Gloucester Quakers active in the heart of their city

Gloucester Quakers win award
Quakers in Gloucester have been given a double boost recently as they have celebrated the reopening of their meeting house and the city’s Gay and Lesbian Community has named them as their “person of the year”.

Gloucester Quakers’ 19th century meeting house was gutted by fire in 09/2012 after an arson attack started by a local man. The fire caused extensive damage to the electrics, parts of the building and area not directly damaged by the fire were affected by smoke.

Eighteen months later and the meeting house has been re-opened for worship and for business. The Gloucester Gay and Lesbian Community regularly hired a room before the fire and since the building has re-opened, they have returned.

Mark Merrett, from the Gloucester Gay and Lesbian Community, told the Gloucester Citizen: “The Gloucester Quakers’ meeting had been nominated in recognition of the assistance provided both to our group locally and nationally by supporting LGBT issues. They have been very good to us and it only seemed fitting that they win the award this year.”

Quakers in Britain played a key role in supporting same sex marriage, which became legal in England and Wales in 03/2014.

Andrew Turrall, from Gloucester Quakers, told the Gloucester Citizen: “We cherish the GGLC group as our friends, not just as hirers. We were very pleased to receive this award. They have been meeting here for a very long time but we were amazed to be presented with this.”

Using restorative justice after arson attack
Gloucester Quakers are spending time re-marketing their rooms for hire as some of their other regular hirers found new premises while the meeting house was renovated and they have not returned.
The man was found guilty of the arson attack and was sentenced to three years in prison. But since then he and Gloucester Quakers have taken part in a restorative justice exercise, supported by Restorative Gloucestershire.

“At first we had no understanding of who had done the deed or why it had been done and it felt like a violation of our collective worship and what it stands for,” said Elyn Mitchell from Gloucester Quakers. “As soon as we started to think about our reactions to the fire, some of us knew the restorative justice was the only way we could go.

Using restorative justice was an opportunity for Gloucester Quakers to tell the perpetrator the impact of his crime and to learn more about how he came to set fire to their building. The practice is said to help cut re-offending.

Gloucester Quakers explained that they have learned about the personal issues the arsonist was going through at the time of his crime and that he has apologised for his actions. They also said that a bond has been formed between them, with the arsonist saying that he wants to help raise money for the meeting house.

Gloucester room hire
Gloucester Quakers have a website dedicated to their room hire, on the aptly named Rooms are available to hire from £10 per hour with deals available for longer bookings. Hirers have access to the kitchen, storage space and there is CCTV in operation.

Events promoting peace
Gloucester Quakers are helping to promote peace in their city and beyond by taking part in a series of events involving Quakers from across Gloucestershire. A touring exhibition across the region will highlight Quaker involvement in peacebuilding in both world wars, as well as sharing insights from Quaker work today.
The exhibition will be hosted in Nailsworth, Lydney, Newnham, Cheltenham, Dursley and Cirencester as well as in Gloucester.

On Conscientious Objector Day, 15/05/2014, Quaker Diana Francis will speak at Gloucester Cathedral at a public meeting titled Peace now: time for action. Diana is an author, activist and specialist in conflict transformation, as well as the daughter of conscientious objectors. Diana will speak on how conflict is a part of life and is inextricably linked with variety, movement and change but does not need to be a reason for killing.

Finally, Gloucestershire Quakers are using their website to promote peacebuilders from the past – in particular those who were active in the world wars. In the first document, Jane Mace reports from the transcripts of conscientious objectors’ appearance at military tribunals in 1916.

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