Quakers embark on new shaping of their guidebook

Quakers decided at their annual gathering to look again at their handbook Quaker Faith and Practice.  The process follows years of thought and discussion locally, and is likely to take several more to complete.  Revision will be highly inclusive, and appeals for comments and suggested additions are underway.  The final draft(s) will be approved by the Yearly Meeting, a gathering at which every Quaker is entitled to attend.

Considerations raised during the process include:

-the need to reflect the range of current Quaker interests and thought, and draw more on Quaker insights from around the world

-the need to separate out broad principles and the spiritual dimension from detailed guidance, which often changes more rapidly and is best left to separate handbooks

-the need for the book to be more accessible in various ways – at its simplest, it opens well but the chapters are not in a good order for beginners.  It may have images, diagrams, video…

-the need to hear from younger Friends and be fully inclusive

 

I hope Winchmore Hill will feel the challenge and rise to it.

 

Stephen

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Open Gardens 9th and 10th June: all welcome

Open garden 06 18

Quakers in Enfield are taking part in the London-wide event of Open Gardens.

Free. Come and enjoy the tranquility of the historic garden at the Friends Meeting House, Winchmore Hill. See our Peace Tree and learn more about the historic burial ground. Free refreshments.

Winchmore Hill Friends Meeting House, 59 Church Hill, N21 1LE.

Accessibility: Some ground in the garden is uneven and can have unexpected holes. Wheelchair access to the building is good. All ages welcome.

 

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Compliments from our Anglican neighbour

We were very pleased to welcome Daniel Sandham, Vicar of St Paul’s, our nearest place of worship, to our art exhibition and delighted to read this piece in their parish newsletter. Click on this hyperlink, St Pauls parish newsletter

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God and the Book

It was kind of Simon Jenkins in the Guardian to write about the proposed revision of the Quaker handbook.  He managed to get it completely round his neck.  Christian Today also wrote a piece, which said we might revise it because of Sex.  That’s also not right.

Quaker Faith and Practice

has been revised every generation or so.  It is several things in one.

  • Advices and Queries -  a set of challenges and advice in 42 short paragraphs, aimed at individuals and groups.  It’s a distillation of British Quakerism.  You can read it online or get it in a free booklet.
  • A big compendium of things Quakers have said that still speak to us.  Sometimes there are a number of differing views.  Not every extract speaks to every Quaker – people’s experience and choice of words differs.
  • Practical stuff like who owns the burial grounds and how the central committee works.   And the spiritual underpinning of that.

Over one thousand two hundred Quakers adults and children will gather in London this weekend and seek to make a decision whether to revise the book.  I think they probably will.

On Sex (and gender), we’ll probably want to reflect on our growing understanding of trans and non-binary Friends.  We supported the legislation that allowed trans people’s identity to be more easily recognised.  Our successful campaign for same sex marriage has already been added.

Our understanding of the threat to the planet has moved on since 1994 and needs to be reflected.

On God, Quakers have never enforced a single statement of belief, seeing instead that faith must be lived rather than philosophically endorsed. When I came into British Quakers in 1994, I was at the tail end of the last revision.  There were people in the three meetings I used who believed in God in the same way as other liberal Christians did, those who believed in a whole range of things which they called God, and many who were uncertain about, or rejected the word altogether. That remains the case, although I guess the numbers may have shifted somewhat.

Friends often speak about ‘that of God in everyone’ which some see as one’s own higher self or a higher power in everyone, whereas others see it as the Holy Spirit poured out on us all without distinction. What matters is that we can meet together in worship.  Quaker worship is less about silence – you can’t stop birds – and more about a stillness.  In our worship we are changed, our worship and our service to others come from the same roots, and that we don’t let words get in the way of that.

I hope and expect that any revision will both bolster those who find traditional language useful and add to the voices in our existing writings who do not.

I for one have had a real change of heart as the decision approaches, seeing less the bumps in the road, and the possibilities of a revision.  The core of what being a Quaker means to me should remain.

Stephen

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The Bundle – an asylum seeker’s story

Saturday 12th May 7.30pm, Winchmore Hill Meeting House.

The Bundle jpeg

 

Free performance of The Bundle – an asylum seeker’s story performed by the Journeymen Theatre organised by Tottenham Quakers as part of their Sanctuary Meeting commitment.

This play is the story of one woman’s journey from persecution in her home country to the UK and then through the asylum system. Based closely on the story of a real woman and her children, the play moves from the tradition of the folk tale to that of satire as it charts one person’s bid for freedom, safety and hope.

There is no charge for this performance, although donations to organisations working with migrants will be welcome.  However, we are asking people to book for the play via Eventbrite  Further information can be found on the Eventbrite page or you can email info(at)Tottenhamquakers.org.uk

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Come to our art exhibition

Art exhibition poster

Saturday 14 & Sunday 15 April, 1-5pm

Paintings, drawings, photographs, weaving and mixed-media works will be on display. The work will be as varied as the individuals who make up the North London Area Meeting, but all inspired by Quaker experience, be it directly from the silence of meeting for worship or from wider aspects of life as a Quaker.

Come and enjoy the art, our beautiful 18th century Meeting House, tranquil garden, and a cup of tea and a cake.

Winchmore Hill Friends Meeting House, 59 Church Hill, Enfield, N21 1LE. Free entrance and refreshments.

Accessibility: The ground in the garden is uneven and can have unexpected holes. Wheelchair access to the building is good.

Enquiries to winchmorehillquakers(at)gmail.com.

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Art exhibition

Work is underway on an art exhibition on 14-15 April by members and attenders of North London Area Quaker Meeting. It will be held at Winchmore Hill Quaker Meeting House.  Do come in April and see how we have filled the frames and enjoy the lovely building, tranquil garden and tea and cakes.

The exhibits will be produced by North London Area Quakers.  This can be painting, drawing, photography, collage or just about anything. Work can reflect one’s thoughts, observations, insights and feelings of your Quaker life and/or your experience of Meeting.  The exhibition will be open to the general public. Members and attenders are encouraged to invite friends and family.

Closing date for entries is 7 April.  For further information please contact Mark Friend, mjcf1969(at)virginmedia.com

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Benjamin Lay story in Hackney Citizen

The Benjamin Lay story has been covered here.

Annoying ableism.

https://www.hackneycitizen.co.uk/2017/11/22/hackney-quakers-make-amends-disowning-radical-anti-slavery-dwarf-300-years-ago/

 

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North London Quakers right a past wrong – look to present injustice

In an unusual move, North London Quakers formally expressed unity with a Quaker expelled from the movement three hundred years ago.

Benjamin Lay was disowned by Devonshire House Monthly Meeting, our predecessor body, for radical positions expressed in theatrical ways.  Lay opposed slavery and also supported gender equality and vegetarianism.  Quakers did not come down against their members owning slaves until 1727 and were absolute pioneers and the backbone of the national campaign against the slave trade in the 1770s.

The discussion aimed not just to redress a historical injustice but also asked us to consider how racial and other oppressions flourish, and what we do to address them.  The minute reads:

We have received a letter, from Tim Gee of Peckham Local Meeting, previously of Bunhill Fields Local Meeting, about a previous member of Devonshire House Monthly Meeting, Benjamin Lay, who was disassociated with the Monthly Meeting in 1790 due to his radical activism in attempts to teach his peers to recognize the equality before God of all people, regardless of race or gender.

Quakers are proud of the times in history we have been ahead of our time on progressive social issues – but preceding those moments, there have often been long periods when we have not walked the path we would later understand to be the just one. At a time when racism seems as present and ugly as ever – both globally and nationally – and the structures of white supremacy are being defended and strengthened by powerful forces in our societies, this seems a timely moment for North London Area Meeting to reflect on its involvement in the struggle for racial justice.

North London Area Meeting recognises Benjamin Lay’s dedication to equality – and his willingness to repeatedly speak his messages of Truth. We also recognise Benjamin Lay as being a Friend of the Truth – and as being in unity with the spirit of our Area Meeting.

We ask our Clerking team to write to Philadelphia Yearly Meeting, Abington Monthly Meeting and Southern East Anglia Area Meeting (successor to Colchester & Coggeshall Monthly Meeting) to clarify that Lay is in good standing with North London Area Meeting (successor to Devonshire House Monthly Meeting).

We encourage Tim Gee to write an article about this matter for the Friend.

 

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Tweet cheerfully all over the world

Winchmore Hill Quakers have launched our new twitter account.

Take heed, dear Friends, to the promptings of love and truth in your hearts. Trust them as the leadings of God whose light shows us our darkness and brings us to new life. (Winchmore Hill Quakers’ first tweet!)

With well over 30 million users of Facebook and over 20 million Twitter, (UK estimates) it makes sense for us to be on both.

This is not just about talking to other Quakers, but to be open, seen and findable.  Twitter has some very unfortunate aspects, but its not the job of the people of faith to retreat from difficulty.

It was interesting at the meeting of Churches Together in Palmers Green and Winchmore Hill yesterday, to find that only our neighbours in St Pauls are on Twitter, and Winchmore Hill URC ‘will be when we can find someone to do it’.

 

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