I saw a friend today. We are making a friendship together. I appreciated the art she has collected, and we talked of art we loved. Some people can’t stand this face: I knew she was female chiefly because of her smooth forehead, and loved the force of personality the face shows. In a house, I can touch them. We shared stories of our respective history, and talked of our concerns. We shared our feelings, and may give each other reiki. This joint exploration and endeavour could be beautiful.
We talked of our Quaker community. On a telly drama, I saw a congregation joyfully and enthusiastically singing hymns together, and thought- yuck: all finding community in all feeling the same way, in being manipulated into that feeling. We don’t like creeds, and we don’t have leaders. On Sunday, we talked of our pastoral care. Eldership is pastoral care within worship, Oversight is pastoral care elsewhere. We talked of such things we could do, such as, posting the newsletter to someone who has not come to worship this month, with a note of how the meeting is, maintains some contact.
Here is —, who may be moving from being an “Enquirer”, checking us out, to an “Attender”, who has seen our value and cultivates a habit of worshipping with us. Many Quakers have the experience of “Coming home” to Friends, in that it feels like at last this fits. There will be “natural Quakers” in K– who would have such an experience if they encountered us, but have not yet; and, I hope, some who will in the next ten years.
How can we bring people closer in to our community? I have a heart filled with Love, and I need to express that love. I want to serve. There is service needed: we are stewards of our resources, and it is morally wrong to have a building sitting empty six days a week, even three days a week, and thrifty, canny Quakers generally make money by room hire. In my meeting one man has handled this, and others could perhaps bear part of that burden. How we give service may cause tensions. The pastoral care we desire may be wildly different: H, newly bereaved, would have liked contact from her meeting; as a new widower, she felt that widows get more understanding. Yet when hurt, I want the care I want, when I want it, and care offered can seem intrusive.
At K–, some thought we could all take some responsibility for our pastoral care. Given the difficulty of it, I feel we need three people sharing the responsibilities of eldership and oversight. They should form a bond of trust and friendship together, supporting each other in the work each may best do, making decisions together about the needs of the Meeting. Then they can feel supported in the care they give, and find out how best to care for the meeting, for what works for one Friend may not work for another.
“Oh, you’ve noticed the roof!” Mmm, that change of gradient there: why? Where else does it change gradient? I stare at it for a while (from inside) then move to the other end of the room, to see its shape better. It is subtle. So much beauty! I could get so much joy from this encounter, and her husband too has charm and sweetness overlaying rich depths. It is worth my care.