Revd Philip Hawthorn and his wife Lizzie took advantage of a short Sabbatical from his work as Rector of St Stephen’s and Charlcombe to try out the local Quaker Meeting. He discovered a “simple yet scarily truthful space“.
Lizzie and I had been wanting to come to a Meeting for ages, feeling drawn by the promise of silence and deep reflection. We were not disappointed. As an Anglican priest I can apply for a three month sabbatical every ten years – as well as painting and some research, the chance to spend a dozen Sunday mornings with Quakers was exciting.
The welcome was warm and sincere, and the space into which we settled was safe and full of potential. The silence was comfortable, and the verbal offerings humble, brave, pertinent, deep, fragile, engaging. What followed the meeting was a nice surprise – a welcome, news of friends (and such compassion in the listening), a desire to be present to those in difficult times. What wasn’t a surprise was the utter connectedness of the meeting with one another and the world.
My churches are Inclusive, rare in Bath. And so the strong thread of equality which weaves wonderfully throughout thought and practice was a joy. As is the passion for peace, and living well.
We are meditators, so the silence is a friendly space. The shared and open ministry is beautiful – such honesty and depth – and great that so often connecting themes and concerns emerge. We feel at home as a Christians, and enjoy so much sharing with those who own different but wholly interwoven paths. ‘Holding in the light’ very much flows with how I view prayer.
Over a longer time I would miss the beauty of sacrament, and the deep work of liturgy, but I also value hugely the Quakers’ simple yet scarily truthful space which is so full of love and divine humanity. I go back to my work in the church better than I left it because of my time with Quakers. And we can see a future with both patterns of worship nourishing, challenging and blessing.
Revd Philip Hawthorn