NOTES ON GENERAL MEETING
Bristol and Somerset General Meeting of the Society of Friends (Quakers) in Britain
(Phew, with a title like that no wonder people think it's dull!)
This was held in Minehead on Saturday 19th July, 2003.
(Wish you were here!)
I've never been to a Quaker Meeting like it! Business was completed in under 10 minutes, and formal worship in less. The remainder of the day was not just interesting but intriguing, informative, enriching, moving and above all ... fun! I've been to Quaker Meetings where we had to DO something, and have seen how most Friends shrink back. But here our visitor, Colin George, persuaded us all to accept roles in order to experience being in Ulverston Church on that momentous occasion when George Fox first burst in.
Colin George, a professional actor and Friend, spent the morning putting us in the picture with impersonations of GF and his associates. For these, Colin wore various half-masks, such as those of Fox or Margaret Fell, or a pious professor slagging off the silly Quakers. His illustrations also included what he liked to call a slide show, more precisely a Power Point Presentation, using computer equipment to direct images onto the wall of the Minehead church Hall. These gave us the background to the political and religious turmoil in which Fox forged his new spiritual vision.
Given different roles and scripts (and some RSC costumes) we all took part in a dramatic scene, pausing frequently for Colin to enlarge on the religious and social implications of Fox's shattering intervention in that Ulverston church, then going through it non stop, ending with some moving words from Margaret Fell.
Finally we were shown how to devise and present a playlet then split into groups. After frantic discussion and rehearsal, each group in turn strutted the boards. In one production the ghost of GF berated a modern, wordy, boring Meeting. In another George Bush argued his case with Gandhi. An amusing scene had Fox leaving Margaret newly-Fox on their wedding night, bound for Barbados. "See you in two years!". Brilliantly played by Chris Lawson, to a stunned Christina. "The story of my life!" she muttered.
Pity so few attended. Only three from Bristol and one of them only came to meet a Minehead Friend.
Is that all Friends want of GM? Some say that's enough.
Thanks, Colin, for being so wonderfully stimulating, entertaining, instructive and spiritually deepening.
Note for non-Quaker readers. Here GM stands for General Meeting, a Quaker institution that is falling into disuse somewhat more slowly and with less protest than GM food coming into use.
Moral: if you donít support what you value, you lose it! Such as good wholesome food and good Friendly traditions.
Stephen Petter, 22/7/03
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