I have lived at St Monica Trust Retirement Village, Cote Lane, for six years now. Last autumn our Chaplain Alan Cook asked if I would co-lead a shared silence group, because he knows that I am a Quaker.
Initially I suggested one or two relaxation exercises, then either Alan or myself would speak if we felt led to do so. On one occasion there was clattering noise from our kitchen nearby, and I remember that Alan said, ‘This too is Spirit!’.
Usually there are 4-6 people present. The Group is also supported by Richard Sykes from Redland Friends Meeting, who lives at St Monica’s. There were two members from our Christian community who attend church here. Also, a resident who is a member of a local Methodist church. Others have occasionally joined us. In the beginning there were points of conflict, but I felt that any group worth its salt should be able to allow this. Religion is intended to unite people; the main aim was to find a meeting point.
After a few weeks the chaplain became involved with other duties and so I have continued to lead the Group, weekly, for 30 minutes, allowing some time to talk before and after our silent time, and for any questions and suggestions.
Although I have been influenced by Quaker beliefs, I have been mindful that the Group should be open to all, whether agnostic or of any other religion. Gradually I have spoken less – one member found words an interruption. It is powerful to meet with a small group, simply open to the leading of the Spirit. On one occasion the message ‘If you Live your life, you will be lovely’ came to me, and has remained.
A resident who is living with dementia, who was a Christian Scientist, met with us. She said ‘It (the silence) is like a cover.’ Another week the wife of a resident who was dying joined us. She was comforted and also contributed fresh energy to our group. Her husband died two days later.
One member left the Group after 8 months, saying that she felt no loss or gain from participation and was satisfied with her church attendance. However, she then wrote about the Group for our Couriermagazine, encouraging others to join us. Here is what she said:
‘This is an opportunity to sit together quietly in a small group, to think your own thoughts, to listen to any ideas that drop into your mind, or to pray silently. This is half an hour of peace and quiet in the busy-ness of life. It is based on the Quaker idea but is not a Quaker meeting, or a specifically religious meeting. All are welcome. It is a time available for anyone who would like to try it.’
I find the weekly meetings restorative, peaceful, and an adventure in spiritual exploration, and would like our Group to remain a refuge to all, being open to the leading of the Spirit. Possibly to become a seed group at St Monica Trust, as a shoot of Redland Meeting!
Maxine Davies, Westfield House
22 June 2019