Meeting History: A mother's memories of the 80s and 90s

Public ContentAnyone can view this post

Tricia Walmsley

Dear Friends, young, youthful and older, well-known or scarcely met,

So many memories of Chestnut Hill Meeting are in my head and heart that I haven't known where to begin, but if I don't start somewhere, I'll miss the boat -- or at least, the party. We shall certainly be with you in spirit.

My very first memory of Chestnut Hill was that of being greeted at the door by "the lady with curly hair" as our 6 year-old daughter, Elizabeth, described Karen Cromley. She made us feel so welcome that, after a brief Sojourn at another Meeting where there were more children, we all three decided we really wanted to return to Chestnut Hill, despite there being only two other families with children there at the time.

As we struggled to find out what Quakerism was all about, we also tried to understand what was happening with "Paz" and the Sanctuary movement. It all sounded very risky to us. A 24-hour companionship/guard was with Paz, and there was the possibility of arrest. We attended a meeting or two in various people's apartments, and acted in such a cautious and questioning way that it probably made some of those involved quite nervous. That was our first experience of Quakers "acting under concern", "following a leading"; all those phrases that have become a part of everyday speech now were new then. Hertha tells me you are hosting for NPIHN again at the end of the month and through the 4th July. What a tribute that is both to the North West interfaith community and to Chestnut Hill Meeting which is certainly among the smallest of all the groups involved but also one of the most happily committed.

Trudy Hubben was the organizer of the first Christmas breakfast we attended. I remember being overwhelmed when we stepped in to the First Day School room and saw it dressed in candlelight and greenery. What a joy that Quakers celebrate life in all its phases, not just one day of the year. So many Xmas breakfasts - and pageants of all shapes and sizes - Jim Alexander will always be in my mind as Mr. Pageant. So many potluck suppers, the occasional Seder, and then Friendly Eights ... it's a wonder that Quakers are not more known for their rotundity.

We are now half way across the world, and yet, our Meeting here - West Australia Regional Meeting - is grappling (ever so non-violently, of course) with many of the same issues as you are. There is the ever-present question of what to do with the meetinghouse - sell, renovate, expand, do away with bricks and mortar altogether... Then there is the question of "What to call that august group of Weighty Friends?" The words "elders", "overseers", and "ministry" all cause some Friends much discomfort. Here, even the word "school" sets some hackles rising, so we have a "children's group" rather than First Day School. The words do seem to matter, even though it's where the words come from that really touches us all.

I miss the crackle and glow of the wintertime fire in the Meeting room, I miss the vibrant life of the community, the strength that each one of us could draw from that community, and most especially, I miss each one of you very dear F/friends. You are always in my heart.

Thank you for all you have given Roger, Elizabeth and me. Our thoughts and prayers are with you on this joyful occasion.

Tricia Walmsley