Poem: This Earth is a Garden, inspired by a QVA working retreat in Swarthmoor Hall

Poem: This Earth is a Garden, inspired by a QVA working retreat in Swarthmoor Hall

Anneke Kraakman

Two people with spades digging and smiling at the camera

Quaker Voluntary Action Gardening Retreat , October 2018, Swarthmoor Hall

About 10 people, not all of whom liked gardening, came together – why had they come?

The Cool of the Day

Do you like my garden so free?

Through the gate we worked, in the cool of the day, weeding, composting

Finished the task in one day

We walk in the labyrinth,

in the orchard,

in the quiet garden. Continue reading

High Wycombe working retreat, December 2018

High Wycombe working retreat, December 2018

Some papers, three Quaker books and a bag full of craft produce

Preparing for the retreat

On a crisp December weekend, QVA volunteers redecorated Mellor House, which has just been purchased by Chilterns Area Quaker Meeting for use by Wycombe Refugee Partnership as a halfway house for refugee families.

Thank you so much to all the volunteers who joined our working retreat. Some came for a morning, others for a couple of days, and others stayed over for the whole thing – you all made a great project possible!

Our hosts at Wycombe Refugee Partnership said ‘Not only has the living space for our refugees been painted – which was a big job – but the house feels as though it has been hallowed by the retreat.’ Continue reading

Picking olives at Ein Ya Broud

Picking olives at Ein Ya Broud

Annie Delahunty shares a reflection on the October 2018 QVA working retreat in Israel-Palestine.

Two participants raking and picking olives off olive trees

Raking and picking olives from the trees

It was a steep and rocky haul up to the family’s olive tree terraces on the hillside opposite their home village of Ein Ya Broud. I had been relieved to accept a lift in a 4 wheel drive up the final steepest section, though less sure that I had made the right decision as the pick-up proceeded sharply up the stony, rutted track and round theoretically impossible bends. To the evident enjoyment of the experienced driver, who knew these terraces well, and the gasps and arm-clutching of my fellow passengers! So I was already a bit adrift when we finally arrived and were met by a small, strong-looking woman wearing a full black head-scarf and ankle-length tan coverall over her black trousers and trainers. Somewhat incongruously topped off by a royal blue baseball cap. Though, as a veteran (second day) olive picker, I knew how necessary that would be for a day spent gazing upwards through the olive trees. She was dressed for work. Continue reading

Swathmoor Hall working retreat, September 2018

Swarthmoor Hall working retreat, September 2018

Simon Watkins

Five people stand in a field with their hands outstretched

A morning warm up at Swarthmoor

Wherever you stand the space around you tells many stories. The loudest is written in the here and now, the buildings, people and nature forming the space. Others are quieter but more insistent, revealing themselves only if you look under the veil of the present and listen to the ancient voices echoing in the stones beneath.

Swarthmoor is a place that richly rewards investigation with open eyes and a listening ear, particularly for anyone remotely interested in Quaker history. That history had not formed a significant part of my journey into Quakerism, even after becoming the Friend in Residence at the ancient Meeting House in Airton; but I knew it held depths of meaning waiting to be discovered and the time would come when I would be drawn into its study. So it was with my first visit to the place where the fateful meeting of George Fox with the Fells in 1652: a grand pile seemingly on the edge of civilisation, in a country already resonating with dissenting voices, seeking new ways of constructing faith and society. Continue reading

The Pales Working Retreat 2018

The Pales working retreat 2018

Alison Smedley

“How then, shall we lay hold of that life and power, and live the life of prayer without ceasing”
(QFP 2.22 Thomas Kelly 1941)

These words were among those which inspired me as I researched the Quaker Voluntary Action theme of prayer ahead of attending a working retreat at The Pales, a remote Quaker meeting house in Mid-Wales. All of life as a prayer; what a simple yet amazing truth to attempt to live by.

Only hours before this I was in a state of mild panic as I hadn’t considered prayer a subject on which I had much to say. I am fairly new to Quakers and briefly forgot that there are usually as many different interpretations as there are Friends and this diversity gives us great freedom and comfort to explore. So, relaxing and being open to the topic led me to find words which spoke ‘to my condition’ and complete my pre-retreat homework. I am grateful to Friends who find words for experiences which are so hard to define. I went on to forget to pack my gardening gloves and sunscreen; a reminder to keep my feet on the ground. Continue reading