Monday, 2 July 2007

What's the opposite of a Quaker Meeting?

Last Sunday after Meeting I went with Moya and Jonathan to worship with the Liberian community, which meets at Highfield Methodist Church every Sunday afternoon. Wow! Not so much like going to church as going partying - with a fantastic Gospel choir (pictured) and everybody on their feet, toddlers and teenagers included.

The Liberians were the first group to come to the UK under the UN Gateway Protection Programme, which re-settles small groups of people from refugee camps in poor countries. Sheffield was the first city in the UK to accept refugees through this programme. They have survived a horrific civil war, in which amputation was used as a method of mass terror, with dignity and graciousness. We were enthusiastically welcomed to their worship, at which we were the only white faces (a good chance to experience how it might feel to be a Black person at our Meeting...)

Oh, and they took a collection. For the people of Sheffield who have suffered from the flooding.


Anonymous said...

It all depends Craig. Any one can sing anywhere. Let the difference of Friends be shown -yea: they have to know it's just ethnological investigation- if not no. It was a good field report but Friends must maintain the difference. No Friend can enter such places, except out of curiousity and research. Forget about all the rubbish about churches together because amongst believers who would take the same attitude as us to war, same sex relationships etc. except Jev. Witnesses. Did you speak? Do you speak for yourself (and make that clear) - which you can do or for Friends - which you can't? Music and dancing can be done anywhere. Friends should show and demonstrate difference. If all were equal in voice- good. If pastor/preacher/or any other hireling did you stand and speak equality and is that the Quaker way. Did they have a priest?
As a v. old Friend used to sau 'eucumenicalism is a dead duck' and so it is for many Friends - how do you think they got and stayed there? If all 'churches' come together what says that of Fox, Penn et al except ...but if one wants to travel in the ministry where do you pack the ego?
Reflect dear Friend but do not assume.

Maurice Bartley said...

Thanks Craig for sharing your wonderful experience of worship with the Liberian community. Sheffield welcomed this community into its midst, and you doubly welcomed them on Sunday by honouring their culture and by joining with them in their worship. What a vibrant, enthusiastic and inclusive celebration you described. Thankfully you sound as if you were able to be with them in heart as well as in body.

Isn’t it a wonderful thing that, like nature itself, worship can be so varied? The colour, texture and sounds of a people at worship reminds one of the abundance of nature found in creation and reflected in our gardens. So different from the aridity of dogmatic certainty.

It delights me that in moving towards Quakerism I was able to let go of the prejudice that judged other people’s approach to God. The spark of God, directed to worship manifests itself in so many varied any exciting ways. Any idea of there being just one correct approach to God smacks of ‘the one true church’. If ecumenism is 'a dead duck' then so is the possibility of any real unity among God’s people everywhere.

It’s the tolerance in dogma as well as the gift of silence in worship that draws me like a magnet to Quaker worship. But I do miss the music the colour and the diversity of other ways of worshiping God. In John 14,2 Jesus says, “In my Father’s house there are many mansions”, I thank God for the rich tapestry of life and worship. We are all different, and none of us have got it so all together that we can judge the way others choose to worship, especially when it is with joy, peace, love and enthusiasm. I hope our Meeting will always be able to offer just as hearty a welcome, to the stranger from another culture, as Craig experienced with the Liberian refugees.

Anonymous said...

anonynous apologises for tone of intial comment.