My three-month stint as a Resident Friend (i.e. Quaker) at Claridge House will come to an end on 15 August. I’ll give myself a couple of weeks holiday, but after that I will need to be earning some money or at least living in rent-free accommodation. I was thinking of joining the Quaker Community at Bamford in Derbyshire, but my best chance of finding work around there would be in Sheffield and that’s 11 miles away. In the meantime I would have to sign on for Job Seeker’s Allowance in Buxton, which is a two-hour cycle ride from Bamford and an equally long journey by bus.
The process for joining the Quaker Community at Bamford includes at least one Meeting for Clearness. There is a long Quaker tradition, now being revived in this country, of holding a Meeting for Clearness with couples who are intending to marry in a Quaker Meeting. A Meeting for Clearness can be held whenever an individual or a couple has a significant decision to make. A small group of Quakers, who know the individual or couple well, meet with them, not to give advice or make a decision, but to support and challenge the individual or couple as they seek to discern the right way forward.
So last Saturday five Quaker friends joined me for a Meeting for Clearness in the Meeting House in Evesham where I was the warden for seven years until the end of September last year. ML was (no surprise to me!) an excellent clerk/facilitator, having facilitated a number of Clearness Meetings in the past. She has known me since 1981. The other members of the group were: S, who has also known me since 1981 and has at least 14 years of experience as a meeting house warden; NB and NT, who both got to know me as warden in Evesham; and J, who – together with his wife – supported and accompanied me whilst I was serving as a Joint Representative for the Quaker Council for European Affairs.
I wrote to the members of the clearness committee beforehand and outlined four options:
1. Take up a post as warden of a Friends Meeting House. (I had already sent off an application.)
2. Go and live somewhere until such time as I find suitable work, e.g. as a meeting house warden.
3. Move back to Evesham and look for work there.
4. Join the Quaker Community at Bamford.
I wanted to discern where my own particular blend of skills and experience might best be put to good use. My Quaker friends helped me not only to do that, but also made some suggestions about how I might put behind me the rather traumatic experience of working in a fast-paced office environment at QCEA. I was assured of their love and support, so they were able to ask some challenging questions. I was asked, for example, what I hope for wherever I end up. My spontaneous answer was: a loving relationship, a place to sing and dance, a garden to tend, opportunities to offer spiritual accompaniment and to engage in ecumenical activities, and opportunities to engage in political work.
By the end of the Meeting for Clearness it had become clear to me that I would do best to seek a position as warden of a Quaker Meeting House. This won’t necessarily work out within the next few weeks, in which case I shall need to decide where to live in the meantime – Brussels? Oxford? Evesham? I shall also want to train as a spiritual accompanier, so I need to investigate what courses, etc. are on offer and what sources of funding there might be to pay for that.
A couple of days ago I wrote to the folk at the Bamford Quaker Community to tell them that I am no longer seeking to join the Community. I hope to visit from time to time, though. I enjoyed getting to know the members of the Community in the spring. I could live with them quite happily and the view from the front of the house is magnificent! But I see myself as a meeting house warden during the last phase of my working life. So I look forward to joining a local community of Quakers somewhere in Britain sometime soon!