Meeting oneself

Sunday came around far too quickly, the rest of the week got lost in the wedding.  for that reason I was not as prepared as I normally am, and suddenly realised that I had not printed out the emails I needed for Meeting.

This cut into my ‘preparing heart and mind’ time, but I could have managed if I had not lost my keys under a pile of things which we brought back from the wedding, etc.  I literally ran around the house searching desperately for the keys, and then ran to my car.  Darn it, I thought, I am going to be late.  In my haste I left the milk so called in and bought a pint.

I drove by the quickest route and got there just a little late, but there was no-one there – the Meeting House was shut.  There was no way of knowing if we had visitors who had given up on us, or not.  I sat quietly for about 20 minutes but then I am afraid I left.  I am ashamed to say that I cannot keep Meeting for an hour on my own.

It was when I got home and checked my landline phone that I found that a message had been left on my phone, presumably to tell me that I would be opening up.

Oh, darn it to heck.

(kicks self hard)

An ill Friend

On Thursday I heard that a Friend from our meeting had been taken to hospital, and his partner had a fractured wrist.  This Friend is a lovely person, one of the spiritual stalwarts of our Meeting.   When I first met him I was convinced that I had seen him on Tv as a comedian or something.  He has a rare sense of humour, a really dry wit.  I really like this man – in fact I love all of our small Meeting.  He had been transferred from the local hospital to the one I work at, so I determined to go and see him.

Friday at work was horrendous – back-to-back training sessions with the only opportunity for a toilet break to actually stop the one-hour session mid way.  I had a 20 minute lunch break because another trainer came in and covered for me and I spent most of it fielding questions and phone calls and trying to find out what ward the Friend was in.  I finished almost an hour later than I had planned, and rang the appropriate ward to find that the doctors and nurses were treating him, but that I could wait.

When I got to the ward I waited as patiently as I could.  Naturally I was asked about passwords (this is what happens if you wear an IT badge) and there was one point where one of the nurses was trying to do something on the PC and I offered to help, then realised that there is no way that I could – for reasons of confidentiality.

I waited around for almost an hour before I got in to see our Friend: he was hooked up to an oxygen machine and his hands were attached to drips and other things.  He seemed keen, very keen to communicate something, but the oxygen mask made it impossible.  I held his hand for a minute or two but there was little I could say, and I felt that he was disturbed and frustrated by not being able to communicate.  he kept trying to grab the mask, but his hands wouldn’t reach.  I felt that it would have been better had I not gone in some ways, as I was only making it worse for him.  I have been wondering since whether I did the right thing – was it selfish of me to go and see him?

I have since heard that he has taken a turn for the worse, his family has been called.

I am feeling very worried and annoyed at myself at the moment.

Britain Yearly Meeting Gathering – Monday

Last night I was feeling really fed up. I was tired, a little lonely, stressed about having still not got an internet connection and worried about the amount I was spending.

This morning I felt more positive. I rang the computer service and they were sure that they could fix the problem if I took the notebook to them (up by the supermarket – a long walk with a heavy bag again). Once I got there it was sorted in no time, it was simply a matter of knowing their settings, so I am now typing this on my own notebook in my bedroom.

Then, knowing that I would be late for the start of the session, I went to find the worship tent. Set by the side of the lake it is a tranquil and lovely place, and I could have sat there all day. I will return, but not tonight. Then to business, refreshed and calm and in the right frame of mind to prayerfully take part. I arrived, as I had planned, during a break, and then took my place in the hall in time to hear the reports of Trustees and also Stewardship committees.

It was followed by the introduction to committed relationships: a thoughtful and moving talk by (oh, I need to make better notes) a father of four. I am looking forward to the rest of this subject.

This time I queued for my lunch of soup (with a mere ten minutes to eat it) – my sandwich having been squashed into in-edibility by my laptop, etc.

The next session was purely for personal interest. The geek I am could not resist a session on the new Quaker org website. It was being presented by Peter, who I have been talking to online re the forum, so I took the opportunity to grab some time with him. He gives good Hugs!

Next we had another introduction to ‘creating communities’ – given by a female speaker in front of some interesting photos of Yorkshire. I confess to getting a bit lost at one point – I think I was concentrating too much on the photos and the screen – voice recognition can be funny at times – and not listening to what was being said. I was also very tired and in the five minutes of silence at the end I very nearly nodded off.

I was naturally concerned then that I would not make it through the response group and home group, but strangely by the end of the response group I was wide awake. I found myself in a group of five with me being the person with the longest membership or attendance, and actually sharing something profound.

Home group – well, it isn’t going well, I think.

I had intended to go back but my neck and particularly my back are painful tonight – down to carrying that big bag round today, I think. The Jazz sounded interesting, after the stewardship one, but I am not up for it. I was invited for a beer, but not on painkillers, I don’t think!

Britain Yearly Meeting Gathering – Sunday

What a day!

I got up too late for any of the larks activities – unsurprisingly, I should not have expected to.   Nevertheless, I had expected too, so I was dissapointed in myself.

Meeting for Worship

I went to Meeting for Worship which was amazing.  One of the things that has impressed me most was the way that meetings start. In Quaker circles it is known that when one person lifts an arm, silence is required and others then lift there arms in response and go quiet. To see that happen in a room of well over a thousand people is impressive in the extreme. I found that there was a little too much Ministry in MfW, and some gaps between Ministry could have been longer, but some of it was inspiring. I came out feeling exhilarated.

Connecting to the Spirit

This was a truly inspirational talk given by Rachel ? (I think, but am not sure) who talked animatedly and with humour. She said that Jesus is reported as being pressed by crowds and his disciples are all about him and it says Jesus sat. She explained that often we have to take action without thinking and that we sometimes need to sit and take stock, just as Jesus did. She also talked about being inspired and being inspiring. She really is an excellent speaker.

Practical stuff

I thought now would be a good time to go shopping for the food I needed – how wrong could I be? The supermarket was overpriced, understocked and with a queue that proved that many Quakers had clearly made the same assumption. Not only that but it was even further away from my room than the other venues. I trudged (literally!) back and was very pushed to grab a sandwich and get back in time for my meeting with my co-facilitator and then for the next session.

Committed partnerships, connecting communities

This was originally a ticket only workshop, but for some reason (rightly) it was opened up, but unfortunately they only had a small room, so there was overspill into the corridor. It was in the form of small groups discussing scenarios which might affect Local or area Meetings. It was interesting and brought out som useful comments.

I have, naturally, been considering this subject very carefully. I am aware that most of the Friends who are taking part in this discussion are fairly clear what should happen and mostly they are of similar mind to me. Some clearly feel though that we should not risk losing our right to hold weddings by challenging the rules on same sex unions. What I am not hearing is much in the way of total opposition to same sex partnerships. Part of me is elated about that; delighted that the Society has moved so far, but part of me thinks that this is because they do not want to discuss it. In making this an argument based on equality we have made it difficult for those who oppose us to even discuss it, however right we are to do so. From a personal point I am inclined to think that those who oppose equality between same sex and opposite sex unions are necessarily homophobic, but I might be mistaken and yet I feel that I won’t know until those people are able to tell us. They will certainly not attend workshops organised by QGLF.

After a shared supper, back at the house when I discovered that my int4ernet link did not work, I walked back to use the internet café, bumped into a few friends and then went for for epilogue. Afterwards I met up with a forum friend and watched ‘The Age of Stupid’ which I both enjoyed and found very useful.

Yet another late night!

Britain Yearly Meeting Gathering – the prep starts now

I am off to Britain Yearly Meeting Gathering (YMG) in York on Saturday.  It is a week-long gathering of Quakers in Britain to discuss spiritual matters and the running of our ‘church’.

The preparation actually started, mentally, last night.  I realised that this time next week I will be there, which gave me quite a start.  It has come around so quickly.  I decided that this week- in the next three days in fact – I will have to get myself ready.

Thursday is my reading and packing day, Friday is the travelling day but I will also be stopping off at my son’s house and having ‘high tea’ at a shop specialising in Yorkshire high teas.

This morning I went to MfW (Meeting for Worship), collecting Anne on the way.  Anne ministered about how the Meeting will be holding Gatherers in the Light whilst we are away, and I remembered that I have a serious duty to do in attending YMG.  Meeting felt deep and loving and calm this morning and I felt refreshed spiritually.

I have started to sort out my YMG calendar by adding my first meeting to my phone calendar and setting a reminder.  I am not sure when the forum are meeting or what else I will be doing, but I am not intending to get my documents in advance out to read through until Thursday so that can wait.

It occurs to me that I need to sort out clothes both to pack and to go away in.  Oh heck!

I have been taking part in an on-line discussion on the subject of committed relationships, and that is helping me to get my head round the arguments.  One of the problems of the forum is that it is so different from the Quaker Business method, in that we state our opinions on the forum and then consider the views of others.  I am not sure discernment is even present.

Today at the plot

The aftermath of taking the vacuum flask to the allotment was a phone and penknife soaked with sugary tea. The phone had a wash, a dry and is now working again. However, since I took the battery the clock was set several hours in the past. I didn’t, of course, notice this.

This morning I lie snoozing waiting for the alarm on my phone to go off. I was woken by B’s phone (which I thought was a fire alarm) which went off at 10:30. I had missed Meeting.

When I dragged myself out of bed I had backache (which didn’t surprise me) but it was not horrendously bad and we had work to do, so I got dressed for going to ‘the Plot’.

We went to plot 66 and moved two carloads of things to outr new plot, hung a curtain in the window of our new shed, put some hangers for the tools and stacked everything away. I am amazed that everything fits in the shed. The shed is tidy and now we can get down to the job of sorting out the compost heaps and manure tips. Once we have done that we are ready to work on the plot itself.

We have mature fruit trees and bushes – not sure quite what but we think we have :- currants, gooseberries, apples and a pear tree, raspberries, strawberries and blackberries. We have a small uncultivated area which will be for salad crops. We also have a cold frame (which might be used for cucumbers.) We intend to keep the fruit trees tidy and see what comes up this year and then decide what we want to keep next year.

I am trying to calm my enthusiasm. I want to start planting immediately. Obviously without a greenhouse we cannot do much anyway but i want to start digging, tidying the plants up, basically I want to be doing stuff. B is so much more relaxed and methodical about it.

Finding a new grain of truth in a well ploughed field

Meeting was wonderful today.

I arrived with a bottle of milk, in time to set up the tea.  There were four of us, and those who were not there were certainly in my thoughts, and also in the minds of the others, I suspect.

There was no noise outside, and I centred down quickly.  I was lead to look at the Advices and Queries, number 17.  This is one of my favourites, and I feel I know it quite well.

17. Do you respect that of God in everyone though it may be expressed in unfamiliar ways or be difficult to discern? Each of us has a particular experience of God and each must find the way to be true to it. When words are strange or disturbing to you, try to sense where they come from and what has nourished the lives of others. Listen patiently and seek the truth which other people’s opinions may contain for you. Avoid hurtful criticism and provocative language. Do not allow the strength of your convictions to betray you into making statements or allegations that are unfair or untrue. Think it possible that you may be mistaken.

I remember the first time I heard this read out and the thing I noticed then was the very last line.  It seemed to me so amazing that here was a Religious Society that was telling its members that they might be wrong!  The statement that there is ‘that of God in everyone’ is so well known in Quaker circles and the comment that it is difficult to find it (without a microscope was one I heard) is often heard.

Today I was looking for the third line that starts, “When words are strange…..” because I have been involved in discussions with people about hell and Limbo and I find those concepts difficult.  I am also reading a book called ‘Conversations with God’, which my beloved found very useful and wanted me to read.   At first I found the idea of a conversation with God strange in itself.  When I was younger I rejected the idea of a personal God; that is, someone who is sitting there waiting to talk to me.  For that reason I struggled with the idea of prayer – I mean, what is prayer?  I saw God as more of a universal spirit, something/someone I could not comprehend that we (as a Meeting) were able to  connect with.  It is ‘that of God’ in us connecting with God itself.  It has taken a while to realise that my way of prayer is to talk to ‘that of God’ in me, and more importantly to listen to ‘that of God’ in me.  In that way I had started to understand that one can have a conversation with God.  When I say “Thank  you, God” when I see something wonderful now I don’t feel that I am talking with another person, nor do I longer think that I am trying to talk to a huge Spirit with millions of people all trying to get through, and  who has so much more to do (running the entire universe, etc).  I feel comfortable now.

Suddenly, as I read it, I noticed something that I had not noticed in the second line.  Suddenly I felt validated in my way of seeing God, it is my way, it is my truth.  For some time I knew what I felt was Truth, Love, the Spirit.  I knew what a gathered Meeting felt like, I knew that Meeting worked, that I could ‘join in the stream’.  But I had no concept of God that fit, and when I finally sorted that question out, I had to address the question of whether I was just ‘inventing’ my own God.

What was made clear to me in this A&Q was that I was inventing my way of expressing my experience of God, and that was the important thing.

So, with this clear to me, I sat and pondered, and pondered.  Eventually I felt moved to minister.  I said that I had been reading this A&Q and found something new, a grain of truth that I hadn’t noticed before and it had ‘nourished me’,  and then I read the passage out.

Soon afterwards a weighty Friend stood up and quoted something from the Bible (Corinthians, chapter 13) He has evidently got extensive knowledge of this.  It seemed to link very well with what I had been pondering, that what is important isn’t how we talk about it anyway, as long as we love, and express that love.

Whilst we drank our tea (and considered where the other fresh pint of milk had come from -a total mystery!) we talked about how positive we all felt about the Meeting; how much variation there is amongst those who call themselves Christians and how strange that there are such things as army chaplains.