Thursday, 29 July 2010

Meeting in August - and afterwards

posted by kathy

For many years, Beeston Quakers haven't met together in August. This started because it was hard to organise when many members had young families and it gave the small core of Beeston Quakers, who took responsibility for the Meeting week after week, a chance to enjoy other weekend activities and to attend other Meetings.

The people involved with any Meeting change over the years and so do their needs and commitments. This August we're experimenting. There will be a Sunday Meeting for Worship on the first three Sundays in August (the 1st, 8th and 15th) at 10.30 a.m. (but not on the last two Sundays). Visitors are, as always, welcome.

Meanwhile there's a danger that the Day Centre (properly the Middle Street Resource Centre) where we meet will be closed in the current round of County Council cuts. This won't be a disaster for Beeston Quakers who can move to another building or attend other Meetings. However it presents a serious problem for the people who use the Centre in the week - and they're busy campaigning against it.

The Middle Street Resource Centre is used by people with mental health difficulties - and, judging from what we see at Meeting on Sundays, it's well used. In the time we've been meeting there - 18 years, I think - we've seen the centre grow from a functional institution to a place that is loved and cared for by its users. We've seen and enjoyed the wonderful gardens that have been planted. We've read the notices on the walls and seen the signs of a supportive social life in which the people who come to the centre help and teach one another. We've seen that people do art and creative writing, go on outings together, learn a huge range of subjects. It's a place which people value - and where they feel valued. The centre is a living witness to what we as Quakers recognise as "that of God in every one" - though the users of the centre would probably have different language to describe it. The centre as it is now doesn't feel like a place of difficulty and illness but a place of healing and health.

Visiting the centre on Sundays, we've read the notices and information about mental health on the walls and tables and have become much better informed. Some of us have talked about our own experiences. 1 in 4 of the population have mental health difficulties at some point in their lives - the centre helps people with the kind of problems that everyone encounters in themselves, their families or friends. I've never seen a centre set up to help people that so evidently does a good job.

The county council is proposing to give centre users an individual account so that they can still get help. But this would deprive the users of the support they have now and the network of friendships they have built up. The centre is a sociable place. It feels loved.

The users are campaigning to keep the centre which means so much to them - and to which they have given such care. Readers of this blog may wish to sign their petition. There's a copy in the Oxfam shop on Beeston High Road and you can also sign it on-line, HERE.

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