SOME people believe the white poppy is somehow in opposition to the red poppy of Remembrance.

Cherry Lewis disagrees.

“We wanted to do something to remember all victims of war and to offer an alternative way of remembering the sacrifices made by so many people.

“We didn’t want to clash with the Armistice or to set ourselves up as some sort of challenge to that, so we decided to go for the weekend before.

“In no way do we want to deny the sacrifices and the heroism of the soldiers in so many wars. So many people have given their lives. What we would like to do, I think, is challenge the need for war, I suppose, to say we must find other ways to solve the world’s conflicts.

“We’ll never stop conflict, but we’ve got to find better ways to solve it than by killing millions of people, and if we spent anything like the money on peacemaking that we spend on the military industry, the weapons industry, we could make a huge difference in the world.”

Swindon’s Quakers gather at the Friends Meeting House on Eastcott Hill. Cherry first became involved about 18 years ago, having become more interested in spiritual matters after becoming a parent.

The mother-of-three, a semi-retired English teacher who had an earlier career in IT, said: “At that point you start to think, ‘What is this life and death and where do these people come from? Is there more than just the physical about them. I suppose I felt strongly that there was.

“I wanted to explore that.”

Quakerism appealed because of its commitment to compassion and justice, and because it embraces people of a wealth of backgrounds and opinions.

Cherry is therefore at pains to say her opinions are purely her own and not an official line.

“We’re a very broad church. We have our roots in the seventeenth century in the Christian church, and we’re still a member of various Christian bodies, but we say that we draw inspiration from the Bible and from many other sources as well, and we put a lot more emphasis on what we do rather than what we believe.

“We don’t have dogma. You’ll find a variety of beliefs and opinions within Quakerism. That was what attracted me to it at first – that it was a very open sort of place.

“Quakers are pretty relaxed on the afterlife as well. I think some believe in it and some don’t. Most of us think the important thing is to get on with the here and now and worry about the afterlife when we get there - if we get there!

“Speaking personally, going to Meeting makes me feel grounded and centred. Without it I can feel that I’m rushing around being busy, busy, busy but I’m not really clear where I’m going. Meeting is that chance to touch base with what’s important.”

Meetings are mostly silent, with members speaking only if and when they feel moved to do so.

The Quakers’ official name is the Society of Friends, but legend has it that the faith adopted the Quaker name following a judge’s disparaging response when a member spoke in court of trembling before God.

The society was founded in the mid-17th century by George Fox.

“He decides that, as he calls them, the professors, the preachers, the educated people who talk about religion, don’t have a message that he recognises, and that as he says, ‘There is one, even Jesus Christ, who can speak to thy condition.’

“He gets this idea that you can have an individual experience of God – it doesn’t need to be mediated through the church, through the clergy, etcetera, but that the individual can directly experience the knowledge of God, of the divine, however you want to put that.”

It’s a philosophy, Cherry believes, which is as relevant in the 21st century as it ever was.

“We’re awfully inclined to think we can fill the holes in our satisfaction by buying something else – and it doesn’t fill the holes so we buy something else.

“I think the other huge thing people really struggle with in this life is the loss of community.

“You can get to feel very isolated, even when you’re in the midst of people. Being part of a community has been of great value to me.”

The Quakers website is