The blog in reverse (chronological order) so I can follow it from the beginning!

Hello world!

Well, Hello World indeed!

I started ‘attending’ Quaker meetings fairly regularly (ie. most Sundays) at Brentford & Isleworth Meeting House in January 2010.

I had meant to report my experiences by creating such a blog months ago but, having ‘completed’ the cycle of 6 Quaker Quest meetings at Friend’s House, Euston Square, London on Monday, I decided I could leave it no longer when I came across this from the Guardian.

It very timely chimes with other quaker facts I have recently come across (can you believe the WordPress spellchecker doesn’t recognise ‘quaker’! – but ‘Quaker”s OK!)  of which (facts) more anon.

The article by Theo Hobson is an absolute hoot for anyone who has sympathetically attended more than one or two meetings but will no doubt appeal especially to ‘regulars’ on both sides of the ‘quaker fence’ of ‘christocentricity’ (or maybe one side will consider, like Theo Hobson?, Britain Yearly Meeting as sitting on the fence?). (See also ‘Ripley’ and ‘Quakerinfo’ for what is currently a minority view in the UK)

Anyway, when I get round to it, I will record my continued experiences here and no doubt investigate both the baby Jesus and the bath water more closely when time permits.

Well, that’ll do for now. Rather more than WordPress’s ‘a few minutes’ but then I guess I’ve crammed quite a bit into a first post!

Another blog, another view

Another journalist, Jessica Reed, beginning her ‘quaker quest’ about the same time I did, wrote this, also in the Guardian (online), somewhat contrasting with Theo Hobson’s view linked (in the previous post) below:

As I know only too well, blogging definitely obeys Parkinson’s Law! Jessica wrote further on her ‘quest’ and the Quaker Peace Testimony here.

George Fox – his journal

Following a link from ‘Quaker Jane’ – see ‘Quakerspeak’ above, brought me to this version of Fox’s journal from Google books.

There is a forward by William Penn and introductions by Margaret Fell (later Fox’s wife) and other early Quakers after his death.


Too many hours on this today. Hope the extensive links to Quakers past and other additions will be useful for me and any visitors.

Have read a great deal, learnt a little more. Expect the site/blog to grow more slowly in future but will try to update it fairly frequently.

A little heavy on History at present but hope to develop contemporary ideas and links in future.

Hull Quaker Meeting

It’s my general intention to make frequent short posts – 5-6 lines – but today I feel rambling prose coming on. (sort of ‘long and winding road‘ x ‘ramblin’ rose‘ in words).

Being ‘up north’ I managed to get to the Hull Quaker Meeting House in Bean Street this morning in time for the Sunday worship. I was geeted at the door by Denise and a very beautiful German Shepherd (dog). The meeting was very quiet with some deep silence, a little spoken ‘ministry’ and some fidgeting. (I’ve read from Ben Pink Dandelion that flogging a video might be ‘ministry’ but not so sure about the sound of a bag being unzipped). (If words have single quotes round them they might be ‘Quakerspeak’ – which isn’t, as far as I know –  so you could look them up from the Quakerspeak page shown above).

The meeting generally conformed to the pattern amusingly described in the Theo Hobson article mentioned in my very first post. The ‘Friends’ were friendly and I’d hit upon the Sunday, once a month, on which they have lunch after the meeting, so no Tea but I did have lunch and it was the ?0th (big round number?) birthday of Lois so there was cake too. I also met Theo, John, Susan and Margaret and others.

I had a long conversation with Lois about sailing on the Humber and ‘dahn sarf’ (it seems Lois and her husband had been members of the Humber Yawl Club upto about 1985 – I joined in 1987 and am still a member and webslave.) Then I found that John too had sailed with them and started sailing about a decade before I did in the same part of Essex (Leigh on Sea) as I had (in the 50′s and 60′s) and, like me, with a scout group who had built (like us) an 18-20ft clinker built boat. (Small world or something to do with string theory?) (We, 4th Seven Kings, later went on to build (video clip) a 40ft ketch (website)).

Well, is that what being a ‘new attender’ is about?

Nagaland and Naxalites

On 12th September, local Quaker meetings were asked to participate in a day of prayer for the Naga people.  Several members of the meeting spoke (‘gave ministry’) on this issue and David, whilst recognising that ‘pride comes before a fall’, felt that Quakers could take some pride in their Peace Activities.

It would seem that the prayers were answered (no, I’m certainly NOT claiming this was a result of the prayer!) – see the News from Nagaland for 18th September here.

But mention of Nagaland took my mind back 33 years. I had been in that part of India then (1977) but couldn’t remember if I had been to Nagaland itself until I looked it up on the map and realised that I had almost certainly passed through Kohima (the capital) on my way to Imphal from Gauhati under ‘house arrest’ by the Indian police. I can only remember flying out of Imphal (to Calcutta?) under orders from the police – I assume they must have arranged the ticket or paid for it as I’m sure I would have refused to pay on principal (not my wish to leave that way). I had been arrested for taking photographs (in the vicinity of an impending Congress Party rally with Mrs. Ghandi) and whilst the police were courteous, gave me tea and sweets and didn’t keep my camera, they did take the film (and writing to request return of the prints received no answer) and insist that I got on that flight from Imphal. As far as I know I was not arrested because I had earlier been accompanied by a Naxalite sympathiser but…? In any event, I don’t have those photos of the beautiful Brahmaputra river.

Now, the Naxalites are in the news too:
Naxalites, in the Independent, April
Naxalite Revolution – the view from the other side
Naxalite Homepage on Blogger
Naxalite Homepage on WordPress
Naxalites in Wikipedia
Violence and injustice (in this case by the state and establishment of India) begets violence.
Judge (non-judgementally?) them (whoever) by their fruits.

For quaker work relating to naxalites see this. (pdf)
New Internationalist item
Common Ground – originating in USA
A common word – from the Islamic world

(Still ground for hope?)

Advices, Queries, History

At the Sunday meeting at Brentford & Isleworth yesterday, there was quite a lot of spoken ‘ministry’ about ‘Preparation’ as in ‘Be prepared’ (with acknowledgement to Baden-Powell!) and ‘failure to prepare is preparation for failure’. (see ‘Advice’ no.9)

In an ‘afterwords’ session (after the meeting for worship), Bessie (co-clerk to the meeting) led a sort of workshop on our understanding of and responses to ‘Advices and Queries’.

Taking a short break from ‘rendering unto Caesar’ (doing my tax-return) I have today added a provisional ‘History’ page to this site and hope it will be useful to me or others.

Worship in Portugal/Quaker Quest

As I have been in Spain-Portugal since 29th September I am not able to attend meetings. Last Sunday (10th October 2010) I went for a walk along the cliff-top and beach at Cabanas in the eastern Algarve at 9am. and didn’t get back until 1pm.

For part of that time, from 10.30 to 11.30 – the same time as in England – I sat on the beach in the sun and acted as if I was at the Brentford meeting with some periods of meditation and otherwise thinking about Friends at that meeting – Frank, Bessie, Deborah, Deb, Andrée, Jim, David, Brian, Vince, Kate, James, Keith, Lesley and others who’s names I do not know or can’t just now remember.

Anyway, you were not forgotten; the sun was lovely (though it did cloud over but I managed without putting my shirt on!). I wonder if anyone perhaps thought of me?

I ‘completed’ my attendance at Quaker Quest on 28th September and have begun a page about that experience – see QuakerQuest above.

Remembrance Day

I haven’t managed to maintain posts here (in Spain) since leaving Portugal but now I’m back in London for a while I’m prompted to catch up a bit by an email received from the American Quaker Blog ‘Among Friends‘ with a new post from ‘Thy Friend John’.

It’s ‘Remembrance Day‘ in Britain (at the eleventh hour on the eleventh day of the eleventh month since 1919 one year after the end of ‘the war to end all wars’) and there was an interesting and reflective ‘Thought for the day‘ on BBC Radio 4 this morning.

The Quaker ‘Peace Testimony‘ is perhaps the most difficult for me to fully accept.  Whilst there may be no such thing as a ‘just war’, it does seem to me that sometimes evil cannot be re-buffed by ‘non-violence’ and that there are times when co-ercion, therefore force and therefore violence are not only justified but required for the ‘greater peace’, of the many or the threatened or oppressed, at least in the short-term to protect lives, the ‘innocent’ and so on.

I believe even Ghandi who sought always to use non-violence or ‘ahimsa’ in political struggles, did support Britain in the Second World War because he felt that Hitler’s evil had to be resisted by military means.  War crimes may have been committed by the ‘Allies’ in that war and it would be difficult to defend the attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.  ‘Dresden’ might have been a ‘war crime’ and/or it may have saved lives.  But would the world really have been a better place if Hitler had not been resisted or the war fought?

Another example might be the pre-Iraq war intervention by Britain in Sierra Leone – a military operation involving death but which appears to have benefitted (and saved the lives and sufferings) of many in that country with a significant contribution to ending the civil war.

On the ‘domestic front’, I did manage to maintain an hour for silent worship each Sunday on a sunny rock in Spain for the last 4 weeks and look forward to returning to my London meeting next Sunday

Glenthorne Experiment with Light

Arrived at Glenthorne Quaker Centre late afternoon after driving from Humberside in just over 3 hours in sunshine all the way – quite the opposite of expectations.

Have had an excellent evening meal with tea and cakes before that.  Started on the course with some introductory items so still don’t know what to expect in the ‘main event’. Very surprised to find I have internet access here and can put this up just before going to bed.

There are three course leaders and 8 participants – divided into 2 groups of 4 – I’m the only male participant.

Continuing at lunchtime on Saturday, we have been introduced to a Quaker Meditation. There has been a couple of inches of snow overnight. The course leaders are Catherine King-Ambler, Allan Holmes and KayT Turner.

Here are pictures of Catherine, the group and of the snow covered hills:

Catherine King-Ambler
Fells above Glenthorne House
The group (one missing) with leaders

Experiment with Light – part 2

The rest of the weekend passed off peaceably in true quakerly fashion with no blows exchanged .

After 24 hours at home in London (the journey home by car took 6 hours in very heavy traffic on the M6/A40), I can reflect a little on what took place.
A ‘google’ search for ‘Glenthorne Experiment with Light’ now finds the following links:
Quakerpedia entry for Epistle from Glenthorne (2004)
http://www.charlieblackfield.com/light/ (one address for the Experiment for light website)
http://www.leedsquakers.org.uk/resources/qw-10-2.pdf (A large pdf of Leeds Quakers’ ‘A Quiet Word’ for April 2010 with an advert for Glenthorne and an article about Experiment with Light from the Quaker Universalists Group with Rex Ambler at Woodbrooke)
and this very blogpage!

Whilst the Experiment with Light Meditation itself has not immediately changed my state of awareness (as far as I am aware!), the weekend as a whole has struck a powerful chord for me with the ‘Gospel of Thomas’ translated and explained by the Quaker Hugh McGregor Ross, who had clearly been writing at Glenthorne himself last year, which I have been reading even today.

At the end of the weekend I bought the three related texts available, two of them by Rex Ambler who originated the ‘Experiment with Light’. That specifically about his experiment, ‘Light to Live By’, is a full explanation of his own experiences and the process itself.

But it was the other book by him, ‘Truth of the Heart – an anthology of George Fox’, which appeared to be the most significant for me. In essence, it seems to me, Ambler is claiming to have re-discovered the process of Fox’s ‘experiment’ by which Fox himself found the ‘living Christ’ within himself and then ‘taught’ to others.  A process which McGregor Ross appears to imply, in his explication of ‘Thomas’, Jesus himself went through and taught to his disciples. (Essentially “Be still and know that I am/you are God’?).  ‘Truth of the Heart’, in ‘explaining’ Fox in modern terms, is therefore perhaps a book which should be ‘burnt, banned or celebrated’ – take your pick. Whilst Jesus was crucified, Fox was only persecuted but other early Quakers were killed for their heresy.

I feel, for myself, that there is now much to explore and I hope to do some of that here on this blog.  But probably I will continue the ‘Experiment’ for myself – first on the ‘agenda’ being my partners’ sick dog which I currently feel so angry about. (The ‘big question’ – ‘why am I here?’ – can wait for a while!).

The house and grounds are in a truly spectacular location and this was highlighted in the early morning snow on Saturday. The photos below certainly don’t convey that very well.

The food was excellent – I’m 4 pounds heavier than last week! – but I wonder if for the purpose of this particular course we should have had a much more basic diet? (Perhaps not just dry bread and water though). There was a great sense of silence and peace in the venue, even when there was noise from the nearby roadworks. I couldn’t really decide whether this silence which I felt I could almost ‘hear’ (the music of the spheres?) was a characteristic of the location and general quiet; a result of the course and meditation; or a problem with my ears! In any event it was both palpable and agreeable.

Possibly my first visit to the Lake District in 51 years (when I was camping with the 4th Seven Kings Sea Scouts just over the hill (Helvelyn!) at Glenridding on Ullswater), I hope I will return much sooner and maybe try and stay at Glenthorne, perhaps on another course?, for a weekend next year – though it is a long way to travel. It is certainly very convenient for Grasmere (10 minutes walk into the village), Ambleside and Windermere. It is obviously very popular with walkers and the very centre of the ‘Wordsworth industry’. Even part of the house (Annexe) was apparently used as a stable by Wordsworth.

The course:

As indicated above, the Experiment with Light course and meditation did not immediately change my life but I feel it will have longer term relevance for my continued exploration of Quakerism.  It was a very enjoyable weekend and gave new insight into current, past and maybe future Quaker practice.  As usual, the other participants and leaders were an interesting bunch with a wide range of interests and differing viewpoints although not too much of this was revealed as the nature of the course was quite demanding with a full timetable.  The Saturday evening DIY entertainment (each of us ‘doing a turn’) did reveal a variety of talents and the performance reading of Jackie Kay‘s poem about Ma Bruin (Maw Broon visits a Therapist was particularly memorable.)

(Pictures  – see original post and also the previous post above):


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