitly directed to redress this wrong.

Remember our obligation to honour the status of Māori as the indigenous people of Aotearoa and partners in the Treaty of Waitangi. Seek to discover the effects of the colonial and postcolonial history of Aotearoa. Work to ensure that the sharing of power and resources in our society is a genuine partnership. Do you acknowledge the values that the Māori world can offer? How can we work together as equals, with mutual understanding and respect?

If language is the carrier of culture, can we really form genuine and meaningful relationships without speaking te reo Māori? Prior to coming to Summer Gathering I was asked if I would teach the Māori language. Over the past 10 years I have seen very little lasting change as a result of our attempt to teach some introductory Māori language sessions. To go beyond a tokenistic level it requires real daily commitment from individual Friends.

I would estimate that less than 0.01% of our community speak te reo Māori to a competent level. This is a massive failure of our corporate witness to uphold our commitment to be Tangata Tiriti.

On Saturdays, when I only speak te reo Māori, it is a lonely place to be in a Quaker setting. How lonely would it be for Tangata whenua who want to exercise their right to live and be Māori? Friends tell me that we lack diversity in our membership because we tend to draw from White privileged communities as if this should explain this disparity.

Some questions:

● Are we aware that we are maintaining dominant colonial practices, personally or institutionally?

● Does our unwillingness to right these wrongs result in the inequitable distribution of resources that disproportionately kills our Treaty partners?

● Does the prevalent use of the English language mean that all the dominant institutions in our country are weighted in favour of our own interests?

● How will Māori tikanga, ideas about healing, authority over land and decision making, really be shared?

● How can we “Work to ensure that the sharing of power and resources in our society is a genuine partnership”?

Our good intentions are not enough and our ignorance is not an excuse. It can be challenging to face our role in reproducing racism and maintaining the status quo. We may be tempted to “weaponise” our hurt feelings to avoid this discomfort and avoid taking action. As Treaty worker, Mitzi Nairn, suggests, can we become the kind of Treaty partners that Māori might have hoped for when the Treaty was signed?

I dream of the day my friend Ngāpaki and her whānau can walk down the street and speak their own language in their own country. In our current Covid-19 lockdown, what would it be like if 1000 Quakers committed to the first steps of learning the first language of our country? This is a dream that could benefit and uplift us all.



 The challenge to ‘just turn up’ and Covid -19.   By Christine Gillespie 


Just before lockdown I visited the Motueka Quaker Meeting instead of going to my Nelson Meeting, because I wanted to support Friends - they were about to lose the Galbraith family, Elinor and Glenn having been appointed leaders of Titoki Christian Healing Centre near Whakatane. The group had chosen faithfulness as an after-Meeting-for-Worship topic of discussion.

I decided that I can be faithful by just turning up. 2 successive Saturday working bees at the Nelson Quaker Meeting House had prompted this thought. The first involved a lot of cleaning, mainly washing the front picket fence and scraping paint off the tin fences out the back. Marie arrived with a big pot of soup for our lunch, after which I left for a Nelson Tasman Climate Forum meeting. After listening to excellent and inspiring speeches, I signed up for the sub-group focusing on Peace, Conflict and Reconciliation in our response to the Climate Emergency. The second working bee was to repaint the tin fences a dappled forest green.

The other prompt was an article in the Otago Daily Times by Jenny Beck on 6th March.

Jenny wrote about the Third Place:

 “Your First Place, the one that probably engages your heart most and rightly so, is your home. Your Second Place, where you spend most of your waking hours, is your workplace.

And your Third Place? … churches, cafes, libraries, parks, sports clubs, places where people gather for easy social interaction….

“Ray Oldenburg in his book The Great Good Place says that these places are vital for social communion, community building and developing a sense of place and belonging… They’re anchors of community life, allowing for broader connections to develop… Third Places are welcoming and comfy, are accessible, provide food and drink, ideally aren’t costly money-wise, encourage regulars to attend, are a source of friends, new and old. The Third Place is neutral ground; freely chosen, there’s no obligation to be there. It’s also a leveller, in that no particular social status is required of attendees. It’s open and accommodating. Conversation is the main activity, usually of the happy and light-hearted variety. The Third Place also has a homely feel; the mood which is set by the regulars is friendly and playful. Above all it’s welcoming to newcomers who quickly develop a sense of ownership, regarding it as their "home away from home".”

A good description of my Quaker Meeting. By just turning up to scrape off old paint and slap on new I got to spend time with old friends and newcomers, learn stuff about them I never knew, tell them things I’d just learned  - having recently attended my first ever Mormon funeral service. I got to share hearty vegetable soup and refreshing watermelon. I was under no obligation to be there, but had I not turned up I would have missed an opportunity to deepen my sense of belonging, to have interesting conversations, and to feel part of creating and mending and caring for a special place.

It is easy to get discouraged about the loss of family – parents die, siblings move away, children and grandchildren live overseas, or in this Covid-19 reality to miss the easy conversation, pleasure of shared enterprise and warm hearted friendship of workmates (at our best). And in the last few weeks we have had to sacrifice access to our Third Place. Right now, we don’t know when we can return to our churches, cafes or libraries.

The challenge to just turn up has morphed into finding creative ways to ‘turn up’ – at our fences: I recently harvested my grapevine and for the first time in the 6 years that I’ve been living in my street I dropped off bags of grapes at the 5 neighbouring houses. I’ve not before met the folk at 3 of those homes. I can continue to turn up – with my feijoa crop!  We can turn up on phone calls to our friends and acquaintances and on Zoom calls to our kapa haka groups, book clubs, line dancing sessions, yoga class, knitting circles, Meetings for Worship. My friend Ann is playing Scrabble with her neighbour by phone!  Our need for social communion, community and a sense of place and belonging are as vital as ever, so we are finding ways to preserve them. We just need to keep turning up.



 Being in lock down.  Reflections on Day One.  By Jan Marsh

Day One

At first the jargon sounded funny, strange combinations of words or familiar words in different contexts. Why was it self-isolation instead of isolate themselves? Wasn't shelter in place what people did when they were too late to flee bush fires and hurricanes in other countries? Contacts were no longer the address list in our phones but people we had spent time with who might have made us sick and needed to be tracked down as if they had an STD. Everyday items we barely gave a thought, such as hand-sanitiser and toilet paper, seemed weirdly desirable. Panic-buying which stripped the supermarket shelves became a thing.

We got used to it. People adapt. Then came 'social distancing', not some kind of snobbery but keeping two metres away from those not in our household. That seemed drastic as meetings were cancelled, churches closed, gym classes ceased, swimming pools, libraries, sports – all the fun ways we distract ourselves and mix with people – came to an end. It felt drastic but implied that something bigger was about to happen. We had seen it on TV – lock down. Hence the panic buying, a mere symbol of the fear welling up in us all at our loss of freedom, the restrictions that would separate us from our friends, our grandchildren, our religious groups. We are social creatures, of course we were panicking. When the word to stay home went out, it came with only two days' notice.

House arrest or home detention are serious punishments. Solitary confinement even more so and those of us who live alone will stay alone for the duration. Yes, phones, email and video calls are helpful tools, but face-to-face contact is the deepest need. It calms the limbic system which regulates our emotions, satisfying us in ways we are barely aware of. If this is the solution, how bad is the problem? It's a moving target, so hard to define.

I take a deep breath and look at the present moment. This morning I woke as usual, let the cat in as usual, opened the curtains to the sunrise, noting its apocalyptic red and grey hue and finding the humour rather than the fear. I did my salutes to the sun as usual. But it's Thursday, I swim with my friend and catch up over breakfast on Thursdays. There's no swimming, the pools are closed.

What next? I've made a list of chores. I intend to blog regularly. I've put a teddy bear in the window for the children next door to see. I'll phone my sister and video call my swimming friend, trying to keep the shreds of my normal social life intact. I read a brave, sensible message from the Director of Medicins sans Frontiers and I weep; grateful that I'm not in a war zone and sad for the losses in this new normal.

And by the end of the day I'm feeling pretty positive. I've had a good day: lots of phone calls, including a successful video call on the laptop and a less successful one on my rather old phone. I have a sense of achievement from doing a few small writing jobs and some gardening. I biked to the beach and had a walk along the sand before biking back, delighting in the minimal traffic (but note to self: there are still trucks going to the port, stay well over in the cycle lane!) Because I rarely spend a whole day at home, even now that I'm retired, I'll make sure to go out for at least an hour's exercise each day. You know, it could be ok.



 Meditations on kindness and compassion. Compiled by Liz McLeod-Taepa and Jan Marsh

February 17th is Random Acts of Kindness Day. These meditations focus on the importance of kindness and compassion in our daily lives - in our families, at work, in the supermarket.  Compiled for discussion at Summer Gathering 2019/2020, we give you two of those here, one from Te Ao Maori, the other from Kristin Neff, academic and blogger.


1. Aroha:  Unconditional love that is derived from the presence and the breath of The Godhead.

 Aroha is an important concept in regard to the survival and true strength of whanaungatanga (kinship ties, extended family across all universes). It is a quality that is essential for the survival and total well-being of the world community. It is a pillar of life from AIO (the Godhead, Divine Parents).

 Aroha is not to be talked about, it is only meaningful when actioned. Human needs, the human element, are more important than material possessions. For example, one has started saving money to buy a new car, and then something happens to a member of the family or tribe that requires finance in regard to personal strife such as illness, death or the threat of losing an ancestral home, one does not hesitate to hand over whatever money has been saved up, to help out. Caring for people and sharing is also quite commonplace for Maori people who have retained the traditions of old. Example: an uncle of the author adopted twenty two children. While he did not have much finance he made good use of the natual resources on ancestral land. He was a tiller of the soil and a wonderful conservationist. His children learnt about the importance of sharing their aroha with the trees, the birds, the fish and their earth mother Papatuanuku.

 The pressures of urban living can sometimes make this concept more difficult to uphold. Where there is aroha, however, individual differences and cultural diversity are to be found enriching and exciting. Each person respecting and caring for the other engenders a climate of goodwill and support.

 Evil or negative forces cannot flourish where absolute aroha reigns. In a climate of aroha the psyche, the spirit of a person can soar to great heights. Aroha is truly a divine love because it knows no bounds, and is infinite.

 From Te Wheke Dr Rangimarie Turuki Pere  Ao Ako Global Learning NZ 1991


 1. How would you translate Aroha into English?

2. Is it a concept that transcends culture?

3. How does it manifest in your life?


 2. Kindness to ourselves

Kristin Neff is an academic with a strong interest in moral development and mindfulness. She writes extensively about compassion and especially self-compassion, which is another way of saying kindness to ourselves. The following is taken from her writing and her website

With self-compassion, we give ourselves the same kindness and care we'd give to a good friend. When you feel compassion for another (rather than mere pity), it means that you realize that suffering, failure, and imperfection is part of the shared human experience. “There but for fortune go I.”

Self-compassion involves acting the same way towards yourself when you are having a difficult time, fail, or notice something you don’t like about yourself. Instead of just ignoring your pain with a “stiff upper lip” mentality, you stop to tell yourself “this is really difficult right now, how can I comfort and care for myself in this moment?”

Instead of mercilessly judging and criticizing yourself for various inadequacies or shortcomings, self-compassion means you are kind and understanding when confronted with personal failings – after all, who ever said you were supposed to be perfect?

The three elements of self-compassion are:

1. Self-kindness vs. Self-judgment: being gentle with yourself rather than angry or critical

2. Common humanity vs. Isolation: this is the human conditon, to fail or suffer at times

3. Mindfulness vs. Over-identification: a sense of perspective rather than being caught up in the problem


Here is an exercise in self-compassion:

1. First, think about times when a close friend feels really bad about him or herself or is really struggling in some way. How would you respond to your friend in this situation (especially when you’re at your best)? Note the tone in which you typically talk to your friends.

2. Now think about times when you feel bad about yourself or are struggling. How do you typically respond to yourself in these situations? Note the tone in which you talk to yourself.

3. Did you notice a difference? If so, ask yourself why. What factors or fears come into play that lead you to treat yourself and others so differently?

4. What might change if you responded to yourself in the same way you typically respond to a close friend when you’re suffering?



 Christmas Advice: every day is sacred     Jan Marsh 

We wish each other a peaceful and happy Christmas and for many it will be. Family gatherings, shared food and presents, laughter and fun. Beach picnics are being planned.

But the lead up is already getting stressful. On a minor personal level I have caused and been the victim of parking rage - as I reversed to avoid a collision with someone backing out of a parking space, I frightened a pedestrian who was walking behind my car. He banged on the roof and opened my car door to shout at me. Startled, I shouted back! Not at all peaceful.

On a world scale there are heart-breaking tragedies in many places. And those are the ones which reach us in the news. There will be many more where people are living in quiet desperation.

And for some the holiday time holds bad memories, often for reasons to do with family violence. If that's you, you are welcome to avoid Christmas as far as you can and to stop reading right now. I wish you whatever form of peaceful self-care works best for you.

For most of us December becomes a time of cramming in extra work, end of year social events, shopping in crowded places to buy presents, then queuing in the Post Office to send the parcels and, on top of it all, making holiday plans. What are we to do?

Start by staying calm and be tolerant - we are all in the same boat, everyone feels rushed. If possible, stay out of car parks! I find I need to make quiet time for myself, gardening or reading, to withdraw from the bustle of Christmas build-up. I may not go to all the events that are on and its good to remember that I can see my friends in January too - it doesn't all have to be crammed into the two weeks before Christmas.

Simplify and make the day a happy gathering but not the culmination of weeks of stress. Perfection is not required. Love is. We are lucky in New Zealand that the summer weather makes a barbecue or a beach picnic possible. Ask extended family members to bring food to contribute, which shares both the work and also the pleasure of providing food. Most people will put a lot of thought into the one dish they bring and a meal of carefully prepared dishes can be a feast.

Christmas and New Year are traditionally times of excessive drinking which makes it a good time to remember the harm alcohol can do and choose to be moderate. There is a variety of enjoyable non-alcoholic drinks which have the bonus of being cheaper than wine or beer.

Be present. Your kind attention is a gift in itself. Take some time to play with the children who will want to share and enjoy their presents, or talk to an elderly relative, perhaps someone who needs you to be patient with their hearing loss or other disability. Have an all-ages game of cricket. Give home-made vouchers for gardening time or a quiet lunch together after the busy season settles down. Offer to buy the present together, perhaps in the January sales, when a shopping trip might be more fun.

Remember its only one day. For many people the build-up creates such high expectations and overwrought emotions that the aftermath is a come down and can even be depressing.

Every other day of our lives is just as important as Christmas Day and is just as much an opportunity to be loving, generous and attentive to others in our lives. In other words, celebrate life and be the best of ourselves most of the time, take the pressure off Christmas.



 Winter - a tough time for a fair-weather Friend     Jan Marsh 

 I'm a fair weather friend – I always feel better on a sunny day. Winter can be tough, with the cold weather and short days keeping me indoors too much. The garden lies dormant so there is little to do there and no motivation to be out in a chill wind.

Our winters are not really that hard. A few frosts, snow on the mountains across the bay, a cold wind blowing up from Antarctica some days and sometimes grey, rainy stretches. Most days we will see the sun – cheerful, even if not very warm. But for many years I got a bit depressed during the winter, especially when I was at work full-time, leaving the house in darkness and returning in darkness. I felt very shut in and badly needed the walk I regularly took at lunchtime to get a coffee and spend a few minutes reading the paper in a cafe, just to feel connected to the outside world.

Fortunately, my love of swimming gives me an all-weather form of exercise although I do miss the outdoor pool where I swim during the summer, often with a 50 metre lane all to myself. At summer's end, I have to adjust to the crowds at the indoor pool but I still love to swim and make sure I do so three times a week. I also have a few hardy friends who will walk in most weathers, so I fit in a social walk at least once a week, often with a cup of coffee to follow. I'm happy to walk by myself too, especially if I can take advantage of a sunny hour now and then. And since my friend and coach taught me to run 'injury-free' as he put it, I aim to run once a week. That's not really often enough to improve but I still enjoy it. That's the exercise taken care of and I'm sure it helps a lot in getting through the winter.

I've also learned to plan for the long periods of time indoors. I have friends who are keen knitters so I took some advice from them and picked up a skill I had hardly used since I was a child. My first project was a patchwork rug for my grandson, a task shared with my daughter, sisters and mother. We all made some squares which I stitched together and my sister knitted an edging around it. We were pleased with the result and he still has it. After that I went on to cot blankets which I donated to the young parents' school, a place for parents and their babies to continue their education in a classroom near where I live. I added a few beanies and hoped they would be good for the little ones. Now I'm back to knitting for the next grandchildren.

There's something very calming about listening to the radio or some music while creating something stitich by stitch. I had to get over the idea that it's an occupation for elderly people – or accept that I am a little elderly! - and now I am glad I revived the skill.

Guilt-free TV goes well with winter too. My son added me to his Netflix subscription and I can choose a series to look forward to in the evening. With the heating on and the cat on my lap, perhaps a cosy rug over my shoulders, it feels a little like the Danish hygge which is such a good example of how to pass the winter. Of course, stretching out on the couch with a book is always a good option, too and hot chocolate never goes amiss.

I'm pleased at how well I've got through winter. The buds are on the trees before you know it!



Being present - the only time we are really alive is now     by Jan Marsh

I spent the long weekend painting my living room. After the first morning, when a kind friend came to help me wash down the walls and gave me a couple of hours of her gentle company, I worked alone. I made a conscious decision to work slowly and carefully, initially to avoid getting paint on the carpet, and then because I enjoyed it.

It took three hours to do the brush work, cutting around the windows and doors, scotias and skirting boards. Two hours to roll the paint on the expanse of walls. Five hours each on the Saturday and Sunday to apply two coats of paint, then the third morning to re-hang all the pictures. With the radio or some music in the background and the sun shining in, I sang along or mused a little but mainly I stayed mindful and focused on the job in hand - carefully covering the walls with paint. I enjoyed it, not just for the end product, which did please me, but for the process itself.

There is something very soothing and centring about doing a physical task and being fully present. Connecting with the job in hand, being aware of my body as I balance on the ladder making smooth gentle movements, moving from one section of wall to the next. Nothing more was required of me than to be present, doing this one task. I came to the end of the weekend feeling as though I had had a holiday - a rest from my busy, often anxious brain.

There are other ways of moving into this feeling for shorter periods of time. I had the good fortune to learn to swim in my late 50s, with a teacher who saw swimming as mindful and meditative and wanted to share that experience. After the initial phase of frustration and at times panic, I've been able to find that space and enjoy going back and forth in the pool, tuned into my body's movements and the sensation of water stroking my skin. That same teacher taught me to run safely without injuring myself and I marvel that in my 60's I can enjoy a five kilometre run once a week, focussing on the rhythm of movement and breath. I was not a sporty child so these skills have a sense of wonder and delight for me.

From long years of practice as a psychologist, I can also be very present in a conversation especially if it's with just one other person. Buber's ‘I/Thou' means a lot to me as that connection takes place in its moment in time and I can be with the other person is a way that honours ‘that of God' in them.

As I am able now to live more of my life in the present moment, its clearer to me how this is the way to deal with anxiety and depression, the products of our busy time-travelling brains. So often depression arises from dwelling on the past: experiences of shame or injustice that haven't been resolved, perceived failures that make us feel like giving up. Anxiety comes from desperate attempt to anticipate future problems and ward them off, often creating imaginary ‘what if' fears, adult versions of monsters under the bed.

I don't deny the need to learn from the past and prepare for the future but our busy, over-stimulated lives often push us into dwelling almost entirely in the past and future. And yet, the only time we are really alive is now.



A Quaker analysis of the first Well-being Budget 2019    by Jan Marsh

The Wellbeing Budget has been hailed overseas as a fresh new way of looking at economics, valuing the wellbeing of New Zealanders above GDP. This has been asked for over many years by more progressively minded citizens; it is good news that the Labour-NZ First coalition, backed by the Greens, has listened.

By contrast, the National Government stayed in power for three terms on the back of steady growth in GDP. The fact is, that growth was based on the need to rebuild Christchurch, Kaikoura and other parts destroyed by earthquakes and was also boosted by rising house prices which made the rich richer and the less rich homeless. So yes, as the only indicator of how the nation is doing, GDP has got to go.

So, will the 2019 Budget contribute to the well-being of New Zealanders? I have to confess I haven't read it in its original form, so my impressions are based on news sources such as Stuff, Radio NZ and the Spinoff, and on Bill Rosenberg's summary for the CTU which concludes: Quick answer: Yes, it was a Wellbeing Budget in that it was built around the idea of focusing on many of the things in life that improve wellbeing, and that is praiseworthy. But it was greatly underfunded to achieve what we know is needed.

How does it stack up in the light of Quaker values as described in the Testimonies?

Simplicity: Economics is never simple but if one theme could be highlighted let's hope it's compassion: compassion for the hard workers in low paid jobs, for the homeless, for beneficiaries, for addicts who need not be criminalised, and for those with mental illness and other forms of distress which could be treated early in the community.

The intentions are there. Budget guidelines required all priorities to demonstrate how they contribute to well-being.

Work is still needed to change bullying workplace cultures and heartless government departments if compassion is to be a thread throughout our public life.

Peace: The high operating costs and the increase for new aircraft for Defence is a huge disappointment. To quote Peace Movement Aotearoa:

“Successive governments have said for decades that there is no direct military threat to this country, but this has not yet translated into action about meeting our real security needs. As the UN Secretary General said just last week: “States need to build security through diplomacy and dialogue ... In our turbulent world, disarmament is the path to preventing conflict and sustaining peace. We must act without delay.” (Facebook 30 May 2019)

We would do better with improved, professional civilian coastguard, fisheries protection and search and rescue services, and setting aside money for humanitarian and social welfare needs.

Integrity: We do appear to have a government which is not afraid to show that it is guided by values and will try to keep its promises. This is inevitably compromised by the demands of an adversarial political system and the need to keep coalition partners on side. Time will tell.

Community: The increases in Whanau Ora allocations and index-linking benefits to come more into line with wages are small steps towards reducing inequality. If those on lower incomes have a little extra in order to participate in leisure and social activities, we will build stronger communities. Regional development and funding for research into what makes healthy communities could contribute. Money for Māori and Pacific language developments will also strengthen ties. The allocation for the gun buy-back scheme could make our communities safer if it is enacted in a thorough, timely way.

Equality: Alongside the welfare budget mentioned above, the increased allocation for mental health initiatives could also reduce inequality. It has been clearly shown that those who suffer from mental illnesses are severely disadvantaged in many ways – through stigma, loss of earnings and low wages, poorer physical health all play a part.

The government has listened to the Mental Health inquiry and adopted 38 of the 40 recommendations. Treating addictions as health issues rather than criminal ones has great potential. Another priority that could make a huge difference is making services available to those with mild to moderate needs. But money is not the only solution. Will there be a workforce to respond to the needs? In many parts of the country the Primary Mental Health Initiative, brought in about a decade ago, saw huge growth in office buildings and administrative staff, but tight constraints on the number of sessions available (as few as three per client which is laughable!) and the number of referrals GPs can make. Early treatment can make a big difference to many people who otherwise languish on waiting lists until they are severely ill enough to qualify for treatment. But will psychologists, nurses and addiction counsellors come forward after years of disillusion?

Other measures to reduce the gap between rich and poor, improve housing accessibility and employment options will contribute to improved equality. Let's hope we are moving back in line with traditional NZ values of fairness and respect for all.

Sustainability: Now that we no longer have a climate change denying government there are so many initiatives needing attention. Sustainable energy projects could wean us off the fossil fuel economy. Boosting Kiwirail and getting freight off the roads will reduce emissions, especially if the rail network maintains and develops its electric sections. Supporting farmers to clean up their land use and funding research for ongoing climate-related initiatives sound promising. Good beginnings but let's keep going.

This is very much a once-over-lightly look at the budget, but my intention is to use our testimonies as a value base for assessing public decisions. Try it yourself and see if it's a model that fits.



Fury on Maundy Thursday 
By Emily Provance 


I had an experience that took me by surprise. On Thursday, I participated in a worship service that involved the reading of John 13. This is Jesus' washing of the disciples' feet. The reading of the Scripture and the message that came after it were deeply grounded, and the speaker made a number of excellent points. He suggested we place ourselves in the position of the disciples in the room. How would we react to this, to Jesus' offer to wash our feet?

I never got that far. I got stuck on the part where Jesus said, "Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you should also wash one another's feet." That was when I started to feel angry.

It didn't go away. I felt ready to spit fire. And this did not make sense to me. It didn't feel like a normal reaction to this story. I wondered: what about this had me so thoroughly infuriated?

It took me some time to get there, but eventually I realized that it was the telling of the story in such a way that didn't take power into account. "Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you should also wash one another's feet."

Jesus was talking to a room full of men. I think it's really important that he was talking to a room full of men. And not just men, but men who--among their own people, at least, though not so much in the wider Roman Empire--commanded a certain level of respect.

When this story is told, it's often with the implication that if Jesus could humble himself to wash others' feet, and Jesus, after all, was Jesus, then the rest of us have no excuse not to humble ourselves in service. But as I listened to the story, I began to realize that this interpretation is exactly backwards. When Jesus knelt to wash his disciples' feet, he was risking nothing. There was no way that this act of humility would lead to a loss of status. The people in the room already honored him as Lord. The point Jesus was making, I think, was about inverting the power dynamics. Jesus--the acknowledged and unquestionably respected leader--served humbly. That's a big deal and not what the disciples were used to, and telling them to take on positions of humility would not threaten in any way their ability to serve.

But that's not my experience. And I suspect it's not the experience of many of us.

Nobody takes on the task of washing everybody's feet at Quaker gatherings. That's not a thing that's part of our culture, though it was a part of the culture in Jesus' day. So what's the modern equivalent of washing everyone's feet? Making the coffee--washing the dishes--providing the childcare.

These are the things that, in the last five years, I have (mostly) deliberately stopped doing. Especially the childcare thing. And why? Because I'm young and a woman. And when I take on the humble functions, it prevents me from being taken seriously. It took me some time to learn this lesson, and I resisted learning it--but it's true.

Many Friends I know are hard at work disrupting patterns of white supremacy and decolonizing Christianity. The intense feelings I experienced during this Maundy Thursday have made me wonder: how would it feel to engage with this story as a person of color?

More broadly, how do I navigate the intersection of spiritual humility and societal power dynamics? How do I do this for myself? How do I make space for it in my faith community? What is Jesus' message if we contextualize it fully?

Questioningly, Emily

Read more from Emily at 



Constancy and change – losses and gains
By Jim Batson


I went to a memorial service the other day. It was for someone I had known but did not know well. I went out of respect. I arrived late and sat at the back of a crowded room. I heard numerous accounts of the person’s life; some I knew of and some I did not. As in other funeral events I had a glimpse of aspects of the person’s life; personal and professional: they were revealing and broadening. I got to know the person after they had died in a way I did not know them when they were alive.” What a pity”, I thought.

By the time the service came to an end, I was bored and fidgety. I wanted to go home. I was pleased I had paid my respects; and pleased I had, in some respects, done my duty. As I walked away, I felt down and joyless. Perhaps it was the cumulated sadness; perhaps it was the ceremony which was long and had elements that were repetitive; perhaps it was the tone of the speakers. Whatever it was, it had a downing effect on me.

As I walked away, I fantasized about my own funeral and wondered if people leaving that ceremony would have a similar experience. As well feeling flat, I felt inadequate. I perused my life and struggled to identify edifices that many attributed to this person. I remembered walking away from another funeral service feeling just as inadequate. In that instance I was comparing my achievements with the achievements of the dead person. My mood was conditioned by my realization that I haven’t been an edifice builder nor have I been a great achiever. I felt dispirited because, I concluded that at the age of 77 I was a bit late to getting started.

After a couple of days my mood lifted. In the intervening time I had remembered another funeral service I had attended which left me feeling buoyed and buoyant. The key words used when referring to this dead person were words like `inspired’, `inspirational’ and `inspiring’. After that ceremony I remembered I had gone away feeling optimistic. The dead person was inspiring. Others said so. I had found the person to be very accepting.

Coincidental with the memory of that funeral I tracked down a description that I knew was buried somewhere in a book. I had read the book years ago (10 years ago, I would say) and I had remembered the description. It is a big book; nearly seven hundred pages. The book sat on my shelf for a long while tempting me to browse to find the passage that I found so captivating. The day after I had been to the funeral service I succumbed and started browsing looking for a hint of the passage I remembered. Eventually of course, I found it. It took me ages! Needless to say, it was unlike my memory. Over the years I had romanticized the image portrayed in the description and I had bent the reality (the author’s description) to fit my own needs; but there was sufficient similarity between the original description and my memory of it for me to make an easy identification.

I remembered that the writer was on a cycling tour of Japan and had come across a middle-aged Japanese man in a park. They struck up a conversation. The Japanese man explained that every holiday he came to the park and took photographs. He went to the same spot in the park, four times throughout the year coinciding with the different seasons, and took a photograph. In the album he carried with him he had photographs of the same spot in the park differentiated by the colours and textures of the seasons. When I first read the description, I was inspired so much so that I tried to emulate the efforts of this Japanese man. In my home you will see on the wall of one room four photographs of the same place in eastern Scotland near where my parents spent their last years alive. The photographs are dominated by different colours and different textures. They were taken years apart; but they show the same hill, the same copse of trees; the same field and the same dry-stone wall.



Click on the links below to read older “Views”:

Gay and Quaker - Christianity and diverse sexualities.
By Jan Marsh

Knowledge of world religions deserves to be part of our state school curricula.
By Peter Donovan

By Jan Marsh

Healing - our life is love and peace and tenderness.
By Jan Marsh

How I became a Quaker.
By Marian Clement

Why I became a Quaker.
By Christine Gillespie

Why Guy Fawkes Day has to go. And why Parihaka Day should take its place.
By Christine Gillespie

A Reflection on Compassion and Empathy
By Jim Batson

Apartheid, Palestine and Israel
By Christine Gillespie

Thoughts on Sustainability
By Lawrence Carter

Walking our values
By Jan Marsh