QCEA’s General Assembly: Nurturing Quaker values in European advocacy

As the curtains draw on another successful Spring General Assembly, we reflect on its important role in advancing Quaker values in the intricate landscape of European policymaking. Made up of Quakers from 17 national or European Quaker bodies, the General Assembly (GA) stands as the ultimate decision-making body of QCEA.

The General Assembly is comprised of representatives of QCEA members and the Executive Committee. We spoke to George Thurley, who represents the European and Middle East Young Friends (EMEYF), and Pauline Goggin, alternate from Ireland Yearly Meeting (IYM), to gain insights into their experience and motivations for being part of the General Assembly.

1. Why did you accept the nomination to be a General Assembly member?

George: QCEA does vital work promoting Quaker values at European level where a lot of European legislation gets made – Brussels is one of the most lobbyist-dense places on earth, so we need to do all we can to try and get somewhere near balance. Having worked for QCEA before I was eager to give back, and I see it as part of my personal witness. In my work/witness I generally focus on climate and sustainability, so it’s also a good way for me to learn and connect those things to peace and justice, through QCEA.

Pauline: It was a question I needed to consider carefully and I’m glad I felt able to allow my mind and to go forward for appointment at Ireland Yearly Meeting. The current IYM representative Loretta O’Brien has been a committed and vocal Friend, informing us all at IYM of the necessity and urgency of upholding the work of QCEA, at every available opportunity, organising fundraising, lunches, and monthly meeting collections while informing us all of the need for a continuing Quaker presence in Brussels. When approached her for help in my discernment, the strength of her convincement settled me in my positive response.

2. What is it like to be a General Assembly member?

George: Challenging but rewarding! Great to feel part of a European network working for peace and climate justice.

Pauline: It can be hard, from a distance, to see the Quaker work of quiet diplomacy at QCEA or know in detail the extent of the work carried out in communications and peace building that is the every day experience of the staff team based in Quaker house. It’s a gift to be able to hear about their work at QCEA. I have been privileged to enjoy one of the study tours of EU institutions and I had some idea of the reach of QCEA and their knowledge of its workings.

3. What is the role of a General Assembly representative?

George: GA reps are there to help steer the work of QCEA, and to act as the two-way link between QCEA’s staff and volunteers and their representative group, in my case, EMEYF. Lots of young Friends are politically active, so it’s good to make that connection!

Pauline: The General Assembly of QCEA, it’s membership drawn from Yearly Meetings around Europe, guides and supports the work and offers an opportunity to Friends to promote its initiatives in building relationships with EU Politicians and in the strategic development of work on communications, migration, and climate, and transformational dialogues. I like to think that we, Friends, wherever we are in Europe, are all part of a team for peace and that each contribution however small, locally or in Brussels, is valuable and helps us all to hold the growth of peace, and to keep faith alive in our hearts at a time of painful challenges. I hope that as an alternative member of the General Assembly, I can bring that hope to those at home in Ireland; that I can let them know that QCEA is in good hands, and that the energy and effort the team puts in to their work is contagious in a very good way. After my third meeting this March weekend in 2024, it’s been good to see familiar faces. I am still challenged with remembering names but I know that over time that will become easier. I am clearer that my role as a member of GA, is to join with other members in the care and development of QCEA and its work in Europe. QCEA has built a relationship with EU staff and the communities of concern in Brussels, and I feel very privileged indeed to have been asked to engage in this important work on Friends’ behalf and I hope I can uphold and inform Friends in Ireland Yearly Meeting as to the nature of the work of our Friends in Quaker House. I am enjoying being in a listening and upholding presence, and I hope I can be a harbinger of information to those who need to feel that sense of connection and friendship with the work of QCEA.

As the echoes of the Spring General Assembly reverberate, it becomes evident that QCEA’s essence lies not merely in its organisational structure but in the collective spirit of its members. Thanks to all our representatives who bring valuable perspectives and connections, ensuring that QCEA’s work reflects the concerns and experiences of its Quaker constituents.