E is Economic Equality

Over the last year or so I have becoming increasingly aware of the economic inequalities in British society. The low paid and those on benefits (who are not scroungers) are increasingly struggling to feed themselves and keep warm (why does such a wealthy country need food banks?) let alone participate fully in society. The very wealthy are even wealthier. The ratio between the top earners and the lowest earners in most organisations has increased considerably in recent years.

I applaud moves to address this problem. Asking big companies to declare the ratio between the pay of their CEO and of their lowest paid workers (or even the average pay in their company), encouraging all organisations to pay the living wage not just the minimum wage to all employees and discouraging excessive bonuses are all good.

But overall I think that what we really need is a complete change of attitude to a view that threats every person as equally valuable. I see a basic income (sometimes called a citizens income) for everyone as the right way to go.

Now the question is – to can we reform society to achieve that?

E is for Elder

As of first day of first month this year I have been an appointed elder of Luton & Leighton Area Meeting. In over 30 years worshipping with Quakers this is the first time I’ve been formally appointed to the role (though all in the worshipping group have responsibility for the right holding of meeting for worship). This has led me to think about the responsibilities this entails, and to explore this with the others appointed to this role in my Local Meeting.

MH library

Most people attending meeting for worship more than once will be aware that it is usually elders who close the meeting by shaking hands. People are also aware that the elders may reprimand (‘elder’) someone for speaking inappropriately during worship. They might, perhaps, say that elders are responsible for the ‘spiritual nurture of the meeting’ or words to that effect.

Quaker Faith and Practice 12.12 has a long list (a-l) of the responsibilities of elders – it is quite daunting.

The first item speaks of upholding and praying for the members of the local meeting. My meeting has about 100 people actively involved (40-50 attending on any given first day morning) and only 4 appointed elders, so this alone is quite a big task – just trying to remember that many people is a challenge.

Also daunting is that this is an Area Meeting appointment and carries responsibilities for the right holding of meetings for worship appointed by the AM – for business, for solemnisation of marriage, for funerals and for other purposes from time to time – though this is, of course, shared with a wider group of fellow elders

In Watford we have inherited a good pattern of opportunities for learning and spiritual nurture – monthly shared lunches followed by a variety of speakers and/or discussions, a twice monthly bible study group, a monthly enquirers’ meeting, a monthly light group and a twice monthly upholding group, with occasional Saturday workshops as well. But in a meeting as big as ours there is room for more. And scope for experimenting, not for complacency.

So I’m a bit daunted by the enormity of the task, but I’m much encouraged by the enthusiasm and open-mindedness of our local elders (tempered by an awareness that over-stretching ourselves won’t help anyone).

I’m also comforted by some of the detail in that long list of responsibilities – 12.12 d ‘to be responsible … for the arrangement of seating …’ – that I can understand the importance of, and can do.


D is for Deep Listening

Just listen.
Listen to me and I’ll listen to you.

We won’t answer each other.
We won’t discuss.
We won’t give advice.

We will give one another our whole attention and listen deeply.
We will be fully present, here and now, for each other.
When we truly listen, we can have a taste of the Kingdom of God.


In sangha meetings we set aside time to practice dharma sharing. In Quaker groups we use creative listening and worship sharing. Other groups have other names for this deep listening, but we can practice it at other times too, without giving it a name. And we can practice unilaterally, just listening to someone who needs to express themselves and be heard. Deep listening is particularly powerful when we are physically present with one another, but we can also apply the principle when hearing an interview, or reading a letter or blog post, even an email. Let’s just try it and see what it can do.

D is for Disability

Recently I have been given a wheelchair and lent a mobility scooter. The donors are mature, sensible people sorting out after bereavement and wanting to see things made good use of. I, too, like to see things made use of rather than sitting around useless.

But letting go of belongings is not easy, especially when each time it involves another admission that the deceased really is never coming back. In accepting these gifts, I am facing up to my increasing difficulty walking and that the day will come when I am dependent on these aids to get about. So we are sad and happy at the same time.

I am grateful to these friends for their support, for sharing the difficulty of this as well as the ‘things’ and I hope that I have been able to support them too by accepting these offers.


dis ability

letting go of what i could

doing what i can