A Quaker Chaplain at St Hilda’s College

On 20th August St Hilda’s College announced that Suzan Meryem Rosita Kalayci, a member of Oxford Meeting, has been appointed as College Chaplain and the inaugural Director of the College multi-faith space. Earlier this year the College’s Governing Body took the decision to move from providing a specifically Christian chapel to creating a multi-faith room, known as The Sanctuary. This is part of an initiative at St Hilda’s to explore an imaginative and inclusive approach to chaplaincy in the context of a diverse community that is fully committed to the principles of equality and mutual respect among its members.

An historian by training, Meryem has studied at universities in Turkey, Syria, the UK and Italy. Her research focuses on silence and silences, with a particular interest in the history of silence surrounding the Armenian genocide. She is currently completing a book entitled Reading Silences: Essays on Women, Memory and War in 20th Century Turkey, to be published by Degruyter early next year.

We understand that Meryem is the first Quaker to be appointed as Chaplain of an Oxford College. She will be working alongside Tas Cooper, the Quaker Chaplain of Oxford University, to develop events for students at the Meeting House.

(This article is based on a more detailed news item published on St Hilda’s College website.)

Quakers and silence: a short talk by Deb Arrowsmith

Deb recently recorded a short (3 minutes) introductory talk about Quakers and silence for Radio Oxford. It offers thoughtful listening even if you are a longstanding Friend.

When you click the ‘Listen…’ link below, a new tab will open in your browser. If the talk doesn’t start automatically, click the ‘play’ icon. When the talk has finished, close the tab.

Listen to Deb’s talk.

Meeting House Library re-opens for borrowing

Quaker bookworms will be pleased to learn that it is once again possible to borrow books and pamphlets from the Library at no. 43. It will not be possible for you to go in and browse, so we have published the ‘handlists’ – categorised lists of the holdings – online on the Using our Library page. Simply browse through the list (or lists) relevant to your interests and make a note of the title(s) in which you are interested. Then, complete the online form, which will be sent automatically to the librarian, Catherine Hilliard. Catherine will pick the book(s) from the shelves and put them in a bag in the foyer for you to collect. Happy reading!

Plans for re-opening the Meeting House are under way

The Meeting House: empty now, but (maybe) not for much longer…

Chris White writes on behalf of Elders:

We are writing to share with you the planning process for the re-opening of 43 for Meetings for Worship, especially in the light of the news from the Government that places of worship can re-open from July 4th. 

Before we can re-open we will need to have in place measures that enable social distancing as well as increased hygiene facilities.  Alongside this we will need to have a new team of welcomers to advise Friends who are returning to worship in the Meeting House.

Elders, alongside the Office team and other members of the Meeting, have been planning for this, and we are currently waiting for the publication of further guidelines from the Government before we can complete our plans. Once these are finalised they will then need to be approved by our Trustees before we can set dates for when our various Meetings for Worship can recommence.

Once we have approval from Trustees we will be able to publish a timetable for the reopening of 43, along with details of the changes Friends can expect to see at the Meeting House. A training and familiarisation event will also be organised for Friends who have volunteered to be welcomers prior to our reopening.

What do Friends think about returning to 43?

During June, the Meeting surveyed Friends in order to gain an indication of how many would be minded to return to Meetings for Worship in 43, with appropriate social distancing and hygiene measures. A total of 89 responses was received; from the analysis we have concluded that:  

  • Some Friends are interested in returning as soon as possible to Meetings on Sunday (both times), Monday, Tuesday and Thursday.
  • Other Friends are more cautious and would prefer a ‘paced’ return to MfW over several weeks (all times).
  • Children’s Meetings can restart, dependent on pacing and organisation from Children’s Committee (CYPC).
  • A pleasing number of Friends are willing to act as welcomers.
  • Nearly a third of respondents wish to continue worshipping at home; we will therefore need to continue with Zoom meetings.

Zoom into Friday with Friends and Enquirers’ Meetings

Two of our popular regular events are moving online while the coronavirus lockdown is in force. The Zoom URLs and codes are the same as for Sunday morning Meetings for Worship. If you don’t already have the codes, please email office@oxfordquakers.org

Friday with Friends

Friday 17th April at 7pm
Spirituality & Mathematics: Participants will be invited to engage in some tasks through which they might get a taste of “imminent transcendence.” Exercises will be different in substance from our previous session. No previous mathematical success required!

Enquirers’ Meetings

Wednesday 22nd April at 7:30pm
Quakers & Purpose: where do we find purpose for doing things, as Quakers? Is there a purpose for our lives? For human life?

Wednesday 20th May at 7:30pm
Quakers and Suffering: What is the Meeting for Sufferings, why was its purpose, and what does it do now? How Quakers try to ameliorate suffering.

Online Quaker resources to explore during the lockdown

Neopithecops zalmora, also known as Quaker. Dr Raju Kasambe CC BY-SA 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

Friends will have recently received a forwarded email from Tabitha Driver and David Irwin, Librarians at Friends’ House. The message provides links to a treasure-house of Quaker – and non-Quaker – resources for us to explore while meeting houses and their libraries are closed.

The list is extensive, even daunting, and many sites are definitely for specialists and researchers. However, I have dabbled in some of them, and suggest the following if you are looking for informative and/or inspirational Quaker texts:

Some of these sites have a slightly out-of-date look and feel, and some of their links to resources are broken, but it’s worth persevering – you are sure to find a nugget here and there.

I also enjoyed browsing the photos of Quaker Meeting Houses taken by John Hall. They’re on Flickr at https://www.flickr.com/photos/qmh. Click ‘Albums’ for a county-by-county journey through our architecture past and present.

And just for fun, I typed “Quaker” into Wikimedia Commons (https://commons.wikimedia.org/), another site in the “Images online” section. The first page of results included an illustration of a 19th-century American nursery song, “Quaker courtship” (no connection with Friends!) and the above photo of a rather delicate butterfly from SE Asia, which has the common name “Quaker.” I thought it an aptly colourful illustration for this post.

Forty-Three: April 2020 issue now online + copy date for May

The coronavirus outbreak means that April’s issue of Forty-Three has been published in digital format only. Friends who normally receive their issue by email will have done so; a copy is also available on the Forty-Three Newsletter page. We are aware that some Friends don’t have internet access, so if you know someone who would appreciate receiving a paper copy, please email the office and we will ensure that one is posted to them.

Contributions are welcomed for the May issue. Please send articles, poems etc. in Word format, and images in .jpg or .png format by 17th April to newsletter@oxfordquakers.org.

Worshipping at home, including via Zoom

On 18th March Elders sent the following message to Oxford Friends:

“Although all Meetings for Worship at Oxford Meeting House are currently suspended, Elders still intend to sit, at home, in worshipful silence at the usual times of our regular Meetings for Worship. We would like to encourage Friends to join us at the same time in worship from their own homes. This can be a time to hold ourselves and each other in the Light, and to offer spiritual support and reflection for the challenging times ahead.”

Oxford Friends are now able to share in our regular Meetings for Worship and social gatherings online, using Zoom. General instructions for using Zoom are in the March issue of Forty-Three. The Zoom codes that you will need to attend specific Meetings and gatherings are being sent by email to Friends and Attenders who are on our mailing list. If you aren’t on the mailing list and would like to join in, please send an email to office@oxfordquakers.org

Woodbrooke College organises online Meetings for Worship for 30 minutes on Wednesdays and Fridays. For further information, visit  https://www.woodbrooke.org.uk/about/online-mfw/ (link opens in a new tab).