the friend online
05 December 2008

Dementia: my worst nightmare
I was very moved by the article by Shelagh Robinson (21 November) about the onset of dementia. This must be an illness that we all dread as we grow older, probably more than any illness or disability affecting another part of the body. This seems to be as we simply do not know what to expect, and those who have been before cannot tell us. Perhaps it is different for everyone. The article reminded me of the Pendle Hill Pamphlet 292 (1990) by John Yungblut, entitled On Hallowing one’s Diminishments. In it he quotes a number of passages from Le Milieu Divin by Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, of which I only give one here (not actually in the pamphlet). It is under the heading ‘Communion through diminishment’. ‘The more the future opens before me like some dizzy abyss or dark tunnel, the more confident I may be – if I venture forward on the strength of your word – of losing myself and surrendering myself in you, of being assimilated by your body, Jesus.’
Anne Adams

Before his seventieth birthday an uncle of mine expressed the wish that he never became so silly that he did not recognise he was being silly. That, in my experience, is a basic indication of dementia. I am at present experiencing it with my own husband, who has no idea that his behaviour and our relationship is not exactly the same as it was for over sixty years. This I find hard to accept as I, too, am now in my nineties and still with all the household chores, shopping and so on it is very tiring and often leads to behaviour on my part which is anything but Quakerly!

I wish, with all my heart, that I could be as accepting of the changes that are taking place in my husband as Shelagh is of the changes she notices within herself.

I, too, am blessed with a supportive family and any number of caring friends, willing to offer what help they can. When one has always been the giver, it is hard to learn to accept, but I hope I am becoming ‘a learner in the school of Christ’. Thank you Shelagh Robinson. You have given me much to think about.
Name and address supplied

I am writing to thank Shelagh for her courageous article ‘Dementia: my worst nightmare’. I have followed Shelagh’s work with interest over the years; I am also a counsellor and aim to bring my Quaker values to my work.

Shelagh’s article has highlighted the cruelty of the illness we loosely call dementia. It does not progress smoothly and evenly. As it develops good days alternate with bad days, clarity becomes clouded and forgetfulness is followed again by clarity. I imagine this to be difficult and distressing to live with and to observe.

Shelagh’s article conveys hope and peace to me. She writes with clarity and lucidity about an illness that will increasingly cloud this ability to think clearly. The symbolic dark valley some of us will enter towards the end of our lives is perhaps not as dark and lonely as it is often described.
Margarete Briggs

Shelagh Robinson article 21 November 2008

Pendle Hill pamphlets

How will you get rid of their accents?
Ernest Hall (21 November) is astonished that I have noticed anti-Americanism in the media, but I was responding to Justin Webb’s article about his new book, Have a Nice Day, which he wrote in response to the pervasive anti-American bias in the BBC and elsewhere. He is the BBC’s North American editor and has lived in Washington for six instructive years. His book is a plea for the British to try to understand the United States instead of expecting it to be like a European country. He takes as his epigraph the notorious diatribe by Margaret Drabble in The Telegraph in 2003 in which she wrote: ‘My anti-Americanism has become almost uncontrollable… I now loathe the United States…’

Ignorance volontaire is Jean-François Revel’s description of the attitude of European intellectuals and opinion-formers toward the US. For me the most startling example of that occurred when John Simpson was covering the US presidential election in 2000 and it became obvious that he had never read the constitution. He was assuming that his audience wouldn’t know the difference and that no Americans would be listening. The constitution of the United States is a short document; he could have read it on the way to the airport.
Sarah Lawson

Justin Webb letters 21 November 2008

Justin Webb letters 14 November 2008

Justin Webb letters 31 October 2008

Justin Webb article 24 October 2008

Names and addresses in letters
I am one of the Quaker prison chaplains. During outreach week, I was able to take in the special edition of the Friend to the prison as it did not have a letters page or other pages containing addresses of people. The men who attend Meeting for Worship at the prison circulated it among themselves and it was much enjoyed. I’d love them to receive the Friend regularly but I gather this isn’t advised as usually there are people’s private addresses in the magazine and I gather this has caused some problem in the past with people writing to Friends whose names have appeared. Do you ever consider putting only the Local or Area Meeting the person is from rather than their address? Could this possibility be discussed?
Susan Groves

Unity in diversity
Following the response to our Friends Rhoda and John Wharton’s comment (21 November), members of Lichfield Local Meeting hope that readers will appreciate that what they wrote is in accordance with the sense of our deliberations following National Quaker Week. We acknowledge the strength of feeling in the printed replies and we are aware that John and Rhoda have received appreciative and constructive replies by email from individuals who have also requested copies of the materials that we prepared.

Maybe we could have ‘used our time more profitably’ than first seeking and then finding unity in our use of inclusive language; perhaps it is not for a Local Meeting to question expressions formulated by Yearly Meeting fifteen years ago, rather than reflect the insights which new members and attenders bring to our shared worship. We would like to think that a growing Meeting is likely to have fruits as well as roots.

In practical terms, we hope that when the wording of National Quaker Week pamphlets and posters is being considered, the discernment of those who will be displaying and distributing them will be taken into account alongside the possible views of those to whom they may be addressed.
Anthony Wilson

I attended the meeting of Quaker Life Representative Council when Quaker Week as a project was first generally introduced to Friends. I was struck then by Quaker Life Central Committee’s determination (with the agreed support of all our discussion groups) that the emphasis throughout should be on consultation, communication and sharing, and also, hopefully, on gaining a clearer sense of our Quaker identity, both for ourselves and for any newcomers who might join us.

Together with John and Rhoda Wharton, we in Lichfield feel that we have made some progress in achieving this latter aim, of gaining a clearer sense of our own identity as a religious community. The experience has been valuable for us as a Meeting. We thought that, in view of the centrality and priority that consultation had been accorded throughout the Quaker Week enterprise, our comments might be helpful and/or interesting to some Friends, if not to others.

As a direct result of our preparations for Quaker Week, therefore, we Lichfield Friends felt that we had been able to find a unity in our diversity through the use of an inclusive non-theistic language. We were told by several new attenders that they had found it both inviting and thought-provoking. I am sure that Rhoda and John had no wish to impose our way of proceeding on anyone, but only to share what we felt had fostered our own growth – as part of what we thought to be an ongoing consultative process accompanying Quaker Week – and simply to point to the fact that some of the promotional language we received from Friends’ House had for many of us here hindered rather than helped us in implementing our Quaker Week.
Pamela Garnett
Quaker Life Representative, Staffordshire Area Meeting

Evangelical Meetings and FWCC
I have recently returned from visiting Friends in India in conjunction with the triennial Gathering of the Friends World Committee for Consultation Asia-West Pacific Section (21 November). I was glad to see the article about this meaningful gathering. However, I need to correct one factual statement. The affiliation of Philippines Evangelical Friends Church is hardly the first time an evangelical Yearly Meeting has affiliated with FWCC; evangelicals have been involved with the FWCC family for over fifty years. Bundelkhand YM in India was begun by evangelical missionaries. FWCC’s purpose is to provide the space for all parts of our diverse Society. This includes evangelical Yearly Meetings in Africa and North and South America as well as Asia.
Nancy Irving, general secretary
Friends World Committee for Consultation, 173 Euston Road, London NW1 2AX

Asia-West Pacific Section gathering article 21 Novmeber 2008

Friends World Committee for Consultation

Astronomy correction
Thank you for your splendid article on Einstein and Eddington in Eye (28 November). I feel that one point needs correcting because it could be confusing to budding young astronomers coming to the subject for the first time. ‘The proof would come from matching photos of a solar eclipse…’ with the star field in the same part of the sky photographed six months earlier when the sun was on the other side of the Earth.
Barrie Rowson

Q-eye article 28 November 2008

Einstein and Eddington programme

Arthur Eddington profile 2 November 2007


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News round-up
‘Yes, clerk’ – on being a Quaker ‘civil servant’
Marigold Bentley
George Fox and same gender partnership
Christopher Bagley
Ian K Watson and Tony Crofts
From Minden to Kathmandu
Philip Holmes
Occupied with nonviolence
Marisa Johnson
Minding the arts
Paul Green
William James and the psychology of faith
Rachel Britton

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