Britain Yearly Meeting – committed relationships (part 1)

I am doing this in two parts because I know that there will be more to add tomorrow.

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When I heard that this issue was on the agenda, I thought I knew how I felt about it.  I was fairly clear in my own mind that I felt that same sex relationships were as valid as any opposite sex ones.  I was fairly sure that the key determining factor is the quality of the love between the partners.  I thought Quakers had got the issue right – but the law was wrong and that we couldn’t go against it, even though we should.

The thing is that I knew how I thought, but not how the Spirit led me.  I did not think that others would feel the same way, or that the Spirit would lead us as a Yearly Meeting to change.

I was wrong in thinking that Quakers had got it right – our recording of same sex commitments was not, I think we are clear now, correct or in right ordering.  We have moved so far.

I am just so blown away because I am now certain that the spirit is guiding us to do something, and I am also certain that I felt the movement in the hall.  Not as some great wind that blew us on a different course, but rather as an unseen tide or current might change the direction the ‘good ship Yearly Meeting’ is travelling.  It was a seminal moment – a real soul shaker of a moment.  Friends said that the decision had been already taken, and so it had.

A Friend from Lancaster Meeting said that she was so proud of us, of Yearly Meeting, and I can see why.

What an amazingly deep and spiritual meeting, so moving and powerful – I feel, and others clearly also feel, LED.

I am so glad that I was here to witness it, no – more than that – to be a part of it.  I am so grateful.


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Britain Yearly Meeting Gathering

I didn’t get to epilogue.

The phone rang just as I was about to set off and by the time I had finished the call it was too late.

As it happened, I am glad – a Friend had need of a pen, and if I hadn’t been in my room I wouldn’t have been able to help.

Sometimes things seem to be a hindrance but instead they turn out to be a blessing in disguise.  My back hurts which has slowed me down – but I needed to slow down in order to get the most out of YMG.  I felt that I was walking at the perfect pace with Tony and Diane,  and I have had time this evening to consider my actions more than I might have done if I had been able to rush around.

Time is what I need most – time to reflect and to worship on my own.

I am forced, then, to be in my room and will get an earlier night than I planned, but oh (she yawns) I need an early night!

Yearly Meeting Gathering – Afloat

There is a narrow-boat called Dreamcatcher berthed at York which has come from Godalming by canal and river.  Today I got to see and travel in this boat with Tony – who I met on the forum, Diane, Lesley and Sophie.

I have had, as I kept telling them, a delightful day.  It is remarkable that people who have never met each other can share so much, have such a great day together and feel so comfortable with each other so soon.

One of the best things is that before we ate our meals we were able to have silence even though we were in public and I really appreciated that.

I am about to go to epilogue.  What a wonderful day.  I had thought that the trips day was not a good idea.  I now think that i was mistaken about that one too!


Britain Yearly Meeting – En-joying myself

This morning I told myself that  I was going to put behind me all the worries I had and start enjoying myself.  I went down to breakfast and there were several of us, which was very pleasant.  I was delighted to be able to arrange a lift into the campus, as my back was really bothering me, even though I had taken painkillers.

We joined Meeting in session and listened with interest to Meeting for Sufferings report.  There were three projects which we heard about (as examples).  The Friends of the Family project works with families  in deprived circumstances, and the work they were fascinating, but the one that really engaged me was the one that works with asylum seekers.

Whilst in silent worship today I was suddenly aware of joy in being with so many Quakers.  The thought that came into my head was that I was en-JOY-ing myself, and perhaps that was OK.  Meeting is a source of joy and joy is so powerful.

Next was the forum discussion group.  I had been looking forward to meeting people that I had spoken to on the forum, and I have already spoken to Kath, Peter and Tone, but had not met Alice or Jo.  Both were there today and it was truly delightful to meet them and also Alice’s daughter, who played hide and seek with my chocolate bar. (a lovely child!)  I think Alice was mortified, but I really had forgotten how inquisitive children are at that age.

We really need some seasoned Friends to use the forum, in order for the forum to reflect a more Quakerly viewpoint and this was one of the key points that came out at the forum discussion group.

The committed relationships session had six members relating the stories of their relationships, and I found myself appalled that we as Quakers have not challenged the fact that same-sex couples do not have the same right to enjoy a religious ceremony as part of their wedding that opposite sex pairings do.

What seems to me to be far worse is that we do not record the commitment ceremonies as weddings in our documentation.  This is disgraceful.  It is both dishonest and unequal – two testimonies broken at once!

I had intended to meet Jo for tea but the break did not really happen so I stayed on until the response group –  and took part in that.

I think Anne would be surprised to find me so silent – I am not speaking much in the discussions, and have no intention (unless led, but I doubt I will be) to minister.  I am in listening mode.

After home group I wandered back to base and started to cook.  Kath said she would eat pasta  and so I prepared to cook.  Majk came in with some veg and we had a meal fit for Quakers with gooseberries and yoghurt for afters.  Wonderful.  I am so happy, not just that I am not eating alone, but that I can share time with such lovely Friends.

I made the decision to drive to the hall tonight – I didn’t think I could cope with walking.  I was looking forward to the Swarthmore lecture, I was pleased to hear that Peter had been a member of Blackpool meeting – I must ask if anyone knew him.  One of my housemates fell asleep – we are all tired it seem s- during the lecture, and I was finding it difficult to concentrate due to my backache, which was causing my leg to twitch alarmingly.

I have found myself sauntering along today, doing things leisurely, and getting much more out of everything, instead of rushing as I did yesterday.  I wandered round the bookshop, bought a fairtrade bar of choccy to replace the one that Alice’s ‘Friendling’ found and devoured and then saw Sally from Morecambe, so went and had a hug and chat with her.   I am en-JOY-ing myself, going where them Spirit leads.  I am so much happier.


good night, sleep in Light.

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 – So many Friends

What I have found most surprising so far is the sheer numbers here.  One of the most amazing things was entering the central hall just before the welcoming session – I found it incredibly moving to see so many people in such a large auditorium.  I think my jaw must have been on the ground!

Not only that but I have been bumping into people – not literally but finding people who I have met before:  Friends from Meetings that I have attended before and I was really hoping to meet – and out of all the people here I have met them.  I have already had tea with a couple of people, and am delighted to see them.

The first session was inspiring with presentations by Yorkshire Quakers (with a lovely set of photo slides, some quite humourous) and Young Friends.

Being in such a huge Meeting and waiting on the Divine was an incredible experience.

I am writing this from the ‘internet cafe’ – 6 machines set up in the central hall.  I had to go back to the college to get my netbook for the addresses, but it wasn’t a bad walk.

I am tired now, I am going back and then to bed!  I hope to make larks in the morning.

I am still amazed that everyone, absolutely everyone is so Friendly and smiling!