Letters - 02 February 2018

From thanks and applause to title changes

Thanks and applause

Thank you for the letter from Jan Lethbridge (19 January) concerning ‘thanks and applause’.

I may be able to explain this practice, which probably dates back to early Friends’ rejection of ‘flourish’ and exaggeration that led to what became known as ‘plain speech’.

When I was a child it was explained to me that since it was anticipated Friends would do what was expected of them, thanks for doing it were unnecessary and might be regarded as insincere.

Later, at my Friends’ school, we were awarded no prizes at the end of the school year. We were expected to do our best and any success was seen as sufficient reward in itself. By the 1950s this practice had been slightly diluted with praise. This was not a great incentive for the average child!

This seems harsh to modern minds, and current child-rearing practice veers rather to the practice of lavish praise for the slightest achievement as a means of encouragement.

However, when clerking Business Meetings, I have tried to be moderate in the wording of minutes. Hence, when releasing someone from service, or recording the conclusion of a piece of work, I have listened to the echoes of bygone Friends and used restrained wording; for example: ‘We thank our Friend for…’

I am aware that some newer/younger people regard this as chilly and strangulated and would wish people to be thanked in more fulsome ways. But old habits die hard, and I can be more expansive in other contexts.

Barbara Pensom

Travel lightly

Raymond Hudson’s complaint that Friends are ignoring ‘correct’ procedure (12 January) brings to mind the parable told by Jiddu Krishnamurti, the philosopher, teacher and writer, when he dissolved the Order of the Star, set up to hail him as ‘World Teacher’.

The devil saw a man pocket something he had found in the road, and an imp asked what it was. ‘A piece of the Truth,’ replied the devil. ‘Bad news for us then,’ said the imp. ‘Oh no, not at all,’ said the devil, ‘I am going to let him organise it.’

If nominations discern that a Friend not in membership would make a good overseer, as occurs in our Area Meeting as well as in Raymond’s, then procedural niceties should not obstruct the appointment. Right ordering does not exist for its own sake, but to allow us to respond to actual needs.

The future of Quakerism does not depend on printing Church government separately from faith & practice, as Raymond suggests, but rather the reverse, because we must ensure that our structures always serve the testimonies.

As Jesus said, the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath, and the elders at Balby have reminded us of Paul’s words, that ‘the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life’ (2 Corinthians 3:6). We have been warned. When it comes to structure, let us travel lightly.

Martin Drummond

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