Friday, 27 April 2012

Quakers and Worship

Quakers describe themselves as a 'Religious Society' and call the central act of their society a 'Meeting For Worship'. Yet, to hear Quakers talk about this you would think that Quakerism is a religion and we meet together to worship God. There is a world of difference between 'having a religion' and being 'religious', and this difference becomes very apparent when trying to work through the Quaker admonition that everything is sacred.

If one's actual practice in life – which may be different from what one says – is to 'have a religion' then it is impossible for everything to be sacred, because you will have other things besides a religion. What will happen is that everything will become secular. Before one knows it, the use of the terms 'religious' and 'worship' will become problematic and the call to remove these terms from what we say and write will grow ever stronger.

However, if you are 'religious' the whole world is seen in terms of personal relationships, and the secular – that which we do in the world – is superseded by the sacred – that sense of intimate relationship in the world. Worship is the symbolic expression of that relationship in all its fullness, for which the idea of God may or may not be helpful.

The choice is ours in all its starkness: are we an ethical society of individuals who do good works in the world, which we then contemplate in the silence, or are we a community that expresses itself in worship, entering into expectant waiting to discern the good works waiting for us to do.

Thursday, 26 April 2012

A few thoughts on meditation sessions at Sheffield Friends Meeting House

Meditation is very much in vogue these days. The recent batch of meditation sessions at the Quaker Meeting House started on Thursday 24 November 2011. A few of us were sitting in the Meeting House library at about 8pm meditating on light. As I write this down, it sounds to me like a rather quaint thing to do -- and I guess it was. When we finished, a few of us said, 'That was good. Why don't we do this more often -- perhaps weekly -- perhaps on Sunday morning before meeting?' So we decided to run a few trial sessions. The first Sunday morning Experiment with Light meditation took place on Sunday 27 November 2011 and we have been meeting every Sunday since that date. 'What has all this meditation achieved?' you might ask. I can only answer for myself, and that is to say that I feel a lot more connected. Connected to the people I meditate with, connected to everyone I see on Sunday at the Meeting House, connected to the seat I sit on and connected to the thoughts and feelings that people share on Sundays. [To be continued].

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Transition Quaker

Some observations on the food culture of Zimbabwe, and parallels with some of the local food movements here in the UK, are on my new blog 'Transition Quaker'. The aim of the blog is to explore some of the current movements towards building a sustainable and life-enhancing society from a Quaker perspective. I hope it will also develop some of the themes in the essay I submitted to the Friends Quarterly competition in 2009 on the theme of 'The Future of the Religious Society of Friends in Britain'. I will also be posting miscellaneous topics here, taking advantage of having some extra time to think, while I shovel manure in the Moss Valley...

Monday, 2 April 2012

Friends' "Loyal Address" to "Her Majesty"

I don't know how many Friends have seen the text of the 'Loyal Address' presented to the Queen on our behalf last week as part of the Diamond Jubilee ceremonies. The full text, with an interesting range of comments is on Jez Smith's 'Nayler' blog here.

On the whole it strikes me as lacking the forthrightness that I would expect in an official statement on behalf of Friends. As one of the commentators on the Nayler blog (an American Friend) writes:
This message shows only the tiniest inkling of courage — of the real courage that many Friends demonstrate in other situations and which is, in a way, slightly betrayed here, or at least undersold. This address just speaks mutually congratulatory platitudes to power.
 I wonder what Sheffield Friends make of it?