Interviews – Philip Bryers (Quakers Group)

One of the first frequenters of the Perth Subud Centre on our minds for interviewing was one Philip Bryers.  A long-standing member of the Perth Quakers meetings, he touches on his own experiences and the groups standing with the situation facing them over the lockdown period.

How have you found the turn of events impacting yourself and Quakers?

It has not been possible to meet since early March, but we have continued our twice-monthly meetings for worship online, with around the same numbers of attendees as expected (roughly fifteen).

Aside from our common departures with handshakes marking the closing of worship, Zoom closely mirrors what would happen in an offline environment.  Of course, some still feel that there is something important missing.  But still, through our virtual coffee and chat sessions, we’ve gathered an appreciation for keeping in touch with one another most definitely.

With only a collection of heads and assorted bookcases, or pictures in the background, our members have had difficulties adjusting to the level of stimuli there, or lack thereof. We know that other Quaker Meetings in Scotland have found imaginative ways for this to work, but not everyone is comfortable with technology and, worse yet, some do not have the equipment needed to join in.

There has been talk in some areas of Quaker Meetings continuing this arrangement in combining face to face and virtual participation. The technicalities might be a challenge, but i think it could be a positive change if it enables our worship to be more inclusive with members – and more environmentally friendly, of course.

How did you and the Quakers group end up acquainting with the Subud centre?

I became involved with Quakers as a student in Hull in the 1960s and, together with Felicity, my wife, who also comes from a Quaker family by the way,  we both attended Quaker Meetings in Glasgow for over 30 years. I had a career in social work in the West of Scotland and, following retirement, I held two posts in the voluntary sector with Volunteer Development Scotland and Alzheimer Scotland through in Perth.

Over the past twelve years myself and Perth Quakers have since been very happy to use the Subud Centre for our meetings for worship and we have enjoyed building up our links with Subud friends.

What about you Philip. Has anything changed significantly at all for yourself?

In common with many families, I have felt the loss of contact with our grandchildren acutely.

How much older they will seem when we next meet them!

Technology has alleviated the pain of separation somewhat, but we worry their absence at school and nursery is leaving a mark on young people, and what fears have been embedded on minds too young to understand the nature of this virus.

We also feel for the millions who are less fortunate than ourselves.  Whose jobs and security have been put in question, and whose relationships have become strained.  We know that we are a privileged minority, for whom the positives of lockdown have not been outweighed by the negatives, and for whom the future must seem fraught with threats.

There has been more time for reading, for gardening, for enjoyment of nature (albeit restricted to our immediate environs so far) and I’ve enjoyed running again as well! We do have a new understanding of what’s basic, what is dispensable in our consuming and also we have been spending less.

It has been a breath of fresh air to have empty diaries and not to have to routinely check the monthly planner

In fact, we wonder how we will cope when the time comes to crank up our lives and resume our hectic rounds of activity!

Will we want to go back to where we left off?

Or, will we think carefully about what has been of value to us that we’d like to hold on to going forward?

I imagine you had plans that have now been scuppered.  Are they back on now considering the lockdowns’ easing?

Most event planning we had will now be rescheduled for next year.

Yesterday, our vigil in Perth High Street to remember the Hiroshima disaster went ahead, although a planned informal social gathering beside one of Perth’s Peace Poles was cancelled, as we could not be sure of staying within the guidance for outdoor meetings.

A few of us met for a short time, and shared a period of quiet contemplation in this beautiful and peaceful spot.

On a personal level, we have not missed out on too much though a family golden wedding event was cancelled and we have been unable to go down to England to see an elderly relation who has been in hospital, and has now moved permanently into nursing home care.

These are still small deprivations compared with those experienced by many people.

Now that lockdown has loosened, we have finally managed to have caught up with the grandchildren – and yes, they have grown up a lot!

We have begun to venture out, and it is nice to be meeting people face to face again.  Albeit, at a distance of course.

I am reminded now of one of the Quaker testimonies that is ‘simplicity’.

I am reminded now of one of the Quaker testimonies that is ‘simplicity’.  Lockdown has definitely given us clear insights into what that can mean, and into the joy which can come from those simplest of things.