NEWSLETTER MARCH 2018

Our collection this month is for Suffolk Law Centre
Creating a new Law Centre to provide vital legal advice, casework and representation for the people of Suffolk.
Why do we need a Law Centre in Suffolk? Suffolk is a legal advice desert. There are no legal aid providers in public law, housing and asylum law currently in the county. Even before the cuts to legal aid caused by Legal Aid Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 (LASPO), there were few civil legal aid providers. This means even when people on low incomes are sufficiently aware of their rights to seek help, they have to travel out of the county to find that help.
If you wish to donate but can’t attend at the Meeting House, please send a cheque to our treasurer Cath Minchin made out to “Ipswich Quakers”. Please send this before the end of the month concerned.

Newsletter Introduction

This year we will alternate passages from QFP with the short poems of D.H. Lawrence. Best known for his novels, Lawrence was also a good poet, especially in the pioneering way he wrote about animals.
QFP 23.15 Reduce and simplify your material needs to the point where you can easily satisfy them yourself, so that those who live for the spirit and claim to live for it do not correspondingly increase the material burden weighing on other people, cutting them off from the possibility or even the desire to develop their spirit also. (Pierre Ceresole, 1937).

FILM NIGHT This month our film night is on the third Friday of the month on Friday 16th March. It is at at 7pm in the Library and the film is
Into The Wild” (2007) Director/screenwriter Sean Penn adapts author Jon Krakauer’s tome about a 1992 college graduate named Christopher McCandless (played in the film by Emile Hirsch), who gave up all of his earthly possessions in order to hitchhike to Alaska and live in the wilderness. Rated 15 and is 2 hrs 28 mins long. Subtitles.

Simplicity Day, Diss Meeting House, 30th September 2017

A group of Quakers from Norwich and Waveney Area Meeting and Ipswich and Diss Area Meeting formed an ad hoc group (tentatively called the East Anglian Transformation Group) on sustainability following a Quaker weekend conference based on the Quaker 2011 Canterbury Commitment. where we all met in 2014 at Swanwick, Derbyshire, Since then we have met a number of times to explore what we, as Quakers, are able to do to promote sustainability in our lives individually and in our Meetings. Within today’s globalised society it’s a big challenge but has fed into a growing awareness and concern in our Meetings, and what actions might be taken. As always, it takes time for such concerns to percolate through but action on the Meeting House energy demand is well under way.

However in a later ‘brain-storming’ session at Norwich Meeting it became clear we felt that living simply – one of the Quaker testimonies – is vital to living sustainably and that perhaps we should hold a day between our two AMs on that issue. Thankfully both AMs agreed to support the idea. However it quickly became apparent that as a first outing the group should initially use the opportunity to set an overall take on simplicity, as a backdrop to the subject, ranging from a Quaker historical perspective and some religious perspective and practice and then to include one or two examples of sustainability in practice. It then seemed to be appropriate to involve awareness-raising games and discussion regarding our consumerist society and what choices we make within it and why.

Following this the group hopes to organise a second day on sustainability but focusing on the actual practicalities, techniques and issues arising from living simply within today’s society. I will keep Meeting posted.

Andrew Sterling

Personal reflections on a day exploring Simplicity with E Anglian Friends
The talks and discussions ranged far and wide. I had gone along very much interested to reduce my impact on the environment and hone my arguments with those who are in denial.

While I was disappointed I didn’t get far on these practical concerns, I felt my view of simplicity had been enhanced. It emphasised reviewing my needs in life to prioritise my use of resources in a sprit of truthfulness.

The morning sessions asked what is simplicity, drawing on Quaker history, convent life and Jesus’s teachings. Email me at ianparadoxical@gmail.com if you would like to see verbatim notes of the sessions.

The afternoon was more practical. I particularly enjoyed the final session where we talked about the things that meant the most to us in life. I elected for relationships, to me the essence of life (Quaker life?), the opposite of loneliness. Also highlighted were music, creative activities, and poetry which often brings out priorities and in a simple manner.

In this session we also discussed, being in the world and not of the world. For those of us with children, we considered how to enable them to participate fully with their peers. It’s possibly easier for adults not to be ruled by social media, but it may not be as easy, at least for some children. I’m reminded of a retired couple who admit their lives are limited by not having TV, computer, mobile phone. Their past and current simple life however continues to inspire them but may possibly have led to their children turning their backs on them.

When I got home I googled Theresa Belton who had presented this session and was interested to learn that as a result of her academic research she’s written a book which suggests putting well-being first would help sustain life on earth.
Heather Bruce who has built a mud outhouse described the regulations which complicate the use of eco-materials, or even prohibit their use, e.g. in the case of traditional cob even for repair. We learnt from Edwina Hughes about the labels, like those on White goods, which some retailers are putting in their garments to indicate their eco-impact. I assume that it will take account of the large amount of water to produce cotton, but what about the pollution of the seas with micro plastic from washing our man-made fabrics. Via fish and even table sea salt they are in us.

A game in which we ordered different foods according to their environmental effects like production, transport showed up a few of our misconceptions. See http://www.carbonconversations.co.uk/p/materials.html Later it occurred to me it would be good if there was a game that could quantify our carbon footprints. There is and really the results were not surprising but trying to face up to them is alarming. If everyone on the planet was like me, well we would need 3 1/2 planets. See www.footprintcalculator.org So it’s back to truthfulness and some serious looking again at our priorities, with the help of the classic book How Bad Are Bananas?, the carbon footprint of everything.

All this has made me think about equality. Perhaps it’s emphasis should be on equality about sharing love, Also I was reminded that Nigerians were supposed to be one of the happiest people and they weren’t at the 3.5 level. However I see that they’re way down now with the wealthy Nordic countries at the top. I’m about to read Teresa’s book. And I’m not much further forward with countering “I buy clothes from China cos it’s providing employment for those who would have nothing”
Ian Taylor, Ipswich Meeting

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Metford Robson (Bury Quakers), Sister Camilla and Barbara (Ipswich Quakers)

An exploration of the Quaker testimony to simplicity in spiritual and practical terms
‘The gift to be simple is the gift to be free’

On 30 September a workshop was held at Diss Meeting House, attended by 35 Ffriends. This was a joint endeavour between Norwich and Waveney, and Ipswich and Diss Area Meetings, focusing on the historical roots and spiritual aspects of simplicity, as well as how to live the simple life. The event was the result of collaboration initiated by Friends from the two AMs who met at the national Quaker Sustainability Gathering at Swanwick, Derbyshire, in 2014 and who have since met to consider how environmental sustainability might be promoted in Quaker Meetings in our part of the country. The day was varied, combining talks and presentations, small group exercises, and whole group discussion.

Feedback reflected a stimulating and useful day that was enjoyable and informative. Many felt that their understanding of simplicity had developed as well as their understanding of the connection between living simply and environmental sustainability. Crucially a majority also felt that they had learnt something new that they would like to adopt or pursue in their lives, although not surprisingly particular aspects of the day had spoken more powerfully to some than to others.

I cannot do justice to the richness of the presentations, group work and discussions but hope to give a sense of the day.

What is simplicity? Three contrasting talks on the historical and spiritual aspects of simplicity were offered. Sylvia Stevens explored the historical aspects of an evolving testimony, and this was followed by Sr. Camilla (Convent of Our Lady of Walsingham) who spoke of monastic simplicity, whilst Andrew Sterling considered the simplicity of Jesus. This was followed by a word association exercise to expand our sense of the meanings of simplicity and complexity.

Simplicity embraces both ‘simple’ and ‘plain’. Drawing on a number of historical references and Quaker writings Sylvia showed how, since the early days, both have been important to Friends, our testimony reflecting the unmediated relationship between the individual and God. There is also the recognition of what might take us away from what is really important. The nature of our worship without creeds, liturgy or the intervention of priests can be seen as simple, as can our commitment to truth as illustrated in a refusal to swear oaths, and our testimony to equality before God. Whilst the relevance of ‘peculiarities’ such as styles of dress and speech have changed over time, as have proscribed activities such as reading ‘pernicious books’ or playing instruments, simplicity is still a matter of individual and community discernment. And as Barclay in the 17th century suggested, what is considered ‘superfluidity might vary according to one’s status and education’. This is very true today when one considers inequalities within this country and further afield.

From Sr. Camilla we learned how monastic simplicity comes from living the vows of obedience, chastity and poverty. ‘Living the vowed life detaches us from many things and enables us to love God and serve others with an undivided heart’. This ‘healthy detachment’ gives us an ability to live more harmoniously within the world. ‘A simple way of life enables us to see things differently, to recognize what is really important in life and not to get distracted by what is ephemeral and passing’. We need to let go, for example, of the power of possession. Reflecting on this I ask myself, ‘What am I attached or even addicted to, and how might I let go of attitudes, needs and behaviours that get in the way?’

This was a theme continued by Andrew who took us back to the teachings of Jesus within whose spirit he sees the roots of simplicity. We have an inborn faith which leads us to simplicity, with a lack of faith leading to ever greater complexity. Psychological and emotional needs come from anxiety and fear of ‘drudgery and poverty’. In trying to meet these needs we are likely to over-indulge, acquire more and more, and constantly strive for achievement and recognition. As a result we struggle and are stressed, and live in an increasingly unstable world.

Drawing on personal experience we heard how Andrew was able to realise that the good spirit can be found in anyone, however ‘damaged’ by early life experiences. He also described how he realised the value of living simply in spite of the power of needs. Crucially these outcomes and insights came through Grace (my words) rather than as a result of an intellectual exercise. The spirit of Jesus will allow us to ‘Let go and let be – it’s OK, you’re OK, have faith’. Moving back towards ‘the spiritual/material kingdom of God, the world of simplicity … while practising the qualities of open minds and hearts, love, acceptance, co-operation, sharing, generosity of spirit, faith in life and in each other’ will lead to ‘finding and enjoying increasing inner sense of freedom and release as our dependency on individualised comfort-consumption is replaced’.

Living the simple life. As the day went on it became clear that the way we understand and interpret ‘simplicity’ and ‘complexity’ will differ according to our particular circumstances, and might change over time. In the same way the decisions we make about the extent to which we are able or choose to ‘live the simple life’ will be different for each person. In the afternoon we began to explore some of these issues with the help of speakers and a Carbon Conversations Food Game. Heather Bruce told us about the ‘low impact house’, offering fascinating examples of simple and not so simple forms of construction in different parts of the country. Sometimes complexity is needed if the wanted outcome is to be achieved, and at times changing one aspect to be more sustainable, can lead to other less helpful characteristics. Edwina Hughes spoke of her research and work looking at the clothing industry and natural dying techniques. Some of her account about the practises involved in producing fabrics and clothes were harrowing, and as the title of her talk suggests, ‘There’s more to a label than size and make – or is there?’

Recycling and reworking materials
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Teresa Belton ended the day by introducing us to simplicity and wellbeing. We were invited to consider occasions when we have felt a sense of satisfaction or fulfilment, and to identify some positive emotions, and when we might have experienced these. We were reminded that the quality of our relationships is key to wellbeing; as are ‘a sense of belonging and of community, a sense of meaning and of purpose, contact with the natural world, creativity, and making a difference in the world’. Being part of a warm and welcoming Quaker community and finding ways of letting our lives speak might well help us not only to live more simply but to do so happily and with satisfaction.

In conclusion this was a full, wide-ranging and largely enjoyable day with elements that inspired and challenged. The Food Game which challenged players to consider the relative carbon emissions involved in the production, processing, packaging and transportation of a range of foods and drinks, was the least popular activity. We have received the texts/presentations from most of the speakers and this has been helpful as a reminder of what we heard. Spending time with Friends from another Area Meeting, as well as from different individual meetings added to the wealth of the day, and this type of workshop offers a creative model of learning together. And as we have been reminded, simplicity continues to be a matter for individual and community discernment. I hope that there will be further opportunities to help us with this.

Caroline Tisdall (Caroline is a Norfolk Quaker)

Film Nights

16th March – Into the Wild
27 April- The Child In Time
25 May -The Woodsman
22June-Nostalgia
27 July- Becket
24 August- Fahrenheit 451
28 September- Luther
26 October- A Quiet Passion
23 November- Paths Of Glory
14 December- Lady in The Van

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NEWSLETTER MARCH 2018

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