I think that it is worth re-pointing out here (as I do in the about page of my blog) that the views contained within all my blogposts are my own and are not intended to be those of my employers or any organisations that I volunteer for.
What does being a Quaker mean to me? Everything. How can it not? There’s an Inner Light that has stirred within me and I has wrought changes upon my life over the past twelve years or so.
These thoughts are stirred first by Geoffrey Durham’s prepared ministry this afternoon about what being a Quaker means. Afterwards a friend said to me that it was during Geoffrey’s ministry that the yearly meeting came together and really felt alive for the first time this weekend.
We don’t have to please everyone who comes to us – we’re not a pick ‘n’ mix religion. We shouldn’t be afraid to offend people, not because we’re being rude, but because our faith, our journeys, aren’t for everyone.
Like George Fox writing about standing still in the Light – we trust our decisions because they spring from a deep place.
And now could be the time to forget some of the labels like Christian, theist, non-theist, Buddhist or whatever. The word Quaker is enough. The discipline of Quakerism is more important than any other word, said Geoffrey.
And discipline is an important word said Geoffrey. He quoted text from our Quaker Faith & Practice chapter 11 at 11.01 and 11.10. 11.10, about the process of applying for membership, reads: For the individual this process is likely to reflect a wish to make a public statement to show their commitment to the discipline of Friends and their recognition that this is their spiritual home.
Geoffrey talked about discovering that he is a Christian Quaker, a Christian without a creed and he quoted text from Isaac Penington in 1660.
I’ve never known such kindness as in Quaker community, he said. Then Geoffrey quoted Plato, to the effect that we should be kind to everyone who we meet as everyone is fighting a hard battle.
Listen with love, kindness and creativity, embrace the worshipping community that we are and discern what we may become.
Find the words to describe our faith is important to me and is one of the reasons why I set up my Nayler blog. We Quakers need to be able to talk about our faith and our Quaker journeys. Not necessarily as eloquently as Geoffrey but finding our own authentic language.
This was underlined for me when I got home. An old friend wrote to me tonight by email. We had lost touch some years ago but she was writing because when we had been in touch some ten years ago I had told her about my new Quaker faith. My friend wrote that our conversation had stayed with her and today she had attended a Quaker meeting for the first time and was writing to thank me for having mentioned it to her all those years ago.
I would have talked to her about my experience of Quakerism because I was excited about the path I was taking in life. I still am. I hope that you are too. And that you can find the words to talk about it with people you know who aren’t Quakers. Not because you need to pressurise them but because you’ve got a good thing going on here and if it as precious as making you want to go and worship every week, then it must be worth telling someone about it.
In yearly meeting session today I heard a member of Quaker Stewardship Committee giving a report about their activities. QSC works as a link between church and charity and since 2002 has been giving support to trustees, especially in finance and property matters. As well as individually-tailored advice, some of their outputs are Treasurers News, the annual conference of treasurers and conferences for trustees.
Afterwards, it was the turn of Britain Yearly Meeting trustees and both the clerk and the treasurer spoke. The trustees’ role is primarily one of stewardship and also oversight of assets and property as well as the administration of the yearly meeting work. The trustees’ report shows how Quakers’ money is being used and raises awareness of work being done. Issues that came up included the Large Meeting House and sustainability. The former has led to some controversy as the trustees recently decided not to include a James Turrell skyspace in the plans for refurbishment of this room, which is let out for events for most of the year and serves as the space for yearly meeting in session for 4 days in the year, but not even every year.
There was also an exercise, ‘postcards from the future’, which was a guided meditation in which we were encouraged to see a vision of a perfect future and were then encouraged to write out the first steps that we would take towards that future. We had five minutes and the rest of our lives, we were told.
Something I heard about today that sits uncomfortably with me is on the subject of electronic communications during yearly meeting sessions. We were asked at the beginning of yearly meeting not to tweet or blog during session, as we are to concentrate on being present. Yesterday our friend Ann Limb (@annlimb) tweeted: “Hot afternoon in Friends House @BritishQuakers fascinating ministry on economic justice and sustainability @quakerquaker”. This was followed by a second tweet: “Just to make clear #bym2012 @British Quakers I’m not actually in Meeting just sitting outside listening. No tweeting in meeting!!?”
In my view, physically sitting outside of a session of yearly meeting but listening to the ministry and tweeting or blogging about it might be within the letter of the guidance but I feel that it falls squarely outside the Spirit. I hope that those of us Friends who do embrace tech communication will refrain from testing out the boundaries of this guidance and will respect it in its entirety. We should not be discouraged from sharing about what we have heard and learned after the session, whether we use twitter, blogs or other communications, just not during the session.
My day finished with a global singing session led by the brilliant Mark Russ. He led about 200 of us in worship songs from different languages and cultures and had us laughing, relaxing and belting out some beautiful songs in no time at all. Mark was doing this as part of his work with The Leaveners, the Quaker performing arts organisation. I had a great time praising the lord. Amen.