Letters - 18 October 2019

From faith and faithfulness to vibrancy and reflection

Faith and faithfulness

It’s always a joy to reconnect with old Friends you’ve lost touch with, so it was lovely seeing Mary Roslin’s letter (4 October). It’s even nicer to be able – I hope – to reassure her about her concerns.

The head of local development, and the other staff they’ll manage, is in no way about secularising the Religious Society of Friends – actually the opposite. This work is all about supporting Quaker communities in following their own discerned priorities, helping them to thrive and to be the best Meetings they can be. We’ve seen the difference this support can make in the Vibrancy in Meetings project, which is the predecessor to local development workers and has been running for the last three years. I remain struck by the ministry of one Friend in Meeting for Sufferings in April, who spoke of how transformative having a Vibrancy worker had been and ended: ‘Please don’t take them away from us!’

I know Mary is worried about no mention appearing in the advert about our decision-making processes and faith base. There’s a lot about the job and the Society we don’t mention in the advert, because a) we want to keep it short and b) we’ll be checking in the application process how deep candidates’ understanding of Quakers is. We have mandatory staff training on ‘Working with Friends’, which deals with Quaker processes and beliefs, because all our staff need to be able to help Friends to live out their faith, even if they don’t share it. And that faithfulness is its own reward – anyone hoping for a ‘best Meeting prize’, as Mary half-jokingly raised in her letter, is going to be disappointed.

Oliver Robertson
Head of witness and worship, Britain Yearly Meeting

Division and search

I have read with interest the three letters so far published in response to my article (13 September and 4 October) on Iain McGilchrist’s book, The Master and His Emissary. I’m delighted that his ideas are being discussed and I’m interested by the comments being expressed. I want to reassure readers that I did submit my article to the book’s author for his approval before sending it to the Friend for possible publication and he gave it the go-ahead. However, as Christopher Willmot (27 September) pointed out, the book in question is a weighty academic volume and an article the length of mine could not possibly do it justice.

Both letters published on 4 October seem to suggest that the ideas I present are, in some sense, mine. Clearly that is not the case but, of course, I find the arguments and evidence presented by McGilchrist telling and insightful, otherwise I wouldn’t have gone to the trouble of writing the article.

Finally, the objections raised in the two letters referred to above arise, I believe, because my piece necessarily provides a mere ‘taster’ of a work of astounding breadth of knowledge, insight and experience across an amazing range of disciplines, which McGilchrist, polymath that he clearly is, has presented to the public in the hope that it ‘may act as a stimulus to further reflection’. I, therefore, wholeheartedly encourage Friends to read the book or, if time is of the essence, then McGilchrist’s own summary: The Divided Brain and the Search for Meaning.

Jacqui Poole

You need to login to read subscriber-only content and/or comment on articles.