Letters - 19 May 2022

From Who we are to Testimonies

Who we are

In response to the letter from Peter Moss of 6 May asking ‘Who is this BYM?’ (Britain Yearly Meeting).

Quaker testimonies bear witness to our religious convictions, and as a faith body The Society of Friends has long been called to speak out on particular issues. This is a tradition that began with the Peace Testimony of 1660 and has deep roots in our history. It continues today as Friends raise their concerns at Meeting for Sufferings (MfS) on a regular basis; the matter was considered in 2012. In the modern world of rapid communication it is often important that, in order to be effective, we raise our voices in an equally rapid response. This can be difficult when Yearly Meeting (YM) is exactly that – yearly – and Meeting for Sufferings meets only four times a year.

In 2012 we recognised ‘the need for public statements to be relevant and timely, and… [we] put our trust in our Recording Clerk and staff to make statements on our behalf when longer processes are not appropriate, conferring with clerks of Meeting for Sufferings, Yearly Meeting, BYM trustees or central committees as appropriate.’ Our policy on this became sections 3.27 and 3.28 of Quaker faith & practice (the online version at qfp.quaker.org.uk is the most up-to-date and authoritative).

Statements are able to draw on previous minutes and established ‘positions’ that Quakers agreed in MfS and YM. You may be interested to know that the statement on the Police Crime and Sentencing Bill, issued in full accordance with these principles, was informed by lengthy consideration at MfS in March this year.

Margaret Bryan
Clerk, Meeting for Sufferings


I would like to plead for the retention of Woodbrooke as a Quaker B&B as well as conference centre – and I have a personal angle.

My family and I began regularly staying at Woodbrooke B&B around 2010. At that time we had three small children, one of whom had special needs, and our options for staying anywhere and actually relaxing or enjoying ourselves were very few. My husband had become interested in the Quakers but we were new to the faith. One day I saw Woodbrooke advertised in a copy of the Friend. Could it work? We all desperately needed a break.

From our very first visit to Woodbrooke my whole family fell in love with it as a place to stay. The peace, the kindness and acceptance of the staff and the gentle atmosphere worked their magic. My children could play in the gardens or sit at the group meals in perfect happiness. It became a mainstay of our family life and the cry of ‘Let’s see if we can get up to Woodbrooke for a few days/that week!’ was regularly heard.

Overseas visitors and family often accompanied us and also fell in love. My parents returned home and became Quakers in their own city. Through staying at Woodbrooke one of my children became a young Quaker, my husband became a Quaker as well, and the rest of us grew to rely on the peace and acceptance to be found.

This, of course, doesn’t mean that others would feel that way but it seems a perfect way for those who do not know anything about Quakerism to be shown something of what it involves without any selling or pressure exerted at all. How else would this have happened for them?

For me it meant a place where all my children were happy and accepted and in that atmosphere they were relaxed. It meant peace, enjoyment – and excellent food.

We would never have visited Woodbrooke to attend a Quaker conference or workshop as a family group. How would that work? For us even activities supposedly family-friendly were then not accessible to our child with extra needs. We would not, could not, have come and would have missed out on so much.

As the years went past we saw an increasing number of visitors with young families who clearly felt something of the same magic. Everybody who came to Woodbrooke B&B would leave not just having had a good experience but knowing so much more about the Quaker faith.

As I understand it the B&B side of things ran at a profit and, given the Trip Advisor reviews, was very popular. Why then close it?


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