Wednesday, 1 November 2023

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(13 October—15 October)

One of the annual events that Quaker schools organise is a pilgrimage to the Northwest of England where students and accompanying teachers literally follow in the footsteps of George Fox, the founder of the early Quaker Movement in 1652. The event is called the Fox-trot since participants trot around the region where George Fox had been. Although the pilgrimage lasts only three days, the benefits are endless. It is not a historical or sightseeing trip, but a spiritual journey that allows visitors to understand the challenges that George Fox encountered and the ongoing spiritual lessons he shared with people he preached and spoke to.

Brummana High School has for the second time in a row taken part in the Foxtrot. Thus, on 12 October 2023, three students from grade 11 IP (Adam Matar, Noemi Habib and Romy Mouhawej) and their chaperone teacher (Lisette El Hage) travelled to England and spent the night at Sidcot school (Somerset, Bristol) whose Quaker officer, Barley Hearn, had taken charge of the Foxtrot preparations. The morning of 13th October, the journey to Northwest England began. Upon arrival, students from Leighton Park School and Sibford School joined BHS and Sidcot students. The first gathering was at Clitheroe Meeting House where students learned about George Fox at length. The next big event was the walk up Pendle Hill which seemed magnificent yet daunting from the bottom but enveloped a stunning view from its top. Students were amazed by the beauty of the place but certainly shocked by the biting cold.

After the walk, the group departed and settled at the hostel in Ingleton (North Yorkshire) where they had a nice meal before meeting in the lounge to share thoughts, sing a song about George Fox (Walk in the Light) and play a game (Secret Friend). Everyone picked a paper which had the name of someone in the group, and the purpose was to do something nice to that person or to buy a nice gift perhaps. After the draw, more singing went on before retiring to bed.

The second day of the pilgrimage was equally rich and informative as the trip was to Brigflatts Meeting House where interesting talks and conversations were held about Quakerism and Quaker values. Right after that, another interesting visit was to Firbank Fell, a beautiful place where nature lies like a recluse, distantly from any unwanted interference. There, too, a lot more information about George Fox’s work and life was shared, and it was clear at that time how inspiring his presence must have been to the people he met. The tour students had been given inside the Meeting House and outside in the garden area and the surrounding gardens revealed a much-wanted feeling of serenity that everyone seemed to enjoy.

The next walk was to Fox’s pulpit and several conversations went on about personal inspiration. Lastly was the gathering at Kendal Meeting House and then Kendal Tapestry Museum. The Tapestry Museum is a splendid place with a character of its own. It is well-kept and has a very hospitable and welcoming atmosphere. After the meeting, the students were able to walk around Kendal, a small but buzzing town with several shops and interesting architecture. BHS students had a nice time walking around Kendal; it did not feel too strange, perhaps because they had already become familiar with several aspects of the place. The highlight of the day was the gathering at the hostel after the evening meal when students from all participating schools were grouped to prepare a creative activity that would express the content of the aforementioned song. Needless to say, it was very jovial and fun; students enjoyed themselves and had a good laugh. Some decided to stay in the TV room and watch an ongoing rugby game while others had an early night.

The last day of the pilgrimage was spent partially at Swarthmoor Hall where an hour of silence brought together a big prayer group that sat in solemness. Heartfelt reflections were enunciated from time to time and after the meeting ended, lots of chats took place over tea and biscuits in a very warm ambiance. Right after the gathering, the last stop was at Sunbreck Burial Ground for Quaker individuals.  

Although the pilgrimage had come to an end, everyone was asked to express gratitude to the Secret Friend and try to guess who it might have been. Lots of gratitude and hugs went on, and certainly when the walk to buses had drawn near.

The trip back to Sidcot to spend the night took a long time but BHS students longed to arrive and see the few friends they had made on arrival on 12 October. That Sunday was their happiest and saddest as they were able to see their newly-made friends but also say goodbye to them. The trip back home was on Monday, 16 October. There were lots of goodbyes to the beauty of England and the history of Quakers, tonnes of pictures and videos, tote bags with small souvenirs and snacks and open expectations for more future endeavours.

The most essential lessons that the Foxtrot gives are Quaker values which in reality are common to most human beings: SIMPLICITY, TRUTH, EQUALITY, and PEACE.

We hope that the world we live in can one day thrive according to the values of love and peace, and we hope that our students will be able to partake in more activities that will help them grow spiritually, intellectually and emotionally.