Lines not spoken

by a Recent Clerk as Staffordshire Monthly Meeting Gathers at Wolverhampton FMH in 2005

Photo by samer daboul on

By Anthony Wilson

Welcome to Friends, and let us call the names
Of those who represent us from the Shire,
Listing in proper order for our record.

First, distant Leek, travellers from the north
Whose Meeting House has stood the test of time
With slender girder to restrain its walls
From swelling under pressure from the roof.
No leaks in Leek, but rather shelter strong
For Friends and friends from sufferings long gone.

Next, loyal Lichfield, now recovered
From curse of George which ne’er was meant
To stigmatise its dwellers for the fault
Of Roman massacres long spent.
Our newest meeting, gathering even now
In rooms provided by a steeplehouse,
As if to made amends
For previous persecution of our Friends.

Stand forward, Stafford, centre of our ground,
And host to gatherings in its meeting room
Where members alternate ‘twixt heat and cold
According to the switches, which control
Wall’d implements whose crimson rays
Infuse our air with warm embracing waves.

Then Stoke, whose habitation lies
In Newcastle for reasons known to time.
Echoes of earlier triumphs and defeats sound through its rooms
With tramp of booted feet of soccer players
Called by their manager, for praise or blame
According to their skills. All have moved on,
And now the silence of the meeting takes their place
As members gather at a gentler pace.

Hail, steadfast Stone! Now housed between
Twin iron tracks in regular demand
By straining locomotives trailing trucks,
Whose whistles serve to stir such Friends
As may be unaware of passing time,
And punctuate the meeting’s silent rhyme.

Uttoxeter and Burton call we next,
Two meetings with a single name, one sited
In peaceful garden with its burial ground,
The other midst the scents and fumes of hops.
The track from drink to grave is followed yet,
And Quaker witness proves no safety net.

Last, trusty Wolverhampton, stand
And tell us which of you here present now
Is representing all your membership,
Large in its numbers, broader still in faith.
Your lobby space, with room enough to eat,
Prepared us all before we found our seat.

And so, dear Friends, our summons’d call is o’er
And move we next to minutes from before.

Brief Explanatory Notes

Staffordshire Area (previously Monthly) Meeting opens its business with the names of representatives from its seven constituent local meetings. This always reminded me, as clerk, of the way characters are introduced in a drama. Our meeting houses range from Grade II listed to a 1970s church hall rented by the hour, with our membership equally diverse. Meetings take it in turns to host Area meetings, so we get to know their individual characteristics.

Leek: girder installed two years ago to contain bulging walls in the historic building. Leek’s isolation in the 17th century meant it became a haven for persecuted dissenters, including Friends.
Lichfield: George Fox’s 1651 outburst “Woe to the bloody City” referred to the Diocletian massacre of 2000 Christians (of which there is no record). Friends and dissenters were persecuted out of the City after the 1660 Restoration.
Stafford : What do those infra-red wall heaters do to you?
Stoke: the Meeting House used to be the office of Staffordshire Football Association.
Stone: now meets in the station community centre, wedged within an active rail junction.
Uttoxeter: serene premises from c1702, with peaceful garden and burial ground . Burton Friends used to hold a meeting in the town.
Wolverhampton: Serves generous meals in its large lobby.

Return to Staffordshire Area Meeting page