from the Committee on Ministry and Counsel
Response to the LEYM 2013 Annual Query
from the Ann Arbor Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends
Twenty three friends met on the evening of January 24, 2014 for a meal and subsequent worship sharing. Individual friends read aloud the query from LEYM and quotations from the Passages for Reflection. Out of the silence that followed, several themes emerged.
Many Friends recognized a deep sense of community within our meeting. A variety of activities contribute to loving connections. Examples included food preparation, sharing food, washing dishes, the “sacrament of potluck,” taking care of children, giving one another rides, raking leaves, property maintenance, meeting for canoeing, non-violent communication class, spiritual formation groups, friendly eights, Bible study, serving on committees, and singing.
Friends spoke of practices that strengthened our relationships and allowed us to grow or reach toward personal transformation. We value the special quality of silence and deep listening to each other, the practice of clearness committees, worshiping together, opening our hearts to God, conducting our business in a manner of worship, and learning together. A sense of safety and trusting intentions was held up. Friends described worship with dying Friends; comfort for those who expressed deep sorrow during meeting for worship; and trust that Friends would hear even clumsy speech in a generous light.
While cherishing our community, we also recognized stumbling blocks in drawing in all who might wish to be part of it. Images of inner and outer circles and overlapping and intersecting circles painted a picture of a community where there is a range of commitment and connection. How do we bring in new people? How do we engage with young people, both children and adults? How do we encourage those who may wonder if they are invited to be fully part of the community? Is our lack of diversity in social class or other factors a barrier to participation? The recorders noted that no one in the group tonight was under 50 years old.
Friends observed that our meeting has not recently experienced divisive conflicts. While some friends admitted personal aversion to conflict, several recognized the potential for a deeper bond that can come from acknowledging and addressing conflict. Examples were given of the benefit to meetings of working through conflicts. There is a sense that we are more attuned as a meeting to handle issues of disagreement and less prepared to address interpersonal irritations and misunderstandings, including those which may arise from differences in class, age, or background.
Being part of a loving community means that when we are upset or angry, we don’t run away, but risk the conflict. With the help of the light or the spirit, a profound transformation may occur. We can reach greater unity and a profounder understanding of each other. We are then more able to allow the power and grace of the spirit among us to move us out into the world.