Since the 17th century Friends have held an annual assembly known as Yearly Meeting. It’s changed a lot since its early days. Meetings regularly take place away from London, and what was once known as “London Yearly Meeting” has changed its name to “Britain Yearly Meeting”, a more accurate and inclusive expression of its identity. This year it will be taking place at Friends House, in London, 27-30 May, and the building will soon be buzzing with huge numbers of Quakers.
If you’re attending Yearly Meeting this year, whether for the first time or as a seasoned attender, we hope you’ll look in on the Library in whatever time you have spare between sessions, special interest meetings and lectures.
We’ve mounted two new displays on the topic of World War I conscientious objection, to mark the centenary of introduction of conscription in 1916. Besides the display in the reading room cabinet, there’s a further display on the first floor – bringing our collections out into other parts of the building with more passing traffic. Notice the newly conserved paintings by Donald Wood, showing Friends Ambulance Unit at La Panne, France, hanging alongside the display panels. And we’ll be putting more items from our collections out on display daily in the reading room, for all to see over the four days of Yearly Meeting, including documents and artefacts to illustrate the new Friends House garden timeline, and material relating to the “foundations of a social order” (see below).
Some of the special interest meetings over YM will be taking place in the Library reading room. The Saturday lunch break will see a discussion on the Foundations of a true social order, facilitated by Rachel Muers and Rhiannon Grant: they’ll begin with the story of the “foundations”, deliberated on by Friends a century ago, as the starting point for reflection on contemporary Quaker social testimony. Reading Quaker faith & practice is the theme of a meeting in the Library during the Sunday mid-day interval – an opportunity to share what you may have learned or done as part of “Reading Quaker faith and practice” project, and get creative ideas for groups or personal reflection, as well as an update of the work of the Revision Preparation Group. But it’s the last group gathering in the reading room that promises to make the most noise – the Leaveners will be leading group singing in the Library from 7 to 8 on Sunday evening. We think this must be a first!
Annual lectures are a regular feature of the Yearly Meeting weekend. Sometimes their format is far from what you might expect – the Salter lecture this year is to be a performance of Red flag over Bermondsey: the Ada Salter story, written and performed by Lynne Morris (Friday, 12.30-14.00 in the Large Meeting House). Richard C. Allen’s Friends Historical Society Presidential Lecture on the origins of the London Peace Society, one of the earliest peace societies, sounds fascinating (“Providing a moral compass for British people: the work of Joseph Tregelles Price, Evan Rees and the Herald of Peace”, Sunday 17.30-18.30 in the Small Meeting House). And of course the Swarthmore lecture – this year’s lecture by Cécile Nyiramana and Esther Mombo is on Quaker peace building in East Africa. There are plans for it to be live-streamed (more information here).
It’s worth noting that Swarthmore lectures for the last 50 years are available for loan from the Library, as well as reference copies of the entire run; we can also supply spares of out of print lectures to meeting libraries or reading groups (contact us for more information). But a lecture’s live delivery is often especially enthralling, so it’s great to know that recordings of several Swarthmore lectures are available for free download from Woodbrooke.
If you’re attending Yearly Meeting and planning to visit the Library to use the collections, there will be an opportunity for quiet research on Friday morning and Monday (we’ll be closed to the general public, but open for YM attenders). Do let us know in advance if you want to request material, so we can ensure it’s ready for your visit. Otherwise, please drop in at any time over the four days to look at the exhibits, browse the magazines and newsletters, read a book, attend a special interest group, or just say hello. We’re looking forward to seeing you all!