A confession: we have have music in some of our meetings for worship when certain Friends are moved to minister either in singing or through instrumental music. It as accepted – welcomed- as a moving, spiritual contribution. And George Fox addressed Quakers at a time of great persecution in these terms: “Sing and rejoice ye children of the day and the light…”
Several Friends who come to Luton Meeting attended an all-day workshop of music-making today at Watford Meeting with the title Song and Silence. In the afternoon, we learned various chants used by the Taizé community in France a religious community dedicated to inter-faith understanding and peace and reconciliation. “All humanity forms a single family and God lives within every human being without exception,” writes Brother Alois in a Letter from Kolkata.
The brilliant Woodbrooke tutor, Mark Russ, who led us in the music, showed us how repetitive meditative chants can be a startlingly intense release into deep spiritual awareness that grows in the following silence.
A mostly silent Meeting until a Friend spoke of prayer…
They said that over that past few weeks they had been thinking about the power of prayer. They said it was either very full on or it would appear that we get no answer.
They told of when their daughter was nineteen, she announced she was to have a baby. At the time the daughter lived in a one bedroom flat with her partner. They said that they felt the property was totally unsuitable.
Our Friend told how they had prayed on the situation. Within month the house had burned down and the daughter was placed in temporary accommodation when she was but a month off giving birth. Our Friend questioned if this was the answer to their prayers or was this just something that happened.
Our Friend then told of the birth of the child and soon after their daughter was offered a council flat in a very nice area that was a protected place with security. Their daughter remained there for eight years. And so this outcome became seen as a very positive answer to prayer.
They then spoke of how they were reading a magazine only last night and in it was an article called ‘Brothel sues church’.The article told of an expanding brothel in America.The nearby church decided to prayer morning, noon and night (literally) for divine intervention. The brothel’s expansion work was completed but within a week the property was struck by lightening and burned to the ground.
The article said that the brothel moved to sue the Church for their prayer and divine intervention. In court the judge said it was a very interesting case where the owner of a brothel believes in divine intervention but the church and congregation denied all knowledge of it.
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More about the outdoor Meeting for worship team later…
A very autumnal day brought winds, rolling rey skies and showers though another mini heatwave (heatwave by Brit standards that is) is due in the week ahead.
Meeting was well attended and we welcomed our two Friends from Milton Keynes who also contributed a short harmonica piece during Meeting.
Another friend read Quaker Faith & Practice 29.01
How can we walk with a smile into the dark? We must learn to put our trust in God and the leadings of the Spirit. How many of us are truly led by the Spirit throughout our daily lives? I have turned to God when I have had a difficult decision to make or when I have sought strength to endure the pain in dark times. But I am only slowly learning to dwell in the place where leadings come from. That is a place of love and joy and peace, even in the midst of pain. The more I dwell in that place, the easier it is to smile, because I am no longer afraid.
If we dwell in the presence of God, we shall be led by the spirit. We do well to remember that being led by the spirit depends not so much upon God, who is always there to lead us, as upon our willingness to be led. We need to be willing to be led into the dark as well as through green pastures and by still waters. We do not need to be afraid of the dark, because God is there. The future of this earth need not be in the hands of the world’s ‘leaders’. The world is in God’s hands if we are led by God. Let us be led by the Spirit. Let us walk with a smile into the dark.
Gordon Matthews, 1987
After Meeting we shared drinks and biscuits.
It’s here that we rally must express our thanks and appreciation to our Milton Keynes Friends who join us when they can. They have magically added music and more to our small Meeting and of their own accord have formed the so-called ‘Outdoor Meeting for Worship’ where they pick up any litter around the Meeting House. It’s hard not to smile and appreciate their uniqueness and very welcome contribution to the life of the Meeting.
A summer’s day. Doors open at Meeting including an open door to the wild meadow area out the back. the white noise of wind through the trees, distant voices and sounds of the urban town.
We were well attended today. Welcome faces.
A Friend read from the end of the introduction Quaker Faith & Practice. They said this passage looked at the whole of QF&P really and that they felt it placed an emphasis on the richness of Quaker heritage as well as elsewhere in other traditions and other ways of understanding, It also emphasised that we need to rediscover the truth in every generation and that there is perhaps no final truth. That we are all seekers.
“We are seekers but we are also the holders of a precious heritage of discoveries. We, like every generation, must find the Light and Life again for ourselves. Only what we have valued and truly made our own, not by assertion but by lives of faithful commitment, can we hand on to the future. Even then, we must humbly acknowledge that our vision of the truth will, again and again, be amended.
In the Religious Society of Friends we commit ourselves not to words but to a way”.
Later during Meeting our Milton Keynes Friend contributed a short musical offering introduced as a “Greeting from Bedford Hospital Quakers”.
After Meeting we had a wonderful shared lunch with as much food sourced ethically, locally and conscientiously.
We also provided items for donation to LAMP a local charity helping young homeless people.
Meeting took plave in a not overly warm summer morning. Occaisionally the reshness of oncoming autumn air could perhaps be felt. Butterflies weved aroundthe wild grass and flowers in the area that has been left to go wild out the back of the meeting house.
We sat in our usual circle for Meeting.
A while into sitting a Friend spoke, saying that it was difficult looking out at the graveyard and not remember that 100 years ago many young men died. Walking around the graveyard they could see many young men who had died at the battle of the Somme in 1916. They said that one of the unique features or consequences of such horror was that men who had previously refused to serve in combat were allowed to form ambulance services in battle at the time.
They then read a passage by a Quaker who served at the time:
“There is hardly a moment when my thoughts are not with the men in France, eager to help the wounded by immediate human touch with their sufferings. This I was privileged to do during nineteen months spent at the Front with the Friends Ambulance Unit from October 1914 to May 1916, when it was still possible to give voluntary service. At times the impulse to return to this work becomes almost irresistible. May God steady me, and keep me faithful to a call I have heard above the roar of the guns. By the feverish activity of my hands, I might help to save a fraction of the present human wreckage. That would be for me no sacrifice. It costs far more to spend mind and spirit, if need be, in the silence of a prison cell, in passionate witness for the great truths of Peace. That is the call I hear. I believe that only spiritual influence will avail to free the world at last from war, to free the soldiers’ little ones and confused struggling humanity itself from all that men and women are suffering now. I honour those who, in loyalty to conscience, have gone out to fight. In a crisis like the present it would be unbecoming to elaborate the reasons which have led me to a course so different. Today a man must act. I believe, with the strength of my whole being, that standing here I am enlisted in active service as a soldier of Jesus Christ, who bids every man be true to the sense of duty that is laid upon his soul.”
Quaker Faith & Practice 24.13 Corder Catchpool (1883–1952)
Meeting had a delayed start today due to a Member having a car accident turning into the Meeting House so there was support to be given and taken whilst the immediate matter was sorted out. Luckily nobody was injured except the metal of two cars. Of course it’s an upsetting experience that’s hard not to be affected by.
During Meeting itself a Friend read an extract from Quaker Faith & Practice 18.20
The Society of Friends might be thought of as a prism through which the Divine Light passes, to become visible in a spectrum of many colours; many more, in their richness, than words alone can express.
Later a visiting Friend contributed musically by playing a compact accordion. Often music speaks louder than words. Or at least is complimentary.
At the close of Meeting we were asked to uphold the Friend who had endured the car accident and who had left early as a result.
A sunny day. Interesting to notice how the sun doesn’t hit the main Meeting room window any more as where the sun is at this time of day has changed slightly. The wild meadow out the back is reaching further upwards. Insects flit between the tops and the surrounding trees.
Advices & Queries 28 was read during this slightly shortened meeting die to the Preparative Meeting (Quaker Business Meeting) that followed it.:
Every stage of our lives offers fresh opportunities. Responding to divine guidance, try to discern the right time to undertake or relinquish responsibilities without undue pride or guilt. Attend to what love requires of you, which may not be great busyness.
Later a friend reflected on this passage by saying that whilst they thought it was very much common sense they still found themselves conflicted about it. They felt that tasks are laid onto people who often feel ill equipped and very unsuited to the task. But that they felt strength was given to do that task if it is God’s will.
They said there were examples at Yearly Meeting of people being called to undertake tasks via a calling or concern, in Quaker language, and though some had felt it was unwise to take on this work it nevertheless bore much fruit.
After Meeting we shared refreshments and chat and many of us stayed on for PM.
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.