Triennial report 2016

Sibford Local Quaker Meeting submitted the following Triennial Report for 2014-2016 to the Banbury and Evesham Area Quaker Meeting.

Despite our numbers falling over the past three years we have remained buoyant and in recent months the number of people coming to Meeting has steadily increased. On one Sunday morning in October 2016, more than 20 adults and 6 children were present, a number which would have seemed very unlikely a year ago. So we are in good heart and continue to walk cheerfully over the world.

There are many and varied aspects to the life of our Meeting. Contributions are arranged as follows:

  1. Elders
  2. Discussion Group
  3. Overseers
  4. Obituaries
  5. Children's Meeting
  6. Premises
  7. Grendon Underwood
  8. Swarthmoor Holiday
  9. USAF Croughton
  10. Refugees and Asylum Seekers
  11. Outreach

Elders

Elders have had a quiet year, with no difficulties or problems with Meeting for Worship. There have been a goodly number of silent meetings, but there have also been those meetings where the ministry has been interesting and thoughtful. We have welcomed the Sibford School Old Scholars in their annual visit, and we have also welcomed the pupils from the School for a number of Meetings during the year.

We have had some discussion about Afterwords the period which follows formal Meeting for Worship, where Friends are invited to share ideas and concerns which they have had, but do not regard this as formal ministry. While some Friends have found this a practice they would rather do without, other Friends, especially those who would rather not speak in formal ministry, have found this a helpful and fruitful practice. We have continued this happily enough throughout the year, but discuss it from time to time in Business Meeting, to be sure that it is acceptable generally.

Sadly, Alex and Seren Wildwood will be leaving Sibford before long and we shall miss their friendship and contribution to the Meeting. Seren has served the Meeting in numerous ways, as Correspondence Clerk, as Elder, as Convenor of the Children’s Committee - amongst other roles. Alex has been a regular attender and has played a central role in discussion groups. We have taken advantage of Alex’s presence to lead us in a series of discussions about Quakerism and the early Quakers. These have been interesting and thought-provoking and we have gained a good deal from them. We shall miss both Alex and Seren very much, and wish them well in the future and hope they will keep in touch with Sibford Friends.

Discussion Group

We have continued to meet monthly, basing our discussions on books, Swarthmoor Lectures and topics of general Quaker interest. We gathered at Mary Cherry’s house, where her fire provided a warm focal point, but her unexpected death meant that for a while our meetings were in abeyance. However, recently we have been exploring early Quaker history, trying to catch some of their enthusiasm, and there have been some welcome new participants. We have admired the first Quakers’ willingness to meet out-of-doors in dreadful weather conditions, as well as their courage under persecution, but when builders were in the meeting room we didn’t emulate their example by holding Meeting for Worship outside!

Overseers

Light from the meeting room window shining down on flowers on a tableSibford Overseers have met regularly during the period of the triennial, and have reviewed the list of members and attenders with a view to identifying possible areas of concern for individuals where Friends might be able to offer assistance.

The birthdays of children within the Meeting are acknowledged, and Overseers are grateful to Nesta Marshall for her work sending out birthday cards at the appropriate time. We continue to offer a copy of Quaker Faith and Practice to all children in the Meeting when they reach their 16th birthday.

We have made a number of applications to Quaker charities to assist members who need financial assistance to meet various needs.

Friends have continued to meet at Wyatt’s farm shop for lunch on a regular basis.

At the request of Area Meeting, and in accordance with data protection legislation, Friends have been asked to complete consent forms confirming their agreement to their personal details being held by AM. On a similar topic, in 2013 Sibford LM decided not to participate in Qlist, a national database offered by Friends House. There were some concerns over the security of data held at a national level.

Joint meetings of LM Elders and Overseers have been held from time to time, and Sibford overseers have attended AM overseers’ meetings.

Obituaries

Small plain grave markers half in light and shadeWe have experienced 9 funerals since our last triennial report, some of our own members and some because our burial ground is the only one in the Area Meeting.

Margaret Birch died on 8th January 2014 aged 96. She was a dearly loved Friend from Banbury Meeting but well known throughout the Area Meeting due to the many roles she had undertaken in AM over the years. She was very frail and had been in a residential home for some time.

Peter Grenger died on 18th January 2014. He was a member of Sibford Meeting and had known Margaret since the end of the war when she married Victor Burch who had been in Wormwood Scrubs with him during the war. They were both conscientious objectors, young men of great courage and resilience. Peter and his wife remained great friends with Margaret and Victor for the rest of their lives. It was strange that Margaret and Peter died so close together, but a great comfort that Sibford friends had taken Peter to visit Margaret only a few days before her death when we had a great tea party.

It seemed like the end of an era when Margaret Le Mare died on 8th March 2014 at the age of 107. It’s hard to grasp what a positive force she had been in Sibford Meeting, filling many roles both there and in the wider Area Meeting. She had been a teacher and a houseparent at Sibford School and following her death many of her old pupils got in touch to say how fond they had been of her. We learned too, of a prolonged holiday for German teachers, many of whom had been interned because of their anti-Nazi stance during the war, that Margaret had helped to arrange in the Lake District. They were exhausted and grew much fitter and stronger, besides forming links between teachers of the 2 countries who had so recently been at war.

Philip Manasseh died on 25th August 2014 at the age of 84. Although an Oxford Friend who had been PM Clerk there, he had strong links to Sibford, being a Sibford Old Scholar. He had served the school in many ways, being Chair of Governors and then Clerk to Sibford General meeting through a time of change. He requested that his funeral should be at Sibford. Oxford Elders were heavily involved.

Philip Morris died on 23rd April 2015. He was a good and faithful Friend, clerk of Stratford Meeting for many years, and very proactive on peace issues. His funeral was at Stratford FMH, but he requested that his ashes and those of his wife, Rosamond who had predeceased him, should be buried in the burial ground at Sibford. They had both been Scholars at Sibford School.

Mary Cherry died on 14th May 2015 at the age of 89. Her funeral was amazing as the meeting House was full of many past and present workers and officials of Oxfam where Mary had been President at one time. She was a renowned agricultural journalist working abroad. Her involvement with Oxfam arose from her study of agriculture in poor countries. A former Anglican, and a Franciscan tertiary, she came late to Friends, and came into membership whilst keeping her Anglican membership. She was exceptionally faithful in her membership, and it was rare to see her seat empty on a Sunday. She hosted our monthly study group at her comfortable home in Great Rollright.

Margaret Wealsby died on 6th July 2015 at the age of 83. Although William Wealsby, her husband, is a birthright Friend, Margaret herself was a Methodist. Their son, Nigel, was buried in the burial ground when he died at the age of 6 months, and Margaret and Bill wanted to be buried close to him. The funeral service was at Church, followed by burial in our burial ground, a truly ecumenical occasion.

Loic Tebbs died on 10th May 2016. He lived in Kenilworth and died in a home there. We held a special memorial MfW on a Sunday for him. Friends and neighbours attended and, following Meeting, we scattered his ashes on his wife Miriam’s grave as he had requested. He was a lovely, gentle man.

Michael Finch died on 10th June 2016, aged 77. He was a member of our Meeting, having come to Sibford School as a pupil. He remained committed to the School, being employed there for many years. After his retirement he became the School Archivist, and also wrote the history of the School. He worked endlessly for the Old Scholars Association. His funeral was at Sibford and well attended by Friends and his family.

Children's Meeting

Sibford Meeting feels that it is important that we offer a children’s meeting every week, and we continue to do so.

A child presents a box of presentsA model spider's webA handmade wooden object, possibly a bat boxThe sun shines over the meeting house through garden leavesFor some months earlier in 2016 no children came, and the older ones were too busy with exams. But the new school year has brought several new families to the area, our children’s room is once again filled with the chatter of young voices, and the glue sticks and felt pens have come back out of the cupboard. Numbers vary, and the ages of the young ones currently range from 2 to 9, so some flexibility is called for. Right now we are covering and filling shoeboxes for the Trussell Trust’s Christmas box appeal. We try to link what we do to one of the advices and queries and offer stories, activities from the excellent ‘Journeys’ series produced by the Children and Young People’s work staff at Friends House, seasonal crafts, baking, outdoor activities when the weather permits, and just talking over the big issues of life. Our teenagers and the older children are often just as happy exploring the garden. Sometimes we combine our love of the garden with activities to learn more about the natural world and to encourage wildlife – making feeders for butterflies, or bat boxes, for example. Numbers may fluctuate but we feel blessed and invigorated by having children and teenagers in our meeting and we are sustained by the Advice to Rejoice in the presence of children and young people in your meeting and recognise the gifts they bring.

Premises

In August 2014 we received Philip Cooper’s Quinquennial report on Sibford properties, telling us what needed to be done:

A stone built single-storey meeting house with central double doors flanked by windowsA as a matter of utmost urgency
B essential within the next 12 months
C essential within the next 5 years
D advisable within the next 5 years
E requiring further investigation

For the Mission Room over 90% of the recommended work was in categories A and B.

In the Autumn of 2014 we heard of artists needing working space, imminently, and consequently we arranged with a local builder to carry out as much of the urgent repairs as possible. We are grateful to Mike Spring for the gift of a splendid front door. One artist has left very recently and another artist is expected to take her place very soon.

For the Meeting House and Meeting House Cottage rather more than half the recommended work was in categories A and B. In the summer of 2016 Trustees agreed to our obtaining quotations for the work Philip Cooper recommended and this was started this Autumn. We have a new tenant in Meeting House Cottage, and essential work at Meeting House Cottage has been completed. There are still several weeks of work to be carried out by the builders at the Meeting House and when they finish we will need to renew the ancient light shades and decorate the interior of the Meeting House.

Grendon Underwood

Two members of the Meeting continued attending MfW at Grendon Underwood Prison on a monthly basis. Sadly the Banbury Friend who took them there died in August and neither of them can drive. We are hopeful another Friend will come forward to join the rota as it is a really worthwhile and enjoyable activity. Grendon is a therapeutic prison (in fact the only one in the country now) and worshipping and talking with the men there, who tend to be at the end of long sentences and determined to turn their lives around, is both worthwhile and rewarding.

Swarthmoor Holiday

This has become an annual event and each year we take a group of Friends and their friends to stay at Swarthmoor Hall where early Friends gathered and where Quakerism first took root. We have had many happy holidays here, and in 2016 were particularly enriched by the presence of two asylum seeking couples.

USAF Croughton

Friends meet monthly for MFW outside this listening base as a protest against the activities there. At least one member of Sibford meeting attends when possible.

Refugees and Asylum Seekers

We continue to collect food and other household items to donate to Asylum Welcome. We have also contributed to a shipment of warm clothes, shoes, bedding, tents etc to the refugees at Calais. One Friend visits detainees at Campsfield House on a regular basis.

Outreach

There have been several talks for children during the last three years, introducing Quakerism by using a candle, several props (including chocolate) and a flipchart. Children are shown round the Meeting House and encouraged to ask questions. They take away with them a copy of Advices and Queries, a leaflet/guide to Quakerism for young people and a worksheet with five candles, into which they write the five testimonies.

Spring flowers amongst simple grave markers

  • Year 3 at Hook Norton School came for a visit with two teachers in 2015.
  • The local Beaver pack come for a talk about Quakerism with several of their leaders.
  • Year 1/2 at Sibford School have a lesson about Quakerism in their classroom at school – they have a box of Quaker delights presented to them. They all take out an object from the box and we discuss the Quaker significance. We have silence and they take away a copy of Advices and Queries and the booklet Introducing Quakerism to little ones.
  • Year 5 at Sibford School visit in the summer term with two class teachers.
  • There was even a birthday party in the Meeting House in March 2016!

Japanese visitors (mainly students aged 18-25) on exchange from Tokyo University with Balliol College Oxford have visited the Meeting House for four consecutive years with Oswyn Murray, local resident and emeritus professor of classics. They have a presentation talk about early Quakerism with the opportunity to ask questions afterwards.

Links between Sibford School and Sibford Meeting are strong and often events taking place in school are open to the Meeting or are repeated at the Meeting House, during Quaker Week for example. In 2016 the Journeyman Theatre came to the school and showed the Elizabeth Hooton play Lover of Souls and Over the Top against militarisation in schools. This was open to the Area Meeting, although none attended. The play Nine parts a Quaker was performed in 2014 which was well attended.

During Quaker Week we have had the Meeting House open and tea is provided one afternoon. There is often a display and Friends from the Meeting are present to answer any questions. Some years are better attended than others. In 2016 the historical presentation of Quakerism was moved to a Saturday afternoon, which was well received with several present and lots of questions asked.

School pupils held a small musical concert in the Meeting House in the autumn term 2015. We had hoped for a larger attendance, but those present enjoyed the evening. This would have been better placed in the summer term, as the dark evenings probably meant some did not wish to drive in the dark.

The Visitors book in the Meeting House shows several visitors and the small box has been used for donations. Visitors come from as far afield as America and Europe. Some are old scholars and some are the younger relatives of those buried in the grounds. It has always been interesting to speak with them and hear their links with the Meeting.

The local Scouts group has used the Meeting House for a night of camping after a long night walk.

Art Weeks – Mission Room Studio was opened in May 2016 for the first time and was a success.

Outreach meetings for Area Meeting are held about four times a year and held at Sibford School. These have been really helpful to keep the focus and to get an overview of outreach in the Area Meeting and to share resources and ideas.

November 2016