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 Gill 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.
Carol or Gill can be contacted via the contact form on the Get In Touch page
Book wise the two publications below are our personal recommendations for finding out a bit more.
Being a Quaker: A Guide For Newcomers
Electronic Book Editions:
Living The Quaker Way
Ben Pink Dandelion
Electronic Book Edition:
This is a wonderfully compact pocket book introduction available in printed and kindle editions.
Paperback editions are in our own Quaker library or can be purchased via the Quaker Bookshop in London
In addition here are a few short guides in PDF form that are worth a browse:
(adobe acrobat reader plugin required)
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.”
Geoffrey Hubbard, 1974
Many of the Luton meeting attended an event at Watford Quaker Meeting House on Sunday afternoon called Poverty In Britain. The event featured three speakers dealing with the UK social security system and the cuts being implemented, homelessness and disability.
Poverty may be a contentious term for people of a certain age or for those that associate the term exclusively in terms of the deprivation found in many countries in the developing world. However rising food and utility prices ,cuts to social security, housing benefit, ever increasing house prices and uncontrolled rising rents together with lower wages, zero hour work contracts and less access to secure employment is going to have serious consequences for many in this country which has already seen increases in inequality that some say has the potential to return Britain to inequality levels not seen since the immediate post second world war years. Hyperbole?
Less Help For The Disabled?
In addition help for those with disabilities is also being scaled back and access to care being rationed further which will see many disabled people lose the kind of help that marks the difference between just surviving and enabling a dignified independent existence in a world that seems increasingly less compassionate towards them than it has been in the past.
The New Standards Of Living?
The upshot of all these societal changes is that future generations may inherit an ongoing lowering of the standard of living despite having to contribute more tax wise than previous generations, and lose hard won rights that previous generations fought to achieve. All this in an environment of spiralling costs for the basics in life (food,water, electricity, housing etc). In effect the current generation will contribute more but receive substantially less in return than previous generations have enjoyed. We have already witnessed growing inequality, less compassion and help for those coping with a disability and towards those struggling to get by, many of whom are actually working (a situation currently called ‘in work poverty’).
How can Quakers help those that will struggle the most in this tougher social and financially sparse and insecure environment? Indeed do enough of us care or has the media helped harden attitudes towards the less well off and the vulnerable? Does help now become conditional? The debate continues.
A Record Of The Event
For those that attended and for those that could not attend we’d like to place the audio of this event here as a resource for reminder and equally for new discovery.
Stream or Download
The audio is available to listen to in sections below and will stream from this page via the embedded audio players. For those who wish to download the files to play offline or transfer to portable devices then please choose between the mp3 encoded file and the AAC+/AAC-HE encoded files linked to below each section player. AAC-HE encoded files are much smaller in size & ideal for those with slow Internet speeds or those needing to minimise how much they download each month. They’re also ideal for mobile devices with minimal storage and/or 3G Internet access. File sizes are given beside each download option.To play the smaller AAC-HE encoded files desktop PC users will ideally need to have iTunes or VLC player installed to enjoy the maximum fidelity.
The Event Itself: Poverty In Britain
Changes to the social security system
Our first guest was from the Luton Advice Network who talked to us about the ongoing changes to Britain’s social security system.
Our second speaker was Wil Berdinner of Watford New Hope Trust who talked about homelessness.
And finally Joe Hall from Scope talked to us about disability.
Associated link: Britain Cares
Hemel Hempstead Meeting
We then heard a report from Mark Millington of Hemel Hempstead meeting on how tackling the viability of their meeting saw them utilising their meeting house to provide affordable accommodation.
Finally a question and answer session to our three main speakers
Further Quaker specific resources on inequality and welfare cuts can be found here
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).
Here's the two part video:
Interesting little video from Inequality Briefing.
'The future depends on what we do in the present.' Gandhi
— Christian Aid (@christian_aid) October 8, 2013