Category Archives: Blog

We have joined the Quiet Garden Movement

Leighton Buzzard Friends have joined the worldwide Quiet Garden Movement.

The Quiet Garden Movement is a global network of over 300 gardens in homes, churches, hospitals and schools. Quiet Gardens are made available by local hosts for people of all ages to experience silence, and spend time in prayer and contemplation.

We are delighted to be joining the worldwide Quiet Garden Movement. In joining we mark the importance of silence together in natural surroundings and will be exploring the health and spiritual benefits of taking regular times of quiet in nature.

The Quaker garden is behind the Meeting Nouse in North Street. It is both a burial ground and a large grassed open space surrounded by borders and mature trees. At the moment there is a spiral walk laid in the centre for a simple meditation exercise. The garden is open all year round and there will be special occasions from time to time. Please look out for details.

Anyone interested in learning more should contact the Clerk at].

“The Quiet Garden Movement is about giving people permission to step back and experience a sense of stillness and wonderment,” said founder Reverend Philip Roderick. “We live in a world where we are swamped by methods of communication and yet we find ourselves unable to communicate. Silence is the missing and vital ingredient. Even as little as five minutes can be restorative and healing.”

The world’s largest study into the links between rest and wellbeing, published in 2016, showed that ‘being alone’ and ‘in the natural environment’ were rated in the top three most restful activities [1].

Do we know what hunger is?

In the UK we customarily eat when we are hungry, especially where there is temptation and food / snacks / drinks are readily available. It is probable that at most of these times we are not actually hungry, that it is purely habit and a kind of addiction. When we want something in life generally we are able to buy it, despite the likelihood that we do not actually need it.
As a parent I have a responsibility to consider what I do and the choices that I make. Children learn from parents how to behave on our planet, and what reasonable expectations they should have for their every whim and wish to be met.

Citizens of the world are hearing of people in Afghanistan who in recent years have been given the hope of rights, freedom and security. They now live in fear of the knock at their door which may lead to execution as a direct result of these freedoms, which they have dared to exercise in collaboration with the occupying forces. I wonder how I can dare to believe that every luxury that I desire (and somehow feel I deserve as reward for the hardships I face, for goodness sake) should be satisfied?

So today I eat my simple breakfast muesli, eat fruit, homemade soup and hopefully a homemade dinner with wholefoods & vegetables. I will try to do without packaged, unnecessary snacks or drinks. I will try to wean myself off caffeine again and even try to drink only (clean) tap water, which in itself would be a luxury to the majority of people on earth. I could be labelled an extremist, but for most of the world these simple things would be an extreme luxury, so why should this be?

There are numerous campaigns where people commit to following this way of living, to “do without”, but closer to home our Quaker testimonies and ideals point to these very things, such as with the final two Advices & Queries:

41. Try to live simply. A simple lifestyle freely chosen is a source of strength. Do not be persuaded into buying what you do not need or cannot afford. Do you keep yourself informed about the effects your style of living is having on the global economy and environment?

42. We do not own the world, and its riches are not ours to dispose of at will. Show a loving consideration for all creatures, and seek to maintain the beauty and variety of the world. Work to ensure that our increasing power over nature is used responsibly, with reverence for life. Rejoice in the splendour of God’s continuing creation.

Let all of our actions speak, and be proportionate and considerate of people, creatures and plants around the world. And let us be grateful for those simple things which would be such a luxury to most.

A breath of wind

It is very pleasant to feel a gentle breeze and hear the rustling of the leaves on the trees. A warm wind from the south is also a joy to most of us. However, the wind is unpredictable. It can be gusting, whirling, whistling. It can become a howling gale, or even a hurricane. The same wind that can fill the sails of a boat can also become a storm blowing it off course. 

These common experiences lie behind the use of wind as a metaphor for the Spirit. In the Bible there is the phrase, “The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.” (John 3.8) What are we to understand then about ‘spirit-filled’ people? 

We might expect people of the spirit to be kind and loving, gentle and considerate. And one hopes they are. They can be like the zephyr that brings warming comfort, or like the wind that lifts the wings of the eagle. However, they also have the power to disturb, bring change, inspire revolution. The people who are driven by a spirit of truth and justice can be stubborn, persistent, discomforting, and even as irresistible as a tornado. 

The same word is used for breath, wind and spirit in the early stories of the Bible. It is ‘ruach’. We might prefer the wind/spirit to be like a sweet breath on our cheeks. But where there is corruption or injustice, or violence against people or the planet, the wind/spirit can blow away our complacency and challenge our prejudices. I remember a Bible-study session in the German Kirchentag in Berlin one year, which began with the sound of breathing, and a procession of large leaf filled branches rustling as they moved. But it moved inexorably towards a storm of challenge to violence against women and the planet. 

The celebration of the coming of the Holy Spirit has just been celebrated in British churches. It is the feast of Pentecost. This comes as a reminder to Christians that sometimes there is a need to offer a  gentle caress to those who are bruised and vulnerable. But it also prompts the conscience to search out the reasons behind the pain and suffering and to challenge the people and systems that create them. 

People of the spirit can be found in all religious traditions and amongst those who do not identify with any formal faith. Perhaps you recognise someone, young or old, who has shown the spirit to you, either gently or forcefully! Perhaps you feel the spirit within you urging you to love and to care, to act to bring about change and to make peace.  

May the spirit be with you!

Time travellers

We travel through time from past into present and to the future. We mark moments in our lifetime with special occasions, at birth, coming of age, marriage, death. All this suggests that time flows in one direction.  But our experience is sometimes quite different. The pattern of days in the week, of months in the year, of seasons, and of religious celebrations suggest a more circular motion. And our memory and emotions can take us anywhere and anytime.

I think the experience of lockdown has also had an effect on our perception of time. Perhaps you found that at times it has been hard to know what day of the week it was. Did each day seem just like the one before?  Did you feel that time seemed to drag? So that what was familiar and routine became to feel a like being imprisoned? Perhaps the future became for you more uncertain. Many have said that they missed the past contact with friends and wider family, the hugs that were so normal.

The connections between religion and time are varied. At the moment Muslims are marking Ramadan, a month long fast based on the lunar calendar. Christians are in the season of resurrection (from Easter to Pentecost – Whit Sunday). The Jewish calendar at the moment marks the time between Passover and the Feast of Weeks. These occasions come round each year, but there is also a longer time scale. A Christian traditional view of time is :- a beginning in creation, a fall into alienation from God, the coming of Christ in Jesus of Nazareth and an eventual renewing of creation, a reunion with God. 

These regular, repeating, cyclical expressions of faith are meant to help us navigate our life through all its challenges and changes. They accompany daily and weekly acts of prayer and devotion. They can be reminders and prompts to act in love and kindness to our neighbours. They can be assurances that we are loved and that there is forgiveness and new possibilities. Just like other routines of home,  work and leisure they offer a framework for decision making and provide a structure of meaning.

Sometimes, however, the totally unexpected comes and throws our patterns and predictability into chaos. Is it then that we think about what is timeless and eternal? What really and deeply matters in life? What will last beyond the days and months and years of our lifetime? This sudden upheaval can make us reassess our priorities, look again at our values, and perhaps change the direction we take. 

Each moment holds the potential for love. Each day we can be kind. Every week provides opportunities for giving and receiving care for one another. As we travel through time we can bring the eternal into the present.

A version of this blog was published in the Leighton Buzzard Observer on 27.4.21.

[These blogs are the views of individual Friends and do not necessarily represent the views of other Quaker or Britain Yearly Meeting. For agreed statements please visit the Quakeers in. Ritalin website. ]

About Time

After meeting recently I was asked about my doctoral work, in particular about the term ‘Quaker time’.  My thesis is titled: The Temporal Collage: how British Quakers make choices about time at the beginning of the twenty first century. In her work with Quakers about moral choices Jackie Leach Scully describes decision making as building a collage because:

1.  People often had to make decisions on partial information without certainty of what the outcome might be.

2.  Collage is a creative working of the elements involved.

3.  Collage is flexible and can be imaginative and fluid.

So it is with time.  When we commit to Quaker work, for instance, we do not know how we will be changed by what we do.  Many Friends I spoke to had wonderful experiences and most made friends through their work, but for others involvement was less positive.  Thankfully for those Friends, Britain Yearly Meeting has many opportunities to live out a Quaker life, and disappointed Friends largely found a place for themselves elsewhere.                                   

Quaker time is one of several components of the individual collages of those I interviewed.  Ben Pink Dandelion used the term in his 1996 thesis to distinguish the time Friends spend in Meeting for Worship, participating in the structure of the Society, in special interest groups and Quaker learning opportunities.  In 1859 Quaker requirements of endogamy, plain dress and speech (the peculiarities) ended which meant that life beyond the meeting became privatised, that is, beyond the reach of elders.  During the so called ‘quiet period’ the influences on individual Friends decision making was limited to those within the Society, whereas now they are many and often complex. Nevertheless, my research showed that Friends regard much of what they do to be influenced by their faith, and embraced by their spiritual selves.

Of the elements that comprise the collages Friends build, one is Holy Busyness, the time given out of faith, for instance the love given in time shared with family, or as volunteers within the wider community and sometimes in paid work, but not specifically with Quakers. In this way collages are built of polychronic time, shaped into a design that suits us as we move through life.  Polychronic time is not the same as multi tasking, that is doing several things at once.  By contrast, polychronic time is woven flexibly into our lives. There are rigid, unavoidable elements such as clock time, the time of deadlines, calendars, and priorities which sit alongside the interwoven elements of relationships and interconnectedness with the wider world. 

As we come out of lockdown in 2021, I am reviewing my collage.  I need to consider what has to be in there, what I can keep and what I might discard to stay safe and well, and how I keep it bound by my spirituality. 

[These blogs are the views of individual Friends and do not necessarily represent the views of other Quaker or Britain Yearly Meeting. For agreed statements please visit the Quakeers in. Ritalin website. ]

What would you be prepared to die for?

Most of us at some time in our life think about what is our purpose here on earth. Does our existence have any meaning? One way to test this is to ask, “What am I prepared to die for?” Is there anything or anyone who means so much to you that you would lay your life on the line for them?

This is Holy Week in which Christians remember the events of the last days in the life of Jesus, leading up to his crucifixion on a cross. Although the story is more detailed than the way the rest of Jesus’ life is told, the aim of the storytellers is not to tell how Jesus died, but why. They also stress that this was the way that Jesus wanted to go. They say that he was not under the control of anyone else, either Pontius Pilate, the Roman Governor, or the religious hierarchy of Jerusalem.

There are many moving examples of people who have donated organs to others, kidneys for example, that can save someone’s life. There are also stories of a few who have taken the place of others in the line leading to the death chamber, and who have died in their stead.

Another kind of willingness to die for others is that shown in the lives of martyrs. I don’t mean those who go on suicide missions to kill others, but those who stick to their beliefs, their cause for justice, even if it means they lose their lives. Perhaps Martin Luther King is one example.

Jesus can be compared to these examples. He is regarded by some as a martyr. A good man who stood up for the poor and oppressed. He is an inspiring example for us to follow, if we dare.

For many Christians he is more than this. Somehow, they believe, the life and death of Jesus releases us from what is wrong in our lives and in the life of the world. This too is a reason to follow his example: to live a life of love towards each and every neighbour. Because he loved us, we should  love one another.

Did Jesus die in vain? I think he died for a purpose. But the question is, has that purpose been fulfilled or will it be fulfilled in the future? The Christian message of Easter is that it will be fulfilled. Jesus was justified in loving and dying the way he did, and events since and to come will show that his way of love is the best way for all of life to flourish. His death can help us learn how to live and gives us hope for the future.

[These blogs are the views of individual Friends and do not necessarily represent the views of other Quaker or Britain Yearly Meeting. For agreed statements please visit the Quakeers in. Ritalin website. ]