Tag Archives: #bym2012

#bym2012 day #3

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.

#BYM2012 Day #2

This morning’s session of Britain Yearly Meeting reminded me of everything that is good about silent, expectant, waiting on God. The clerks entered the room and Friends fell silent. We entered worship. And we gave worth to God. We waited and the silence was the ministry. And as we waited the ministry was the silence.

I was reminded afterwards of the world conference of Friends and how different it was in Kenya. Then, whenever there was unprogrammed meeting for worship it didn’t take long before Friends were on their feet, ready to minister. And they ministered and they ministered. Not for a long time necessarily, but many people ministered. The only time they didn’t was when it was announced that there would be a period of silent worship and no ministry was allowed.

So back to Britain and being in a room of several hundred people. And the microphones remained in their stands and the microphone stewards were not called upon, though they remained vigilant.

Today was a day about worship.

Later the session rolled on and we had a report from Meeting for Sufferings, about what they had been up to and looking forward to the new triennial, which begins in the next few months.

Then we moved onto an update on sustainability issues. This came to the fore last year in what has since become known just as ‘minute 36‘ or ‘the Canterbury commitment’ – that Quakers commit to becoming a low carbon sustainable community. The reporter was a Friend who I know as a good speaker and eloquent and amusing writer and today was no exception. He gave us a serious ministry that was always uplifting without shying away from the problematic issues.

There has been a decent response to the request for meetings to benchmark their carbon usage and a picture is beginning to emerge. This is certainly not a short-term project and yet there is a need to see a significant reduction in carbon usage by 2015 and by 2050 we need to be down to 10% of current levels.

But we are a small part of a much larger society, country and world and we need to engage out there, not just within our Quaker communities.

From sustainability to economic justice. I can’t write about this, even though I was there. For it all just slipped on by me. The Friend that I was sitting next to said afterwards that the introductory talk was excellent and worthy of republication. But I couldn’t tell you what had been said – it seemed to pass right through me and felt quite beyond me. So I let it go and tried to stay in worship.

Consequently, I didn’t go to the afternoon session as I felt a bit out of sorts when it was beginning. Tired, even. I bumped into some Conservative Quakers and we found a room and worshipped together for a half an hour or so. I drifted into sleep then but came out feeling like I was at equilibrium again.

This evening Rachel Brett delivered the Swarthmore Lecture. Rachel has been the human rights and refugees programme representative for the Quakers at the United Nations in Geneva for some nineteen years or so. She first worked at QUNO in the 1970s and found her calling. Much of the rest of her life up to 1993 was in preparation for QUNO, it turned out. Now, nearing retirement, she had been asked to deliver the Swarthmore Lecture.

The lecture is delivered in the spirit of worship. At the end the lecturer sits down, no one applauds and we continue in worship until the lecturer shakes hands with another Friend who is sitting alongside them.

Having interned with Rachel in 2002 at the Human Rights Commission and having participated in the Quaker UN Summer School before that in 2001, I am a convert to the work of QUNO and a supporter in prayer, upholding and by giving money to support their work. Her subject used to be my subject, in a way and I found myself hanging onto every word.

I was pleased that some fellow Quaker UN Summer School alumni were there too and one has agreed to write up a review for Nayler. After the lecture we met up at the Cider Tap pub opposite Friends House and there were Summer School alumni from as far back as 1955, the inaugural year of the Summer School. And to top it off, one of the barmen mentioned that he attended Quaker Meeting for a few years when he was a kid.

It was a great way to finish the day, hanging out with lots of lovely people.

To donate to the Quaker UN Summer School bursary fund, click here.

#BYM2012 day #1

It was never going to be the same as the world conference of Quakers, but it didn’t disappoint. It was just different.

In Kenya, I loved going into the auditorium and there being music and singing for the lord before the formal worship. When I entered the large meeting house at the beginning of Britain Yearly Meeting, there was the familiar sound of chatter. But plenty of familiar faces from the world conference and I sat next to one in the east block.

I couldn’t see the east gallery above me, so I don’t know the figures but otherwise I would estimate that we were around 3-400 together in worship for the first session of Britain Yearly Meeting tonight.

Last year, at the beginning of the Yearly Meeting Gathering we had an Ivor the Engine story. It was told in homage to Oliver Postgate who was a Quaker who lived in Kent as well as a creator of television programmes for children. And there had been Paul Parker, the recording clerk, playing his oboe. This year Paul didn’t have an instrument with him and the clerks played it straight. There was occasional laughter from the odd thing said, including an assistant clerk’s comment about mixing up East Anglia and Wales.

Much of the first session of yearly meeting business is procedural. It needs to be done, since we have set ourselves a course of self-governance that requires discipline and attention to detail in order to build the foundation that gives us freedom to explore the leadings of the spirit across the rest of our sessions. But even the procedure is grounded in worship and the opening worship felt deep and still to me tonight.

We finished the session with three Friends sharing their reflections from the world conference. One, Rosie, has written a long piece on the Sheffield Quakers blog and if you read her post you’ll get a flavour of what she shared with us in session. And finally we sang together ‘Seek ye the kingdom of God’ and it sounded as good then as it did together in Kenya.

Earlier in the day I had spent around 4 hours around by the Britain Yearly Meeting display in the Quaker Centre. There we have a slideshow of images from our Quaker work, as well as lots of materials to take away. We’ve also got a quilt lovingly made by a Friend in Cheshire, which is on sale to raise funds for our yearly meeting’s work.

It was great meeting so many people who were passing through the Quaker Centre, meeting old friends and recognising names from correspondence and meeting in person. Lots of people asked me why I was wearing a suit though, continuing the theme from Kenya where mostly British Friends were surprised by my choice of clothing and felt the need to comment on it.

Finally, I finished the day with a cycle ride home with Laura. She took me on a tour of south London back streets, my favourite named one being Bird in the Bush Road. We recorded a Nayler podcast together but my phone battery ran out and corrupted the file. It was great cycling home with a good friend, chatting and singing and just riding with the Light into the dusk of the day.