The Quaker Meeting

The silent stillness & the mist of waiting and listening.
Preparing for the silence of the Quaker Meeting & holding a Friend’s hand.
I look into the mist on the hills above us & the Light of the rising sun breaking through.
May we cherish the silence & not be afraid.
May we know it not empty but full of presence.
May the love at its heart calm our fears.
May we know the gentle touch of a trusting hand.
May we be fully present in the moment.
May we learn to be silent and still.

Waldo Williams: the Inner Light

One of Wales’s best-loved twentieth century poets Waldo Williams joined the Religious Society of Friends later in life – in his fifties. He wrote about the ‘Inner Light’, which is a favourite Quaker idea, and about how, through the Light, the way that we see the world, and our perspective on who we are, are constantly being transformed through all the experiences of our lives, particularly through our interaction and shared experiences with other people:

It’s not our light, we receive it. In the midst of our experiences with our fellow humans comes a light to make those experiences look different. We say, in a clumsy way, that it is the Inner Light that has caused the transformation…

For Waldo Williams, like other religious Friends, that Inner Light comes from their god, or even is identified with their god. But how do we know, he asks, that we are not deceiving ourselves?

In the end, we have nothing but our own experiences to rely on. In the end, even the one who accepts the most traditional religion has nothing but their own experience to rely on.

Quoted from Quaker Faith and Practice, fifth edition, 26.64

Trans Day of Visibility

It’s Trans Day of Visibility, and I’m seeing lots of great pictures in social media of wonderful courageous people being visible. For trans, gay, bi, non binary – indeed all of us who identify as LGBTQ+ – being visible feels so much less safe than it did even a couple of years ago. Many of us had to remain largely invisible for much of our earlier lives. That was then. Please let’s not go back then. Trans people are human beings. All of us queer people are human beings, deserving of respect and kindness.

I am so proud of all the trans people who are being visible today. They inspire me with hope. 

I also know what it is like to hide away my true identity, and the toll it takes on mental and physical health. I do not judge those for whom it is too soon to be visible, and hope a day will come when they can be, in their own time.

Is this the end for NHS dentistry?

I received a letter from my dental practice to say from June they are no longer taking patients under the National Health Service scheme. I will have to take out a monthly payment insurance plan to cover the basics, i.e. annual check-up and two hygene appointments per annum. The reason? It seems our state-funded NHS doesn’t pay dentists enough, so most are moving over to privately funded schemes i.e paid by the patient. One of my objections: a good portion of what I pay will go to the directors/employees of the insurance scheme. 👎

I believe

Today is vernal equinox, the astronomical first day of spring, in the northern hemisphere. I believe the equinox will actually happen around 9.24 this evening UK time. I say ‘I believe’, as I will not experience it physically, but I do believe the word of astronomers, mathematicians and physicists as truth, based on their calculations. What will this year’s coming seasons bring, whether summer in the north or winter in the southern hemisphere? Will they bring more, and graver, catastrophic climate changes which all of us all over the world will witness or experience first hand? Yes, I do believe they will. We have the scientists word for it.

Quakers’ loyal address to Charles Mountbatten-Windsor

This past week a delegation of Quakers from Britain & Ireland – among them three (that I know of!) LGBTQ+ Friends – exercised a historic right to address Charles III. They thanked Charles for speaking out on the environment, saying that a just solution to the climate crisis requires disrupting existing economic systems. I’m also glad that Leasa Lambert, of the Black, Brown & People of Colour Quaker Fellowship, who read the address, told Charles that Quaker communities welcome trans & gender diverse people.

The report from British Quakers said that the address noted Quaker commitment to make reparations for past involvement in slavery, the address said there is a moral imperative on us all to repair the harm done & reiterated the Quaker peace testimony. 

“We may think wars end through force of arms or negotiation, but peace is maintained by building relationships, mutual dependency and shared prosperity.”

In 1660 it was a woman, too – Margaret Fell – who addressed Charles Il: ‘We are a people that follow after those things that make for peace, love and unity; it is our desire that others’ feet may walk in the same.’

The last time British Quakers addressed the monarch in this way was in 2012 during the Diamond Jubilee. 

The Quaker relationship with being a ‘privileged body’ is a difficult one, along with the idea of making a ‘loyal address’. Quakers uphold a testimony to equality, which is at odds with hereditary monarchy. But I accept that the address offered a rare chance to catch the ear of power.

Bayard Rustin film due this year

Great news I hear of an upcoming biopic on the life of my gay and quaker hero Bayard Rustin, Martin Luther King’s close associate during their campaigns in ’50/60s. After a criminal conviction and sixty days in jail (for having sex in a parked car) Rustin was distanced by other religious and political activists. His name was even expunged as co-author of the pamphlet Speak Truth to Power. But I believe his Meeting in Manhattan continued to hold him in great regard. In 2020 he was pardoned posthumously.

‘And then they came for me …..’

Same-sex Marriage is here, but is it here to stay? Anti-progressives in the U.S. want to eliminate drag artistes. If no-one speaks up for them, who who will they target next? Trans people? Like-minded politicians in the U.K. already are already coming for them. And then, who? It will be others in the LGBTQ+ community that they’ll want to eliminate. Their attacks are undeniably gathering pace. They are saying their god is punishing the world, blaming natural disasters on societies that allow same-sex couples to marry. Expect the next attack to revoke their right to marriage. Most of these politicians and their backers are people of one faith or another. They see their chief backer is their god. Yes, some people of faith do say that their god is more benign than that. But I can understand why so many LGBTQ+ people have rejected organised religions and all  their gods.

Now, Quakers in the UK were the first faith group to celebrate same-sex marriages, but they still do have an inclusion issue. Quakers in the U.K. have also become, in the last few decades, very affirming and accepting of those who have no religious faith, or a non-theist spirituality, one that does not express itself through the use of god-words. But Quaker practice has yet to catch up with the reality of inclusiveness. Non-theist Friends cannot marry in a Meeting house if they cannot say the prescribed words, which refer to “divine assistance” and to “god”. The only option for them is to marry in a civil ceremony.  Even Quakers in Britain have not achieved full equal marriage until it is open even to non-theists. 

Butterflies as canaries

I was lucky to get a photo of this female Wall Brown butterfly Lasiommata megera in our garden last year. This species is in sharp decline in the UK. However, butterflies are here the best, most comprehensively monitored group of insects anywhere in the world. Butterflies fulfil a very important role as an indicator for thousands of other species and the general state of our environment. Butterfly Conservation’s report ‘The State of the UK’s Butterflies 2022’ is gloomy reading.

The ancient yew tree at Cyffylliog

Moving from the city to rural Wales and exploring its ancient landscape has taught us how temporary our stay is. 

Here is my photograph of one of the oldest living things I am ever likely to see. Cymru-Wales has the largest number of ancient yews in the world. This one in the equally ancient burial ground at Cyffylliog is thought to be over two thousand years old, so was there before the Roman legions passed through building their roads & forts. I am awed by it. 

I wonder what tongues have been spoken there in its history? When it was but a sapling, Iron Age locals’ Brittonic dialect could be heard, perhaps even the occupying Roman army’s Latin & other languages. 

By the ninth century C.E. the locals burying their dead around the ancient yew would speak a form of Old, then Middle Welsh, not forgetting (many Welsh people today do not forget!) the Norman French and Early English of invaders from across the border.

Since the fifteenth century, there are ever fewer modern Welsh speakers and more speaking modern English. (Today maybe 40% speak cymraeg in the surrounding area of Denbighshire.)