Message from the Pastoral Care and Eldership Team (PaCET) for Sunday Meeting 2nd June 2024

Dear Friends, For many years I helped lead groups round the Quaker history sites of north-west England, often called the Quaker Pilgrimage (or more facetiously the Fox Trot). We would Message from the Pastoral Care and Eldership Team (PaCET) for Sunday Meeting 2nd June 2024

Dear Friends,

For many years I helped lead groups round the Quaker history sites of north-west England, often called the Quaker Pilgrimage (or more facetiously the Fox Trot). We would stay in Yealand Conyers, just south of the Lake District, where the 20th Century Quaker historian and author Elfrida Vipont Foulds lived. She had run a school there for children evacuated from the cities during the second world war.

She had the gift of bringing historical characters and episodes to life and escorted many groups. I remember her using an old north country word to say that George Fox climbing Pendle Hill was “a daft” thing to do – in 1652 you did not climb steep high hills for the fun of it, especially if they had a reputation for being a meeting place for witches. But Fox had felt “moved of the Lord” to go up it and the subsequent experience led to his conviction of “a great people to be gathered”. And the rest, as they say, is history (our Quaker history) so sometimes “daft” things must be the right leadings.

Elfrida died in 1992. She has become part of the story of Quakers in that area herself. Reading Susan Hartshorne’s life of her, I was reminded that she emphasised that “we cannot take up our Quaker heritage at second hand” and of her belief that “the only Friend is a convinced Friend” whether one comes to Quakerism by birth or choice. She herself came from a well-established Quaker family but believed that “there are many doors to finding faith, and that we must hold seekers in our love as they look for their own doors.” Whether or not one has formal membership of the Religious Society of Friends, the feeling of being part of that “gathered” group is primary.

She was passionately concerned for the future of the Society of Friends and our personal commitment to it. She would refer to Ezekiel’s vision of a valley of dry bones, when he felt the Lord asking him “can these bones live?” to ask the same question of us who call ourselves Quakers today. In 1952, at the end of some special Tercentenary events, in challenging words that I often heard her use at the end of Quaker Pilgrimages, she said:

“We have been together for a very memorable week. Do we take back with us memories of things that happened three hundred years ago? If we only take back such memories then it may be that we have had a vision of a valley of dry bones, and the bones will be very dry. God Forbid! Not while we live! ‘Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe upon these slain, that they may live in us’”.

Appropriate thoughts as we go through this ‘Fox at 400’ year.

Chris

on behalf of the Pastoral Care and Eldership Team (David Hitchin, Chris Lawson, Tim Pitt-Payne, Caroline Pybus, Theresa Samms and Nancy Wall)