Meeting was overlooked by weather that was perhaps cold,dry but grey. The kind of uninspiring grey wash that somehow looks appropriate in impressionistic pencil drawing artworks but that when viewed in the muted and washed out colours of winter forces those indoors to reach for the comfort of artificial light.
Today we had candles. Witnesses from a week that saw the peace light travel through Luton, Hanukkah celebrations in town and last night a peace vigil outside the Town Hall for the victims of the recent Sydney and Peshawar terrorist incidents.
A while into the silence as the flickering candles drew the eye and the heart to them a Friend stood to read John 1:1 from the revised English Bible.
“In the beginning the word already was. The word was in God’s presence and what God was, the word was. He was with God at the beginning and through him all things came to be. Without him no creative thing came into being. In him was life. And that life was the light of mankind. The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has never mastered it”.
They prefaced this by commenting on how lovely it was to have the candles on this, the shortest day of the year.
Later another Friend felt moved to speak. They said that the peace vigil of yesterday evening was, the felt moving in many ways.Their experience was that people tried to reach out over a deep sense of compassion to the awful suffering of the children, their absolute terror, their fear, shock and utter distress that their families are experiencing. So too the tragic loss of life in Sydney, Australia as well as the loss of young lives in Cairns.
They felt it the vigil was very moving and that as people tried to express their feelings they each got glimpses of each others faith and value systems as people tried to reach out the the souls of children and adults whose lives were lost and also to the hearts and minds of the bereaved.
Reaching Out In The Darkness
They said the were moved by the words spoken by Jainists, Hindus and Buddhists. There was also a reaching out to try to understand the minds and motives of those who do such terrible things though that was difficult and perhaps not the occasion to do so though as Quakers they felt that we know that that is what we must do as well. That the seeds of war and of conflict are in all of us.. They felt we had a duty to reach out with a light of understanding into that sort of darkness as well because the terrorist and the killer are our sisters and brothers as well and their hurt and violence is inside us as well and that Quakers struggle but try to understand this too.
Later still another Friend who had attended the peace vigil spoke. They had come away very moved by the reading by various faiths including from our own Quaker Faith And Practice. They felt that prayer heals the prayers as well as those prayed for.
They recalled that one Sikh gentlemen had said that God is everything and in the hearts of everybody, even the killers though they are killing God by killing other people. The one message and faiths came together as if one world religion as per the earlier reading that said the light will always overcome the darkness.
The Intensity of Isms
Towards the close of the Meeting a Friend spoke to reflect on the week just gone. A week of sharing lights from the peace light, to lighting the third light at the Hanukkah festival and last night the peace vigil. Light, they said, obviously culturally had great importance and significance. Many talk of Christ being the light and despite not being a Christocentric Quaker themselves or believing in an intermediary they did feel confirmed that in our Meeting we may be losing the simplicity of Quakerism by intensity of isms and discussions because in the festival of Christmas like other festivals throughout the years there are messages which people have held onto through many years of giving, of loving, of caring one for another. Of celebrating the birth of any child and what they bring to the life that is going to be theirs. Of an adult who was frightened at the birth of a one child. They said that the massacre of children was not anything new to history.
Of Regret…And Virtual Mince Pies
They also said they were tinged with regret this morning that their thoughts had been pushed to one side by practical things, that we hadn’t decided to do anything this morning in Meeting to mark this special time. They said they felt it should be a time of joy and not of Scrooge. Of being together, not reading emails, not going to meetings but having a very special time with the people who matter most to us. They hoped that after Meeting we could perhaps share a virtual mince pie and a genuine hug.
We we then moved to stand in a circle around the candle lights and put our arms around each other.
After bridging time and notices a Friend revealed they had bought some cakes for us to share during tea and coffee.