On Monday 21 June our Quaker Faith and Practice group had planned a celebration in the Peace Garden on Monument Road. Unfortunately, due to the weather, this had to revert to Zoom.
We started with a reading from QF&P 20:16:
‘Our testimonies arise from our way of worship. Our way of worship evokes from deep within us at once an affirmation and a celebration, an affirmation of the reality of that Light which illumines the spiritual longing of humanity, and a celebration of the continual resurrection within us of the springs of hope and love; a sense that each of us is, if we will, a channel for a power that is both within us and beyond us.’ Lorna M Marsden, 1986
Then the evening was enriched by the sharing of video clips of badgers, nesting birds with beautiful songs, summer-time photographs, poetry and reading, plus a lovely rendition of ‘Morning has Broken’.
On 15 May the Woking Debate was titled: Air Pollution: a hidden threat to Woking?
There were two speakers: Kevin Davis the Portfolio holder for the Environment and the Economy on Woking Borough Council; and Professor Prashant Kumar, Associate Dean (International), Professor and Chair in Air Quality and Health at the University of Surrey and Founding Director, Global Centre for Clean Air Research (GCARE).
Kevin Davis said that recently there has been a decrease in air pollution and the problem in Woking is not as bad as is generally thought but it was established during the debate that Woking does not monitor particulate matter levels and so we have no real grasp of this problem.
Professor Prashant Kumar emphasised that all greening is good. Green cover can reduce air pollution by 10-20% and by busy roads by up to 60-70%. To cut down emissions we need to question whether we can control the source of the emissions. Do cars have to go through these roads? How do we empower people to protect themselves? Electric vehicles and traffic lights are top-down approaches.
Kevin committed to working with Prashant in the future. Woking is the smallest borough in Surrey but it is trying to improve and become more green. We need to change our behaviour when people go back to their cars after lockdown.
This was quite a technical topic and because of that we got to a level of detail that we rarely reach in the Debates. A recording is available here.
At our March Quaker Faith and Practice meeting (on Zoom) we shared our insights arising from reflecting on paragraph 21.27 where Ralph Hetherington speaks of feeling ‘all of a piece’ with everything around him. We explored Oneness, ‘God all in all’, Ground of Being, panentheism and what it means for how we live. One person remarked that he had never experienced such a thoughtful, rich and beneficial conversation in 20+ years of church meetings before attending our Local Meeting.
On 20 March the Woking Debate was titled: Is knife crime and gang culture a growing problem in Woking? What is being done?
There were four speakers: David Bentley, the Borough Police Commander; Dave Cook, from the Prison Officers Association, who is a prison officer of almost 30 years’ service; Patrick Green, from the Ben Kinsella Trust; and Ali Waheed, an NHS worker who runs Combat Sports League to promote a healthy lifestyle for young people.
In conclusion Patrick Green said that we all need to take responsibility. We need to reach out to young people and connect with them. Ali Waheed spoke of the need for more funding and early intervention. David Bentley said that there are only a few incidents in Woking but appealed for help in reaching young people getting into trouble to turn them in the right direction. He asked for people to contact him who wanted to help. Dave Cook said he would love to be unemployed: “Stop filling prisons with people who could be helped before”.
This was a powerful Debate. You can watch it here.
On 20 February the Woking Debate was titled: Woking in 2050: Dream or Nightmare?
There were four speakers: Susan Venn, who has just retired as a researcher at the University of Surrey, studying what makes a good life; Victoria Russell, a young local businesswoman concerned about the cost of housing in the area; Raul Lai, a local young man working for equality and social justice; and Jonathan Lord, MP for Woking.
All the speakers agreed that there is pressure on the town to provide more housing, which causes strong reactions particularly about high-rise buildings, and more investment is needed in local services. Transport is a big issue that may need rethinking because of environmental concerns and the pandemic and Brexit may have changed what kind of development we need in the town centre.
The monthly Quaker Faith and Practice meeting in February (on Zoom) had the title Giving and Receiving a Helping Hand. Paragraphs 20.02-20.10 were suggested reading material beforehand.
As always there was much personal sharing of feelings and ideas alongside attentive listening. Everyone has equal opportunities of being invited to speak in a QFP session. After over six years of richly meaningful Meetings of this kind the initiative is taken each month by whichever Friend volunteers. Confidentiality about what is shared remains with the group attending on any one evening.
If any Friend reading this considers the topic to be of interest I recommend the QFP paragraphs above are read and thoughts shared with any willing Friend/ friend. That might be sufficient to encourage Friends to think about how many different ways there are of lending a helping hand. We might not always know we are doing it! It is also worth thinking about how we ourselves might ask for a helping hand when needed. In fact I would go so far as to say that deep, reflective experience of receiving is a prerequisite of successful, loving giving.
On 16 January the Woking Debate considered: Are we giving vulnerable children the help they need?
There were three speakers: Sian Jones, the Early Help Project Lead and Programme Manager (North) for the Surrey Care Trust, David Munro, the Police and Crime Commissioner for Surrey, and Justin Price, the head of Freemantles School, which is dedicated to children with autism.
All three emphasised the importance of early intervention for children to fully develop their relationships and build the confidence to overcome neglect and abuse. Financial constraints are severely limiting what help can be provided which is why volunteers are vital. They all agreed that more resources are needed.
The Woking Debates, which Woking Quakers support, aim to encourage active participation in our community by looking at underlying issues facing us. The debates continued throughout 2020 despite the pandemic by switching to the Zoom online platform. This year five talks have been planned so far on the following subjects:
16 January: Are we giving vulnerable children the help they need?
20 February: Woking in 2050: Dream or nightmare?
20 March: Is knife crime and gang culture a growing problem in Woking? What is being done?
17 April: What value is arms and military expenditure to the UK?
15 May: Air pollution: A hidden threat to Woking?
Please get in touch with us if you would like to attend any of these and we will send you the link nearer to the event.
Updated 5 August 2021
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Updated 7 March 2022
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