Tag Archives: MfW&CC

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.

How do I, a nontheist Quaker, relate to deeply Christian Quakers? 5May 2022

Thank you for registering for our Quaker Meeting and Creative Conversation, organized by the NFN, UK.

The Working Group has rotated the kaleidoscope, and through each twist, will bring you a different experience monthly.  
For 5 May, the Query, How do I, a nontheist Quaker, relate to deeply Christian Quakers?”, will be introduced to stimulate discussion and sharing of thoughts and ideas amongst all participants.
Please arrive early, as the Meeting will start promptly at 7PM.  The Zoom Room opens at 6:45PM.
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.

May’s Format:
• Zoom Room opens at 6:45PM, please arrive early. 
• 7PM: Welcome and Quaker Meeting (~20 minutes): Sharing silence with one another for quietly gathering ourselves and connecting. 
• Creative Conversation and Discussion (~1 hour): Query introduced, followed by a short discussion in break-out rooms, with the remainder of the discussion in the main Zoom room with all participants.
• Conclusion: Thoughts and a few moments to share silence. 
• After Announcements the Zoom Room will remain open for friendly chats and community. 
• Duration:1hr:30m-2hr:00m 

You will automatically receive Zoom links to subsequent Meetings, approximately one week beforehand and a reminder the day of.  There is no need to re-register. You may unregister/unsubscribe at any time by replying to this email address.

See you soon. 

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

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 June 2021

Dear Friends,
Due to unforeseen circumstances, David Parlett will not be able to share his Creative Conversation presentation for the 3rd of June.  The QM+CC Working group has prepared a Meditation reading written by Harvey Gillman to share with you and invites you to participate in a contemplative conversation with your fellow Friends.

This will be our last QM+CC before we holiday for summer and resume again in September, so we hope to see you.  We are sorry for the change-of plans; thank you for your patience and understanding.

Please arrive early, as the Meeting will start promptly at 7PM.  The Zoom Room opens at 6:45PM.
The format will be as follows:
• 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.
• Small break-out rooms: up to 20 minutes for creative exchanges, expressions, and reactions; hopefully fostering community and fellowship.
• Open discussion in main room: up to 20 minutes to share ‘creative moments or surprises’ that occurred in small break-out rooms.
• Conclusion: ending with a few moments gathered in silence.
• Duration: 1hr:20m-1hr:45m

With gratitude and in Friendship, Kiera Faber, Gisela Creed, William Purser, and John Senior (QM+CC Working group)

If you wish to attend our Conference in July, please register separately for this at clerk@nontheist-quakers.org.uk   (Just a simple email requesting registration for the Conference) Entry limited to 100. Book early!

Feedback and reflections on NFN MfW&CC 6 May 2021

This was our third such meeting (6 May: Philip Gross, The language of poetry, and creative uses of the word ‘God’) and I understand we may now have further speakers lined up for summer and autumn but if you would like to offer a ‘creative conversation’, please contact clerk@nontheist-quakers.org.uk

Again, I believe, about 90 Friends attended the meeting and there was a lot of sharing in the smaller groups of about 7 or 8 and many novel ideas prompted by Philip’s 3 poems and his thoughts on metaphor and his own creative uses of the word ‘God’ and ‘God language’ in those three poems: ‘Mattins’, ‘Psalm: You’, and ‘And whatever’.

This draws to mind our Quaker book ‘God, words and us’,
published in 2017 which deals with different concepts and beliefs relating to God and the use of the word and other ‘God language’.
Friends present asked if they could read the poems again and Philip has now sent us these together with a (‘slightly tweaked’) written version of his presentation. Please have a look and share any further thoughts you may have in the Comments or ‘Leave a reply’ box below. (Your email address will not be shared but will be seen by me as part of the ‘moderation’ process for comments on this website.)

The End of words …

… is to bring men to the knowledge of things beyond what words can utter. Isaac Pennington QF&P 27.27 so, perhaps that should be the end of the post?

Whilst I am sorry that we have not prompted yet more words here in response to our last ‘MfW + creative conversation’ and post, a very interesting discussion has broken out in the last week  or two on the Nontheist Quaker Facebook page especially prompted by some posts by a newcomer to Quakers (and would be attender) in Belgium, Jean-Christophe Ducin – see his posts for 10 and 16 April. I do hope he responds to the invitation from ‘Quakers of all sorts from non-theist, to universalist to various degrees of Christian outlook.’ in Brussels.

Our next ‘MfW + creative conversation’ is on 6th May with Philip Gross and details of how to register for the NFN conference in July will be on the website soon.  In the meantime, Friends may also be interested in the Quaker Universalist (UK) conference on ‘Life, Time and Eternity‘ online from 7th-15th May if they are quick to register!

I might have had more to add but unfortunately the new wordpress block editor makes writing these posts take about five times as long as before, so it’s over to you.

Feedback and reflections on NFN MfW&CC 1 April 2021

Trevor (NFN web person): I hope other Friends will contribute to these reflections.
I received an email this morning from Humanists UK which began: ‘Dear Trevor, You and I are not religious’.

I replied to say: ‘ ‘You and I are not religious’ not a reasonable assumption.
There are many religious humanists.
See David Boulton ‘The Faith of a Quaker Humanist’ at https://qug.org.uk under pamphlets.
Not even reasonable for British Humanists to be so determinably anti-religious!’
https://qug.org.uk/pamphlets-2/pamphlet-26/

(Except the spell-checker didn’t like ‘determinably’ and rendered it ‘determinable’ – never mind, I suppose I meant ‘determinedly’.)

Some attending the NFN MfW with creative conversation presentation by William Purser last night commented that they too were in some sense ‘religious humanists’ or that they were uncomfortable with some humanists’ anti-religious activities and that the value (and values?) of religions or religious groups should not be sniffed at.

I suppose that must include ourselves as members of or Friends of ’The Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) in Britain’ (or elsewhere).

The meeting was well attended with Friends from right across the UK as well as a few from the USA and I think Africa and possibly elsewhere. (Please let us know!).

We thank William for his presentation ‘Fox to Opium via Marx….?’. I think William intended to be provocative or at least to provoke some thoughts and reflection in the following ‘creative conversation’ which it certainly did. (It’s perhaps not quite ‘worship sharing’ but not ‘discussion’ although some Friends obviously felt the urge to move in that direction – even debate or Q&A!).

Likewise, I intend to be provocative here or, I hope, to provoke further reflections and conversation (by these people, right here, now on this website as Harvey Gillman might have said).

One participant asked ‘what brought us all to this nontheist meeting, which we are not getting from our own local meetings?’ and (another?) ‘unity or what unites us is more important than anything that might divide us’ – religion, politics or economics for example?

It seems that quite a few of us do identify as ‘humanist’ in some sense, some as atheist, some as ’nontheist’ and some as ‘theist’,  while some thought that any differences between theist/nontheist weren’t even worth talking about.

From my own experience of NFN Friends, conferences and the Steering Group over 10 years, I’m sure there is quite a wide range of views or beliefs held but that all take comfort from our practice in Meeting for Worship and Quaker social activism (which includes political matters and ideas about the need for a ’new economics’).

Have I captured some ‘sense of the Meeting’ and have I been sufficiently provocative, at least not to induce yawns or snores??

(I had intended to put in a whole lot of hypertext links but I’ll assume you can all use ‘duck, duck go’ instead). https://duckduckgo.com/

We did this time have a final 20 minutes in breakout rooms after the meeting and it would be interesting to hear of any feedback (respecting privacy) from those groups. In total I believe we had about 95 attending the meeting and about half remained for the final chat in the breakout rooms at the end. My own area meeting (East Cheshire, near Stockport/Manchester) was quite well represented with at least 4 of us attending and there were two of us in my breakout group. At least one person in the main conversation had commented that men had tended to dominate the contributions a bit and that was true at first in our breakout group (I think there were 4 men and 4 women in that group. I didn’t notice what the overall balance was in the main meeting and I hope my binary reference is acceptable).

At the previous meeting with presentation by John Senior on 4 March there was quite a bit of feedback on the ‘Chat’. This time the Chat was disabled because some people apparently thought it was distracting. I on the other hand thought it was a useful additional channel of communication between participants including the organisers and a means of clarifying items not heard well.
What do you think?

Helen Gilbert on the Facebook group (link below) commented:
Tim (Regan), I enjoyed the Zoom meeting and talk, it would have been lovely to have been able to thank people by written message as I am not always able to get a good connection to speak or be seen. I know having ‘chat messages’ running along side a speaker and discussion can be a bit distracting but it can be helpful if your connection is poor (as I use an underpowered Chrome Book or for those using phones). Would it be possible for the message function to be turned on even if it is for 10 mins at the end just so the speaker and yourself can be thanked?

Comments on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1631439757083868:
Helen Gilbert
I really enjoyed the second of the Non Theist Network meetings for ‘worship’ tonight with an interesting talk on whether religion is the ‘opium of the people’. It was interesting to consider also any links between Jesus and Marx, in the discussion group afterwards. I find myself thinking that for me the link between them is that they were both motivated by compassion and love for those in need, and the motivation and reputation of both have very debatably been damaged by their ‘followers’. Thanks to the NTN for an interesting talk and debate.

Gabi Clayton
Thanks for today. I look forward to the next one.

(See additional comment from the Facebook group under Comments below).

We all now look forward to the next meeting on 6 May: Philip Gross, The language of poetry, and creative uses of the word ‘God’