QUG Newsletter November 2017


Dear QUG supporter

Our next Annual Conference April 13th– 15th 2018

We are delighted to tell you that you are now able to book into our next conference. We do encourage you not to leave it until just before the conference because we have in recent years had to turn some late applicants away.

Our conference is entitled ‘Quaker understandings of truth – in religion, in a Quaker context and in the media.’ One of our Quaker testimonies is truth and integrity: we will be exploring it from a universalist point of view, as an individual Quaker, and in relation to the mass and social media to which we are exposed.

We are pleased to have booked an excellent speaker for each of these topics:

Ben Wood will speak on truth in religion.

Ben is a lecturer in the Department of Theology and Religious Studies at Leeds Trinity University. He is a Quaker who blogs under the title of Armchair Theologian and he has contributed to many Quaker courses and publications. His academic research interests include pluralism in western society, the intersection of Christian faith and liberal-secular culture and theological conceptions of political citizenship. He is a member of QCCIR (Quaker Committee for Christian and Interfaith Relations).

Joycelin Dawes will speak on truth in a Quaker context.

Joycelin wrote QUG pamphlet 32, Choosing Life: Embracing Spirituality in the 21st Century. She has written on contemporary spirituality in The Quest, and, as clerk to Quaker Social Action trustees, compiled The Q-bit – at the heart of a Quaker-led organisation. Her recent book, Discernment and Inner Knowing explores our ways of knowing, probing truth through discernment.  Joycelin is curious about “what’s really going on here?” – how we interpret our experience and give it meaning. She hopes to bring a similar approach to her topic on truth now.   

She is an Associate Tutor and trustee at Woodbrooke, and also trustee of Friends Provident Foundation. Joycelin loves time with her grandchildren, reading and walking.

Stephen Cox will speak on truth in the media.

A Quaker since 1994, Stephen has led the communications of four national organisations, including 13 years at Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children covering issues as diverse as sexual misconduct, scientific breakthroughs and fundraising morality. He has been a front-line participant dealing with investigative journalism, honesty in government, hysteria and hype, journalistic and public relations ethics, and many other issues.  He says – ‘If you are not worried about truth in politics and the media, you are not paying attention’.  He is a member of the LGBT community, and a member of North London Area Quaker Meeting.  His novel comes out in 2019.

The conference will be introduced on the Friday evening by two members of the QUG Committee, Alan York and Tony Philpott. They will also organise a simple anonymous survey of participants on world views / religions that influence our spiritual awareness and on the media we use. A summary of the results will be reported to the conference on the Sunday morning.

There will be the usual meetings for worship, break out groups, epilogues and panel/general discussion – plus Saturday evening entertainment, the excellent Woodbrooke food and plenty of time to socialise.

The cost of the conference is £220 (full-time residential cost).  

Quakers, Truth and Brexit

One of the topics of our 2018 conference is truth in the media. There is a meeting closely related to this topic on Saturday November 18th at Winchmore Hill Meeting House in North London. Some readers may wish to attend and the details are as follows.

Truth, Brexit and What Can We Say? 

During the referendum campaign and after the vote Quakers have had, corporately, very little to say. Many meetings report not even being able to discuss the issues.

Sarah Dodgson, as an Eva Koch Scholar, with the support of Woodbrooke, spoke to over 200 Quakers with varying views for the history project “Quakers and the UK European Referendum”.

However they voted, many Quakers reported being unhappy with the honesty and effectiveness of our British politics.

There are serious issues about how and whether Brexit will take place and its effect on our communities.

Does our unhappiness stem from a broader perspective about truth in politics?

In a post-Truth world what do our traditional testimonies call us to do?

How can we continue to walk cheerfully and try to mend the world?

North London Area Meeting invite all Quakers to this discussion which precedes our afternoon AM business meeting.

Winchmore Hill Quaker Meeting House N21 1LE

Saturday 18th November 2017

10.00 – 12.30 (followed by bring-and-share lunch)

Registration not needed but intention to attend helpful to whq.clerk@gmail.com. 

Two new QUG publications.

We are pleased to tell you that two new QUG pamphlets have now been printed, based on our May 2017 conference. They have already been sent to QUG members and conference 2017 participants, but there may well be others of you who would like to buy them.

Each is priced at £4.00 and is available from our Publications Distributor, Tony Philpott. Please send a cheque made out to ‘The Quaker Universalist Group’ to Tony at 2 Willow Rise, Haddenham, Aylesbury, HP17 8JR. Please include your address. Postage and packing are free.

QUG Pamphlet No. 37 – The Mystery of  Mysticism

This pamphlet contains four papers given to the 2017 Annual Conference of the Quaker Universalist Group on the subject of mysticism. They cover aspects of mysticism as experienced and understood by speakers from different faith traditions. Each talk is well-referenced with pointers towards further reading.

Jan Arriens, a Quaker, considers what is meant by mystical experiences, with illustrations from everyday life, and considers how these experiences might be understood within modern concepts and scientific knowledge.

Professor Chris Cooke, an Anglican priest and Consultant Psychiatrist in the NHS, looks at different aspects of Christian mysticism as illustrated by three historic Christian mystics, and goes on to consider how mysticism might relate to experiences that today would be described in psychiatric terms.

Dr Sharada Sugirtharajah, a Hindu and Honorary Senior Research Fellow in theology and religion at the University of Birmingham, richly illustrates her descriptions of mysticism within the Hindu tradition with examples from Hindu texts.

Dr Alinda Damsma, a Jewish scholar at Leo Baeck College, outlines aspects of mysticism that are of particular relevance to the Jewish tradition and considers in particular whether the notion of a mystical union with God was present in early Judaism.

QUG Pamphlet No. 38 – Mind the Oneness: The Mystic Way of the Quakers by Rex Ambler

This pamphlet comprehensively explores Quaker mysticism from the earliest years of George Fox to the present day, and is an expanded version of the talk given by Rex Ambler to the 2017 Quaker Universalist Group annual conference on mysticism. The text is very well referenced and easy to read and will provide an excellent introduction and source for further reading for anyone wanting to learn more about this fascinating and important aspect of Quakerism.

Rex Ambler was a lecturer in philosophical theology at Birmingham University for over thirty years. Now retired, he works mostly with Quakers, giving talks and workshops on Quaker faith and practice. He is a leading author of works on the spiritual aspect of Quakerism, including Light to Live by: an exploration in Quaker spirituality (Quaker Books, 2002/2008) and his most recent book The Quaker Way: a Rediscovery (Christian Alternative Books, 2013).

Rex is particularly well known within the Society of Friends for his work in establishing and developing the Experiment with Light groups which use meditations based on early Friends’ writings and practices to facilitate self-discovery and enquiry. These groups now exist widely throughout the country. Rex’s present concern is to bring the sense of the mystical back into the Quakerism of today.

QUG at Britain Yearly Meeting Gathering

We had an enjoyable time at the BYM Gathering in Warwick University.

We budgeted for only 30 places at our special interest meeting entitled Quaker Universalism, Mysticism and Interfaith. Actually about 50 people turned up and we had to borrow chairs from a nearby room. Tony Philpott and Alan York spoke briefly on the topic, followed by a fascinating question time and discussion. We were delighted that Rex Ambler was in the audience and we sold many copies of his pamphlet No. 35 and other QUG literature.

We also had a stall at the Groups Fairs on the Tuesday and Wednesday evenings. Our thanks go to Anita Davies and Jane Mackay – plus Tony and Alan – for their help in looking after the stall and answering the many questions put to us about QUG.

Courses at Woodbrooke

Here are a few Woodbrooke courses which might interest QUG members:

15th – 18th December 2017 – “Woodbrooke and the Community of Interbeing: a joint event” (between Zen and Quaker practice)

5th-7th January 2018 – “Our Life is Love: the Quaker spiritual journey”

2nd-4th February 2018 – “Sex and the Spirit”

21st-23rd February 2018 – “Stepping into the Parables – creative approaches to the teaching of Jesus”

16th-18th March 2018 – “Building a Diverse and Transformative Movement for Change”

Full details of them all can be found on the Woodbrooke website: https://www.woodbrooke.org.uk/learn/learn-at-woodbrooke/