Quaker Renewal Gathering in the Flesh
Lancaster 22nd April 2017
I am deeply grateful to Sam Barnett-McCormack of Lancaster Meeting for organising the gathering at Lancaster as too the nine members who attended and Lancaster meeting for hosting this event. I arrived just before 12 midday and met Sam at the entrance of the street into the meeting. It felt special to meet Sam in person having come to know him quite well over the years on Quaker Renewal UK Facebook group. We ate lunch together with the Elder for the day, Liz also from Lancaster.
The group gradually arrived and by 2pm we had settled into meeting. We received one piece of ministry in the first hour. I found it easy to centre down and open up. After about one hour Sam invited us to join him for a fellowship activity and drinks in the lounge room. We each sat in a circle with a drink and Sam held the most beautiful loaf of bread I have ever seen in his hands. It was large and earthy and very much like a hand crafted boat. He broke it in two pieces and it seemed to break rather like into two smiles. He took a piece and invited us each in turn to do the same to eat it and share what this means to them. When Sam passed the bread to me, I really enjoyed the feel of it in my hands. I marvelled at all the seeds inside. I didn’t really know what it meant to me but I just shared this and that I wanted to be obedient and that I was glad to be here eating in and with such company. It was a deep activity and it was good to hear people share and helped to bring us out of our own individual faith paths into something communal and in the moment. Thank you Sam for your leading.
We then went back into meeting for about another hour of worship. We received two further pieces of ministry and again I felt grounded, centred and open. Some possible ministry had risen inside me but did not feel fully formed so at the close of the meeting I suggested to Sam that might we have some Afterword. We spent another thirty minutes in afterword and this proved very fruitful. Almost felt like an extension of the worship meeting. Sam read a piece from Quaker Faith and Practice about walking with a hand into the dark which felt very much like a completion of our event. After the meeting some of us had a train to catch at 5pm and others were able to stay and communally wash up.
For me the meeting very much continued with me to Yealand Conyers. The next morning I went into meeting at 9am and enjoyed worship until 11.30. The ministry was deep and the meeting fairly gathered. Afterwards I met Rex Ambler, which was an incredible and timely gift. A generous lift by a member of the meeting with a stop off for a walk in a local blue bell wood was a further gift.
I continue to process the gifts I received from this gathering. I am on the first year of a course at Woodbrooke called Equipping for Ministry and have been feeling called into the Travelling Ministry. After my visit to Lancaster I am feeling led to explore asking my local meeting for a travelling minute for any future trips to South Birmingham or beyond.
I urge you Friends to consider if your meeting might be the next to host a gathering in the flesh of our group.
Learning lessons from the meeting at Bull Street organised by myself and the one at Lancaster organised by Sam are as follows:
- Do have a time of fellowship at the beginning around shared food is the ideal. This gives the group a chance to settle and know each other before entering into worship. Do experiment with anything you are led to explore as an activity but either place it at the beginning or the end of the worship meeting. Sam’s fellowship activity was truly a gift but we all agreed might have been better placed at the beginning with a small period of silence before to help us all centre.
- Make it very clear that the meeting is not timed and elders will close the meeting when they sense the closing of worship which could be an undetermined length of time within the limits of the time the meeting house is available for. For this reason make people very clear that moving around the room, lying down, or even going out for a walk or a cup of tea is all acceptable. In fact very wise to do, in particular for anyone with physical health conditions.
- Allowing for a further opportunity for fellowship around a meal afterwards for those who have the time is also helpful. People have travelled long distances and therefore it is good to make the most of the time available to know one another in the things that are eternal and material (Sam used a much better word for this but I can’t think of it just now!)
- Do report back learning lessons experienced as it will help future gatherings and leadings.
- Do put together a poster or flier that will enable our network on Quaker Renewal UK to share the gathering with non facebook Friends and do expect and be ready for people to attend that do not know what Quaker Renewal UK is and will ask you about it! Please help to make these events a success by sharing the event amongst your networks of meetings and don’t expect that may people to come, be happy if you have three and you won’t be disappointed.