Getting older

Most Sunday’s now I take a short walk to the Friends Meeting House tucked away in a quiet side road in Ettington. There’s always a warm welcome…hand shakes…a catch up on the week’s news…then gradually everyone settles into a seat and a stillness comes over the room.

I found this photo taken in 1950 here. The meeting room looks very much as it does now apart from the addition of a few raised seats to make it easier for some of the older friends to get up after an hour of sitting.

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Mostly people sit quite still.

Maybe with their eyes closed.

A few occasionally stand and share some thought or reflection or reading…often from this book….

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It’s a mixture of writings by Quakers from the 17th Century to the present day. I’m not sure when the first edition came out but the fifth was published in 2013. What’s it like? Well these two sentences do a pretty good job of summing it up:

‘The book is a treasure-house of psychological and spiritual wisdom… At best, there is an honesty, a toughness and a tenderness that is powerfully impressive.’

‘The book’s great strength is that it achieves its purpose of expressing the ‘soul’ of the Quakers… If you want to know what Quakers have said about ageing, AIDS and atonement or about tithes, tobacco and torture, not to mention hundreds of other topics, you will find some illuminating answers here.’

It’s a really structured book but I tend to find myself flicking through its pages until something grabs my attention.

I’ve been reading and thinking about community, connections and relationships a lot lately.

As I always seem to find myself doing at this time of year I’ve also been reflecting on our…my…mortality.

So I wasn’t surprised when this morning I came upon this wonderful passage from 1962, written by Clifford Haigh. It was in a section called Getting Older.

If we are getting older it will be harder to acknowledge that we have not been called to spectacular service, that we are unlikely now to make a stir in the world, that our former dreams of doing some great healing work had a great deal of personal ambition in them.

A great many men and women have had to learn this unpalatable lesson – and then have discovered that magnificent opportunities lay all around them. We need not go to the ends of the earth to find them; we need not be young, clever, fit, beautiful, talented, trained, eloquent or very wise. We shall find them among our neighbours as well as among strangers, in our own families as well as in unfamiliar circles – magnificent opportunities to be kind and patient and understanding. 

It could have been written by Cormac Russell, John McKnight, Richard Holmes or any number of other contemporary champions of the abundance waiting to be discovered in every community if we only bothered to look for it.

I wonder what I’ll find next week.

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