Following guidance from Britain Yearly Meeting, Oxford Meeting set up a “Covid Group” at the first lockdown in March 2020. This group of Friends includes our Convenor of Elders, a Clerk of the Meeting, Clerk of Premises and Finance and the office staff. They consult and review decisions affecting the holding and running of Meetings for worship regularly.
In early January, in light of increasing risks from the new coronavirus variants, the group decided that No. 43 and the Meeting House should be closed to public Meetings for Worship for January. Although cases in our area are now slowly reducing, Oxford is still reporting above average daily cases and the situation remains critical. Therefore, the Covid group has decided that the Meeting House should remain closed to the public for February and intends to review the situation again at the end of February.
Meetings for Worship continue via Zoom, and many Friends hold quiet meetings in their own homes. In addition, the office staff invite you to join their ‘open office’ on Tuesdays and Thursdays 10.30-11am for coffee and chat on Zoom.
Our Pastoral Care group is doing great work supporting, and keeping in touch with, Friends by phone, and we can all join in by giving someone a call.
We understand that for a small number of Friends this feels particularly isolating. Office staff will remain in touch with these Friends to support them over this period.
Elders are pleased to report that our Friends Meeting House has now re-opened for in-person Meetings for Worship, combining with our current Meetings for Worship already occurring on Zoom.
For our two Meetings on a Sunday, the Friends in the Meeting House will continue to greet those worshipping at 9.30 and 11.00 via Zoom, but then will close the internet link so that the Meetings can continue separately for their period of silent worship.
For our Meetings that occur midweek (Young Adult Friends, Tuesday and Thursday Breakfast Meetings, and Wednesday Lunchtime Meetings) we expect them to continue in their usual blended manner, (although discretion can be used by convenors as to whether to blend for each meeting).
We are also planning to hold a Meeting for Worship on Christmas Day at 10.30 via Zoom and in the Meeting House following the same new format – an opening greeting before separate group worship in the Meeting House in parallel with Friends worshipping via Zoom.
In pre-COVID times, every November saw the annual service when members of the homeless community and their friends and supporters came together to remember those living on the street who had died in the past year. In a moving celebration Mary Gurr, chaplain to the homeless community, read out their names and a candle was lit for each named person, usually by a friend or someone who had worked with them or known them well. After the service we shared tea and cake and reminiscences. It was always an occasion of great pathos as well as shame that in a wealthy city like Oxford some of our most vulnerable citizens could be left to die on our streets.
This year we are unable to meet, commemorate, and drink tea afterwards, sharing memories of our friends. Instead, from 10:00 to 18:00 from Monday 16 to Friday 20 November, the city church of St Michael at the North Gate in Cornmarket Street will be open (and COVID-secure) for anyone to call in and light a candle and remember all those whose lives have ended in this way in 2020. It will be good if some members of our community take this opportunity to remember members of the homeless community in our midst.
For the period of lockdown starting on 5th November, 43 St Giles will be closed for in-person Meetings for Worship. All our regular Meetings for Worship will be continuing as usual via Zoom. For times and information on accessing Zoom, please visit Meetings for Worship During the Coronavirus Pandemic.
Local faith groups have prepared videos for Oxford’s Remembrance Day service on Sunday 8th November. The videos include one produced by our own Meeting, featuring one of the children talking about Quakers and war.
We understand from the Oxford City Council civic office that the videos will be broadcast at 11am on the City Council website.
The various video components will also be broadcast separately on the City Council’s Facebook and Twitter pages.
Friends will be pleased to learn that, as a place of worship, the Meeting House is exempt from the Government’s new ‘rule of six.’ Our recently reinstated in-house meetings can therefore continue.
Also on the ‘good news’ theme, we now have technology installed in the Meeting House to enable Friends attending in person to worship together with those taking part via Zoom. The Garden Room and/or Library will be available for unconnected quiet worship for those who prefer.
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.