Speaking engagements are one of my favourite parts of the Peaceworker Scheme. I end up travelling to new places, being hosted and fed by local Friends, and meeting engaged audiences countrywide. Mostly, I get to do them with one of my ace Peaceworker colleagues. Each and every one is a little adventure.
Last weekend, I had the pleasure to share a platform with Saffy Williams, a Peaceworker from the 2011-2012 cohort. Hurtling through the Oxfordshire countryside on Saturday morning, Saffy and I both arrived a day early to explore Ludlow and get to know one another. It turns out that Ludlow is a hidden gem, nestled deep within Shropshire, with more history, medieval architecture and local food producers than you can shake a stick at. Over cheese on toast in the sun, we discussed our experiences of working in London and Bujumbura, sharing our joys and challenges, future directions, and planning the talk for the next day.
Later that day our hosts picked us up from town and Saffy and I parted ways for the evening. Walking up out of Ludlow, my host and I enjoyed views of the lush green countryside, until we reached her beautiful home on the hill above the town. Within minutes of walking through the door, I was warmly greeted by her husband, welcomed to sit down at the dining table and fed a delicious home made meal complete with fresh vegetables from their garden – courgette, onion, garlic and carrot grown in Shropshire soil. Without milk in the house (living a simple, vegan lifestyle), we shared coffee with cocoa in after dinner, which is not something I have tried before, but I can assure you is totally delicious, and is something I will be introducing to my house! I didn’t even miss the milk… We spent the evening sharing our experiences as Quakers, as people working and living in the world to bring about and realise a better one, about wood work and textile art, about Ludlow and the UK, and everything in between before it was time for bed.
Saturday night’s meal was followed in style on Sunday morning, with more delicious cocoa-coffee, and we journeyed together down to the Meeting House in time for Meeting for Worship at 10:30. The Meeting House in Ludlow is unlike others I’ve seen, and they certainly make the most of the space they have, with a local Friend imploring others to ‘please pick the runner beans!’ in notices after meeting. After a lovely shared worship, with some particularly thought-provoking ministry, we shared a lunch (more delicious Quaker food, which can be seen in the pictures – there was an entire table dedicated to pudding!) before going on to speak. Saffy and I engaged Friends in an animated exchange around our areas of work, shared our experiences, talked about the lessons learned and anecdotes from our time as Peaceworkers. Interesting questions about the efficacy of multilateral systems and our styles of work followed, sparking lively discussion, before we were whisked off again – myself to catch a train to London (with a packed lunch full of banana bread, pie and quiche, naturally) and Saffy to continue with her tour of Wales. A bit of a whirlwind, really.
All things considered, I will fondly remember Ludlow Meeting, our hosts, the engagement of the Meeting. As I look forward to the other speaking engagements that are coming up this month, in Saffron Walden, Scotland (Inverness, Edinburgh and Castle Douglas) and Street, I look forward to the new people I’ll meet, conversations we’ll have, and stories I’ll learn from Friends countrywide. Here’s to all the Friends that invite us, accommodate us, and challenge us – it is always a pleasure. Thank you!