Sunday, July 15, 2007

After Britain Yearly Meeting

May 8-10, 2007 – Tour of Britain
Audrey and I returned to her apartment after leaving yearly meeting sessions early. Originally we were going to spend the afternoon with her family, but the weather was rainy so the picnic was canceled. Instead, we took a bus down to the Thames River and walked around. It was nice to get some exercise and see some of the typical tourist sites in London.

The first place we went after getting off of the bus was to the Somerset House, an 18th century palace-an imposing mansion built in 1547 by Edward Seymour, 'Protector Somerset' to the Tudor King Edward VI which has been turned into a major cultural hub, where we walked across the court yard through the unique water fountain.I am sure many people over the years have enjoyed walking in the water through that courtyard on a hot summer day. However, as you can see from the above picture of Audrey, it was not a warm day, so I walked carefully doing my best not to get wet. However, this walk brought us closer to the Thames. In fact we were on a bridge that was built across the river. I took several photos as we walked across the bridge. As we walked across the bridge we noticed some unique artwork.

As we walked across the bridge we noticed some unique artwork. We noticed a life size sculpture of a man on the bridge and posted on several nearby buildings. We counted around 20 different figures on various buildings. They clearly were recently installed.
After crossing the Waterloo bridge we walked along the Thames. Many people were out doing the same thing. It was not what I would call a warm afternoon, but the weather was clearing and the sun came out. There were teenagers and young adults skateboarding. People were riding the colorful carousel as others watched. A few feet away from the carousel we came upon a woman who was posing as a statue. She was spray painted gold and bronz with metallic paint. I gave her a pound for taking her picture. I thought it was fair because I knew she was an artist trying to make a living by posing all day.

The next item we came upon was the British Airways London Eye. I had seen it a couple times from a distance, this was the first time that I was close enough to ride on it. It looked like a neat ride, but I was not going to stand in a long line and pay $30.00 to ride on this large and flashy ferris wheel.

To the left of the London Eye was the London Aquarium . It was a huge building with lots of room for all types of aquatic marine life. If we had had more time I would have paid the $27.00 fee to see what they keep inside. The building was so large that I needed to wait until we got on the other side of the Thames to take a photograph of the entire building. At the end of the aquarium we needed to walk up a set of stairs which took us up to the street. There I had a chance to see Big Ben and Westminster Abbey up close and personal. Both buildings were so
beautiful and large. I was sorry we would not have time to explore them. If I ever get a chance to return to London I will definitely plan to reserve time to explore the aquarium, Big Ben, Westminster Abbey and Buckingham Palace. I never got any closer to the palace then the cab ride from Victoria station the first day I arrived.

On the other side of the Thames we came across a memorial to the Battle of Britain (July-October 1940). It was several life size bronze and stone structures. The main piece had a soldier bursting out of it. Someone had placed a silk red flower in the soldiers hand. After spending time reading the inscriptions we continued walking. Next we came upon another monument, this one was for the Royal Naval Air Service, Royal Flying Corps, and the Royal Air Force.

As we continued walking we saw an obelisk and sphinx. These were unusual finds to me, so we stopped and read the inscription. It turns out that the obelisk was presented to Britain in 1819 by Mahommed Ali Viceroy of Egypt.

We completed our walk and ended up back on the bridge we were on earlier to catch another double decker bus back to Audrey's home. We arrived at Audrey's apartment feeling good that we had been able to get some exercise.

When I awoke the next day I planned to spend that morning writing my article for The Friend. I was hoping to visit the Victoria Albert Museum in the afternoon. My friend Liz told me about an exhibit at the Victoria Albert which she had found very powerful and knew I would like to see called "Uncomfortable Truths." The exhibit contained a series of contemporary works in the Museum's galleries and public spaces that raised questions about the haunting and ambiguous legacies of slavery. I was looking forward to seeing it. However, ended up spending all of my first free day writing the article for The Friend instead of touring London. The article was published in the May 18th issue. The important thing is that I was faithful.

On the second day, I took a train to Brighton where I worshiped with Friends during their midweek worship. After worship we ate homemade soup with some of the Friends who remained for lunch. I was not able to eat the bread or dessert available because they were not gluten free. Harvey Gillman gave me a tour of Brighton in the afternoon. Despite the cold and rain we walked around the town. During the tour we walked by Momma Cherri's American Soul Food Restaurant, visited The Royal Pavilion, the Pier and the library. We met Colin (Harvey's partner) for tea in a shop that served gluten free cake and herbal tea. On our way to Harvey and Colin's we stopped at the market to purchase some soy yogurt and gluten free pasta for Harvey to use as a substitute in the dish he was making for dinner. Harvey fixed us a delicious dinner. They have a really nice apartment with a terrace which is covered with flowers and looks out on the town and the ocean. Harvey had a meeting at the meetinghouse at 8:00 PM, so Colin walked me to the train station to catch the train back to London.

On Thursday, the next day, I caught a bus to the tube, to the train station where I bought a ticket for a train to Bristol. I was invited by Marian Liebmannan to see an exhibit marking the bicentennial celebration of the ending of the slave trade at The British Empire & Commonwealth Museum. The museum had an exhibit called "Breaking the Chains - The Fight to End Slavery." The museum was right next to the train station, so I was able to walk there. I found it a very powerful exhibit and highly recommend seeing it. Marilyn and her husband Mike met me at the museum. They were running late so we only had time to eat lunch and have a conversation in a café next door. Before I knew it Marian and Mike were walking me to the train station to catch my train back to London. They were allowed to walk me to my train.

The next day I took the train again, but this time to Gatwick Airport and flew home. In many ways my time in Britain was full and I was really ready to go home. However, I found myself feeling sad on the train ride back to London from Bristol. I had done so much, but there was so much more I wanted to accomplish. I know that if I was meant to do those other things, way will open for them to happen another time. Now it was time for me to return home to my family, friends, colleagues and cats.

Britain Yearly Meeting

May 4-7, 2007

London, England

Barry left for the airport a little after 8:00 AM. He made it to the car rental agency where he returned the van and flew home. Audrey and I purchased an Oyster Card for me to use. The card gave me unlimited travel on the buses and London Underground. Once I had my card we went shopping at Fresh Market (Whole Foods) to purchase more gluten free items. By the time we finished it was for me to go to the International Tea at Britain Yearly Meeting (BYM).

The international tea was a nice idea. It gave me the chance to meet new Friends, recognize and acknowledge old ones, including Viv Hawkins and Thomas Swain. During this time they served us tea and refreshments and introduced us to the clerks of the Yearly Meeting (Martin Ward, Richard Ogden and Lis Burch.) Then all of us from different countries had a chance to introduce ourselves. After the introductions we handed in our travel minutes and were invited to remain in the room for the first time attenders to Yearly Meeting session. I decided not to stay because Viv invited me to join her and Marjorie Hall, a British Friend she knew from Pendle Hill for a tour of Friends House. When the tour took us to the bookstore we searched for my pamphlet, Seed Crack Open, which I had been told would be there. It was. A friend of Marjorie’s, Helen Lockwood, joined us at this point. She purchased a copy which I signed for her. We sat outside of the bookstore for a few minutes to talk and then it was time for the evening session.

The first order of business for Yearly Meeting was accepting the appointment of the Clerks. The second minute focused on giving 85 non members of BYM permission to attend the sessions. The rest of the evening was spent on routine business. We adjourned around 9:00 PM to reconvene in the morning.

Friends in Britain are much calmer and quieter than Philadelphia Friends. I was waiting for the passion, which eventually did come out from a few individuals during the sessions. I counted the visible people of Color on one hand. Audrey joined me at Yearly Meeting for the Swarthmore Lecture, Saturday evening. Audrey West introduced me to Joyce Trotman, an African American elder in Britain Yearly Meeting.

I was invited to participate in a session on Sunday afternoon for BYM attenders to meet Quaker authors who were present at Yearly Meeting. The room was small and filled with more authors than general participants. I found this time together an additional bonding experience as a Quaker author. Each author was given a few moments to talk about their latest publication. I talked about the Seed Cracked Open. I had met many of the authors at Quakers United In Publication. It was nice to be together again.

Viv agreed to serve as my elder for my workshop, Abolition of Slavery: Racism as a legacy of slavery, on Sunday evening. My workshop was well attended approximately 60 Friends came. I was glad that there were several young Friends and people of Color present. Audrey joined me again at Yearly Meeting for the workshop. The format we decided to use was that I talked about Central Philadelphia Monthly Meeting’s process for supporting my ministry then Audrey shared her experience within BYM. When she finished I facilitated a quick exercise and then we opened the floor for questions. Our time (one hour) was too short. Many Friends had their hands up to ask questions or make comments who I couldn’t call on because our time was over.

Monday morning Audrey and I went to Friends House together to attend the final sessions of Yearly Meeting. We both were anxious to see what was going to happen in the final "Diversity and Inclusion" session. I am sad to share that we were both disappointed with the report. If you would like to know more about my reaction you can read my article that was published in the May 18th issue of the Friend.

Judy Kirby, editor of the Friend asked me to write an article for them about my reaction to the “Diversity and Inclusion” sessions. I agreed to write one before I realized how soon it was due. The challenge for me was that the Friend is a weekly magazine, so I needed to write the article during or right after sessions. I am not used to having such a short time line.

I enjoyed my time in London at BYM. Friends were very nice to me. I am thankful for the time several Friends took to explain Britain Yearly Meeting procedures, logistics of Friends House and took care of me in other ways. Friends House is a large building with several floors, it was not always easy to find specific offices and rooms. Many local Friends brought their meals with them and ate them in the courtyard. There was one custom which I greatly admired and would like for my Yearly Meeting, Philadelphia, to consider adopting. Britain Yearly Meeting has a wonderful practice of providing meals at Friends House during sessions free to international visitors. In addition to providing me with a free meal, the staff at Friends House made sure that I had gluten free alternatives each day. I am very thankful for the opportunity to participate in Britain Yearly Meeting and to explore Friends House.

I was surprised at the number of Friends I knew there. I did not expect to see two Friends from Philadelphia; Viv, member of Central Philadelphia Monthly Meeting and Thomas (Clerk of Philadelphia Yearly Meeting) who were also present.

I got a chance to meet Michael Booth, a former colleague from Friends World Committee for Consultation (FWCC) who works in the London office. I also took time to visit the FWCC office. In the five and a half years that I worked for FWCC, Section of the Americas, I never had an opportunity to go to London and visit the World Office or the staff. I purchased the last 22nd FWCC Triennial mug, created to raise funds to pay for the costs for the African Friends attendance. I have always like the slogan, "Cooperation is better than Conflict" and the design used to illustrate it. I was able to transport it home safely.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Lake District 1652 Quaker History Tour

April 29 –
May 3, 2007
1652 Country Tour

Barry joined me in Britain for the tour. He arrived in Gatwick the morning of the 29th, rented a 7 passenger van and drove (for the first time in his life) to Grasmere to pick up me, Liz Yeats, Terry SoRelle (her husband) and Warren Wilson Reiner. We expected his drive to take at least six hours. After lunch Liz, Terry, Warren, Peter Daniels and I took a walk in the hills around Glenthorne. We wanted to hike high enough to be able to look down on one of the Lakes for which this area is famous.

When we finished our hike, we still had about 90 minutes before Barry arrived so we decide to walk into town. As we were walking around we saw Barbara Mays and Harvey Gillman. Earlier Harvey had invited us to have tea with him in town. We asked him if his offer still stood. He said yes, so we decided to have tea in a cafe over the bridge next to the river. They had an empty table and enough chairs for us to all sit outside on the terrace by the river. We were sitting around enjoying each other's company when Barry called me on my cell phone to say he had arrived at Glenthorne. We paid our bill and returned to Glenthorne where we packed the van and said goodbye to the Friends who were remaining there for a one or more days before returning home.

I was so glad to see Barry. I had missed him so much. It was also nice not to be the only person of Color. Now there were two of us. Friends had been very nice, but in some ways it was also lonely being the only person of Color. There were not many people of Color in Grasmere which was very different from London.

Barry drove us from Grasmere to Ulverston. I organized a three-day tour of the 1652 country with the assistance of Sheila and Peter Fox for us to take during the days between the Annual Meeting and Britain Yearly Meeting. The five, of us resided at Swarthmoor Hall during our tour, April 29 th – May 3rd. It was a tremendous gift and real bargain to stay there. I highly recommend it. The accommodations are nice and the price is reasonable.

Sunday, April 29th
Bill Shaw gave us a tour of the staff break
room and the Margaret Askew suite, the area where we lived. We bought dinner from a Chinese food fish and chips takeout and returned to eat it at Swarthmoor Hall. After dinner, Barry went to bed. He had had a very long day, this was his first day in Britain and he was exhausted. Warren, Liz and I looked at the different books, pamphlets and postcards on the literature table in the entryway. Warren noticed a pamphlet, The 1652 Country that gave detailed information (including driving directions) on the historic sites in the Lake District. He purchased it which proved to be important. At 8:00 PM, Bill Shaw came back to the house and opened the "Great Hall"where we worshiped. I sat in Margaret Fell's chair. At the end of worship we all thanked Bill and went to bed.

Monday, April 30th
Rex Ambler and his wife Catherine spent the
day with us. They met us at Sawley Meeting House. We used a map and the directions from the pamphlet to get us there. Rex gave us an introductory talk on George Fox, the political and religious climate in Britain in the 1600's; setting the scene for our pilgrimage. The wardens provided tea as we ate our lunch picnic style on the lawn of the meetinghouse, rested for about 30 minutes then headed off for our climb up Pendle Hill.

The climb up Pendle Hill was much more challenging than I expected. Several Friends who knew of my surgery warned me that the climb was steep and I should not feel bad if I found it too difficult to climb to the top. Barry and I heard their words. The climb was not only steep, but the ground was very slippery because it was covered with small pebbles. The wind was incredibly strong. I was very glad to be wearing my wind block fleece coat and have my gloves, scarf and hot in my pocket. I made it to the top by walking slowly and stopping to rest when necessary. To see photos of us on top of Pendle Hill look at the photographs I have uploaded in my flickr account by clicking on this link or the mosaic to the right at the top of this site.

We sat behind the shelter of the stone wall on the top of Pendle Hill where we worshiped in an atmosphere of quiet and warmth as the sun beamed down on us. The view from Pendle Hill was spectacular. It was hard to take pictures, the wind made it difficult to hold the camera still. This was one of the times I was grateful for the stabilizers they install in cameras today. Even so, Barry and Rex took most of our photos on top of Pendle Hill. Walking down was still challenging because of the pebbles, but easier for me than walking up. I was able to get photos of the many sheep who were on the hill with us. They were clearly more acquainted with people than the ones in Grasmere. The ones on Pendle Hill let us get close enough to take a decent photograph without a zoom lens.

Tuesday, May 1st
We traveled to Brigflatts M
eeting House near Sedbergh. There Tess Satchell, warden of Brigflatts Meetinghouse gave us a talk. Afterwards David and Sheila Solloway guided us to Firbank Fell where we ate lunch prior to a short Meeting for Worship. Then they guided us to Kendal Meeting House and left us in the knowledgeable hands of Sheila Williams our tour guide for the Quaker Tapestries. We began our tour with a presentation by Sheila about the tapestries. After which we viewed a video about George Fox and Quakerism told by using the tapestries. Then we were able to view the 77 tapestries.

When we returned to Swarthmore Hall we found that all of the rooms in the house were still open. So far we had been so busy that we did not have time to explore the hall. The five of us decided to push dinner time back and take the time to view the rooms then. It was wonderful to be able to walk around the rooms, touch items that belonged to the Fells and Fox. I was surprised to find the chair in which John Woolman died also in Swarthmoor Hall. We had a great time exploring and took lots of photos. When we arrived at Bill's office on the third floor he let us look and hold some of the rare books they have, including the small bible that George Fox carried around with him. When we finished our tour we drove to a local tavern, The Miners Arms, and ate dinner.

Wednesday, May 2nd
We visited Lancaster Castle. The pamphlet recommended that we park in the back of Lancaster Meetinghouse. We did. We went inside the meetinghouse to let Friends know we had parked there. While Liz looked for someone to notify, the rest of us used the restrooms or took photos of the building. Then we walked over to Lancaster Castle to meet our tour guide, Jenny Paull. She is the tour guide who specializes in giving tours that focus on Quaker history. Since Lancaster Castle is still being used as a prison today, we were not allowed to take pictures while we were inside the building. Cindy, Carolyn Terrell's daughter happened to be at Lancaster Castle (She and her family were in Edinburgh. Her husband was doing some work there) so she and her three children joined us for part of the tour. The tour included a visit to a court room, seeing many of the barbarous tools used on prisoners in the 17th & 18th century and having the opportunity to be locked up inside a 17th century holding cell.

Our next stop was Preston Patrick Meetinghouse. John Camm lived on a farm near the meeting house and he convinced Thomas Loe in Oxford who in turn convinced William Penn. Also John Woolman stayed near there shortly before he walked to York. Patricia Bradbury, Ken & Rose Hill greeted us there. They shared the history of the meeting with us and as was the practice served us tea and biscuits. Barry and I learned to carry gluten free biscuits , tea cakes or pudding with us for these moments.

Bill Shaw was scheduled to do a round up session for us to share what we experienced, and conclude with a closing Meeting for Worship in the Great Hall. However, he invited us to join him in attending

Meeting for Worship at Rookhow Monthly Meeting. Friends gather at Rookhow the first Wednesday evening of the month. Barry, Liz, Terry and I took him up on his offer and followed him to worship. Warren stayed at Swarthmoor Hall to pack and go to sleep early because he had to leave at 6:00 AM the next morning to start his journey home. The Friends at Rookhow meeting were very welcoming. The wardens, Lesley and Robert Straughton welcomed us to the Lake District. Barry and I also got a chance to talk to another couple who invited us to stay with them the next time we are in Ulverston.

Thursday, May 3rd
The next morning we began our journey back to London. On the road we stopped at a hotel and ate breakfast. It was Barry's first time eating a tradition British breakfast of bacon, eggs and sausage. He gave his mushrooms, tomatoes and black pudding to Liz to eat. We self catered during our stay at Swarthmoor Hall, so we prepared our meals on our own. Our goal was to get Liz and Terry to the airport in time to catch their return flight to the USA. We arrived at Heathrow in plenty of time. We got there at 2:00 PM for their 6:00 PM flight. After we dropped them off Barry and I needed to drive to Audrey West's. We met Audrey and her daughter Yola when she attended two Fellowship Gatherings in 2002 & 2003 in Atlanta, GA. We got a little lost in London, but finally found her house. Our plan was to unload the van, return it to Gatwick and take public transportation back to Audrey's because we knew parking was very limited in her neighborhood. We were very fortunate, getting lost worked in our favor. When we arrived there was a parking space on the street outside of her house. We had to wait five minutes for the parking to be legal, so by the time we finished unloading we were able to leave the van there until 8:30 AM the next morning. We decided not to return the van until the next morning when Barry needed to leave for Gatwick. He had to leave for the airport at 8:00 AM. I was sad to see Barry return home. I really enjoyed our time together and didn't want it to end, but he needed to return to his job working for the City of Brotherly Love who had actually been in touch with him several times during our trip.

Everyone was so nice and welcoming. We had tea at all of the meetinghouses. The wardens and our guides were very knowledgeable and flexible. Sometimes we got lost and were late arriving. This was such an amazing experience. I think all Friends should have an opportunity to go on the 1652 Country tour. It helped make George Fox, Margaret Fell and the Valiant 60 more concrete for me. It was also nice to be able to be in the same physical spaces they and other early Friends were. I am still processing the entire experience.

I would love for the Fellowship to include a pilgrimage one year with our Gathering.

Living at Swarthmoor Hall was fantastic. I thought we would be in a building on the premises, but didn’t believe we would actually be housed in the “The Hall” itself. We had keys to Swarthmoor Hall!!! Bill Shaw is a caring and funny man I am glad I had an opportunity to get to know him.

Liz, Terry, Warren and I all agreed that Barry did a wonderful job driving in Britain. He had not driven on the left side of the road before. He also was great understanding and mastering the circles and the signs for the circles. I am still in awe of his driving, especially the first day when he drove 6 hours after only a couple hours of sleep on the plane. Not only did he have to drive on the left side of the road, but also the local roads in the Lake district are tiny. Regardless of the size of your car most of the roads could only handle one car at a time. Many times we or the car approaching us had to pull over to the side of the road for the other car to pass. Many times you could only pull over at a particular place where they made it a little wider specifically for the purpose. The British had a patience for this practice that I couldn't even image drivers in the USA tolerating such a practice.