Flowers in Meeting for Worship

2014 09 28 new meeting

  • Do you have flowers or books on a table in the middle of Meeting for Worship?
  • If you do – what books and who chooses them?
  • Have you worshipped outside?

All of these questions and more are being asked by Peter Duckworth who is coming to the end of a two year Equipping For Ministry (EFM) Course at Woodbrooke Quaker Study Centre. During the course he has developed an interest in the motivations for use of flowers and books in Meeting for Worship. Many Friends are deeply attached to the practice though it is a relatively recent innovation, one not generally used by American Friends and alien to the practice of early Quakers.

As part of his EFM Project, Peter was prompted to find out more about how widespread the practice is and what the experience and understanding of Friends might be. He has developed a short ‘flowers in meeting survey‘ which he asks for Friends to complete – it won’t take long and each answer helps to give a fuller picture.

My current meeting meets in rented accommodation and doesn’t tend to have flowers; many people don’t have a garden to plunder or come by bike. I haven’t noticed any difference in how I settle or worship without flowers – but do enjoy them when they appear.

Everything can happen….

2015 09 26 everything is possible23.32 is one of my favourite passages – Ursula Franklin talks about the her enjoyment of sitting in silence at the beginning of meeting knowing that everything can happen.

It always makes me think of an encounter with a homeless ex-catholic priest while volunteering at the Quaker Centre at Friends House. A large part of the role is to meet the public and discuss aspects of Quaker beliefs and history with them.

Suddenly, in the middle of a personal history monologue, my visitor leant forward and putting an arm on the desk said earnestly,

“I have been meaning to ask you…. do you go to Meeting?”,

after I confirmed that I went most Sundays, he continued.

“So…. do you have miracles every Sunday?”

I don’t remember exactly what I said, something along the lines of ‘not every Sunday’. But ever since, that question has been mulled over on a regular basis. Remembering the idea of all days being created equal, I’ve felt the question could have easily been: “Do I have miracles happen every day?”

Maintaining that expectant waiting that I go into Meeting for Worship throughout the week would be tricky but I think returning to it regularly would also be worthwhile. Something to consider the next time the days start to blur together through work or family stresses.

So – what miracles have happened in your life?

Do you look for them?

This post is part of my Reading Quaker Faith & Practice series – click here for the introduction and explanation or here for all posts in this series.

Qf&p Chapter 23: Social Responsibility

2015 04 12 Qf&P stones Chapter 23

This chapter is the first in the calendar to read through.

It contains the following sections:

  • Faith in Action
  • Corporate Responsibility
  • Social Responsibility – poverty and house; slavery; torture; discrimination and disadvantage
  • The Individual and the Community – work and economic affairs; education
  • Friends and state authority – conscription; crime and punishment

Fifteen passages have the word ‘Light’ in and therefore are part of my current Qf&P journal.

I had already journalled several earlier in the year, but will be contemplating the remaining nine throughout this month. Exploring the chapter through discussion with my groups and reading through some of the other Quaker blog posts as well.

I’m looking forward to the reading, as this isn’t a chapter that is as heavily thumbed as some others – but with 103 passages, plus an afterword this is a full month of reading.

 

This post is part of my Reading Quaker Faith & Practice series – click here for the introduction and explanation or here for all posts in this series.

Qf&P: Chapter Twenty One – Personal Journey

2015 04 12 Qf&P stones Chapter 21This chapter is the first in the calendar to read through.

It contains the following sections:

  • Youth – six passages
  • Knowing & accepting ourselves – fourteen passages
  • Living a full life – six passages
  • Creativity – sixteen passages
  • Getting older – five passages
  • Death – ten passages
  • Suffering and healing – fourteen passages

There are many here that I have annotated, circled or drawn lines beside, ones that have become part of my spiritual journey.

Twelve have the word ‘Light’ in and therefore are part of my current Qf&P journal.

I had already journalled about three earlier in the year, but will be using the remaining nine throughout this month.

This post is part of my Reading Quaker Faith & Practice series – click here for the introduction and explanation or here for all posts in this series.

Reading through Quaker Faith & Practice – an introduction

2015 04 12 Qf&P stones 2From October 1st 2015 until April 2017, alongside many others, I will be taking part in a group reading through of Quaker Faith & Practice (Qf&P). I’m taking part in both on-line groups and discussions – plus a physical discussion group in my local meeting. I’ll share some of my thoughts and discoveries here too and welcome comments.

This project was suggested by the The Book of Discipline Revision Preparation Group who have worked with Quaker Life and Woodbrooke to prepare discussion material and a calendar of suggested readings.

I will be using some of the techniques I’ve developed for Life Artistry and those at the link above to explore Qf&P with my local group. In addition I’m looking forward to all of the discussions feeding into my own spiritual journey and seeing how this changes my usage of Quaker Faith & Practice.

2015-09-29 16.06.34Like most Quaker children I was given a copy of the current book of discipline at age 16.

Back then it was two volumes, ‘Church Government’ and ‘Christian Faith & Practice in the experience of the Society of Friends’.

Although I don’t usually write in other books, my copies tend to be annotated with comments and symbols, using bookmarks or tags for important passages – or ones I was planning to refer to when giving a talk.

I have copies of several editions of the current ‘Quaker Faith & Practice’ both physical and most recently as an ebook as well. It is referred to often and for this year (well before Yearly Meeting made the decision to consider if a new edition should be looked at) I’ve been reading through all of the passages that contain the word ‘LIGHT’ as that is the word I’ve been concentrating on and exploring this year. I choose a word every year and have done so for over a decade.

To find the rest of the posts in this series click on this link or on the Qf&P category in the right hand margin.

Quaker A-Z: Z is for Zen

Wallpaper Zen Spirit 1280x800 edition 2006Z is for Zen

No, I’m not suggesting that you become a Buddhist or learn to meditate. Instead I’m suggesting you find a way to bring a bit of Zen acceptance of what is, into your life.

While managing a meeting house you have to accept that there will be days when:

  • Someone thinks that pouring cornstarch and jelly into the toilet is a good idea, and is confused as to why this didn’t work as a disposal mechanism.*
  • Someone decides your garden/doorstep/outside space is a toilet or a rough sleeping area causing disruption and upset to the others using the building.
  • Someone discovers that the downstairs is completely flooded by the storm water coming up through the basement toilets to the level of several inches (and it is still raining hard).
  • Someone takes out their frustration and anger at you for things that are outside your control, and you didn’t even know about.*
  • Someone steals or breaks or loses items that are rather vital to the smooth running of the building – leaving you to deal with the fall out.
  • Someone comes to ask deep questions about Quakerism and their own spiritual journey – while at least one of the above is also happening, leaving you to wonder about your own spiritual journey and nourishment.

It is very easy to become stressed and to feel as if running the building for the meeting is no longer a service offered with joy, but instead is a headache that you wish would go away.

It is at this time you should remember that Quaker Faith & Practice contains wisdom to cling to in difficult times:

A&Q 23: In times of difficulty remind yourself of the value of prayer, of perseverance and of a sense of humour.

Find a way forward that supports you and shares the stress of your trials and tribulations.

  • Join the Wardenship e-list
  • Attend a Wardens’ Talking event organised by Quaker Life
  • Attend a Managing Your Meeting House event at Woodbrooke
  • Set up a chance for all Premises members in your local area to get together to swap stories and best practice.

There is much to be said for the value of a well told story, to a nodding listener who understands the complexities of sharing a beloved building with the public, and that the most difficult users may attend on a Sunday morning…

To browse through all of the posts click on the Quaker A-Z link here or in the side bar.

*Messy play lead to messy toilet unblocking – which wasn’t helped by the glitter they’d included in both.

*My favourite of these is the person who was furious to discover that they’d been thinking it was Thursday all day and turned up for their class…. Which wasn’t on – as it was actually Wednesday, and blamed me for this. “You have ruined my evening!” I listened and said I was sorry for their disappointment.

Quaker A-Z: Y is for D.I.Yourself

Urban Greening red paint jobY is for Do it Yourself

Quakers have a long and worthy history of working together to solve large and small problems. Painting parties, working in the garden – even the Quaker Tapestry was done as a group effort.

As mentioned in V is for Volunteers you may get professional people volunteering and you should always ensure that the people you are asking to do the work have the skills necessary – or are paired with those that do.

Of course there will be times when it is best to bring in outside or at least competent people to do the work. In Six Weeks Meeting’s Handbook

Members of Premises Committees or wardens will often be able to undertake small routine maintenance tasks such as changing light bulbs, checking electrical leads, renewing tap washers and minor attention to decorations. In some cases members may be qualified to undertake more major tasks, but Committees must not entrust work to those who,
however keen, are not sufficiently skilful, experienced or qualified to undertake it.
.
The use of inexperienced or unskilled labour can result in expensive damage even with apparently straightforward tasks such as decorating. Safety is paramount for those undertaking voluntary work and it is also essential that there is adequate insurance cover. Friends must ensure that any work they carry out themselves is in accordance with current regulations…

At a Wardens’ Talking event we were asked to write on post-its the most annoying bit of our jobs. One of those read out was, “I feel the I spend my time putting right the efforts of bumbling amateurs.”

Without hesitation I turned to Vincent (my husband and at the time co-warden) and asked, “Yours?”

“Yep!”

Thankfully that wasn’t a common feeling. After that, we continued in that job for more than a decade.

To browse through all of the posts click on the Quaker A-Z link here or in the side bar.

Quaker A-Z: X is for eX-hibitions

climb up to the moor flyer3X is for eXhibition

Earlier this week I went into Friends House specifically to visit this exhibition – and thoroughly enjoyed it. Gorgeous colours and textures shown off beautifully in the space, the sound track enhanced the art as you moved around the exhibit.

There were several Ffriendly faces that I recognised, but there were also others who had been tempted into the space because of the art.

I was delighted to see such an event and was glad to hear that it had been busy and attracted people who were in Friends House for other reasons as well as those attracted by the exhibition.

I’ve known several meeting houses hold similar events – ranging from small displays in the lobby to larger installations which fill the entire building. Kingston Quaker Centre, which opened in September 2014, built in picture display rails to the main communal area with the expectation that they will hold exhibitions at some time.

So why hold such an event?

It can be a form of inreach – a way of supporting and encouraging members of the meeting, members of the wider Quaker community (Area Meeting to Yearly Meeting and beyond) who are artists professionally or as a hobby.

It can involve artists in other faith groups who are producing spiritually inspired work on a similar theme, encouraging discussion across boundaries.

It can encourage people to visit the building who wouldn’t otherwise. A form of outreach and marketing – as visitors may remember the venue when they next organise an event.

It can show regular visitors aspects of Quaker beliefs and testimonies in a way that a leaflet rack, no matter how well stocked, cannot.

It can inspire discussion and exploration of the themes within the meeting, with these discussions occurring across ages and involving the whole worshipping community.

It can raise money for a specific cause or for general Quaker work or support the artists who created the work.

It can be fun as the group work together to create something beautiful.

Inspired?

Although the Climb up to the Moor exhibition was also a lot of work, done by a dedicated group from the Quaker Arts Network.

However, you can start smaller – displaying a range of historical peace posters such as those available from the Quaker Book Shop, or a series of prints from the Quaker Tapestry (perhaps linked to one of their Slide Talks?)

  • Have you ever held an exhibition at your building?
  • Have you any hints or tips to help such an event go smoothly?

To browse through all of the posts click on the Quaker A-Z link here or in the side bar.

Quaker A-Z: W is for Where does the money go?

2013 06 18 Collection box

W is for Where does the money go?

One of the difficulties I have found in both being a warden, and in dealing with finances is that most people aren’t interested.

They nod politely when you mention money, glance at the account reports briefly when presented (if they’ve attended Business Meeting) and it is usually the same small group of people who actually ask any questions.

During the Treasurer’s Course at Woodbrooke earlier this year Alison Gray, one of the facilitators, shared the reports given to her local meeting.

Alison explained that as she is a primary school teacher she’s used to explaining complex matters in a simple fashion. “I ask my children if they can understand these reports, if they can then I know I can take them to Meeting.”

2015 03 01 Alison's flipchart treasurer's presentation pg12015 03 01 Alison's flipchart treasurer's presentation pg2  More traditional spreadsheets and account reports are available, but these give a simple easily understandable overview.

Glancing at these will give you a deeper understanding of the answer to that perennial question, “Where does the money go?” as well as its partner, “Where does the money come from?” In this meeting, as in so many, room hire brings in more than Quaker contributions and collections.

  • Have you tried such illustrative reports?
  • Do you have any other suggestions or examples for ways to encourage interest in the financial aspects of the meeting?

To browse through all of the posts click on the Quaker A-Z link here or in the side bar.

Quaker A-Z: V is for Vulnerable Victim

2011 07 28 banking cheques

V is for Vulnerable Victim

After a case of fraud in North Somerset and Wiltshire Monthly Meeting, members of that Monthly Meeting and Quaker Stewardship Committee produced a report titled: A vulnerable victim (you can download a copy at that link). The Judge at the Crown Court hearing referred to the Religious Society of Friends as “a vulnerable victim” and the report continues this theme:

This report was commissioned following a joint meeting of members of North Somerset and Wiltshire Monthly Meeting and members of the Quaker Stewardship Committee. The report outlines events leading to the theft of £148,151 by a Friend who had been serving as Treasurer of the Monthly Meeting and the steps taken by Friends following its discovery in June 2004. The prime purpose of the report is to provide the Monthly Meeting with an independently written record of events and to draw the wider lessons that will be of value both for itself and to the wider Religious Society of Friends in Britain Yearly Meeting; it does not set out to identify responsibility for events or to apportion blame. The history of events shows Friends trying to find the best way forward for the perpetrator and for the Monthly Meeting; balancing necessary legal processes with seeking to find ways to apply principles of Restorative Justice. The report also describes how Friends set about finding ways that enable them to fulfil the responsibilities of Trustees to protect the property of the Monthly Meeting and ensure that it is used properly.

This report is not only a useful summary of the events and procedures (and lack thereof) in this specific instance, it is also a useful reminder to all people charged with handling monies that it is in their own best interests to ensure good financial handling and reporting procedures are available.

A Friend in NSWMM has written: Speaking as a past treasurer [in a different MM] the question of trust versus bureaucracy should not be an issue, rather, sound financial systems should protect the treasurer against any allegations – true or false. I would require this if I was ever to be treasurer again.

An article by Alan Sealy in the Friend also endorsed the view that this report should be mandatory reading and commented on the thoroughness of the report – which drew upon Business Meeting minutes and reports that had been kept.

If you haven’t read this report – or haven’t read it in some time I do recommend it. Especially the ‘What can be learned?‘ section which points out possible solutions to the difficulties and problems discussed in the report – but common throughout the voluntary management sector.

To browse through all of the posts click on the Quaker A-Z link here or in the side bar.