One of the ministries that has become possible is the welcoming of short-term Friends in residence to the Ramallah Friends meeting. Gordon Matthews is our first Friends in residence. He is staying in the Annex until mid-December and has been graciously welcomed by all. Hekmat has introduced Gordon to the neighborhood, the necessary shops and places and the people he may need to contact. We have asked Gordon to write a weekly piece of reflections on Meeting for Worship for the newsletter. This is not the new format for the newsletter, nor is it the next format for the newsletter. Rather, it is reading one Friend's sense of Spirit speaking while readers experience how that Spirit undergirds what happens in non-worship times at the Meeting. There is much to tell about that in the next newsletter, but for now, we hope you will savor the "letters from Ramallah Meeting" over the next few weeks as one way to join hearts with those who are "there."
Deb First and Jean Zaru
Ramallah Friends Meeting , 11 November 2013
There were twelve of us in Meeting for Worship yesterday. Early on during the Meeting # 17 of the Advices & Queries of Britain Yearly Meeting was read aloud:
“Do you respect that of God in everyone though it may be expressed in unfamiliar ways or be difficult to discern? Each of us has a particular experience of God and each must find the way to be true to it. When words are strange or disturbing to you, try to sense where they come from and what has nourished the lives of others. Listen patiently and seek the truth which other people’s opinions may contain for you. Avoid hurtful criticism and provocative language. Do not allow the strength of your convictions to betray you into making statements or allegations that are unfair or untrue. Think it possible that you may be mistaken.”
After a while I was moved to say that, although I might be mistaken, I’m convinced that if we believe that there is no God, then we are mistaken. If we believe that God is not at work in the world in all sorts of ways, then we are mistaken. God is powerful and is at work in and through each and every one of us, transforming this world in ways which we cannot see. When I was young in the seventies and early eighties, the Cold War was at its height and South Africa was under apartheid. I thought that was the way the world was. I couldn’t imagine that it would change much within my lifetime. I just hoped that the nuclear arms race wouldn’t end in a Third World War.
Now we still have a long way to go as regards eliminating nuclear weapons. But I witnessed the end of the Cold War and the dismantling of the Berlin Wall. And I watched on TV as Nelson Mandela walked out of prison, a free man and future president of South Africa. And now, today, God is at work in the world, even though we don’t see it.
During Meeting for Worship the table in the centre has upon it not only a Bible but also two piles of song books. We sang “Song of Peace” to the tune of “Finlandia”. Affirming all that our own land and nation blesses us with, we recognise that other lands and other nations are to be equally valued and respected.
After Meeting for Worship we congregated with our cups of tea and coffee on the paved area between the Meeting House and the Annex where George, the Meeting’s long-time caretaker and gardener, had put chairs. It was pleasant to chat in the warm sunshine. The Meeting House and Annex and the small garden are an oasis of calm in the middle of a bustling city. There are small shops and cafés and restaurants all along the Main Street. Turning left out of the gate you soon come to the Manara, the central point of the city where six roads converge.
If you turn right and walk on down the road, you eventually come to the Old City. Across the road there is an ice-cream parlour owned by a family that had grown up connected to Friends. Between and after the Intifadas, many members of the Friends Meeting emigrated, joining Meetings in the US, Canada, Great Britain and elsewhere. So the Meeting here is small but faithful. I was reminded by a fellow worshipper that numbers aren’t so very important. It is the quality of our spiritual life that really counts and can make a difference to the place in which we live or come to share our lives.
Gordon Matthews, Friend in Residence; Banbury & Evesham Area Meeting