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How does the truth Prosper among you?

Since 1682 Quakers have been asked how the truth prospers among them, being thus prompted to consider their whole life in relation to their professed beliefs.

Gloucestershire Area Quaker Meeting asks its constituent Local Meetings to prepare a corporate response to the question at intervals. This is what Cheltenham Quaker Meeting has to say in 2009.

Report on Cheltenham Local Meeting February 2009

Introduction:

This report aims to summarise the spiritual health and the activities of Cheltenham Local Meeting. We have taken the opportunity offered by needing to compile this report for Area Meeting to work as a community to explore where we stand at present, what our strengths are, and which areas seem to need attention and perhaps development.

In preparation for Cheltenham Meeting's report on how the truth prospers amongst us a good number of f/Friends met together after Meeting for Worship on 29 November so that we could begin to explore our feelings and perceptions about what we appreciated about Cheltenham Quaker Meeting, and whether there were aspects of our community which might be different.

We adopted a simple model which looks at where we are now, and where we would like to be, and we began by exploring our positive feelings about our Meeting. Amongst the positive feelings expressed were:

We then looked at areas of our corporate life where we were not entirely happy with the present situation, such as:

Obviously have not as yet had enough time to discuss all these points in any depth. But we were agreed on a fundamental reality - that worship, and Meeting for Worship is and must be central to everything we do. To have reaffirmed this basic Quaker principle makes the exercise valuable, even if nothing more comes of it. However, more is already developing from some of the ideas we expressed. We have arranged to publicise our Quaker presence regularly in the Gloucestershire Echo; we are beginning to organise a Quaker presence at Greenbelt 2009 on each day of the festival; some of the issues with which we are not entirely comfortable will be incorporated in our Woodbrooke Weekend for further exploration.

CLERK'S REPORT

Attendance at Meetings for Worship for Business has always been excellent, usually in excess of 25 members and attenders. As Clerk I have felt upheld and supported by this level of commitment and concern, to the extent that I regard Business Meetings as a very important part of my own spiritual life. I have also been greatly supported by our Assistant Clerk.

It is appropriate here to record the deaths of two people who in their different ways, and at different times have been patterns and examples for our Meeting. Basil Sheldrick died in December 2008 at a great age, and we heard at his Memorial Meeting of the many ways in which he contributed to the life of Cheltenham Meeting. Wilma Carson, one of our Elders, died very suddenly early in January, to our great shock and sorrow. Her wisdom, and her deep spirituality will be something we treasure in our collective memory. She will be much missed.

Philip Paull, who has been Local Meeting Treasurer for a very long time (and one of the people the Clerk has leaned on frequently for counsel and support) has finally laid down that office. We would wish to record here our thanks for all the work he has done on behalf of the Meeting.

ELDERS

Our main meetings for worship on Sunday mornings continue to be well supported. One of our elders has commented that the health of the meeting can in part be measured by the service given by friends to others - things get done, and one realises that someone has quietly got on with the job.   We have been holding meetings for learning once a month after Sunday meeting and we hold annual study days or weekends away from Cheltenham. on the programme at present. We did not participate in Quaker week this September, but instead focused on the Greenbelt Christian festival at Cheltenham Racecourse. We felt this was very worthwhile outreach, and expect to repeat it this year, probably increasing the number of meetings and will be seeking support from other friends in Gloucestershire.  We are conscious that whatever good things may be done, we must always be open to new leadings. We need to avoid the notion that because something has always been done in a particular way, it cannot be changed - indeed that may be a good reason to try something different.

OVERSEERS

Our activities in the past year have included hosting a number of social events which have enabled us to get to know people on our lists on a more personal level, and we feel this will encourage them to contact us as need arises. The circulation of the monthly newsletter has been revised, because many people can now receive it by e-mail, although paper copies are provided where required. We have been fulfilling our main function of befriending our fellow members. However, there are so few of us that we now seeking an alternative to the system of allocating each member/attender to an overseer.

PREMISES COMMITTEE

As well as the usual minor dysfunctions we have overseen some expensive alterations to our premises which have been paid for by Area Meeting, such as the provision of a toilet for the disabled and improved access to the Meeting House. We used part of a bequest to pay for the incorporation of a loop system into our existing infra-red hearing aid system.

Friends' Meeting House: Lettings

We continue to let the Meeting House to a variety of groups (around 20). The provision of full disabled facilities will enhance what we are able to offer.

CHILDREN'S MEETING

After experiencing several years without children in the meeting, we are delighted to have three young children attending regularly with their mothers. Meeting for Worship has been enriched by their presence, and many people have said how being aware of the children in the meeting, has brought them great joy. Through playing together and becoming familiar with our seven volunteers, the children have settled into a happy fellowship. regular basis.

PEACE GROUP

The Peace Group, now 7 members, meets once a month. Last year we supported Quaker Peaceworkers for them to provide assistance in post-Yugoslav countries. We are at present supporting action for a projected Nuclear Weapons Convention and are getting involved in a QPSW and British American Security Information Council (BASIC) initiative to facilitate engagement between Friends and decision-makers on nuclear disarmament.

BIBLE STUDY GROUP

The group was set up in Autumn 2007 and has met monthly since, with an average attendance of 7.

SEARCHERS

The Searchers group was re-started just over a year ago and has met regularly. Our discussions are wide ranging, and the highlight of the year was our exploration of the Gospel of Thomas culminating in Hugh Ross (of Painswick Meeting) sharing with us his extensive study of these writings.

CONCLUSION

In our Report we have sought to give a reasonably accurate picture of our activities, our successes and our difficulties. Like most other Meetings in our Area, many f/Friends in Cheltenham are getting older and this is causing us a few problems, as you have seen. But we are very fortunate in having a warm, dry, accessible and comfortable Meeting House which makes it possible for as many f/Friends as possible to join us for Meeting. We need to make our presence in Cheltenham more obvious, and again steps are being taken to do this. A few of us are beginning to explore how to inject more energy into what we do, and into our spiritual life as a community, whilst at the same time managing any necessary changes in such a way as to minimise discomfort and unhappiness for other f/Friends.

I am proud to present this report.

Ann Caro
Clerk
7 February 2009

The above is a summary. Here you can find the full report as a PDF file.
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