Letters - 27 January 2017

From experience and belief to humanity and animals

Experience and belief

We had several ministries today but two stood out: a Friend described how a patient in hospital, faced with imminent death, decided the most caring thing he could do at the end of his life was to use his estate to set up a home for the homeless. She told of another patient who, nearing death, received a visit from a soldier and how he mistook the soldier for his son. The soldier continued to visit and when asked, after the patient died, revealed that he had been sent to bring news of the late patient’s soldier son’s death in action. These actions, our Friend said, were evidence of action of Spirit or God in people.

A second Friend later ministered that a difference between experience of God or the Spirit, and belief in either, was that it was almost impossible to speak of the experience of the Spirit; belief, however, is easy to speak of and write about – even to fight over! Experience of a relationship with God or the Holy Spirit mostly expresses itself in certain types of actions and behaviour towards others, especially in becoming more compassionate and loving. One can only speak of a spiritual relationship in terms of its effect upon one. But, they added, beliefs can also have the same effect.

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The gift of leadership

I think it is generally agreed that as Quakers we benefit from and continue to need good leadership, including within our Local and Area Meetings. Equally often I seem to hear Friends say: ‘We have a problem with leadership.’ I wonder if it might help if we can see leadership – or leaderful behaviour, if that feels a less loaded phrase – as a function or activity, rather than fixed to a particular person? That way any of us can offer authentic leadership depending on the circumstances or the issue. It also means that we can learn to be good followers, knowing that each of us is likely to occupy each role at different times. We can also use our structures and processes to uphold and equip those whom we ask to exercise leaderful behaviour on our behalf.

John D Gray

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