Meeting In A Pandemic

We find ourselves in the midst of a pandemic. Nobody expected it, nobody was really prepared, the impact has reached into virtually all aspects of our lives as, one by one, our jobs, activities and social connections closed down.

For a while, the building ‘went to sleep’, and shut down altogether. Weeks went by in empty darkness with the doors closed and locked.

The first sign of life reemerging was when a day care unit for people with additional needs asked if they could open in the meeting room. This organisation provided vital support for users and their families during the stressful lockdown period. We worked out a risk assessment that made the building and garden as safe as possible for vulnerable users to make a home, we were glad to welcome them and to feel that our meeting was reaching out a supportive hand.

The feedback from them was that the building was (and still is!) serving them well. So many times, we have felt our Meeting House wrap itself around us in times of difficulty, so many meetings have been embraced in a deep and close stillness, it is gratifying to think it may be doing the same for them!

As rigorous protocols were established, meetings resumed but with much reduced attendance, as friends who fell into vulnerable categories sensibly continued to shield.

The role of the person on door duty to welcome everybody has changed. Chairs, light switches, door handles and hard surfaces are disinfected before and after meeting. The garden door is opened to allow ventilation, and to let in the last scents and gentle sounds of late Summer and the stirrings of Autumn.

Books are not put out, as they are likely to be handled by more than one person.

A candle is set on the table. The candle is used instead of flowers to recognize the fact we share a flame on behalf of those who cannot attend meeting themselves, and for those who have lost loved ones to Covid.

Everything looks simple and bare.

Everything feels Quakerly.

Five chairs are put in a distanced circle. Soft cushions are taken off them and set aside.

Somehow the circular shape feels more inclusive, more connected than the rectangle we are used to.

Friends are welcomed at the door. ‘Have you shown any signs of Covid? Please remember to anti-bac your hands as you go in. It’s so good to see you.’ No one shakes hands, a ‘namaste’ greeting has become our accustomed welcome.

Meeting in silence, the strangeness of masks as well as ‘social distance’, yet joined so closely it feels as if we were holding hands. No one speaks, Advices is rarely read, the sense of sharing our thoughts and reflections so strong that words are not needed.

The candle flickers and glows.

The changes are small, but the meeting feels simple, honest, akin to the meetings early Quakers may have experienced. Things we do ‘because we have always done them’ are set aside. There isn’t room.

Absent friends are held in our hearts. The spaces where they sat feel empty, and weigh on us. There is a sense that the meeting is held on their behalf.

The hour passes, and the end is marked with another namaste.

No tea or biscuit, but somehow this feels right as the circle remains unbroken for a little longer for afterword.

Then there is a spontaneous silence before people start to leave.

The cleaning process is repeated in the empty building.

I gather up my things and look around. Our beautiful, ancient meeting house, with its dark honey brown panels and rows of benches used by generations of Quakers since the day it first opened, had worked its spell once more, blessing all those who attended with the very same silence and stillness that has given strength to friends in previous times of adversity.

Only some of us can attend at the moment, but nobody is apart in spirit.

Ecclesiastes 3

For everything there is a season,
and a time for every matter under heaven:
a time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;
a time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up;
a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
a time to seek, and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
a time to tear, and a time to sew;
a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
a time to love, and a time to hate;
a time for war, and a time for peace.


Coronavirus-Closure of Meeting House and Garden

We regret that all use of the meeting house and garden has been put on hold for the time being , but Quaker Friends continue to worship in their own homes and online.

When we want to wish others wellbeing, peace and comfort, Quakers say that we ‘hold them in the light’. Holding others in the light can be a form of silent worship, lovingly extending thoughts of hope and peace, and it can equally be a practical expression, whether through kind deeds, a sympathetic and caring ear, or even just letting someone know you are thinking of them and that they are not alone in such troubling times.

The current Corona Virus outbreak has created uncertainty, and has changed the way we live our lives. We are prevented from meeting with each other, and many people may be feeling isolated and afraid, while others may wonder how to reach out to them to provide support.

‘In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds’. Matthew 5:16

You are not alone, we hold you all in the light, and we would very much look forward to welcoming you into our meeting house as soon as it should prove safe to reopen our doors.

With thanks to Alan for the photo of his garden with white wood anemones, primroses and snakes head fritilaries 

World Day of Prayer

On Friday 6th March as part of the World Day of Prayer a service will be held at Wellington Quaker Meeting House. The service, written by women in Zimbabwe will start at 3.30 pm and will be followed by refreshments. All are welcome.

Celebration of Light

For over ten years now in the period leading up to Christmas Wellington Meeting has hosted an event known as the ‘Celebration of Light’. The beautiful peace garden at the rear of the building is filled with candles and anyone is welcome to come and share this special experience. Visitors in previous years have found the occasion to be peaceful, moving and uplifting, providing a welcome contrast to the usual busyness and commercialism of the festive season. By holding this celebration we hope to bring light into the darkness and promote peace, kindness and goodwill in our local community.

This year the event will be held on Saturday 30th November from 4.00pm to 6.30pm and on Wednesday 11th December, from 4.00 pm to 6.30pm. From 5.00pm to 6.00pm on Wednesday 11th December you can also enjoy ‘The Snow Queen’, a storytelling session and entertainment for all ages. There is no charge for admission, refreshments will be available and all ages are welcome.

Solitary Writers

Wellington Friends launched Solitary Writers to reach out to the community and draw people together. We started in March 2018, and once a month, on the second Saturday, we meet between 5 and 7pm to share our latest output.

It is a fully inclusive group, which welcomes and thrives on the diversity of the people who come, bringing with them a rich assortment of experience and writing.

The variety of work is astonishing, with poetry of all sorts, short fiction, blogs and even some dedicated souls working steadfastly through full length novels. The group is warm and supportive, with endlessly kind feedback on work. Writers say how much they look forward to meeting up each month!

In the spirit of ‘passing it forward’ instead of a subscription, we ask for a small voluntary donation of food which is collected by the local food bank.

The Children’s Meeting

Wellington Friends has a vibrant and enthusiastic children’s meeting, led by Peter and Georgina. We have up to 9 children who meet once a month, on the first Sunday of each month at 10.30am, though Children are welcome to be part of the adult meeting at any time!

A meeting will often involve a story, a craft or piece of artwork, and an opportunity to look together at an issue that will often reflect matters considered by the adult meeting. Over recent sessions we have made Earth stars, bird feeders, seed bombs, model gardens, woodland nets and meditation stones. The garden just outside the window of the children’s hut is a vital part of our meetings, providing a calm backdrop as well an inexhaustible supply of inspiration and resources!

Children have featured in the history of the meeting, the current group was formed in March 2016, and has gone from strength to strength. The adult meeting has embraced the children’s group, and organised the timing of shared lunch to ensure everyone can be part of it.

Inclusivity is an important theme in our group, and the children are well practised in Makaton signing- recently they learned to sign along to the song ‘This is me’ from a film The Greatest Showman’.

The energy, ideas and values brought by the members of the children’s group have all brought immense value to the life of Wellington Friends, and make the light of the meeting shine that little bit brighter!