An intermittently showery day interupted by brief sunny intervals was the backdop to our meeting for worship. The silence shared gave way to bridging time and tea. Cake made an appearance. Those of us on healthy eating may have temporarily indulged in the same of contributing small change for a good cause.
After meeting we discussed our feeling around possible changes and revisions to Quaker Faith and Practice. Changes are currently implemented only once per generation so it was interesting to hear views from long term and birthright Quakers rough to those that are recent attenders.
If you’d like to meet a friendly face for an informal one to one get together over tea or coffee then Carol or Colin are more than happy to meet up with you sometime and answer any questions you may have so you can decide whether you’d like to become more involved or not for yourself.
In which we welcomed a new attender for the second time and learned that one Friend would be moving out of Luton in January for both work and personal reasons. We were so pleased for them as a new chapter in their life journey was soon to begin but sad that we would soon lose a good Friend at meeting.
A reading from Quaker Faith & Practice (26.12) which the reader related to the silence of unprogrammed worship.
“So one approaches, by efforts which call for the deepest resources of one’s being, to the condition of true silence; not just of sitting still, not just of not speaking, but of a wide awake, fully aware non-thinking. It is in this condition, found and held for a brief instant only, that I have experienced the existence of something other than ‘myself’. The thinking me has vanished, and with it vanishes the sense of separation, of unique identity. One is not left naked and defenceless, as one is, for example, by the operations of the mind in self-analysis. One becomes instead aware, one is conscious of being a participant in the whole of existence, not limited to the body or the moment… It is in this condition that one understands the nature of the divine power, its essential identity with love, in the widest sense of that much misused word.”
Our local Quaker study group took the opportunity to watch a video aimed at new and potentially new Quakers and made in co-operation with Yorkshire Quakers which prompted much discussion about what each of us gets from silent worship and how different in tone many regional meetings can be (because we're all different). This also prompted much discussion on being comfortable sharing your own point of view, how comfortable or uncomfortable some members are with 'God language', being accepting of others, welcoming enquirers, the issue of true diversity and speaking and ministry within the meeting vs speaking during afterword (or bridging time as it's called at our local meeting).
“We do not own the world, and its riches are not ours to dispose of at will. Show a loving consideration for all creatures, and seek to maintain the beauty and variety of the world. Work to ensure that our increasing power over nature is used responsibly, with reverence for life. Rejoice in the splendour of God’s continuing creation.”
This passage was read out at meeting today. A Friend appreciated greatly the reading and wondered if we could have more plants within the meeting house. They also thought it was always good to share access to nature.
Another Friend commented on the gentle light changes from nature outside the window during silent worship and how the insects caught the autumn sun.
Tea and Coffee was shared with much eager conversation. A cake was shared and used to accept ‘what you can afford’ payments towards a donation we made to help Harpenden Meeting House refurbishment. We discussed arrangements for those of us attending next week’s poverty in Britain event at Watford Meeting House.
The story began in 2007 when a lady began extending her semi- detached cottage in Blanche Lane , South Mimms . Builders started to excavate at the back of the house to discover to their horror buried bones and eventually 32 skeletons , some in coffins.
The ghoulish discovery reached the national press – police and forensic officers sealed off the area and after foul play had been ruled out the origin of the bones were discovered. Local council records revealed that the house had been built on the site of a 17th century Quaker meeting house and burial ground. A decision had to be made about what to do with the remains. Quakers in London were consulted and eventually suggested the remains should be cremated- an undertaker informed the home owner that the cost of cremation would be around £800 per body. Fortunately it was found that Luton Meeting was willing for the bones to be laid to rest in their lovely , tranquil burial ground , without charge.
On 13th May 2008 three caskets were laid to rest in a simple , moving ceremony at the burial site . Gathered round were a number of Quakers, the home owner and builders, all wanting to show their respect to the unknown dead.
The words of John Rowntree were read out :
“ Love bridges death. We are the comrades of those who are gone; though death separates us , their work , their fortitude , their love shall be ours .”
Quaker archives record that in South Mimms meetings were held in the house of Samuel Hodges , a butcher , who was fined for holding them in
1683. In 1686 he sold land to Quakers for £5 as a site for a meeting house and in 1697 this was built along with a burial ground . By 1801 Quakers met there only occasionally and in 1820 both the meeting house and burial ground were sold for£120.
In the 1600s Quakers were persecuted for their beliefs and were not allowed to be buried in consecrated church grounds. Instead burials often took place in the countryside.
It is ironic that the site – used by Quakers , who were known for their simple lifestyles – should now accommodate a home cinema and a gym –trappings of an indulgent 21st century lifestyle.
Tonight's Quaker study evening mused on simplicity and the simplicity testimony. Questions a plenty. Does living simply necessarily mean aspiring (!) to have less stuff or is it more about practicing a kind of mindfulness in order to appreciate what's important in the here and now?
The evening concluded with a reading of this quote:
Personal pride does not end with noble blood. It leads people to a fond value of their persons, especially if they have any pretence to shape or beauty. Some are so taken with themselves it would seem that nothing else deserved their attention. Their folly would diminish if they could spare but half the time to think of God, that they spend in washing, perfuming, painting and dressing their bodies. In these things they are precise and very artificial and spare no cost. But what aggravates the evil is that the pride of one might comfortably supply the needs of ten. Gross impiety it is that a nation's pride should be maintained in the face of its poor.