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Faith and Practice

Pacific Yearly Meeting

of the

Religious Society of Friends

a guide to quaker discipline in the experience of pacific yearly meeting of the religious society of friends.
published 2001



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Contents page

ii: quaker faith and spiritual practice

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Worship And The Meeting

preface
pym in context
quaker faith & spiritual practice
testimony & experience of friends
organization of the society
procedures
activities & organization of the YM
glossary
bibligraphy
appendices
sources of quotations
index of sources
subject index

We gratefully acknowledge the generosity of Friends who have permitted us to use material for this Faith and Practice.

 

The Meeting Community

 I do not think I am alone in my certainty that it’s in my relationships with people that the deepest religious truths are most vividly disclosed.

george gorman, religion and life, 1982
britain yearly meeting,
quaker faith & practice, 1995, §10.20

 The Religious Society of Friends arose as a community of the Spirit, centered in regular, shared worship. Ostracized and attacked by mainstream English society, Quakers developed a loving social community which, while not immune to struggle and conflict, supported their personal growth, their care for one another, and their work in the larger world.

 Now as then, community is essential to Friends’ life and spiritual growth. A strong Meeting community offers companionship, resources to care lovingly for those in need, and a place to test and support leadings and concerns. Community is expressed in many ways: by cheerfully joining together to accomplish the work of the Meeting, refraining from gossip and disparaging others, taking part in clearness committees, providing pastoral care, and reflecting Friends values in the larger society. Community is also expressed in commemorative, sociable and playful activities of the Monthly Meeting.

 Those who belong to a Meeting community receive its loving care. Each one in turn should attend to the spiritual condition of others. While respecting others’ privacy, Friends must be sensitive to one another’s needs and willing to ask for assistance in times of trouble. Conflict and difference are a part of life, a necessary result of the varying needs, aims, and perspectives of individuals and communities. Bringing them into the open is a necessary step towards empathy, understanding, and healing. Individuals and Meetings need to address conflict promptly in a spirit of goodwill and a desire to maintain loving relationship.When resolution is not immediate, the Meeting waits for way to open,while persisting in an earnest search for unity.

 Recognizing the universal human needs for embrace, intimacy and sharing, as well as solitude, Friends support each other as individuals, couples, and families, however constructed or defined. The Meeting strives to be present for all its members throughout different stages of their lives and their specific needs — as single people, coupled, or in broader communities — recognizing the Divine in each. The Meeting can be an instrument of “divine assistance,” not only in supporting the marriages under its care, but also in supporting single people and all forms of partnership.We all have need for solitude as well as companionship, though these needs differ and are not always arrived at by choice. The Meeting Community plays a vital role in being sensitive to the needs and changing circumstances of its members.

 Families are built on faith and love, not simply legal definitions. Friends experience the joys and struggles of being loving and faithful within families of choice and families of origin. Sharing life with those who matter most to us is a deeply spiritual journey when we struggle to live lives of openness and integrity. To be companions to each other on this common journey is central to the meaning of community.

 Children bring special blessings to the Meeting community. Meetings must learn to cultivate the spiritual gifts of their youngest members, to listen to them and learn from them.

 Jesus said: Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them; for such belongs to the kingdom of God. Truly I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.

luke 18:16-17

 As Meetings open themselves to the lessons children offer, they must also be attentive to families experiencing the joys and stresses of child rearing. Parents provide for the healthy development of their children’s minds, bodies, and spirits. Time and attention needed for this central task should be shielded from less important tasks.Meetings should share these responsibilities with parents and extended families so that children grow in the knowledge that they occupy a valuable place in the Meeting community. All adults in the Meeting should find ways to be involved in the children’s lives.

 At the same time Friends cherish older people in the Meeting, offering support as they face changing circumstances in their lives, valuing the wisdom, serenity and detachment that advancing age may bring.With gratitude for the memories and blessings of those lives, Friends value older people in new ways as they pass on theirresponsibilities, assuring them of their continuing role in the Meeting community. Aging members can be bearers of wisdom, a tranquil enlightenment that recognizes the divine presence in the ordinary, as well as prophecy, which calls us out of the ordinary to a new vision of the world.

 The Meeting must find ways to consult its experienced members as it makes decisions. It may ease its expectations of members who no longer find it easy to bring a pot luck dish, or volunteer to do clean up, but whose company it cherishes.

 At the same time the Meeting must accompany all members as they experience transitions, change, diminishments of all kinds. These changes present constant challenges: physical, financial and spiritual. The life of the community can deepen and grow in the process of confronting change.

 The Quaker community extends beyond our home Meetings. Historically, Friends have maintained contact with the wider world of Quakers through traveling ministry, intervisitation, home hospitality, and participation in the wider gatherings of Friends. Such participation often results in a deepening of individual commitments and a livelier sense of community at the home Meeting.

 Friends seek to embrace all people — all God’s children — in community. This witness for, and practice of, community informs social concerns for peace and justice in the world.

 When Friends are led to actions in the wider world, the Meeting may be called upon not only to help discern the merits of such a leading but also to offer material and spiritual support. (See Clearness and Clearness Committees, p. 91). Early Meetings were both a religious body and an economic unit, coming to the aid of persecuted members who risked imprisonment and loss of jobs and property for acting on their beliefs. Meetings that have united on a course of action, such as providing sanctuary to families fleeing oppression, have often found their faith deepened and their community life enhanced. Such actions require full participation, which is the essence of community.