'Curious about Quakers' at Rookhow

3rd March 2023

Rookhow stands balanced between the weight of 300 years of Quaker history, and the extraordinary lightness of heart that has been drawn to this place.

I had first visited a while ago, sometime after the pandemic lockdown ended and before a new job began - I had some time to be able to spend at Rookhow volunteering and absorbing the deep silence of the place.

Between then and now certain things in my life changed and the call to reconnect with Quakers grew - it was then that I saw the Curious about Quakers weekend advertised.

On the first night we gathered in the Meeting House by the light of the log burner and talked about our reasons for gathering here. Why our lives had brought us to this weekend and what spiritual journey had led us to the Quakers.

In a circle we shared, each person seeming to tell a part of a collective journey we’d all experienced. We chatted in the Bunkbarn before bed, carrying on the conversation from the circle - bringing out the previously unsaid interludes in our lives.

On Saturday we held Meeting for Worship in the Meeting House, then explored some of the concepts and definitions we had brought with us that held us back or empowered our seeking in-between sharing readings from Quaker Faith and Practice to inform the discussion.

We spent time in late morning in small groups to discuss further and found a deep listening and understanding in our time together. One of the groups who explained about a difference in understanding said how different it was discussing it with people who were trying to discern where the truth lay with each person.

After an afternoon’s break, we met to discuss Quaker history and structures. Whilst an hour and half isn’t long to touch on centuries of experiences, it was a very welcome introduction to how things came to be how they are.

That evening, due to the weather not being the best, we discerned to delay having a campfire until the next day and stay in the Meeting House for an impromptu freestyle Quaker party. Even those who were gently sceptical of ‘fun and games’ were warmed by the spirit of simple joy in just being together and sharing.

Sunday found us deeply reflective, knowing the weekend was drawing to a close. We spent time in the Meeting House sharing where we are now and what we’re taking back with us, before we moved on to the campfire in Quakers’ Wood to share a final Meeting for Worship together.

I found that Meeting to be one of the most moving experiences of my life. As we sat together some felt moved to stand and speak, an owl called overhead and I was drawn both inwards and outwards at once - outwardly together with these new friends, and inwardly toward a deeper expression of heart that I felt I was seeking but until now had been overlooking in outward complexity.

The simplicity and peace of meeting that weekend, in that special place brought me back home to myself. I felt as if my heart was a seed that I had been applying layers of varnish to, but that weekend it cracked open and the sprout emerged.

By David Simpson