Tuesday, September 27, 2016


Ages ago I signed myself up to do the Future Learn online course 'Radical Spirituality: the early history of the Quakers' which Ben Pink Dandelion is leading in conjunction with Lancaster Uni & Woodbrooke. It starts on 3rd Oct, so there's still time to sign up, and it's free!

It is an opportunity to explore the early days of Quakerism and the happenings of 1652. But I think what excites me more is the opportunity to be part of an international study group that includes Friends I've known from all the MMs I've been part of in my life and from many events I've been at around the world. There are also a lot of interested others who aren't Quakers (yet?) who have signed up from an interest in history, the area, or religion, and a large number of genealogists who have found Quaker ancestors in their family tree and want to know more.

As you can choose to 'follow' others on the course has they chip in (or not) to the online discussions you can create something akin to your own study group. Sadly I live too far away from the Friends at Mt Eden meeting who are planning to meet up kanoi ki te kanoi (face to face) to work through it, but as it is an online course that shouldn't matter.

I was fortunate to learn a lot of the history around 1652 on the Quaker Youth Pilgrimage in 1987. Thirty two of us from the USA and Europe spent four weeks together and our first week week was based in Yealand Conyers in the heart of  the '1652 Country'. We were privileged then to meet Elfrida Vipont Foulds, and Duncan and Katharine Woods, although it was some years before it really sunk in how much of a privilege that had been. But being able to tell numerous small children decades later that I'd once met the lady who wrote 'The Elephant and the Bad Baby' wasn't quite how I ever envisioned that event being most often recalled! Her storytelling about George Fox was as compelling as the elephant going rumpeta rumpeta rumpeta down the road and the bad baby never once saying please, has been for generations. Ben PD has a lot to live up to! Luckily for him, and why I signed up in the first place, my memory of the facts is now a little hazy, and I also really enjoy his style of presenting/writing. So I'm really looking forward to this new international 'pilgrimage' with f/Friends old and new.

I'll be down in Wellington catching up with f/Friends and whānau when the course starts, so it'll take me a few days to catch up when I get home. But being kanoi ki te kanoi with one lot of Friends is a pretty good reason for not being virtually present with another. No matter how good virtual connections may be they cannot fully replicate the experience of being and sharing together.


MaryFisherrow said...

Hi Anna
It was lovely to be sharing the course with you, and to come across some of your comments and replies to others' comments - they struck me as so wise and helpful.

I found the course very interesting, not least because it underlined what a very short period of time encompassed the beginning moves in the dance: just a few weeks - and the fortunate/ god-given/ deliberately-chosen coinciding of a number of circumstances which conspired to produce an incredible effect on a huge number of people... wish I'd been so fortunate as to discover Quakers earlier in my life and/ or go on a 1652 country pilgrimage!

I've been to Swarthmoor Hall a few times now, and was struck the very first time by how you walk through a door from the ordinary contemporary conference centre type accommodation, and find yourself in the 1652 hall beside the front door through which so many people have walked over the centuries, and then go into "the room in which it all happened" - even though one knows that the building has changed, the furniture isn't necessarily original, and, and, and... still there is an atmosphere in that room that reaches out and enfolds you in a special sort of silence...

Looking forward to your next post! Hugs mxxx

MaryFisherrow said...

"No matter how good virtual connections are..." speaks so strongly to me, too. I've just come back from Woodbrooke where 9 of this year's 21 Equipping for Ministry students got together to spend a weekend with no pre-set agenda but a desire to re-connect with each other, catch up on what we've been doing (or not) as regards our projects, the courses we've taken, and the books we've read and found helpful.

I was expecting a great weekend: I didn't expect a major Opening which came to me when we were doing a group walking of the labyrinth: each of us separate but aware of the others' presence walking beside, towards, away from, or 'somewhere near': this joint walking being a concrete reminder of how it is on the course for each of us throughout the two years - we are all 'out there' - but so much better to be together in physical presence rather than at the other end of some sort of electronic device! Now I feel enfolded and supported by the others who listened and upheld me as I began to absorb the meaning of the Opeing, and who offered their help in the future - making the experience far less terrifying than it had been at first.

Making time to continue to meet and re-connect isn't easy, given distances, cost, etc: but it's even more essential now than ever it was! Being physically together and sharing 'the things that are eternal' seem to me to be the most important things of all.

Anna Dunford said...

It has been so lovely seeing your comments pop up along with those from others I know Mary. I've still not quite finished the course, hoping to do so today, then I can get back to doing other online stuff like blogging!

Sadly due to clock changes the Wednesday Online Worship via Woodbrooke is now a bit too late at night for me (this week 9.30pm and then once your clocks go back 10.30pm! Our clocks went forwards a few weeks back). I'm really hoping it continues and will still be there when the clocks go back the other way.

A new opening sounds exciting (and yes no doubt scary!), I'm sure way will open for you. How wonderful to have such support on hand from the start. Holding you in the Light :)
A xxx

MaryFisherrow said...

Thank you for the Light! Sitting waiting for the Opening to develop, but also having to grapple with simple things like making sure food gets to the table when I need to eat/ making sure there's space in my living room for Es, Os & Clerk tomorrow night, and then for a friend to stay in my Spare Oom [aka creation room, junk store, yoga space, etc etc etc] the following night... so beginning to learn that I have to say 'no' to lots of things, and not just the ones I didn't want to do anyway: choices, and more choices, and accepting the consequences thereof!

I'm sorry the clocks work against you: I didn't realise yours went the other way - but of course I guess that's logical if I stop and think about it... I do hope that they will work for you in the spring/ autumn! I suppose the lunchtime one is in the middle of your night, so only possible if you suffer from insomnia?

I hope you enjoy the rest of the course - it certainly added to my understanding of '1652', and put yet more things in the melting pot that is my life and EfM at the moment! I'll write more, but think it's probably more suited to an email than this blog

Huge hugs