Our Clerk had sent back to committee a discussion that has been sitting in committee for ... three? four? years. We have a committee named "Oversight" and, understanding that that name acts as a block for some people, particularly those who carry pain at the historical practice of slavery in the southern states of the US and in the Spanish conquered Americas, we wish to change the name.
At this point, you, my journal friend, may wish to stop reading this, and go read the answer to "How many Quakers does it take to change a light bulb?" If you aren't familiar with Friends' process, that may be more enlightening -- no pun intended -- and it's about as long a document as this entry.
At the end of Meeting for Business, i shared how a business management book has advice for Meeting on what is needed to come to Unity -- the Quaker term for an experience of decision making that is different from consensus in that the community is united in commitment to the decision. The management book had talked about how frank and open opportunity for conflict is needed before people can unite in commitment, and i hoped that the Clerk would get the message.
At home, i shared with Christine, and she pointed out our current clerk is in more need of a clue-by-four than my oblique message would convey. I corresponded with another Friend for advice, she blind copied me on her application of a clue-by-four. I've not heard about any response to that message.
What did happen was the Clerk copied me on his response to the person in meeting in most vocal concern with the decision at hand. In it he explained how he hoped the committee bringing the minute would sit with the person with concern "and others" to explore.
This was when i felt led to respond again to the Clerk, and hopefully be less oblique. I'm still wordy. And there are still run on sentences.
I find myself using more Christian imagery in this message than i usually do. Not everyone in the audience to which i was sending frames their worship in traditional Christian language. In fact, the most problematic issue is my reference to the practice of communion: as our Clerk has grown up as a Quaker, he doesn't have the exposure to the expectation of that mystical transformation. And to be truthful, Presbyterians don't either, but i know about it. I hope that metaphor is accessible to the Clerk.
" I didn't feel the floor of business meeting was the place to explore the perhaps more painful aspects. ... I envision a worshipful in-person meeting where we labor together to see all aspects in the Light. "
[Clerk], apparently you and i have a different understanding of what Meeting For Business is.
My earliest experience of the power of Friends' process was being in Worship after a Meeting for Business when Friends of the Cherry Street Meeting in Philadelphia came to unity over something that was clearly previously divisive and of deep concern. Listening to their witness of thanks and joy of the miracle of unity during Meeting for Business is when i knew i too wanted to participate in such a clearly transformative experience.
If Meeting is to reach full and real unity, Meeting needs to participate: and Meeting for Worship with Attention to Business is the place where we offer this up to all in our community: those whose role puts them in the midst of the decision, those who have a concern about the decision, and those without a concern for the decision but who can hold the Meeting in the Light while we listen to each other and for the Light of Unity.
I do not think it serves the heart of our meeting to shield those of us willing to come to Meeting for Business from this work. Indeed, i sat there last Sunday I wondered why i was there if it was NOT to labor and listen to our community in our brokenness strive towards a healing. I can think of many ways for me to grow in my relationship to God through others but i choose Meeting for Business. If all we are doing is approving Minutes, there are better ways for me to spend several hours a month.
I can tell you that from listening to the meeting members over the years, it is not only the question of whether the name changes but to what the name changes. There has been pain around the proposed name -- and i believe you have been in committee meetings where we have heard the pain expressed -- and there is also great joy with the proposed name name. While i am used to and comfortable with "Care and Concerns" i do hold a small hope that a more perfect name will arise from our deliberation.
I should hope that next month we can announce that the Meeting will be deciding the minute during Third Month and have some time to listen to each other so that the community can carry Friends' witness over the month. I find myself thinking of the metaphor of wine as communion as i write this: how other sects take bread and wine and believe it is transmuted into the body and blood of Christ. I hope for Meeting for Business to be a more intimate communion, where through the words of others taken in through the silence we transmute the human wisdom, love, pain, and joy into the Light of Christ.
I suppose i feel a terrible irony at the context of this shielding of the Whole from this discussion: for me, the point of considering this minute is to consider whether there is something we can do as a group to make sure we are making access to this communion as available to all people as possible. It is my belief that the more broad an expression of human experience becomes the metaphorical wine and bread of our participation in Meeting for Business, the more possibilities we have to a clear expression of Light arise from our communion.