This morning my Quaker Meeting (Bear Creek) will be considering how we work for peace and nonviolence. Each month we consider queries from our (Iowa Yearly Meeting Conservative)’s Fath and Practice. This month’s queries relate to peace and nonviolence.
“[We] seek to live in the virtue of that life and power that takes away the occasion of all wars.” George Fox
We seek peace within our own lives. Sometimes there are barriers to peace within families and meetings, and among individuals. Anger and frustration may result in hurtfulness which leaves physical, sexual or emotional wounds. Healing and forgiveness are possible when our hearts are opened to the transforming love that comes from the Spirit Within. The violence we oppose is not only war, but all unloving acts.
Friends seek peaceful resolution to conflicts among nations and peoples. Wars can easily erupt when nations depend upon armed forces as an option for defense and order. To oppose war is not enough if we fail to deal with the injustices and inequalities that often lead to violence. We need to address the causes of war, such as aggression, revenge, overpopulation, greed, and religious and ethnic differences.
- What are we doing to educate ourselves and others about the causes of conflict in our own lives, our families and our meetings? Do we provide refuge and assistance, including advocacy, for spouses, children, or elderly persons who are victims of violence or neglect?
- Do we recognize that we can be perpetrators as well as victims of violence? How do we deal with this? How can we support one another so that healing may take place?
- What are we doing to understand the causes of war and violence and to work toward peaceful settlement of differences locally, nationally, and internationally? How do we support institutions and organizations that promote peace?
- Do we faithfully maintain our testimony against preparation for and participation in war?
Faith and Practice. Iowa Yearly Meeting (Conservative)
I have been meaning to read the pamphlet Advice and Queries: Discerning Peace and Social Concerns by Tasmin Rajorte and Matthew Legge, Canadian Friends Service Committee (CFSC), Canadian Quaker Learning Series.
In preparation for our (Bear Creek) worship sharing related to peace and nonviolence this morning, I thought this would be a good time to read that pamphlet. I was impressed with what I read. I try to avoid including too much material from other sources when I write, but the following are very helpful queries from the document.
Several Quaker Meetings have come to us to express challenges in their work on peace and social concerns. They’ve said, in effect: “We’re exhausted. We see so many problems in the world and we try to take action on too many of them. In the end, we’re left feeling frazzled and spread too thin. How does Canadian Friends Service Committee navigate this challenge? How can we decide what causes to take up?”
In response to these questions and requests for help, CFSC has written a new pamphlet. Aimed at Quaker Meetings, the pamphlet explores what discernment is, what a leading is, and how to use Quaker decision-making processes to select what peace and social justice work to take on.
Queries to Test that the Concern or Leading is Grounded in Spirit
“…Appreciate that doubt and questioning can also lead to spiritual growth and to a greater awareness of the Light that is in us all.”
Advices & Queries
Having considered what concerns, leadings, and discernment mean and how Quakers engage in discernment processes, you can now turn to queries that you and the Meeting may find helpful in discerning if a leading or concern is grounded in the Spirit.
Are you experiencing a concern or a leading? Is it genuinely from God?
The following queries may assist with providing clarity on this:
- Is it an immediate reaction to something or is it coming from a deeper place? Can you distinguish the concern or leading that has arisen from the range of concerns that you are generally preoccupied with or want to act on?
- Is the compulsion to do something stemming from your ego’s need for acceptance, belonging, or control? Are you experiencing a compulsion to rescue others, to save the world, or to act on your own? Are there expectations, hopes, assumptions, impulses, and underlying family patterns” shaping your sense of the concern or leading? 27 Is this genuinely motivated by love and compassion? Is it coming from the heart in unity with the mind?
- What experiences led to this concern or leading?
- Is this a desire that someone else do something or is it a call to act yourself?
- Is it associated with an unnerving persistent “turmoil and disquiet that won’t go away?
- Can you explain the faith basis of the concern or leading and how it is in keeping with Friends’ testimonies?”
- Is now the time and, if so, will you remain in this for the long
- Are you willing to accept difficulty and censure.
- How is this concern or leading currently being addressed?
- Would acting on this result in any harm to you and/or the community?
- Once it is clear what you must do, is there a feeling of centredness and peace that is unlike the preceding turmoil?
Role of the Monthly Meeting
“A concern that is brought before a meeting should be considered with the greatest love, kindness and discipline. Much as we like to support our Friends in the things for which they have an unbounded enthusiasm, it is no kindness to recognize as a concern something which has not received the fullest attention possible.”—Britain Yearly Meeting
A broad array of leadings and concerns come to Meetings. These may be referred to a Peace and Social Action Committee (PSAC) or discernment may be done by the Meeting as a whole. If the Meeting has a PSAC, is its role to assist with discernment and:
a) make recommendations to the Meeting and help Friends prioritize and unite on engaging in action together as a Meeting; or
b) provide coordination, guidance, and support for Friends in carrying out, as individuals, leadings and concerns that have been tested?
Whether discernment is done by the Meeting as a whole, or a PSAC, queries to assist with this stage of the discernment process can be found below. In some cases, a Meeting for Clearness can also be useful. Note, too, that a Meeting may choose to act on a concern arising from a partnership (for instance with other faith communities) in addressing a matter of common interest even in the absence of a leading from any individual in the Meeting. The following queries may assist a gathered Meeting or PSAC at this stage of the discernment process:
- Is the concern or leading and proposed action self-serving?
- “Knowledge about something generally does not give rise to a true leading or concern. It is when a Friend is intimately acquainted with a situation that the Spirit’s call to action arises.
- Does the leading come out of direct experience?
- Does the Friend have an established relationship with those who are the focus of the concern (for example, do they work with incarcerated persons if the concern is about incarceration)?
- Can the individual be patient for better clarity and others’ guidance, and wait for way to open?
- What is the faith basis of the concern or leading? Can it be explained?
- What is distinctively Quaker about the concern or leading, and about the way we might be called to act? Is it in keeping with the testimonies of the Society? Why should Friends be doing this work?
- Is this individual or group right to believe that this concern or leading has been ‘laid upon’ them by God?
- Is the individual jumping on a bandwagon or bringing something unique?
Yes, the Concern or Leading is Grounded in Spirit—Now What?
“The way people are going to work together has to reflect and foster sustainability of the outcomes.”
Once it has been determined that the concern or leading is truly from divine guidance, further discernment is needed around what action to take. Is there a request to the Meeting or PSAC to act on this concern or leading? Are others drawn to the concern, making it necessary to discern whether a larger body of Friends will take this up and what the key focus will be?
from Advice and Queries: Discerning Peace and Social Concerns by Tasmin Rajorte and Matthew Legge, Canadian Friends Service Committee, Canadian Quaker Learning Series