Sunday, 12 January 2014

C is for Cirkel

Cirkel, or circle in English, is a form that is well-known to most Quakers. In general, at least in liberal Western European contexts, and as far as the room and numbers allow, Quakers sit in a circle for their Meetings for Worship (‘andakt’ in Swedish – see A). Circles are said to represent trust, security, protection, wholeness, unity and infinity. American Indians regard the circle as a sacred shape that reflects nature and natural phenomena.

How many circles – and cycles – can you identify in nature – and in life?

A circle draws an individual to the centre, where enlightenment can be found. All the points on a circle are equidistant to the centre, and each person in the circle can be seen and acknowledged. Circles often conjure up images of community, connection and inclusion.

You can be inside or outside a circle. Included or excluded. We Quakers like to talk about inclusion, rather than exclusion. However, I remember when I was a warden of a Quaker Meeting House in England and the rap on the knuckles and the resistance I got when I arranged the chairs in a way that made entry into the circle easier for all. How many people do we exclude from our comfortable circles when we resist change, I wonder?

When the small Småland Worship Group comes together for ‘andakt’, standard poodle Irma lies inside the circle when she feels safe, but stays on the outside and observes when she is unsure. When we met at the home of another dog owner, his dog came into the circle, circled around to each one of us and licked our hands in turn as if to say ‘welcome’. It reminded me of Jesus washing the disciples’ feet. It also took me back in my mind to a Retreat in Sweden that I took part in many years ago, when we participants washed each other's feet.

How do we welcome people into our circles, I wonder? And do we exclude anyone?