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Quaker’s Meetings

A Quaker meeting is based on silence, but it is a silence of waiting in expectancy. For many minutes, perhaps for half an hour, there may be silence. But that does not mean that nothing is happening. All of us are trying to come nearer to each other and to God as we are caught up in the still spirit of the meeting. We come to meeting because we want to, and because we find it worth while. We do not recite creeds, sing hymns or repeat set prayers. We want to worship simply There is no ceremony, no priest, no prearranged service at all. Go in as soon as you are ready. It is a good thing if a meeting can settle down a few minutes before the appointed time. Sit anywhere you like, but it is helpful to leave seats near the back and at the end of rows for latecomers You may find it easy to relax in the silence and thus to enter into the life of the meeting, or you may be disturbed by the strangeness of the silence, by distractions outside or by your own roving thoughts. Do not worry about this but return again and again to the still centre of your being where you can know the presence of God. Try, if only for an instant, to be quiet in body, mind and spirit Meeting for Worship at School Assembly, Friends’ School Saffron Walden Nearly everyone at some time in their lives seems to want to find God for themselves – even those who find it difficult or impossible to believe that God exists. This may be because of some moving experience or because of some particular problem. No matter what is on your mind at the moment, bring it with you into the silent room. The silence may be broken if someone present feels called to say something which will deepen and enrich the worship. Anyone is free to speak, pray or read, provided that it is done in response to a prompting of the spirit which comes in the course of the meeting. The silence is broken for the moment but it is not interrupted. Receive what is said in an accepting, charitable spirit. Each contribution rightly given may help somebody, but our needs are different and can be met only in differing ways. If something is said that does not speak to your condition, try nevertheless to reach the spirit behind the words. The speaker wants to help the meeting: take care not to reject the offering by negative criticism. One of the unique features of a Quaker meeting is the variety of experience it can embrace. Some people will have a profound sense of awe and wonder because they know that God is present. Others will be far less certain, and may only he able to hold onto a dim awareness that the values they experience in life point beyond themselves to a greater whole. Some will thankfully accept God’s inexhaustible love shown in Jesus, the promise of forgiveness and the wiping out of past failure. Others will know that seeking to be open to people in a spirit of love and trust is the direction in which they want to move. In the quietness of a Quaker meeting those present can become aware of a deep and powerful spirit of love and truth that transcends their ordinary experience. United in love, and strengthened by truth, the worshippers enter upon a new level of living, despite the different ways in which they may account for this life-expanding experience. The meeting will close after the Elders have shaken hands. Afterwards, feel free to speak to anyone. If you wish to know more about Quakers, please introduce yourself to any member. You may borrow books from the library, and other literature is available.

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Dear Friend,

Myanmar’s military junta extended Nobel Peace laureate and pro-democracy leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s imprisonment by 18 months today after finding her guilty of violating the terms of her house arrest.

Critics of Myanmar’s military regime condemned the outcome of the 3-month sham trial,^1 calling it a pretext to keep Suu Kyi out of the running during next year’s presidential elections.^2

The junta — which currently detains more than 2,100 political prisoners — commuted Suu Kyi’s sentence from three years hard labor in prison to an 18-month extension to her house arrest in the hopes that the international community will view the reduced sentence as an act of leniency.

*But Suu Kyi should have never been imprisoned in the first place.*

Suu Kyi’s deplorable imprisonment has been denounced by everyone from heads of state worldwide to nine of Suu Kyi’s fellow Nobel laureates.
Join the court of world opinion in condemning Daw Ang San Suu Kyi’s sham trial.
Tell the leader of Myanmar’s military junta that Suu Kyi shouldn’t serve another minute of her sentence.

We know that the odds of success may seem stacked against us any time we appeal to authoritarian rulers. But the recent release of two U.S.
journalists from North Korea is proof that *even totalitarian regimes are vulnerable to relentless international pressure.*

The fact that Myanmar’s government reduced Suu Kyi’s sentence is also a sign that the military regime is susceptible to the world community’s

*We’ve proven time after time that even military dictatorships and other repressive regimes are no match for Amnesty’s millions-strong global
movement.* Just last year, Ma Khin Khin Leh, another prisoner of conscience in Myanmar, obtained her release after Amnesty activists sent tens of thousands of letters to Myanmar’s leaders on her behalf.

Join us today in calling for Daw Ang San Suu Kyi’s immediate release.

Thank you for standing with us,

— Anil, Nancy, Jim, Ulana and the rest of the Myanmar rapid response team

Take Action Now!

News Release

31 July 2009

Quakers consider committed relationships Quakers in Britain today concluded a long and profound process of discernment about the way forward for Quaker marriage and approach to same sex partnerships.

The minute recording their decision is as follows:

Minute 25 Britain Yearly Meeting 31 July 2009 Further to minute 17, (attached) a session was held on Tuesday afternoon at which speakers shared personal experiences of the celebration and recognition of their committed relationships. These Friends had felt upheld by their meetings in these relationships but regretted that whereas there was a clear, visible path to celebration and recognition for opposite sex couples, the options available for couples of the same sex were not clear and could vary widely between meetings. Friends who feel theirs to be an ordinary and private rather than an exotic and public relationship have had to be visible pioneers to get their relationship acknowledged and recorded.

This open sharing of personal experience has moved us and added to our clear sense that, 22 years after the prospect was first raised at Meeting for Sufferings we are being led to treat same sex committed relationships in the same way as opposite sex marriages, reaffirming our central insight that marriage is the Lord’s work and we are but witnesses. The question of legal recognition by the state is secondary.

We therefore ask Meeting for Sufferings to take steps to put this leading into practice and to arrange for a draft revision of the relevant sections of Quaker faith and practice, so that same sex marriages can be prepared, celebrated, witnessed, recorded and reported to the state, as opposite sex marriages are. We also ask Meeting for Sufferings to engage with our governments to seek a change in the relevant laws so that same sex marriages notified in this way can be recognised as legally valid, without further process, in the same way as opposite sex marriages celebrated in our meetings. We will not at this time require our registering officers to act contrary to the law, but understand that the law does not preclude them from playing a central role in the celebration and recording of same sex marriages.

We have heard dissenting voices during the threshing process which has led to us this decision, and we have been reminded of the need for tenderness to those who are not with us who will find this change difficult. We also need to remember, including in our revision of Quaker faith and practice, those Friends who live singly, whether or not by choice.

We will need to explain our decision to other Christian bodies, other faith communities, and, indeed to other Yearly Meetings, and pray for a continuing loving dialogue, even with those who might disagree strongly with what we affirm as our discernment of God’s will for us at this time.

Following the decision, Martin Ward, clerk of Quakers Yearly Meeting said: “This minute is the result of a long period of consultation and what we call “threshing” in our local meetings, culminating in two gathered sessions of our Yearly Meeting. At these sessions, according to practice, we heard ministry arising out of silent worship which led us to discern the will of God for the Religious Society and record it in this minute.”


Media Information

Anne van Staveren

0207 663 1048

07958 009703


For interviews and photographs during Yearly Meeting Gathering contact Anne van Staveren on 07958 009703. Media attendance is limited. The business sessions of Yearly Meeting Gathering are not open to the media. A background paper on Quakers and committed partnerships is available from Notes to the Editor:

Quakers are known formally as The Religious Society of Friends.

Quakers were given the right to conduct marriages in England and Wales in 1753, but case law before that recognised the validity of Quaker marriages.

Quakers began to call for a sexual morality based on the worth of relationships in 1963 with the publication of ‘Towards a Quaker view of Sex’. Since then, Quakers have developed through tolerance to widespread acceptance of same sex partnerships, particularly since the formation of the now Quaker Lesbian and Gay Fellowship in 1973. Meeting for Sufferings minuted appreciation of gay and lesbian Quakers’ contribution in 1988.

There was no formal stage of ‘recognising’ same sex partnerships nationally as Quaker procedures allowed it to happen: there was nothing against it. The first meetings for commitment were in 1996. Since then, around twenty local meetings have celebrated same sex relationships through an official meeting for commitment.

Following the Civil Partnership Act of December 2005, same sex couples in England, Wales and Scotland, who share Quaker beliefs may opt for a blessing or commitment ceremony after entering a civil partnership.

The Civil Partnership Act allows same sex partnerships to be registered as civil partnerships in law, but such registrations cannot take place in the context of religious worship. Civil partnership is not recognised as marriage, although registered civil partners share almost the same legal rights and responsibilities as heterosexual couples.

The total number of civil partnerships formed in the UK since the Civil Partnership Act came in December 2005 is 26,787. (Office for National Statistics)



25 July

Minute 17: Committed relationships: introduction

The report ‘Exploring our attitudes to committed partnerships’ (pages 61-64 of Documents in advance) has been introduced to us through a personal account of one Friend’s experience of the varied committed relationships in his family and his Quaker community.

We receive minute S/08/11/3 of Meeting for Sufferings held 1 November 2008 on the recognition of partnerships under the auspices of Britain Yearly Meeting. In the light of our testimony to equality we are asked by Meeting for Sufferings to consider how we should celebrate and recognise committed relationships within our Quaker community and what revisions of Quaker faith & practice would follow from this to include same sex partnerships.

We have opportunity at an open session on Tuesday afternoon to hear speakers who will share their personal experiences of commitment, to be followed by response groups, and, on Wednesday evening, special interest groups. We will return to this matter on Thursday afternoon, and to the two requests which Meeting for Sufferings has put to us to:

i) Endorse the conclusions of the Quaker Life minute that it would not be right at this time either to lobby government for further changes in the law on committed partnerships nor to surrender our legal authority to conduct heterosexual marriages;

ii) Explore the issue and give broad guidance on how changes suggested in the Quaker life minute might be expressed in chapter 16 of Quaker faith & practice.

Minute 17 reads: 1 August 2009

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Dietrich Bonhoeffer

We must act and dare the appropiateness and not whatever comes to our mind not floating in the likelihood but grasp the reality as brave as we can be freedom lies in action not in the absence of mind obedience knows the essence of good and satisfies it, freedom dares to act and returns God the ultimate judgment of what is right and what is wrong, Obedience performs blindly but Freedom is wide awake Freedom wants to know why, Obedience has its hands tied, Freedom is inventive obedient man respects God’s commands and by virtu of his Freedom, he creats new commands. Both Obedience and Freedom come true in responsability (Dietrich Bonhoeffer)

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