Letters - 01 March 2024

From George Fox and Mansfield to Quakers and the Bible

George Fox and Mansfield

We at Mansfield Meeting have been following keenly the events covering the 400th anniversary of George Fox’s birth. But we have felt that there has been something missing – his close connection with the Nottinghamshire town of Mansfield. This predates most of the other major events of his life that others have covered in depth. The tale of George Fox cannot be told without reference to Mansfield, the town where the Quaker movement was born.

Fox came to Mansfield in 1647 and set up a business making and repairing shoes. It was while living in Mansfield that he became convinced that there was a better way, where one could simply approach God direct from one’s own heart and soul without the intervention of a ‘professor’, vicar or priest. He became convinced of this while walking outside of the Church of St Peter and St Paul in Mansfield.

While in Mansfield he met Elizabeth Hooten whose house in Skegby near Mansfield may be thought of as the earliest Friends Meeting house. The current Mansfield Meeting House is a direct descendent of Skegby. Attending Meetings in Elizabeth’s house he became acquainted with the silent worship practised by the ‘Children of Light’.

Mansfield as a town officially regards itself as the birthplace of Quakers. In 2015 a Heritage Trail was established by the council, leading followers around the key spots in the town with an association with Quakers. It is not every town whose bus station has a memorial plaque to George Fox.

Jim Norris

Educating for peace

Many years ago I was on a silent vigil, protesting about I’ve forgotten what, though we had placards declaring the target of our protest. We also had placards inviting passing motorists to ‘Honk if they agreed’. Many did.

Standing next to me was a young man I didn’t know. After a time, he stomped off muttering: ‘This is useless. I’d rather be doing something.’

Was he right? Is protesting useless? Yes it sends a message, but does it make a difference to the reason for the protest?

In the Friend (26 January), there is an article detailing the court appearance of the Defence and Security Equipment International (DSEI) protesters. They are not being charged with anything to do with the planned proliferation of devices to be even more effective at killing people, but violation of blocking public highways.
Were the delegates at DSEI affected by the protest? Did the protest make them question the morality of their objective? I think not. Instead they carried on in the smokescreen of a totally irrelevant legal process. Which begs the question uttered by that young man: is protesting useless? If he (or we) could ‘do something’ to make a difference, what would that action be?

Can we change the international mindset that military might is the way to bring about peace? Maybe not, but we might ‘do something’ to change the mindset of the leaders of tomorrow, our children.

‘You’ve got to be taught, before it’s too late, before you are six or seven or eight, to hate all the people your relatives hate. You’ve got to be carefully taught’ (South Pacific).

Brian Hodkinson

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