Photo: Katherine Baldwin
“I thought it was a really good weekend together which strengthened our community” – Robert Gibson
“It was a pleasure to meet up again with such kind and thoughtful people” – Ian Smith
“It was lovely seeing Ilkley Friends, the chatting with them and the activities. It was also so nice being in the glorious landscape of the Lake District, though it was a pity I didn’t manage to see any red squirrels” – Janet Edmunds
“There was so much to enjoy and to reflect upon over the weekend. But after a few days I realise that my mind goes back, with pleasure, to the conversations, however short, that I had with the young people in Meeting, hearing their hopes and plans. Really cheering!” – Margaret Nunnerley
What’s the best question to ask someone when you meet for the first time? In a group ranging from Teenagers to Octogenarians, with Friends who have known each other all their lives and people joining our weekend for the first time, how do we get to know each other and find common community?
It could be “what’s your name?” but that doesn’t take you very far. “Where do you live” and “what do you do” also gather factual information, which can be handy, as is “who are you related to here” before you put your foot in it with a misjudged comment or suggestion. Eavesdropping on a few conversations, together with a quick poll suggests “What do you do to relax” seems to have been successful, even if for some people the question might better be “do you ever relax?”
Together, though, it seemed as if we did relax. We ate together, sat in Meeting together, went for a range of walks together, laughed, played, sang and listened to each other on the Saturday evening. Ian McGilchrist was mentioned more than once (one participant bringing his two volume opus with him for inspiration). A sense of acceptance and community gradually descended, as anxieties lessened, the sun almost shone, and people found the length of walk that they needed, and got to the front of the queue at the Grasmere Gingerbread shop.
We overcame difference in our short Saturday Meeting, when some people came for the start of meeting at 9.15, before picking up a packed lunch, only to spend the next 10 minutes watching large numbers of other people coming in rustling large paper bags of food. Thoughts of God and love were very hard to hold onto. Would there be any left for me? Thankfully someone ministered about their anxiety and how distracting it was, and realising that I was not alone in my distraction, I felt at peace, and could enjoy the cameo of experience that this offered. And of course, there was plenty of lunch…
After that we went for a walk…
Photo: Janet Pickering
“I was struck by the patterns we made as we walked: We started as one and then divided, and then branched again and again into smaller and ever-smaller groups, all taking different routes across the fells but all being part of the whole. It’s a bit random, but it brought into my mind an image of the thread-like hyphae of mycelium, that tiny inter-connected underground network which is not a ’thing’ but a constantly branching and evolving process of sharing nutrients and knowledge. It felt restorative and strengthening.” – Juliet Gutch
Photo: Robert Gibson
“In addition to the walking I really enjoyed sketching the landscape while eating my picnic lunch or while having a cup of tea from the thermos and a naughty chocolate treat to fight off the cold that slowly creeps into your hands. Capturing the immediacy of my reaction to the landscape is (nearly) always exciting and fulfilling. It was great to join up with Xanthe and Brian in a little group sketch, with our ages ranging from 15 to 80 something, and our artistic interpretations varying similarly! Here’s a couple of mine, one looking across Grasmere Lake and one sitting on the shore of Easedale Tarn with the skies darkening… I find painting water based subjects works well in chilly grey conditions since the paint never dries and I have to embrace the runs and dribbles, and then stuff my sketchbook with bracken to try to get it home without the wet pages sticking together. For me, the imperfections of these working drawings chimed interestingly with Robert’s ministry about ideals and ‘what is good enough’.” – Ian Smith
On the Sunday, we enjoyed a gathered Meeting, looking out onto the beautiful grounds, before final walks and a delicious lunch. Inspiration flowed: