Our Meeting House
Meeting House History
In the very early days Quakers met for worship in their own homes, but with religious tolerance in 1689 Meeting Houses were established. While a few were purpose built many like Brant Broughton were converted from buildings already in existence. Brant Broughton Meeting House was originally a thatched barn with a one-up, one-down cottager attached.
In 1701 local Quaker and farmer Thomas Robinson gave the building to the meeting to be used as a Meeting House..
This is a rare survival of a 17th C one-up, one-down cottage. It still retains its original window, staircase and staircase door with wooden lock. The latches and coat-hooks are original.
The benches in the Meeting Room are original and probably date back to the meetings beginning. They still have woven rush seating on the seats beneath the modern cushions.
The windows are original with small leaded panes of oblong greenish crown glass. The window bars are in the shape of a cross and are set high in the walls, following the normal Quaker practice of sills being over 4 feet from the floor. This let in sufficient light without creating the distraction of ‘passing scenes which are not congenial for devotion.’ On the outside the windows retain their original shutters.
This was fitted between 1701 and 1709. In 1701 there would have been a brick wall dividing the cottage from the barn. When the shutters in the partition are opened, the lobby and upper gallery can be used as an extension to the main Meeting Room.
The Upper Gallery
This was formerly the bedroom of the attached cottage and is reached by stairs from the lobby. It was originally used by the women for their own business meetings. From the start of the Society women had full equality and were able to minister and be appointed as Elders.
These are original. The Meeting House has two doors, as the lobby was still a cottage occupied by an old man and his daughter when the barn began to be used for meetings. Unusually, the Meeting House still has wooden gutters.
Mounting Block & Stables
This was installed in 1776 for women who rode pillion behind their husbands. Additional stables were also built at the same time. These have now been converted into our kitchen, toilets and very attractive room known as 'The Barn', which is used for social events and business meetings.
In the 1990s the Heritage Centre was built inside the old carriage court. Recently the meeting has had photovoltaic cells fitted to the roof of the Heritage Room.
This is placed high on the south wall.
Behind the Meeting House is the burial ground which is still used today.
This is above the meeting House door and bears the initials of Thomas and Sarah Robinson who gave the Meeting House to Friends in 1701.
The Barn was a later edition to the Meeting House. It was added in 1776, the same date as the mounting block. It was originally used as extra stabling for the horses, and some of the original chains are still hanging from their fixings. It has also been used as a hay loft, apple barn, and as a garage.
It now houses our library and is used for various functions including wedding receptions, business meetings and exhibitions.
The kitchen was added in 1986.
A few more Credos...
WHAT CANS'T THOU SAY
Inspired by an article by Jill Segger which appeared in 'The Friend'
Banks accused of rigging the money market, MPs with expenses scandals, allegations of press phone hacking, it feels sometimes like the common good is up for sale and that many of the institutions we always regarded as trustworthy are crumbling.
Few people may be aware that many of our high street banks were originally founded by Quakers back in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Quakers were at that time forbidden from attending university and so many of their abler members instead went into business. Many of today’s household names such as Barclays, Cadburys and Rowntrees, were all once Quaker businesses. There was an illuminatory moment during the recent treasury select committee questioning of Barclays chief executive; when asked ‘Do you know the founding principles of the original Quaker bank?’ The questioner went on to name them as honesty, integrity and plain dealing. Maybe its time for Quakers to go back into banking and try and launch a new bank with these qualities!
The founders of these early businesses would be very familiar with the words of the Quaker George Fox who, back in 1660 flung down the challenge ‘What cans’t thou say?’ meaning How does your life speak, how are we living truthfully in our own lives according to our conscience and beliefs. Jesus was uncompromising in his demand for truth and his rejection of hypocrisy. His overturning of the tables of the money lenders in the temple, and His oft quoted message of ‘It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven,’ underline His rejection of the delusions brought by excessive material wealth and dishonest practice.
In trying to give integrity to our own lives we can also expect it from those in responsibility and power. During the recent crisis many have asked what can be done; perhaps the best answer is to ask both of ourselves and those in trusted positions in society George Fox’s question…’What cans’t thou say?’
by Chris Rose
Winter never seems to have properly arrived until we get some snow, and the years when we have snowless winters seem lacking in some way. Snow is a wonderful thing. Anyone who has been with a group of children when it first starts to snow will remember the excitement and the buzz of anticipation which goes round the room; faces pressed against the glass and the hope that it will settle and they can soon be outside.
Snow transforms the most ugly of places and makes them beautiful. We take pictures of it to hang on our walls; Children go sledging, build snowmen and throw their snowballs.
Snow though is made up of millions of tiny individual snowflakes. Each one incredibly beautiful, complex and absolutely unique. Catch one and it melts instantly on the hand but see them collect together and those incredibly delicate flakes together can bring nations to a standstill, close the busiest motorways, empty high streets and halt the cruellest wars.
The snow-blanketed countryside is a beautiful and inspiring sight. Maybe in a way we are all like snow flakes, each of us unique, precious, complex.
Perhaps snow has a lesson to teach us. There is a line in our book of ‘Advices and Queries’ that goes ‘Let your life speak’. It is only through living our lives faithful to our beliefs that we can start to repair and rebuild our world to reflect Jesus’ simple uncomplicated message of love and forgiveness. Quakers have always talked of that of God in everyone, that spark of Divine love that is within us all; a love that has the power to transform each of us. Individually we can make a start, but together we can build that new world.
So let’s take a lesson from snow. Let’s see what love can do.
New Year Hopes, Challenges and Opportunities.
For most of us 2014 will have arrived bringing hopes and resolutions for the New Year. A year that no doubt will also bring its challenges and opportunities. So what resolution or message can we take into the new year with us? Recently I came across this old story from the Tales of the Hasidim…
‘How can we determine the hour when the night ends and the day begins?’ Asked the teacher.
‘When from a distance you can distinguish between a dog and a sheep?’ Suggested one of the students.
‘No’ was the answer.
‘Is it when one can distinguish between a fig tree and a grapevine?’ Asked the second student.
‘Please tell us the answer then’.
‘It is,’ said the wise teacher, ‘when you can look in the face of a human being and you have enough light to recognise in him or her your brother or sister. Up to then it is night and darkness is still within us.’
This story contains much truth for if we cannot recognise each other as sister or brother then our society is in danger of becoming broken. Our task is to return constantly in our imagination to the fact that everyone carries the divine image. At the heart of Quaker teaching is the belief ‘That there is that of God in everyone’. A conviction that challenges both prejudice and intolerance, for at the centre of our religious experience is the belief in the fundamental equality of all members of the human race, a common humanity that transcends our differences. It also implies that if we believe there is that of God in all then surely we must treat all with equality which in turn challenges how we relate to others and how we as citizens of our planet run our affairs and behave as nations towards other nations. It especially challenges our attitudes to those we perceive as on the fringes of society. The Bible tells us that Jesus was no respecter of class or status and was often criticised for the company he kept.
So as we go into 2014 let us remember that each person is a unique and precious part of God’s creation and an opportunity for humanity; whoever they are, whatever they do and wherever they live, and that really does include all 7000 million of us.
After the mild winter spring is early. The days are getting longer and the Nottinghamshire countryside is turning green. This time of year is always associated with an anticipation of things to come and of new life being born. The gardeners among us will spend much of the Easter holiday outside starting new life in the seeds we sow.
In recent weeks though we have been reminded about the dangers of misusing our planet and environment with further warnings about the new levels of global warming, and record pollution levels across the south of England. If only we could show the same care for our beautiful planet as we show for our gardens. Perhaps the time has come again for us to question the ways we manage our planet and the lifestyles we lead.
At any Quaker meeting you would normally find two books positioned on a table in the centre of the room. One would be the Bible and the other a book called ‘Quaker Faith and Practice’ which includes what we Quakers (Friends) call ‘Advices and Queries’; a collection of insights contributed by Quakers over the three hundred and fifty years of the Society’s existence. The advices are updated each generation so towards the end you will find those that reflect more recent current concerns.
‘Try to live simply. A simple lifestyle is a source of strength. Do you keep yourself informed about the effects your style of living is having on the global economy and environment?’
‘We do not own the world and its riches are not ours to dispose of at will. Show a loving consideration for all creatures, and seek to maintain the beauty and variety of the world. Work to ensure that our increasing power over nature is used responsibly, with reverence for life. Rejoice in the splendour of God’s continuing creation.’
So this Spring let us also remind ourselves of the need to tread lightly on our beautiful planet and to rediscover that reverence for the natural world around us.
TIME FOR PEACE
by Chris Rose
‘Force subdues but love gains.’ William Penn
From early in our history, Quakers have taken a clear stand for peace. Back in 1660 they made a declaration to King Charles which started……
‘We utterly deny all outward wars and strife and fightings….’
Over the years the words and actions taken in support of peace, have come to be known as 'the Quaker peace testimony'. This is an active expression of our understanding of the nature of how we should live in this world.
We call it a 'testimony' because it is how we witness to the world about our beliefs. Our experience is that everyone can respond to and express the loving spirit of God within us and can try to live out our commitment to peace in our daily lives and in our work, individually and together. As an expression of our peace testimony we believe we must try to develop and support alternative ways of resolving and engaging in conflicts, and work for a reduction in armaments in the world and a change to the conditions and circumstances that lead to war. At other times, simply 'bearing witness' to a different way —a way that affirms the value of all life rather than denies it—is all we can do as individuals. This does not mean that we are meant to be passive in the face of wrong. Standing up for what we believe is an essential part of giving integrity to our lives.
In this twenty-first century we all face a bewildering array of social and international changes which have made it ever more urgent for for a peaceful response to the problems of tensions and conflicts in all their forms. In many ways this has brought us closer to the witness of those early seventeenth century Quaker Friends who saw their testimonies as a seemless expression of the universal spirit of Christ that dwells in the hearts of us all.
In 1661 William Smith of Besthorpe near Newark wrote..
’Therefore let all men cease from warring and fighting and killing one another, and let them follow the Light in their conscience, which will teach them to put up their swords and to live Peaceably with all men’.
Our peace testimony is neither simple, nor will all have the same understanding of what it will lead them to do in any given situation. Above all, based on our understanding of God's love, our peace testimony is about paying attention to all relationships; from those with family and neighbours to those between nations. It is an opportunity to undo some of the hurt in this world and to build a better future. All people of all religions or no religion can be part of this—can any of us afford not to?
by Eric Rand
Quakers sign up to no creeds, but we do value a small booklet called Advices and Queries that contains advice and asks us searching questions about our faith and its interpretation in the world. Here is one of the advices about living simply.
“Try to live simply. A simple lifestyle freely chosen is a source of strength. Do not be persuaded into buying what you do not need or cannot afford. Do you keep yourself informed about the effects your style of living is having on the global economy and environment?”
Those of us who were brought up during the war, and the years of severe austerity which followed, had no choice but to live simply. Everything was in short supply – food, clothes, houses, heating – but what was available was distributed very fairly, and we all had enough of the real essentials. So we grew up stronger and healthier than any previous generation and with very few of the problems which those who came after us have had to cope with. Despite all the horrors of war – the air raids, the loss of loved ones, the fear, the hatred and bitterness, perhaps we could say that we benefited in one way from the hardships in that we learnt to appreciate what we had, and were not always envying those who had more. We did not have any Joneses to keep up with!
Those of us who chose careers such as teaching found that the low salaries of such professions after the war forced us to continue to budget very carefully. There was little credit on offer and no such things as credit cards, so we had to manage; yet we lived full and happy lives.
It has become much harder for the generations that followed us, when they are pressured into buying everything on credit and are constantly bombarded by adverts. It must be very difficult for them to think, “Do I really need it? If no, why do I want it, and would it really matter if I didn’t have it?” in the way to which we had become accustomed.
As I reach “old age” I find that there is very little that I really need, yet our families want to mark our birthdays, and Christmas, with presents. How good it is that our families can have a lot of fun choosing gifts from charities such as Oxfam who run schemes where one can donate to a particular good cause in the name of the recipient of the “gift”.
Finally some questions to ask ourselves, again from ‘Advices and Queries’:
‘Do I live simply, and promote the right sharing of the world’s resources?
Am I prepared to challenge the way I live so that it is not at the expense of others?
‘Do I recognise when I have enough?’
DREAMS & CHALLENGES
by Chris Rose
Martin Luther King has been much in the news recently with the fiftieth anniversary of his famous ‘I have a dream’ speech. King’s words, and also the way he lived were profoundly rooted in his deep-seated Christian beliefs and spirituality. Refusing to be silent in the face of social and moral evil, King is also remembered for a letter from jail during the early days of the Civil Rights movement in which he wrote….
“We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the hateful words and actions of bad people, but for the appalling silence of the good people.”
Fifty years on and a new generation, much in our world has changed. We live at a time of unparalleled scientific progress and extraordinary change. Modern communication and economic development mean that people, countries and economies have now become much more interlinked and less isolated. Such interdependence can be both enriching and threatening. The gap between rich and poor in many countries, and between the richest and poorest countries, is widening. Injustice, misunderstanding, and the clash of cultures mean that all societies face huge challenges, both from within and from without. We too need to play our part in a process of genuine understanding, tolerance, reaching out and inclusiveness that draws heavily on our underlying spiritual values. Only in that way can we get beyond the hatred and division that exist in so many places today.
Perhaps the same questions that King asked are still relevant today? How far does the way we do things both in our own lives and as nations and peoples encourage love, compassion, justice, simplicity, peacefulness and truth? Do wealth, success and power really lead to true happiness and fulfilment?
To return to Dr King; one of his favourite parables was that of the Good Samaritan. King when talking of the parable said…
“We are called to play the Good Samaritan on life’s roadside…but one day we must come to see that the whole Jericho road must be transformed.”
Today in 2013 we can still ask why so many are left by the roadside. Maybe the road to Jericho still needs repaving?
'FUEL FOR THOUGHT'
by Anne Wood
In our need for constant fuel we have recently seen how easy it is to create an environmental disaster. Many people will suffer as a result and the ocean life and coastal areas of America will take many years to recover. How does this affect the way we on the other side of the Atlantic think? In our industrial and now computerised age many of us have distanced ourselves from the natural rhythms of the seasons and from interaction with plants and animals that people in the past have relied on for their existence.
Reverence for the natural world around us, not exploiting its riches or other peoples needs should be a part of our awareness and bring us nearer to God as we seek to live responsibly.
At the beginning of the C20th the Quaker biochemist Sarah Baker said:
‘The universe is always singing and man must learn to listen so his heart may join the universal chorus.’
It cannot be right to leave the world poorer than we found it in beauty or in the rich diversity of life forms or to consume recklessly in the knowledge that our actions are bound to lead to further tragedy.
Together with all those who share these fundamental values we need to keep alive an alternative vision of society centred on meeting real human and spiritual needs rather than ever changing desires. A society where inequalities of wealth and power are small enough for there to be a true equality between people as children of God.
We need to look to a society which mindful of life and the needs of future generations, limits its use of natural resources to what is sustainable. Which is content with sufficiency rather than excess and where we live in partnership with the needs of our planet and all creation. A world in which justice and truth are the basis for social peace and community, and where true human fulfilment comes from an attempt to live in the spirit of love and truth and peace, answering that of God in everyone.
Can we really co-exist and live in peace with one another despite our differences is a question people have been asking since time began. Or are we born with innate irreconcilable differences. Is it just a battle for resources in a dog-eat dog world? When we hear of awful events in the news our reaction is to think the worst of humankind and to start to apportion blame. How do we avoid allowing the often isolated acts of some to chip away at the good humankind has worked at for so long?
The other night I was driving home late and I put on the radio, some Rap music was playing, its’ theme was forgiveness and one line jumped out at me…
’If you’ve got hate in your heart then you’ve got scars living there rent free.’
Yet to put into practice that forgiveness and understanding is often surmounted with great difficulties.
So how do we react when awful things however isolated happen? Do we shout for blood, an eye for an eye or are we capable of something different. An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth leave a lot of people unable to see or talk to each other; surely Jesus’ message of unconditional love and forgiveness means what it says. Can we reject the way of violence and look for different ways to solve our misunderstandings yet still strive for a better and more just world? In all the places I have been privileged to visit and work in I have discovered that people are just the same with the same loves and concerns, joys and upsets.
In spite of the forces of fear and fragmentation around us I believe there is a longing for peace and understanding deep within us all, as individuals as nations and as an entire Earth community, deep at the heart of our very being and it is a cause for great hope.
The American Quaker John Woolman wrote in 1776:
‘There is a principle which is pure, placed in the human mind, which in different places and ages hath different names. It is, however pure and proceeds from God. It is deep and inward, confined to no forms of religion nor excluded from any, where the heart stands in perfect sincerity. In whomsoever this takes root and grows, of what nation soever, they become brethren.’
by Andrew James
As one of the last Royalist strongholds in the Civil War that convulsed England 350 years ago, Newark was an uncomfortable place for Quakers to be. William Dewsbury, a Quaker preacher and his followers were set upon and beaten up by angry townsfolk. Happily relations are now cordial between the Christian denominations in Newark, but still there is no Quaker Meeting in the town, the nearest being in Brant Broughton, about half way to Sleaford on the A17.
Quakers have no written creed, no priests or ministers, and no hymns – unless you count John Greenleaf Whittier’s ‘Dear Lord and Father of Mankind’ (and he was an American Quaker). Instead we meet in silence, broken only by spoken contributions which are spontaneous and not premeditated.
Silence is a rare quality these days. Just think about how many things we have invented in the last 150 years or so which murder silence – cars, trains, planes, lorries and buses, radio, television, cinema, video, mobile phones, computers – almost everything makes a noise, even garden machinery – so much so that silence is now an unusual, and to some a threatening phenomenon. But silence, especially when shared with others is where we can find ourselves, find peace, find God – whatever you conceive God to be. Quaker faith is a moving tide that responds to the discoveries of science, astrophysics and mathematics – but should not be seen as a tide receding with every scientific advance. Rather it is an expansion of knowledge which further reveals the mysterious wonder at the heart of the universe.
Instead of a written creed, for the written word destroys spirit, Quakers have a set of foundation attitudes embodied in what we call Testimonies. Three of these are Truth, Peace and Simplicity, which are the theme of Brant Broughton’s Quaker Week in the first days of next month. An exhibition on this theme is open every afternoon between 2nd and 10th October in Brant Broughton Meeting House. Come and see for yourself what a Quaker credo looks like!
by Chris Rose
(April 2nd This was Good Friday/Easter weekend so not the obvious one to give to a group that traditionally didn’t celebrate festivals!)
April is a beautiful time of the year, the days are getting longer and everything has just turned green. The blackthorn is in bloom and the spring showers give the dug earth its unique smell. Spring comes after the winter cold and dark giving a feeling of hope and expectation. Many of us will spend much of the coming weekend on our knees in our gardens sowing symbols of hope and new life in the potatoes and other crops we plant. Churches across the world will be celebrating the resurrection of Jesus. This is often a difficult concept for many to accept or understand, but perhaps we can approach this from a different perspective. Resurrection happens all the time, every day and every minute. It happens when the sun rises in the morning, when the green bursts out of the winter dark, and daffodils yellow the Earth. It happens when someone says ‘I love you’, when a toddler takes its first steps, when someone does a spontaneous act of kindness, when we see the new moon in the evening sky. It happens when one is surprised by a rainbow and feels new life in the air and that unexplainable warming of the heart. Above all resurrection happens when we feel that Divine spark within us. An experience that is so difficult to put into words. That experience led the early disciples to change from a frightened dispirited group to a confident body willing to take on the world. Throughout the generations people have felt God’s presence in their hearts. We too can feel that presence. Quakers believe that there is that of God in everyone, and that in the silence of our meeting we can sense that gathered presence within us. Future generations too will feel that Divine spark within them. So the presence of the Divine, of God, in whatever way, or with whatever words in our modern twenty-first century we choose to describe God, is reborn in every generation and never dies. Believing that there is that of the divine in all people leads us to try to live faithfully to our testimonies of Truth, Justice, Simplicity and Peace and in stewardship of our beautiful planet.
Early Quakers traditionally were not keen on making a lot of our traditional festivals, for them every day was a celebration of God’s love. So perhaps the message for this Eastertide is also that for every day, perhaps best expressed by George Fox back in the C17th.
‘Be patterns, be examples in all countries, places, islands, nations, wherever you come, that your carriage and life may preach among all sorts of people, and to them: then you will come to walk cheerfully over the world, answering that of God in everyone.’
GOING TO MEETING
by David Cook
In the Quaker Meeting House at Brant Broughton, the benches and chairs are arranged in a square around a simple, small gate-legged table, on which there is always a vase of flowers, a copy of the Bible, and of ‘Quaker Faith and Practice.’ The table stands on a small rug. Its vibrant pattern might well have an Islamic source; the shapes, colours and designs can be found in many carpets from the Middle East. There is no other patterned surface in the room; therefore its colours and design quietly glow, contrasting with the simple pastel shades of the walls and seating.
Unlike most other denominations, those attending Meeting on a Sunday enter the room quietly, with no hushed conversations; perhaps just a nod or smile of acknowledgement from the others already seated. I imagine that all those present bring with them their preoccupations, their concerns and worries. Sometimes, it is difficult to ‘centre down’, to put aside daily matters, but the all pervading silence soon quietens the mind, allowing it to become more relaxed and move beyond the daily routine.
I have often found myself looking down at the rug, my mind still far too busy: then thought of the Islamic abhorrence of any attempt to represent the deity in a figurative format. Here is a parallel with Friends (Quakers) practice. For Friends it is not a matter of abhorrence, but simply that we see no need for ‘visual aids.’ The rug’s design is both beautiful and fascinating; it is irregular, appears complex, yet is simple-if you look carefully –and like God, it defies any attempt to get beyond the veil that separates our world from His.
But it has another wonderful function at a different level: it can in it’s own way- allow one to appreciate the intricacies of itself and thus our enveloping world, and also to reach out to that which we seek, but is beyond human comprehension, like seeing through a glass darkly at first and then face to face.
END OF LIFE-
SOME THOUGHTS ON OLD AGE & DEATH
by Christine Ditcham
In our western society we do tend to hide death away. This only feeds our fears and uncertainties. If we are able to accept the fact of death it frees us to live more fully- easy to say but far more difficult to put into practice.
There is no guarantee of a good death but for some people death is gentle. This was the death of my father. Despite the devastating diagnosis of cancer two years earlier my father had a devoted wife and a consultant at the hospice to which he was finally referred, who were able to ensure that he had his wish to die at home. After my father died we kept him with us all day surrounded by his family, wife, children and grandchildren and even the family dog- it felt that death was really a part of life. My father was lucky. Perhaps what people most fear is an old age accompanied by intractable pain or interminable days spent in a nursing home or perhaps worst of all loosing their minds and personalities. Our elderly population is rapidly increasing and there will be enormous challenges for us as individuals and as a society, as to where our priorities lie.
As Quakers’ we do not have dogmas or creeds. We believe that true religion cannot be learned from books or set prayers but comes from a direct experience of God. But we do have a small booklet called ‘Advices and Queries’ which Quakers cherish for its wise council on how we should live and questions that constantly challenge us. One Advice pertaining to old age which I particularly value is, ‘Approach old age with courage and hope. As far as possible make arrangements for your care in good time, so that an undue burden does not fall on others. Although old age may bring increasing disability and loneliness it can also bring serenity, detachment and wisdom. Pray that in your final years you may be enabled to find new ways of receiving and reflecting God’s love’.
IN PLACE OF STRIFE
by George Thomson
'Faith hope and love, but the greatest of these is love'.
Love is available in every human being. It is the key to peace in the world. Such love is displayed in our caring for others by reaching out to our neighbours and friends.
In the world of politics it is about caring for the people who have put their trust in those elected. It is about openness and honesty in all our dealings.
The world can be a very painful and difficult place to be - so let us not make it harder than it can be.
Our conscience, governed by love, has an important part to play in all our dealings.
These sentiments can be expressed in the following words:
Love comes from within
and lightens up the world.
Such love comes from the soul,
Touches the depths of human need.
Lightening the world of lonely souls
Filling them with hope.