Thoughts for the week

28.11.2020 37. What is God?

“Marilynne Robinson, the acclaimed American novelist,author of the newly published ‘Jack,’ and for whom science and religion sit side by side, when asked ‘what is her God, is it a rock?’ Answered ‘God has a big reality for me but that is not to say that it has definition, there are things that exceed language, God is one of those things, pre-eminently and utterly’”

Suggested by Anne Ogley.

21.11.2020 36. Quaker Faith and Practice 24.56

In 1920 the Society of Friends had its first World Conference, held in London as soon as possible after the First World War. In 1937, when the world was so plainly drifting toward a second and more terrible conflict, it was decided to hold another conference, this time in the United States. Rufus Jones was asked to preside over the meetings. He accepted, but the Conference loomed before him as an ordeal. He wrote to Violet Holdsworth:

In regard to the World Conference, I sincerely hope for good results, but I have become a good deal disillusioned over ‘big’ conferences and large gatherings. I pin my hopes to quiet processes and small circles, in which vital and transforming events take place. But others see differently, and I respect their judgment.


Suggested by Jean Asher

14.11.2020 35. Advices and Queries 16

“Do you welcome the diversity of culture, language and expressions of faith in our yearly meeting and in the world community of Friends? Seek to increase your understanding and to gain from this rich heritage and wide range of spiritual insights. Uphold your own and other yearly meetings in your prayers.” 

Suggested by Julia Hargreaves

7.11.2020 34. From “Living our beliefs, an explanation of the faith and practices of Quakers.”

“Truth is like the sun. You can shut it out for a time, but it ain’t going away.” Elvis Presley (1935–1977)

Suggested by Julia Hargreaves

The entirety of the excellent little book, “Living our beliefs” which was “developed and edited by young Quakers, with Graham Ralph” can be read for free(!) here:

31.10.2020 33. From “Living our beliefs, an explanation of the faith and practices of Quakers.” 

“I have learnt that everyone has an inner light. How you act on it
in everyday life will define how brightly your light will shine.”

Participant, Junior Yearly Meeting 2016

Suggested by Sue Cariss

The entirety of the excellent little book, “Living our beliefs” which was “developed and edited by young Quakers, with Graham Ralph” can be read for free(!) here:

24.10.2020 32. From the Quaker Tapestry Botany Panel

Sarah Martha Baker 1887-1917 was a botanist and Quaker, whose Sunday school students recalled her teaching that “the universe is always singing, while only man is silent; and that man must learn to listen, so that his heart may join the universal chorus”. 

Quaker Tapestry Botany Panel

Suggested by Sue Cariss

17.10.2020 31. A quotation from John Wesley

“Love … continually incites us to do good: as we have time, and opportunity, to do good in every possible kind, and in every possible degree to all men. John Wesley 1799

Suggested by John Asher

10.10.2020 30. From “How to Love”, by Thich Nhat Hanh,

“The first element of true love is loving kindness. The essence of loving kindness is being able to offer happiness. You can be the sunshine for another person. You can’t offer happiness until you have it for yourself. So build a home inside by accepting yourself and learning to love and heal yourself. Learn how to practice mindfulness in such a way that you can create moments of happiness and joy for your own nourishment. Then you have something to offer the other person.”

Suggested by Sita Brand. Sita writes that Sunday 11th of October will be the 94th birthday for Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh, who is gravely ill. 

03.10.2020 29. QF&P 26.11

“Whenever we are driven into the depths of our own being, or seek them of our own will, we are faced by a tremendous contrast. On the one side we recognise the pathetic littleness of our ephemeral existence, with no point or meaning in itself. On the other side, in the depth, there is something eternal and infinite in which our existence, and indeed all existence, is grounded. This experience of the depths of existence fills us with a sense both of reverence and of responsibility, which gives even to our finite lives a meaning and a power which they do not possess in themselves. This, I am assured, is our human experience of God.”

John Macmurray, 1967

Suggested by Marian McNichol

 26.09.2020  28. QF&P 18.20

“May the light prevail over the darkness; may those who are here speak for all children of the Light, to the needs of other times as well as to their own”.

Quoted in The Friend this week. Suggested by Sue Cariss

19.09.2020 27. QF&P 21.49

“I am glad I was here. Now I am clear, I am fully clear… All is well; the Seed of God reigns over all and over death itself. And though I am weak in body, yet the power of God is over all, and the Seed reigns over all disorderly spirits.

George Fox, shortly before his death, 1691″

Suggested by Jamie Campbell

12.09.2020 26. Advices and Queries 7

Be aware of the spirit of God at work in the ordinary activities and experience of your daily life. Spiritual learning continues throughout life, and often in unexpected ways. There is inspiration to be found all around us, in the natural world, in the sciences and arts, in our work and friendships, in our sorrows as well as in our joys. Are you open to new light, from whatever source it may come? Do you approach new ideas with discernment?

Suggested by Sue Cariss and Julia Hargreaves

06.09.2020 25. from the booklet, “God is Silence” by Pierre Lacout

‘Words split apart. Silence unites. Words scatter. Silence brings together. Words stir up. Silence brings peace. Words engender denial. Silence invites even the denier to find fresh hope in the confident expectation of a mystery which can be accomplished within’

suggested by Sue Cariss

29.08.2020 24. QF&P 26.18

“It is because the learning process is continued throughout life that Friends are seekers as well as finders – not one or the other, but both. One only has to think of the need for a continual search for fresh language, unsoiled by use, to know that we must, if we care about truth, continue to be seekers. We may have a firm hold on old truth ourselves, but unless we are eager to find new ways of expressing it we may be unable to speak the word of life to others just when they most need it.

Ruth Fawell, 1987

Suggested by Sheila Fox (Ruth did valuable work with the teenage group in Sheila’s Meeting, when she was growing up).

22.08.2020 23. From title panel of the Quaker tapestry

“The Religious Society of Friends might be thought of as a Prism, through which the divine light passes to become visible in a spectrum of many colours, many more in their richness than words can express”

Suggested by Sheila Fox

About the Quaker tapestry –

15.08.2020 22. Quaker Faith and Practice 26.24 (partial)

“In both the scientific and religious searches for truth, the implications of current beliefs are explored to see where they lead. Beliefs are not just safe ledges in an uncertain reality, but rather handholds from which further heights can be reached.

Eleven Quaker scientists, 1989”

Suggested by Julia Hargreaves

08.08.2020 21. Quaker Faith and Practice 22.07

“I came to realise that the best way to deepen my love of God was to use my experience of the love in my everyday life in all its variety, subtlety and uncertainty. Getting on with those I love is often a business demanding patience, discretion, tact and understanding. It gets complicated sometimes. It also gets strained, occasionally to the breaking point. But without expression it is barren. I show my love in the things I do, and I also show it by words of endearment. These things are all part and parcel of one another. This is what worship should be like. This is the idiom in which we should speak to God.

John Punshon, 1987″

Suggested by Julia Hargreaves

01.08.2020 20. A postscript to ‘the brethren of the north’ issued by a meeting of elders at Balby, 1656.

“Dearly beloved Friends, these things we do not lay upon you as a rule or form to walk by, but that all, with the measure of light which is pure and holy, may be guided; and so in the light walking and abiding, these may be fulfilled in the Spirit, not from the letter, for the letter killeth, but the Spirit give the life”.

Suggested by Sue Cariss

25.08.2020 19. The Millennium Resolution

Let there be…
respect for the earth,
peace for its people,
love in our lives,
delight in the good,
forgiveness for past wrongs,
and from now on a new start.

Suggested by Marian McNichol

18.07.2020 18. From The Long Road to Freedom, Nelson Mandela, 1994

“No one is born hating another person because of the colour of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.”

Suggested by Sue Cariss

12.07.2020 17. From Desiderata, by Max Ehrmann, 1927

Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings. Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.

Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself. You are a child of the universe no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here.

And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should. Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be. And whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life, keep peace in your soul. With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.

Suggested by Sue Cariss

05.07.2020 16. Advices and Queries 8 and 3:

“Worship is our response to an awareness of God. We can worship alone, but when we join with others in expectant waiting we may discover a deeper sense of God’s presence. We seek a gathered stillness in our meetings for worship so that all may feel the power of God’s love drawing us together and leading us.”

“Do you try to set aside times of quiet for openness to the Holy Spirit? All of us need to find a way into silence which allows us to deepen our awareness of the divine and to find the inward source of our strength. Seek to know an inward stillness, even amid the activities of daily life. Do you encourage in yourself and in others a habit of dependence on God’s guidance for each day? Hold yourself and others in the Light, knowing that all are cherished by God.”

28.06.2020 15. A poem, “Shorthand” from Rosemary Wells book reviewed by Michael Wright in this week’s Friend.

“God” is a kind of shorthand
for an inner reality of love
to which we all belong
by virtue of our humanity…
worship is the acknowledgement of this love –
particular and universal service is our response.

Suggested by Chris Yates

21.06.2020 14. A Quotation

“Right is right even if everyone is against it and wrong is wrong even if everyone is for it”

Attributed to William Penn and St Augustine, among others. There are many variations on the theme  –

14.06.2020 13. Advices and Queries 35

“Respect the laws of the state but let your first loyalty be to God’s purposes. If you feel impelled by strong conviction to break the law, search your conscience deeply. Ask your meeting for the prayerful support which will give you strength as a right way becomes clear.”

07.06.2020  12. Mother Julian of Norwich, about 1393

“He did not say, ‘You shall not be tempest-tossed, you shall not be work weary, you shall not be discomforted’; but he said, ‘You shall not be overcome’.”

Chris Yates recalls Enid White quoting the above in MfW many years ago and feels it is appropriate for these times.

31.05.2020  11. The Friends’ Journal May, 1967

“My own experience has led me to believe that faith grows – sometimes as naturally as a seed growing in the garden, sometimes as a result of much diligent study … Faith may be nurtured by fellowship with others who believe or are seeking to believe, and by prayer, however faltering. That is why I treasure so much my membership in the Society of Friends and the wonder of the Meeting for Worship.”

Barbara Bowman closed her article on Faith and Belief in vol 12, no. 4  of The Friends’ Journal May, 1967 with these words.

24.05.2020  10. Quaker Faith and Practice 10.02

“We know the power of God’s Spirit at work in the lives of people within the community of our meetings. These people may have been drawn into the community by a sudden convincement, a long period of seeking, or have grown up within it from childhood. We also know that we are engaged in a life-long growth into faith, and experience a continuing irruption of grace into our lives which demands and sustains a commitment to a life of discipleship. We recognise this power at work in people of all ages, races and creeds: a transforming power which can issue in lives of joy, humility and service.”

London Yearly Meeting, 1986

Suggested by Marian McNichol

17.05.2020 9. Advices and Queries 27

“Live adventurously. When choices arise, do you take the way that offers the fullest opportunity for the use of your gifts in the service of God and the community? Let your life speak. When decisions have to be made, are you ready to join with others in seeking clearness, asking for God’s guidance and offering counsel to one another?”

Suggested by Julia Hargreaves

10.05.2020 8. Imagine.

“Imagine all the people living life in peace,
You may say I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope some day you’ll join us
An the world will be as one”.

John Lennon 1971

03.05.2020  7. Two related thoughts:

“We rise by lifting others”

“Do you respect that of God in everyone though it may be expressed in unfamiliar ways or be difficult to discern? Each of us has a particular experience of God and each must find the way to be true to it. When words are strange or disturbing to you, try to sense where they come from and what has nourished the lives of others. Listen patiently and seek the truth which other people’s opinions may contain for you. Avoid hurtful criticism and provocative language. Do not allow the strength of your convictions to betray you into making statements or allegations that are unfair or untrue. Think it possible that you may be mistaken.”

The short quote was spotted by Michael Yates on one of the decorated stones which have been appearing all over Settle and Giggleswick. The  longer quote is Advices and Queries 17.

26.04.2020 6. QUAKER FAITH & PRACTICE 2.48

Heed not distressing thoughts when they rise ever so strongly in thee; fear them not, but be still awhile, not believing in the power which thou feelest they have over thee, and it will fall of a sudden. It is good for thy spirit and greatly to thy advantage to be much and variously exercised by the Lord. Thou dost not know what the Lord hath already done and what he is yet doing for thee therein.
Isaac Penington
Suggested by Jamie Campbell

19.04.2020 5.Philippians 4:8

“Whatever is true, whatever is honourable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence , if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things… and the God of peace will be with you.”

Suggested by Chris Yates

12.04.2020  4.  Singing the African Sanctus in Yorkshire

by Jean Harrison 

A gentle lift of the conductor’s hands
brings us to our feet – no longer strangers
who flocked in from all over,
climbed to this high room, milled round,
flapped off raincoats, settled down –
but, suddenly, a choir.
Eight spaced drumbeats – then
he releases us to ride our breath
up and down the wide sky of three octaves.
Plainsong explodes, ‘Sanctus, sanctus.’
everything’s holy: Egyptian wedding flutes,
Acholi cows, a milking song,
Sufis chanting in the Massa mountains,
the long, undulating flight of the call to prayer.
Hosannas thunder –
the basses off on their own –
while the rest of us just about hold on
among rattles, drums, ululating voices
and everything rises into the rafters
like rooks circling at dusk, layers of birds
folding and unfolding over trees and fields,
the council houses, the Creamery,
while a few break from the mass,
wheel off towards the hills,
are gathered back.

[ Jean Harrison was a colleague, friend and latterly companion to Barbara Bowman, and for many years was associated with our Meeting. Jean  died peacefully at home on Sunday evening 5 April following a long illness.]

05.04.2020 3. Quaker Faith and Practice 24.60 (partial)

“What matters is living our lives in the power of love and not worrying too much about the results. In doing this the means become part of the end. Hence we lose the sense of helplessness and futility in the face of the world’s crushing problems. We also lose the cravings for success focussing on the goal to the exclusion of the way of getting there”

Wolf Mendel 1974

29.03.2020 2. Quaker F&P 26.39

“True faith is not assurance, but a readiness to go forward experimentally, without assurance. It is a sensitivity to things not yet known. Quakerism should not claim to be a religion of certainty but a religion of uncertainty; it is this which gives us our affinity to the world of science. For what we apprehend of the truth is limited and partial and experience may set it all in a new light: if we have found certainty, we shall no longer be sensitive to new experiences of truth. For who seeks that which he believes he has found? Who explores a territory which he claims already to know?” Charles F Carter 1971.

22.03.2020 1. Quaker Faith and Practice 29.03

“We seem to be at a turning point in human history. We can choose life or watch the planet become uninhabitable for our species. Somehow, I believe that we will pass through this dark night of our planetary soul to a new period of harmony with the God that is to be found within each of us, and that S\he will inspire renewed confidence in people everywhere, empowering us all to co-operate to use our skills, our wisdom, our creativity, our love, our faith – even our doubts and fears – to make peace with the planet. Strengthened by this fragile faith, empowered by the Spirit within, I dare to hope.” Pat Saunders 1987.