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