Bewildered, I felt like Betjeman looking into the sky

Closing thoughts on The Religious Society of Friends, Britain’s Yearly Meeting (Quakers)

I felt like Betjeman bewildered looking into the sky / St Pancras station, London / gjphoto 7518

I left Britain Yearly Meeting (Quakers)last night (6.5.18) and as the time passed the more disturbed I became. I quite unexpectedly got into a conversation with some Quakers during which I voiced what I wrote yesterday, ‘Who’s missing?’ They validated what I was saying and gave their own experience.

As time went on a story came to me actually a few stories came to me. I felt the spirit was wanting me to work this through. The stories were my creative attempt to dress up what I felt. This morning I awoke and a part of me did not wish to return to the yearly meeting in London. I had a fear that I would say something that I would regret. I had a sense if the opportunity came I would speak what I felt. Over the best part of the next 20 hours, something was going on inside of me. It felt as if pieces of my past were fusing together as if to culminate in this moment.

I have written here about my failed experience as a 10-year-old speaking in the Salvation Army and yet how recently that failure stands out as a great moment of vulnerability. I saw myself as a teenager in the fray of Northern Irish politics and though I hindered more than helped I sensed God wanted to use that first vulnerable voice and then that outspoken voice. I am aware that I am a trouble-maker, I am aware that I am controversial, I am aware that what I say doesn’t always come out as I would wish but it comes from a place that wants to speak up when something or someone hasn’t been heard. Would you believe God could use that? I was surprised.

I was also aware that I am in my own place of brokenness of what appears as a failed relationship. Indeed that too was speaking into this situation as I was aware of the pain of separation.

I found myself walking to the station, I found myself on the train, I found myself at the meeting. As I walked I had an unusual sensitivity. The guys begging penetrated my own humanness. A woman spoke about fracking and although it is not a matter I feel deeply I was deeply moved by her sensitivity that moved her to protest. I was so moved that the tears rolled. Another spoke about a mother not being able to afford to give much to a school project. The mother bore her vulnerability and gave what she could give. I was moved as I thought of my own mother, a cleaner, and me a child at school with little to give. My tears rolled that due to economic inequality some of us have to make ourselves vulnerable to justify ourselves. I was aware my tears were for my own pain. I was surprised.

There was a session on the need for British Quakers to do more on diversity. A friend responded and asked that we do something to address Race Inequality. She too had spoken to a friend who had shared his experience. She identified herself as a trans woman and thanked the movement for the work it has done in regard to LGBTQ issues but asked that the same is done in regards to race.

I met the friend I had spoken to the previous night, she asked me , “How I was?” I told her I was disturbed. She encouraged me to go with it. I kept using the word ‘bizarre’. It was bizarre that in all my years I was feeling such an intensity of spirit in me. I hadn’t expected to experience it here. A Quaker meeting is a dangerous place as if you are moved and it could be anyone it is hard to contain it. That is part of the fear yet if it belongs to the spirit we are mere channels delivering a message, first to ourselves and then if appropriate to others.

I said a strange thing to her before we reconvened, “I am confident if it is right I will be prepared.”

Although a question of timing exists the Spirit does the prompting and again it is about sensing it and placing confidence in it.

The Epistle is above

I had submitted my thoughts to the epistle drafting committee regarding missing voices. The final epistle did not make any significant changes as it was read out. The clerk then allowed anyone who wished to respond. In such a vast Quaker gathering it is the clerk’s role to discern who should speak. She called for microphone 7 to go the back of the hall. It was coming my way.

I gave my name and the meeting to which I belong.

“The epistle states, “Many voices, experiences and identities are missing from our current book.” That got me thinking about who is missing? The story came to me of Jesus as a 12 year-old boy. He had been celebrating the passover with his family in Jerusalem. His parents had travelled a distance before they asked, “Where is Jesus.” No one had noticed him missing. I ask the question, “Where is Jesus this weekend?” and I hear the answer he is with the Black and Asian people. Britain is 13% Black and Asian and we speak about people missing from a book. Jesus and Fox spoke of a lived experience not about a book. It is not about reading about yourself in a book written by one or two people it is about being part of this society as a lived experience.”

I sat down and passed the microphone back. The silence returned. Another friend was asked to speak she wanted three words deleted. The clerk said the words would remain. There was no acknowledgement of what I voiced. I had expected what I had witnessed throughout the weekend a revision of the words. There was none.

I felt I wanted to leave but then I heard the spirit say it is not for me to take offence. I sat on.




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Gordie Jackson

Gordie Jackson


Speaks with a Northern Irish accent, lives in Hertfordshire, England.