|Forum Home > General Discussion > Report on the Meeting of Friends in Wales. Brithdir, 21st February 2015|
Brithdir is up the hill from Dogellau, with a lovely walk, beside the stream down to the town. We used to stop off there sometimes on our way to my home town for holidays. It has a well appointed community hall with a mural featuring the words of a Welsh hymn written locally, and a bardic chair in pride of place on the stage. A fine venue for a meeting of Friends in Wales on the 21st February 2015.
The featured speaker was Ben Pink Dandelion talking about his Swathmore lecture and beyond. He spoke amusingly about the preparation. The Swathmore lecture committee discernied person and subject for the talk three years beforehand. The subject “What It Means To Be a Quaker” very much of interest to Ben. This unanimity falling apart as the twelve members of the committee had twelve different ideas of what the talk should feature. A synopsis was built and agreed, but then the preparation of the first draft coincided with all sorts of Meeting problems which involved Ben. Necessity demanded that he withdraw into a quiet room at home and concentrate, but daughter Florence had other priorities and produced a spreadsheet of reasons why they should get a new puppy. House training the puppy at the same time as suffering food poisoning increased the problems through which a first draft was produced, but which was far from the expectations of the committee. A revision had to be produced quickly with the April deadline for the accompanying book going to press, and, as Ben was anxious not to have to read the talk, two months of preparation.
Ben repeated the salient points of his lecture. Quaker worship is experience of the divine, something which cannot be experienced without the worshipper being changed. In discerning and nurturing the experience we are called to act in the world.
The basics of Quakerism – low on detailed theology and doctrine provides an experience which we can have individually, but which works so much better in the Meeting situation, which brings extra strength and depth and can produce a much stronger witness. However, a lot of “stuff” then gets in the way. We have problems with how we belong, how we express what we find. In the last 150 years Quakers have changed almost totally. Now we have no “hedge” of being a peculiar people, we are much more of the world. No longer the only path but one of many. This affects how we attend and how we contribute, both in service and in finance. It is no longer our primary commitment. The non doctrinal character of Quakerism allowed width of belief, but that width widens with every generation. Likewise out testimony to the world has broadened into testimonies which we can choose from. Many now feel that they have to preface their ministry with apologies for the words used. Ben encourages us to speak our ministry with confidence, using the words that are natural to us. If others need to translate the ministry into forms that they are comfortable with, that is for them to do.
Of course, as we in our Area Meeting have heard from Ben, he is anxious that Quaker Meetings do not spend too much time focussing on structure, and keep matters stripped down to the essentials. He advises that being clear, enthusiastic and welcoming will keep our meetings dynamic and attractive.
Following Ben's talk we attended to a lot of the “stuff” that we feel we need to, and details are in the minutes, available through the web-site.
The National Eisteddfod will take place this year at Meifodd, but the next will be at Abergavenny, where the first lecture organised by the Eisteddfod Friends�lecture committee will be given by Dr Gethin Evans on someone who had a great input into our Area Meeting: the Quaker publisher and educationalist John Edward Southall. Friends in Wales have agreed to set up a designated fund for future use, for payment of a fee and expenses to invited lecturers, as necessary.
I always find Meetings of Friends in Wales to be interesting and stimulating and always very sociable, as this one was