Saturday, 17 June 2017

20th anniversary and picnic at Minster Lovell

We were able to celebrate the 20th anniversary - to the day - of the restarting of Witney Local Quaker Meeting on Sunday 11 June, first with a birthday cake after meeting, then with an afternoon of picnicking in the ruins of Minster Lovell Hall, where the Mary Stich Ukelele Band joined us for music-making! (much to the entertainment of other visitors to Minster Lovell).

Monday, 5 June 2017

Quaker Stewardship Committee: report to Meeting for Sufferings

MfS/17/04/07 Quaker Stewardship Committee  Ursula Fuller and Mary Aiston of Quaker Stewardship Committee have spoken to its report (MfS 2017 04 06). We have also received minute 2017/21 from Leeds Area Meeting.
Like Sufferings, QSC has a vision of vibrant, well-managed meetings that can develop innovative solutions to the problems facing them. Like Sufferings, QSC works primarily with area meetings. Sufferings works on our faith and action, QSC looks after the good governance that underpins it.
QSC has helped our area meetings so that in 2016, Yearly Meeting was told that every meeting that has to send their annual report and accounts to the Charity Commission or to the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator met the deadline and the reports contained all necessary requirements.
We reaffirm that all Quakers should be good stewards of our resources: it is part of our witness in the world to do this job well and there is ongoing work needed to support meetings in their stewardship of our resources.  We have considered the three questions that QSC has put before us:
1. What more can QSC and area meetings do to ensure that trustees and treasurers receive the support they need?
Initial feedback from representatives today was positive: the support QSC offers via Trustee and Treasurer News and their willingness to work with Friends in their meetings is appreciated.
News of Woodbrooke's proposed online course was welcomed. Feedback on annual reports from QSC link Friends is also helpful.
A proactive approach is needed to engage Friends in matters of governance, as there are difficulties in some areas in finding Friends to serve. Friends would welcome QSC members visiting them in their area meetings.
2. Would making wider central use of the information provided in trustees annual reports and accounts be a worthwhile expenditure of BYM’s resources?
In responding to this question, we were reminded of the opportunity annual reports provide for outreach to the wider world. They are a report on the life of the whole area meeting and whilst legally their production is the responsibility of trustees, we are reminded of the guidance in Qf&p 15.03 that the ultimate authority lies with the gathered meeting.
Asking for reports to provide information about, for example, sustainability, would require clear guidelines to enable consistency.
We were urged not just to follow the letter, but to respond to the Spirit.
3. How can QSC best prompt a wider conversation to ensure that BYM's governance structures are sustainable in the long term?
We acknowledge that there is no ‘one size fits all’ and there are limits to Friends' ability and willingness to sustain the work of governance. This is a serious risk.
We thank Ursula Fuller and the members of QSC for their report to us today and for their work for the Yearly Meeting and we will return to these matters at a future meeting.
We look forward to hearing further comments when all representatives have reported back to their meetings.  

June minutes of meeting for business


Minutes of a meeting for worship for business held Sunday 4 June 2017 in the Bethany Room, Methodist Church, Witney.
8 Friends were present. §2.17 of Quaker Faith and Practice was read during our opening worship.
24/17 Matters arising
a)    Response to Quaker Stewardship Committee – QSC has sent questions relating to good practice on stewardship and trusteeship in our meetings. Our Area Meeting representative has reported on the response to this in her report on Meetings for Sufferings. We ask that the report be posted on our website.
b)   Picnic arrangements for 11 June: the picnic will be held at Minster Lovell ruins. Friends are reminded to bring chairs or rugs as well as food. Lifts can be arranged.
c)    We note that Sue Bowers’ testimony was read at the last Area Meeting and will be forwarded to Britain Yearly Meeting.
25/17  Spiritual and Pastoral Care Gathering
          We agree to change the date of our next gathering from 25 June to 23 July at 12 noon following   meeting for worship. This will enable Lesley Morris to lead us in a consideration of the experience of pilgrimage.
26/17 Nomination of Area Meeting elders and overseers
        We appoint Lesley Morris to represent Witney on the nominations group which will bring forward names of elders and overseers in the Area Meeting   for the triennium 2018-2020.
There being no other business, we closed with worship at 11.50 am.

Saturday, 3 June 2017

Testimony to the grace of God in the life of Sue Bowers

The following testimony was prepared in accordance with the practice of Quakers. It has been approved by Witney Friends, read at an Area Meeting and forwarded to Britain Yearly Meeting for record.


Testimony to the grace of God as shown in the life of Sue Bowers (13.7.33- 27.4.16)

To the very end, Sue retained a vigour and a smile which characterised her whole approach – to people, to opportunities, and to the mediation and peace work which she pioneered.
She was at the forefront of bringing conflict resolution work into UK schools in the 1980s, supported by Kingston on Thames Friends, where she and her husband John first came into membership in 1975. This was something of an impromptu second career; Sue had trained as a nurse in the 1950s, giving this up after marriage to John, a shipping executive then based in Liverpool, with whom she had a son and a daughter.
Sue was one of the founders and leaders of Kingston Friends Workshop Group, the outcome of her concern about bullying in schools. KFWG introduced to the UK a wide range of tools to help prevent and manage bullying in schools, and the use of mediation for conflict resolution in the school environment. At the time, what could be described as peace education was often regarded with suspicion, especially in a rather right-wing council, where the first initiatives were taken. However, both an imaginative educational inspector and a committee member with a child in a local school gave strong and effective support, and within a year, the group was giving workshops to train teachers in conflict resolution techniques. The broad approach was summarised as ‘communication, affirmation, cooperation and problem-solving’, based on four key questions: What happened? How do you feel about it? What would you like to do?  And what can we actually do?
The methods which the group pioneered have become widely known and disseminated, and live on in common practice in schools, though their origins are probably not widely known or celebrated. Sue would not have cared about this. Modest, loving and deeply convinced, she shared her insights with a sense of joint exploration. She was passionate that peace was not about avoiding conflict, but about confronting and working through differences. She carried this approach into every enterprise undertaken with Friends and others.
John’s second retirement in 1990 brought a move to Dorset, where for thirteen years they held between them most of the posts within the Area Meeting and contributed greatly to it. Sue’s kindness and compassion showed through in all she did; and her energy and enthusiasm were such that sometimes it seemed as if only John’s gentle direction of it prevented Sue from self-destructing!
The legacy left to Dorset of Mediation Dorset that was set up by Sue has been immense. It was ahead of its time, and right – every solicitor and court now offers ‘mediation’ but the quality and impartiality that was integral to Mediation Dorset was invaluable to its clients and a flagship for Quakers.
Sue went on to teach conflict resolution with Marian Liebmann in Woodbrooke Quaker Studies Centre and Queen’s College, Birmingham, work which was greatly valued by Quakers and theologians in training alike. 
Life was also for living – Sue and John’s shared interests in music and sailing, and the embedding of a musical creativity in the family, nourished them and their friends. A move to the Cotswolds to be nearer their children brought their energies first to Charlbury meeting, and then to Witney meeting. Here they once again made themselves part of the heart of both meetings.
In 2004, following the Iraq war, Sue and John became prime movers in what eventually became Peaceroots, an independent charity formed to support people in war-torn areas attempting to find non-violent solutions to conflict, to bring reconciliation and to build sustainable peace. It also aimed to raise the public profile of such work, and to demonstrate its benefits through dialogue with governments and decision- makers. This work ran alongside that of the family trust set up by Sue and John which provided support for 40-50 charities a year. One example was the Olive Tree programme, in which Israeli and Palestinian students at London universities were enabled to meet each other as equals and friends, rather than strangers and enemies.
Finding a home which was more accessible as age and health became more pressing concerns had a particular influence in the re-establishment of Witney meeting, which had been laid down some decades earlier. Sue and John, retiring to the town from Charlbury, initiated the home group which has now become a thriving local meeting in its own right.  Sue was always keen to take on fresh ideas, and to keep those working with her in training, as it were, and part of her commitment to the young meeting was to create opportunities to learn together. She helped ensure that the Quaker experience was explained and explored through the provision of study groups for both enquirers and longer-standing Friends and she planned for members of the meeting to get to know one another better in away days and shared lunches. There were outreach events, when distinguished lecturers were invited to share their expertise, and she and John offered hospitality and challenge with love and enthusiasm. Her ministry in meeting was always rooted in practical experience, given with strength and wisdom.  Though we knew that sometimes Sue’s organisational expectations could outrun the time available, we all welcomed her practicality and enthusiasm.
It was characteristic of Sue that she and John both responded in good time to the advice to plan well for one’s funeral and death. The guidance to the funeral advisors for Witney in 2012 was full of love and realism: organ donation (her body was accepted for medical research), green burials, flowers and catering were spoken of alongside the family needs, the trust in Quaker processes and the foundation of Quaker experience. Sue lived out her precepts to the end. Her own severe illness in 2013, and the onset of John’s dementia, meant careful planning about where and how to live out the last few years. They had hoped to move to a new retirement village in Witney, but had to accept that by late 2015, it would be necessary to go to a similar community in Letcombe Regis. It was still near enough for Witney Friends to remain in touch, and to help prepare the memorial meeting in summer 2016.  At this, music from her family and friends soared over the sadness and gratitude of the hundred or more who gathered to give thanks for the grace of God in this life of committed and creative service.


Welcoming Ada Iris Roulson to meeting! 9 April 2017

May minutes of meeting for business

Minutes of a meeting for worship for business held on 7.5.17 in the Bethany Room.
Nine Friends were present. §21.10 of Quaker Faith and Practice was read during our opening worship.
18/17 Area Meeting 13.5.17
We appoint Allan Carr as our representative to the AM in Burford. We note that the testimony to the grace of God in the life of our Friend Sue Bowers has been forwarded to AM and will be read at this meeting. (The testimony was read to Witney Friends at a meeting for worship in April.)

19/17 Quaker Outreach Week 2-8 October
 We have discussed whether we wish to be actively involved in organising events during this year’s outreach week. We will return to this but in the meantime will consider whether an investment in website development would be more effective. We ask Jennifer Barraclough to take this forward.

20/17 Remembrance Day  2017 
We ask Don Mason to arrange for a mixed wreath again, and to research an appropriate quotation. Friends are invited to consider whether they would be willing to lay the wreath. Mahalla Mason will again organise the purchase and sale of white poppies.

21/17 Summer outing
We plan to picnic on Sunday 11 June in the ruins of Minster Lovell, beginning at around 12.30. Friends are asked to bring their own picnic with a little extra to share, and their own chairs if needed. If the weather is poor, Ann and Brian Mills have offered their home and garden   Car share can be organised on the day.

22/17 Spiritual and Pastoral Care Gathering
 Because of the picnic, the next S & P Gathering will be held after meeting for worship on 25 June. If Lesley Morris is available, we ask her to lead us on the topic of pilgrimage.

23/17 Any other business
Area Meeting appointments: Nominations are required for Local Meeting representatives on the Elders and Overseers group for AM for the next triennium (Jan 2018 – Dec 2020). We ask Friends to consider this service, and will return to this item at our June meeting.

There being no other business, we closed with worship at 11.55 am.

April minutes of meeting for business


Minutes of a meeting for worship for business held 2 April 2017 in the Bethany Room, Methodist Church

4 Friends were present. The final paragraph of the Introduction to Quaker Faith and Practice was read during our opening worship.

14/17 Matters arising
(a) Jennifer Barraclough has reported that the testimony to Sue Bowers has reached a final draft, which is now being read by the family before it is brought to this meeting for approval.
 b) We have three more meetings before we complete the schedule of reading Q F & P. We will complete the exercise on 23 April (a week late because of Easter: Introduction and history), 21 May (Chs 10 & 11) and 18 June (Chs 7 & 15).

15/17 Annual safeguarding review
          Mahalla Mason has given us the formal report on our safeguarding provisions (attached). We are pleased to note that all the health and safety and other requirements are being met, and thank the Methodist Church for its care in these matters.

16/17 Date of Spiritual and Pastoral Care Gathering
 The next meeting will be held on 25 June at 12 noon, a change of date because of our summer picnic event on 11 June.

17/17 Any other business
We ask Mahalla Mason to present our gifts, with a card to be signed by all present, as a formal welcome to Ada Iris Roulson into Witney meeting on 9 April.

There being no other business, our meeting closed with worship at 11.50