The first Friends had an apocalyptic vision of the world transformed by Christ and they set about to make it come true. The present generation of Quakers shares this conviction of the power of the spirit, but it is doubtful whether it will transform the world in our lifetime, or in that of our children or children’s children. For us it is not so important when the perfect world will be achieved or what it will be like. What matters is living our lives in the power of love and not worrying too much about the results. In doing this, the means become part of the end. Hence we lose the sense of helplessness and futility in the face of the world’s crushing problems. We also lose the craving for success, always focusing on the goal to the exclusion of the way of getting there. We must literally not take too much thought for the morrow but throw ourselves whole-heartedly into the present. That is the beauty of the way of love; it cannot be planned and its end cannot be foretold.
Today was one of those sunny but autumnal days. Low sun with pleasant heat if you stood or sat in the right place but not for too long before the sun moved on. Probably one of the last few of the double digit temperature days.
As usual we sat in silence as a small group with the sun casting playful shadows across the floor. Some just sat and waited, some read, some meditated and some sit in thought. The reading from Quaker Faith & Practice was read during our hour of silence and reflected on again during the bridging time that follows immediately afterwards. After notices and a reminder of this months collection cause we sat and chatted and drank tea and coffee whilst some had to hurry off to travel to the Area Meeting in Leighton Buzzard.
Those that remained talked of both Quaker and non Quaker things; Elvis Costello, Ian Dury, Wreckless Eric (talk prompted by a BBC4 documentary on Costello during the week). Outreach, the wider community, advocacy, changing the date for the music get together and more.
A small group we may be but a community too certainly.
Do you take part as often as you can in meetings for church affairs? Are you familiar enough with our church government to contribute to its disciplined processes? Do you consider difficult questions with an informed mind as well as a generous and loving spirit? Are you prepared to let your insights and personal wishes take their place alongside those of others or be set aside as the meeting seeks the right way forward? If you cannot attend, uphold the meeting prayerfully.
During bridging time we gave thoughts of holding an absent attender in the light as he was understandably absent from the meeting as he was at the side of his Mother who is terminally ill. We wish them love, strength and fortitude.
We moved on to PM (Preparative Meeting) where we discussed the recent AM Poverty In Britain Event, the current state of finances, the 2014 triennial report and the continuing use and development of our revamped website.
Discussion too on how best to green our meeting and meeting house in terms of saving energy and making users of the facilities aware of that too (common sense stuff really but we can all easily forget).
We vexed on how best we can reach out to the wider community and reminded ourselves to take time to be aware of things in the wider Luton community we can possibly contribute to as a group.
Plans to make some short audio and video were put in place which we’d like as many members and attenders to contribute to as possible.
We also set a provisional date for a social get together music evening choosing two favourite pieces of music each.
The date for the next PM is Sunday 5th January 2014
We are not for names, nor men, nor titles of Government, nor are we for this party nor against the other … but we are for justice and mercy and truth and peace and true freedom, that these may be exalted in our nation, and that goodness, righteousness, meekness, temperance, peace and unity with God, and with one another, that these things may abound.
A blustery autumn morning with strong ‘1987-esque’ winds forecast for later in the day and into tomorrow (even poor Michael Fish has been dragged out of retirement to front warnings in the media of the possible weather battering coming our way. What a cultural icon he has become. Still he made it into the Olympic opening ceremony so he must be a (if not the) solid British cultural reference for impending bad weather. Correctly forecast or not).
The above passage on corporate responsibility was read out during meeting for worship. When the hour had come to and end notices were read and after bridging time tea and coffee and chat followed along with slices of nut roast available in return for a small donation to funds. Much talk of potential future food offerings between us. Our bee-keeping Friend mused the potential for mead offerings even.
It’s good to talk, share and care for one another.
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.
“We do not own the world, and its riches are not ours to dispose of at will. Show a loving consideration for all creatures, and seek to maintain the beauty and variety of the world. Work to ensure that our increasing power over nature is used responsibly, with reverence for life. Rejoice in the splendour of God’s continuing creation.”
This passage was read out at meeting today. A Friend appreciated greatly the reading and wondered if we could have more plants within the meeting house. They also thought it was always good to share access to nature.
Another Friend commented on the gentle light changes from nature outside the window during silent worship and how the insects caught the autumn sun.
Tea and Coffee was shared with much eager conversation. A cake was shared and used to accept ‘what you can afford’ payments towards a donation we made to help Harpenden Meeting House refurbishment. We discussed arrangements for those of us attending next week’s poverty in Britain event at Watford Meeting House.
Autumnal weather is truly with us now with wind and intermittent squally showers. Noticably colder. The first signs of autumn leaves are with us with the best of autumn colours yet to come.
A smaller meeting attendance wise today due to various member and attendee commitments elsewhere. Our Clerk attended before leaving early to attend an ecological protest in London.
One Friend read from Quaker Faith & Practice (2.19)
As the flowing of the ocean doth fill every creek and branch thereof, and then retires again towards its own being and fulness, and leaves a savour behind it; so doth the life and virtue of God flow into every one of your hearts, whom he hath made partakers of his divine nature; and when it withdraws but a little, it leaves a sweet savour behind it; that many can say they are made clean through the word that he hath spoken to them. In which innocent condition you may see what you are in the presence of God, and what you are without him… Stand still, and cease from thine own working, and in due time thou shalt enter into the rest, and thy eyes shall behold his salvation, whose testimonies are sure, and righteous altogether.
William Leddra of Barbados on the day before he was martyred in 1661
Another Friend later read again from Quaker Faith & Practice (27.02)
Love was the first motion, and then a concern arose to spend some time with the Indians, that I might feel and understand their life, and the Spirit they live in, if haply I might receive some instruction from them, or they be in any degree helped forward by my following the leadings of Truth amongst them. And as it pleased the Lord to make way for my going at a time when the troubles of war were increasing and when by reason of much wet weather travelling was more difficult than usual at that season, I looked upon it as a more favourable opportunity to season my mind, and bring me into a nearer sympathy with them. And as mine eye was to the great Father of Mercies, humbly desiring to learn what his will was concerning me, I was made quiet and content.
John Woolman, 1763
Quite a few notices after silent worship concerning events at other Quaker meeting houses which we hope to write about seperately or link to on Twitter.
As usual we all had much to talk about and discuss over tea and coffee.
A cooler Sunday weatherwise (the great British obsession) than of late but still Sunny with a hint perhaps of Autumn waiting in the wings. As it was also PM (Preparative Meeting) our silent worship was, as usual, shortened by 15 minutes to allow for this.
Today membership may not involve putting liberty, goods or life at risk but the spiritual understanding of membership is, in essentials, the same as that which guided the 'Children of the Light'. People still become Friends through 'convincement', and like early Friends they wrestle and rejoice with that experience. Membership is still seen as a discipleship, a discipline within a broadly Christian perspective and our Quaker tradition, where the way we live is as important as the beliefs we affirm.
Like all discipleships, membership has its elements of commitment and responsibility but it is also about joy and celebration. Membership is a way of saying to the meeting that you feel at home, and in the right place. Membership is also a way of saying to the meeting, and to the world, that you accept at least the fundamental elements of being a Quaker: the understanding of divine guidance, the manner of corporate worship and the ordering of the meeting's business, the practical expression of inward convictions and the equality of all before God. In asking to be admitted into the community of the meeting you are affirming what the meeting stands for and declaring your willingness to contribute to its life.
Another friend responded to this by saying that sometimes they felt slightly inadequate at times when visiting other meetings in terms of the time they have been able to devote to service compared to some others.
They also expressed heartfelt thanks to elders and overseers for the time and energy they put in and how valuable and appreciated that was. Our friend also expressed thanks to the Clerk for the speedy response in putting together and sending off the letter to our local MPs regarding our concerns ahead of the recent votes in Parliament over possible military action in Syria.
We all agreed with this and another friend spoke for us all when they said that the compositionletter was 120% right in how it spoke for the local meeting.
Are your meetings for church affairs held in a spirit of worship and in dependence on the guidance of God? Remember that we do not seek a majority decision nor even consensus. As we wait patiently for divine guidance our experience is that the right way will open and we shall be led into unity.
There is little point in praying to be enabled to overcome some temptation, and then putting oneself in the very position in which the temptation can exert all its fascination. There is little point in praying that the sorrowing may be comforted and the lonely cheered, unless we ourselves set out to bring comfort and cheer to the sad and neglected in our own surroundings. There is little point in praying for our home and for our loved ones, and in going on being as selfish and inconsiderate as we have been. Prayer would be an evil rather than a blessing if it were only a way of getting God to do what we ourselves will not make the effort to do. God does not do things for us – he enables us to do them for ourselves.
Elisabeth Holmgaard, 1984
Quaker Faith & Practice 2.28
Another friend spoke of being reminded of a story where a man was visiting meetings around the country and arrived early at one meeting house so sat down in a chair to wait for friends to arrive. The first person to arrive promptly asked them to move as the place they had chose was where they normally sat.
They too were not sat where they normally liked to be seated but though they sat with their back to the window they felt they became more aware of the sounds of birds through the door left open so as to allow a breeze to cool a still warm late summer morning. They were grateful that sitting elsewhere had enhanced their appreciation of the sounds of nearby nature.
Thanks and appreciation was also expressed for friends who were at Balcombe as part of concerns regarding fracking.
What is my religion? My friends, my teachers, my God. And who is my God? He speaks within me; if I mishear, my friends correct me; if I misdo, I look to Jesus Christ. How then am I taught? I hear in the silence, I ponder in solitude, and I try in the noisy crowd to practise it. What do I learn? To put gaiety before prudence, grace before pleasure, service before power. What am I commanded? To seek patience in suffering, humility in success, steadfastness always. What is forbidden me? To reject another's love, to despise another's wisdom, to blaspheme another's God. And to what purpose? To help others, that we may enter the Commonwealth of Heaven together, each to find our Being in the Whole.
Frederick Parker-Rhodes, 1977 – Quaker Faith and Practice 26.41
This passage was read out today at meeting.
Another friend expressed their appreciation of the unprogrammed silent meeting and the opportunity to grab other small moments of stillness as their occur. These moments were sometimes a much treasured escape for them. They also referenced 1 Corinthians 10:13 in relation to coping with life's challenges.
A few notices of note. A first hand report of last Thursday's Area Meeting in Milton Keynes and leaflets from Harpenden Quaker meeting in relation to their appeal for help realising their refurbishment initiatives.
There was lots of friendly chat after meeting with a shared cuppa as usual and pleasure in meeting a visiting friend whose work has limited their ability for involvement and attendance as regularly as had been possible in past years. Much smiles.