There is a desire among some Quakers that local meetings should be vibrant. What does this mean?
The dictionary suggests three areas of meaning:-
the state of being full of energy and life.
striking brightness of colour
strength and resonance of sound.
It seems odd at first sight that Quakers should want to have a vibrancy of sound, given that they
are known for silence and stillness. But of course spoken ministry is also valued, and another
characteristic of Quakers is that they speak their mind; they value speaking truth to power in love.
It also seems peculiar for Quakers to value brightness of colour, given that one of the testimonies
is simplicity, and for many years Quaker dress was plain to the point of being dull. Though things
have changed a lot in the generations since, Friends are not the first group one might think of when faced with a rainbow of colours!
However, the first area of meaning, to be full of energy and life is certainly something you would
hope that Quakers would desire, and of course not only Quakers but any faith group or any human community at all. To be the opposite would mean being lifeless and incapable of anything.
The four particular features that the vibrancy programme among Friend is focussing on are:- strength, confidence, sustainability and connectedness. They could be rephrased as capacity, confidence, continuity and connectedness, these are features which could be built up by workers who offer support, encouragement and resourcing.
Of course, the root meaning of vibrancy is vibration. When the air vibrates we hear the noise, some of which is deemed musical; sometime the sounds are discerned as speech, a language we can understand, perhaps. But in other contexts vibrations can be dangerous symptoms of a machine not working properly, or of a gas that is overheating because the atoms are moving excitedly. Too much friction in either machines or human groups can be destructive!
Some vibrations therefore are negative and unhelpful, but others can be positive and harmonious. For those of us who remember the nineteen-sixties, of course the phrase we have to use is ‘good vibrations’, thanks to the Beach Boys. However, the more vibration usually the more heat, like the House of Commons at Prime Minister’s Questions, where they may be lots of sound but perhaps little sense?
Which brings me to politics and the situation we find ourselves in as a result of the General Election. Which political party is feeling vibrant? And which is simply full of vibration? I can’t help but think that it would be wonderful if MPs could work together harmoniously for the good of the country and the world, rather than perpetuate the divisiveness which seems so usual. Instead of cobbling together enough votes to see a minority Government work and to continue as before, why not work on issue by issue trying to reach agreement with the whole House? That would be a novel role for a ‘Prime Minister’, would it not?
On a complete different note, my allotment is vibrant. Unfortunately it is the weeds that are full of energy and are running rampant despite my best efforts. I have nevertheless harvested three punnets of strawberries, and the first beetroot, mange tout and peas and lettuce. So we might be vibrant at home with fresh vegetables to enjoy!