"Quaker Faith and Practice" study groups
"Quaker Faith and Practice" (F&P) unlike other 'holy' books, is not set in stone but evolves as different generations receive their own insights. Every so often it is revised and the Religious Society is at present considering whether to undertake a fresh revision. In preparation for this a nationwide study of the existing book is taking place between autumn 2015 and spring 2017. In Chichester we are following the calendar below
In Chichester we have met every week from 8th October 2015 except for the first Thursdays in the month which are worship as usual. After Christmas 2015 we started meeting fortnightly, but with one group gathering on Friday afternoons and another on Thursday evenings. During 2016 minutes began to be kept in a folder in the Meeting House foyer and only those submitted to Michael Woolley have been published on this website.
DECEMBER 16th 2016: Chapter 27
Afternoon Study Group:
We considered the second half of Chapter 27 of Faith and Practice.
We were all in general agreement with the statements made in this section. It could be summarised as – while study of the Bible can be profitable for teaching and learning it cannot be considered as sacrosanct.
We noted in 27/29 that the “risen spirit and personality” of Jesus has gone on unfolding itself to those who seek him – thus no text can be considered immutable and we welcome the fact that our book of discipline is revised periodically in the light of new insight.
We discussed what we would feel if the Bible were no longer to be placed on the Meeting table. The feeling expressed was that it is a revered symbol of our Christian heritage and would be missed - even though it is not often read aloud in our Meeting.
We agreed that service of God is not limited to time, place, or people (27/36) and that service on committees, hospitality, childcare, care of finance and premises etc. can be recognised as ministry (10.03). Thus there is no need for any person to be designated prophet, priest or church leader (27.36) .
We agreed that the whole of our everyday experience is the stuff of our religious awareness (27/38) and that, while sacraments are not wrong, they are not essential (27/39).
It was interesting that all four of us present had come to Quakerism from other branches of Christianity and for some the giving up of traditional sacraments had proved difficult.
We liked the idea of Quakerism as a bridge between a Christian past and a future where new symbols are being born (27/44). We considered what such new symbols might be and “the light” and “worshipful silence” might be examples.
NOVEMBER 18th: Chapter 24 - 27:60
Afternoon Study Group:
We considered the items in F & P under the headings listed and made the following points:
We saw no problem with any passive resistance such as a peaceful vigil but wondered about possible dangers of law breaking possibly having a negative effect by exacerbating antagonism in those opposed to pacifism.
Relief of Suffering
We wondered if those absolutist pacifists, who refused to aid the war effort by providing relief to combatants, (e.g. by joining the FAU), may have created negative feelings about the cause of conscientious objection.
We felt there must be difficulties for aid workers, receiving food and shelter themselves but working with those who are hungry possibly starving and without shelter – how can they identify with their needs?
We agree we must reject outward weapons but use instead inward weapons of the spirit.
We wondered, if we must be pragmatic in our approach to unilateral disarmament? We recognise that arms reduction treaties leading to multilateral disarmament may be needed as steps towards this aim.
Building Peace and Social Justice
Is the UN provision for coercion a necessary component of its effectiveness? Peacekeeping forces have achieved positive results in the past.
We do not believe morals should be separated from politics.
Personal Roots of Conflict and Education for Peace
We feel conflict is a part of Life – but violence should not be.
We agree that quiet processes in small circles can be more effective than those involved may realise and that we must try to throw ourselves whole heartedly into the present.
OCTOBER 21st: Chapter 4
Afternoon Study Group:
In preparation we had read Chapter 4 of Faith & Practice, on “Area Meetings and Local Meetings” and following the Study Notes for Activity 2C of Session 13, Being Friends Together we referred again to Qf&p 4.02,4.31 and 10.03, reminding ourselves of a greater scope for their intention, wider perhaps than we realised. We remembered that earlier in the century Midhurst LQM had been a Recognised Meeting under the care of Chichester PM, and Shoreham in the same
way was under the care of Worthing PM; now that all the Local Meetings are on an equal footing within the Area Meeting, we wonder if these much smaller meetings get all the support they need.
As only six people, all “seasoned” (!) Quakers were present, we remained as one group rather than splitting up, to discuss the responsibilities of the business meetings. We did not concentrate on
just 3 items from the 27 listed for Area meeting responsibilities, or the 19 listed for Local meetings, as suggested by Activity Sheet 4. Instead the group picked out from both lists items to comment on, rather than identify individuals responsible for particular roles, and their efficacy.
Area Meetings responsibilities:
We realise that Nominations committees struggle to find sufficient Elders & Overseers to serve the Meeting (Item 5). This Local Meeting does not know how others conduct their meetings for church affairs (Item 8) but assumes the Area Meeting as a whole is more aware. Individual Friends were uncertain about the proper custody of records (Item 14) but were reassured.
We felt that more can be done to advise Friends on their outward affairs and wills (Item 18) particularly in regard to information and advice of the two Lasting Power of Attorney (LPAs) – for Property & Financial Affairs, and Health & Personal Welfare.
Our Librarian would welcome greater interaction with librarians in other Local Meetings. (Item 22).
Otherwise we felt our Area Meeting met these responsibilities adequately. Attempts have been made recently to reinvigorate AMs by making them longer but fewer, perhaps with a lighthearted social element built in, or with a longer discussion on a popular topic.
Circulating reports in advance of the AM gives an opportunity to read and absorb them first and stimulate questions at the time, rather than sit through a succession of reports read aloud. One Friend regretted that shorter meetings were no longer held once a month, and others thought that if one had to travel a distance to get there one might as well spend all day to make it really worthwhile! One Friend had been particularly impressed by the talk a Friend at Ditchling (hosting the AM) had given, about dealing with disputes. The AM gives an opportunity to meet Quakers from other Local Meetings.
Local Meetings responsibilities:
We are aware of the need for parents to have an opportunity to join the MfW if they wish, instead of being expected always to oversee their children, provided proper care can be given them (Item 5). Representatives are appointed to attend Area Meeting (Item 8) as many others are reluctant to do so and there is a culture that these are long and boring, rather than a privilege and opportunity.
We have made great efforts recently to make the Appeal Letter more friendly and understandable(Item 9) and our Local Treasurer does not pursue those who do not respond.
Item 11 is a bit ambiguous, but we feel on the whole we do fulfil all these responsibilities adequately.
JULY: CHAPTER 26
READING QUAKER FAITH AND PRACTICE - SESSION 10, CHAPTER 26
(26.30 – to end of chapter)
Our small group (approximately six Friends) has spent two afternoons looking at this chapter, using the tools suggested in ‘Being Friends Together’.
We have found that there was so much to discuss and Friends had so much to share that we could have devoted a third session to Chapter 26, had we the time.
A number of thoughtful insights were contributed by the participants,
particularly in response to the short piece of writing we were invited to do, beginning with the words: “I do believe that……...”; “What is love?”; “What is my religion?”; and “God for me is……...” .
One Friend asked whether the phrase “I do believe” could lead to a ‘creed’ and whether if we articulate a belief it could be inherently divisive.
“What is love?” seemed to lead naturally to a discussion of scriptural
references to love, in particular St. Paul to the Corinthians (13.13).
Not everyone in the group perceived themselves as Christian and among us were non-theists as well as those from a more traditional Christian background. One Friend had difficulty with the word ‘religion’, feeling that it puts us into a box and labels us.
Concern was expressed that there appears to be a growing trend to omit the word ‘God’ from Quakerism. Others felt that it doesn’t matter what term is used to refer to God.
We were in agreement that it is important to emphasise what we have in common, rather than that which divides us. We felt that 26.43 conveys what for all of us is at the heart of the Quaker message.
JUNE: CHAPTER 20
On 17th June AFTERNOON DISCUSSION Clerk - Sandy Wansbury
The afternoon and evening groups are independent and run in parallel but cover the same ground.
MINUTE for Friday 17th June 2016 (afternoon)
Present: Sandy Wansbury (Clerk), Issy, Thelma, Margaret Sullivan
Chapter 20 dealt with two separate issues.
1) Prayer and Silence and 2) Testimonies -
Simplicity, Equality, Truth, Integrity, Peaceful Resolution to Conflict
Session 9 from the Being Friends Together help and advice literature was followed initially. Those attending took turns to read a verse which had spoken to them these being 20.27, 20.36, 20.12 and 20.18. They then went on to outline their reasons for their choice.
A lively discussion ensued and everyone shared their experiences of values and prayer techniques that they had experience of in other faiths, including Christian churches, Living Values Workshops and Ubuntu, which is a common practice in Africa.
Other verses were read out and discussed – eg 20.04 and 20.20 and the group tried to define what Quakers understood by testimony and outlined instances of bearing witness to them in specific life situations.
It was unclear if “Sustainability” was now an accepted Quaker Testimony and it was decided to make further enquiries.
MINUTE for 22nd January 2016
Present: Chris (Clerk) and Kitty, David and Issy, Thelma, Margaret Sullivan
We covered Ch 2 49 - 92
The individual in Meeting (contd) - we felt that the conditions needed by individuals to "centre down" varied - for some allowing the mind to wander to achieve a relaxed state could be helpful. For others meditation techniques involving concentration on the body or "bringing
the mind back to its point" were more useful. Extraneous sounds also affect individuals very differently.
Vocal Ministry - we felt 2.61 "ministry should be of necessity not choice" was very appropriate . We were felt cluster ministry (2.70) could be very valuable and although similar to a discussional framework this was not something we worried about - providing it did not become a debate. We also felt that ministry that related to inspiration felt during the week was not the same as bringing prepared items to Meeting. Discernment as to whether to speak or not still took place during the Meeting.
Children in Meeting - we agreed with 2.75 that we need to instruct our children regarding our concerns and beliefs but were not sure of the best way to achieve this. We felt all age worship should have a clear spiritual component in addition to craft activities. Some felt the
Bible is a valuable source for teaching and regretted the trend to non-theism in our Society.
Enriching Worship - we felt coming to Meeting could still be helpful even when we did not really come with" heart and mind prepared". We agreed with 2.80 about the value of "compassionate listening" for spiritual growth.
Meeting for Church Affairs - we felt that our current practice of circulating documents in advance helped provide an "informed mind" (2.86) - but an open mind was necessary to ensure discernment could still occur during the Meeting. We had difficulty with understanding
the distinction between consensus and the "feeling if the Meeting".
MINUTE for 14th January 2018
Present: Vera, Thelma, Sue and David Hibberd, Barbara Field, Michael (clerk)
We looked at Chapter 2 with the plan from Being Friends Together, covering activities 1&2 of the lesson plan. Effectively we covered most of the ground from 2:01 to 2:49.
We considered what differentiates "worship" and "meditation" and agreed that (2:37) worship is corporate, a shared experience, particularly in a "gathered" meeting. Waiting and listening are also part of this deep corporate communion: "In the united stillness of a truly 'gathered' meeting there is a power known only by experience, and mysterious even when most familiar" (2:39).
In pairs we considered short extracts about the nature and meaning of prayer "We pray not to change God's will but to bring our wills into correspondence with His" (2:24).
In conclusion we particularly liked "The parched ground shall become a pool and the thirsty land springs of water" (F&P 2:33 quoting Isaiah 35:07).
MINUTES for December 2015 were not prepared
MINUTE for 26th November 2015
Present: Vera, John, Thelma, Sue and David Hibberd (clerk)
We continued our study of Chapter 23 by considering what we felt were the key images, phrases, insights and challenges in paragraphs 47 to 50 - The individual and the community. In particular we considered the implications and challenges for us as Quakers of our life choices.
We ended our discussion by dividing into two groups to look at Work and Economic Affairs, 23.53 to 23.70, and Education, 23.71 to 23.85. The paragraphs that spoke most to us in these sections were 23.55, 56, 59 and 64 in Work and Economic Affairs and paragraphs 23.73, 81 and 84 in Education. We encourage all Friends to read and consider these paragraphs.
MINUTE for 19th November 2015
Present: Sue and David Hibberd, Rachel, Vera , Avril (clerk)
We explored particular aspects of Social Justice 23.14 – 23.46. Then, by careful listening, we took it in turns to read aloud extracts that spoke to our condition, or resonated with each one of us in some way:- 23.24; 23.25; 20.46; 23.18; 23.41; 23.32 especially “… the joy of experiencing the Light”; 23.46 (message conveyed is important and all too easily overlooked); 23.36 (“that which is morally wrong cannot be politically right”); 23.37; 23.38.
We felt that the language in many of the chapters was dated, but beautiful and relevant to present day society. Since then, with progress, our thinking has moved on, but we felt that the essence of these chapters was still practised today. We considered it ‘depressing’ that some of the concerns outlined were still relevant today, e.g. Food Banks not addressing the real issue and that dealing with the real causes is not rigorously addressed.
We spent time on Lucretia Mott’s Mid-19th century exposition, particularly where her thoughts lead us to the chapters “challenging the causes of inequality and oppression”.
We then started work on updating and writing a translation of the Eight Foundations of a True Social Order from Qf&p 23.16. Lively and far-reaching debate ensued with profound insights expressed. Reluctantly, due to time constraints, we had to abandon this exercise after completing only 4 of the 8 Foundations:-
MINUTE for 12th November
Present: Barbara Field, David Hibberd, Sue and Avril
In our consideration of parts of Chapter 23: Social Responsibility we were introduced to some of the ways of working in the study guide ‘Being Friends Together’. Looking at the passages in Faith and Action we realised just how difficult it is to decide to omit any of the passages.
In considering our thoughts on the definition of ‘Testimony’ we appreciate the passage by Harvey Gillman, 23.12, which for us so well explained the meaning of ‘testimony’ as used by Quakers.
We ended by sharing what were to us the key words in the passages on Friends and state authority, a task which deepened our understanding of the writings in paragraphs 23.86 to 23.91.
MINUTE for 29th October
Present: Thelma, Avril, Brian, Michael, David, Sue, Vera
We explored pain and suffering in its various forms and related this to the problems of older folk - remembering the words about Penn in 21.62, the openness and honesty of which prompted profound insights. Our inner strength is frequently strengthened by those around us - through empathy, compassion, the art of listening and the feeling that they are there for us.
Our faith strengthens and binds us. Jocelyn Burnell reminded us that "God will cherish us and our wound and help us draw a blessing from our distressed state." The word 'comfort' means 'with strength' rather than 'at ease' and we felt this was an important distinction.
Another point we noted was that we often shy away from and are even embarrassed by the pain and suffering of others. The challenge to each of us is to balance the desire to share with sensitivity to the danger of encroaching on another person's hurt.
We discussed how, as a Meeting we could draw up our own F&P based on our own experiences. We would not be re-writing F&P but could be more more focused on contemporary Quakerism and the insights of our own members.
MINUTE for 22nd October
Present: Thelma, John, Sarah, Brian, Mary, Michael
This evening we looked at Chapter 21 the sections "Getting Older" and "Death".
We wrote this minute at the end of the meeting but as we're all getting older couldn't really remember what we'd been talking about...
More seriously we were encouraged by 21:43 and its reference to magnificent opportunities for service within ordinary, everyday life. We had varied opinions about life after death. This is a big question and merits more than a short minute!
We spoke about 21:58 where St Paul says "In whatsoever condition I find myself therewith to be content". This led to some musing on the right balance between "contentment" and the best sort of ambition which leads onto action to improve the world. Ambition though can lead to a restless materialism quite at odds with Quaker values.
We spoke of funerals and funeral ceremonies and remarked how meaningful participatory Quaker funerals can be. We also felt that death should be marked with an informal meeting of those involved - a wake or party.
We noted (21:57) that death has to be faced and accepted in order to allow us to live our lives to the full.
MINUTE for 15th October
Present: Thelma, John, Sarah, Helen, Mary
This evening we looked at Chapter 21 the sections "Leading a Full Life" and "Creativity".
In small groups we discussed what each of us finds essential, and what we find non-essential in leading a full life, concentrating particularly on 21.22 (Caroline Graveson). We thought about "constant revision", as referred to in 21.29 (Robin Tanner), deciding that it would be healthier to remove the word "constant". We enjoyed the description of mindfulness as evoked in 21.27 (Ralph Hetherington), and discussed changing attitudes among Friends to music, first frowned on by early Quakers, and now welcomed. We reflected on the uniqueness of human beings, as expressed in the "credo" of Robin Tanner (21.36). We appreciated the visual image of worshippers being like the spokes of a wheel 21.35 (Howard Brinton). We thought about diversity (21.37) and what soothed and charmed us (21.41), sharing examples and reflecting on the "ongoing act of creation through which the world is constantly re-made". (Jo Farrow, 21.38).
MINUTE for 8th October
Present: Thelma, Michael, Mark, Becky
We read three passages 21:01 and 21.04 with 21.06. They spoke to us in that each generation has to re-discover fundamental truths. We particularly enjoyed 21.01 which was typical of its time but described a world we find attractive. We take the point that religion isn't always taught but sometimes has to be experienced.
We read 21.09; 21.19 and 21.20 finishing with 21.17. Elizabeth Fry wrote 21.09 which was about the snares of worldly approbation.
21.19 was written with a light hand and made us laugh but made a serious point about being non-judgemental about the people coming to Meeting. All should be accepted.
Isolation of spirit is alluded to in 21.20 as is the gentle support which Friends, sometimes unconsciously, give one another.
William Penn in 21.17 writes of true godliness which does not take us from the world but enables us to live better in it. He also says that candles (or reforms) sometimes need to be put on display in order to cast their light. Quakers sometimes need to speak out about issues such as same-sex marriage where we lead social thinking.