Exploring Quaker chaplaincy online at Woodbrooke

Wren Sidhe writes

What better time to put your mind to something you have been mulling over for several years than lockdown? I signed up for this six week course on Quaker chaplaincy at Woodbrooke just as it was about to start and I’m so pleased I did.

I’m learning so much:- new words like entheogen, and the variety of settings chaplains work in. The Theos think tank published an article on how religious and spiritual life is changing in the UK, with attendance at churches dropping off while the need for chaplains is moving into a much wider area where people are seeking them out. Besides the usual place like prison, hospitals, universities and hospices, there are chaplains now in shopping centres, airports, at football matches, chaplains whose ministry is to people living on boats on waterways, chaplains whose ministry is to Roma and travellers.

The term entheogen describes vision-producing drugs that can be shown to have figured in shamanic or religious. Here: brugmansia.

The thing that has affected me the most is the thought that as a chaplain I might get caught up in some major event that requires more of me than I believe I have inside.

Joannie Harrison is one of the Woodbrooke course tutors and a chaplain who was called upon with very short notice as the only available chaplain to provide a service shortly after the Manchester bombing.

She has given permission for me to share this with you. I’m humbled by what she managed to do.

Service after Manchester Bombing.

None of us expected to be here today, certainly not under these circumstances. So thank you for coming .

So, why have we come….? Why have we felt the need to be here…?

I think part of the answer to that question is that we need to have space to absorb the reality of what has happened, and to begin to try to discern our response to it…. on a personal level, and collectively…as part of this hospital, and as part of society.

We are here to acknowledge our thoughts and feelings. Feelings of disbelief, anger, frustration, pain, and utter, utter sadness.

I think we are also here to remind ourselves of something bigger, to somehow find comfort from each other, our faiths, which may be different, our personal beliefs and values. And to affirm them, and the goodness and preciousness of life….

I don’t know of any religion or faith that preaches hatred or murder of innocent people. But we all know that religion is used by individuals to further their own ends…. in 2011, Anders Breivik killed over 80 young people on a youth camp in Norway. He called himself a Christian….

So we are here to bring all of our thoughts and feelings and to hand them over to God, or if we don’t have a personal faith, to hand them over to each other, to share them in an act of trust, a trust in the essential goodness of life and our fellow man. A trust in the values that we all hold….

We all work for the NHS, we all recognise how we connect within our team…with other teams working here, with the patients we serve, their families, and with the wider society. We can empathise with our colleagues in the Manchester hospitals caring for 58 survivors. Many of the staff will have young family members the same age as the victims. And our hearts go out to the mortuary team. They are all in our thoughts.

So… in a few moments of silence…we remember those who died (silence)

In quietness and calm, we pause to remember with grief and sadness, the loss of those who died as a result of the terror attack…..

We bring to mind their families and loved ones….

We bring to mind our colleagues working in the hospitals,  doing all that is within their power to alleviate any suffering….

We bring to mind all of the anonymous ordinary, yet extraordinary, people who helped in whatever way they could, to minimise the impact of the attack… people who guided disoriented youngsters out of the building…taxi drivers who gave free lifts to distressed young people to get them home safely….business people who opened their buildings as a place of temporary refuge for young people until parents could find them…

And we pause to face honestly all that we think and feel… we pause seeking the comfort and strength which we are all in need of to restore order and balance into our lives…. Amen.

At the beginning of this service I asked you why we felt that we wanted to  gather together…..

When I was a young girl of 17 or 18 I studied for history A level. As part of the course we were shown a propaganda film made in Britain to encourage America to enter the war. We were told that the film was only 4minutes long and the intention was to show it in cinemas immediately preceding the main feature film, to reach the greatest audience.

I mentally prepared myself for seeing awful things,  families being evacuated from their homes, violent acts, people being transported to camps, and worse …, but in fact I watched 4 minutes of normal, very ordinary, human life… people sharing a meal… boys kicking a football in the street… factory workers turning up for work after a weekend off…. women pushing babies in prams ….

It was one of the most positive and affirming films that I have ever seen. And it was effective , I still remember it today. Because it reminded me that the light is always present…. the dark will never overcome the light, and though one candle on its own may not appear to give much light, many candles together can dispel darkness.

I think that’s why we are here….

Thank you again for joining us.

Please remain in the chapel for as long as you wish.


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