INDEX of REVIEWS 2011-2016

For Conscience Sake: a play by the Plain Quakers Next Post

For Conscience Sake flyerFlyer from the Plain Quakers

THE CASE of the MIXED-UP GRANDFATHERS

Which ancestor would you be prouder of? The one who led his comrades-in-arms bravely on the battlefield, was decorated for his courage and died in the act of serving his King and country? Or the one who, out of personal moral conviction, not only refused to fight his fellow working men but who also refused to accept any alternative employment capable of aiding the war effort, and who ultimately suffered atrocious mistreatment as a result, apparently abandoning wife and child in the process?

Precisely this dilemma faces one of the protagonists in the two-man play For Conscience Sake, presented on Saturday 22nd October at Amersham QMH by the 'Plain Quakers'. "Maurice" (played by Mike Casey), having long believed his grandfather to be worthy of veneration as just such a soldier, at first refuses to credit the discovery by a relative that it was in fact that soldier's brother, the conscientious objector, who was his actual grandfather

The tale follows in present time Maurice's gradual acceptance of the evidence tracked down by a cousin, and presented to him and us by "Albert" (played by Arthur Pritchard). It was written (by the two actors) in commemoration of the centenary this year of the Military Service Act, which introduced conscription into the messy mix of World War I. It was told with humour and a nice distinction through differing Yorkshire accents by Albert, the 'educated' one, and Maurice, the bluff, blunt and at times rather belligerent one.

The 'action' moves between the present day and the post-WWI period through the device of the discovery and reading of a Journal kept by "Willy" (the CO and real grandfather). Willy (played in a much more gentle voice than Maurice's by Mike) is heard making arrangements for his will, in which he leaves his Journal to his descendants in the hope that they - who seem to have virtually disowned him - will come to understand his actions during and immediately after WWI.

At this pivotal point Mike, as Willy, turns to the audience and reads from his Journal and the accompanying letter to his descendants. The Journal catalogues some of the horrors which faced COs in 1916. The 'absolutists', such as Willy became, were worst affected. As Willy in his gentle voice recounted his sufferings and his reasons for having to seek a living abroad after the war, apparently abandoning wife and child, not one member of the 30-strong audience stirred, so moving was the delivery. As ever, I was left wondering at these instances of man's continuing inhumanity to man; surely - unless perpetrated by an actual psychopath - a case of Lord of the flies syndrome, where a group acts collectively in horrifying ways which individually none would venture upon.

Maurice's attitude to his forebear is modified by the reading of the Journal, and a degree of family reconnection and reconciliation is finally achieved. Along the way, Albert has also found occasion to lament the insidious and apparently increasing level of military involvement in schools today.

We in the audience marvelled at the versatility and sheer memory-power displayed by the two actors (who brought all their 'props' with them), sustaining this riveting and very moving presentation over more than an hour. Ingeniously, transitions from present to past time in the action were marked by Arthur taking up his clarinet and tootling on it a tune of the appropriate period.

A short Question-and Answer session followed, during which similar and later experiences were aired. Amersham Friends paid no fee to 'Plain Quakers', reimbursement of their travelling expenses being all that was required. Donations made went to the charity Peace Direct. We hope in due course to organise a series of events of several types in pursuit of our adopted theme 'Why conflict?' and to benefit several chosen conflict-resolution charities.

Study Tour to QCEA Next Post

The Group at the European ParliamentThe Group at the European Parliament

Report by one of the students sponsored by Aylesbury Meeting to take part in a study tour to the Quaker Council for Euoropean Affiars (QCEA) in Brussels

Nestled in a quiet district of Brussels is an old townhouse, opposite a garden reminiscent of West London, home to the QCEA. It is a two-minute walk from the capital of Europe, home to every major building in the European Union.

Our group was made up of twenty-four, ranging in age from twenty to eighty two. The majority were British but there were also representatives from Ireland, Sweden, Norway, Germany, Kenya, Palestine, and the U.S.

Our trip was divided roughly into halves; spending time in Brussels and learning about how the European Union and time spent in Strasbourg learning about the Council of Europe and the European Court of Human Rights. And of course, learning QCEA's role in both places.

The beginning of our tour was spent at Quaker House in Brussels, learning from the QCEA team, and from the various talks we received from local residents, all of whom are involved in Europe in one way or another.

While in Brussels we also visited the European Commission, the Parliament, and the Council. Each body is hard to get your head around, while how they all interact is almost impossible to grasp in its full entirety. But that being said we did all have a decent understand of how the different organisations worked by the end of our first few days.

We then journeyed to Strasburg (five hours on the colloquially named 'Pain Train') and The Council of Europe (formerly The European Coal and Steel Community) and the Human Rights Court. The original European Union body, the Council is a member-state agreement with the primary aim of never allowing a war in Europe again. We visited this building and received an interesting talk on the organisations history and role. While we were there we had the opportunity to sit in on a debate, in this case it was on the rights of transgender people. The legislation was passed and now is compulsory across all of Europe.

Next was the ECHR, where we met with the Judge who represented Sweden. It was fascinating learning about the role of a Judge and the role of the ECHR and the type of cases they encountered and worked on. We also got the opportunity to talk to a lawyer who works on cases for the ECHR.

Lastly we learnt about the QCEA and what they do in Brussels; there is a very small number of staff, around half a dozen, totally dwarfed by other similar NGOs like Amnesty International. But they do an incredible job forming friendships with the staff of the institutions and collaborating with other NGOs to help make Europe a better place by bringing specific matters they feel passionate about to the attention of legislators, as well as offering advice on legislation currently being debated. The team at QCEA draw their inspiration and guidance on what issues to be involved with from the Quaker way. At the end of our trip we had a talk from each of the two Programme Assistants and what they were both working on at the time, respectively Sustainability and Armed Drones.

The entire trip was a great opportunity and all the participants had an enjoyable and educational experience. On the last day of our trip everyone volunteered a few key things they had taken away from the week. The two most common impressions were that people had never felt more like a European than before, along with understanding more the complexity of Europe. For the first time ever it seemed, the participants casted aside any nationalist notions, and truly felt part of their Europe.

Refugees Then and Now Next Post

About 18 months ago, I stumbled across a brilliant exhibition put together by Notts and Manchester Universities, called When the War Was Over, telling the story of what happened to the 11.5 million refugees that were left at the end of WWII.

When the War was Over: ExhibitionWhen the War Was Over

The fact that 8th May 2015 marked both the 70th anniversary of VE Day and the start of Christian Aid week made it the perfect opportunity to bring the exhibition to Amersham Meeting House. We were able, too, to display some of the private papers of a former Slough Friend (now deceased) who was serving with the FAU in Europe at the end of the War and worked with refugees in the camps.

The exhibition highlighted some shocking facts. Many of the 11.5 M refugees were housed initially in the same camps where they had been held prisoner. Of those who could not return to their countries of origin, some had still not been re-homed fifteen years after the end of the War. And despite the knowledge of the horrors they had faced, some of the language used to describe them in the popular press was as ugly as it is today.

I always planned to do more than just provide a static exhibition. On Sunday 10th May, following Meeting for Worship and a shared lunch, we had a talk from one of the researchers behind the exhibition. And to bring things up to date, and to remind people that many of the same problems persist today, we had the premiere performance of the latest production from the Write to Life Group of Freedom from Torture, entitled the A-Z of Poverty. This was part-filmed, part live performance, describing in moving glimpses what life is like for refugees and asylum seekers in Britain today.

The three members of the group who came to give the live performance spoke of the poverty, social isolation, depression and fear generated by a system that seems designed to keep them in a never-ending limbo of uncertainty.

I'd always hoped the two parts of this event would complement each other, but they meshed together even better than I could possibly have hoped. There were some amazing emotional highlights, but two things in particular have stayed with me.

One was the final words of one of the young asylum seekers from Freedom from Torture. "The hardest thing is when you begin a conversation with someone, and then you tell them you are an asylum seeker and they turn away from you. Please, please, do not close your doors to us."

The second was an overheard comment from a young member of the audience, who said on the way out, "That's really opened my eyes."

Etty Hillisum at Amersham Next Post

Susan Stein as EttySusan Stein as Etty

Amersham Meeting House on the 27th January (Holocaust Memorial Day) was the venue for the one woman, Etty, based on the writings of Etty Hillisum (1914 -1943), a Jewish woman whose diaries recorded life in Amsterdam under Nazi occupation and subsequently at the Westerbork concentration camp, where she was held before finally being transported to Auschwitz.

It was an extraordinarily moving performance, which Susan Stein has spent more than two years honing and distilling from Etty's writings, which were only published in 1981. The letters and diaries reflected Etty's intensely personal and spiritual journey - her conversations with God, her capacity to find beauty in the most sordid circumstances, the way she managed to separate anger at what was happening from hatred of a people.

"I know a little of history," she says wryly, referring to the Nazi's belief that the Third Reich would last for a thousand years.

To find out more visit http://ettyplay.org

Amersham Reopening Next Post

Worshipped here since 1685Memorial Plaque

If when we sat down to start planning our reopening celebrations back in January we had been able to order our ideal weather, we could hardly improved on the glorious sunshine we had, on one of the warmest September days on record.

It proved to be a wonderful opportunity for both inreach and outreach - as we welcomed around 120 visitors to our newly expanded Meeting House, approximately half of whom were non-Quakers.

In the course of the afternoon, visitors could enjoy a barbecue or tea and cake, view an exhibition of panels from the famous Quaker Tapestry, and a revival of the 'Ask A Quaker' exhibition held earlier this year in the Amersham Community Centre, or listen to stories from Quakers in the World.

Cutting the CakeCutting the Cake

At half-past four, everyone gathered to watch our longest standing members cut a cake bearing the same legend as building's new plaque, made from wood grown in our own Meadow: Quakers have worshipped here since 1685. Extension built 2014. (George joked that they 'hadn't been around quite that long.')

The Mayor of Amersham then joined us to hear guest speakers, John and Diana Lampen of the Hope Project, hold a 'public conversation' on our theme for the day - Inner Peace, Outer Peace: where to start? They spoke of the years that they spent living and working in Quaker House Belfast, and how they had both coped with the stresses and often very real physical dangers they were subject to. They left us with some words adapted from Ursula LeGuin: "Peace is like bread - it must be made new every day."

The day ended with Friends sitting outside as darkness fell on a balmy evening, listening to guitar music and watching a light show put on by Aylesbury MH's warden. Lasers created moving patterns among the trees in the Meadow, while the plain white side of a marquee was transformed into something like a backdrop to Midsummer Night's Dream.

Commorating Conscientious Objectors in WWI Next Post

FAU badge

Saturday 13th September saw two performances of a unique piece of community theatre at Jordans Meeting House, commemorating the varied roles of Quakers during the First World War. The performances coincided with the 100th anniversary of the establishment of the Friends Ambulance Unit, whose first training camp was at nearby Jordans Farm.

The benches in the 1688 Meeting Room at Jordans were arranged for the performance around a small raised stage. The pianist and small choir were gathered in one corner. Many of the narrators sat round the edges of the room, their voices coming from all directions as the story passed from hand to hand.

The narrative, interspersed with music, was developed by Janet May-Bowles, with Merry Rushton as the show's director. The covered the origins of the Peace Testimony, the outbreak of WWI, the experiences of absolutist Cos, the role of the Friends Ambulance Unit, and the role of Quaker women

The simple performance was poignant and revealing - and certainly never didactic. It was also wonderful piece of outreach, attracting many non Quakers. In a year when there has been much subtle pressure to take an uncritical look back at the First World War, this was a timely reminder of the men and women who, even from its earliest days, took a courageous stand against its horrors.

Courage not Cowardice Next Post

CO Memorial with white flowersMemorial Stone covered with white flowers

The 15th May, International Conscientious Objectors Day, is marked each year by a ceremony of remembrance at the Conscientious Objectors memorial in Tavistock Square, London.

This year, being the anniversary of the outbreak of the First World War, had special poignancy, as descendents of those WWI COs were asked to invited to come up to the front, speak the name of the CO they represented, show a picture and say a few words about them, then lay a white flower on the monument.

Britain was unusual in 1914 in not having conscription, and in fact conscription was not brought in until 1916. Nevertheless, intense moral pressure was applied to 'join up' and those that did not could face intense hostility - the symbol of which became the white feathers that were handed to those who refused to enlist, as a sign of cowardice.

Some COs chose to serve in non-military roles, such as in Friends' Ambulance Unit (FAU), whose members chose to go the frontline, unarmed, to collect the dead and tend to the dying. Others who took the 'absolutist' line or whose conscientious objection was not recognised were imprisoned, tortured, ridiculed or sentenced to death.

In all there were an estimated 20,000 COs to the First World War, some motivated by religious faith, others by political or socialist convictions, or by a combination of beliefs.

As Paul Parker, Recording Clerk for Quakers in Britain said, "They showed courage and not cowardice. Pacifism was then, and still is, a brave and difficult decision, and is by no means passive."

Among those honoured was Wilfrid Littleboy father of a present-day Jordans Friend. During the First World War, he took the absolutist position and consequently spent 18 months in prison as a conscientious objector in 1917-18. During this period he wrote letters to his family that touched on all aspects of prison life. The experience of conscientious objectors varied and Wilfrid Littleboy was comparatively well treated. He was helped, too, by having inner reserves which enabled him to come out in relatively good spirits.

Ask-A-Quaker Days at Amersham Next Post

From Tuesday 4th February to Thursday 6th February, Amersham's Outreach Group took over the Weaving Rooms at Amersham Community Centre for a series of Ask-a-Quaker Days.

Visitors were able to view an exhibition of Quaker activities (local, national and worldwide), read about the Quaker SPICES (or testimonies) or sample the Twenty Answers - different Ffriends' responses to frequently asked questions. Visitors trickled rather than rushed through the doors, but those who came spent a good amount of time and engaged us in discussion.

The exhibition could be made available to other LMs for use with Enquirers. We are particularly delighted that the staff at Swarthmore have said they would be interested in our taking it there.

Report from QPSW Spring ConferenceNext Post

Elizabeth and Mark Hammersley attended the QPSW spring conference in April 2013 on behalf of Chilterns Area Meeting.

QPSW badge with DoveQPSW

Before being nominated to attend this conference, we had heard of QPSW but knew little about what it was. On arrival we found that most other participants were in the same position. Many were newcomers to Quakers and for most of us this was the first national Quaker event that we had attended. .

QPSW is "Quaker Peace and Social Witness". It encompasses a very wide portfolio of activities that Quakers undertake as a practical expression of our faith. Individual Friends, Local Meetings and Area Meetings are passionate about a wide variety of causes. Some respond by donating money to relieve poverty and suffering. Others take direct action to address the root causes of injustice. .

Many prominent organisations have been started by Quakers to address issues that we believe in (e.g. Oxfam, Greenpeace, Amnesty) and many more are supported by Quakers today. Sometimes it is appropriate for Quakers to take action collectively, in particular where there is a cause about which we all feel strongly and where other organisations are not already acting or where there is something distinctive we can offer. .

We met some of the 22 staff who are employed by QPSW to carry out work on behalf of Quakers in Britain today. They are active across a total of 12 programmes of work, some of which were straightforward to describe and some of which are not talked about in detail as to do so could jeopardise sensitive peace building processes. .

We learned that some work programmes are very old (e.g. prison reform) whereas others are comparatively recent and arise out of concerns raised by Quakers through Area Meetings and Britain Yearly Meeting (e.g. sustainability programme started in 2011). .

We attended a number of workshops to learn about specific QPSW activities: .

Peaceworkers.

Every year, British Quakers sponsor a number of young people to gain work experience in organisations that share our aims. These "peaceworkers" may be placed in the UK or overseas and placements are carefully selected so that individuals can make a difference at the same time acquiring skills and contacts needed for a career in this field. .

Quaker United Nations Office.

Quakers have liaison offices in both Geneva and New York. Staff in these offices carry out research and lobby diplomats on causes that Quakers feel strongly about. Apparently lunchtime events hosted by the Quakers are popular and highly appreciated opportunities to discuss important issues in informal, unofficial, neutral, non-judgemental surroundings. Currently the QPSW team in Geneva are asking questions about what happens to the children of executed prisoners. .

Peace Education .

We were shown some innovative ways that school students are learning about peace. QPSW is developing material for use in primary schools to conduct a "Peace Week" as part of their curriculum. There was some discussion about how Quakers will mark the centenary of the outbreak of World War I next year. .

Why Prison ? .

QPSW staff are collecting stories from prisoners and people who have been affected by someone else going to prison. This is building a body of anecdotal evidence about the ways in which custodial sentences do and do not work. .

Overall we were impressed by the amount of work being done by a relatively small team of staff. QPSW seems to take the role of a catalyst in many important causes so results are hard to measure. One of the "success stories" of QUNO is its work on child soldiers but actually the Quakers were no longer directly involved when that came to fruition as other organisations had taken up the cause and QPSW was no longer needed. Similarly it seems that QPSW today hosts or supports many small coalitions of niche organisations that are working on causes that Quakers believe in. By assisting those smaller organisations in this way, they (and their many Quaker supporters) are able to achieve much more. .

The entire portfolio of work is large and complex. Some programmes have mailing lists and produce newsletters. Others publicise their work via the Quaker.org.uk website or through articles in Quaker News. We feel we have only just begun to understand what is being done, but we are very pleased to have had the opportunity to meet some of these good and hardworking people, and to learn about their work for us. .

What next? .

Delegates at the conference discussed among themselves ideas for how to best support the work of QPSW. Individuals have different levels of knowledge about different causes. Each of us has finite capacity. Some meetings already support causes that they believe strongly in. Others remain uncertain where to start. Some Friends were concerned that sharing too much information about too many causes could easily prove counterproductive. One approach that some meetings have found useful is to select a particular cause (e.g. prisons or sustainability) for a year and to plan a range of activities (e.g. external speakers) around that cause so that Friends can achieve a greater understanding of the issue and any response they want to make. QPSW is ready and able to provide resources and support to meetings that wish to pursue specific causes in this way. .

Quaker Service Memorial at the National ArboretumNext Post

Amersham Friends were amazed to find 420 other Friends (including Friends from Jordans and Slough & Windsor Meetings) in a vast marquee at the National Memorial Arboretum on the 20th April. This event was the fruition of three years' work by the Quakers Service Memorial Trust, who had planned and designed our memorial. This was a first at a Quaker memorial, a first in the National Arboretum, and a first outdoor gathering on what was the first spring-like day this year. Many Friends had served sixty years ago either in the FAU or the FRS, including George Bunney, who served as a cook in the FAU, working in Highgate, London, for three years immediately after WW2.

Many found the prospect of a half-mile walk too challenging, and a fleet of golf buggies had been thoughtfully provided to take them to the site. The memorial is in a clearing of deciduous trees, mainly ash and oak. It is set as a circle of four curved, high backed, beige coloured, stone benches, with inscriptions carved on front and back. A stone circular floor is inserted with Friends Relief Service emblems.

A programmed Meeting for Worship was held around the memorial, with seating for about half the people. Others leant against the trees enjoying the gentle breeze and hearing testimonies of people's service. Anthony Wilson, Clerk to Quaker Service Memorial Trust, conducted the Meeting and we also had poetry readings and silent worship.

At the far end of the arboretum was a memorial called Shot at Dawn, a tall white statue of a blindfolded soldier, his hands tied behind his back. Behind him were rows of wooden posts each with a name, rank, date, regiment, and age, of those shot during WW1 for cowardice or desertion. Quite a harrowing place, far more moving than other memorials with winged Greek gods or model tanks.

After lunch, several sons and daughters talked about how their parents had served in the two services and how enduring relationships had developed by helping strangers. Peace had been built through friendship with former enemies.

To read more about the memorial, and see some images from the arboretum, please follow this link: http://www.thenma.org.uk/news-centre/news-releases/general/memorial-to-quaker-wartime-contribution-inaugurated/

Elizabeth Hooton: 'A Lover of Souls'Next Post

Elizabeth Hooton is nowhere near as well known a Quaker figure as she deserves to be. She was George Fox's first convert and remained his mentor for the rest of her life. And from her fifties into her late seventies, she travelled, first in Britain and later in the New World, 'bearing witness to the truth' and suffering hardships and persecution as a result.

It was with great pleasure, therefore, that the Chilterns Quaker Programme hosted a performance of the one-hour play about the life of Elizabeth Hooton, written by Lynn Morris, a member of Stourbridge meeting. Lynn was born in the village of Skegby in Nottinghamshire where Elizabeth Hooton lived with her husband Oliver. She knew their house and a little of Elizabeth's reputation, and when later in life she joined the Quakers, it seemed natural to her to delve deeper into Elizabeth's story.

The result is 'A Lover of Souls', a one-hour, one-woman play, based on the Elizabeth Hooton's own writings and the first-hand accounts of those who knew her personally. Alone on the small acting space of Jordans' Meeting Room, Lynn brings us the sweep of Elizabeth's remarkable life, using only a handful of props and a few sound effects.

Coming from the same village, Lynn easily recognised the East Midlands vernacular in which Elizabeth wrote, and brings her words to life in the accent in which they would have been spoken. The woman she shows us is tough, uncompromising, quite possibly infuriating - but also extraordinarily brave. She also had a sense of the equality of all people that seems centuries ahead of its time. When she felt her family had suffered an injustice, she had no hesitation in travelling to London to petition the King, refusing to kneel but walking alongside him in Whitehall. And as for the right of women to preach and to speak in church, she quoted from the Book of Joel:

"I will put forth my spirit on all flesh and your sons and your daughters will prophesy."

Lynn and her husband Dave support the Seir Women's Cooperative in Palestine West Bank, and a donation was made from the proceeds from the performance at Jordans to that cause. This performance also marks the start of a new nine-month tour of the play with dates at various Meeting Houses, all in aid of Seir.

If this has whetted your curiosity, you can read more about Elizabeth Hooton's life on the Quakers in the World website: http://www.quakersintheworld.org/quakers-in-action/223

Peace Building Around the World Next Post

On 21st February, Ann and Catriona gave a talk at Jordans Meeting House: 'Quakers in Action: Peace Building Around the World,' based on the Peace Theme from the Quakers in the World portal. You can view the full presentation here, and if you click on the links at the bottom of each slide, you can read the full articles from the portal.

Souper Lunches at Aylesbury MeetingNext Post

On Friday 25 January and Friday 22 February, Aylesbury Friends opened their kitchen for anyone willing to eat a simple soup and bread lunch, with donations going to Aylesbury Homeless Action Group and New Leaf, a charity providing start-up packs for recently released prisoners.

Enjoying a Souper LunchEnjoying a Souper Lunch

We made soup at home or with the vegetables our Warden, Geoff, acquires from his market trader friends in the hope that we could emulate the way our forebears contributed to the early days of another local charity which went on to become Oxfam. In the 1960s, Rickfords Hill was the venue for a regular "austerity" lunch and many local people, including pupils from Aylesbury schools, supported this initiative.

On both recent occasions, we served delicious, vegetarian soups, bread, cups of tea and coffee and a recipe to between 17 and 25 people and were joined by the Town Mayor and her Deputy, plus other local councillors, workers and local people. We have raised about £150 so far.

Our next Souper Lunch will be on Friday 22 March and we hope to continue on each final Friday of the month for the next three months, to gauge how popular and sustainable this action can be.

If you're free between 12 and 2, do join us or spread the word amongst your friends and acquaintances. If you have an option to advertise our venture, please contact Geoff Hammond who could forward an electronic copy of our poster and leaflet.

Christmas for two generations at Amersham MeetingNext Post

LILY:

On a frosty winter morning I got ready to perform a play reading from the Bible. When I go into the children's meeting, sometimes I read from the Bible and people say now will I speak? I like it that I receive compliments, it makes not only me happy but the people in the meeting joyous. In the play last year I was Mary, an Angel and a shepherd. But in this play I did not speak nor act. But most people are elderly folk coming into the meeting, so I light a little candle to make their day.

ANDREW:

Children and adults still die prematurely amongst economically-deprived sectors in almost every country for: lack of clean water, basic food, minimal housing, preventive and curative medicine, basic education, freedom of conscience, and then from all kinds of violence, as well as an unsustainable environment. In the 21st century CE, this is a species humiliation for homo sapiens.

Faith and ethical leaders have been pointing out the obvious for millennia, but not consistently. The types of their failure vary: some have blamed the victims for fecklessness, some misdirect the privileged towards other-worldly means and ends, and some have conveniently condoned economic theories proposing 'an invisible hand' or 'historical materialism.'

This season celebrates the birth of a man who gave a simple demonstration with a crowd of 5,000 men 'besides women and children.' Starting with five loaves and two fishes, by one account he began by separating the crowd into groups of fifty. He then started to share, and those who had their own food tucked away got the point and offered to their neighbours who had none. [As an aside, our Quaker team similarly divided a chaotic crowd of 11,600 in the Nigeria-Biafra civil war to share relief supplies. It works!] It is interesting who could have felt threatened and needed to represent this as an inexplicable miracle, interpreting that a mobile celestial bakery had come to the rescue (which is what I was taught!)

Back to the species failure of homo sapiens, Karen Armstrong argues cogently for her Charter of Compassion that we are still primarily driven by brain processes or instincts of fight, flight, food and reproduction evolving during our stage as reptiles. The good news is that there is an identifiable neocortex area of the brain where love (agape), compassion and true altruism are awaiting our choices towards a spiritual paradigm shift. We can be consciously in charge of this critical evolutionary path. It is however primarily a leap of faith to make those choices when others have not. We become exposed, and very vulnerable. He died on a cross as a result of living and teaching an amazing Gospel proclaiming the Kingdom of Heaven on Earth and within us. It is faith-based commitment to action which goes beyond the cautious humanism of ethicists.

If this neocortex is analogous to a missing Higgs-Bosun - so-called 'God particle' - then the God concept, the Truth of which we have this supra-rational urge to follow, is indeed within us. The results of taking up our cross and following Him, or that Truth wherever we find it, will indeed bring nearer the redemption of mankind, and the transformation of our reptilian predispositions.

Your response to this may vary from 'have him put down, it would be kinder' to 'Wow!'

Meanwhile, contemplate the Happiness and Meaning of Christmas.

Exploring the Potential of PrisonsNext Post

18th - 24th November, 2012 was both Prisons Week and International Restorative Justice Week. In recognition of this, Jordans Meeting hosted the latest talk in the Chiltern Area Quaker Programme: Exploring the Potential of Prisons.

We were privileged to hear three extraordinary people speak movingly and eloquently about their very different experiences of the criminal justice system.

Claire, a middle aged former GP, was raped in a station car park by a serial sex offender. The rape led to the breakdown of her marriage, depression and near-alcoholism. Yet with extraordinary courage, she recognised that what she needed for her recovery was to meet with the man who raped her.

It took her two years of persistence, following his trial and conviction, to arrange a restorative justice meeting. That meeting allowed the offender to start to see her - his 27th victim - as a person. It also allowed Claire to see him as a victim - someone who should have been helped long ago, when he was a young child.

Geoff, our second speaker, was involved with a skinhead gang who beat a man to death. As a teenage in the 1960s, he was sentenced to life in prison. Moving up into the adult prison system, he experienced its full brutality. But once released on parole, he came to recognise that he had the capacity to help those still on the inside. Debarred from working in prisons, he used the fact that he was still on license to walk back inside - spending another nine years serving as a voluntary prisoner.

There are a handful of moments, he told us, as prisoners pass along the system's conveyor belt when those working with them - prison officers, chaplains, teachers, counsellors - have a chance to turn them around. Those moments must not be wasted.

Someone who is well aware of those rare opportunities is former governor of Grendon Underwood prison, Tim Newell. He spoke of the challenges facing the prison service. On the one hand, there is pressure to cut costs in the face of an ever-rising prison population. (Britain imprisons people at a far higher rate than any other European country.) On the other hand, restorative justice is becoming an accepted part of the mainstream criminal justice. More therapeutic communities like Grendon Underwood are being set up within other prisons. And newly released prisoners are to be assigned mentors to help them adjust to life outside.

These three very different perspectives all held the same core message. If we can find the right moment to reach out to people who have lost their way, then maybe we can set them on a different path. And if we can do that, then we can avoid enormous costs: the financial costs of keeping them in prison, but also the costs to their families and most importantly, the costs to their victims.

Quaker Camp 2012Next Post

For the first time in Camp's history we had to have a last minute change of plan because of such terrible weather conditions. Instead of camping locally in Princes Risborough we moved with only 2 weeks to go to Royston. We were very relieved that we didn't have to cancel Camp but moved to a farm we had visited some years before.

Quaker Camp LabyrinthQuaker Labrynth

The weather, in what was otherwise a wash-out of a summer, was surprisingly clement, and such rain as we had didn't seem to dampen spirits at all. In fact, for a few days it was almost too hot and sunny.
Our leadership team, Ruth, Becky and Tim, rose to the occasion in an impressive fashion. They ensured that Camp ran smoothly and more or less to the timetable, and I'd like to offer them hearty thanks for enabling us all to have such a splendid time.
We had several new Campers from the Chilterns area and they soon settled into Camp life, welcomed and supported by the old-timers (and by this I mean the children for whom Camp has been part of their life since infancy). We hope to see them back again next year. We also invited visitors from the joint Camps Committee and we welcomed Friends from Herts and Hitchin and Luton and Leighton for an afternoon tea and later in the week some Friends from the Chilterns area Meetings also joined us for a meal.

Queuing for RoundersQueuing for Rounders

Our theme was Nurture, Caring and Sharing and team names were chosen along those lines. We were all aware of the small and large kindnesses that happen throughout Camp to help the community run smoothly. We had a Hearts and Souls time for reflection which was led by Frances and Val, everyone who participated in this time found that we had much to give to the spiritual essence of Camp and children who were new to Camp felt that they were also able to participate and that their thoughts and insights were greatly valued.
We also had many of the usual Camp activities, swimming pools, visiting local sights, going on a long and beautiful walk in the Cambridgeshire countryside (to be renamed exciting adventure day next year on the request of a parent who's children weren't too keen on the sound of a long walk!)
We were all lost in the mazes of Saffron Walden and enjoyed sharing the Quaker heritage of the town. A treasure hunt around Cambridge after Meeting at Jesus Lane was a highlight for many. We were also able to add to our usual Camp Olympics a most unusual 'Opening Ceremony' complete with a NHS lilo beds and ambulance dance and the bicycling doves were recreated using tea towels!
Liza ran an extremely popular and successful beading and jewellery making session, Campers have never looked so well accessorised! There was much admiration of the bracelets and necklaces that were produced as these were of a far higher standard than our norm! Thank you so much to Liza who kindly travelled the extra miles round the M25 after our location changed to run this for us.
Some statistics:
We had a total of 955 camper nights, of which 62 Campers were full-time. We peaked at 108 people, but averaged about 98. A very large Camp. We had 2 boys and 3 girls tents with 20 children in the 10-16 year old age group and a further 20 children who were under 9.
We were very pleased to welcome several new families to Camp this year, some with tent aged children and some with younger children, we hope that they return next year and we were delighted that some of the new Friends from last year came back to join us again!

By Abi, Camp Secretary

Greeting the Olympic Torch at Slough and WindsorFrom the Balcony

Olympic Torch at Slough and WindsorOlympic Torch at Slough and Windsor

Olympic Torch at Slough and Windsor MeetingNext Post

Slough and Windsor Friends welcomed the Olympic Torch on its journey through Slough. In conjunction with Churches Together in Slough we offered drinks of water and made the car park and Meeting House facilities available for those who wished to use them. The torch was carried by Beth Brewer who at the tender age of 16 is doing a lot for those interested in who have disabilities. The children who live at the Meeting House had made posters and had a brilliant view from their balcony. The weather was menacing but rain held off until after the event. We all enjoyed it very much and would like to thank Friends from other Meetings who came to help us.

Reimagining Education in the Middle EastNext Post

On Sunday May 13th, Graham Leonard gave a short talk after Meeting for Worship at Amersham, imparting a little of what he has learnt in over 60 years involvement with education in the Middle East, and shedding some light on the background to the Arab Spring.

Graham is an old friend of Amersham Meeting, having lived for the time in Great Missenden. He taught for many years at Friends School Remallah, where he was also pastor of the local Quaker meeting, and was dean of students at the American University of Beirut. He has also advised UNRWA on teacher education for Palestinian refugees.

His talk centred round three key Western misunderstandings of Middle Eastern culture. Firstly, there is the predominance of 'group identity' over individual identity; the overriding need to preserve the honour of family, clan and wider community. Secondly, there is the fact that people identify with their religious communities, not with their nationalities, and that that identification brings with it on long histories of conflict and revenge.

Together, these two things can mean that democratic elections are reduced to nothing more than a census of religious communities. Graham believes that it is far more important to encourage and focus on things such as the rule of law and freedom of expression, rather than on the imposition of democracy.

Finally, Graham points to the distinction between what he refers to as 'Westernisation' (by which he means the adoption of Western consumerism and the rote learning of Western academic curricula) and true modernisation, which requires a change in patterns of thinking.

In recent years, Graham has been working with the Jordanian government to explore ways to encourage modernisation. He is helping to foster a return methods of teaching used during the Islamic Golden Age (c750-1400), when Arabic scholars were at the forefront of scientific discovery. The Touchstones for Thinking project encouraages students to engage in 'cooperative open discussion' and hence to question and understand, rather than learning by rote.

The project, originally piloted in one school for a few hours in the year, now runs in every school in Jordan for one hour every fortnight. Graham hopes that the attitudes thus fostered in young people will - perhaps over decades - begin to bring about changes in the whole of Middle Eastern Society.

Not Quite Fifth Sunday Outing to Dickens' LondonNext Post

On the first morning of the Easter holidays 7 Teenagers were free to meet with their 2 Accompaniers at High Wycombe station for our 'Dickens Day'. We journeyed up to the Barbican and found an elevated walk way to arrive at the Museum of London for their fascinating exhibition of Dickens and London. Here are the comments from 5 of our teenagers: Hepzi 'found the original Dickens' manuscripts interesting because he had fascinatingly illegible handwriting.' Dickens own corrected manuscript of 'Bleak House' and 'David Copperfield' normally held in museum vaults were there for us to savour. Further interest in Dickens as a writer came from Nicholas who particularly liked Dickens writing desk. It had a writing slope and he liked the way everything was arranged on it.

The exhibition had a wide range of material: paintings, costumes, films and photographs, artefacts and objects of the day to stimulate the imagination and create an understanding of life in Dickens London. Serena liked finding out about the different books that Charles Dickens wrote such as Oliver Twist and Great Expectations and the different characters because they all had something you can remember about them when they appear in the story ie: their personality or something about the way they look. A clever feature of the exhibition incorporating original material with modern technology was an animated film using the characters in an unfinished painting by Buss entitled 'Dickens' Dream' in which the author his chair and writing desk and all his characters are sketched out ready to be brought to life. A key to the names of the characters in the painting would have been helpful for those of us who are less familiar with the Dickens literary scene. But it was a humorous piece and a haunting painting.

After lunch in the cafe, we met with Tony Williams who co-authored the handbook and he enlarged on the exhibition in a style we all appreciated. Mattie said I enjoyed finding out different facts about Charles Dickens's childhood as I didn't know much about him, for example he worked in a factory at the age of 12 and from Melissa - I enjoyed finding out information about Charles Dickens for example he had insomnia and would walk the streets of London at night and this inspired him with characters and story-lines and from Hepzi: I also enjoyed hearing Tony speak about how he wrote in instalments.

Tony took us to the site of Newgate prison now the site of the Central Criminal Court and told us that Dickens who was a keen champion of justice was eventually successful in his campaign to prevent executions and hangings taking place in public. They were abolished in 1868 two years before his death. We all concurred with Nicholas M when he said he 'liked the walk to see the places Dickens went'. Appreciative thanks to Tony for initiating the Dickens theme and for greatly enhancing our visit.

Making BunsMaking Buns with Special Voices

Special Voices at Slough and WindsorNext Post

Friends at Slough and Windsor Meeting have become involved with Special Voices, a local charity, by helping them to give the parents and carers of disabled children a two hour respite from their caring role. We provide a one to one care situation for two hours at the Meeting House for a total of eight hours over two days on a termly basis. F/friends play games with the young people, help them to make things and to enjoy themselves. At our recent days the children made hot cross buns which they greatly enjoyed doing especially as the results could be eaten!

Spring Festival of Light and SoundNext Post

Fairytale magic in the MeadowFairytale magic in the Meadow

On Saturday 10th March, the Amersham's Meeting House and Meadow were transformed, for one night only, into a place of magic and mystery when we held a Spring Festival of Light and Sound in aid of Chiltern Youth Projects (CYP).

Thanks to Geoff, the warden of Aylesbury Meeting, a laser light display filled the trees with stars and sent mysterious images meandering across the meadow. Inside, in a room lit only with ultra-violet light, people sat around a beguiling artificial campfire to watch the hand-painted images of wildlife that hung from the walls, and wrote messages to one another with the glowing letters scattered over the floor and chairs.

Element15 at Amersham MHElement15 at Amersham MH

Music was provided by the folk group, Element 15, Aylesbury's talented group of musicians. Our visitors could also enjoy a sausage sizzle and drink hot spiced apple juice.

A big group of youngsters from CYP's Saturday Youth Group came to join in the fun. Altogether we had around 60 visitors, the majority of whom had never been to a Quaker MH before.

It was wonderful to welcome so many new people to the Meeting House. Hopefully they've all had fun and gone away knowing a little bit more about Quakers. And we're delighted to have supported the work of Chiltern Youth Projects.

Christmas Thoughts from AmershamNext Post

Sunday 18th December saw a wonderful gathering of Ffriends at Amersham Meeting House. We began with a slightly shortened Meeting for Worship, followed by carols and readings, interspersed with a tableau of Mary, the shepherds and angels, laid on by the meetings's children. Then we all sat down for a splendid shared lunch, which even included Christmas pudding!

But in case we're missing the point, we'd like to share this Christmas Thought, written and read by Andrew:

One of those ironies of Christmas is that it is the time in the year when the middle classes become sympathetically interested in an unmarried mother with a housing problem. She at least receives one useful handout from a wise man. As a diversion they, the middle classes that is, mark the birthday with a turkey sacrifice and lots of presents, mostly to those who do not need them.

The unmarried mother, who is usually forgotten after the school nativity play, also compounded the problems she was causing by becoming an asylum-seeker in Egypt which had its own socio-economic problems - and still does.

The boy grew up and contributed respectably to society until he got it into his head to become a traveller. He headed up an itinerant gang, one of whom had a terrorist background, and another was a collaborator with the occupying forces as an inland revenue inspector. As leader of the gang, from his wayside pulpit he started exhorting people to do some crazily subversive things, which threatened national security, like loving their enemies, and properly upset labour relations by advocating that masters wash their servantsâ¬G feet. He also had no professional qualifications for his practice of medical and mental health cures.

Finally, the authorities caught up with him, through the temple police, who were inter alia very upset by his allegedly unprovoked attack on their temple and city business practices. In common with those today who favour harsh punishment, he was given the harshest.

That the story has a triumphant ending is no thanks to most of us, who are still struggling to get the point.

Shabbat ShalomNext Post

On Friday 11th November, Amersham Friends were invited to join the South Bucks Jewish Community for their Erev Shabbat (Sabbath Evening) service.

The SBJC have been using Amersham Meeting for their Friday services for many years now. Most of us are familiar with the sight of the ark (the container for the Torah scrolls), tucked away in the corner of our Meeting for Worship room covered in a plain damask cloth. But on Friday night it was uncovered and all eyes were immediately caught by the stunningly beautiful curtain thus displayed. Designed by one of the congregation, its iridescent golds, greens and blues represent the land and the sea.

The SBJC went out of their way to welcome their Quaker guests, starting the service half an hour early so the Rabbi had time to explain to us, not just what would happen, but the meaning of each part of the service.

The service followed a prayer book (printed, of course, from right to left). Parts of it were sung and parts were spoken by the Rabbi or by the congregation in response. Parts were in English and parts in Hebrew. At one point Ann, our clerk, and Anita, their chair, shared a reading on the subject of peace. Ann read one passage that could easily have been penned by a Quaker, underlining how all the world's major religions have a striving for peace at their core.

In the middle of the service, the Torah scrolls were brought out from the ark, and the Rabbi told us something of their history and also explained the painstaking process by which such scrolls are still produced - little different today to the way medieval monks once transcribed copies of the Bible.

When the formal part of the service was over, everyone greeted one another with Shabbat Shalom (Sabbath Peace) and we moved out into the lobby area to share bread and wine (the kiddush). The Rabbi held the plaited challah bread and everyone touched the shoulder of the person next to them, forming a chain linking everyone to the bread.

All in all a very informative and moving occasion. I am sure all the Friends there felt privileged to be allowed to share these ancient traditions that have survived so vibrantly into the present day.

Quaker WeekNext Post

Quaker Week saw a range of activities throughout the Chilterns Quaker area.

Quaker Week in High WycombeFriends from High Wycombe man a stall in Frogmore during Quaker Week









A colourful Quaker presence in High Wycombe reminded folk that we are still alive in the 21st century and can offer an alternative refuge for those seeking time and room to think about their spiritual journey. On the Saturday following our stall, we opened our meeting house in the afternoon offering free tea, coffee and biscuits, and a silent meeting house in which to recover composure from the busy life outside. Visitors are always welcomed at our meetings on Sunday mornings. They last from 10.45 a.m. to 11.45 a.m. with time for tea, coffee and a chat afterwards.




Quaker Theatre and Amersham MHActors from the Quaker Theatre join in the discussion

Meanwhile, Amersham Meeting House was the first venue in the south of England on the Quaker Theatre Company's tour of its new play, George Fox and Margaret Fell get stuck in a lift, by Alan Avery. Our Peace Testimony comes under sharp scrutiny when life and death decisions have to be made. Can Margaret Fell sustain her belief in the testimony when lives are at risk? What hold does George Fox have over her, and why are they stuck in a lift together?

The highly enjoyable play ran for 45 minutes, followed by a brief interval for refreshments (including Hot Apple Punch made from apple juice from our very own apple tree). We then returned to the Meeting Room for a lively discussion of the issues raised by the play.




Heritage DayNext Post

Heritage Day at Amersham MHAmersham Friends welcoming visitors to their Meeting House

Amersham Old Town had a delightful sunny afternoon for Heritage Day with around ninety visitors to our Meeting House, which was decked out with banner, peace flag and Heritage Day balloons. Literature about our heritage is always on display at these events, so it was timely to have a supply of the new Peace Testimony booklet indicating Peace Building work being carried out throughout the year.

On show were photographs of Amersham Quakers old and new, some of them displayed for the first time. We were fortunate to receive an album of photographs dating from the early part of the twentieth century from a New Zealand benefactor whose from the collection of a local Friend, these had been enlarged and printed and matched with modern photographs of the same locations to show how the Meeting House (and Friends) had changed over time.

One particularly fascinating photograph showed what we believe to be a Meeting for Worship during Monthly Meetings c1930, shortly after the Meeting House came back into Quaker use. Our familiar benches had been taken outside and Friends were gathered on the meadow! (To see some of these photographs, please visit our 'Quaker Trail' page.

Another first for us was Amersham Quakers' Apple Juice produced from apples from a Friend's orchard. Forty bottles were sold in aid of improvements to our premises, especially those for disabled people.

Quaker Camp 2011Next Post

Quaker Camp took place this year at Westover Farm, Wootton Fitzpainne, Dorset from 27th July to 9th August. Old and new campers were delighted by a return visit to one of our favourite sites. The farmer is extremely hospitable and friendly and led us on a very interesting farm walk. We were fortunate to have good weather with only a few rainy days.

In addition to our regular activities (wide games, swimming, Camp Olympics and so on) we planned two sessions with the staff of the Charmouth Heritage Centre: a talk by the geologist about the Jurassic coastline and a session rock pooling in Lyme Regis with the centre's marine biologist. We also had a wild flower meadow walk which was led by Nick who works for the Dorset Wildlife Trust.

Our theme for Camp this year was Desert Island and acting on a request from the children last year we combined this with finding out more about our Quaker heritage. We had team names such as Peg-Leg Fox, One-Eyed Fry, Penns' Parrots, to name but a few! We worked together to find out about these founders of our Faith and we spend a very enjoyable time in the sunshine making flags for each team. We had early evening discussions where we shared learning about these Quakers and we presented interesting facts we had learnt about each Friend.

We are camping next year in Princes Risborough. We would love to welcome Friends to Camp to see why we love living in a Quaker community.

Aylesbury in JuneNext Post

Aylesbury Quakers received many positive comments from the large number of people who came to see the new garden as part of the Aylesbury Secret Gardens day on Sunday 19th June. Many also came into the Meeting House, and of course, partook of our now famous cream teas in the Cottages. A good deal of money was raised for local charities.

A few days later, as part of our discussion group programme, we had a talk by Jon Neall, a recently returned Ecumenical Accompanier. He gave us a combination of historical information and a very personal account of his time spent in Palestine witnessing the problems faced by communities whose lands straddle the 'wall'. The question time was a powerful illustration of the challenges faced by peacemakers in the area; Jon Neallâ¬Gs response to questioners was an excellent example of the resilience and steadfastness required of an accompanier.

Please click here for more information about Ecumenical Accompaniers in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI).

Celebrating Sanctuary LondonNext Post

An Amersham Friend's account of the free festival that celebrates the contribution refugees make to life in Britain

Celebrating Sanctuary London, now in its twelfth year takes place along the South Bank and kicks off Refugee Week. This was my first time attending and I was intrigued.

After the rain of the previous ten days, the tents and stalls set out in Bernie Spain gardens, below the Oxo Tower, were bathed in dappled sunshine. As I approached from Waterloo, cooking smells wafted towards me from stalls serving food from the Caribbean, North Africa, Ghana, Eritrea...

Celebrating Sanctuary London 2011Getting Ready for the 'Umbrella Parade' at the start of Refugee Week

Groups such as the Red Cross, the Council for Refugees, Freedom from Torture and the Migrant and Refugees Communities Forum were represented and eager to dispel the myths about refugees so often perpetuated by sections of the Press.

There were three stages set up; the Collaboration Stage, the Hot Shoe Cafe Stage and the Acoustic Yurt. Between them, they were showcasing an astonishing array of talent, from singers to story-tellers to cookery demonstrations.

I spent most of my time sitting on woven rugs on the floor of the Acoustic Yurt. I had come especially to hear the work of the Write to Life group â¬. a group of writers who are all survivors of torture, and who have been mentored by volunteers from Freedom From Torture (formerly the Medical Foundation for the Care of the Victims of Torture). Jade from Uganda and Faith from Ethopia read two beautiful poems each. And then Faith â¬. a tiny, beautiful woman who walks with a pronounced limp â¬. sang an extraordinary, haunting song that filled the tent and brought people crowding in at the doors to listen.

Their anthology, Body Maps, was on sale and I bought a copy. The title refers to the medico-legal report that all refugees must provide to support their claim for asylum. In it are charts of the human body on which every scar and injury found during an intimate medical exam are recorded. Reading, on the way home, the accounts of three refugees who have undergone this process was almost unbearably moving.

Body Maps cost £5 and can be purchased from Freedom from Torture.


Hall Barn Shakespeare: Winter on a Summer's EveningNext Post

It is something of a tradition for Jordans Local Meeting to have a social evening out at Hall barn in June to see the open air Shakespeare production. This year a small group of us went on the 10th June to see 'A Winters Tale' which was up to the usual high standard. Hall Barn provides a fantastic setting for theatrical events and happily the audience is protected from the elements.

We like to begin the evening with a shared supper and take the opportunity to stroll around the grounds and we were able to do this on Friday.


Coram and NobelNext Post

An account High Wycombe Friends' 'Not Quite Fifth Sunday' Outing to the Coram Museum in London.

On 1st June four adults and seven teenagers travelled by train to Marylebone and on the top deck of a London bus to St Pancras, where we walked to The Coram Museum. There we were met by 'Thomas Coram' himself, easily recognisable from his portrait painted by Hogarth in 1740. Thomas Coram was the philanthropist who conceived the idea of The Foundling Hospital, which was in effect an 18th century orphanage. He surprised one of our younger members by asking her if she had seen the cows in the fields outside and went on to explain that the children here were fed with good wholesome milk from those cows.

Statue of Thomas Coram
Thomas Coram outside his Foundling Hospital

Two governors of the hospital were Reynolds and Hogarth so there was a floor devoted to theirs and other artists' works. A fashionable Sunday afternoon activity for the wealthy was to visit the hospital and watch the children eating their Sunday lunch. Hogarth did one of his wonderful satirical cartoons depicting just this scene.

Handel was also a governor and the first performance of his Messiah was given in the hospital chapel. One floor was devoted to his work and comfy chairs were provided to sit and relax and listen to a chosen Handel composition. Thomas Coram himself had some of the treasures left by the mothers when they brought their babies to be cared for by the hospital. They told their own sad tales but Thomas was full of stories about the good wholesome treatment provided for the children in their care.

After a drink and flap-jack in the sunshine we spent a short time in the playground and then walked to Friends House, arriving just in time to purchase our lunch in the restaurant before it closed at 2pm. The food served there received accolades all round and we would commend it to anyone in the area at lunch time.

We were then welcomed in the Quaker centre and had a short tour of Friends House, looking into the large Meeting Room before going to the Library where we were in for a big treat. The Nobel Peace Prize medal awarded to Quakers in 1947 was brought up for us to see and indeed hold. This was quite awesome. We were all amazed at the weight of the gold medal which filled the palm of an adult sized hand. In his presentation speech given in December 1947 at the University of Oslo Gunnar Jahn, Chairman of the Nobel Committee said 'They have given us something more: they have shown us the strength to be derived from faith in the victory of the spirit over force.' And this brings to mind lines from one of Arnulf Øverland's poems which helped so many of us during the war. I know of no better salute:

The unarmed only
can draw on sources eternal.
The spirit alone gives victory.

The face of the medal of the Peace Prize shows Alfred Nobel (1833-1896), the founder of the prizes. The other side of the medal represents a group of three men forming a fraternal bond. The inscription reads:

Pro pace et fraternitate gentium (For the peace and brotherhood of nations)

The four adults were grateful to the seven teenagers whose company we all enjoyed, for giving us the reason to plan and share this 'Not Quite 5th Sunday' outing which became an even more memorable occasion for us all.

Saumur: in the footsteps of William PennNext Post

A group of Friends from Jordans visited the historic and beautiful mediaeval town of Saumur on the River Loire in north west France for the weekend 19th to 22nd May 2011.

We were there to celebrate the brief period William Penn spent in the Huguenot academy there, after he had been sent down from Christchurch College, Oxford for an excess of Protestantism. There he came under the influence of Moise Amyraut, one of the most distinguished Protestant theologians of the time, one of the few whom Catholic theologians were willing to converse with.

A Sign of William Penn's stay in SaumurSaumur, where a public square, adjacent to the protestant church in Saumur, was renamed Place William Penn

We attended the public and academic colloquia exploring the influence that the teaching at the academy had upon William Penn's system of thought about religion and governance, and his later development. The academy was a centre of Protestant teaching in Catholic France and flourished for a brief period after the Edict of Nantes in 1598, but was closed and demolished after the revocation of the Edict of Nantes in 1685 which suppressed Huguenots, many of whom fled abroad, including to England.

Moise Amyraut was a keen defender of religious tolerance, and well regarded by Catholic authorities of the time. Penn's academic records have been lot, but it is likely that Penn discovered the commitment to education for everyone â¬. boys and girls alike, and the importance of teaching professional skills to all, and the enfranchisement of all men with equal voting rights, and the function of prison to reform and not only to punish. William Penn also learnt French. He was probably influenced towards writing his famous essay on The present and future peace of Europe in 1693, in the middle of wars with France.

The academic presentations outlined the significance of William Penn in founding the colony of Pennsylvania where Quakers could find freedom from the religious persecution present in Europe. They outlined how the constitution of the colony was to influence the constitution of the USA in 1787, and the Declaration of the Rights of Man in 1789. We learnt about the ending of the Holy Experiment in 1756 when Pennsylvania, together with other colonies, declared war on France and on the Indians, and Quakers withdrew from the government, and Pennsylvania later ceased to be a proprietary colony. We learnt about the continuing work of the Pennsbury Manor Society in making accessible information about the life of William Penn and where he lived in the brief periods he lived in Pennsylvania. Some of the papers will be published in due course by Woodbrooke College.

So this was a rich and rewarding experience for us in the beautiful town of Saumur. We were hosted very well, and had meals with the speakers and the some of the participants, in nice restaurants, one in the grounds of the spectacular chateau, and one in the local troglodyte caves.

Christian Aid Lunches at Amersham Meeting HouseNext Post

Christian Aid LunchEnjoying the soup

During Christian Aid Week (16th to 20th May, 2011) Amersham Meeting House played host to the annual Christian Aid Soup Lunches. This is a Churches Together event, organised jointly between Amersham Quakers, St Mary's Church and the King's Church.

Each day during the week, the churches took it in turn to provide home-made soup and cakes to all comers, with the money raised going to Christian Aid. There was also a Fair Trade stall selling all manner of dry goods.

This year, a grand total of £425 was raised in the course of the week.

Amersham Quakers also supported the Christian Air Craft Fair at St Michael's Church, on Saturday 21st May, which raised a further £1523.


Playing the harp at Jordans

One Thousand Years of the HarpNext Post

On the 8th May 2011, harpist Paula Tait came to Jordans Quaker Meeting House as part of the New Jordans Programme to present a history of the harp and to play the music to illustrate her talk. The concert was attended by about 65 people, a few of whom chose to picnic in the grounds beforehand.

It was a truly memorable occasion with a very appreciative audience, who learnt a lot and listened to some beautiful music. Paula is very skilful in blending information with singing and playing, in a simple and humourous way. The time passed very quickly as we were taken from early harp music through the development of this wonderful instrument. Paula's loving enthusiasm for the harp is clear and very infectious. Many people are hoping that she will come to play again. When she does, don't miss what is a very special experience. Paula worships at High Wycombe Meeting and New Jordans Programme is very grateful to her for a wonderful musical experience.




Concientious Objectors MonumentConcientious Objectors Monument, Tavistock Square

Pathway for PeaceReturn to Top

A High Wycombe Friend gives her account of a sponsored walk in aid of the St Pancras Peace Pathway:

On Saturday May 7th some 30 people set off on a sponsored walk around central London. Roger, a retired English lecturer, accompanied us. We were soon to discover that he had a vast knowledge of the history of the sites we were about to visit. First we were invited inside the beautiful old church of St Pancras for explanations about the Peace Pathway and the history of the church. After this we lit candles and said our individual prayers for peace.

Our first visit was Tavistock Square to see the monument to war resisters and the statue of Gandhi. Roger explained his Quaker up-bringing. In his youth he had written to and received a reply from Bertrand Russell upon the question of his (Roger's) conscientious objection to National Service.

After several more interesting sites and much mentioned social reformers we stopped for lunch in Queen's Square, home of the Art workers Guild and the new Mary Ward House with its vegetarian cafe.

The highlight of the walk was the chapel at Great Ormond Street Hospital. It has been designed in the manner of a Greek Orthodox Church and was said to be Oscar Wilde's favourite private chapel. A particular feature was its sensitivity towards non- Christians. There is no cross at its centre only the word 'Alleluia' inscribed in gold lettering on the altar stone. Around the sides of the chapel soft toys had been left.

The walk terminated in Red Lion Square. Everyone enjoyed it and Roger has promised to take us on another walk later in the summer. All welcome. I found the walk spiritually up lifting and thanks to the generosity of CAQM Friends I have raised over £120 towards the Peace Pathway.

The next walk in support of the Peace Pathway will be on Saturday 24th September. Click here to download a leaflet.