T is for Trust


Trust. Trust the process. Serving a clerk to my meeting I sit at the table as we begin our meeting for worship for business and remind myself to trust the process, to hand matters over to God. We’ve done our preparation, the Quaker business method is tried and tested, and, if we trust in it and use it faithfully, it works. God may not care what colour we paint the walls, but we’ll ask her and see, not make the decision alone.

Approaching Swinside

Trust. Trust the process. In the silence as we begin our study group, I remind myself to trust the process, to hand things over to God. I’ve done the preparation, my introduction will be clear, I’m ready to listen. Creative listening and worship sharing work well, if we trust and use them faithfully. Some participants find these activities quite scary, but it is these deeper, scarier, spiritual works that they come back for month after month.

rest & be thankful

Trust. Trust the process. Some one once asked me about meeting for worship ‘why don’t you make sure that something happens?’. She had been to meeting once and ‘nothing happened’ so ‘next time I’ll take my knitting’ she told me. I forget exactly how I replied, but it was along the lines of that isn’t the way it works. If it is unprogrammed worship we have to sit in silence, be open and wait, wait for the Spirit to move, and that movement may not show outwardly. What happens is not ours to determine, but if we tamper with the process we will lose that openness to possibility. Thinking about it later I was reassured that this enquirer had said ‘next time’ even if she did intend to ‘take her knitting’.

leaving Carlisle

Trust. Trust the process. I must also trust that taking my practice, any inner stillness I can achieve, any understanding that comes to me, out into the world with me, will work. Trust that the Spirit will be with me, not just in meeting, but all the time, and if I listen, if I am open, if I am aware, I may be guided to act in alignment with the purposes of a greater whole. Then, maybe, I’ll begin to truly walk cheerfully over the world, answering that of God in everyone. Trust also, that if I keep practising, I might manage this for more than five minutes.


S is for the Sound of Silence

The sound of silence

The sight of darkness

The touch of nothing

I sit quiet, still

I listen. I hear

chain saw, traffic,

lorry reversing.

I let it go. Pay

attention to my breath.

I hear birdsong,

lawn mower, the heating

control. Just breathe.

Be still and know that I am God

Be still and know that I am

Be still and know that I

Be still and know that

Be still and know

Be still and

Be still


Just be

The silence is thick,

tangible, substantial.

it reaches out to me, to us, from us.

Surrounds me like a blanket,

holds me like a babe-in-arms.

I am safe, secure, but

not confined or restricted.

Words may come, someone

may listen aloud. I may

hear the light and it may

terrify me, strengthen me.

Or I may just be,

just be a little more what I am, what I truly am.

May I carry that with me as I go into the noise and haste.

S is for Shopping

This post is something I wrote back in 2001, in response to a writing group challenge to write a ‘list poem’ (which this isn’t), the content of which is still just as relevant (though I don’t thing Nestle own Branston any more and I probably wouldn’t be buying chicken these days having been 99.9% vegetarian since about the date this was written).


What do we need to buy this week?
Or should that be,
What do we want to buy this week?
Let me just see.

Fruit and veg first:
Should they be ripe for eating now,
Or rather green to last the week.
Should I buy Fairtrade,
Or is organic healthier?
Do the fairtraders use pesticides?

That’s easier –
English ones are in season,
And taste the best too.
Shouldn’t be too many food miles
In a Cox’s pippin.

What else for variety?
Share the culture of our neighbours
And choose rambutan or mango?
Or think of the food miles,
And choose English pears?
Although seedless grapes are
very cheap this week…..

Vegetables now.
Carrots first.
Economy to save money.
Or organic with no need to
peel away the pesticide residue.
Organic taste better too.

Turnips? Leeks?
In season, low food miles,
Not organic though.
Still we can’t get everything right,
I’ll take some of both.

Baby corn?
It’s delicious and
Brightens a stir-fry –
But air-freight from Thailand?
It’s come a long way.
Has tinned food come by sea?
Does it use less fuel that way?

Now I’d better move on:
Coffee – that’s easy!
Fairtrade we all know
is what we should buy.
But I should use decaff.
There’s some that’s organic
but no promise that trading was fair.

Flour for bread needs to be strong.
But white for pleasure,
Or wholemeal for health,
Organic or stoneground or
Even unbleached.

Chill cabinet next
Low fat cheese would be best
For our waistlines, you know,
Though we do like a bit of
Blue Danish as well.

A chicken to roast,
Now let me just see,
Special Offer!
or corn- fed
or free-range – that’s for me!

And Branston to go with
Cold meat or cheese sandwich,
We all like a little –
But what’s this I see –
It’s made by Nestlé
Those poor third world babies
How can I buy this?

Now, is there anything else….
A little treat perhaps.
A bar of chocolate –
Oh good this bar’s fairtrade and organic!
At last an easy choice –
Milk or plain?

This poem has previously been published in ‘Watford Friends Calling’ and on Watford Quakers website

S is for Silence

Recently a member of our local interfaith association said that he was interested in starting a group that would meet for multi-faith silent prayer / meditation. He explained that all the major faiths have some tradition of silent prayer or meditation, although it may not be their best known practice. The suggestion was that this was a point at which people from many different backgrounds could meet and share together, even though their explanations and understandings of what they were doing may be different. Clearly there is some difference in the words used and what is understood by them, ‘prayer’ and ‘meditation’ both having a variety of meanings. It was agreed to arrange an initial meeting for those interested and then to consider how to go forward.

Sacred Space

A small group met, spent some time in silence together, and discussed how to take the idea forward. At the next committee meeting a proposal was brought back from the group that a regular silent prayer meeting be set up, probably monthly, perhaps meeting in the quiet room of our local hospice, a space provided for people from all faiths and none wanting a place for ‘spiritual’ activities.


A fascinating discussion then ensued. Some of those present had been at the silent prayer meeting (an Anglican vicar, a Quaker/Buddhist, a Anglican follower of Sai Baba, a Unificationist) and some hadn’t (a Sikh, a Muslim, a Bahai). Those who hadn’t been there asked some questions about what we hoped to achieve and about how we could possibly learn anything from one another if we were in silence, and also spoke about their understandings of prayer and meditation. After a while it became clear that while some of us felt there was a huge value in silence and that in the silence something else, something very profound, could happen, others just could not perceive that this was even possible. There was a complete lack of communication between the two groups. When I spoke of my experience that something really important can, and does, happen in shared silence, I was met with the response ‘I wish I had your faith’. But to me it is not faith, it is fact because it is based on experience, even if that experience is beyond words. The person who had put forward the initial proposal said simply ‘a time of silence is a gift we can give to one another’, which seemed to me beautiful.


Anyway, despite the total lack of communication we encountered, it was agreed that the project should continue, so we will see how it develops. I feel it has the potential to be an important growing point in local interfaith relations.


R is for Revelation

Moses EH


As a Quaker I believe in the possibility of continuing revelation.

That may sound a very dogmatic statement. It comes close to sounding like a creed. It is not the sort of statement we expect a Quaker to make.

But, inherently in the way we worship – coming together and waiting, expectantly, for the Spirit to move through one or more of our number – we are open to the possibility of further revelation of the ways of God.

We are also open to the possibility of revelations reaching us through all sorts of other routes, writings, the natural world, science.

autumn leaf

These revelations are, in my experience, most quite small, tiny steps towards a greater understanding. They may be for myself alone, for my meeting, for our Society as a whole. They may lead to greater understanding, or they may lead to some action, large or small. They are likely to be quite uncomfortable. But we need to remain open to them because otherwise we are closing ourselves off from that energy in the universe that I call God.

R is for Reflections

‘Enabler of True Reflections’

This is the ‘name’ I was offered at the end of a course with Thomas Swain ‘The Power and Authority of our Spiritual Gifts’ at Woodbrooke in September 2009. We had considered the question ‘what is your true name?’ as a way to identify our spiritual gifts.


So, if enabling true reflections is my gift, what does it mean?

As I understand it, it includes:

reflecting back to people what they say, in order that they hear/see clearly what they themselves are saying;

listening deeply to people which can enable them to hear themselves as well as be heard;

acting as a mirror that/who people can ‘bounce’ ideas off, without the input of my personal ideas;

facilitating small groups in such a way that people can perceive deeper truths in their lives.


Quite a responsibility. But something I have been doing increasingly over the years, learning all the time. Learning how to do this work better. And learning more about myself, my true inner self, and about what ‘God’ wants me to do with my life.

This is what I am doing with ‘Becoming Friends‘, with the study group in my meeting that has evolved into the ‘Spiritual Journeys’ group, and, sometimes, in other situations.