Sunday, 11 May 2008

The smell of paint

posted by kathy

Today's after-Meeting conversation ranged from the serious (Spinoza, dating the Old Testament) to the frivolous. We seem able to shift from difficult topics to light-heartedness quite easily when Meeting is over. And, of course, conversation is governed by who is there and what they have been doing or reading. At the moment we're in the shadow of exam revision and marking.

A couple of weeks ago, those of us at Meeting decided to shift Meeting for Worship to the next-door room. There were good reasons for this: it's a larger, airier room; there's a better table for books; the chairs are even more comfortable and we thought it time for a change of pictures. (The view of the garden isn't quite so good but it's still visible, especially if one of us remembers to tie back the curtains.)

We don't own a Meeting House. We rent space on Sundays. This includes the right to leave some things in boxes - our varied range of after-Meeting drinks and biscuits and activities for any children who turn up. Our youngest attenders are now in the mid-teen range and prefer to bring computers with them when they turn up.

When Beeston Meeting came into being, we wanted to but the building we used for Meeting for Worship. The Monthly Meeting (now called Area Meeting) agreed but we lost out in a sealed-bid auction. That's how we ended up in the Day Centre, with a 4-hour booking every Sunday morning.

For a while, I wished we had a proper Meeting House. It would have been good to have a noticeboard and freedom to use the Meeting House as we wished. We all liked the idea of a space that other local people could use.

But there are advantages to renting, so long as we're able to keep using the same space. There's nothing in Quakerism that says we have to be the landlords. We're a small Meeting and welcome the opportunity to focus on our main activity, Meeting for Worship. We don't have to worry about lettings or employing wardens or paying for repairs. Mind you, I think we're all glad that there are Meeting Houses elsewhere that we can visit.

But renting means a little less control over our environment. We were just getting used to our new Meeting room when the Day Centre, quite reasonably, decided to paint it. The pictures we liked were down, our drinks' supplies had been moved (but we found them) and the room itself smelt of paint.

So we returned to the room with slightly less comfortable chairs and the old familiar pictures. The sun was so bright that we needed the curtains drawn and couldn't see into the garden outside. I missed the comfy chairs, the new pictures and the sight of bright grass outside. But I could hear the birds and be part of the deep silence of Meeting for Worship. And that's what matters.

Meeting for Worship didn't look a bit like the picture, by the way. But I couldn't resist including it.

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