The final days of spring as sunny days are interspersed with outbreaks of rain. Good for the plants. The rest of us get caught in occasional downpours.
During Meeting a Friend played the recorder with a short tune that seemed to be a variation of Morning has broken.
A Polish friend read Quaker faith & Practice 27.06
I have assumed a name today for my religious principles – Quaker-Catholicism – having direct spiritual teaching for its distinctive dogma, yet recognising the high worth of all other forms of Faith: a system, in the sense of inclusion, not exclusion; an appreciation of the universal and the various teachings of the Spirit, through the faculties given to us, or independent of them.
Caroline Fox, 1846
Later another Friend spoke of watching a programme on TV about buying a property in the country. A person in this episode had very limited eyesight and would often say “give me a minute” as he put all the little pieces together to comprehend the whole picture.
It made them think how true this was of life, whether understanding something or picking up the pieces that had fallen. Picking them up and putting them back together and appreciating and accepting the time it takes to, perhaps make a new picture.
During bridging time another Friend was thankful for the gift of the readings ,music and ministry as well as being with us all.
Meeting was held on a muggy drizzly spring day. The wild area out back continues to encourage wildlife and we sat in a mostly silent Meeting save for a reading of Quaker, Faith & Practice 26.61:
There is a principle which is pure, placed in the human mind, which in different places and ages hath different names; it is, however, pure and proceeds from God. It is deep and inward, confined to no forms of religion nor excluded from any where the heart stands in perfect sincerity. In whomsoever this takes root and grows, of what nation soever, they become brethren.
John Woolman, 1762
After Meeting we shared refreshment and chat mostly about the potential referendum on the EU.
After a week filled with pure concentrated drizzle it was heartening to be at Meeting enhanced by a genuine spring day. The developing wild meadow out back had grown much since last week, no doubt thanks to the spring rain.
A Friend contributed a short Melodica tune a while into Meeting which often says more than words.
During Meeting too a Friend spoke of attending Yearly meeting last weekend. They told us that the theme this year was Quaker action in the world today. They spoke of those that were called to great service, a strong sense of calling, backed by a discernment of Friends as the right action to pursue. Despite often feeling inadequate in the face of hearing of the work of many called individuals they said they were reminded of the writing of St Paul who spoke about the what he called the fruits of the spirit:
Fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness and self control.
For them that seemed to be at the heart of everything at this year’s Meeting.
Later another friend spoke. They said they were struck at Yearly Meeting by the utter beauty of the Quaker vision. Its moral strength, its sense that we are all part of the world connected with people, animals, the whole planet. The way we are here to to connect with and serve others and rejoice in their lives.
They cited the continuing passage in Corinthians 13.4 that concerns itself with St Paul’s vision of universal love and they read the later passage:
Love is patient, love is kind, love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way. It is not irritable or resentful. It does not rejoice in wrongdoing but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things , believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends….
And now faith hope and love abide. Of these three, the greatest of these is love.
After Meeting the Yearly Meeting Epistle was shared.
We all shared, as usual, chat, concerns, drinks and biscuits and as we all spoke a wild bunny hopped into view in the meadow beyond the window.
The air suspended the merest haze of water doplets as we got together for Meeting. A song thrush again filled the silence and a rabbit was again seen to part the wild flowers and long grass at one point. It was a silent Meeting today but just as powerful without words as with them.
After Meeting a dear Friend joined us for tea and coffee and emotionally shared their own worries over a particularly demanding life situation that is ongoing for them. Our own hearts went out to them in empathy and support.
If you could dispense a perfect spring day from a vending machine then today is what you’d get for your money. Sun, light breeze, dappled shadows, insects in the air, wild flowers coming into bloom and the song of birds in the trees.
We were few at Meeting but the silence was lwell shared. The door to the area out the back was open and the sounds of the nearby town mingled with the sound of bristling tress and a very vocal song thrush. A family of robins foraged in the shadow of a tree, a blackbird hopped into view eyeing us curiously, squirrels scampered and even a rabbit was spotted at one point. On oasis of wildlife with the urban.
We sat observing a collected silence. A chance to gather. A chance to stop and wait.
A while in a Friend read from Advices and Queries as we so often do prior to a Preparative Meeting (PM).
“Are you honest and truthful in all you say and do? Do you maintain strict integrity in business transactions and in your dealings with individuals and organisations? Do you use money and information entrusted to you with discretion and responsibility? Taking oaths implies a double standard of truth; in choosing to affirm instead, be aware of the claim to integrity that you are making”.
After Meeting we shared tea & coffees and thought of faces we’d love to see again at Meeting both established and new.
Nevin the dog ran into the room to say hello.
A Preparative Meeting was held after Meeting itself.
Roadworks (getting right to the point here) at the bottom of Crawley Green Road meant access to the Meeting house was perhaps a challenge this week for those travelling from outside the town which is probably why our shared lunch was less well attended than expected.
During Meeting the following was read out (by me) which is from Quaker Faith & Practice (and a very good reflection of my current perspective on things):
icon-quote-left Some among us have a clear sense of what is right and wrong – for themselves personally if not for everyone else. They have a reassuring certitude and steadiness which can serve as a reference point by which others may navigate. There are others who live in a state of uncertainty, constantly re-thinking their responses to changing circumstances, trying to hold onto what seems fundamental but impelled to reinterpret, often even unsure where lies the boundary between the fundamental and the interpretation…
Please be patient, those of you who have found a rock to stand on, with those of us who haven’t and with those of us who are not even looking for one. We live on the wave’s edge, where sea, sand and sky are all mixed up together: we are tossed head over heels in the surf, catching only occasional glimpses of any fixed horizon. Some of us stay there from choice because it is exciting and it feels like the right place to be icon-quote-right .
Philip Rack, 1979
Later a Harpenden Friend spoke on the challenges of all loving each other no matter what each other’s individual belefs. They also spoke of attending a multi faith group recently where one of the Christian leaders had spoke of how some religions asked a great deal of their followers in terms of rigidly following a creed and how it seemed to be those religions that have maintained their numbers.
They then found a passage from The Bible which they thought some might find amusing but pertinant (Romans 14).
A Luton Friend expresssed their appreciation of the Quaker Faith & Practice passage and how it resonated with them and would do with those who struggled at times to find or maintain a firm faith.
A Luton Friend later spoke of those that were fixed on the horizon but of course find that that horizon is always receding.
Another Luton Friend spoke of being reminded of the words from a Hymn which spoke of loving the loveless.
During bridging time a Harpenden Friend spoke of travelling to Luton Meeting via the Lower Luton Road and how beautiful that was and all within a short distance of a built up urban town.
Another Harpenden Friend commented on the distant sounds during Meeting of the Christian Gospel gathering over the road and that it was a shame, they felt, that many denominations didn’t spend more time sharing an area of worship.
After Meeting we all shared lunch following a discussion on Luton’s struggle to get across its many plus points whilst being a Town that many disparaged.
Many of us also brought items to donate to LAMP and the Luton Foodbank.
Another warm and sunny day at Meeting. Our silence was shared with a visiting fly (and almost shared by a squirrel who was curious about the open door).
Advices & Queries 1-3
During Meeting a Harpenden Friend spoke of feeling fortunate to have the little book of Advice & Queries. That their copy also included notes and poems by Erica Stapleton. They read from Advices & Queries section 1 to 3.
Evolution, competition , conflict and co-operation
Much later another Harpenden Friend spoke to say that, to them at least, it seemed like we’re in for a long hot summer of sporting competition and religious conflict to the extent that some people might argue that we get rid of them both; sport & religion. Evolutionary biologists, he mused may tell us that competitive behaviour is a legacy evololutionary behaviour that we all have inside us but that many of them would also argue that co-operative behaviour is part of our inheritance and that it is in our own self interest to co-operate. They also said that Quakerism was born at a time of religious conflict in this country and the principles contained in Advices & Queries came out of that period. They were looking for a way of expressing their religious belief in a way that was more inclusive & co-operative.
They continued to say that sport and religion were at their best when these ideals were incorporated into them. They hoped and prayed that those who, in the name of religion would seek to harm and destroy could also be brought to understand those principles. That it was in their self interest to have a society in which we can all learn to co-operate and tolerate each other.
Remembering victims of armed conflict
During bridging time a Luton Friend asked us all to remember the huge number of refugees who are victims of armed conflict. They believed that statistically these numbers were now as high or even higher than at the time of the second world war and the years after it and that they felt something tragic was happening in our world.
Another Luton Friend then spoke to say they had been listening to the radio in the car on the way into Meeting and that it was examining what’s happening in Iraq with ISIS etc and that those that made up this group were less born out of religion but a mixture of disperate groups who were perhaps united in their opposition to the current Iraqi government though it was a very complicated situation but more part of a process of and a result of increasing world militarisation. They hoped for a future where Quakers were perhaps even more involved in matters of conflict resolution.
Those who try to make the world a better place
A Harpenden Friend who had read from Advices & Queries earlier spoke about it being very easy to get very depressed but tthat here had been challenges over the centuries and although they themselves were not a fundamentalist Christian that they they could see that Andrew White in Bagdhad and those before him had tried to make the world a better place including those who had tried to follow Jesus’ example.
Shared Lunch and Foodbank donations please next week
After Meeting it was tea (redbush too),coffee and chat time but we were reminded that next week was a shared lunch and that we might like to bring donations for our respective local foodbanks too.
Children Again At Meeting
A Luton Friend stood to say it had been a long time since we had children at Meeting and how wonderful it was that Harpenden had children with them and that we hoped they woud be made to feel most welcome.
People Special To Us
A Harpenden Friend said that they had been thinking about a lot of people special to them in their life.
Had their Mum lived pasther passing in 1991 she would have been 114 now. They said they knew another special person from New Zealand Meetingwho will be 101. If you met her you’d assume she was 81 or 91 but not that she was 101.This Reminded her of attending Junior Yearly Meeting aged 14 and being struck by the writings of Ruth Fawell, much of which resonated with them.
Our Friend read Quaker Faith & Practice 26.54 which is attributed to Ruth Fawell circa 1987.
What Is Love?
Later a Luton Friend stood and said that they thought the question we ask is not is there a God but what is God?
They then read a quote from Issac Pennington from 1663, Quaker Faith & Practice 26.30
Outreach Through Love
Another Harpenden Friend stood and told us that they had recently attended the funeral of a very dear friend. Somebody who had lost their wife but a year before which meant visiting the same crematorium and house as per the previous 12 months
They told of how this recently deceased friend had failed their 11plus way back when and how their own Father was somebody that talked politics with this friend and who encouraged this same friend to get an education and make more of their talents than the sheet metal work they currently traded though this was a valuable contribution in itself.
Ruskin college enabled this further education enabled by the then trade unions. In time he did well and eventually obtained a degree and went on to become an educator via higher education.
Our Friend reflected on how both her Father and this dear departed friend had both not been church goers but that a valuable contribution is just as attainable without being involved in religion or a church per se and that these were examples of outreach through love.
Later still another Luton Friend spoke. She said that Friends had stirred her thoughts in a way they weren’t expecting
They told how that their Father would be 102 if he were still alive. That he was raised in a staunch Methodist home but by convincement become a Quaker. He was a conscientius objector during the second world war and that he’d had an unquenchable thirst for education despite receiving no certificates or public recognition for this. He was involved in local politics, was twice Luton mayor and at one time was nicknamed ‘Mr Luton’.
He never had puffed up chest of pride at any of this though he took Quakerly pride in being directly involved in the building of this Luton Meeting House which opened in 1963 and was achieved via him and his own building firm team and designed by him. Our Friend ruminated on the outcome of many perhaps un-Quakerly discussions which gave the building a flat roof despite her Father’s insistance that this design option should never be.
The morning’s ministries caused our Freind to reflect on how they believed it was Shakespeare who said that men are interred with their bones but as many had mentioned this morning we do live on.
After Meeting we admired a collage made by the children in their own group during some of this Morning’s Meeting.
Notices included a reminder of a shared lunch on the 29th and after lunch we might all perhaps discuss ‘what’s on your mind?’.