This has been a week of recording and transcribing Focus Groups as part of my research into the place of Jesus amongst contemporary British Quakers. There have been fascinating responses to the question, ‘Is Jesus an important figure in your life? Perhaps most interesting are the explanations given for the response ‘it varies’ as opposed to ‘Yes’ or ‘No’.
Quakers are notoriously awkward customers when it comes to questionnaires. They quibble about the phrasing of questions, and write in alternative answers when given fix choice options. They are also very aware that other people have different views and do not want to cause offence. Yet, they also have a strong commitment to truth and honesty. This tension leads to some interesting exchanges and some interesting research.
I am enjoying the Groups and so are those who participate. It is not often that an opportunity comes to talk about personal faith in a safe environment. There have been emotional personal stories to explain why particular beliefs have been held or rejected. Several times I have been asked about my own views, but I have usually retreated behind the role of researcher. “Later.” I promise I will write something to share with local Friends. The chore is transcribing the recordings and the challenge is to analyse them and create concepts and theories to explain their significance.
Meanwhile, in between the sessions, I have had some space for relaxation. So on Saturday there was a pleasant stroll along the high street, to buy some bedding plants, followed by lunch at our local Turkish restaurant, and a trip to the library. I read a short science fiction story that same afternoon, and watched an episode of the Sicilian detective, Montalbano on television in the evening. The allotment also desperately needs attention. There is harvesting to be done:- spinach, rhubarb, asparagus and the first small beetroot. But the weeds have been growing even faster than the crops.
Trying to find a way to incorporate different demands and different desires within the hours of each day is difficult. But I still feel that finding words to express my faith and reflecting about the meaning of life is something I’m called to do. Being and doing are important, but finding the words that describe the being and doing is also vital for me. So, I continue to write my blog and a monthly article on ‘Faith Matters’ for the local paper. I enjoy the Guardian crosswords each day.
The MA research is another challenge to find the right words to express and explain the experiences we have. So the recording and transcribing of the Focus Groups contribute to the word search on the theme of meaning and faith.