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the Friend INDEPENDENT QUAKER JOURNALISM SINCE 1843
CONTENTS – VOL 167 NO 31 3 Conflict arises in Wigton 4 After the bomb dropped 5 BP: was this inevitable? Alan Kirkham 6 Free Schools are not free Angela Walker 7 Independence from America at Menwith Hill Mavis and Roger Iredale 8-9 Letters 10-11 Quaker community? Laurie Michaelis 12 A form of joy Shaun Swann 13 Revisiting Louise Ben Rice 14 And the first of these is envy… Tim Morgan 15 Vipassana – a personal journey David Manclark 16 Q-eye 17 Friends & Meetings
Correction On page 11 last week, in the story of the event at Bridewell in Bristol, the last line of a quote was omitted. The full quote is: ‘Their courage is emboldening and has many resonances. Whatever injustices or inequalities we perceive in the world today here is encouragement. In honouring them we are repaid plentifully. Be brave, be compassionate, speak my truth, listen, build friendship and love they are saying.’ (The italics are the missing line.)
Cover image: The memorial cenotaph in Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park is a concrete, saddle-shaped monument that covers a cenotaph holding the names of all of the people killed by the bomb. Photo: RinzeWind/flickr CC:BY. See page 4. Images on this page: Scenes from the Bamford community. Celebration of a birthday with a picnic (above) and a woodstack (below). Photos courtesy of Bamford Quaker Community. See pages 10-11.
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the Friend, 30 July 2010 News
Conflict arises in Wigton
A HEATED DISPUTE over the planned closure of Wigton Meeting House in Cumbria has triggered debate about the role of Quaker buildings and Quaker processes of decision-making. Wigton Local Meeting has been formally laid down by North Cumbria Area Meeting (AM), who plan to sell the Meeting house. But six Friends from Wigton have signed a letter accusing AM trustees of ‘unquakerly behaviour’. They argue that the building can be saved. When the Meeting house was built in the nineteenth century, a Quaker school in Wigton ensured 350 regular worshippers. The school was closed in 1984.
‘felt threatened’ after being obstructed by ‘a man who was not known to them’. He said that in the event, the police ‘were not required’.
He added, ‘There was some discussion about where the items were to be stored, but eventually with the agreement of the local group and their assistance the items from Carlisle were placed in two of the smaller rooms’. Wigton Friend Elaine Davidson, an opponent of the closure, told The Cumberland News, ‘One group of Quakers calling the police on another group of
Quakers – it’s unheard of ’. But the group have themselves been criticised for involving a solicitor.
Over the last decade, average attendance has fallen to single figures. This led to financial fears and worries about too few people doing too much work. The decision to lay down the Meeting was taken in April 2009, coming into effect six months later.
North Cumbria is not the only AM to have struggled with the closure of Meeting houses. The numerical decline of British Quakers in recent decades has left the Society with a low ratio of people to buildings. Longstanding emotional attachments
Wigton’s colonnade. Photo: John Hall.
AM clerk Trevor Green said the decision was in accordance with Friends’ business practices. But Wigton Friend, Kathryn Rawsonbelieves that the Quaker ethos is that if there is one voice of dissent, no-one should move forward.
The AM agreed that Friends in Wigton could continue to worship at the Meeting House until the sale goes ahead. They offered to ensure that money would be available thereafter to provide smaller premises if a ‘sufficient number’ of Quakers wished to continue worshipping in Wigton.
The controversy made local headlines this month, after police were called to Wigton Meeting House. There are conflicting accounts of the incident, which was triggered by the arrival of Friends from nearby Carlisle, who planned to store furniture at Wigton.
A small number of Wigton Quakers are reported to have blocked their entrance in protest. One of the Carlisle group called the police. Trevor Green said they to a Meeting house can come up against financial concerns and the argument that devotion to a building undermines a focus on the Spirit.
Roger Cullen, who teaches courses on handling conflict at the Woodbrooke Quaker Study Centre, said that conflict is part of the ‘healthy life’ of a worshipping community.
‘Conflict can bring – and may even be necessary – for change and growth,’ he explained. ‘It is important to maintain and deepen our spiritual practice and discipline; and to facilitate opportunities for listening to one another with love and respect and help people to see things from different points of view.’
Facilitators from Quaker Life and the Quaker Stewardship Committee have agreed to act as impartial facilitators in meetings between the Wigton group and the elders and overseers of North Cumbria AM.
Symon Hill the Friend, 30 July 2010