Us, them and stuff

van Gogh, thatched cottages at CordevilleWhat does a Quaker meeting need to function, and what are our highest priorities? We want a Meeting every Sunday morning, so we need to open the building and have tea or coffee after. Either we have a rota, or agree on the day. Someone brings milk.

We have a building, so we need to pay for its upkeep. We could use up our reserves, but it makes sense to make some revenue by renting out rooms for meetings. One person has to organise this, but all of us could do a bit of selling. If we have business meetings, it makes sense for one person to clerk them, keep the papers and send them out, but that is an admin job, and should not involve making the decisions or necessarily doing work in between.

The heart of the Quaker meeting is our worship together. We need to share the experience of the gathered meeting. We need to help newcomers find the meaning in the silence. We need pastoral care: to share our joys and woes, and sometimes in particularly stressful situations we need access on demand to that, and the hearer may need to offload on someone else, while preserving confidentiality. These are the difficult responsible roles that other churches pay pastors to do.

In one AM, the whole membership takes responsibility for pastoral care. Imagining people in a circle, each member is responsible for those on either side of them in the circle. This mutual oversight, like co-counselling, binds friendships. Attenders and less regular members are spokes on the circle, with oversight but not overseeing. What do the people want? What are the relationships really? There are three monthly mutual oversight meetings.

We need to work on the depth of silence. Come, we say, even when you feel tired or spiritually cold. It can be like sitting in a waiting room. It can be like the Lord gathered us all, as in a net. Speech should deepen the silence and togetherness. Elders are responsible for this. We could all take the responsibility. We say we have not abolished the clergy, but the laity.

We have our relationship with the other meetings in our area meeting, and elders, overseers and trustees work together. These meetings support the work. I want to build relationships across the AM, so that the whole AM is the community. We build relationships by working together, but what are these meetings like? Spirit-led and inspiring, enlivening, or routine and enervating? Is the work delightful, giving people pleasure as they see what they achieve, or burdensome?

3 thoughts on “Us, them and stuff

  1. It does sound like a nice way to … what? Touch the power of silence in a collective manner, and there is enormous power in silence. I still feel a bit of confusion and doubt, almost as if you’re asking “me” if it’s okay. Of course, it’s okay to enjoy it and it’s okay to fly off the handle and say, “Fuck all you nimnoles and crazies,” and storm off to the nearest pub.

    Just be yourself, lovey … find yourself first and then go for a spiritual browse. But you must find yourself, Clare. Then, it falls into place.


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