BloGSutton Meeting thoughts, ideas, learning and journal .... to inform, educate and entertain.
| Another one of our personal summaries from Sutton Friends |
I first encountered the Quakers seeing the Meeting House sign in Croydon going around the roundabout on the way back from family. I always thought that seems interesting and a bit peculiar but never really looked into it more than that!
But as I grew older, I’ve always felt that I’ve been looking for a spiritual home but never found an organisation that was spoke to me and my values. Whilst I was brought up “culturally Christian”, there’s always been something holding me back from “mainstream” Christianity, despite attempts to connect with it. I often found it impersonal and surprisingly unforgiving.
It was whilst doing a legal research project on weddings in my mid 20s that I came across the Quakers again. Their stance on marriage and their unique historical exemptions in this space reignited my interest in them.
As a result, I attended a number of Quaker Quest courses and started to dip my toe into Quaker worship, but for one reason or another never really committed to a local meeting before the pandemic hit.
Here’s another in our series of Sutton Friends’ personal stories:
I became aware of Quakers about 20 years ago, through friends. They mentioned that they went to a Quaker meeting sometimes in Swindon. It took about 10 years for me to act on it, and eventually I looked around the Quakers in Britain website, saw things on there that ‘spoke to my condition’ and turned up for a Sunday morning meeting at Sutton Quakers. Since my teens, I’ve practiced yoga and meditation and so was already used to quiet forms of spiritual reflection. The one hour, mostly silent, Quaker meeting immediately felt comfortable. No-one telling me what I believed, some people speaking their spiritual truth, with no pressure to respond or even to agree. A well of spiritual experience to draw from and contribute to. A range of people, who, in different ways, have all become my friends. It grounds and supports me in very real ways and I continue to muse about spirituality and ‘that of God in everyone’. I haven’t come to any firm conclusions.
I’ve been on various committees as my contribution to the life of the meeting. I contribute something financially each year and there is never pressure to give more. I love the lack of hierarchy, the firm intention of making spirituality something very practical, in the world, rooted in community, and the long, egalitarian, social justice history of Quakers.
MY LIFE AS A QUAKER – Here is another in our series of personal summaries by Sutton Quakers
My Quaker journey.
I was sent to Sunday School as a child and became a choirboy. It was at University that I came across Quakers. A Friend there questioned me about my beliefs and I realized that I did not in fact believe some of the things that Anglicans state in their creeds. Fortunately there was a very active Young Friends Group there as well as a number of experienced older Quakers.
I got married in a Quaker Meeting House though my wife is not a Quaker. Although the Clerk had explained what would be happening, the occasion was met with some consternation by both our families as no-one from either had ever set foot in a Quaker Meeting House.
Quakers do not have a creed in which our Members are expected to believe. However, what we do have is a set of Testimonies and I played a small part in producing a booklet on these. The main ones are Truth and Integrity, Simplicity, Peace and Equality and Sustainability. These are values which Quakers Share and I do try to put them into practice in my own life.
The Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) was profoundly Christian in its origin but nowadays many Friends do not claim to be Christians. Most of us do think that there is something of God in each person and that deep down we can reach it- and be inspired by it. Personally, while I acknowledge that this belief is widely shared, I find it difficult to recognize in my own life. Nevertheless, I continue worshipping with Quakers and have done so for many years.
MY LIFE AS A QUAKER
“You’ve made it,” my husband said as I reached 90 years of age. He meant 83 years as a Quaker, 75 in Sutton Meeting. If you’ve done your sums you will know that I became a Quaker at the age of seven.
My parents, John and Christina Holland were pacifists and joined the Religious Society of Friends in 1939 when war broke out, drawn to it by the Peace Testimony.
Quakers do not have a creed but a number of Testimonies, a guidance to a way of life, much of it embodied in the book Quaker Faith and Practice (we sometimes call it the ‘Red Book’). They are the Testimonies to Peace, Truth, Equality and Simplicity.
Advices and Queries are a set of paragraphs from it published as a separate small book that help Friends to consider their way of life and sometimes a reading from it is used in Meeting for Worship as part of vocal Ministry.
In the 1940s our family attended Sunday morning Meeting for worship at the big Mount Street Meeting House in Manchester. And at the age of ten I went away to the Friends School, Wigton a co- educational boarding school, moving on after three years to Sibford another such one. including the harsh winter of 1947 when the snow was higher than the hedges and my friend and I were snowed in at the house where we were boarded out for a term. Some of the pupils at these schools and at the other Friends’ Schools in England were refugees from war-torn Europe, some brought over by Kindertransport.
Meanwhile my family had moved first to Sutton Coldfield and the Meeting there and then south to become part of Sutton Meeting. I went to the local Girls’ Grammar School with my younger sister then on to Teacher Training College.
I taught for eight years, first in a primary school in Battersea then in a the primary school that was part of a residential home for children in the care of London County Council, in Firtree Road Banstead. While there I married and left after a year to spend time as a home-maker, a mother to two daughters and a foster parent. then an adoptive parent to our son.
Gordon came to the Meeting in 1957 to study for a PhD at Institute of Cancer Research laboratories at Belmont. We married in the Meeting and are still here, 63 years later. We were the first to marry in the new extension of the old Meeting House in Worcester Gardens, choosing the Quaker promise to be “Loving and Faithful so long as we both shall live”. I have been an Overseer, Elder, Treasurer, and served on most committees at some time over my 75 years in the Meeting. Together with Gordon we hosted the Tuesday evening discussion group in our home from 1967 to 2018 – 51 years!
Now Gordon and I edit the Sutton Meeting Newsletter.
MY LIFE AS A QUAKER – Here is another in our series of personal summaries from Sutton Quakers.
I’m a lifelong Quaker and I spent most of my working life in paid roles in Quaker organisations – pretty unusual in a faith group with no ordained priests/ministers. My work involved helping Quakers across Britain to live out their faith in their lives, expressing our commitment to peace, sustainability, equality, truth and community.
In ‘retirement’ I’m involved in a project hoping to simplify Quaker structures in London, to reduce the admin and free up our energy to do more important things. Sometimes I also manage to do things that are nothing to do with Quakers! I enjoy plays, poems, novels, walking and time with family…
Sutton Meeting has been my main spiritual community for 40 years. I’m currently enjoying seeing new people coming on a Sunday morning to find out whether our simple form of worship, based in stillness and waiting, is right for them.
What is Sutton Quaker Meeting like?
When I visit different Quaker Meetings around Britain, I find they all seem alike in some ways, but they also all have their own distinct characters.
So, like most Quaker Meetings, Sutton holds Meeting for Worship for about an hour on Sunday mornings, 10:30 to 11:30, in a simple Meeting Room with no religious symbols or special decoration. The chairs are in a circular arrangement, with a table in the middle, and on the table are a few books (which people sometimes read from) and usually some flowers. A description of Quaker worship, including a lovely video, is here. On a typical Sunday at Sutton we might get 15 to 20 people attending. Some of us have been coming for many years, and some are new. We don’t currently have a regular children’s meeting, but if we know in advance that someone plans to attend with children, we should be able to provide an activity for them.
At the end of the hour, two people (appointed to the role of Elders) will shake hands, and then everybody tends to shake hands with those nearby. After some notices are given, we all head for the Library where tea, coffee and biscuits are on offer. If you prefer to slip away between the notices and the coffee, that’s fine, but otherwise we will be pleased to welcome you and you can join in the chat.
On occasional Sundays, after coffee, we have a short discussion at 12 noon – which you would be welcome to join us for – or a business meeting.
As well as the weekly in-person worship, we hold an online Meeting for Worship on some Sunday afternoons (details here). This is usually attended by about three people.
The Meeting has quite a few other activities. At least one of them is surprising for a British Quaker Meeting – guess which!
- On the second Saturday of each month, we host a tea for local older people, with some form of entertainment
- We have walks and social events
- We are establishing a group called ‘Climate Friends’ to work locally on climate and ecology