Letters - 19 February 2021

From Quiet undercurrent to Legacies and gifts

Quiet undercurrent

The issue of the Friend for 29 January was especially thought provoking and spiritual in very many differing ways. I especially felt connected with all the contributors each in their unique subject matter, but in particular Julianna Minihan drawing attention to Clodagh Grubb’s work on the intrinsic value of sewing, and Marilyn Upton’s call for recognition of refugees. 

These are linked in my mind because of all the many weeks I was able to spend behind a sewing machine in Calais before March 2020.

This often-tedious work was essential in a place where refugees’ sleeping bags and other essential items regularly got ripped during police raids. Marilyn’s plea for ‘global mindful recognition of what is happening in the world’ is happening in practice among the hundreds of volunteers who work there, from all corners of the world, in a spirit that does indeed ‘leave a sweet savour behind’.

Hostile forces are everywhere both sides of the Channel, but there remains the presence of this quiet undercurrent of volunteers – all far younger than me of course, due to Covid restrictions.

Not being able to participate in the work has been perhaps the hardest part of the year for me, though it has enabled me to update my book on the work there, to September 2020, to draw attention to the cruelties of the UK policies, and to continue supporting those ‘partakers of his divine nature’.

Meanwhile there are dedicated groups on this side of the Channel doing all they can to support refugees who have arrived here, and to act as a counter culture to this hostile environment.

Anne M Jones


I am struck by two letters in the Friend recently. On the subject of testimonies to deceased Friends, I am in unity with the comments expressed by Gill Reid (4 December 2020), and by Sila Collins-Walden (18 & 25 December 2020). I note that Quaker faith & practice (Qf&p) has only brief advice on this practice at 4.27. This mirrors advice from previous Books of Discipline, in 1883, 1931-1951 revision, and 1960.

I would extend this concern to the way in which we now hold Memorial Meetings. It has become the practice of other Christian churches to accept a eulogy at funeral services, or a memorial service at a later date. We too have followed suit in this practice. They are often full of many words, lavish praise like a catalogue of achievements about the deceased Friend.

I am not sure whether such spoken obituaries and eulogies are quite in the spirit of our former tradition, where we recorded and spoke of our thankfulness for the grace of God in the life of a deceased Friend.

I, for one, do find it quite daunting to hear, or read, of the worldly achievements of success, including often privileged opportunities for education, which some of us may not share. I believe that the way we prepare such testimonies, and hold Memorial Meetings now, is not in accordance with our testimonies to equality and simplicity.

I too appreciated the lovely testimony in the documents of Yearly Meeting last year, to Rachel Smith; and the other testimony referred to, that to Annie Morris, in Qf&p 18.18, has long been a favourite, along with the testimony to Mary Ann Stokeley, Qf&p 18.14, and also in the 1960 Book of Discipline. Ordinary, simple, loving and caring lives, inspired by faith.                         

Robin Hawes

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