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Readings for Reflection: March 2018
from the Committee on Ministry and Counsel

Lake Erie Yearly Meeting Query 2018

The LEYM queries are:
  • How might we support each other as we find peaceful and persistent responses to actions that exclude and judge?

  • In what ways do we, as Quakers, hold ourselves and the Other in the Light when our disagreements seem insurmountable?

  • How do we find common ground as we listen to those with whom we disagree?


Sixteen Friends gathered at the Ann Arbor Friends Meeting on Friday, March 2, to share a meal and consider the LEYM query for 2018. The group reacted to the query through worship sharing and thoughtful reflection.

We found that the Quaker testimonies of equality and pacifism both speak to these queries. In listening deeply, not just to words but to where the words come from, we treat individuals with respect, expecting to find their Light and hear their Truth. Pacifism calls us to care for all, whether the world names them as our enemies or not. By intentionally caring for those with whom we disagree (much as John Woolman showed his love and concern for slaveholders as well as for slaves), we can make a choice to refuse to be enemies with them.

Friends are aware of many helpful techniques and philosophies of listening. Listening for more than the information being conveyed is fundamental to opening oneself to the other. Listening first to the other’s experience and perspective can enlarge our own. Holding the other in the Light as they speak and stepping back from oneself can soften the edges of a disagreement. We are more open to hearing others and less sure that we know everything when we are our best selves. We may recognize common ground we share with others when we listen carefully. If we feel anger or fear when disagreeing, it may help to try to understand where those feelings are coming from within ourselves.

We don't want a search for common ground to create blind spots that keep us from seeing and speaking against injustices. One Friend spoke to a concern that we might pay more attention to loud conflict than we do to those who have been silenced, and questioned whether their own actions had taken away the voices of others. Sometimes words with which some might disagree are rooted in historical injustices or an imbalance of power that the listener may not know. At other times personal pain may be expressed as disagreement.

Some questioned the negative tone given to the word "judge" in the query. It was suggested that we can and should judge ideas and actions, but not people.

Some Friends spoke to the differences between disagreements as individuals and as groups. Aspects of individuals might be lost in groups that gather around a shared identity and can't express the complexity of each individual participant. We may have more opportunity to connect despite disagreement when meeting individual to individual.

At the end of the evening, a draft of this report was read and edited, sparking additional discussion and consideration, especially regarding the interaction of individuals and groups. Ways that groups can enhance us as humans were noted.

Thank you for providing the query for our consideration.

Peggy Daub, Recording Clerk
Ann Arbor Friends Meeting

All Readings for Reflection
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