Category Archives: Non-theism

What’s ‘appening? – current affairs

I think that after 3 weeks (to the day) another post would be timely.

Our next Meeting for worship and Creative conversation is next Thursday 2nd June at 7pm where we will consider “Humanists and Quakers – How do we differ, and what are the similarities – an interactive evening”.  For full details and registration see here. (Sorry about the old link last 5 days – now correct I hope).

We have established, in addition to the Creative conversations Working Group, 5 further Working Groups that I know of (18 April) according to those who put their names forward. Some are more active than others as I mentioned in the previous post ‘No more NFN Conferences‘.

NFN Newsletter

The NFN ‘Newsletter’ Working Group has 4 names to it: Bryan Osborne, John Senior, Catherine Carr and myself Trevor Bending. This has not been active but may come to life if we try to produce a Newsletter for June as suggested previously. All Friends, NFN members, SG members and other sympathisers are invited to contribute (see that ‘previously’ link) and you may hear further after Britain Yearly Meeting 2022 has finished.

Quaker Faith & Practice revision

The Quaker Faith & Practice revision WG held its first meeting on the 18th May, hosted by Steven Goldblatt (NFN Treasurer) and attended by David Boulton, Chris Thomas, Gisela Creed, Bryan Osborne and myself. It was decided that updates would not be provided from this group until some clarity is discerned about what we hope to achieve. I won’t continue to participate in this group (for other committments) and am not sure if Bryan will for the same reason although he was able to help us off to a good start with a presentation and some insights from a meeting held with the BYM Quaker Faith & Practice revision Group by Cambridge AM. That presentation showed up later in the YM session on QF&P this week. If you want to contribute to the BYM Revision Groups deliberations you can do so in the following ways: Read BDRC reports to Meeting for Sufferings on this page https://www.quaker.org.uk/resources/quaker-faith-and-practice/revising-quaker-faith-practice
– see also creative project “Open to new light” on Padlet and other social media links on that page.
Ideas and pieces of writing can be submitted using this online form:
Q f&p: submit ideas for the next revision – QForms
https://forms.quaker.org.uk/qfp-idea/
or contact BDRC committee secretary, Michael Booth, by email to qfp@quaker.org.uk or write to him at Friends House.
(BDRC stands for Book of Discipline Revision Committee).

(Quaker faith & practice can be found online here https://qfp.quaker.org.uk/ (and it is more up-to-date than any printed edition))

Or, you can give your ideas about a nontheist contribution to QF&P revision to the NFN WG here:
nontheistfriend@gmail.com
preferably with ‘NFN Quaker Faith & Practice revision WG’ in the subject line.

Helping Woodbrooke ‘design’ nontheist courses

The “Helping Woodbrooke ‘design’ nontheist courses” Working Group consists of Tim Regan, Catherine Carr and Chris Thomas. I have heard no more about this since I withdrew on 23 April.

Website Working Group

The Website WG consisting of Chris Thomas, Ella Dorfman, Tim Regan and myself (Trevor) has probably been the most active with I believe at least 4 meetings (and lots of emails and ‘Slack’ messages) so far. I think you will probably hear more about this from Tim next Thursday evening (and/or by email) with an invitation to help by participating in surveys or interviews.

NFN Conference Working Group

This was dealt with in my last post. The Group has only Catherine Carr (from the SG) and myself. I believe at least half a dozen people would be needed to organise a Conference (but see that last post). There was only a limited response to that post and no-one came forward to help organise any kind of Conference. Perhaps, therefore, there will be no further NFN Conferences (some of the most rewarding weekends at Woodbrooke I have been to) until NFN members call for one and come forward to organise it. I’ll keep you in touch!

No more NFN Conferences? – and other matters

I believe 5 additional Working Groups were proposed at the AGM in February and all those who came forward to express an interest were contacted by our clerk Tim Regan on 18 April to take matters forward. So far, only the Website working Group (6) seems to have been particularly active. (the others being QF&P revision (6 or 7), Conference (2), Newsletter (4) and Woodbrooke courses (4) – numbers in brackets names coming forward).

Whereas 6 people (including 3 members of the Steering Group) put their names forward for the Website group, only 2 people (and I was one of them) came forward for the Conference group – which appears to me to be a bizarre sense of priorities.

Why the concern for the website (which seems to be working fine?) and so little for a future Conference when the latter, whether at Woodbrooke, elsewhere or online, has been one of the annual highlights for Nontheist Quaker activity, support and the AGM?

Am I to take it that NFN members and past or potential future Conference attenders have no further interest in such an event whether in person or online?  I do hope very much that this isn’t the case as I have always very much enjoyed NFN Conferences of which I have attended at least 6 at Woodbrooke and one online (2021 in lieu of 2020 cancelled through ‘covid’).

From my experience of being involved with the QUG (Quaker Universalist Group) Conference at Woodbrooke over several years, last year online and especially the ‘blended’ Conference at Woodbrooke and online this year when I was heavily involved with managing the online component (but most of the work being done by the QUG team at Woodbrooke), I know that organising a blended conference is very much more demanding than organising one online or even just in person.

If we can’t assemble a team to organise a blended conference (rather more than half a dozen perhaps) or an in person only conference (still 5 or 6?) then perhaps we could rise to an online only conference organised by as few as 4 people perhaps?

There might be a ‘Conference-lite’ alternative which would be simply to have (in person or online) a ‘meet-up’ for social exchange, sharing ideas and worship and so on – perhaps a ‘nontheist retreat’? – organised by just the participants themselves with only 2 or 3 people taking on some prior planning, bookings etc.  Online this might seem little different from our monthly ‘Quaker Meetings with Creative Conversations’ although it could be over a weekend with more time together. In person would be quite a different experience – and perhaps even that could include the possibility of ‘dropping in’ online.

Does anyone else in NFN feel the need for a Conference (or ‘meet-up’) – or should I go back to bed?

I really would appreciate some feed-back on this – whilst you are preparing your articles for a future newsletter.

Oh, by the way, I mentioned ‘other matters’ – the ‘Conversation’ last night on ‘How do I as a nontheist Quaker relate to deeply Christian Quakers‘ went extremely well with some very interesting contributions, particularly, I thought, those from Jean Wardrop and David Boulton. I will try to return to this later but if anyone else who was there would like to write up something for the website now, that would also be most welcome.

The Theist cuckoo in the Nontheist Nest – tonight 7 April 2022

Just a friendly reminder!
We look forward to seeing you tonight.
QM+CC Working Group (Gisela Creed, John Senior, William Purser, and Kiera Faber)

Dear Friend,
Thank you for registering for our Quaker Meeting and Creative Conversation, organized by the NFN, UK.
David Parlett will share his presentation, A Theist Cuckoo in the Nontheist Nest, on Thursday 7 April at 7PM UK time by Zoom.
Please arrive early, as the Meeting will start promptly at 7PM.  The Zoom Room opens at 6:45PM.

Email email the Clerk (clerk@nontheist-quakers.org.uk) to register IF you have not already done so.

Format:
• Zoom Room opens at 6:45PM, please arrive early.
• 7PM: Welcome and Quaker Meeting: approximately 20 minutes for quietly gathering ourselves and connecting.
• Creative Conversation: up to 20 minutes for presentation or raising a question.
• Open Discussion: up to 40 minutes, in the Main Zoom room, for creative exchanges, expressions, and reactions.
• Conclusion: ending with a few moments gathered in silence.
• Duration:1hr:20m – 2hr (For interested Friends, we will leave the Zoom room open after the Meeting closes for casual conversations)
You will automatically receive Zoom links to subsequent Meetings, approximately one week before each Meeting. There is no need to re-register. We ask that you please do not share the Zoom link with interested Friends, but encourage them to email the Clerk (clerk@nontheist-quakers.org.uk) to register. You may unregister/unsubscribe at any time by replying to this email address.

NFN Newsletter Issue April 2022

Familiar? Graphics is not my strong point – there’s quite a story behind the above attempt to re-create the masthead from David’s last newsletter.

Greetings Friends and welcome to our Spring 2022 Newsletter!

At the NFN AGM on 17 February, a couple of Friends suggested that perhaps it would be a good idea to continue the newsletter which could be emailed out to everyone on our wider mailing list and even printed and posted for the small number not on email. Printed copies could also be left at Meetings, Friends House and Woodbrooke etc. as a form of ‘outreach’. I have in the past produced a local meeting newsletter on the meeting website with the option of a printed copy. As the proposed NFN working group(s) for a newsletter and beyond the group for the ‘Creative Conversations’ do not seem to have yet been implemented, I thought I would produce an occasional newsletter in the form of a post on our website – so here it is for spring.

Creative conversations
Our next MfW and Creative conversation is at 7pm on Thursday 7 April, 2022: David Parlett,  A Theist Cuckoo in the Nontheist Nest. For further details look on the website at:

David Parlett – A Theist Cuckoo in the Nontheist Nest

Details of further conversations will be emailed and posted when available.

If you are interested in sharing your Creative Conversation with the Working Group, or would like to join us, email clerk@nontheist-quakers.org.uk. If you have already registered you will automatically receive links to our Zooms approximately a week before each meeting. As ever we would love to hear from you!

Nontheist approaches to religious language
This course took place on ‘zoom’ and Woodbrooke’s ‘moodle’ learning environment with Rhiannon Grant from 28th February to 27th March. About 20 Friends took part, possibly a majority might identify as nontheist Friends and a number of us from NFN were present, but a wide range of ‘theist’, ‘humanist’ and ‘nontheist’ viewpoints were represented. The discussions on the Moodle Forum for the course were most interesting.

The course was oversubscribed and we are told it is likely to be offered again, perhaps this year – look out for it and I would thoroughly recommend it. By the end of the course I was thinking ‘now we need a course on Nontheist approaches to God’ – but see below.

Further courses at Woodbrooke
We have already publicised the above and two other courses coming up soon:
The three courses are given by Rhiannon Grant. They are:

(Please note that these courses are organised by Woodbrooke and designed by Rhiannon Grant. They are not produced by the Nontheist Friends Network.) To judge by the first, I believe these shorter further courses will also be well worth attending and several of us have signed up for them already. (Pay as led).

Pronouns
The following pronouns are used in this issue: we/us/our means those who ‘manage’ NFN business – Steering Group, Working groups, NFN members, website or newsletter contributors etc. I/me means Trevor Bending as website editor and producer of this issue. I hope that future issues will include your contributions: articles, quotes, images, jokes, comments, letters etc. (See the end of the newsletter/post to see how to contribute. You can also make comments/leave a reply on the website below and on most other pages). Suggested deadline for submissions to a next issue (Summer 2022?) is mid-June – 21st if you like. I’d also be happy to accept contributions or responses to this issue for supplementary publication before the next issue.

Quaker blogosphere and social media
Quakers across the world, including nontheist Friends, are very active on the internet. There is a well-established nontheist Friends Facebook group with American and British moderators (Helen Gilbert is the British moderator). The group is public, so anyone can view it and the very interesting discussions that take place there, but to comment you will have to sign up to Facebook and apply to join the group. https://www.facebook.com/groups/1631439757083868

One American Friend who posts there regularly is Chuck Fager editor of Quaker Theology whose website/blog ‘A Friendly Letter’ is worth a visit. Rhiannon Grant’s blog ‘Brigid, Fox and Buddha‘ is definitely worth following along with 213 other followers. Speaking of followers, the NFN website is now followed by over 250 people.

Other Quaker blogs include:
Ben Wood’s ‘The Armchair Theologian’ – although this doesn’t seem to have been updated for 16 months.

Craig Barnett, author, Woodbrooke tutor and co-founder of the City of Sanctuary movement who currently serves on the Book of Discipline Revision Committee has a blog called ‘transitionquaker‘ and you might begin with his post (from 2014!) on ‘The Imaginary Theist’

Another Woodbrooke tutor, Mark Russ, has a blog at https://jollyquaker.com/

Another (professional) Quaker theologian, Rachel Muers, has a blog which she posts to somewhat intermittently, sometimes controversially. https://rachelmuers.wordpress.com/

Quakerquaker is an interesting blog/forum with multiple contributors expressing alternative views.

The senior editor of Friends Journal has a topical blog here: https://www.quakerranter.org/

Finally, for blogs today, Friends’ House has an active blog with various contributors: https://www.quaker.org.uk/blog

(Many of these blogs and quite a few more are listed here: https://blog.feedspot.com/quakers_blogs/)

There are also several Quaker Universalist Facebook Groups, American and British, and the websites of the UK Quaker Universalist Group, the American Quaker Universalists and our American Nontheist Friends (to which we also link on our website). Those American Friends also still maintain the nontheist google group which is very lightly moderated and springs into life from time to time!

Other current and forthcoming events
We have already mentioned David’s talk this Thursday above, the courses at Woodbrooke, and the Quaker Universalist Group Conference on Health and Healing is taking place this weekend at Woodbrooke and online. Friends may also be interested in the upcoming conference (‘Living Truth – A Rallying Call for Quakers’) of the new Quaker Truth and Integrity Group (QTIG) which is taking place online from 25-30 April. Speakers include Rachel Muers, Ben Wood, Jane Dawson and Molly Scott-Cato. Attendance is free but requires booking now. The session on Saturday morning (30 April) Drawing things together, agreeing an epistle, and framing next steps hopes for all participants to contribute ideas towards ‘helping Friends live out our Testimony to Truth in the power of love’ out of a ‘concern for the state of truth and integrity in public life across the UK and indeed more widely, (and) the Quaker Truth and Integrity Group seeks to discern what might be done to help redress the current situation.’ QTIG has a steering group, the clerk is Gerald Hewitson assisted by Jan Arriens and I’m pleased to say we have been able to help Jan with developing their website using QMN (Quaker Meetings Network) software (https://quaker.app/about/) which is designed for Quaker Meetings and recognised groups to create, fairly easily, websites with no knowledge, or desire to have any, of HTML, style sheets and the like. Jan has managed to do this very well and the website now has some 11 pages. (By way of comparison the NFN website has evolved, over 10 years since Brian Wardrop first created it, to have some 45 pages, numerous additional articles, documents, sound files and images etc., 133 posts, over 400 comments and some 250 followers – more about this below).

Quaker Humanist
In the last newsletter produced by David Boulton, I drew attention to David’s 1997 Quaker Universalist pamphlet, The Faith of a Quaker Humanist. A number of the participants in the ‘NARLA’ (Nontheist Approaches to Religious Language) course outlined above would probably identify as ‘Quaker Humanists’. I’ll put here an extract from that pamphlet – the section on ‘Faith’. David wrote:

Quakers will have no problem with the word “faith”. Theirs is a religious tradition, and in religious traditions faith invariably occupies a central place. Friends have their own (regularly revised) book of “faith and practice”. Humanists, on the other hand, generally avoid the word, precisely because of its religious connotations. This is a fairly recent preference. Nineteenth and early twentieth century humanists were often happy to write of their “faith”, even of their “religion”. As late as 1960 Julian Huxley gave one of his broadcasts the title The Faith of a Humanist. But today humanists usually prefer to see themselves as representing a “world view” rather than a “faith tradition”.

I have no quarrel with that. I am not going to challenge the convention that, when we talk of faith traditions, world faiths, inter-faith dialogue, we generally mean religious traditions, world religions and religious dialogue. We do not normally regard, say, socialism or existentialism or humanism as faiths in this sense. But few would deny that there is a strong element of faith in all these secular isms. Some of us would say it takes a lot of faith to remain a socialist these days! And perhaps in the light of the cumulative inhumanities of the twentieth century, it takes a lot of faith to be any kind of humanist.

So I am using “faith” not in its acquired sense as a body of religious beliefs but in its more basic sense of a kind of combination of trust and hope. Faith in this basic sense is not about belonging to a religious group, still less about believing dogma simply because that is required of us by some outside authority and tradition. Faith is the voluntary acceptance of certain uncertainties, and the willingness to trust and hope despite those uncertainties.

I fall in love. I trust and hope that my beloved loves me as I love her. I cannot furnish myself with irrefutable, logical, scientific proof that she loves me and that our mutual love will last till death doth us part. Indeed, common experience offers plentiful evidence which might presuppose me to assume the contrary! My acceptance of her love, and my giving of my love to her, has to be an act of faith. I promise to be faithful. Our lives together are based on this trust and confidence – con-fidence, “with faith”. And that faith has to be constantly renewed. From time to time it may fade, or be broken. But such faith has its own imperatives for survival and growth.

On a more mundane level, I fall ill. I call the doctor. There is no certainty that her medicine will cure me. I know only too well that medical science is inexact, imperfectly understood even by doctors. But I place my confidence in her. I have faith in her proposed remedies, albeit a rather sceptical kind of faith which is contingent on their working at least some of the time.

I live in a consumer society where the free market is god, where greed is exalted, where property rights take precedence over human rights, where there is said to be no such thing as society. I have lived through a massive dismantling of collective and cooperative enterprise and a triumphalist demolition of social values. If I remain a socialist, a communist or a liberal social democrat, I exemplify the triumph of faith over experience. Faith, to borrow Byron’s image, is flying the flag of freedom (or whatever banner we may be carrying) against the wind.

My point is that it takes faith to be a humanist or a Quaker. There is no certainty, no logic of history, no immutable grand design which guarantees that all will be well, and all manner of things will be well; that love will prevail  over hatred, “that of God in ·everyone” over that of the devil, the “ocean of light” over “the ocean of darkness and death”. If, before we try to live by them, we demand rational demonstration or proof that human values of love, compassion, sympathy and fellowship will prevail, we shall never get started. If we choose to try to live by these values, to build a society in which these values are exemplified, we had better recognise that we are unfurling our banners against the wind. We are choosing to live by faith.

So I am not proclaiming a new faith-tradition, a belief-system called Quaker Humanism! I am saying what is obvious: that we live by faith, whether we like it or not. And I am saying, which is perhaps less obvious, that there is much common ground between Quaker faith and humanist faith, which is what we are about to explore, first by unpacking the word …
Quakerso David continues and we will consider whether to offer any further extracts in future newsletters. In the meantime you can read the whole pamphlet here.

Continuing this theme, Tony Philpott, clerk to QUG, wrote a book in 2013 called ‘From Christian to Quaker‘ that can be found here: https://qug.org.uk/publications/books/from-christian-to-quaker/
That would make useful preparation for the ‘Are Quakers Christian’ course mentioned above.

Similarly, Michael Wright, clerk to NFN from 2015 to 2018 (sadly, Michael died last year) wrote his account of Jesus in his book ‘Jesus Today‘. (link takes you to the pdf of the book on the website). and that too might be useful preparation for that course and for ‘Why attend meeting for worship if you don’t believe in God’..

The website
I have heard no further about a working group to consider our website (and use of social media) but will be happy to work with that if it happens. In the meantime please send any suggestions or contributions for the website to me (see below).

I will try to give some helpful tips for using the website.

The appearance varies significantly as between a laptop or desktop computer on the one hand and a phone or mobile device on the other and whether you use the latter in portrait or landscape mode (turn the phone sideways!) and on the size of the screen. On a mobile you can scroll to the very bottom and choose ‘View full site’, but you will then need to view it landscape.

On the full site the main menu is the 8 items across the top of the screen (below Nontheist Quakers)

which are: HOME           NEWS       ABOUT            EVENTS               FAQ       ARTICLES        CONTACT          HOW TO?

These items are on every page and remain at the top of the page even when you scroll down. Home takes you to whatever is currently the home page (sometimes varies); NEWS is news (the latest and previous posts);  About is about NFN and has a drop down menu of 5 items (6 pages including About). Events you can guess (past, present and future) with a drop down menu (varies). FAQ is Frequently Asked Questions and has one further item, also about Nontheism and a book, in the drop down menu.  Articles has articles and newsletters (drop down with two items) going back to 2013.  Contact takes you to a form to fill in to contact us via the website editor (I pass messages on or answer them myself as appropriate). How To? tells you what I’m telling you now but is much more complicated and somewhat out of date.

The left hand column (white on black) disappears if you reduce the size of the window (or on a small tablet) and is a site map which is not especially useful. Look instead in the right hand column which is mostly green on white and has more navigation options. It will only disappear if you make the window extremely narrow when it then appears right down the bottom above the white on black column which has also then located itself there. All this is perfectly standard practice for window navigation on the web.

That right hand column contains ‘Search…’ which is very useful for finding everything about say ‘Jesus’, ‘Bible’ or ‘David Boulton’ (5 pages in the latter case – try it, it’s fun! I just tried ‘Elephant’ and it brings up one item).
This search will NOT find items in Articles or documents (pdf, Word etc.) – scroll down the Articles page to see what is there.

In the case of a mobile phone or narrow tablet (unless viewing ‘full site’ – see above) it’s quite different: You will then see a single column (the current home page) with Menu and Search at the top. (Turning it sideways – landscape – just makes it larger and easier to read). You can scroll to the very bottom for ‘full site’ as mentioned above (passing much of interest on the way???) but if you tap on Menu, you will get a drop down menu of the 8 main items and their sub-pages. You can also tap on Search and then enter your search term – on my phone you then have to tap ‘go’ to activate it but may vary depending on phone or tablet.

I think that’s more than enough – have fun exploring the site (45 pages plus lots of interesting articles and documents) and don’t forget to enter your email address to follow the site if you haven’t already done so. Oh, and leave your ‘replies’ or comments anywhere indicated on the site – if your comment doesn’t appear immediately, wait a day or so for it to be ‘moderated’ – and tick the check-boxes for ‘Notify me of new comments by email’ and ‘Notify me of new posts by email’. Any questions? Email me!

At 5 pages of A4, this newsletter is shorter than David’s last one by 1 page – I’ll try and do better next time – send me those articles!

NFNnewsletterApril2022 – Word version (most hypertext links should work)

NFNnewsletterApril2022 – pdf version (to print; probably only links which show full url’s will work)

The Newsletter is published three or four times a year. To keep up with NFN events visit our website www.nontheist-quakers.org.uk. For more information about the Network email clerk@nontheist-quakers.com. To contribute to the Newsletter or the website email trevor at humber.co.uk (remove spaces and replace at with @).

 

David Boulton’s talk tonight – don’t miss it!

Viewing the video on Wittgenstein posted by Rhiannon Grant in the course materials for ’Nontheist Approaches to Religious Language’ led me to view 2 short video clips about Wittgenstein on youtube from Don Cupitt’s 1984 TV series and then to listen to this:
https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/m00036kp Giles Fraser (1984 – ‘a passionate atheist’ – later Canon Chancellor of St Paul’s Cathedral – thanks to Cupitt perhaps) on Don Cupitt and the TV series ’The Sea of Faith’. (28 minute radio programme). A very interesting and, I think, fairly balanced assessment of Don Cupitt’s work.
Don Cupitt was one of our speakers at NFN Conference in 2012 (10 years ago!) and a post from 2017 (Five years on) says:
“Our 3 speakers then were Philip Gross, Quaker poet from Wales; Don Cupitt from the ‘Sea of Faith’ and James Riemermann from Twin Cities Friends Meeting, St. Paul, Minnesota. I (Trevor) remember this conference very well and how James’ presentation of ‘coming out’ as a ‘non-theist’ in his meeting moved me to tears. A search for ‘Riemermann’ on the Twin Cities’ website reveals a multitude of papers including this interesting piece on Theological Diversity from 2009.”

Giles Fraser is an interesting maverick, perhaps a little like Cupitt, apparently voted Conservative (for Brexit) in 2019 though saying at about the same time: “all my political energy has been a reaction to Margaret Thatcher. I hated and continue to hate Thatcherism with a passion that remains undimmed”, and having resigned as Canon Chancellor in 2011 as a result of refusing to sanction using force to remove Occupy London (remember that?) from outside the cathedral.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Giles_Fraser
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Don_Cupitt

That’s a warm up, I hope, for our 10th Creative Conversation presented tonight by David Boulton on ‘Friends and the Secular World’. Don’t miss it!

 

Upcoming events

I mentioned at the AGM on Thursday (17th February) that some nontheist Friends might be interested in the Quaker Universalists’ Conference at Woodbrooke and online from 1-3April.
Details can be found here: https://qug.org.uk/conference-2020-health-and-healing/

Friends might also be interested to look at the newly formed Quaker Truth and Integrity Group (next meeting for QTIG members on 23rd February and Zoom Conference from 25 April): https://quakertruth.org/calendar/

Courses at Woodbrooke which should certainly be of interest to nontheist Friends have already been mentioned here.

Trevor

Update and Courses at Woodbrooke

The audio file for John Richter’s talk has now been added to the homepage. There’s a minute or two missing at the beginning and unfortunately the recording quality is only fair. If we are able to add a text or transcript later we may do so.

Woodbrooke has some upcoming (online) courses which may be of particular interest to nontheist Friends – they might make a nice follow-up to John’s talk!

Nontheist Approaches to Religious Language
28 February 2022 – 27 March 2022
Tutor: Rhiannon Grant
£45.00

Why Attend Meeting for Worship if you Don’t Believe in God?
12 April 2022 – 12 April 2022
19:30 – 21:00
Tutor: Rhiannon Grant
Pay as you are led ( £ )

Are Quakers Christian?
26 April 2022 – 26 April 2022
19:30 – 21:00
Tutor: Rhiannon Grant
Pay as you are led ( £ )

Details of all these and a few other courses can be found here:
https://www.woodbrooke.org.uk/product-category/exploring-quakerism

I put the following in the comments this morning:
Whilst we’re talking about spirituality, here’s an interesting article (terrifying?) on Xi Jinping thought and the politicisation of spirituality in China:
https://unherd.com/thepost/chinas-new-plan-to-fill-the-religion-shaped-hole/

John Richter’s talk – some thoughts on the challenge

John Richter’s talk on Thursday evening did not feature his work as an artist but proved to be a provoking challenge to Quakers today, non-theist or not, to perhaps change the way we approach things if we are not (in terms of membership) to continue in terminal decline.
John’s ideas might have been unconventional after 60 years a Quaker, perhaps still feeling ‘On the Edge of Quakers’, but drew out a lively conversation of different or opposing views amongst those present (about 82 for the talk).
Our own William P(urser) closed the conversation at the very end with this from a somewhat earlier William P(enn):

“True godliness don’t turn men out of the world, but enables them to live better in it, and excites their endeavours to mend it… Christians should keep the helm and guide the vessel to its port; not meanly steal out at the stern of the world and leave those that are in it without a pilot to be driven by the fury of evil times upon the rock or sand of ruin”. (QF&P 23.02) William Penn 1682.

One of John’s suggestions (in relation to his own somewhat declining meeting at Wells-next-the-Sea (Norfolk, England)) was, weather permitting, to leave the doors open so anyone might wander in during the meeting and for people to join or leave the meeting at times to suit themselves – a practice also followed by Friends 340 years ago and indeed in the Sikh Gurudwara today. (In both cases much longer ‘meetings for worship’ – perhaps 3-4 hours amongst 17th century Quakers and sunrise to sunset amongst Sikhs).

Meetings often have a copy of the Bible, Quaker Faith and Practice (The book of Christian discipline of the Yearly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) in Britain – the ‘big red book’), Advices and Queries (the ‘little red book’ being Chapter 1 of QF&P) and sometimes other books or leaflets on the table, with a vase of flowers, in the centre of the meeting. Piers thought that visitors or newcomers to a meeting find this off-putting if the Bible and ‘Christian discipline’ have negative associations for them. But, we are the Religious Society of Friends and there were contributions from those who disliked the associations of ‘Spiritual’ whilst others might want to emphasise ’the Society’ (of which you can be a member – ’socio’ in Spanish) at the expense of ‘Religious’. Tom Shakespeare the 2020 Swarthmore Lecturer (https://www.woodbrooke.org.uk/research/swarthmore-lectures/) expressed a preference for ‘Religious not Spiritual’, doubtful about those who say they are ’Spiritual not religious’ and the associations of ’Spiritual’ with ‘New Age’ spirituality and perhaps ’Spiritualism’.

However, Jesus said: Mark 3.28-9 “Truly I tell you, people will be forgiven for their sins and whatever blasphemies they utter; 29 but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit can never have forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin” (New Revised Standard Version).
And as the Nontheist Friends Network, our online conference in 2021 was entitled ’That’s the Spirit – Dimensions of Spirituality’
(https://nontheist-quakers.org.uk/events/thats-the-spirit-dimensions-of-spirituality-nfn-conference-2021/ ) which included an impassioned talk on Humanist (or secular) Spirituality.by Andrew Copson of Humanists UK. See also https://nontheist-quakers.org.uk/articles/the-faith-of-a-quaker-humanist/#Spirituality

John posed two questions at the end of his talk for the group to consider:
1 What is the purpose of Quakers?
a John’s 4-word answer was “to explore religion together” and
b He asked us to respond with our four-word answers.
2 To flourish as a society we need to make ourselves meaningful to ourselves and to people who might join. What do we need to change?

Howard answered the first with (5 words perhaps) “to have our answers questioned”. Whilst this was drawn from some Quaker pamphlet or notice and makes a nice ‘sound-bite’, I strongly suspect that many would like their questions answered too – I know I would.

John especially wanted to emphasise the open-ness of Quakers and the open ended search for truth which has evolved from the 17th century when Friends felt they had the ‘Truth’ and while this latter claim might still be true in terms of ‘the spirit within’, the ‘inner light’, the ‘Christ within’ and so on, nonetheless we recognise that there are different kinds of truth (for example scientific truth, historical truth, spiritual truth, ‘the facts’, your truth and my truth – what is true for you is not necessarily true for me, and so on) and Friends ask ‘Are you open to new light , from whatever source it may come?’ (Advices and Queries no. 7) (Some Friends question ‘from whatever source’?).

So we see that your answers may indeed be questioned but our ‘queries’ often constitute implicit ‘advice’. We can question and seek but we can also find, or perhaps that’s ‘discern’ in ‘quakerspeak’. We no longer (as Quakers did in the 17th century) go out of our way to attack or challenge ‘Puritans’ (Evangelicals?) or Papists and indeed many of us now find wisdom from the (Western) Catholic and Eastern Orthodox traditions too, even if we rather specialise in being unorthodox or heretical. (See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heresy for a good overview of heresy). The great majority of Quakers in the world, in the Americas and Africa in particular, are members of evangelical or programmed meetings with quite different worship practices and beliefs from most ‘unprogrammed’ Quakers in meetings like BYM. Friends World Committee for Consultation (FWCC – https://fwcc.world/about-us/) by and large succeeds in uniting all the different sorts of Quakers into one ‘family’ with a common heritage and willingness to see beyond differences and work together to ‘mend the world’.

John had himself suggested some ideas for change in his talk and these included the above-mentioned openness (even open doors) and focussing on being a society of Friends rather than a church (building or meeting) and not making silence our creed – that is to say emphasising the importance of spoken ministry and attentive ‘listening’ to what might come to us during the silence. Other Friends present emphasised the importance of friendship and being meetings of friends – doing things together, socialising together as well as to ‘live better in the world, and be excited in their endeavours to mend it’. Whilst there were disagreements and differences of emphasis, many of these came down to different language: spiritual not religious or v.v, society v. church and meeting v. church. The development of language about ‘God’ – or ‘whatever you call it’ is particularly demanding: God is real or a metaphor, ‘theist’ or ’nontheist’ might be a continuum rather than either/or – see, for example, ‘God, words and us’ – https://nontheist-quakers.org.uk/?s=God%2C+words+and+us

Whether you were present at John’s talk or not, please let us have your comments and thoughts below!

 

NFN Quaker Meeting and Creative conversation 3 February 2022

Dear Friend,
We hope this note finds you well in the New Year!  We welcome you to our next Quaker Meeting and Creative Conversation on Thursday evening, 3 February at 7PM UK time, by Zoom.

John Richter will share his presentation, On the Edge of Quakers.

John writes:

There is a balance between the comfort of the familiar, hanging on to the way things have always been, as against the need to innovate, adapt and change.   Quakers are a Society, not a Religion, with members who have applied to join.   So we must not allow our Meeting Houses to become Churches or our creed to become silence.   We must benefit from being able to talk openly – both at looking inward at ourselves and outward at the world.
Additional information about our QM+CC and recordings of past CC presenters can be found on our website.
If you are interested in attending and have not registered, please email clerk@nontheist-quakers.org.uk. to register and request the zoom link

If you previously registered, there is no need to re-register, you are on the list.  You will automatically receive Zoom links to this and subsequent Meetings, approximately one week before each Meeting.  We ask that you please do not share the Zoom link with interested Friends, but encourage them to email the Clerk (clerk@nontheist-quakers.org.uk) to register. You may unregister/unsubscribe at any time by replying to this email address.

In Friendship,
The QM+CC Working group (Gisela Creed, John Senior, William Purser, and Kiera Faber)
Nontheist Friends Network

NFN AGM 2022 – a message from our Clerk

Our clerk Tim Regan and the Steering Group issued the following notice to members by email last week.

We are planning to hold the next AGM of the Nontheist Friends Network on Zoom at 7:00 UK time on Thursday the 17th of February, i.e. interleaved between our monthly Creative Conversations. I hope you can come along. The provisional agenda for the AGM is:

  • Reports
    • Clerk
    • Treasurer
    • Website
    • Working Groups
      • MfW CC
      • Newsletter
      • Conference
      • Outreach
  • Steering Group (SG)
    • Gisela standing down
    • Call for new SG members
  • New and continuing working groups
  • Conference 2022
  • Britain Yearly Meeting 2022
  • Quaker Faith & Practice Revision

Email Tim (clerk@nontheist-quakers.org.uk) if you would like to receive the Zoom link.

The minutes of this AGM can now be found here: https://nontheist-quakers.org.uk/events/minutes-from-our-2022-agm/

(N.B. As previous AGMs took place on 30th March 2019 and 9th December 2020, it is assumed the Steering Group or the AGM will decide if this AGM is for 2021—and we need another for 2022—or whether this AGM is to stand for another 12 months.)