The spiritual journey is more important than labels. Are we to give regular attenders a set time before they apply for membership? A person, member or attender is no different. We are all on a spiritual path; we all have faith and commitments to the Society before and after acceptance into membership.
It is my understanding that Quakers do not believe in titles (labels), yet it is has been suggested that only those with the title ‘Friend’ belong at Quaker Meetings.
Does not the ‘still small voice’ come to all those gathered together in worship?
William Shakespeare wrote: ‘A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.’ Titles do not matter; it is what the person does that matters. Let us renew the term ‘Ffriend’ for all seekers of the truth.
Afternoon tea and co-counselling
Afternoon tea… morning coffee… a bite of supper… whatever. The breaking of bread, preferably in one another’s homes, brings hospitality and co-humanity. Christ and George Fox both recognised its value. Since we have promoted one another to be our clergy, it is a habit we should adopt more regularly. We do not need to be overseers to do this, merely supportive Friends.
But normal conversation has limitations. Things may be said that jar: competitiveness, poor listening skills, misunderstanding, or lack of acceptance of the human condition may have us part uneasy. We are conscious of the risk and cautious.
Playing the role of counsellor has its problems. It implies that one participant is wiser or less vulnerable than the other, and neither partner may be comfortable with this.
Co-counselling addresses these problems. It structures the conversation. Each partner gets equal time to air their joys, insights, ambitions, worries, grievances, anxieties and/or miseries, while the other listens attentively. Beforehand, there will be a mutual understanding on confidentiality, and the degree of suggestion and intervention expected of the listener.
Before, between and after, we Friends may recognise the value of shared stillness. Sometimes we may use a distraction technique – such as counting down, or pointing to things in the room – to shift attention from the gravity of what has been said and enable the other’s contribution to begin.
Adopting this as a regular habit may bring more value to our membership. We can each initiate it ourselves.
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