An online Quaker meeting

What could an ongoing Quaker community which met online look like?

Since March 2020 I have been meeting for worship online. The Pendle Hill daily worship allowed me to maintain a daily discipline of “set[ting] aside times of quiet for openness to the Holy Spirit”. It introduced me to two long-lasting weekly discussion groups, Friends for LGBTQ Concerns, and people I consider friends with both Fs. I find the Woodbrooke zoom worship deep, and also warm and friendly, often with chatting afterwards. I like zoom worship with my local meeting. Not everyone does. Some find blended meetings more difficult than wholly online meetings.

Each area meeting and local meeting will have to make a decision about whether to continue with blended meetings. I hope the risks of Covid will lessen so that it is not a reason for people to stay away from meetings in person. I know meeting for worship for business is possible online, and feel it is second best to meeting in person.

Reasons besides covid for wanting to worship online would continue. Perhaps someone is far from their nearest meeting, or sick, or frail. There are lots of reasons why someone might have an hour for worship but not want to travel- a single Quaker in a family, someone with a baby. Someone might want a daily time of quiet with other Quakers, and few LMs have even one midweek meeting for worship.

I want a group of Friends committed to offering online meeting for worship daily for whoever wishes to attend. Now, Woodbrooke provides this, together with FWCC. Woodbrooke is an educational charity, and has financial and legal considerations affecting how it runs these meetings. I want a meeting with a business meeting I can attend. I want to be part of making decisions for the meeting, and to take responsibility for it.

I want this recognised by Britain Yearly Meeting, which would require Friends with a concern to request minutes to be sent to Meeting for Sufferings.

I envisage such a meeting having a small core of committed Quakers, and a ministry of welcome. We would welcome Friends from all over the UK who might for any reason want an online meeting for worship, on Sunday or any other day. We could provide access to unprogrammed worship in English for the whole English-speaking world. I have already worshipped online with Friends from the US, Canada, Ireland, New Zealand, Australia, France and Germany.

We would have a strong commitment to outreach and online visibility. We would hold regular discussion groups for people new to Quakers, and for Quakers generally.

We could be a Friend’s main meeting, or a place to drop in as needed. We would offer pastoral support.

Would we admit people to membership of BYM? I consider membership is a muddle. Some people want membership soon after committing to Quakers, some are not members after years serving in pastoral care. Some want to retain membership though they no longer worship with us. I would want the online meeting not to be able to decide formal membership to begin with, and for this to be reconsidered later if people sought membership with us and could not attend a local meeting. I am pleased if people consider themselves Quaker, or tell others about Quakers, which does not require membership.

Taking responsibility for safeguarding would need consideration. What risks would we have, which an in-person meeting would not?

God is in everyone. Quaker worship is one way to meet God within, but far more people are seeking God than are in Quakers. It is much easier to click on a zoom link and keep your camera off than to walk into a meeting-house. The silence has blessed me so much I want to share that blessing.

Practicing stillness

I am not the person I thought I was. I get to know myself. I am not the thoughts in my conscious mind. I make decisions then work out rationalisations after, designed to show I am a rational, good-hearted person.

I suffer internal conflict. St Paul wrote, “I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.”

I am a mystery to my conscious self.

So I practice silent contemplation, with Quakers, seeking to bring the unconscious into consciousness.

I also do walking meditations. When my mind starts wandering I use the mantra, “I am here. This is. I am.” I am a being in the world, and I focus my senses on my immediate surroundings. I see their beauty and strangeness. I escape the repetitive thoughts. There is something else underneath those thoughts, something I do not consciously know, something it is worth getting to know, something so important Quakers call it the Light, the Seed, or That of God.

In a Quaker meeting, when I was filled with anger and fear over what I had just read on facebook, it seemed that there was the I plunged into that trivial conflict with all the emotions it raised, and there was a greater I, holding it, observing it, not drawn into those feelings.

In the Quaker meeting on Sunday, I sought to be that greater I, and it was more difficult. My neighbour considers that a flat is a good place to practice a drum kit. There are my Friends, visible on the screen. There are various other thoughts and feelings.

There is my attention: can I hold these things in my attention at the same time, without being wholly involved in one of them (probably that insistent drumming and my resentment of it).

The problem with wanting to change is that my preconceptions of what change will look like get in the way. Just as a five year old cannot know what it is like to be six, so I do not know how I will be next year.

(perhaps I am a fool, and you all, mature human beings, have no need of such practices.)

There is the moment when I know all of me comes together and I speak from my integrity. Gabrielle Roth talked of a moment when she is being danced- the movement comes from something spontaneous, unconscious, liberating- powerful.

I want that unconscious self to become conscious, to unite my whole self. The tool I use to develop this skill is Quaker worship.

Omicron

Should I refuse my booster vaccination, as a protest against the failure to vaccinate most of the world?

Covid news moved quickly last week. There was a variant which might be of concern, which South Africa reported to WHO on Wednesday 24th, as B.1.1.529. Then there were news media referring to it as Mu or Nu. Then on Friday WHO classified it as Omicron. They said the earliest known case in South Africa was sequenced from a sample collected on 9 November. So flights from South Africa were suddenly banned, but too late. With minimal prescience I thought, it’s here already. On Saturday afternoon, the first British cases were reported.

Dr Ayoade Alakija expressed coruscating anger, eloquently expressing what I feel. Omicron, reportedly with reinfection rate 2, has many mutations affecting its spike protein. The spike is the basis of many vaccines. So Omicron is more likely to defeat the vaccines than Delta. Rich countries could have reduced the risk of variants reaching us by vaccinating poor countries. But we didn’t.

The UK has delivered only 11% of the vaccines it promised to the global vaccine distribution agency.

A certain level of covid appears to be found acceptable. In Britain testing has found around 30,000 cases a day since July. Not all positive tests may be reported. There have been over a hundred deaths a day since August, but the figures seem fairly stable. The UK total deaths is now over 143,000. Since August, around 800 a day have been admitted to hospital– some to be put on oxygen, some to be put on ventilators.

The world cumulative death toll, with all the data-gathering problems that has, was given as 5.2m as I typed.

I am convinced that the vaccine substantially reduces my chances of infection, of serious illness, and of passing on Delta. I think it probable that a booster would also reduce the risks of these things with Omicron. I fear there will be sufficient data available soon to test that hypothesis. If not, there may be work on other vaccines. Whatever doubt there is that the booster would affect Omicron, there are currently high rates of Delta infection in Britain, and taking the booster is the action I can take to reduce risk to myself and others.

A hunger strike is only a risk to the individual concerned. Refusing vaccination causes risk to others. I have an obligation to those I might infect. A protest has limited effect. I would inform my MP, but it would not by itself make our Nationalist government take vaccination of other countries seriously.

Separate from what effect any action might have, I might try to consider whether it was right to refuse vaccination.

Saturday, I went to an organ recital by a friend. Some were masked in the church, some were not. In “For the fallen”, Elgar arr. Harrison Oxley, he took us on a profound emotional journey. In carol preludes by Noel Rawsthorne he filled me with joy. After, a group of us went for coffee. There was a small sign on the table about masking when away from tables, and noting our presence with our phones, but I did not have my phone and don’t know if anyone did. As I type, there were further restrictions predicted, but I have no idea what “Let the corpses pile high” Johnson might countenance to reduce spread.

I would want to distinguish any depressive lack of motivation to arrange the booster, now I have had my invitation letter, from a principled desire to protest.

Then on the news on Saturday evening I heard that Omicron symptoms might be less severe than Delta. However, even if Omicron is not a serious threat, Delta is, and the same arguments about not getting a booster apply.

I don’t know. What do you think?

My experiences of being trans

Quakers ask me, again, to share my personal experiences. I feel judged. Are these stories enough? Would they convince anyone that I am trans, and can be no other?

I woke at 4am, which is never a good time to make a decision, thinking of my colleague Vicky. She had rapidly progressing MS, and had gone from being asymptomatic to needing a wheelchair in two years. I envied her. I would have swapped lives with her, because no-one would doubt that she was female. So I thought, I have to transition as soon as possible.

I don’t understand it. I could appear to be a perfectly normal man. I wanted transition, which I thought would mean I would get sacked, more than anything else in the world. And my friend said, “It’s as if you’re acting when you’re Stephen, and when you’re Clare you’re just you”.

I have told these stories so often I use the same words. I feel judged. Is that enough for you? O ye wha are sae good yersel, sae pious and sae holy. “The acceptance of homosexuality distresses some Friends”, Quakers said.

I am Clare. I am a woman. It makes no sense beyond, it just is. There have always been trans people. Deuteronomy would not forbid it if it hadn’t existed then. What experience will be enough?

In 2002, when I transitioned, before the Gender Recognition Act or the Equality Act, I got a driving licence and passport indicating I am female, and a credit card with the title “Miss”. I have used women’s loos and shop changing rooms ever since without a problem. The Equality Act allows trans women to use women’s services unless there is a good reason to exclude us. The fuss, whereby to judge from the number of articles in The Times trans is a greater threat to humanity than the climate crisis, only really got going around 2017.

These are the stories I can tell. I will not convince everyone. Is my fear and desperation unassuageable?

I want to step into my grace.

I cannot convince the whole world. All I can do, when others say I am a man, is calm the echoes their comments arise in myself. Having convinced myself, I do not have to convince anyone else. Here is the difference between speaking in ministry, saying what needs to be heard, and speaking “hot from the world”, where I am het up and feel moved by all the emotions.

This is how it is, and I am not resisting it- not the world, nor my own feelings. Then I can flow like water, act as I need. That’s the theory, anyway. The small step forward today is to replace the word “power” with “grace”.

The theory is also that I am projecting my own judgment onto others. Man tells story: people thought he was gay. Yeah, yeah, projecting, I think. Then he said someone asked him. Not just projecting, then. He’s straight, it’s just he had a very close male friend who is bi. It’s a different situation. There were people with a belief about him that wasn’t true, and about which some have moral judgments- being gay is less than being straight, not really a “real man”, pitiable. About me, I really am trans, and others’ moral judgments on that really matter to me, because they raise echoes in me, and fear of judgment and loss. When they don’t raise echoes in me, I will know how I feel about them then.

What else would I say? There’s that thing about using the most up-to-date Woke language, and I learned two words new to me yesterday. They are trixic and toric. Think “Aviatrix”, a word I thought hadn’t really been used since Amelia Earhart, until I googled it. Trixic means nonbinary loving women, toric means nonbinary loving men. Possibly “transbian”, a trans woman attracted to women, and “gynephile” meaning attracted to women but not specifying the sex or gender of the one attracted, are outdated.

There’s that thing about the EHRC in January 2022 telling theatres and shops how they can exclude trans women from women’s loos and changing rooms. I only heard about that on Thursday 21st, and I find it scary.

Part of the problem here is I don’t want to address the question of “including those who have needs around bodies with penises etc”, I just want to mess about. Or, I want to be playful, winsome and loveable, so that no-one would be unkind to me. This is a small child response.

On “needs around bodies with penises”, one option is to exclude all trans women, and all trans men who have had chest surgery and hormones so they have facial hair, from women’s loos etc. It’s the obvious option if you ignore or minimise the needs of trans people. That’s why the excluders don’t mention us.

Why can’t they just admit they are men, anyway? What’s the difference between “trans women” and feminine men? Possibly nothing but life experiences and their understanding of the options, I replied. I am so tempted to discount my overwhelming desire. (Added: at 6am on 24 October I am dwelling on that, how I remain ashamed of not resisting. Such overwhelming shame stopped me, at that moment, from saying- what? “This is who I am, I can be no other.”)

I have thought so much about an hour’s conversation with probably fewer than ten people, given it so much mental energy, wept and raged. It will be over tomorrow, until the next time.

Varieties of spiritual journey

What? You talk of “nonduality” as one or two peak experiences for a moment, in your entire lives, years ago? Ha! I am nondual all the time!

One of my judgments is that it is wrong to boast of spiritual growth, but as I spoke to Friends of God in me, and the judgment or thought that second-guesses God and stops God from speaking, the words “melts away” formed in my mind. I had intense judgment against that, the claim to wisdom or spirituality, and yet-

In me there is that of God, and what else? Judgments, ego, introjects, something I do not fully understand but attempt to, using whatever language I have and concepts from philosophy or psychology. In that moment, speaking to Friends, the “whatever else” seemed to melt away, and I felt extreme joy. I do not want to boast, and I want everyone to experience that joy.

I experience inner conflict between that of God and the something else, and experienced it in that moment- the insistent words “melts away” and the horror at claiming something I do not know to be true, and the self-doubt- and then it melted away, and I spoke the words. Anguish gave way to acceptance and wonder.

Heaven is human integrity, where that of God within shines out through that person’s thoughts, words and deeds, and there is no alloy or admixture of anything else: that person is nondual.

I felt shame this week, does not matter what for, and it was clear to me that it was my own rather than some introjected shame- a feeling to help me reach my goals and best self, rather than anyone else’s demands. Instead of being my enemy it was my friend. That felt new, and delightful.

Part of the way I might help others experience that joy, and understand humans or humanity, is to describe my own experiences. How much this has value depends. Is the inner God of other people like mine, or does it vary as human character and personality varies? What else is there, and is the something else in each person different? How does the spiritual journey differ- there is an unveiling of God Within, until it stands fully visible, in all its beauty, but does the way the unveiling proceeds differ between people?

I saw God, and so God Within, as “powerful,” and letting go of that concept has helped me see God in me so much more clearly. Yet it seems to me that God in others might be powerful, or that at least the concept would not get in the way of others seeing their inner God as it did for me. Words are at best a way to approach reality.

Are there people who grew up in ideal conditions, such that their inner God was nurtured and cherished and there was never much in the way of veil to begin with? Quakers aim for such nurture, “leaving [children] free to develop as the Spirit of God may lead them”.

If I call the something else “ego”, there is the word “egotistical”, meaning self-aggrandising, but my inner judgments called me worthless. Carl Rogers pictured the self-concept and organismic self overlapping, and in my moment of becoming conscious of the spiritual journey, when my understanding of the world seemed completely contrary to how the world is, mine seemed to be entirely separate. My conversion might be like a Road to Damascus moment, but not everyone’s need be. Possibly, some might be unable to bear such an experience.

And there is common humanity. Because our eyes have cones and rods in similar formation, our experience of colour is similar, and different from a dog’s. While I cannot know my experience is like anyone else’s, we have a number of words for emotions which have a similar understanding in each of us to be useful, and we can look at another person and guess or sense what they are feeling. We are programmed to recognise faces- the youngest infants will respond to them- and who knows what else is programmed? We are eukaryotes, mammals, apes.

Some people may simply be nondual. Others may approach that. It is my way to worry and question, and also to use my analytic mind soberly to assess what is true. It is my aim to see God in myself and others more clearly which will mean loving God more dearly, and to help others do the same, and I will grow in my ability to do that.

Good and evil

There are evil ideas and evil acts. Are there evil people?

For white British people, there is a short list of evil people most would agree on: Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, each responsible for millions of deaths. Black British people might add some British colonialists: I might add Edward Colston as a named signifier for thousands of slavery profiteers.

Hitler believed that Jews were dangerous to Germany, and desired that the German people prosper. He did not see himself as the baddie. Yuval Noah Hariri, in “Sapiens,” said the Nazis were “humanists”. It is a blindness, an absence, to fail to see the suffering caused, to delight in or not to care about it. Evil is not a force but a lack, an inability either to see the humanity of the loathed group, or that all humanity is one.

Quakers say, “Search out whatever in your own way of life may contain the seeds of war.” What in me is like that? Where does my lack of care cause suffering?

I might say the campaign against trans rights in Britain is evil. Trans women are in women’s services unless there is a particular reason to exclude an individual. So to demand “single sex spaces”, and by that mean spaces from which trans women are rigorously purged, is evil, a chilling lack of regard for the needs or feelings of other human beings. To name this- “we want women’s spaces without trans women” might be disturbing to some, so there are a variety of ways to obscure the truth. The anti-trans campaigners might avoid all mention of trans women, and use the phrase “single sex services” as code. Or, they monster us: they seek to incite disgust, fear and aversion, saying, That person might not be a real trans woman, but a sexual predator. That trans woman retains their penis, and is a threat.

As with Hitler, an apparent positive desire, to protect [cis] women, is perverted into a project to hurt a minority. Yes, “Women are entitled to discuss their rights”, but should consider who their changes would affect, and use clear language. “Sex-based rights” means, “No Trans women”. They would use clear language, expressing that, if they did not on some level know that their demands are mean and destructive.

It is hard to see where to draw a distinction. The final extremity is death, but the start of it is disregard, a failure to see the value of the human person, or consider their reality. That leads to disgust, to street abuse and violence. Again it is a blindness or a lack: the anti-trans campaigner does not see the effect of their campaigning on their victims, or does not care. And many people who would happily call Nazis evil would blench at the idea anti-trans campaigners are evil.

Possibly when you see them arguing against trans rights, you would see a light of fanaticism in their eyes, an inability to consider other points of view or the pain of their victims, which might be a little worrying. And yet in their lives and interests beyond anti-trans campaigning- a love of the music of Schubert, perhaps- they seem entirely normal and reasonable.

Jesus said, let the one who is without sin cast the first stone. If evil is a lack, or a blind-spot, most people have blind spots. A belief that there are monsters, separate from the Good People, might lead to attempts to cast the monsters out, and find they are Jews, or trans women. I do not believe there are evil people. No-one is good but God alone.

Bewilderment and Complaint

The problem with privilege is that it is invisible to the privileged. When others defer to them, that just appears normal and reasonable to them.

Black people are menaced and marked because they are Black, and being gay or trans hardly makes that worse. White trans women or gay men might pass as a man, and so exercise white male privilege, but they lose that when they are seen to be queer. We might still seek safety in the conventions of white male straight privilege, which might work or might not. When they don’t work, it surprises us. We are bewildered. We complain. I get the analysis from James Baldwin, quoted by Shon Faye in The Transgender Issue.

“There’s an element of bewilderment and complaint.” But it always had worked, and now it does not. People seek safety as best we can, hence all the lonely hearts ads in the 1990s for a “straight-acting” partner. You could just be two best buds, hanging out. You could never make a public display of affection. You might have a man-hug, but there would be the temptation to go further, and let the disguise slip. Imagine being with the person you are lusting for, and having to conceal it.

Some gay men and trans women will always have been seen as effeminate, and bullied for it. They never had male privilege with men or boys, even if white. I always felt inadequate as a man, but I had a shell, a male act, which I managed, much of the time. I told a friend I was trans and she said, “I would never have guessed”. And, I still have class privilege to an extent: my clothes might indicate otherwise, my accent and use of words indicate educated person.

When people treat me as privileged, I like it. It keeps me safe. I might speak against white privilege, but do so mostly in white spaces, where I am showing my right-on-ness. With black people I see the risk of being the white saviour, but want at least to be an equal, an ally.

And how is it with cis women? Cis privilege is real. Where groups divide by gender I am nervous of being seen not to fit. And, by contrast, some anti-trans campaigners say that women relax among women, speaking more freely than in mixed company, and that this is liberating; but that it is constrained by the presence of trans women, who are privileged.

That could be a way of fomenting or bolstering resentment against trans women. Look, look, they behave like men, they are treated as men, therefore they should not be in women’s spaces. Look at that man, throwing his weight around.

And it makes me nervous. A woman treats me with courtesy. Is it her response to my male privilege? Is it just kindness? Questioning whether there is equality here makes me self-conscious.

Having privilege in some matters, and not in others, makes it harder to find God within. Quakers talk of the inner light, or that of God in each of us. The concept is linked to God the Father Almighty, the imperial God that Constantine and the Empress Victoria used as their imperial ideology, a God of Power and Might.

If power for me means maleness, the shell, then it is not power at all. It is a pretence, acting in conformity with Kyriarchy because I have no better way of feeling safe, and a terrible feeling of unsafety and need to feel safe. It is the same safety as when in conversation with a man I realise that the purpose of this conversation is for him to speak, work out what he thinks, tell me the truth, or express his feelings and get affirmation support and sympathy, and relax into my supportive role. Safety which supports kyriarchy is no safety at all, but constraint.

I do not believe in God the Father Almighty, and am rethinking God within. Mary Oliver may have it right: “the soft animal of your body”. “You do not have to be good… You only have to let the soft animal of your body love what it loves.” That gets rid of any concept that God in me is power and control. God in me is seeing the good I may achieve, and flowing like water to achieve it.

Whenever I am weak, then I am strong.

It is a choice, between my true power, from being who I am, or a false power gained by conformity to rules which occasionally benefit me but really keep me in check. If I have any shard of male privilege I can only liberate the soft animal by letting it go.

I have been reading The Lathe of Heaven by Ursula le Guin. At first, Miss Lelache the lawyer sees George Orr as “A born victim… if she stepped on him he wouldn’t even crunch… revoltingly simple”. After talking to him, she sees him differently: “she now thought that he certainly would not squash if she stepped on him… he was peculiarly solid”.

Forgiving the teenage self

I find myself deeply upset about an incident forty years ago. As Louise says, the feeling comes from how I am now. She also says I should let go of the past. I feel that I have to process it first. I judge myself harshly and reflexively, so the incident upsets me.

I have forgiven myself a far more serious incident. Aged about twenty I drove a gay couple from my church. I was authoritarian, seeking safety in rules, including that Unmanliness was wicked, and utterly self-righteous about this at the time. I have come to accept it. I did wrong because I knew no better and was under particular pressures. I have accepted my femininity, and that enables me to accept other people too. Christianity is about living well, which is not about obeying rules.

The two new ABBA songs reminded me of a comparatively trivial incident, when I was around fifteen. There was a boy a year younger at school. I cannae mind his name, call him Iain. Like me he was unpopular, comparatively friendless. Now, I might call him a “nerd” but did not know the word then. His parents drove him to Obaig for the day out, and allowed him to bring a “friend”- he invited me.

I don’t know why I went along. I was remorselessly ungracious. I think I thought I should patronise a younger boy rather than be friendly. We listened to ABBA in the car, because he liked it, and his mother asked me, “Do you like ABBA?” No, I said. Then they were thought of as naff. Since then they have gone from guilty pleasure to Premier Pop/Rock Group of the Seventies. Also, I knew pop music was meretricious, only classical music had value.

There were no more friendly invitations.

Now, I don’t know what’s hurting me. My unfriendliness, my loneliness, my inability to anticipate the musical taste of my middle-aged self? The child could do no better, any more than the young man could. Some confusion and resentment of the time, which I have carried unprocessed since? The inner gaslighter’s ability to persecute me for anything and second-guess all my actions however long ago?

There was a trauma which made me want to make a man of myself, find myself repulsive and inadequate, worthless but for what I could achieve, unable to attain the perfection I demanded from myself. Recognising that trauma and the concomitant idea that all the imperfections which shame me are blameless, or at least not my fault, felt like a huge step forward, and now I have this to deal with.

In worship, I started thinking aimlessly of things like where I put dried goods so I used those bought earliest first. Such things are my biggest concerns, now. Then I thought of going to Obaig with Iain and am gasping with the pain of it.

It’s not just forgiving the mistakes, it’s bearing the confusion and pain of the child. I remain in pain and confused. And I understand more, accept more, than the child could. And I am safe for now. I can look after myself given the pressures on me now.

Monday morning I still feel wrecked. Writing this was what I had to do. From Greenbelt I have the concept of “body-mapping”.

I have an outline drawn round my body on two long rolls of paper by a woman I have met before. In that exercise the lifechanging event was the pandemic, but mine might be this: making an inventory of myself and- I hate to write “my struggle” because it makes me think of Hitler, but the challenges I have faced.

My responsibilities are to care for myself and to use my gifts for the good of the World. No pressure there, then. All these questions are worthwhile.

Or maybe, my responsibility is to care for myself and heal myself, which requires all my love and courage, and leave the World to look after itself for now.

Greenbelt at Prospect Farm

I cycled to the Greenbelt festival, my tent balanced on my panniers, my bedding and coat in a rucksack. “Wow, respect,” said the woman there to direct traffic, though there was little traffic to direct. It’s only ten miles, I said, modestly, delighted. “Still, wow,” she says.

It’s Prospect Farm, because the financial risk of having to cancel a whole festival would be too great. There are six hundred people here rather than twelve thousand, three venues, three food outlets. As I walk my bicycle in, Oliver, who is nearly ten, starts chatting. He tells me of his love of Park Runs- his 50 t-shirt means he has done fifty of them. His father is a keen runner, who did a 100km. Would you like to be an athlete? At this, he looks very serious and says yes, he would. I tell him, if that’s what you love, go for it. It’s a lot of work.

He offers to help put up my tent, and this means I teach him how. His mother tells me to send him away if he is bothering me. Later, he comes over to ask me to have dinner with them. If your mother consents, I said. I am delighted. I go over and chat as she cooks. The children play with another family they have just met.

“I saw that was a wig as soon as I saw it,” says a rude boy. Well, it’s old. I am camping. I put up my tent with my newly shaven head on show, as I was so hot. Ellie, who is “practising to be a teenager”, said she had thought I was a different person. That is kind.

There are free showers, working all the time, without a queue.

What makes the small festival is the conversation. It is like a party. We talk of churches and of our lives. Many are dissatisfied with our churches, and Greenbelt keeps us Christian.

A Black woman, a trustee of Greenbelt, gives a talk on white privilege and we affirm that we are working against white privilege. The festival is almost entirely white. Its theology is not a good fit for the Black churches, and we are privileged. We affirm that white people should be doing more work on this.

LGBT is integrated, though. We had about twenty for the LGBT “Out at Greenbelt” eucharist, sharing bread only because of covid. A man aged 17 told me he had just come out. We had nineteen for my Quaker meeting, which is proportionately quite good. One was a lifelong Quaker who did not actually attend, now, because the local meeting had never been very friendly. One was in her twenties, and I told her of YFGM.

Comedy included Harry and Chris, and I now have a t-shirt marked “A coupla copella-packing a cappella pelicans pick up a piccolo in Acapulco’s archipelago”. Around the camp people are memorising the phrase. Two say it in unison.

My major woke liberal fail was seeing someone with a t-shirt reading “Words are hard”. “Everyone has gifts, and everyone has needs. Society should support people’s needs so their gifts can benefit all,” I declaimed earnestly. “This man had a t-shirt reading “Words are hard”, but did a somersault from standing.” Later I talked to him. My assumption that he was neuro-diverse was apparently wrong, as his words flowed easily.

I went without an air pump for my bed, as I thought I could borrow one. My airbed leaked in the night so that I was just above the ground in the morning, and three times had no trouble borrowing. A man came over and worked the pump himself. I was too cold, even though wearing my coat in the sleeping bag, the first, clear night, with heavy dew getting through to the inner tent. It is a pain to have to balance on your shoulder blades to pull your jeans up, at 55. But other nights were overcast and I was warm enough. It was a gorgeous two days.

We went in to where the festival had been, 2014-2019. It looks so different.