The sunlight is more yellow than winter-blue now but there’s still a chill in the air that gets to the hands and face that makes you want to linger by a warm radiator or any passing hot bath.
Meeting was silent but a Friend spoke during bridging time to reflect on the recent Area Meeting in Harpenden that was looking at a possible future revision of Quaker Faith & Practice.
They said that they were moved by the intensity of the feeling that Friends had for wrongs and cruelty in the world. They cited continuing instances of slavery and the recognition that this was not wholly abolished from the world. They said that at the Area Meeting there was great concern too regarding torture. In conclusion they also said there was a sample passage considered for future revision of Quaker Faith & Practice regarding death and the possibility of an afterlife.
After Meeting we shared chat and refreshments.
It was decided to delay the next PM until after the next Area Meeting.
The next Quaker Study is on Tuesday (see calendar).
We’re a comparatively small group so meeting in the library in winter times to minimise heating and also promote sustainability rather than cranking up the heating in the large main room is a good move. The library is a lovely intimate room and gets more natural light in the winter time so less need to turn artificial lights on too. Today we happily filled the library with very welcome extra faces. It was lovely to see known faces from Harpenden Meeting and a new face too.
In worship we have our neighbours to right and left, before and behind, yet the Eternal Presence is over all and beneath all. Worship does not consist in achieving a mental state of concentrated isolation from one’s fellows. But in the depth of common worship it is as if we found our separate lives were all one life, within whom we live and move and have our being.
Thomas R Kelly, 1938
After Meeting we shared chat and refreshments as usual.
Despite the mild winter so far, warm layers of clothes are still the order of the day. Condensation on the library windows diffuse the light and filter later breaks of sun as they backlit the branches of the trees beyond them.
A solitary ladybird, who may have arrived incognito with this week’s flowers took a journey during Meeting perhaps unaware of a small collection of hibernating ladybirds high up in one corner of the room.
Some Friends are able to recall with clarity the first occasion on which they attended a Quaker meeting. While I cannot remember when or where I did so, I do have a vivid recollection of the meeting which I began to attend regularly.
It was held in a rather hideous building: the meeting room was dingy. We sat on rickety chairs that creaked at the slightest movement. The whole place gave little hope that those who worshipped there might catch a glimpse of the vision of God. It was in stark contrast to the splendour of the Anglican churches to which I had been accustomed, where through dignified ritual the beauty of holiness was vividly portrayed.
However, it was in this unlikely setting that I came to know what I can only describe as the amazing fact of Quaker worship. It was in that uncomfortable room that I discovered the way to the interior side of my life, at the deep centre of which I knew that I was not alone, but was held by a love that passes all understanding. This love was mediated to me, in the first place, by those with whom I worshipped. For my journey was not solitary, but one undertaken with my friends as we moved towards each other and together travelled inwards. Yet I knew that the love that held me could not be limited to the mutual love and care we had for each other. It was a signal of transcendence that pointed beyond itself to the source of all life and love.
George Gorman, 1973
Later in Meeting there was a short musical offering realised by the medium of a kazoo (yes, I said kazoo).
After Meeting notices were read and we chatted over refreshments.
Next week will also see an Area Meeting at Harpenden after our own Meeting.
“Caring can take many forms. Some help will be beyond the resources of the local meeting, but it should not be beyond our resources to see when it is needed and to see that it is provided. Often it is what we are rather than anything we do which is of help to others. We should be wary of giving advice: a sympathetic ear, whilst a person finds their own way forward, will usually do more lasting good. Some people may not want to be helped, seeing our concern as an intrusion. Great sensitivity is called for.”
After Meeting and bridging time we shared chat and tea,coffee as usual.
Today’s meeting on a cold damp February morning was quiet with one moment of ministry by a friend who described how Quakers might sometimes have different political viewpoints from each other but what unites us is the belief that God is love and we live our lives accordingly with this knowledge while we develop and learn to love ourselves and radiate that love to others.
When meeting finished a beautiful new friend made tea and coffees and we were joined by another quaker friend and her two quakerly dogs who showed us their own love and affection in quiet stillness while our caretaker and his dog joined us to make what had started as a small meeting into a scene of much diverse contentment.
Friends met on a cold but bright sunny morning when the sun gave us a spring day in February as a bonus due to the damp whether we have had to endure lately.
A Friend rose to read a passage by Isaac Pennington that poetically compares love to God. A visiting Friend spoke about how language can become mundane when writing on theological matters and another Friend remarked that sometimes words are never enough to describe God and can sometimes lead people away from their search for God.
Meeting ended and a number of Friends then travelled to Watford meeting house, after teas
and coffees, to add their words to a large discussion, organised by our Friend Colin, regarding Quaker discontent on the growing levels of inequality in our society.
We believe in overcoming evil with good. We must speak and act from our own inner light to the inner light in all others as Jesus did. He showed and taught love, respect and concern for all, particularly those rejected by others, reaching out to the good in them.
Causing deliberate hurt to another person because that suffering is thought to be of benefit in itself, we believe is not a Christian response. Punishment in this sense not only harms the punished but also degrades those who inflict it, and is a barrier to the working of God’s love within us.
Whether it be in the family, the school, the workplace or the wider community the intentional use of pain and suffering cannot be the best way to resolve differences, or gain the cooperation of people or restrain those who harm themselves or others.
To do away with punishment is not to abandon safety and control or to move towards disintegration, disorder and lawlessness. A non-punitive approach will not remove the need in some circumstances for restraint or secure containment, but it does mean that restraint and containment should be carried out in a life-enhancing spirit of love and care.
Nor in general does this loving approach have lesser expectations or demand less responsibility than does the infliction and acceptance of punishment. In personal relationships and in the broader context of community and international affairs a positive response to aberrant or destructive behaviour through reconciliation, restitution and reparation may take longer but it will be more likely to encourage the good in all parties, restore those who are damaged, reduce resentment and bitterness, and enable all those involved to move towards fuller integration.
It’s still unseasonably mild for the time of year with temperatures for London tomorrow forecast to reach 14 degrees. Rain still persists and flooding is still very much in the news. Yesterday was a sunny winter day and it was easy to believe that just maybe spring was within touching distance.
During meeting for worship a Friend spoke of recognising their own potential for a psychological dark side. Of times when they may have wounded psychologically out of hurt or frustration. That violence whether physical or psychological was probably part of the human condition and that love was something we all needed to apply even when it was hard to do so.
Later another Friend spoke of times when they had perhaps angered when really love would have been a preferred response.
After meeting we had a first during bridging time with an announcement of request for Quaker marriage and the notice of where to lodge any objections should any be realised.
We all directed our best wishes towards the visiting couple and await the outcome of this clearness process.
I didn’t catch the flowers this week I’m afraid so the above is a sketch that hangs on the library wall of the Luton Quaker lodge/original Quaker house that these days is a split occupation between the caretaker and a paying tenant.
A gloriously sunny winter morning saw us meet again in the library where the sun lit the room and birds could be seen flitting in and around the large conifer type trees nearby. Stronger winds had temporarily subsided and it could easily fool anybody that spring was just around the corner despite the recent deluges that continue to see many places across England and Wales enduring continued flooding.
It was good to see a couple of faces who had not been able to attend for a while due to time and job placements etc. People lead increasingly busy lives so it’s always a bonus when people can find the time to attend.
During Meeting for worship a Friend stood and reflected on the Woodbrooke-on-the-road event on ministry that took place at Hemel Hempstead Meeting last Sunday.
Our Friend reflected on the history of Quaker Meeting and ministry and how that related to notions of God within all of us/the inner light within Quakerism. In fact an explanation of why Quakers shake hands at the end of Meeting for worship and the possibility that they could just choose to link hands in a circle is an area that would be worth going into as a subject and history lesson in itself.
Later another Friend who also attended the event reflected on those words and how they hoped the things learned and expressed at the event could be transposed to the wider world in attempting to bring a lasting peace to the world in general. This was linked to a reflection on the imminent end to hostilities in Afghanistan which would see Britain in the first true state of peace since the early part of the 20th century.
After Meeting there was much lively chat including introductions of faces new to us newbies who had not met them before as well as a lively chat between us all on theist, non-theist and even apatheist Quakers, attenders and seekers in general who are part of the wider Quaker experience these days and how this fits within a body whose history is that of a Christian religion.
This perhaps linked in, one Friend thought, with the need to perhaps educate those that come to Quaker Meeting anew from non religious backgrounds as to the Christian sources of why things are done as they are in Meeting and that they felt that the silence may sometimes unintentionally gloss over the Christian heritage and significance of Meeting for worship and give the impression that Quakerism is transitioning to a predominantly non Christian organisation.
Non theists are certainly part of the Quaker membership even if some more traditional Christian Quakers may not always understand why they attend but at this time Quakers are not about to throw the baby out with the bath water in respect of its Christian roots.
Between us we all agreed that this was an ongoing debate within Quakerism and that being open to continual questioning and searching is perhaps what has attracted so many that are not traditionally religious to the Quaker community including the oft cited ‘spiritual but not religious’,those who are seeking, the not sure-why-they’re-here’s as well as those from existing religions with very traditional notions around God and spirituality.
We then grabbed some time (can you actually grab time?) to make some quick audio recordings of each of us reading sections from Advices and Queries which will eventually be shared on here and elsewhere.