Triennial report 2013

Sibford Local Quaker Meeting submitted the following Triennial Report for 2010-2013 to the Banbury and Evesham Area Quaker Meeting.

Wheelchair access with no stepsFollowing our big renovation programme a few years ago, we have continued to improve the Meeting House, installing a new fire exit and timer-controlled door into the meeting room, replacing some of our old wooden benches with comfortable chairs, resurfacing the meeting house drive and laying down hard standing and a new parking area for Friends who are unable to walk up the drive. We shall need to fundraise in the coming year to help replenish our reserves, which are severely depleted following these improvements.

The librarian offers a book to an interested memberWe have a wonderful library of Quaker and other books, which may be borrowed. Over 30 new titles have been added to the library in the last 3 years, and we have had a new book-case constructed by a local joiner, skilfully blending with the Meeting House’s existing panelling.

The Meeting continues to have a concern for asylum seekers and immigrants, and the main focus of our work in the last three years has been in MP Tony Baldry’s surgery, where we have supported several asylum seekers or immigrants, and we have had varying degrees of success in winning some of their cases. Sibford School has again invited young asylum seekers to school for a day, where they enjoy the sports facilities, companionship and good food. We continue to support Asylum Welcome in Oxford, collecting, with the help of other local meetings in the area meeting, food and toiletries which Asylum Welcome gives to asylum seekers made destitute by government policies.

A group of Sibford Friends has continued to attend Meeting for Worship at Grendon Underwood Therapeutic Prison. The men there are serving either life, or very long, sentences and they spend a few years at Grendon addressing their offending behaviour, usually towards the end of their sentences. The intensive therapy is hard for them. There is a weekly Meeting for worship, where they are joined by local Friends on a rota basis. We attend monthly. After Meeting we have about 30 minutes’ social time over a cup of tea. We enjoy meeting them, and there is much to admire in their determination to turn their lives around.

We were delighted to be able to arrange a holiday with other people from the Area Meeting at Swarthmoor Hall this year. 19 of us enjoyed a week together in this lovely setting which was the early home of Quakerism, visiting places connected with the beginnings of the Society of Friends, and worshipping each evening in the place where those early Friends worshipped.

In May 2012 a joyous ‘Welcoming meeting’ was held for Charley, the seven-month-old grandson of Tim and Gill Yeomans, and F/friends and relatives filled the meeting house. The meeting house was again filled earlier this year, when we held a funeral for David Caldwell, the son of Judith Weeks, and an attender at Sibford. David had been ill for some time, so his death, though untimely, was not unexpected. The funeral was a memorable occasion, with the Meeting House packed with an eclectic mix of F/friends and family, neighbours and many of David’s London friends. The burial had to be delayed for a while due to a blizzard, which was somehow fitting as it reflected David’s somewhat chaotic life!

School children pose during a visitElders have been working with Michael Goodwin, the Head of Sibford School, to address the widening gap between Sibford Meeting and the school. Zoë Connor, Head of RE at Sibford, has been appointed to foster closer relations between the Meeting and School. Zoë's appointment has already begun to bear fruit, with a Quaker Week programme which brought the School and Meeting together on a number of occasions.

We had wonderful tea parties at the Meeting House to celebrate Joan Shields’s 90th birthday and Louise Weeks’s 40th birthday. We are grateful to Frank Cookson who continues to visit Margaret le Mare, who is now 106, and Frank gives us a subsequent account of his visits.

Our Discussion Group continues to meet monthly and has discussed topics as diverse as the future of the Society, sustainability, prayer, international Quakerism, community, growing old and the Resurrection. One member of the group said recently, “One of the great things about these meetings is that people feel able to express their views without fear of offending others.” The subjects we consider are serious but it is surprising how much laughter they generate!

A young boy offers biscuits to an older ladyWe continue to offer a children’s meeting every week, with a mixture of seasonal craft activities, stories, baking and biscuit decorating (the results of which we are always happy to share with the rest of the meeting!), outdoor activities when the weather permits, and just talking over the big issues of life.

We also like getting together with other families in the area meeting. In April 2011 we invited all the area meeting’s children and their families to join us for a treasure hunt/walk around the Sibfords Historic Village Trail, followed by an Easter egg hunt in the meeting house garden and a bring-and-share tea. We had fantastic weather – so warm that many of the chocolate eggs melted as they waited to be found! – and a great time was had by the 40-or-so Ffriends who came.

Inspired by the Quaker Gardens Project, Sibford children’s meeting has been making a website for our own garden and burial ground. We have identified and mapped all the trees in our mini-arboretum, and we were grateful to Philip Morris, who identified the Indian Chestnut, Esculus Indicus, which was grown from a conker Philip picked up in Kew Gardens in 1993 and which was planted in 2000 by Sibford Old Scholars. Our website is still under construction, but we are looking forward to getting it to the stage soon when it can go on the World Wide Web.

October 2013