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Woodbrooke* is often likened to an oasis, and over the first few months of me being here it has certainly felt like that to me. Because when I think of an oasis, the image that it conjures up is of a lively busy place, with people finding refreshment both in a physical sense and socially as well. It’s a place where people can share stories of their journey and exchange news of friends and family. I hope that in whatever capacity you visit Woodbrooke whether it be to attend a course, conference or stay for B&B, you’ll find Woodbrooke a place of nourishment, renewal and revitalization.

Sandra Berry, Director.

http://www.woodbrooke.org.uk/

*Woodbrooke is Europe’s only Quaker Study Centre. It is based in the former family home of the local chocolate maker, George Cadbury, himself a Quaker, and has, since 1903, provided education for those of any faith or none from around the world. Education has always been based around exploring Quakerism and the themes of interest to Quakers, such as Peace and Reconciliation, Quaker History and Spiritual Journeys.

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Sunday 13 February and Sunday 13 March 2011 from 11.00 to 12.00 at the Benazzis’

Via A. Vespucci 72 – Legnano (MI) – Italy

At the end of the Meeting, a copy of the Bible will be offered, as well as a cup of coffee.

Parliamo italiano. We speak English. Nous parlons français.

For information: 392 1943729 e.mail: maurizio.benazzi@poste.it

Map on www.tuttocitta.it or maps.google.it

Quaker’s silence: Milan – 20th January h.07.00 pm-  in 8, via Carducci (subway station: Cadorna) – pls ring to “Officina della psyche – dottoressa Aloi “

 

From Silence to Action

The whole idea is this, in effect: from Silence with God, in shared worship or in solitude, to Action with humanity.

Action in a Quaker spirit, naturally, means: far from feeding exclusively on the spiritual food given by silent worship, as a pure mystic would, Quakers, as “active mystics” commit themselves, between one time of worship and the next, to socio-religious works: perhaps working in nurseries or schools of every kind and level, distributing educational texts, taking and giving courses on world religions; helping those at the edges of society, those in prison, the alienated and mentally retarded; opening dialogue between communities separated by religious, racial or national hatred without siding with one or the other; or mending the social fabric ripped up by the hurricanes of war or of revolution.

There is no need for the enthusiasm of a novice to idealise the works of Quakers in the few centuries of their existence. Well-researched religious and non-religious history books are full of accounts of their continuing involvement and service to humanity, without regard to what kind of people they are, their race or their religion.

Silence is one way to rediscover the deep roots of people’s humanity, but it is not everything: after having used it well, and having drawn from the experience of others, through the numerous business meetings, Quakers do not omit to carry out social and philanthropic activities in the field best suited to them, in line with their ideals.

Unfortunately the world is in desperate and urgent need of this, and Friends know that they are little more than a drop in the ocean.

Davide Melodia

http://www.quaker.org/melodia/silence/

Rick Seifert
Location: Portland, Oregon, United States
I’m a semi-retired journalist and former college teacher of journalism. Much of my time is devoted to volunteering in my Portland neighborhood of Hillsdale, where I publish an on-line newsletter, The Hillsdale News (hillsdalenews.org). As a Quaker, I am active in the Multnomah Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends. In addition, I maintain a typewriter collection and am fascinated by the lore, aesthetics and workings of these wonderful old machines. I occasionally try my hand at painting and drawing.
In our Quaker meeting are folks who accept Jesus as their personal savior.

In our Quaker meeting are fervent atheists and non-theists.

In our Quaker meeting are those who have found numerous other spiritual places, each as different as the individuals themselves.

And yet, in our Quaker meeting we thrive on and even rejoice in our differences.

How is this?

Consider two Quaker practices.
Our shared spirit
We share and proclaim the undeniable experience of an inexplicable spirit. It is self-evident in each of us and in our relationships.

It is a constant. It defines life. It is life.

Some call this spirit “God.” Early Friends proclaimed it, and most still do, as “that of God in everyone.”

For me the word “God” is burdened with associations. My list is long: the “Thou shalt” Father, a flowing white beard, fear, “a mighty fortress,” cloudy thrones, retribution, etc.

I don’t want THAT within me.

So, I, and others, say there is “that of the spirit in everyone” and some add ”and in everything.”

Other Friends have successfully freed “God” of such baggage. Or it simply no longer matters. “That of God in everyone” works for them. Some Friends have told me they don’t consider my “baggage” to be baggage at all. They find it divinely essential or historically significant or quaint or compelling or curious or simply irrelevant.

Worshipping without words
And that brings me to the second reason that Quakers are, as Friends say, “radically inclusive.” In our worship we put words, and the differences they define, aside. We unite in silence. We connect and unite with the one, unifying spirit (or “God” if you choose) in stillness.

At times we are sorely tested, but we know silence leads to the healing spirit.

We return again and again to this stillness. It is our great solace. It is our guide. It compels us — as individuals and as a community — to decide and ultimately to act.

As for the rest of it, the religious part, it’s words which often fail us. But we listen and rejoice. One Friend’s description of the spirit that is true for him or her gives me joy! I shouldn’t be surprised or angered if those words don’t match my own. The ineffable spirit is the same. Why should I not rejoice?

I know the communal celebration of that joy, our joy, resides in the shared, wordless stillness and unity of our silent worship. From that centered gathering emanates unity, truth and leadings of the spirit which spread to all, both in our community and the greater community beyond.

I share all this because I believe there is a profound universality to “radical inclusiveness.” Today, as always, it urgently needs to be celebrated and practiced in a world threatened by division and strife.

From Brad Tricola , USA

It used to be people were most likely to listen their way into the kingdom… now people are more likely to talk and watch their way in.” -Todd Hunter

A few weeks ago I carpooled to the NWYM Focus Conference in Hood River with a few other pastors. We had a great time celebrating and commiserating the joys and challenges of pastoral ministry. We were able to share our prayer requests pray for one another (the driver kept his eyes open).

The speaker for our conference was Todd Hunter, author, speaker and former president of the Vineyard denomination. His task was to immerse us in the world of postmodern culture: what is it and how do we communicate, engage, and minister within this emerging culture? For many of us this might have been review or common sense, as this is the “water in which many of us swim.”  He talked about how people are becoming more skeptical and are requiring more and different evidences for our truth claims.  And people are asking different questions than they were even a decade ago. Questions like Is it true? And can it be proven are being replaced by questions like – Is it good? Is it helpful? Is it beautiful? In the premodern era, truth was revealed, in the modern era (the past 500 years or so) truth was discovered (logic, critical thinking, scientific method) now, people’s experience of truth is…well…experienced. Todd said it this way, “It used to be people were most likely to listen their way into the kingdom… now people are more likely to talk and watch their way in. We need to be ready to respond by becoming people who listen and demonstrate.” 

What amazed me most about my time at this conference was that the pastors and leaders were not anxious or threatened by any of this. It’s like they truly believed that they could trust God to be in control and to continue to speak and work in this world.

On the last day part of the dialogue was, how are we as Friends especially equipped and prepared to minister within a post-modern culture. Leading Christian thinkers like Leonard Sweet, (and Todd Hunter) believe that Quakers, as antiquated as they may seem, are uniquely positioned to speak truth to this emerging culture. Our values of Peace, Justice, Simplicity, Hospitality, Kingdom of God Theology, and Spirit Theology, and our emphasis on the life and teachings of Jesus really connect and resonate. 

We ended our time together with a session in which Gar Michelson asked, “what are we (Northwest Friends) good at?” As an aside, I like that we can have that conservation and not be in danger of thinking we are better than other “tribes” (we know that we are a small, quirky bunch – what some might call a “peculiar people”). 

Here are a few of the highlights from that discussion:

  • We care for the broken. People who don’t have it all together, whose lives are messy, who have had addictions, who have been divorced, who need emotional healing – we welcome them and journey with them. We allow people to be who they are.
  • We are good stewards of our resources. As people give to NorthwestFriends causes and local churches they trust that we have a record of using resources in a fiscally responsible way. And more than that, we seek to use our resources in generous ways as we look outward at the needs of our communities and world.
  • We are visionary in our ministry expressions. We have more local outreaches in the Northwest Friends Network than we do churches. Homeless ministries, skateboarding ministries, addiction ministries, coffee shop ministries. Missional outreach is in our DNA.
  • We have concern for justice issues. When it comes to equality, peace, justice, and rights for the oppressed, perhaps no smaller group has had a greater impact in the world than Quakers. We are sometimes surprised by how good a reputation we have.
  • Listening. We have built into our church culture and rhythms listening as an act of worship. This has power to change and challenge the way we interact with the world (becoming better and deeper listeners, helping us understand before being understood), and the way we do church business (taking the emphasis off of what we think and want and onto what God thinks and wants). 

 

Todd’s encouragement to us, his main piece of advice was this – don’t be anxious. In every culture, in every era of history there have been challenges and opportunities to share God’s truth and to invite people to live the Jesus Way. Our time in history is no different. It will have its own challenges and opportunities. So after spending three days with Todd and the other pastors of the NWYM, I have been forced to ponder…

  • How can I better love people with a different worldview than me?
  • How can I become more aware of which parts of my Christian faith are cultural and which transcend time and culture?
  • Am I really ready to evangelize with my ears?

Practical Mystics

When I came to Quakers, some fifteen years ago, it was in answer to an insistent inner call, to assuage a turmoil that I did not understand, but that would not be denied. I had not been looking for a community and it was not until later that I realised that I had found one. Not wishing my social self to trample on the eggshells of something so tender and new, I didn’t engage with others for the first few weeks. But I borrowed books, and what I found amazed me. I had not realised religion could be like this. Not a dogma to sign up to, not the repeating of words written by others, but simply – and crucially – a requirement to be my authentic self. It was a dark time in my life, and a time when I was increasingly uneasy in the world of publishing in which I had worked for many years, the last fourteen as an independent literary agent. The celebrity culture and bottom-line mentality were eroding the ethos that had originally drawn me. As I gradually found a home among Quakers, it became clear that I needed to sell my business. I had no idea what I would do, and, for the first time in my life, it didn’t matter. Letting go of the need to know, allowing trust to replace control, was a new way of living. I wondered why it had taken so long. And meeting individual Quakers revived my youthful idealism. Always upset by poverty and injustice, my childish suggestions of sending tins of food to Africa by boat had been met by the insistence of friends, family and society that such things were beyond our power to change. ‘We can’t make a difference; there’s nothing we can do.’ But the people I was now meeting believed otherwise. In small, local ways, most were at work: volunteering for this, campaigning for that. And I was liberated to believe that in my own way I too might make some difference. I was electrified, released from the dead hand of hopelessness. Quakers are sometimes called ‘practical mystics’. It was a sense of the ‘mystic’ – a direct relationship with the Divine – that had called me, but the practical, in ways entirely new to me, was not long in catching up. For the Spirit we listen for, are waiting on, in Meeting for Worship is a dynamic one: its whispers are promptings to take love and truth out into the world, to heal it. As saint James wrote: ‘What good is it, my Friends, for someone to say he has faith when his actions do nothing to show it?’ (James 2:14). The relationship between worship and our witness in the world is indivisible; we all stand on a spectrum between contemplation and engagement, the balance renegotiated by each of us at different times of our lives. It is not that having faith leads us to action: each feeds the other. Indeed, it could be said that there is no separation. Prayer is action; faith is inherent in our engagement in the world. We express our faith in how we live our lives, how we are in the world, as patterns and examples. The Quaker way is a holistic one: faith consumes our lives. Jennifer Kavanagh is a member of London West Area Meeting, and the author of The World is our Cloister and The O of Home. She will co-facilitate a workshop on ‘Finding the Balance’ at Woodbrooke Study Centre over the New Year. From: The Friend, UK

We will wait or host you at “Amici degli Amici” (Our Friends of Friends’ circle)

Ecumenici is looking for any people who is at disposal to host our friends in Milan (Italy) during the week-end from the next 26th to the next 27th of September for our usual meeting of “Gli Amici degli Amici” (Our Friends of Friends’ circle). We will meet together without sacrament, sermons or acting rituals: we are simply going to wait in silence God’s inspiration…if it would come.
 Try to listen to your inner grace of God!

“Your strength is to stay quiet and firm and to be regenerated by God’s strength. It is required that you know how to wait the moment when you will be before God, through the Holy Spirit that is inside you…and, my friends, wherever you are, listen to each others, basing your faith above the eternal truths, and be careful that your words come from the eternal life”.

                                                                                                                                                                                      Ep. 46 (1653). From the “Letters” by Fox

 The Friends took for granted the fact that The Messia, the New  Adam, cancelled the Original Sin, and that the Messia’s inspiration enlights every men and women, apart from his/her belonging to any Faith, Church or his/her real knowledge of Christ.

“God’s inspiration enlights every man” (Giov. 1.7.), this versicle is the Quakers’ badge.

The effect of this idea is the possibility to build immediately a new life, regenerating the original conditions of the Eden. There is the real possibility to found a new peaceful reign endeed (Isaia 11, 6-8: “The wolf and the lamb will live together and a young boy will lead them. They won’t act in a wrong way neither sack any more, because God’s wiseness fills in their minds as the water fills in the oceans”).

 

Concerning the faith, we believe that each man/woman has the Holy Spirit or the God’s inspiration inside him/her, and that outward signs as sacred texts or sacraments are not necessary. We believe only in a real and truly faith, based on silence and, perhaps, on inspired words.

Only in a comunity gathered in silence, the Manster comes, the resurrected appears, the God’s inspiration reveals itself, the prophets says their inspirred words. But we believe in the mistic silence of meditation too, in the stillness, which are presence and imitation of God: His eternal life.
 We can start to exchange texts that are against war and violence’s idea, against death penalty or spiritual death, against all kind of political Authorities or political hierarchies and begin to consider as brothers each of us to live in a new reign… starting from that, they will understand that we are Friends of Friends, that shall meet every month in the geografical area of Milan, Italy.

Come and tell us about your life experience made of non violence, emancipation, democratic participation to political life. Tell us of your fighting against the oppression of human rights. We wil listen to you.

 

The meeting is at 4 p.m. of next 27th of September in Legnano (near Milan, Italy), in Via A. Vespucci, 72 ( an area behind the station – for informations call this number 392 1943729). Just in case we will find at disposal a meeting room in Milan, we will inform all of you in time through a message on ecumenici@tiscali.it

 

Ways to reach us: Ferrovie dello Stato – Bus STIE from Piazzale Cadorna, Milan – Motorway Milano/Varese, Legnano or Castellanza exit.

 

On that time [Fox] teaches in silence, becoming himself an example. He made big efforts to save men from rituals (selfperformances), testifying itself and looking for Christ’s inspiration inside them………

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.

If you want to know some meeting’s events in Italy pls contact us as ecumenici@tiscali.it . Bye bye.

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.”

Ends

Media Information

Anne van Staveren

0207 663 1048

07958 009703

annev@quaker.org.uk

 

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 annev@quaker.org.uk 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)

YEARLY MEETING

OF THE RELIGIOUS SOCIETY OF FRIENDS (QUAKERS) IN BRITAIN AT THE YEARLY MEETING HELD IN YORK DURING THE YEARLY MEETING GATHERING AT THE UNIVERSITY OF YORK

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 www.quaker.org.uk

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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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