Well it always was in the children’s abecedarius!
I’ve had reason to think about ink lately, especially registrar’s ink. I’ve recently been appointed Assistant registering Officer to my Area Meeting, with a view to becoming Registering Officer next year. I was lucky that this spring there was a training day and a weekend conference for Registering Officers from all over Britain.
We talked a lot about ink, about the importance of using permanent ink, both on the legal documents and on the Quaker Certificate of Marriage, about the provision of pens and even how to shake the ink bottle.
We also talked a lot about what it means for a couple to be married ‘in the care of the meeting’ and how this could be achieved. Often only one member of a couple is involved in the meeting, sometimes they live at a distance, occasionally a considerable distance, from the meeting where the wedding will take place. This makes it an incredible challenge for the meeting to support them and their marriage. In one session, looking at this particular issue, we were asked if any of us felt that our marriage had been, or was, in the care of the meeting – very few of us put our hands up. I was one of them. My case is somewhat unusual these days. I met my spouse at meeting, our courtship was mainly conducted at Quaker study groups (beginning by his offering me lifts) and at folk dances at the Meeting House. We were appointed meeting house caretakers and the wedding was arranged, at the meeting house, in scarcely more than six weeks. Like other people, we have had times of feeling out of tune with the meeting and times of being very active members, but we are still there, part of the meeting, doing what we can to support others, and receiving support ourselves. The situation isn’t always perfect, and caretaking particularly had its stresses, but I feel it is fair to say that our marriage was and is ‘in the care of the meeting’.
This mixture of attention to detail (the ink) and deep concern for spiritual issues is something I really value about the Quaker way.
Another reason I’ve been thinking about ink is sustainability. Our commitment, made in Canterbury in 2011, to become ‘a low carbon sustainable community’ led me to look closely at various aspects of my lifestyle, including monitoring my energy usage (and turning down the central heating thermostat), and thinking about what I buy and whether I really need things. One thing I began to notice is how many things I use that are ‘disposable’ – but as Marion McNaughton observed in ‘Finding the Prophetic Voice for our Time’ (Woodbrooke Journal Autumn 2007) ‘there is no such place as ‘away’ ‘, they go to landfill and we need to reduce how much goes to landfill. A lot of what I send to landfill is plastic, so I began to look at these disposable items. They are small items, but small items add up. One of them is ball point pens. I thought about this and remembered that how much I liked my fountain pen. I wrote all my exam scripts with it – O level, A level, degree. I’ve fetched it out, and am trying to use it (usually with washable ink for everyday use) instead of ball points. I’m also using pencils more, for writing all the lists that I constantly use in an attempt to bring some order to my life! This is a small thing, but again we need the attention to small details combined with an awareness of the bigger picture.