Missive from an Elder

Thought for week beginning Sunday 10th July 2022

Hi Friends. This week’s offering from the Friend is from Margaret Glover in 1989 and can be found at Quaker faith & practice 20.14.

“We cannot know the prayers that others make or do not make in their own times of silent aloneness …We were all made differently in order to perform different tasks. Let us rejoice in our differences”.

That leads me to wonder how much we actually know about each other.(or ourselves) and how we can each do our bit to ensure that pegs are aligned with the right shape holes. And are we, as individuals, properly placed according to our respective gifts?
Andrew (Drew) Mills 

Thought for week beginning Sunday 3rd July 2022

Hi Friends This week’s offering from the Friend may have been written in 1962 by Kathleen Lonsdale, but it feels like a riposte to my comments last week.

“I find that I am talking to [Jesus] in my mind and that it is a great deal more profitable than talking o myself; even though it is, in one sense, talking to myself; and even though I don’t get the answers to the questions that puzzle me. But that doesn’t worry me now, because I have learned, as a scientist, how much I don’t understand.”

I remember from the long ago days of my management training that it is good to move from thinking we know everything to an appreciation of just how little we know. Why are we so inclined to think that we always know more or better than those who do not agree with us?
Andrew (Drew) Mills

Thought for week beginning Sunday 26th June 2022

Hi Friends. Our current practice on Sunday mornings is to sit in our conservatory and bring each of your names and faces to mind, silently holding you in the light. This elder is offering you no verbal ministry this week. Perhaps it is enough that we are all waiting for the light (or whatever name you prefer) to speak to our condition.

Thought for week beginning Sunday 19th June 2022

Hi Friends. This week the Friend offers us a thought from Tony Brown in 1984 (Quaker faith & practice 26.27):

“All I want to say is that once the conversation [with God] begins, one does not want it ever to stop.”

I can’t say I have ever had such a conversation. Plenty of me talking to him/her or he/she talking to me, but not at the same time. I reach out when I need guidance. In my 20’s I was persuaded by a preacher I respected that I couldn’t fully be Christian unless I had the gift of speaking in tongues. I spent many hours praying for it – often during a long solo walk – but nothing happened.

On occasion, I have been surprised by what seemed to be a targeted unrequested message which I can’t explain any other way. After the death of my first wife I  read my morning thoughts for the day and for three consecutive days they spoke directly to my condition. All the more remarkable because on one of those days I had inadvertently skipped a page.

Thought for week beginning Sunday 12th June 2022

Hi Friends. I often find the workings of Britain Yearly Meeting and subsidiary/associated bodies very complicated  and I end up worrying that the fine words mean nothing practical to me or to my understanding of our Local Meeting’s role. The Friend has taken an extract from the Epistle of Britain Yearly Meeting 2022, which may help.

“We are all on a faith journey, sometimes lit up by transformational experiences, but we depend on quiet waiting on God for the nudges and shoves that lead us in new and urgent directions. We heard passionate calls to “let go” and trust the Spirit to make clear where we will be led. We need to be ready to listen deeply and to live in the discomfort of not knowing but moving forward in faith”

Thought for week beginning Sunday 5th June 2022

Hi Friends. Are you celebrating the 70th anniversary of the reign of Queen Elizabeth ll?  I have never understood why these dates are described as a jubilee. The term is used for any landmark in time and is used as an excuse for public celebration.

In biblical times, as set out in the book of rules entitled Leviticus (see chapter  (25) every 7th year the land was to be allowed to lie fallow and people, free from much of their labour were  taught and trained in God’s law. After 7 periods of 7 years there was an extra year  of this practice – called the Jubilee . Significantly,  leasehold land reverted to its original owners, those who had fallen on hard times had their loans cancelled and their property restored.. In other words, Jubilee is about restoration; a genuine levelling up.

What does that say about how we should treat  former colonies in relation to our dealings in the slave trade and use? What does it say about the relentless drive to improve our financial position and status without concern for those less fortunate?

Thought for week beginning Sunday 29th May 2022

Hi Friends. This week’s quotation from the Friend is from Quaker faith & practice 19.

“The experiences, insights and “openings” of Friends in the 17th century set out the framework and purpose of the Society and give an authoritative point of reference. But it is not just history, even though it is historical, for the openings also set a direction and point into the future.”

As  comparative newcomer to Quakers I am not sure to what extent this is true. There are certainly key principles – the acronym could be STEPS or PESTS – and both can be seen in recent statements and actions. But does that now either sum us up or point to a clear direction for the future?

Thought for week beginning Sunday 22nd May 2022

Hi Friends. There is not much I can add to this week’s extract from Quaker faith & practice (20.01) in the Friend, which is a 1909 prayer from Inazo Nitobe.
 “I ask for daily bread, but not for wealth, lest I forget the poor.
I ask for strength, but not for power, lest I despise the meek.
I ask for wisdom, but not for learning, lest I scorn the simple.
I ask for a clean name, but not for fame, lest I contempt the lowly.
I ask for peace of mind, but not for idle hours, lest I fail to hearken to the call of duty.”

Thought for week beginning Sunday 15th May 2022

Hi Friends. Those of you who know me well will know that I am no gardener. Increasing mobility problems stopped me from undertaking the deep sorting out of my back garden I intended. I eventually succumbed to common sense and hired a gardener .Much to my surprise he opined that my doing nothing had allowed nature to take its course, resulting in a wide variety of plants about which I know nothing and I have been advised to leave it all alone except for occasional trimming to keep everything comparatively tidy.

This has led me to ask myself whether I care too much about detailed planning in other aspects of my life when a better result would ensue if I just let nature/God/the Light do it’s thing. 

Thought for week beginning Sunday 8th May 2022

Hi Friends. The Friend this week continues our contemplation of truth by quoting Jean West’s 1988 thoughts as expressed in Quaker faith & practice 26.21.

“Great truths survive throughout history, clad in the clothes that are right for the times. A change of garb is inevitable if the truth is to be acceptable. But it is only in the trappings – the bare naked truth remains for all to feel, to acknowledge and express.”

Thought for week beginning Sunday 1st May 2022

Hi Friends. This week’s offering from London Yearly Meeting, 1986 is reproduced from Quaker faith & practice 26.66

“We may seem at times to take God for granted. But we know the beyond in our midst; we rely on grace, on God’s free, sustaining, creative and lively action as we rely on the air we breathe and the ground we walk on.”

For me, the first part of his speaks of Quaker experience. But it goes downhill  as there is no acknowledgement of our role as human beings in management of the air we breathe or the ground  we walk on  But hopefully our current witness is addressing this increasingly urgent issue.

Andrew (Drew) Mills

Thought for week beginning Sunday 24th April 2022

Hi Friends. No need for any input from me this week. The Friend points us to Jane Stokes’ contribution in 1992 as recorded in Quaker faith & practice 23.64.

“Whatever sphere of activity we are involved in, we have to be responsive to the Spirit’s leadings and try to put into practice our deepest beliefs, for our faith is a 24-hour-a-day-a-week faith, which is not excluded from our workplace, wherever that my be. Everything in the end can be distilled to relationships – our relationships with each other and the earth. Our work must benefit our relationships rather than damage them, and we must ensure that neither the earth nor other people are exploited.  Caring, not exploitation, is the key.” Andrew (Drew) Mills

Thought for week beginning Sunday 10th April 2022

Hi Friends. The extracts from Quaker faith & practice in The Friend are introducing me to aspects and items which I have never really thought about, or sometimes even registered. I suspect that some of them were really important and relevant at the time. As a Quaker of only 10 years or so I can find them baffling. What are your thoughts about this item from Jo Farrow in 1994 – Qf&p 26.36?

“The first generation of Friends shocked many of their Christian neighbours. In trying to express their experiences of God… they used words and phrases which sounded strange and audacious to their contemporaries. They spoke of their experiences of being drawn into community with one another using metaphors and analogies which were both new an old at the same time… In much the same way many women today are discovering a need to express their spirituality in ways which seem as strange to some Friends as the expressions of early Quaker spirituality did to those who first heard them.”

Alternatively, what pearl of wisdom would you like to leave to posterity?
Andrew (Drew) Mills

Thought for week beginning Sunday 3rd April 2022

Hi Friends. A change of tack this week. Rather than thinking about our own attitudes, I d like us to try to get our minds straight on what we do or do not believe in terms of religion and spirituality .Perhaps quiet reflection; possibly a chat during refreshments after Meeting for Worship.

The following comes from the Friend and is by Hugh Pyper in 1986.You can find iy in Qf&p 26.55.

“Jesus the Jew of Nazareth…. to me, puts a question mark and an exclamation mark to everything. It is not a matter of saying “Jesus is the answer”. It would be true and more useful to say that Jesus is the question.   I have found, too, that it is easy to sidestep the challenge of Jesus. The history of the early church and the growth of the creeds, which are such red flags to Quakers, is precisely the attempt of the church not to lose sight of this paradox, this knife edge, this scandal. Constantly, people wanted to make things easier to grasp and more comfortable to live with by stressing the human side of Jesus at the expense of the divine or vice versa No one would deny that the attempt to encapsulate the truth about Jesus in words is bound to fail, but the achievement of those years was to keep the tension that he embodies alive so that it has resonance now; instead of opting for an easier answer.”

Don’t forget to look for that of God in everybody.
 Andrew (Drew) Mills

Thought for week beginning Sunday 27th March 2022

Hi Friends. Whenever I ask my son “What is the time?” he replies “Time is an abstract concept”.  Correct, but no use at all. This week we put our clocks forward by one hour. Apart from losing an hour of sleep or some activity, the only immediate effect is that it remains dark until later. Still, the position will be reversed in autumn.

I guess we each have different priorities for use of our time – some active, others reflective or relaxing. This is true not just for hour by hour decisions. There are many time zones and calendars but we generally are only conscious of the one which applies directly to us.

Is it possible that such variations have an effect on how we view others, particularly if they are not the same us? Do we judge others by stereotypes into which they might fall if we are not open to variety? And do we consider how they might view us? Being a Quaker is a way, not a badge.
 Andrew (Drew) Mills

Thought for week beginning Sunday 20th March 2022

Hi Friends. Once again I started this morning with the author’s nightmare of the blank page and no ideas. I have probably said more than enough about how we might react/respond to global events. Just sitting with an open mind, even in a Meeting for worship, doesn’t always result in a spark or awareness of light dawning.

A bit of a surprise, then, when a quotation from Carl Jung caught my attention: “Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves.” Enough in that, I think, to keep me pondering all week.

Don’t forget the website nortonquakers.co.uk
Andrew (Drew) Mills

Thought for week beginning Sunday 13th March 2022

Hi Friends. What is truth? Is there such a thing as absolute truth?

I recall from my days working in the insurance business a classic claim involved two trucks colliding while both were stationary. Witnesses very rarely describe any situation the same way. The Police once came back to me just to tell me how inaccurate my description of a thief had been.

It was interesting recently to observe how differently people treated me when I was was using a stroller (4 wheel walker). Firstly, they tended to carry on the conversation through my companion, as though I could not speak for myself. Then they assumed (wrongly) that I cannot stand unaided. However, I did get faster and better service than usual.

So when we think about the current state of affairs around the world, it is likely that we will all have a different interpretation of what we see and hear. So one challenge is how to treat people who see things differently from us in a way which is truly equal and recognising that of God in them. And we should be concerned to search for that of God in ourselves and allow it to be shown to others.

As always, you can add your own testimony on nortonquakers.co.uk
 Andrew (Drew) Mills

Thought for week beginning Sunday 6th March 2022

Hi Friends. I have been thinking about how slow Quaker processes can seem and how little we see in the way of visible positive outcomes. But I have also been thinking about oak trees. Even a single acorn is the product of a series of processes, each dependent on a series of tiny events, any of which could fail. And the journey from acorn to forest is almost infinitely longer. and vulnerable to tiny failures

So it is with our impact on this planet and all the people and nations in it. What we think or say or do each and every day has an impact somewhere, though we rarely see it.

So what we decide about our property, our neighbours, our witness is important. We need to watch out for the light to illuminate our way.

Andrew (Drew) Mills

Thought for week beginning Sunday 27th February 2022

Hi Friends.

A week is truly a long time in politics! Early this week I was wondering about whether to continue my line of thought about blame and how far back one can go – e.g. who is responsible for three named storms in a week? Is it humanity in general, or God, or who?

Or I could have picked up a theme from The Friend.

My mind is pulled to the events of this week and the vast range of possible outcomes, not just for Ukraine but also potentially for the whole world. Whom should we believe? and how should we respond? Should we bury our heads in the sand and wait until someone tells us it is all over? Can we experience being guided by the light? It’s worth trying.
Andrew (Drew) Mills

Thought for week beginning Sunday 20th February 2022

Hi Friends. I suppose it was bound to happen. The Friend magazine hasn’t arrived yet. I suppose I should forgive them, but in truth I don’t know whose fault it is – editor, printer, or postal service.

Anyway I am reminded of the story in Matthew’s gospel (12:21) where Peter asks Jesus to confirm that he should forgive someone who offends him  (and doesn’t apologise) seven times. This was possibly based on the use of the figure seven as an indication of completeness. God made the world and everything in it in six days, and the seventh was a day of rest after completion of the work.

Jesus tells Peter he should forgive 70 x 7 times. Anyone taking that as literally meaning 490 times would become a very bad character, always looking for offence and keeping a record. Perhaps this points to the difference between forgive and forget.

So what was the “problem” I started with? Does it really matter?

Don’t forget you can post your own ministry on nortonquakers.co.uk
 Andrew (Drew) Mills

Hi All! (by the way could you drop me an email to say that you read this? Thanks – at mrepiercy@gmail.com). Here is Drew’s missive for week beginning Sunday 6th February 2022.

Hi Friends. Here is this week’s offering from The Friend. it can be found in Qf&p 24.60 and was contributed by Wolf Mendl in 1974.

“The first Friends had an apocalyptic vision of the world transformed  by Christ and they set about to make it come true. The present generation of Quakers shares this conviction of the power of the spirit, but it is doubtful whether it will transform the world in our  lifetime, or in that of our children or children’s children. For us it is not so important when the perfect world will be Achieved or what it will be like. What matters is living our lives in the power of love and not worrying too much about the results. in doing this, the means become part of the end. Hence we lose the sense of helplessness and futility in the face of the world’s crushing problems. We also lose the craving for success, always focussing on the goal to the exclusion of the way of getting there. We must literally not take too much thought for the morrow but throw ourselves whole-heartedly into the present. That is the beauty of the way of love; it cannot be planned and its end cannot be foretold.”

That feels somewhat prophetic. How do we feel we have fared over the last two generations? And are we doing our part?

Andrew (Drew) Mills

Ministry for the week beginning Sunday 30th January 2022 – note that Michael Piercy has not yet organised a blog but will do so shortly – if you would like anything put here just email him at mrepiercy@gmail.com. He will add a new page on the Simpler Meetings Project which is kind of not so spiritual but should considerably help the spiritual develop – if that makes sense! 🙂

Hi Friends. Here is this week’s offering from The Friend

Quaker faith & practice 25.04 contributed by Audrey Urry in 1994

“All species of the Earth itself have independent roles within Creation. Human kind is not the species, to whom all others are subservient, but one among many. All parts, all issues, are inextricably intertwined. Indeed the web of creation could be described as of three-ply thread: wherever we touch it we affect justice and peace and the health of all everywhere. So all our testimonies, all our Quaker work, all our Quaker lives are part of one process, of striving towards a flourishing, just and peaceful Creation – the Kingdom of God.”

We are now getting a better idea of just how many strands there are in this world and beyond. Now is the time to do something positive with that knowledge.

Don’t forget you can add your own ministry at  nortonquakers.co.uk By the  time you read this, Michael Piercy will already have done so.

Andrew (Drew) Mills

Ministry for the week beginning Sunday 23rd January 2022 – this time the Friend (weekly Quaker newspaper in the UK) did arrive in the Elder’s letterbox 😀

This week’s quotation is from Jo Farrow in 1994 (Qf&p 21.38).

“The Holy Spirit can indeed restore us to health (or stimulate us to work well) through the medium of music as well as prayer or antibiotics!  And why, indeed, should I be surprised that this is so? Creativity is the gift that we were given on the eighth day of creation. In the naming and re-making the world we are co-workers with God, and whether we are making a garden or a meal, a painting or a piece of furniture or a computer program, we are sharing in an act of creation through which the world is constantly re-made.”

If we change any small part of the world, we change all of it. Let us get creative.
 Andrew (Drew) Mills

Ministry for the week beginning Sunday 16th January 2022 due to Friend not arriving in Elder’s letterbox!

Hi Friends. My printed copy of The Friend hasn’t arrived yet. Thinking about the degree of irritation I felt (it usually arrives on Thursday) I started to consider how much I expect others to do what they say when they say and how I respond to “failures”.
A sense of guilt creeps in at this point as I am far from certain that I always behave towards others the way I would like (expect?) them to behave towards me.
I’ll spend a few minutes now holding that in the light.

Andrew (Drew) Mills

Thought for week beginning Sunday 9th January 2022

Hi Friends. Here is this week’s thought, derived from The Friend, originally from William Penn in 1669, as recorded in Quaker faith & practice 25.13.

“That the sweat and tedious labour of the farmer, early and late, cold and hot, wet and dry, should be converted into the pleasure of a small number of people – that continued severity should be laid on nineteen parts of the land to feed the inordinate lusts and delicate appetites of the twentieth, is so far from the will of the great Governor of the world, it is wretched and blasphemous.!

Andrew (Drew) Mills

Thought for week beginning Sunday 2nd January 2022

Hi Friends. May I firstly wish you all what you would wish for yourselves for 2022.

You may or may not have noticed that I have been appointed as an elder. This means I am to encourage vocal ministry and use of Advices and queries (a&q) and Quaker faith & practice (qfp). I am hoping, therefore, to send a message every week as a starting point for this, hoping that others will respond. We may use Mail Chimp software to help us track respondents and to make it easier for folk to unsubscribe if they want. For the time being we are using an older method and would appreciate your views.

The content of my missives will probably be the thought for the week in The Friend unless I feel impelled to say something different. Can I refer you to Advices & queries 12: “Receive the vocal ministry of others in a tender and creative spirit. Reach for the meaning deep within it, recognising that even if it is not God’s word for you, it may be so for others. Remember that we all share responsibility for the meeting for worship whether our ministry is in silence or through the spoken word.”

So to start 2022, from qfp 21.25, Gerald Priestland 1977: ” Perhaps the most neglected of all the advices is that we should live adventurously. If there is one wish I would pray the Spirit to put in our Christmas stockings, it is warmth, openness, passion, a bit of emotion that doesn’t mind making a fool of itself occasionally.”

Andrew (Drew) Mills

One reply on “Missive from an Elder”

Thank you Drew for these very inspiring and missives. I am enjoying uploading them to the web and have now put a post comment feature.

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