— Quakers in Britain (@BritishQuakers) November 20, 2013
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.
Wolf Mendl, 1974
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.
We’ve moved to a three week cycle for Quaker Study evenings (no honest, really) which was largely to give us all a chance to examine personally our own personal spiritual development.
Last night we basically skipped through the book Deepening the life of the spirit -resources for spiritual practice by Ginny Wall .
The book suggests a number of spiritual development practices detailed on a chapter by chapter basis.
Appleseed – A process described as enabling thinking and feeling to work together so that space can be made for the Spirit to be experienced and grow within. Suggested practices include spontaneous painting, Word collage (which sound a bit like a variation of the famous Burroughs cut up technique) and using a collection of random collected postcards or images to suggest the telling of a personal story.
Bible Study – As it sounds but including reading passages aloud to a group, reflecting in silence before seeing if contemplation brings a number of vocal reflections between the silence.
Body Prayer – A kind of Tai Chi (without the martial arts element) meets prayer. Praying through our bodies and body movements.
Gratitude Practices – Various exercising for focussing on the things we can be grateful for. Put me in mind of a radio phone-in show years ago that would reserve Fridays for the ‘wonderful hour’ where callers could only call in to talk about what they had to be grateful for.
Experiment with light – Based on the discoveries of early Friends. Explained succinctly here (PDF download).
Other chapters include; Journalling as a spiritual practice, listening prayer, mindfulness of breath ( and many more mindfulness related exercises), a review of the day, Sacred reading, Visualisation and walking meditation.
So we’ll be trying some of these out and be getting together at the next study meeting to share our experiences. Some of us will be more attracted to some practices more readily than others but it’s hoped that we all try even the ones that we may not be initially attracted to.
“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.”
Quaker Faith & Practice – Advices & Queries 42
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.
The story began in 2007 when a lady began extending her semi- detached cottage in Blanche Lane , South Mimms . Builders started to excavate at the back of the house to discover to their horror buried bones and eventually 32 skeletons , some in coffins.
The ghoulish discovery reached the national press – police and forensic officers sealed off the area and after foul play had been ruled out the origin of the bones were discovered. Local council records revealed that the house had been built on the site of a 17th century Quaker meeting house and burial ground. A decision had to be made about what to do with the remains. Quakers in London were consulted and eventually suggested the remains should be cremated- an undertaker informed the home owner that the cost of cremation would be around £800 per body. Fortunately it was found that Luton Meeting was willing for the bones to be laid to rest in their lovely , tranquil burial ground , without charge.
On 13th May 2008 three caskets were laid to rest in a simple , moving ceremony at the burial site . Gathered round were a number of Quakers, the home owner and builders, all wanting to show their respect to the unknown dead.
The words of John Rowntree were read out :
“ Love bridges death. We are the comrades of those who are gone; though death separates us , their work , their fortitude , their love shall be ours .”
Quaker archives record that in South Mimms meetings were held in the house of Samuel Hodges , a butcher , who was fined for holding them in 1683. In 1686 he sold land to Quakers for £5 as a site for a meeting house and in 1697 this was built along with a burial ground . By 1801 Quakers met there only occasionally and in 1820 both the meeting house and burial ground were sold for£120.
In the 1600s Quakers were persecuted for their beliefs and were not allowed to be buried in consecrated church grounds. Instead burials often took place in the countryside.
It is ironic that the site – used by Quakers , who were known for their simple lifestyles – should now accommodate a home cinema and a gym –trappings of an indulgent 21st century lifestyle.
Written by Carol Bond
Our Clerk to Luton Quakers moved quickly to contact our local Members of Parliament ahead of yesterday's vote on military action in Syria.
Dear Kelvin and Gavin
We ask you – and the Labour Party – to oppose military intervention in Syria. In spite of claims emanating from the government that it would be legal in international law, that does not seem to be the case. Any such action would be legally justified only if agreed by the UN Security Council. This has been restated in terms of the "responsibility to protect", subsequently approved by UN security council resolution 1674.
Quakers nationally have made this statement:
“Quakers in Britain are appalled by the suffering and loss of life on all sides in Syria. We understand – and share – the wish of the international community to take some form of action to reduce the bloodshed, but we strongly urge those who are tempted to respond militarily to think again.
“Air strikes will kill people just as surely as chemical attacks. All weapons must seem equally abhorrent if it is your family that is being killed. Punishment for use of specific kinds of weapon is no justification for further acts of war or for supplying yet more weapons.
"New participants in a war will breed new hatreds. Experience of other conflicts shows that supposedly simple or 'surgical' military interventions usually become messy and hard to end. We are convinced that even when some kind of victory is claimed, the deep harm done by violence always outweighs the supposed benefits.
We beg those in power to work with diligence through the United Nations and all diplomatic channels to bring peace nearer. We challenge them to use their resources and imaginations creatively. Please don't fall into the old trap of thinking that taking any action is bound to be better than doing nothing."
It is as though the US, UK and France have learned nothing from the huge unintended consequences and terrible suffering wrought by military interventions in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya, while claiming a moral high-ground that is not justified, if only given their own retention of nuclear weapons.
We understand that many MPs in all parties are deeply uneasy about or opposed to the action that the government seems likely to propose. Please act to save the people of Syria and in all likelihood other countries from this madness.With best wishes
Clerk to Luton Quakers