Luton Peace Walk is on September 21st this year.Might still just be time to register.
A cooler Sunday weatherwise (the great British obsession) than of late but still Sunny with a hint perhaps of Autumn waiting in the wings. As it was also PM (Preparative Meeting) our silent worship was, as usual, shortened by 15 minutes to allow for this.
A friend read an extract from Quaker Faith & Practice 11.01 regarding membership.
Today membership may not involve putting liberty, goods or life at risk but the spiritual understanding of membership is, in essentials, the same as that which guided the 'Children of the Light'. People still become Friends through 'convincement', and like early Friends they wrestle and rejoice with that experience. Membership is still seen as a discipleship, a discipline within a broadly Christian perspective and our Quaker tradition, where the way we live is as important as the beliefs we affirm.
Like all discipleships, membership has its elements of commitment and responsibility but it is also about joy and celebration. Membership is a way of saying to the meeting that you feel at home, and in the right place. Membership is also a way of saying to the meeting, and to the world, that you accept at least the fundamental elements of being a Quaker: the understanding of divine guidance, the manner of corporate worship and the ordering of the meeting's business, the practical expression of inward convictions and the equality of all before God. In asking to be admitted into the community of the meeting you are affirming what the meeting stands for and declaring your willingness to contribute to its life.
Another friend responded to this by saying that sometimes they felt slightly inadequate at times when visiting other meetings in terms of the time they have been able to devote to service compared to some others.
They also expressed heartfelt thanks to elders and overseers for the time and energy they put in and how valuable and appreciated that was. Our friend also expressed thanks to the Clerk for the speedy response in putting together and sending off the letter to our local MPs regarding our concerns ahead of the recent votes in Parliament over possible military action in Syria.
We all agreed with this and another friend spoke for us all when they said that the compositionletter was 120% right in how it spoke for the local meeting.
Ahead of PM the Clerk read from Advices & Queries 14:
Are your meetings for church affairs held in a spirit of worship and in dependence on the guidance of God? Remember that we do not seek a majority decision nor even consensus. As we wait patiently for divine guidance our experience is that the right way will open and we shall be led into unity.
A number of us attended an EID celebration on Friday evening as part of the Muslim community in Luton inviting other religions and faiths and indeed those of no particular faith to a get together. The event was enabled by the Near Neighbours fund, EID celebration and Luton Council Of Faiths initiatives and despite some overhead individual worries expressed over possible attendance numbers it turned out that by the 6:30 start time a wide cross section of faith organisation representatives filled the venue, The Jamia Islamia Ghousia Mosque in Westbourne Road. .
We all experienced Daf percussion and Nasheed singing and a number of guests spoke including Luton MP Kelvin Hopkins and David Jonathan (Johny) of Luton Council of Faiths and Grassroots together with other esteemed guests who all spoke of the benefits of ongoing efforts to foster community cohesion and hopes that faith organisations can continue to get together and by talking and sharing we can continue to discover more about each other and work together where we can.
Which is exactly what we all did after the short guest speeches bolstered by the availability of food and drink.
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.
Written by Carol Bond
Our Clerk to Luton Quakers moved quickly to contact our local Members of Parliament ahead of yesterday's vote on military action in Syria.
Dear Kelvin and Gavin
We ask you – and the Labour Party – to oppose military intervention in Syria. In spite of claims emanating from the government that it would be legal in international law, that does not seem to be the case. Any such action would be legally justified only if agreed by the UN Security Council. This has been restated in terms of the "responsibility to protect", subsequently approved by UN security council resolution 1674.
Quakers nationally have made this statement:
“Quakers in Britain are appalled by the suffering and loss of life on all sides in Syria. We understand – and share – the wish of the international community to take some form of action to reduce the bloodshed, but we strongly urge those who are tempted to respond militarily to think again.
“Air strikes will kill people just as surely as chemical attacks. All weapons must seem equally abhorrent if it is your family that is being killed. Punishment for use of specific kinds of weapon is no justification for further acts of war or for supplying yet more weapons.
"New participants in a war will breed new hatreds. Experience of other conflicts shows that supposedly simple or 'surgical' military interventions usually become messy and hard to end. We are convinced that even when some kind of victory is claimed, the deep harm done by violence always outweighs the supposed benefits.
We beg those in power to work with diligence through the United Nations and all diplomatic channels to bring peace nearer. We challenge them to use their resources and imaginations creatively. Please don't fall into the old trap of thinking that taking any action is bound to be better than doing nothing."
It is as though the US, UK and France have learned nothing from the huge unintended consequences and terrible suffering wrought by military interventions in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya, while claiming a moral high-ground that is not justified, if only given their own retention of nuclear weapons.
We understand that many MPs in all parties are deeply uneasy about or opposed to the action that the government seems likely to propose. Please act to save the people of Syria and in all likelihood other countries from this madness.With best wishes
Clerk to Luton Quakers
Today we shared a meeting for worship that started amongst a preview of autumn weather to come and ended with a promise of sun for the afternoon.
One friend shared their attempts to try not to judge people without truly knowing them, their circumstances and getting to know the person inside.
Another friend agreed and recognised the personal shortcoming when it came to falling into the habit of sometimes judging others too quickly.
I'm sure many of us at meeting recognised such a shortcoming in us all.
As usual we shared tea and coffee, time, chat and friendship.
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.
William Penn, 1669
Quaker faith & practice 20.29
There is little point in praying to be enabled to overcome some temptation, and then putting oneself in the very position in which the temptation can exert all its fascination. There is little point in praying that the sorrowing may be comforted and the lonely cheered, unless we ourselves set out to bring comfort and cheer to the sad and neglected in our own surroundings. There is little point in praying for our home and for our loved ones, and in going on being as selfish and inconsiderate as we have been. Prayer would be an evil rather than a blessing if it were only a way of getting God to do what we ourselves will not make the effort to do. God does not do things for us – he enables us to do them for ourselves.
Elisabeth Holmgaard, 1984
Quaker Faith & Practice 2.28
Another friend spoke of being reminded of a story where a man was visiting meetings around the country and arrived early at one meeting house so sat down in a chair to wait for friends to arrive. The first person to arrive promptly asked them to move as the place they had chose was where they normally sat.
They too were not sat where they normally liked to be seated but though they sat with their back to the window they felt they became more aware of the sounds of birds through the door left open so as to allow a breeze to cool a still warm late summer morning. They were grateful that sitting elsewhere had enhanced their appreciation of the sounds of nearby nature.
Thanks and appreciation was also expressed for friends who were at Balcombe as part of concerns regarding fracking.