Threshing Meeting report

A Report on the Threshing Meeting

This was held by Southern Marches Area Quaker Meeting (SMAQM) via Zoom on 27 March 2021 to consider the future of the Pales in preparation for an Area Meeting (AM) to be held on 15 May when it is hoped to discern the next steps.

More than 70 Friends attended this meeting including Friends from each of SMAQM’s constituent Meetings, from each of the neighbouring Area Meetings in Wales, from neighbouring Area Meetings in England and from Area Meetings all over England many of whom have been or are facing similar challenges of maintaining Meeting Houses including many historic buildings.

We were welcomed to the meeting by our AM Clerk who introduced Deborah Rowlands from South Wales Area Meeting who had agreed to Clerk the Threshing.  After a period of silent worship Deborah set the parameters of the meeting and the Pales Management Group gave a presentation which described the possible options for the future of the Pales and included a description of the current state of the property from the resident Friend and statement of the Pales finances from the Pales Treasurer.

A total of 24 Friends ministered during the Threshing and nearly everyone who ‘raised their hand’ was called.  What was very clear was that the Pales is a place of great significance to many Friends and it was called; a special place, a sacred space, a thin place, a place of great historic significance.  There was a strong feeling that the Pales is too important to sell commercially and that other alternatives such as sale or gifting to another charity in sympathy with Quaker values might be more appropriate if we discern that SMAQM cannot sustain it.

What was clear is that there are some momentous decisions to be made about the Pales and that in order not to get bogged down in a myriad of new good ideas we need perhaps to focus first on the question: ‘is SMAQM capable of keeping the Pales?’  

A summary of points made in the meeting, grouped by theme is as follows:

a) Special Place:

Just being there; Pales gives Quaker Ministry.  As with Blue Idol etc Quakers offer places of tranquillity and spiritual significance.  “We are custodians of beautiful quiet places”.
Sacred place. Influence extends beyond where it is.

b) So, could answer needs:

Hunger in the urban environment – people in towns waiting to come.  Inspiring place for young people.  Holidays for refugees.

c) Our obligation?

Responsible for heritage – must preserve. We are called upon to make it available to everyone.  “Make it possible for more to experience it” Resist any commercial element

d) Opportunities? Possible ways forward?

What  grant funding is possible?  Friends in Wales should share burden (and have a voice)
Story to tell –  broaden outreach via TV
Might Youth organisation or
  similar be interested?
Pilgrimage? (Wilderness suggestion today noted)  See if St.Fagans will have it

e) Sustainability and Simplicity

To save the planet we should not be encouraging tourism (Cannot be relied on for income anyway?)
Refurbishment should proclaim sustainability  – and simplicity: “glamping” not appropriate?  Encourage walkers not cars 

f) No longer an appropriate priority for us

AM does not need Pales (would not go looking for it if we didn’t have it) and vice-versa
No real need for it – a waste of our limited energy and resources
It is redundant
Original Friends would baulk at “sacred places”  Cherish the past, but….
Not a key issue for us now, compared to, say, lack of Friends in industrial towns.  We should be addressing the needs of people in need elsewhere.
We are not a buildings preservation trust.