‘Openings’ Group Topics


Animals: Relationships and Responsibilities    March 2018
Assisted by guide dog Joyce, who attends our meeting, we explored the important role of service dogs. In a  wide-ranging discussion about our relationship with animals, we asked whether dogs could be bred to be emotional companions, and what obligations we have towards our pets. We shared stories of favourite cats and dogs. We also talked about our concern for farmed animals and vegetarianism.
Gender and sexuality  February 2018

Friends learned about some of the current debates on gender and sexuality, including issues around transgender and nonbinary identities, gender dysphoria and feminist concerns. We discussed the implications of these for public policy.

The Power of Money in Your Pocket  January 2018

We discussed how we can use our spending power to influence society, both personally and as a meeting. We reviewed our meeting’s efforts to spend ethically and exchanged ideas about ways to make better choices as consumers as part of our Quaker principles.

Mindfulness  March 2017

Mindfulness is important for spiritual practice and can also be very helpful in coping with the stresses and anxieties of daily life. Led by a friend who leads workshops on mindfulness, we learned about different kinds of mindfulness and meditation, including breathing, walking, visualising, music and writing. Friends shared their personal experiences of using mindfulness. We finished with a mindfulness exercise and discussed our response to it.

Love and Loss February 2017

‘Go forth, Christian soul.’ Can we view death as a passage or a change, rather than a struggle or a battle? Can we see it as a point of tying together and mending suffering? How can we help each other with this step in our journey? We explored our feelings about love and loss, and learned about practical ways to prepare ourselves for the end of life, such as Lasting Power of Attorney, Advanced Decision (ADRT), and Advanced Care Plan.

How to be Hopeful January 2017

How, indeed? We had a wide-ranging discussion about the state of the world and what we could do/are doing to bring about change. The group shared their experiences of various kinds of action and their feelings of frustration, depression and hope. We will return to this topic soon. Sometimes our best efforts do not go amiss; sometimes we do as we meant to. The sun will sometimes melt a field of sorrow that  seemed hard frozen; may it happen for you. (from ‘Sometimes,’ by Sheenagh Pugh.)

Two Visits to Ramallah December 2016

Victoria B visited Ramallah this Autumn; John was there in 1988. These two Hammersmith Quakers shared their experiences of meeting both Israelis and Palestinians and discussed what had changed in 28 years and what had not. Victoria spoke of picking olives with Palestinians, of the continuous hardships of their lives and of a meeting with a conservative Israeli. John told us about Israeli security measures in 1988 and read us vivid impressions from his diary. Other members of the group had knowledge of Israel and contributed their perspectives. Victoria also told us about her visit to Ramallah Friends and their Quaker school, founded in 1869. Victoria went on a trip organized by Quaker Voluntary Action.

Margaret Fell November 2016

Look not at the hard rocks, nor look not at briars, nor look not at the thorns, nor at the mountains,nor at the coldness, for the true seeds-men must not regard the weather, the winds that blow; they sow the seed before the winter (from one of many letters Margaret fell wrote to imprisoned early Quakers). We explored the many sides of Margaret Fell, the ‘mother of Quakerism.’ We were inspired by her combination of intense spirituality and down-to-earth practicality, so important to the early Quakers and still so today.

Walking October 2016

Then you will come to walk cheerfully over the world, answering that of God in everyone (George Fox). We explored why we like to walk – relaxation, meditation, adventure, exercise, campaigning, solidarity, intimacy, prayer, escape. ‘Walking meditation’ was explained, and the value of social but relatively silent walks together. We shared excerpts from The Complete Guide to Prayer Walking (Linda Mundy). We plan to organise some short group walks on Sundays after Meeting over the coming months.

Elizabeth Fry  September 2016

We explored the amazingly complex life of this pioneering icon of prison reform.  We learned that as a member of a prominent Norwich Quaker family, she nevertheless struggled with depression, bankruptcy and the pressures of eleven children and the Society’s somewhat rigid expectations to find her ultimate gifts and calling. The biography Betsy by Jean Hatton, 2005, informed our discussion.  She said: If I am going to do a thing, I endeavour to find out if it appears to me in any way wrong and whether I shall feel easy to do it. And if it leads me to behave rather differently from some, I shall probably be doing more good.

Humour August 2016

Did you hear the joke about the Quaker? How do Friends start a race? On your mark … get set… go, when the Spirit moves you. Here is another. Two Quakers walk into a bar, immediately realize their error, and leave without incident. August is sometimes called ‘the silly season’, and there was a lot of laughter at this meeting, despite the dearth of good jokes about Quakers. We shared some very good non-Quaker humour and read out the best quips about Quakers that could be found. We also considered how important laughter is, and how to bring more of it into the ‘serious’ parts of our lives.

Homelessness July 2016

Our guest speaker from Quaker Homeless Action had to cancel (we will reschedule another session later). Instead we heard some statistics about homelessness in London and then shared our personal experiences as volunteers and members of the community. We spoke about the challenges in helping homeless people and the problems created by some government policies.

Greenham Common June 2016

Several friends shared personal stories of life at the Greenham Common protest camp. These ranged from a stay of years to drop-in visits to support activities away from Greenham. We learned about the history and purpose of the protests, the organisation of the camp, and the special atmosphere created by sharing and open debate. Friends also discussed the importance of a woman-only protest.

Dementia May 2016

We heard a report on the Dementia Dialogue day recently held at Friends House. We shared our own experiences of coping with dementia sufferers and discussed ways to communicate and reassure, such as narrative scaffolding and ‘remembering for’ the sufferer. We noted the importance of having a Lasting Power of Attorney and an Anticipatory Care Plan. The discussion then broadened to focus on society’s attitude toward the elderly and extreme longevity, and our own questions about death. We plan to return to these subjects at a future session.

Airport Expansion and the Environment April 2016

Concerned over the proposals to build more runways for more planes in the UK, we invited Sam Sender of Ealing Meeting, a member of the Plain Stupid campaign, to share his thoughts and experience of trespassing on a Heathrow runway and his subsequent court trial. Sam said he took direct action with fellow protestors because, while there were so many environmental issues of major impact, the Heathrow 3rd runway proposal represented a ‘low hanging fruit’, where we could really make a considerable difference in preventing serious degradation of our immediate environment. We examined our own reliance on cars and planes.

Eating Ethically March 2016

As part of our Quaker sustainability witness, we discussed ways in which we might eat more ethically. These include shopping in markets/supermarkets with sustainable practices and buying food seasonally and locally when possible. Some friends are committed vegetarians, and most find themselves eating less meat. We shared our favourite food providers and sustainable food websites and planned a vegan lunch for our next shared meal.