SOUTH BELFAST QUAKERS

That of God in everyone

M&O September Update

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We do not know what George Fox looked like. But I do like Robert Spence's portrayal of George, showing him well dressed against the cold and wet he so often encountered.

Well, we will need to remember George's thick clothing in the coming months. To protect us all, our Meeting House must be well ventilated, with as many open windows and doors open. So please remember to come to Meeting not just with heart and mind prepared, but well wrapped up!

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And while we about protecting everyone, it has been agreed that our young people will not come in to Meeting for the last 15 minutes, so we do not mix indoors, keeping in separate bubbles. In that way more of us will be safe if anyone one test positive for the virus.

Looking forward, we will be bringing to Preparative Meeting the results of the survey many of you completed earlier in the summer, seeing how we can best go forward together as a Meeting. We want as many as possible to stay for this discussion, to hear your further thoughts and see what practical actions we can take. One of the ideas suggested we are very keen to take forward is a short series of discussions on the topic of “Pathways for Attenders: Quaker Basics" and we will be developing these in the coming months.

We have also been discussing how we raise awareness about our Meeting's interfaith involvement, such as the City of Sanctuary, the Interfaith Forum and South Belfast Inter-Church Group. We will be seeing how we can get regular reports on these activities, and also have an "after meeting conversation" when we can safely organise these to begin again. Likewise we want to ensure that Meeting is kept up to date with the work of our very active EcoQuaker group.

Finally, on 3rd October we have WORLD QUAKER DAY. We are seeing if we can mark this with a short Meeting for Worship in a nearby public park. We will keep you updated with our plans.

The Ministry and Oversight team - Felicity, Jonathan, Kerry, Marie, Michael, Sylvia and Will

Free Woodbrooke Training

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Woodbrooke is offering a series of free Training sessions in Quaker Basics which you may wish to sign up for

More information and booking options are available on their site

https://www.woodbrooke.org.uk/product/how-do-quakers/

How Do Quaker Meetings Work?
THURSDAY 16 SEPTEMBER 19:00-20:30 (UK TIME)
What is a Local Quaker Meeting and what does it do? In this session we will explore the basic unit of British Quaker organisation, the local meeting, usually a congregation who hold a public meeting for worship regularly in a specific place. We will look at the things local meetings are expected to do formally – the things listed in ‘Quaker faith & practice’ and requested of local meetings by other meetings – and the things local meetings are expected to do informally. We will ask what is necessary to a local meeting and what is optional. In the session, there will be a mix of explanation and teaching, including describing how technical terms are used in the Quaker community, and time for discussion, including space for you to bring your own questions. Suitable for those new to the Quaker community and more experienced Quakers thinking about improving our structures.


How Does Unprogrammed Quaker Worship Work?
THURSDAY 7 OCTOBER 19:00-20:30 (UK TIME)
In theory, anything can happen in unprogrammed Quaker worship. We listen in silence and God leads us wherever God wants us to go. In practice, meeting for worship can look very similar every week – an hour of silence, into which a few people might offer some careful words. In this session, we’ll explore the unwritten and sometimes secret guidelines which shape unprogrammed meeting for worship. We’ll consider which of those guidelines are really about doing meeting for worship well, which help us connect with each other and the Spirit (however we understand that), and which are accidents of the culture in which Quakers exist. We’ll address tricky areas of protocol, from lateness to predictable ministry, and there will be space for you to share your experiences and questions with the group.


How Does Quaker Membership Work?
WEDNESDAY 20 OCTOBER 19:30-21:00
One way to belong to a Quaker community is by being a member. Membership brings with it particular joys and responsibilities. This session will offer an opportunity to reflect on the meaning of membership both to individual Quakers and Quaker communities, as well as giving an overview of the Quaker membership process. All Quakers – members, attenders and those considering applying for membership – are welcome to take part. (We will not have time to discuss the future of Quaker membership, although this is an important conversation.)


When Should I Speak in Meeting For Worship?
TUESDAY 16 NOVEMBER 19:00-20:30 (UK TIME)
Speaking into the silence of unprogrammed meeting for worship can be daunting. There’s the theory, that we speak when we are led to do so, and then there’s the messy reality of working out what’s really a leading and what comes from our own desires. There are the general guidelines about giving spoken ministry (speak only once in a meeting, try and be brief, and so on) and the cases where it doesn’t seem possible to follow them. And there are the touchy areas – expressing beliefs which not all Quakers will agree with, sharing something intensely personal, or getting a negative reaction after making yourself vulnerable by speaking in the first place. In this session we’ll have space to explore these issues and for you to raise any experiences or questions which are on your mind.


How Do Quakers Make Decisions?
MONDAY 6 DECEMBER 19:00-20:30
The Quaker decision-making method brings together unprogrammed worship based on silence with the need to make informed decisions which have the support of the community. It is both distinctive and flexible, being used by large and small groups, to discern spiritual and practical questions. And it can be difficult to understand. How does a group sitting in silence actually make a decision? How do questions get put to the community? What is the role of the clerk? Who has more or less power in this situation where the theory says that everyone is to be heard equally? This session will provide an opportunity to ask whatever questions you have about the process, whether you’ve been involved in using it or not, and to share different experiences.

Welcoming Our New IYM Youth Support Worker

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Hello Friends!
My name is Alex Collins, I’m a member of Enniscorthy meeting but am currently living in Belfast. It’s a pleasure to have been appointed as the Youth Support Worker for Ireland Yearly Meeting. This is a new post for IYM and in the coming months I hope to be able to take this new role and take it in a constructive direction.
Over the first lock down I started a regular game night with some fellow young Friends online, which was a great way to keep up connections. Now, within this role, I hope to bring more young Friends online and connect them across the whole island, also keeping them updated about relevant and interesting upcoming events. In addition, I will be organising a programme for young people at IYM.
I’ll also be looking at ways of connecting those working with young people online, so that we can pool together our various strengths. When everyone runs events for young Friends in their region they will have the best tools, resources and support that the Society can offer, which will include being the Designated Child Safeguarding Officer and carrying out vetting of those getting involved.
I look forward to working with you all in the future. If you have any queries, you can contact me at +353 87 134 7114 from September 13th or at Youthsupport@quakers.ie.
In Friendship, Alex Collins

The Artform of Peace Building

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A really wonderful article on peace building with many mentions of Quakers and familiar Quaker and Quaker adjacent names like Diana and John Lampen, Duncan Morrow and Paul Hutchinson

https://aeon.co/essays/peacebuilding-is-an-artform-crafted-by-divided-peoples

Library Committee Update

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*NEW* Soil and Soul - Alastair McIntosh (51.9/McI)
In this remarkable book which is memoir, theology, science writing and essay all at once, McIntosh proves himself to be an eminent prophetic voice of our time. He is a Quaker thinker who not only straddles many disciplines but multiple identities: British and Celtic, Christian and Panentheist. The theme of activism as a spiritual practice runs through the book and he challenges readers to consider the values that underlie our actions - he asks what gods our actions serve? Do they enslave or liberate others? But as well as challenge he also inspires with stories of community groups resisting powerful landowners and education initiatives which offer alternative ways of thinking about the environment and economy. (JN)

*NEW* Openings to the infinite ocean (Swarthmore lecture 2020) - Tom Shakespeare (004/SHA)
The theme of this booklet is hope. Not hope as naïve optimism but hope that is grounded in a realistically positive attitude and lived out with actions that attempt to make a difference. Shakespeare’s inspiration comes from his reading of Biblical texts and his view that this kind of hope that we need in a world of Brexit, Climate emergency and Coronavirus arises out of a spiritual concern. In sum, for hope to be cultivated it requires us to engage in 3 kinds of work: inner, outer and across. The first two on their own are important but not enough - ‘To make both succeed we need to make connections… We are all interdependent. We do better with others.’ (JN)

*NEW* The Joy of God - the collected writings of Sister Mary David (231.6/DAV)
Reflections and spiritual insights from Sister Mary David (1957-2017), a Benedictine contemplative. Her thoughts are often short insights, much in the style of Quaker ministry, full of metaphor, story and imagery worth chewing over. An example of her reflection on the light is:
'St John of the Cross says our souls are like windows. Divine Light is always there beating on the panes, but often the panes are dirty so that the light cannot penetrate. Our task is very simple - not always easy, mind you, but basically simple. We do not have to make the sun shine. We do not have to create our own suns. All we have to do is let the sun in, and we do this by cleaning our windows...' (JN)

A second review of this book! I have found it really useful in dealing with all the restrictions of lockdown. It’s a collection of the advice Sr Mary gave the young nuns in her care as they embarked on their new life in an enclosed Benedictine convent – a lockdown of sorts. It contains lots of helpful advice including living with people you don’t always find easy company – advising examining your reactions to discern if the experience has perhaps been put your way for a reason. (SR)


Encountering the Light – a journey taken by Martin Lynn (10/LYN)
Martin was a member of South Belfast Meeting until his untimely death in 2005. His ministry always “spoke to my condition” and even after all this time I miss his presence in Meeting. This little book is a deceptively simple distillation of Martin’s Quaker experience and like all skinny volumes bears new fruit with every reading. I’m so grateful that his legacy of wisdom lives on in this book.

A Living Faith: An Historical and Comparative Study of Quaker Beliefs - Wilmer A Cooper (10/COO)
While, as its title suggests, this is a serious tome, Wilmer Cooper is wonderfully clear in explaining the basis of Quaker theology. If you are ever wanting to explore how Quakers have addressed the major Christian debates, this is a really accessible and enjoyable way in. And while Wilmer Cooper comes from an evangelical tradition of Quakerism, he is brilliantly inclusive of other Quaker viewpoints. (WH)


Open for transformation- Being Quaker (2014 Swarthmore Lecture) - Ben Pink Dandelion (SL-2014)
One of the gems in our Library is a (nearly?) complete set of the Swarthmore Lectures, which are delivered annually for over 100 years, and set out some of the key statements of Quaker thinking. In his Lecture in 2014, Ben Pink Dandelion really challenges us about what do we believe in being Quaker, but in a very different, distinct way - neither liberal or evangelical in his approach, but very personal, very strong, and with a clear sense of how transformed we must be as Quakers. (WH)


Meeting God in Paul - Rowan Williams (227/WIL)
Like the series of short books Roman Williams has produced in the last decade, this short book really helps to start one thinking anew about St Paul. I must admit to have found him a difficult thinker to approach, tied up with theological disputes that I cannot easily address or feel. Rowan Williams however approaches Paul in a different, fresh way, showing one very different, richer perspectives- still very difficult to grasp but much more interesting. (WH)



Other Newly Donated books
• Forgiveness Remembers - Paul Farren and Robert Miller (234.5/FAR)
• Saving Christianity (new thinking for old beliefs) - Hilary Wakeman (230/WAK)
• Deepening the life of the spirit: Resources for spiritual practice - Ginny Wall (14/WAL)

FOR A FULL CATALOGUE OF THE CURRENT BOOKS IN THE LIBRARY VISIT OUR
AOB PAGE

M&O June Update

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In the M&O team, we are very conscious that summer is rapidly approaching. So our thoughts have been turning to how we can all enjoy what we hope will be good weather - and also how we prepare for the autumn.

In former days we would have seen our Meeting numbers drop as Friends left for the sun. This year, with vaccinations doing their work, but maybe a greater focus on the Staycation, perhaps our numbers in Marlborough Park will even go up. And of course now, wherever we are, we can Zoom in to Meeting.

And with summer, we do feel this is the time for a picnic. Our young people are having theirs on 27 June, but we are hoping that all of us can have a picnic - with everyone bringing their own, for safety - in our lovely garden, on 25 July. So fingers crossed for a sunny day!

Thinking about the autumn, we have been also thinking how we can ensure everyone is involved in planning for what we will do together. That is why we have asked everyone to complete the survey, electronically or on paper. It will really help us to get your thoughts and ideas.

One issue that is particularly important is what sort of social witness we make as a Meeting, how we partner with other faiths/worshipping communities and how we connect with other Quakers. It will probably be best that we all discuss this in our After Meeting Conversations or in other discussion groups in the autumn. Many Friends are already involved in a great deal of activity, and we have developing links with other groups, but it is really important that we share what is going on, and think about if there are new things we want to do.

The Ministry and Oversight team - Felicity, Jonathan, Kerry, Marie, Michael, Sylvia and Will

Thinking About God

Thinking about God – a session exploring God in Junior Meeting for Worship

This morning (Sunday 23rd May) the young people were exploring the language we use to talk about God and how we think about God – I thought I would share one of the activities we did to generate discussion, conversation and reflection.

The activity was based on the question ‘If God was…what would God be?’

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(Adapted from Journey’s in the Spirit – Youth Work edition issue no. 14 2012: Theism and Non-Theism
https://together.woodbrooke.org.uk/resource.php?r=JY accessed 23/5/2021)

When looking at colours white, silver, transparent and clear were talked about but also the idea of all colours being one. Interestingly for one young person the colour was ginger, as a young child they always thought of God as ginger and this has stayed with them – this generated conversation around our relationship with God being personal and individual.

Silence came out as the main sound and we talked about Silence in worship not being the absence of sound but something else. Rushing of leaves and birds singing were expressed as an important part of hearing God in nature. Listening for the voice of help and guidance, a holy whisper (Thomas Kelly), were also ideas that were explored.

God can be found in many places and for this group one found God in their bedroom as this is where they pray or talk to god, their ‘God pillow’. Nature was important with one drawing an analogy of a hedge maze – we discussed finding God in the complexities of life and sometimes being too small to see over the top of the hedges. One young person shared how people who are very ill and who might die, sometimes experience a feeling of going down a bright tunnel towards a field of grass and later when they recover describe this experience as walking towards God or heaven, so they thought if God was a place maybe it would a field of grass. Another young person used the analogy of God being like Asgard (Viking heaven) as described in the Thor Marvel movie - Asgard is not a place, it’s a people.

Animals are an important part of biblical imagery and if God was an animal they saw God as an Owl, often unseen but wise; a dove, the symbol of peace; a peregrine falcon as it can speed through the air to be with us; and a Tiger instead of a Lion, because it is strong but not tied up with ideas of power and omnipotence. Finally, a vole also came up as it knows the working of the ground underneath us that we cannot see – the analogy being that God knows more than we can see or comprehend.

I’d like to finish with a quote from Martin Lynn’s book Encountering the light: “For early Friends…..here was the central message of that Quaker Pentecost: that God’s love mediated through the experience of the spirit of Christ, lay within the individual, in the individuals capacity to understand the promptings of God within him or herself” (Lynn, Martin, 2007 p45). The personal relationship we can all have with God means there are many ways we can encounter God, using the full breadth of our language, experience and understanding. Our young people have looked outside the box and seen God in the colour ginger, in a hedge maze, in an owl and peregrine falcon, a holy whisper – the voice of help and guidance.

Megan Corrigan with the Older Group of South Belfast Meeting.

Friends to All

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Irish Quakers were the subject of a very interesting article in Scope Magazine this edition. "Friends to all: the remarkable story of the Quakers in Ireland" can be read at
https://scopeni.nicva.org/article/friends-to-all-the-remarkable-story-of-the-quakers-in-ireland

Much it focuses on Quaker Service.