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Readings for Reflection: December 2003
from the Committee on Ministry and Counsel


Response to LEYM Queries on Integrity (Truth, Honesty, Wholeness)

Queries

The Lake Erie Yearly Meeting’s Committee on Ministry & Nurture sent the following two queries to meetings within Lake Erie Yearly Meeting. The response from Ann Arbor Friends Meeting follows.
1. What moves me to live with Integrity? When do I have difficulty in witnessing to Truth? What gets in the way or blocks my being able to be faithful to this testimony?
2. How does our Meeting live in the life and the power to find wholeness, where we are responsible to one another and to our broader community?


Response

The Ann Arbor Friends Meeting addressed the queries on integrity posed to us by the Ministry & Nurture Committee of Lake Erie Yearly Meeting by having two evenings with a meal and discussion. The first session focused on Wilmer Cooper’s pamphlet, The Testimony of Integrity in the Religious Society of Friends, and the second on the queries themselves. In both cases we numbered 20-25 and broke into three smaller groups for discussion, after which we joined together for worship sharing. We did not attempt to reach consensus on the answers to the queries, and this report reflects a number of observations growing out of the process. The participants commented on how useful and enlightening these exercises were, both in considering the queries and in building deeper ties among our community.

During the discussion of the Wilmer Cooper pamphlet, we came to understand that his definition of integrity stands at the heart of any religious practice that we could envision - that is to live in alignment with the spiritual beliefs you have. We also appreciated his broader definitions of integrity, especially the novel (to us) definition of building a stronger, integrated community.

In answer to the queries on our personal conduct, some of us felt that it was very difficult to name that which moves us to try to live with integrity, as it felt like such an ingrained motion. It might be thought of as similar to the natural inclination of a plant to grow toward sunlight, that we have an inborn inclination to grow into the nature of God. Others felt that God required of them to live with integrity, to make their inward views and outward actions align, and some mentioned the avoidance of bad consequences that living without integrity brought. Another impetus to living with integrity is the belief in that of God in others, which consequently directs our treatment of them.

We felt that strong feelings or emotions can often impede our intentions to act with integrity, including the emotions of fear, anger, shame, jealousy, determination or hopelessness. Sometimes we are challenged by what we do not do, rather than what we do, and the reason for the omission is probably fear. At other times we avoid being honest because we believe it might hurt someone or we want to avoid being in disagreement with another.

We believe that when we are too busy we are blocked from being faithful to this testimony because we are not taking the time to listen and be led.

The query regarding the integrity of our community elicited the feeling that our common spiritual seeking together forms the basis on which we can find wholeness and feel responsible for one another. We hope to know one another in the depths of our souls. This wholeness within the Meeting can then lead to a unified response to our broader community. Many instances of building the spiritual community were cited, such as reading queries for consideration, small group discussions, committee work, and food and fellowship. Further discussion brought up two aspects which might be considered by some to be detrimental to the growth of personal bonds within our meeting: its large size, and the great variety of depth of involvement among its members. Upon reflection, we recognized that each person must choose for themselves the appropriate level of their involvement in the life of the Meeting, and that the Meeting’s responsibility was to offer a variety of ways in which one could be involved. One participant spoke eloquently of the richness of community afforded by the large size of our Meeting, and the many different strands of connection which can arise. Any one person can feel a part of several smaller communities within the Meeting. The large size also means that we are challenged to be inclusive of a wide range of spiritual views.


All Readings for Reflection
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