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My personal impressions from the Woodbrooke (www.woodbrooke.org.uk) weekend in Birmingham: it was full of inspiration and surprises!
Woodbrooke is an amazing place with 90 guest rooms in an estate about the seize of Cherry Hinton Park. I loved the details: cut tree trunks shaped to seats, a sand clock as shower timer, the toilet was twinned with a latrine in Burundi, the choice and quality of the food was excellent... it felt like being in a first class hotel. I was amazed loosing my sense of direction in the labyrinth of corridors and stair cases on the way to my room.
The weekend: I admit: I am not a book reader - what I know, is my experience from Meetings. I did not know, that by today's standards, George Fox would clearly be categorised as one of those "evangelicals". I was not aware, that what we call Quakerism here in Britain is really "Liberal Quakerism", and that 89% of the Quakers world wide do NOT share our views, and that the majority don't have silent meetings, but are programmed, containing singing and a pastor! Our Britain Yearly Meeting is just one out of nearly 100 Yearly Meetings world wide (including 16 YMs alone in Kenya)!
All European Quaker members together make only 6% of Quakers world wide.
We saw and listened to the provocative and inspiring YouTube video of Jon Watts: "Dance Party Erupts During Quaker Meeting for Worship" (on www.jonwatts.com
Within Europe, Britain is clearly dominating in terms of members and Local Meetings. In other places people have to travel half a day to reach their next Quaker Meeting.
I was surprised to learn, that 200+ years ago a typical Quaker Meeting would last 3 hours, begin with silence, then 45 minutes travelling minister, silence, local minister, silence, and finally ministry by everyone...
I heard about the Hicksite-Orthodox split, the Gurneyite-Wilburite split, and that the Quaker language can be very different elsewhere: we might say: "to hold someone in the light" - other Friends would say instead: "You are protected by the blood of the lamb." Nancy Irving reminded us, that we all have the common ancestor George Fox. An informative summary can be found at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quaker
The Friends World Committee for Consultation (FWCC - http://fwccemes.org) is the international Quaker organization, trying to unify diverse groups of Friends. Surprise: the secretary for FWCC Europe & East Asia is Marisa Johnson from Cambridge!
We participated in a "Programmed Meeting for Worship" as follows: Opening: Proverbs 2:1-5 - Taizé singing: "Jesus remember me" - Reading: Matthew 13:1-17 - comments - Taizé: "Wait for the Lord" - silent Worship - offering - Taizé: "Veni Sancte Spiritus"...
One Friend bitterly complained, that on a visit to a Meeting in Cornwell the doorkeeper did not offer shaking her hand with the welcome. Are we always shaking hands at the door?
On a personal level: surprise! I met Yelena again, a Latvian Quaker, now living in England. Several speakers talked about various subjects, and Yelena would speak "from her heart" I was told (I wondered, from where the others would speak?).
We had 3 Meetings for Worship: Saturday morning - full of inspiration - I sang a ministry - and Sunday again (and someone else sang as well)! Very unusual...
Inspirations and thoughts after this weekend:
What happened to the fiery Spirit of George Fox in nowadays Britain? Could it be that the "Evangelical Friends Church" www.evangelicalfriends.org or the "Friends United Meetings" www.fum.org are closer to George Fox's original spirit? Are we keepers of the tradition - and miss out the bend in the flow of modern times? Are we "Liberal Quakers" in reality conservative, afraid of changes and clinging to our comfortable habits - or are we open to try out new forms of worship?
Especially since we have Taizé singing twice monthly before our Cambridge-Hartington Grove Meeting, I strongly feel we should give it a try and schedule a programmed Meeting for Worship, including singing!
You ask some evangelical Friends what they believe, and they clearly will tell you! Now: when you are asked what you believe, many of us may struggle to find words. A tiny booklet by Ben Pink Dandelion "Celebrating the Quaker Way" was highly recommended to all those of us trying to put our faith into words.
Thanks to all AM (Cambridge Area Meeting) for sending me to this weekend!
Ralph Nimmann, 01223 510442 - e-mail:
[More articles written by Ralph]
[This page is: www.rainbow-cambridge.org.uk/spirit/quakers-international.htm]
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