Letters - 30 April 2021

Naming of rooms

Naming of rooms

Three thoughts occur to me from the report on Meeting for Sufferings’ (MfS) discussion about the William Penn Room (16 April). 

First, as a Society that holds firmly to equality, it ill behoves us to create an elite, be they prophets, weighty Friends or icons. To do so runs the risk that history may not be so kind to them.

Second, I recall my first visit to Friends House in the late eighties, and how impressed I was at its functional simplicity – in particular its simple, utilitarian identification of rooms by numbers. On the whole, it made finding them easier – number five was next door to six and after four. We could do worse than revert to that in accordance with our testimony to simplicity; it might also be safer.

Third, I experienced a frisson of anxiety at Sufferings being ‘reminded’ that… ‘MfS did not control the name of rooms at Friends House’. Put another way, this has nothing to do with you, Friends. Now, Sufferings still holds the function of acting on behalf of the Yearly Meeting between its annual meetings, and whilst one might argue over the details of its function, if its discerned vision is not translated into action it has no function whatsoever.

I hope those who do control the names of rooms in Friends House consider carefully whether those who went before us might not have been a little wiser than they thought.

Notwithstanding the high quality of the Friends House website, and the opportunities for outreach in the informative biographies that accompany each room, it’s only a matter of time before another name finds itself in the searchlight. We are none of us perfect, after all.

Jamie Wrench

Does the naming of rooms in Friends House after historical Quakers fit with our testimony to equality? Does this not imply that we are all equal but some are more equal than others?

How about something radically new? Might we not call the rooms at Friends’ House after our testimonies?

The idea of meeting in the Peace Room, or the Sustainability Room and so on, gives me a sense of the possibility of new life. We could live with the suggested hierarchy of Equality Rooms one, two and three.

Perhaps it would be stretching acceptance too far to suggest also commissioning an artist (Chris Alton?) to design testimony-based, illustrative murals for the corridor walls outside each room?

What if the light were to travel out of The Large Meeting House and permeate the rest of the building?
Judy Mason

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