Lincoln Quaker, Don Sutherland, has appeared in the news over the last few months due to his role in Conchies, a new play that has been written about the farming community of conscientious objectors he was a member of in the 1940s. Don, aged 99, performed in the play during Edinburgh’s Fringe Festival last August.
There will be a memorial for our Friend, Susan Davies, who died on 18th August aged 97. Susan was the author of Quakerism in Lincolnshire: An Informal History, published in 1989. An obituary in the Guardian newspaper provides more detail about her long and interesting life. The memorial service will take place at The Friends Meeting House, Lincoln, on Sunday 14th October at 1pm.
by Susan Davies (Reprinted from “Prism” Edition Number 4, Christmas 1995)
At this time of the year, October, when the afternoon light begins to fade early into dusk, I am reminded of an evening in the October of 1940. I was nineteen years old and a probationer nurse in Bradford. We nurses, because our salaries were exceedingly small, on many occasions had little money to spend except for essentials. This state of affairs had led to a fellow colleague and myself, when granted a half day’s leave, having no spare cash for paying for entertainment. We decided to go for a long walk instead because my friend was not familiar with Bradford and its surrounding areas.
Keeping in mind that the light would be fading early we walked to the city and then began to walk uphill for a distance of about four miles (one always has to climb out of Bradford: it is surrounded by Pennine hills) and we were aiming to reach Queensbury, a small mill town situated on the highest point above Bradford. It is a harsh, bleak landscape but the view stretches for miles across moors and into Lancashire.
We arrived in time to admire the view and then had a cup of tea in a small café. When we came out of the café it was dark, and it was so very, very dark for this was wartime and the small town and the whole area was of course blacked out. We were used to the blackout but as we began to draw away into the night we looked upwards and we could only stand in wonderment and awe for there was nothing between us and the overwhelming canopy of stars above us. The silence was intense. Never had the stars seemed so bright, so near and so many; they stretched on forever in their millions.
I write that we stood in wonderment and awe but I felt something else and that was fear and the memory of that fear has never left me. I know now that it was the moment that I lost God, the God of my childhood, the paternal Father, the Comforter. It was the moment when I came to realise that the concept of God was something so very different. Where did we fit in within this seemingly never-ending universe? As if to bring further questions about the place and the rôle of humankind in this universe the sound of an air raid siren split the silence and immediately the searchlights were switched on, their powerful man-made shafts of light sweeping across the skies and pointing upwards into the starlit vastness above.
We started to walk back down the hill to the city, but for me it was to be the start of a spiritual journey which has taken me through many phases of searching: through dark alleys of questioning and doubt; through broad lanes of the study of the evolution of man, of other religions and political activity and finally an introduction to the sciences of matter and energy, of which I still know little, but the little I do know has led me back to that myriad of stars and to what an unknown mediaeval writer called “The Cloud of Unknowing”. But what I now know, without any doubt, is that the two journeys made that day, the one uphill carrying a pre-conceived belief and the journey downhill with that belief open to question were both part of the journey on which I am still making my way and that it the journey that is important not the hope of gaining ultimate knowledge about God or of holding a dogmatic idea of Truth.
Lincoln Quakers welcomed a visit from 39 members of the Doncaster Conversation Club again this year.
Doncaster Conversation Club (DCC) is the local ‘drop in’ point for Refugees and Asylum Seekers. It is staffed by volunteers for 4 hours per week. They provide support and a safe environment but also encourage individuals to learn more about the UK, including language skills.
When someone first claims asylum in the UK they are dispersed to a town or city by the Home Office. They then wait for a decision by the Home Office on whether their claim for asylum has been successful or not – this process varies from only a few weeks to several years depending on the individual circumstances. In this time they have only £36.95 per week to cover all food, travel expenses and necessities. If the claim is successful the individual is given ‘leave to remain’ in the UK and becomes a refugee.
We are very aware that this group may know little of the UK. They have often fled precipitately from their home country, in fear of their lives. Sometimes they flee with their children, sometimes the children join them later when they have been granted leave to remain. In the end many aspire to take the ‘Citizenship’ test to become full nationals of the UK.
The Conversation Club has arranged outings on a monthly basis for the last 3 years. These outings are not a luxury – they help the group in many ways. They provide an opportunity to decrease stress and depression – just being outside Doncaster town centre can make a big difference. Travelling as a group also gives a sense of belonging to a community. Sharing this experience with other asylum seekers whom they may otherwise not speak with, can decrease isolation.
The outings have included visits to museums and towns as well as the countryside. All this helps people develop an awareness of the history, culture and geography of Britain. The Doncaster Conversation Club also include volunteers from the UK on the outings – giving the opportunity to practise spoken English in a ‘safe’ situation – and allowing asylum seekers to feel welcomed by others in the UK.
For those who will become refugees, and especially their children, these outings are obviously helpful in so many ways – but even those who will eventually be returned to their home countries may perhaps retain some positive memories of the UK and its people.
You can download the DCC newsletter, including more information and reflections about the trip to Lincoln.
Feedback from the day was very heartwarming:
I enjoyed by this day because you take us or take me to this trips and I am happy here with my friend.
Today I am happy. I am enjoy. I like church. I like walk. I eat good like everyone. Thanks
Everyone here friendly and kind. Quaker Meeting House people welcomed us nicely and they are fantastic. Also the food was great. Thanks to everyone who joined the visit and of course big thank you to DCC that does great job.
I’m happy here because I find myself and I have a good reception and everything here is good. Good people in good treatment and I thank everyone.
I enjoyed the day. I have learned some of the history of Lincoln. History of cathedral church. I enjoyed meeting new people. I understand more than I can say. The food was good – thank you for that.
Today I visited Lincoln Cathedral. It is a huge and old. There are 52 names of place hanging on wall and all that names in Lincoln. It was with us guide to explain to us from the church and how they built. In Meeting House they provided for us delicious meals and kind people. I would like to say this thanks for all staff.
Really I enjoyed so much. It’s amazing trip and quite historical trip. That why I like it. Also it gives me a chance to see historical city of Lincoln. Thanks to all the DCC staff for this wonderful trip.
I had fun and enjoying visiting Lincoln. Wasn’t any problem, am happy. The food was good too and visiting cathedral was quite good again.
Today is good day for us. New experience about the cathedral church. It was really amazing place. We really enjoyed the day and many thanks to guide who show us around. And many thanks for the Quakers of Lincoln for food and drink and fruit. Many thanks.
I enjoyed it. The place we went were historical. The interpretation regarding the building of the cathedral was interesting. I would like to return. I’d like to thank all those who were responsible for putting this together. Thank you all so much.
I am very happy. I have enjoyed seeing Lincoln. Thanks you so much for the food and arranging the day. It is good. Thank you.
A very beautiful day. And with nice groups. The church has 52 names hanging on wall and in the meeting house we have good meals. I would like to say thank you for everyone.
I really enjoyed this trip with lovely groups. I would like to thank you for everybody in the church – they were so kind. Thank you everyone.
I enjoyed these beautiful moments in the cathedral. It’s and amazing and historic place. Thank you to all and God bless all. Thanks.
Lincoln Heritage day: Lincoln Meeting House will be open on Saturday, September 8th, 2018
If you were not at meeting this last Sunday, 11th August, please carry on reading, and be a part of what we would like to put together on Saturday, 8th September. If you were at meeting, there is a part of this letter which you may want to use!
The theme of our day is “Living adventurously!” in all its meanings and intensities – we are all exhorted to do this by George Fox - to put our faith into action – we are asking you to consider this over the next few weeks and how you would represent yourself, your life or your challenges, past, present or future in the light of living adventurously.
We hope there will be three parts to this event.
The first is to include every Friend who wishes to participate.
On Saturday, September 8th, all the Meeting house chairs in the 1689 will be set in a circle as if for meeting – a few will be left intentionally empty so the function of the meeting house is preserved – but the majority will be creatively taken over by individual Friends – each chair is a mini-stage, and there will be a chair there for you to use to represent what ‘Living adventurously!’ means to you.
All the chairs will be connected by ribbon to represent that we are individuals within a community.
Hopefully you are now thinking “How can I do this?”
Here are some ideas just to set you thinking (they are not meant to be prescriptive in any way):
- You might decorate your chair with memories, inspirational words, poetry, photographs, paintings - meaningful to you as ‘living adventurously’ - it doesn’t matter that you didn’t write the poem or take the photo or paint the picture.
- You might focus on the future – are you a campaigning Friend? For example, if you are an environmentalist – can you transform your chair into a campaigning message?
- You may have something you want to say – can your chair minister in your absence?
- Your chair could illustrate a personal journey you have made, are making or will make
- You might want to keep it simple – or complex
- You might just want to have fun with form and colour
How will this all come together?
If you are unable to come to the Meeting house late afternoon or early evening Friday, 7th September, to create your own message yourself, please leave your items with instructions as to how they are to be arranged, in a named carrier bag and we will ‘make it happen’ for you!
If you feel you also want to include an explanation or a narrative for people to read, please leave that with us too.
Here is a picture of a chair to annotate if you so wish, so you can be explicit about the end result you want us to create.
The second part is that some Friends have a creative portfolio as artists – so if you have a body of work you would like to exhibit, please bring those pieces to the 1910 again late afternoon or early evening September 7th(this does not preclude you creating with a chair).
The third part is that we hope we can persuade Don to take over the library and be available to talk with visitors about the ongoing adventure of his own life, including his recent debut at the Edinburgh Festival!
Please take part and have fun !
Yours in Friendship,
There will be an art exhibition by Lincoln Quakers as part of the Heritage Day activities on September 8th. The Meeting House will be open from 11-4pm, admission is free and all are welcome.
The Religious Society of Friends is committed to work for equality and peace and in 1947 was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. In 1998, we sought the co-operation of Lincoln Junior Schools, asking their pupils to help us visualise a safe and peaceful world. Some pictures from that time can be seen below. Twenty years on, we are seeking support for this year's project. Pictures are usually size A4 on paper or card using any choice of medium; a verse in bold print could also serve and a first name can be added to any work.
We will collect work before the end of the summer term and welcome any responses from schools before then. Please email Lincoln Quakers if you would like your school to participate.