Celebrating Diversity: Culture Q&A (Pleasaunce)
For #CelebratingDiversity, we’ve asked the members of the North Belfast Heritage Cluster to reflect on what culture means to them as individuals! We’ll be sharing their responses throughout September, giving us an opportunity to explore how different groups view culture. Our first Q&A is with Pleasaunce, our representative for Frederick St Quaker Meeting House. Pleasaunce has been involved with Frederick Street her whole life, as her father’s family all worshipped there.
- What does culture mean to you?
Culture to me means how I live in my community and relate to it. It means being open to the world around me, trying to be a positive force for good where I can make a difference.
- What do you think of as your culture?
Being a member of the Religious Society of Friends is not just something I do on Sundays. To me, it is a way of living every day. Quakers don’t have a set religious creed or paid clergy to guide us. Instead, we try to live our lives based on our spiritual experience and the Quaker Testimonies which include Truth, Integrity, Justice, Equality, Peace and Simplicity.
- If you were asked to name three things that define your culture, what would they be?
Simplicity – Demonstrated by our Meeting Houses which are quite plain buildings. We try to live simply as well – Quakers are concerned with the excesses and unfairness of modern life, and the unsustainable use of natural resources.
Equality – Quakers believe that everyone is equal in the eyes of God, and this means that everyone is welcome at our Meetings for Worship and can play a full part in life at Frederick Street. It also means looking outwards and trying to change systems that cause injustice in society. We currently work with prisoners and families in need through our charity Quaker Service. Friends from Frederick Street in the past got involved with anti-slavery protests, soup kitchens during the Famine, and reconciliation work in the 1970s.
Peace Testimony – Quakers are led to refuse military service, and instead become involved in peace activities and alternatives to violence. My Quaker grandfather served in Italy in the First World War as an ambulance driver with the Red Cross.
- Has the place you live (north Belfast) shaped or moulded your culture?
I have worshipped at Frederick Street Meeting in Belfast for over 60 years and have seen a lot of changes in north Belfast in that time. I was a teenager when the Troubles started and remember when the old Meeting House was opened as a refuge for those who had been burnt or intimidated out of their homes. I got involved with Quaker work camps and summer schemes and volunteered at the first Quaker tea bar for visitors to Long Kesh. The Quaker concept of putting your faith into action is important to me and led me to choose a career in district nursing and have a long association with the Quaker Service charity.
- Do you have a favourite part of your culture? And/or a least favourite?
One favourite part for me is being registered as an Officiant for the Religious Society of Friends, which authorises me to solemnize Quaker marriages. Our weddings are very simple affairs, where the couple make their declaration to each other during a special Meeting for Worship. It is lovely to be involved with couples at such a happy time in their lives and to help the occasion go smoothly for them.
Least favourite is probably that our Meetings for Worship in Britain and Ireland do not normally include music or singing. Quakers in other parts of the world do it differently, and to attend Meeting for Worship in places like Kenya is a very joyous experience in comparison.
- Is there a part of your culture that you feel is misunderstood or misrepresented?
Some people only think of Quakers in relation to the porridge oats! The old Quaker man on the packet gives the impression that we are history and don’t exist anymore. Some people don’t even realise that we are Christians. Quakers have always been quite small in number in relation to other churches and tend to keep a low profile. Consequently, in the past, it has been hard for people to find out about us and what we stand for. The internet is helping these days to publicise our presence, and we now get more visitors seeking a different way of worship.