Thoughts about Quaker relevant questions, items, themes
Simplicity has always been a central issue for Quakers – one of the five Testimonies which reflect Friends’ deepest concerns. As our book “Quaker Faith and Practice” puts it “The heart of Quaker ethics is summed up in the word ‘simplicity’”.
In today’s world, a concern for, and commitment to, simplicity is more important than it has ever been. It becomes ever clearer that the restless pursuit of economic growth and ever expanding consumption has created a pattern of life which is unsustainable. As economist Diane Coyle puts it “Our failure to say enough is enough means our children and grandchildren will pay a high price to repair the damage inflicted by the current generation”.
So what is a socially responsible life style today? What is it OK to have and to do – and what should we be rejecting and not doing? For all concerned people this is a troubling problem but most of us are far from sure what we should and could be doing.
In this situation there is one obvious way forward – to talk to other people, to share ideas on possibilities and practicalities, to find inspiration and reassurance from talking to those with similar concerns. On our own it is very easy to despair. If we share our concerns and hopes with others we can get new ideas and have the comfort of knowing that we are not on our own on the journey.
This situation has led Bakewell Friends to organise this event to begin to explore some of the key questions. What can and should we do as individuals to live more simply? What should we be saying about this to friends and neighbours and the local community? What should we be doing as faith communities to encourage others to live more simply and more sustainably? What should we be saying as faith communities to our political leaders?
My wife died in a cycling accident last year. We had been together over 30 years. It means a big change in my own life.
What have I learned, and what part does faith play?
I miss Helen a great deal. Our marriage worked well. We were happy. We were fortunate to enjoy good health, a full and stable family life, and rewarding jobs. I am very grateful for our time together. The biggest loss is the daily companionship of living with her. I particularly miss travel: we walked and cycled widely and adventurously throughout Europe and in other parts of the world. This summer I have felt Helen's absence in the garden. We enjoyed working there together, growing and harvesting much of our food.
At our stage of life [we were both in our 60s] bereavement is a widespread experience. Parents, siblings, partners and friends die, sometimes in painful circumstances. It has been a privilege to share with many people our personal response to loss. Sometimes people have strong views about how one ought to feel. 'You need to take time to grieve' was one of the most difficult pieces of advice. Was I supposed to sit at home feeling miserable, when I wanted to go out and connect with the wider world? My external commitments to voluntary work provided reassuring stability at a time when my identity and self-confidence were shaken.
Bakewell Quakers, as my faith community, have provided great practical and emotional reassurance. Part of this is just by being there. I have continued to attend Sunday worship, mindful that we are advised to 'come regularly to Meeting for Worship even when you are angry, depressed, tired or spiritually cold … Try to find a spiritual wholeness which encompasses suffering …'. The Meeting for Worship to mark Helen's death was a deeply moving occasion. Quakers speak about recognising the grace of God as shown in the life of a person who has died. The sense of gratitude for who Helen was, and what she did, flowed over and beyond the grief. The grace of God was also shown through the love and care of the Quaker community, as well as the Methodists who generously made their hall available for lunch after the funeral.
I don't know about life after death. For me, the kingdom of heaven is a present reality rather than a future hope. But I do know about resurrection. The Bible, and many writings about the deepest aspects of human experience, speak of the ability of love to transform and transcend even the bleakest situations. I believe that, wherever we journey, God is already there, waiting for us.
Clerk, Bakewell Quakers