Harmony Within the (Quaker) Meeting

I’ve mentioned that each month Quaker Meetings in Iowa Yearly Meeting (Conservative) consider one of the twelve sets of advices and queries, which are questions aimed at fostering discussions of the spiritual life of our meetings.

This month’s topic is harmony within the meeting.

“This is my commandment: Love one another as I have loved you.”         John 15:1

ADVICE

It is sometimes difficult to remember that love is a gift of the Divine Spirit and not simply a human emotion. As imperfect human beings, it is not always possible for us to feel loving toward one another, but by opening ourselves to the Light Within, we can receive and give love beyond our human abilities.

Relationships among meeting members take time to evolve. Sometimes misunderstandings develop. When differences arise, they should not be ignored for the sake of superficial unity. We believe disagreements which might divide or disrupt a meeting can be resolved through human effort and divine grace, and may result in a stronger and more creative meeting. True harmony depends upon each persons deep respect of and faithful attention to the Divine Spirit within us all. We endeavor to practice humility, attempting to understand positions of others and being aware of the possibility that we may be mistaken.

It is the responsibility of the Ministry and Oversight Committee to be sensitive to needs which may arise. Others in the meeting may be equally concerned, and because of greater understanding in certain cases, be able to give counsel. In reconciliation of differences, a position not previously considered may prove mutually beneficial. At times it may be necessary to confront individuals whose behavior is disruptive. A clearness committee or professional help may be suggested in some situations. We must always remember the power of holding one another in the Light, and the healing that comes from forgiving ourselves as well as others.

 QUERY 

  • What can we do to deepen our relationships with one another? How does gender affect the way we relate to each other? 
  • How does our meeting balance the needs for honesty and kindness? What topics do we avoid for the sake of “unity”? 
  • When in conflict with others, do we cultivate a forgiving spirit? Do we look to that of God in ourselves and seek to address that of God in those with whom we disagree? 

My response:

Dear Friends,
I think it says a lot about the Bear Creek Meeting community that a number of members choose to be as involved with the Meeting as they can, even though they live far away.  This practice of sharing our thoughts and beliefs monthly as we respond to the queries is one of the main ways the Meeting has offered people like me who can’t be there for these discussions, to be involved.  After hearing me speak about this a number of times, North Meadow Friends, the local meeting I attend in Indianapolis, has begun to consider Ohio Valley Yearly Meeting queries during worship sharing.
Not being in such close physical contact with meeting members, I know I am often unaware of much of the good work each person is involved with.  The issues and concerns are sometimes very different in inner cities versus rural communities.
One of the most deeply troubling things I have been trying to work through myself, and with the North Meadow and KI communities, is the widespread, structural racism that continues to evolve in our country.  This is often difficult for Friends to comprehend because of the lack of diversity in the general population in Iowa.  Friends have a great deal of trouble seeing how the dramatic changes in the US economy, with the massive redistribution of wealth and enactment of restrictive policies that favor the rich, has resulted in Friends being much wealthier than the vast majority of people in the United States.  This is a dramatic role reversal, and means Friends benefit from the racism built into our economic and political structures.
One way Bear Creek Meeting could continue to work on this is by community discussions involving those at Bear Creek, and Bear Creek members who live and do social justice work in inner cities.  I’ve mentioned working with the AFSC Quaker Social Change Ministry (QSCM) here in Indianapolis, which is a framework to help Friends engage in social change work, with a Quaker, spiritual emphasis.  One possibility might be to use QSCM as a mechanism for this, in a manner similar to our sharing responses to the queries by long distance members.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s