Welcome to Southern Marches Area Quaker Meeting.

Southern Marches Area Quaker Meeting (SMAQM) covers a large geographic area from southern Herefordshire to mid-Shropshire and into mid-Wales. The Area Meeting has some of the oldest continually-used Friends Meeting Houses and is an active Quaker community.

Whether you’re new to the Religious Society of Friends or a member or attender, you will find useful information about the Area and individual local Meetings on this site.

Please check on the Local Meeting’s page for details of Meetings for Worship

You can find online Quaker worship every Friday at 13.00: bit.ly/quakerworship

Epistle from Britain Yearly Meeting held in person and online from 27–30 May 2022

We send loving greetings to Friends everywhere.

Friends gathered for Yearly Meeting at Friends House in London, Hemel Hempstead and online. Faith in action meetings took place online in the previous week.

Amid the challenges of the climate emergency, wars in Europe and elsewhere in the world, a global pandemic, and a cost of living crisis, it has been important to address the interwoven strands of faith, community and action. All three are necessary – we are challenged to explore how our faith connects us with one other and how we act in the world.

Ministry is rooted in our worship and faith. We have tried to listen in a generous and a hopeful way, open to new learning and trusting in the Spirit amongst us.

The sheer size of this Yearly Meeting was an indication of the possibilities of blended worship. The ‘All Together Worship’ on Sunday brought the face-to-face presence of over 200 Friends into one community with 78 meetings and 290 individuals online, and other Friends joining in spirit. We heard gratitude from those who were only able to be with us because of the online facility. Children 11 and under had programmes in Friends House whilst young people 11 and over met in Hemel Hempstead. Junior Yearly Meeting met earlier in the year.

We are all on a faith journey, sometimes lit up by transformational experiences, but we depend on quiet waiting on God for the nudges and shoves that lead us in new and urgent directions. We heard passionate calls to ‘let go’ and trust the Spirit to make clear where we will be led. We need to be ready to listen deeply and to live in the discomfort of not knowing but moving forward in faith.

In a healthy community there is always someone to help us up with a tender hand. Young adult Friends called for cross-generational conversations and accompaniment. We heard heart-warming accounts of community togetherness, including support for those with difficulties due to neurodivergence or mental health problems. However, although we pride ourselves on being good at building peace for others, we sometimes find it hard to do this within our own communities.

Some have welcomed returning to meeting face to face. Others embrace online communication as enabling and inclusive; we are discovering new ways to build Quaker communities. We recognise that the life of our Meetings depends on reaching out into the world and searching for new insights. Are our Quaker communities models for what we want to see – places of openness, active listening, deep communication and connection? We cannot offer this vision to others without healing ourselves.

Many of us were saddened and ashamed to hear personal experiences of racism: descriptions of an event where none of the bystanders on the street supported the Friend, and another within the context of service on a Quaker central committee. A necessary first step against oppression is to believe one another’s accounts and experiences.

We were given powerful evidence of Quaker engagement in the transatlantic slave trade. It is important to understand and tell the truth about the past – it is even more important to recognise its enduring consequences: the trauma and impact on lives in the present.

We must start making changes now and for the future: “planting flowers as well as pulling up weeds.” Britain Yearly Meeting resolves to build on our decision last year to be an anti-racist church, working with partners, including churches and faith groups, to look at ways to make meaningful reparations for our failings. We need to take urgent action as individuals, in our local, area and yearly meetings.

“What do love and justice require of us?”

Signed in and on behalf of Britain Yearly Meeting

Siobhán Haire, Clerk

Epistle of Junior Yearly Meeting – 9th and 12th of April 2022

To all Friends everywhere, Between the 9th and 12th of April 2022, 53 participants and 11 adult volunteers gathered at the Frontier Centre in Northamptonshire, for 4 days of inward and outward reflection on the theme “Compassionate listening and spiritual engagement: How can we strengthen our faith community to make space for action?”. This year’s JYM felt incredibly special, as after two years of COVID-19 preventing an in-person event, many of us felt spiritually and socially untethered.

During JYM, it became clear that Quakerism is a faith grounded in conscientious action and positive change. However, a significant undercurrent of our discussion was the question of how best to take action, and the effects of rushing into what we believe is right, without taking the time to listen. We explored this further in our theme sessions and 11 Minutes of Yearly Meeting Gathering 2022 Quakers in Britain workshops led by the Arrangements Committee, Helen Minnis, Teresa Parker, Ellis Brooks, Hannah Larn, James McCarthy, Paul Parker, and Olivia Hanks. These sessions were engaging, insightful and, at times, challenging for participants, but allowed us to deeply engage with the theme.

Throughout the weekend we were kindly joined by several guests, all of whom took part in discussions, sessions and social time, bringing with them their own unique views and testimonies. This included Caroline Hayman, Martin Wall and Suze Lidbury. We give thanks to Michael Preston for photographing the event, and to the ecumenical guests for their presence at JYM which allowed us to strengthen our relationships with other churches.

Many participants commented that the most important element of JYM was the warm and supportive community that we created. Participants, most of whom had never been to JYM before, were able to form new relationships, connect, and deepen existing friendships. This was enabled by the regular meetings of base groups, social events like the Eggstravaganza, and the provision of a social space for free time. From the 1000 piece jigsaw, to ‘wide games’, to sharing meals, participants were able to truly get to know one another, as friends and as Quakers. We were also able to utilise the outdoor facilities provided by the venue in activities such as archery, kayaking, and climbing, which allowed us to enjoy the fresh air and the sunny weather.

Our days began and ended with periods of worship in which we reflected on the day’s events and discussions, achieving a sense of calm, and communal spirituality. We held space for one another in worship sharing, contemplated visual and spoken prompts, and heard moving ministry and readings. A highlight was the bonfire on the final night, which provided a touching goodbye filled with ministry from a deeply thankful and loving community. It’s been a busy, fun, and often enlightening event which has allowed us to cover a range of themes and ideas, all of which were powerfully channelled into the minute, which addressed the question: “As Quakers, how can we transform thought into action?” We have all left this event with a stronger sense of who we are and what we stand for, and critically, when to act and when to listen. We truly hope that the rest of Britain Yearly Meeting will listen to the suggestions voiced in our thoughtfully produced minute with open hearts and minds.

As Quakers, we should listen to each other’s testimonies with empathy and the aim to understand, remembering that the truth is often hard to hear. We feel that no more time should be wasted and we must act upon the issues that we are merely talking about. To quote our minute, “one way this can be done is by streamlining the Quaker business process, and strengthening our faith community, acknowledging that through unity and love we can best seek clarity.” While we recognise that change is an ongoing process, we want to emphasise that it is a process that must continue.

Signed in and on behalf of Junior Yearly Meeting 2022

Imi Hills, Clerk of Junior Yearly Meeting 2022

Kit King, Clerk Support