Despite the restrictions in place since March, Quaker worship and work continued, providing sustenance and support for those most isolated.
2020 was dominated by the Covid-19 pandemic. As the UK ended the year, and the official death rate approached 75,000, Friends continued to meet in ‘blended’ online and in-person Meetings. Despite the restrictions in place since March, Quaker worship and work continued, providing sustenance and support for those most isolated.
Some much-loved Friends died with the virus, while many rallied to help. As the pandemic hit and demand surged for foodbanks, Quaker Social Action (QSA) offered deliveries and collections. Giles Robinson, from QSA, told the Friend that the delivery driver for its furniture re-use shop Homestore, Steve, had been collecting donations and delivering to vulnerable households across east London. Some Huddersfield Quakers started a community network, with 500 members. Meanwhile, Friends from Sidcot Meeting supported elderly residents at Sewell House, and a Wallingford Quaker doctor leading the Oxfordshire End of Life Care response to the pandemic put together a series of videos for frail and at-risk people. The Quaker-founded Penn Club in London also stepped up, housing five NHS staff. Leighton Park School in Reading also created thousands of face shields to protect NHS frontline staff, an initiative that was supported by nine schools in Berkshire.
The Brighton Friend and composer Sally Beamish – who was awarded an OBE in 2020 – took to the doorstep to perform music throughout the ‘Clap for our Carers’ appeals, raising money for Help Musicians UK’s coronavirus fund.
As the year drew to a close, the effects of the pandemic were still being measured. Thirty-one members of Friends House staff opted to take voluntary redundancy, with more expected, after a consultation period in November to consider how Britain Yearly Meeting (BYM) can meet new financial challenges and the shift towards more local working. Woodbrooke also announced that it needed to make cuts.
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