Quakers work, learn and worship together. The full and formal name for our faith is the Religious Society of Friends. The name Quaker came about as a derogatory description of early Quaker preachers who spoke in public squares and interrupted church services; they literally quaked as they spoke. As Friends, we emphasize that everyone can receive Divine guidance, and we also provide methods for discerning that guidance. Remembering this fact, keeps me out of trouble, and it might have helped Friends Central School in Philadelphia when they cancelled a speaker earlier this month.
In my current role as clerk of Intermountain Yearly Meeting, I regularly speak with committee clerks about our business, my concerns, their concerns, and we hold the Yearly Meeting in the Light. I would not be as useful a clerk if I tried to go it alone. I would also really dislike being clerk if I didn’t have a clerks’ group to work with and my own anchor committee to call on when needed. The work of the Yearly Meeting would suffer, I would make avoidable mistakes, and then there would be the messes to clean up.
When I labor with other Friends on difficult issues, I learn new perspectives and long term concerns, and we tend to come to insights none of us would have had alone. What I like best is that I have fewer messes to clean up, my life is Spirit led and the work of the Yearly Meeting goes forward without too much interruption.
You can use Quaker discernment for the most mundane of issues. What color to paint the meetinghouse? How do we want to spend our money? Do we want to hire a grounds keeper? You learn a lot about how much and why people care about some of these issues so very much. Practicing discernment on the small stuff makes it easier to do when the big stuff arrives – such as when a Palestinian speaker was told not to come speak to students at Friends Central earlier this month.
Supporting Friends and Friends Central
And now that there is a brouhaha at Friends Central, I bet some of the people affected by the decision to cancel the speaker could really use a clearness committee to discern their way forward, a group of Friends to listen to them, help them find God in everyone and Light in this event. Teachers were affected (especially the two one administrative leave), the students who walked out of meeting for worship and those who stayed are affected, their families and friends. The administration of the school, the alumnae, its donors and its fellow Friends School are all impacted by this rather cataclysmic event.
This rather instructive event.
I hope that Friends in the Philadelphia area will discern how they can support those affected. I hope that those teachers, students and administrators who are Quakers will ask their meetings to form clearness committees for them to labor together with Friends to discern a Spirit-led way forward.
We are Friends; we do the hard work together.