Monday, July 16, 2018

Laid Down

It is nearly a year since I last wrote this blog but now seems a good time to start again. The title of this post is Quaker terminology for what happens when a piece of work comes to an end. It is laid down and the group or committee which has been carrying it on ceases to exist.

A long-standing committee on which I have served for just over a year and clerked since the beginning of 2018 has just been laid down by the central committee in charge of it. The reason for this is unclear and communication throughout could have been better but the decision has been made and the committee has been wound up. When we realised what was happening the committee wrote a minute and tried to change the central committee's mind as we did not think that our work was at an end, but this was in vain. It appears that an alternative approach is being sought but our committee has been laid down.

Under Quaker discipline of course I accept this decision but I have been wrestling with the way it has made me feel. I cannot help feeling rejected and a failure even though rationally I know that this was not the intention of the central committee.

In my working life I have been made redundant twice and both times I knew it was not my fault. In one instance the redundancy arose from a change of policy and in the other my job was tied to that of someone who the organisation wanted to dismiss. On both occasions I felt shock, rejection and a sense of failure that took a long time to work through.

Is there a difference between a committee or people engaged on a particular piece of work deciding that they have come to a stop and therefore laying themselves or the work down and having that work taken from them or laid down by another body? I think it is obvious that there is a difference. Recognising that an end has been reached is a way of taking control of the situation rather than having a decision imposed - even if the reasons for that decision are valid. I wish that there had been a way of helping our committee to understand and take a greater part in the decision that was made.

It has been hard but writing this post has helped me to continue the process of reconciling myself to the situation as it is. I am taking advantage of the time and space I have been given and welcome the opportunity to go back to my research and writing. I am sure that a way will open if I am attentive to my Inward Teacher. As I lay down one set of responsibilities I am taking up this blog again and hope to write regularly, at least once a month, on Quaker history and other matters that I need to explore in writing.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Quaker Alphabet Blog 2015-2017 - Z for Zed - The End

This is my last post in the Quaker Alphabet Blog. Since 2013 I have been through the alphabet, writing about Quaker related subjects, four times. Most of the other people who set out on this journey together have moved on to other things and it is time for me to do the same.

I have found this a useful prompt for my blogging - although sometimes no prompt is loud enough for such an arch-procrastinator as myself. The alphabetical structure has sometimes been difficult - not many names begin with Z, although some do, and some letters are much more difficult to find subjects for than others. I was particularly proud of X for Xylography!

I set out to use this format in part to continue to write about lesser-known Quakers of the past and I am happy to have done that. Of my biographical posts the most viewed has been Annie Elizabeth Clark. I certainly intend to continue with this theme and it will be a relief not to have to squeeze my writing into the confines of the alphabet.

Occasionally my alphabetical posts have been historical in other ways and there are themes there which I may try to expand on in future.

Another strand of my blogging has always been the autobiographical and when my life experience and my Quakerism have intersected some more personal posts have appeared in the alphabetical sequence.

So this is not really an ending. I am leaving one particular framework behind but I hope I can use it as a stepping stone to more writing. The difficulty that the alphabet structure was meant to remedy still remains - how to make myself sit down and write. To find out whether I have made any progress there you will have to watch this space!

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Quaker Alphabet Blog 2015-2017 - Y for Yearly Meeting Gathering

Back in 2013 I wrote a post about my experience of Yearly Meeting and as I said then I have been a regular attender for many years.

London (later Britain) Yearly Meeting has usually been held in London but in modern times there have been moves to change this. In 1905 London Yearly Meeting was held in Leeds and there were other occasional forays out of the capital - to Birmingham in 1908, Manchester in 1912 and 1926, Llandrindod Wells in 1924, Scarborough in 1925, Bristol in 1937, York in 1941 and 1942 and Edinburgh in 1948.

Younger son at YM 1986
It was intended that Yearly Meeting should be held in the summer every four years outside London and a minute was made to that effect in 1945. However the organisation of these 'Residential Yearly Meetings' took a while and the first was not held until 1986 in Exeter. I was there as part of the Quaker Women's Group presenting the Swarthmore Lecture and my family came too. In fact the children enjoyed themselves so much that they insisted that we should make it a family tradition. So we continued to go not only to Yearly Meetings in London but to residentials in Aberdeen in 1989, in Warwick in 1993, in Aberystwyth in 1997, in Exeter in 2001 and in York in 2005.

Author and younger son at Aberdeen YM 1989
From 1991 it was decided to hold Summer Gatherings between Residential Yearly Meetings. These were to be predominantly social affairs with no decision-making agenda. The Yearly Meeting in these years was still held in May in London. We did not go to the first Summer Gathering in Bradford but did attend those held in Lancaster in 1995, Canterbury in 1999, Loughborough in 2003 and Stirling in 2007.

Eventually however the organisational and financial burden of these different gatherings became too much, especially in the years when both Yearly Meeting and Summer Gathering were held. The decision was therefore made to amalgamate Residential Yearly Meeting and Summer Gathering into Yearly Meeting Gathering with YM sessions and social activities being thrown together and particpants being able to make their own agenda.

Epilogue at Yearly Meeting Gathering in Bath 2014

The first Yearly Meeting Gathering was held in York in 2009, followed by Canterbury in 2011 and Bath in 2014. This year YMG will be at the University of Warwick and I will be there.

Any longer residential gathering is bound to be an intense experience, sometimes almost overwhelming, and I have sometimes found it difficult, needing to carve out spaces of solitude and calm for myself. But there have been many happy and uplifting times as well as difficult ones and I have always been glad that I have gone.