#AdventWord 2019: 20 Go

Photo by GotCredit used with permission

‘Go’ today’s #AdventWord is one that shows action – and often is used as a one-word demand or instruction.

Getting out and talking to others in your neighbourhood or surrounding areas can be daunting but finding a way to interact with others can lead to new and often unexpected partnerships.

Barbara Hayes of Chichester Quaker meeting writes on the Quaker.org.uk blog about ‘Teaching business students about Quaker ethics‘. A programme of work which grew out of the New Economy leaflets and discussions at her local meeting.

The Quiet Company (a new name for Friends House Hospitality) reached out and partnered with London Pathways to use the restaurant kitchen to help ex-offenders learn baking and life skills in a project called Bake the Difference.

Meetings of all sizes across the country are working to support refugees and those who are struggling in today’s austerity climate. Working in partnership with others can bring in new skills, enthusiasm and connections to help the network grow. From running a special collection; offering the meeting house as a venue; hosting a public meeting; there are so many ways that each community can find to go out into their local areas and forge new connections.

  • Where would you like your meeting to ‘go’?

#AdventWord 2019: 19 Bless

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By occupation he was a barber, and on moving into this district in 1937 from Swindon, he first took a shop in Wallington, and later one in a poor part of Croydon. Not all who went there did so for a shave or a haircut, but to enjoy its friendly atmosphere, and to talk to Percy. ‘I am sure,’ said a friend of his, ‘that as Percy rubbed oil into a customer’s hair, he blessed him.’ This would have been natural, since he desired all his actions to be sacramental.

part of Qf&P 23.59

Looking at your place of work – whether it is an office or a building that is open to the general public – how can you use the building to offer a blessing to those who come to it and help them to find what they seek?

Make the building and surrounds welcoming to people as they enter, giving them a clean and attractive space to work or to hire. Decide on a level of maintenance that is sustainable and affordable. Ask for feedback from hirers and users about the building. Ask yourself does it feel peaceful? Meeting Houses I’ve visited are often referred to as an oasis amid busy surroundings.

Have you ensured the building is as accessible as reasonably possible? Are your policies and procedures simple and transparent, so that you can be certain that everyone is treated equally?

When things go wrong and those policies and procedures have failed or need adjusting, do you have ways of dealing with the fall out in an equitable and calm fashion? Like all policies and procedures, a grievance policy is much better created when things are going well than from the middle of chaos.

These may seem like odd blessings – but the future managers, trustees, employees, and volunteers will thankful for those steps taken to make life easier in their now. Being able to work through problems, feeling supported and without the ‘blame culture’ so often found in other organisations is indeed a blessing.

Guaranteeing a fair and unbiased mediation where needed, to help restore and reconcile relationships, supporting firm boundaries where necessary are all part of making the building a healthy place to work. Finding ways to live out your values and demonstrate them to those you interact with can be tricky but is an important part of living a sacramental life, blessing those around you.

#AdventWord 2019: 18 Worship

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Worship is a fundamental part of religious life.

As a Quaker I appreciate the belief that everything is equally sacred. Therefore any Quaker business meeting uses the ‘Quaker Business Method’ and a (local, area or yearly) meeting’s business meeting is formally called, a ‘Meeting for Worship for Business’, we also have ‘Meeting for Worship for Marriage’.

The names and belief are a reminder to hold that stillness and connection we find in worship as we go about our daily lives. That’s hard – and I fail regularly but it is a great thing to attempt.

Yearly Meeting is the annual gathering of Quakers from across Britain, with visitors from further afield. The entire period – from the opening on the first night to the closing moments is considered to be one Meeting for Business. It is an amazing experience to worship and do business in a worshipful manner seeking the will of God in a room full of several hundred other Quakers. One I’m always grateful for!

#AdventWord 2019: 17 Pray

Quaker Faith & Practice with stones

Prayer is an exercise of the spirit, as thought is of the mind. To pray about anything is to use the powers of our spirit on it, just as to think clearly is to use our mental powers. For the best solution of every problem, the best carrying out of every action, both thought and prayer are necessary… To pray about any day’s work does not mean to ask success in it. It means, first to realise my own inability to do even a familiar job, as it truly should be done, unless I am in touch with eternity, unless I do it ‘unto God’, unless I have the Father with me. It means to see ‘my’ work as part of a whole, to see ‘myself’ as not mattering much, but my faith, the energy, will and striving, which I put into the work, as mattering a great deal. My faith is the point in me at which God comes into my work; through faith the work is given dignity and value. And if, through some weakness of mine, or fault of others, or just ‘unavoidable circumstances’, the work seems a failure, yet prayer is not wasted when it is unanswered, any more than love is wasted when it is unreturned.

Mary F Smith, 1936 Qf&p 20.07

Prayer is often a tricky topic for Quakers. Instead, we talk about ‘holding in the light’ and of finding ‘way forward’. Yet one of the things that makes a Quaker business meeting so very different from a secular business meeting is that it is grounded in prayer. The Quaker Business Method involves coming with heart and mind prepared, listening not only to those speaking, but to those holding the silence and trying to touch the divine, plus being willing to seek the best way forward without holding their own agenda.

Being an active part of this Quaker Business Method is the responsibility of all members, not just the clerk or elders. Accepting whatever you are called to today, that it might be different than on another day – whether it is holding the silence, listening for those prompts of love and truth, speaking only when you are responding to a leading, and listening for the meaning within unclear or hurtful words are all part of a spiritual discipline. These habits also work well in a work situation, especially when dealing with the general public I’ve found over the year.

Starting the workday, or a work task, by pausing and mentally transitioning from the previous activities is useful. Taking that moment to ask God to help you do this work with love, to see that of God in those you are interacting with and to live out those testimonies that you hold dear as you go through the work.

Through doing this I’ve found that even day-to-day tasks take on aspects of vocation rather than drudgery. It also helps me to maintain good boundaries, accepting that there is a time to stop and let someone else have a turn. Rather than feeling, I need to do everything. After all – I’ve already accepted I can’t do it all by asking for that help.

#AdventWord 2019: 7 Unity

Unity
Unity by Dr. Wendy Longo Flickr

2.89 In all our meetings for church affairs we need to listen together to the Holy Spirit. We are not seeking a consensus; we are seeking the will of God. The unity of the meeting lies more in the unity of the search than in the decision which is reached. We must not be distressed if our listening involves waiting, perhaps in confusion, until we feel clear what God wants done.

London Yearly Meeting, 1984

Today’s #AdventWord Unity is one that sounds so simple and yet is so hard to live up to. Quakers have a phrase, ‘way will open’ which is often applied to decision making as well as creating plans. You can read quite a good secular explanation in an unexpected place. Way Opening & Decision Making: a blog post on Quaker decision making – combined with martial arts, not the most common of companions.

However, the article, in common with many others has one aspect wrong. Quakers aren’t seeking community consensus, instead as the quote above says instead we are waiting for the will of God to be revealed. This can come from the oddest of places, you’ll have two very different agendas and then through silent loving waiting, other ways are pieced together. A word here, a suggestion there and you find yourself in a completely different place.

As a clerk I help to create the agenda, and will write draft minutes – setting down all the factual background bits that need to be in the minutes for them to make sense in a hundred years or so and then collecting phrases that might come in useful.

  • “We agree to do xxxx”
  • “We don’t agree to do xxxx”
  • “We don’t accept the recommendation from the sub-committee and ask them to work with xxx and xxx to bring back an alternative at our next meeting”

Of course sometimes what emerges is something completely unexpected, but everyone there feels that the spirit is moving and it is quite astonishing how quickly things get agreed then.

My favourite quote about this is also from Qf&P, passage 2.92. It shows the power of this method and the unity that can be found by faithful listening.

The day was Friday, and we were mindful that within a few hours we would be going in separate directions, never to be gathered under the same circumstances again. As we met for worship that morning we were faced with the decision, whether or not to approve the epistle. We had laboured for several hours the day before, and it looked as though preferences for wording and other concerns would make it impossible to approve the final draft.

However, something happened which transformed the feeling of our meeting… [A New England Friend] said something like ‘I know that the blood of Christ and the Atonement are very important issues for some Friends, and I don’t see anything in the epistle which addresses those convictions…’

In the discussion that followed, [an] evangelical Friend expressed his concern that the number of references to Christ might be difficult for Friends not used to Christ-language. What had begun as an act of loving concern for other Friends transformed the meeting into a unified whole. The discussion had changed from persons wanting to ensure that their concerns were heard to wanting to ensure that the concerns of others were heard and that their needs were met. We had indeed experienced the transforming power of God’s love.

Paul Anderson, Report of the World Gathering of Young Friends, 1985

The text of the epistle may be found at 29.17

#AdventWord 2019: 6 House

community
photo by http://www.mikemcsharry.com/ on Flickr

This isn’t a post about ‘Why have a meeting house?‘ but instead about the sharing of that house with other faith groups. Quakers respect other faiths and are willing to work alongside them, including sharing our buildings with them. Not only in a eirenic or ecumenical way, but because sharing our building is a way of building community and finding connections between disparate groups.

To quote William Penn:
The humble, meek, merciful, just, pious, and devout souls are everywhere of one religion; and when death has taken off the mask they will know one another, though the divers liveries they wear here makes them strangers. William Penn, 1693

I found this blog post, “Finding more in common” by Marigold Bentley, talking about inter-faith week a useful reminder of the many ways and reasons that Quaker communities strive to work with and welcome other religions, while giving some guidance on how to ensure those invitations are welcoming and inclusive.

While managing buildings, I deal with many different worshipping groups, from the smallest two or three person silent retreat to a larger community coming together to hold a Bar Mitzvah, Eid meal, or other celebration. At an ecumenical group we were discussing long-term hirers, and other churches were surprised that the Meeting Room was used by so many different faiths. Our buildings aren’t set apart, but for me this willingness to share is a way of showing respect and celebrating the sacredness of the everyday.

Some meeting houses are in more diverse areas then others; one meeting house may be used by local synagogues as an overflow/larger area for celebrations and community gatherings, as a mosque for the regular Friday prayers, and by Buddhist meditation classes. Another may be used by Ba’hai, or Hindu, or any number of religious groups, including other Christian groups. The intermingling of these groups on the calendar and during community gatherings encourages the strengthening of our own spiritual lives and the building of a more peaceful world.

Trust and Integrity in Business – which questions do we ask? And of whom?

Quakers & Business Annual Conference 2018: Wednesday 5th December 2018, at Friends House, 173-177 Euston Road, London, NW1 2BJ. 9:30am to 4:30pm.

Please click here for a detailed programme including a description of the stream and speaker options.

Who is this for? Anybody in the world of business, owners, managers, employees, public and third sector, students of the world of business and work, anyone who wishes to apply the principles of trust and integrity to their organisation.

What will you take away? A fresh breath of insight into what you can do individually and collectively to create a better world, one where fear and concern is replaced with inspiration and verve to find out much we can do for the good of all.

Please sign up by visiting https://qandb.org/qbc18
Bursaries are available.

Quaker Leadership – Quaker & Business Gathering ’18

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Quaker & Business

Tickets are now available for the Quaker & Business Gathering 2018.

Date & Time: Saturday 30th June 2018, 9am – 5pm
Location: Friargate Quaker Meeting House, Friargate, York YO1 9RL

This year’s theme is Quaker Leadership, and as one of the planning committee I’m delighted that we’ve been able to get three really interesting speakers.

A provocative and creative opportunity to explore the links between leadership of organisations and people, and Quaker experience and values of leadership amongst our worshipping communities.

You can see the full programme for the day, and how to buy tickets on the Q&B website.

Bursaries are available – please contact the clerks of Q&B for more details.

Looking forward to this – it will be an interesting day!

Building Peace Together

Building Peace Together a Practical Resource

Quaker Council for European Affairs (QCEA) has produced a useful report with practical resources:

The visibility of violent conflict from all over the world in our daily digest of news and media creates a sense that violence – or the threat of violence – is ever-present, when in fact, it is peace that is the norm. Building Peace Together makes the case for peacebuilding and provides a myriad of tools that can be used by actors across the board.

Download a copy to read, which includes 40 tools and 80 examples of nonviolent peacebuilding, and then try out the resources suggested.

Who are QCEA?

The Quaker Council for European Affairs was founded in 1979 to bring a vision of peace, justice and equality to Europe and its institutions. QCEA advocates for nonviolent approaches to conflict resolution, the intrinsic equality of all people everywhere, and a sustainable way of life for everyone so that the one Earth we share can support us all.

You can find out more at their website: http://www.qcea.org/ They’ve just issued this year’s epistle where they say:

QCEA is working from a vision with specific goals to create change politically and culturally, focusing on the two main programmes of Human Rights and Peace. The reports on child immigration detention, and hate speech in online news comment sections bring ethical substance to debate within the EU. Work in quiet diplomacy, networking, coordinating with other organisations, and cultural activities make QCEA an important player in Brussels. The results of these activities are sometimes difficult to anticipate, but will resonate in the long-term.

I was sorry to see that they are working on a budget deficit at the moment, and hope their appeal for more funds to support this work will raise enough money for their work to continue.

Christian Entrepreneurship

2018 03 11 tree branches b&wA&Q 1 and Christian Entrepreneurship

While I love Advice & Queries 1, “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.” I had not previously considered it as business advice.

During last week’s Churches & Commerce conference, Richard Frazer, Minister Greyfriars Kirk Edinburgh, gave us some thoughts on approaches to a theology for entrepreneurs.

As a Quaker I try hard to remember that all things are equally sacred – work, play, rest, worship… So I was intrigued by Richard’s comments that he thought the first Apostle Andrew was also an entrepreneur in the way he handled his big opportunity (meeting Jesus) by recognising that:

  • it was an opportunity
  • he wasn’t the right person to handle this alone
  • he knew others who needed to be part of this opportunity

Andrew was humble enough to leave Jesus, and go fetch Simon Peter, but also continued to network and bring people he felt would be useful. Andrew found the boy with the loaves and fishes, for example. Of course he was also a fisherman, so would have been used to networking as part of running a small business. Dealing with clients who wanted to buy his fish as well as the others who worked in the family business, other fishermen, etc.

Money Making as Mission

Yesterday, during Meeting for Worship, ministry was shared about how a childhood prayer asking for ‘G*D’s guidance, love and protection‘, took on a new deeper meaning when the speaker twisted from ‘asking’ to ‘being ready to receive by standing in a place of gratitude for the blessings already received’.

This connected with my musings, over the last few days, about the difference between networks and business plans compared to G*D’s community & plans. A concept mirrored by the interconnectedness of the tree branches lining my view from the room.

I’m often asked how I can see running a business, making money, and working with clients to help them do likewise, as a mission. For me, it depends on where you start.

If you are rooted into a firm foundation of G*D’s love and truth, and are looking at these opportunities as ones where you can make a difference by creating or facilitating a profit, network, etc., that then allows you to work from a place of gratitude and thankfulness, with a quiet certainty that you are following the leadings of G*D for you.

This is very different viewpoint and attitude to one that is only in it for the profit, or personal gain, and leads to different choices. But it does require continual awareness and consideration of which state I’ve slipped into, and a regular drawing back to the centre where I can hear those quiet promptings.