31st March 2023
At Meeting last Sunday, someone stood up and read out a passage from the back of Quaker Faith & Practice (a compendium of Quaker writing). It talked about 'the strength of communal life, which reveals the extent of the community’s willingness to seek and follow the Spirit’s call to loving fellowship.' I’ve only recently moved to Leiston so am still getting to know the small friendly group who gather to worship here.
In common with many Quaker Meetings, now that the pandemic is well and truly behind us, Friends at Leiston are to reintroduce a monthly ‘bring and share’ lunch, providing an opportunity to talk and be sociable. I’m something of a loner and not one for joining groups, so while I love the worshipping aspect of Quaker life, I’ve never felt comfortable in social situations. I know that sharing lunch is a great way to build community; but I’m not looking forward to it as much as others might think!
When a member of Norwich Meeting I would slip away rather than stay for their monthly shared lunch, and as a large Meeting, I felt alright doing this. But there might be as few as 10 people at Leiston on a Sunday morning, so not to stay would get noticed and appear antisocial. Perhaps a fringe benefit of Quaker membership is the opportunity to confront and overcome my innate social anxiety!
As I reflect on the word ‘community’ I realise that people have always chosen to live, work and eat together. The loss of a sense of belonging is one of the root causes of loneliness, and that has become a real problem in society today. I realise that it has been great to move to a new town and be welcomed into a community of Friends. I know that this is where I can happily belong.
Robert Ashton - Leiston Quaker Meeting, Suffolk. You can find more from Robert on his website at robertashton.co.uk