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Paul Parker on Quakers and Zoom

Paul Parker: How the Quakers embraced stillness in virtual meetings 

Paul Parker of Quakers in Britain explains how the organisation has embraced digital for its regular and annual meetings. This article has been specially commissioned as part of Civil Society Media’s Faith Charities Week

Quakers are pretty quiet, right? And when a group of Quakers sit together, usually in a circle, silently waiting for inspiration, it’s common for them to sense a presence in the midst of them; the feeling of a spirit moving among and between them which guides and inspires them, and lights their path.

Sometimes the inspiration is so strong that someone is moved to speak and share an insight with the others assembled. Other times, the quiet of the worship settles like a blanket over everyone there, and sends them forth renewed and transformed to face the day ahead. This experience, which can be a visceral, edge-of-your seat silence, has been at the heart of what it means to be a Quaker for nearly four centuries.

So when a pandemic hits, and face-to-face meetings in circles aren’t possible, you’d think Quakers might have to put things on hold for a while. In fact, it turns out that Quakers’ simple form of worship translates well to the virtual world. All over the country, Quaker meetings have taken themselves onto Zoom and other online platforms, and carried on worshipping together, experiencing that stillness, and finding comfort in one another’s virtual presence through unusually trying times.

Ah, but it’s not the same. Yes, it’s not. Whilst for some, the hum of the laptop, or the ping of the mobile phone notification has been a distraction and the very idea has seemed daunting, for others, the technology has been a tool for inclusion, or a simple extension of the digital world which is now their natural habitat for work and leisure. True, some have preferred to opt out of the technology, choosing to share in the stillness at home, knowing others are doing the same elsewhere. But for many of those unable to get to a Quaker meeting house in person, online worship has made it possible to be part of their faith community for the first time in years. Quaker communities have rediscovered people who had drifted away, or found themselves excluded by distance, illness or disability. And new people have found Quakers, too, after experiencing that gathered stillness for the first time online. Who’d have thought it?

But being a Quaker is not just about worshipping together in silence. Under the inspiration of that guiding spirit, Quakers are impelled to work for peace and justice. Every year, from across Britain a huge gathering of Quakers of all ages come together, at which they worship together and seek guidance on the work the community is called to in the world. That can be something outward, like work on climate justice, or training communities in nonviolence, or campaigning for the legal recognition of the same-sex marriages Quakers wanted to conduct, or more inward, exploring what it means to be a Quaker today, or challenging the lack of diversity in their own community.

Yearly Meeting Gathering

This year, 2000 Quakers of all ages had been expected to descend on a university campus in August for their Yearly Meeting Gathering, transforming it briefly into a community with a common purpose: to listen to divine guidance, thereby to change the world. How can these two things happen in this time of “social-distancing”?

With a face-to-face gathering quickly ruled out, creative ways had to be found for the Quaker community to come together to do its work. There would have been huge Quaker meetings for worship, all-age activities, workshops on a range of burning issues, children and young people’s programmes and business sessions where Quakers scrutinise the work of their national organisation and give guidance on its activities. Since the cancellation of the in-person event, most of this has moved online. Nearly 1000 Quakers have participated in peace and social justice webinars and workshops; 80 have followed a five-week anti-racism training programme; online youth groups have sprung up, as have sessions for the adults supporting them; and a week-long programme of virtual events for children and young people filled the slot in the school holidays left by the cancellation, exploring key themes and offering age-appropriate opportunities to experience Quaker worship.

The decision-making sessions themselves have moved to the autumn, when a 1000-strong community will meet online to deal with some essential matters. And most importantly, that session will provide a time when the Quaker community can come together from across Britain, via their computers, mobile phones, tablets, landlines and laptops, to worship together. There may be challenges, practical and technical, and sadly our children and young people won’t, this time, be able to be with us. But Quakers are looking forward to the event, hoping again to sense that presence in the midst.

Paul Parker is recording clerk for Quakers in Britain

Reproduced from www.civilsociety.co.uk ©

DIVERSITY AND INCLUSION AMONG QUAKERS -AMRYWIAETH A CHYMHWYSIAD YMLITH CRYNWYR

You are invited to take part in a short workshop at 2.00 pm Sunday 16th August  2020 

DIVERSITY AND INCLUSION AMONG QUAKERS

AMRYWIAETH A CHYMHWYSIAD YMLITH CRYNWYR

CROESO I’N GWEITHDY !

2.00 pm Sunday 16th August  2020

If you would like to take part, please contact Hilary on :

hilaryannalsop at gmail.com

You will then be sent the Zoom link for the Workshop.

You can download a copy of the poster for your Meeting House Noticeboard.

Please click here.

George Floyd – Local Quakers respond

Clun Valley Quakers held a short demonstration at the centuries old ‘African’s Grave’ (see link below) in Bishops Castle churchyard, on Thursday 11th June, in support of Black Lives Matter and their demands for a more equal society.

They made the following statement:

Quakers believe in the fundamental equality of all people, and that without justice there can be no peace.

We therefore condemn the systemic racism that has led to the deaths of George Floyd and so many black people at the hands of the police in the US and here in Britain.  We are humbled by the huge contribution to our country that BAME people have made as health workers, carers, delivery drivers and service workers during the pandemic, and angry at the massive inequality they continue to face in pay, living conditions, and access to justice.

We call on the Government to urgently produce a transformational plan with clear actions to address the inequalities faced by BAME people in employment, health, housing and the law and justice system.

We support Black Lives Matter and protests across the world, and share their aspirations for real change and a fairer society.

Click here for a video of the statement.

For the background to the grave please click the link below.

https://historicengland.org.uk/listing/the-list/list-entry/1392346

Daily Epilogue

We invite Friends to join our
Daily Epilogue

Sunday 12 April until the end of the month
9pm to 9.15 pm

The Local Development team are hosting a short daily online ‘Epilogue’

If you would like more details please download this document – click here.

This will be held in the manner of Woodbrooke’s Epilogue, with a virtual ‘Friend on the internet’ sharing a piece of writing, music or a piece of art or craft. On joining, we will be keeping our microphones muted.  We will sit with the offered piece, and should Friends feel moved to minister we can simply ‘unmute’ our microphones so that we can be heard.

Interested in helping? Pip (worker in SW England) will be coordinating offers to be the ‘Friend on the internet’.
Please email piph@quaker.org.uk if you’d be willing, with preferred days.

Unsure about Zoom meetings?
https://www.woodbrooke.org.uk/about/online-mfw/Online-worship-advice
and read “A Quaker Guide to online worship and meetings”
or piph@quaker.org.uk  for help

Area Meeting Residential Weekend 14-16 February 2020

Area Meeting Residential Weekend 14-16 February 2020

To be held at the Pioneer Centre, Cleobury Mortimer.

An all-age gathering based loosely round the book ‘Active Hope – how to face the mess we’re in without going crazy’ by Joanna Macy and Chris Johnstone.

For further information contact a member of the planning group: Morag Sinton (Abergavenny), Kate Seekings (Hereford), Charlotte Lake (Hereford) and Ursula Freeman (Ludlow).

To download the booking form as a PDF – please click here.

To download the booking form as a Word docx – please click here.

To download a poster for this event – please click here.