Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Learning to Be Accountable

I've been reading the newest Pendle Hill pamphlet to arrive, "Spirit-Led Eldering" by Margery Mears Larrabee. I'm only a short ways into it but on passage really spoke to me when I read it yesterday:

What I find compelling and inspiring about the lives
of these early Friends is their mutual and active desire to be accountable for the spiritual health, nurture, and behavior of members,
attenders, and the meeting as a whole. I believe we need to get back to this
accountability and to revitalize the culture of mutual spiritual nurturing and
care within our own faith community.

A Friends meeting is intended to be so much more
than a loose association of individuals on separate and private spiritual
journeys. Friends are called to be a faith community, seeking to know each other
"in that which is Eternal" as we journey together. Ideally we acknowledge that
our primary relationship is to God and to that of God in each other. We let go
of the idea that we have only private lives and hold ourselves accountable to
the authority of the Spirit in the life of the meeting. We grow in a sense of
responsibility for each other and become part of a gathered community.

This reminds me that I have an obligation, an accountability, to reach out in Meeting for Worship rather than going inward. Some weeks I am able to center down and feel Spirit flowing like the Water of Life. Other weeks I show up at meeting with my head full of every little thing spinning like laundry in a dryer. I tend to think of the laundry weeks as an irritant. Maybe that's not how I should view them. Maybe I should try to get outside myself to actively visualize the connections between us. When I realize that I am responsible to the meeting to "bring down the Spirit," I have a new understanding of how I am an integral part of the community and accountable for gathering us together.

(I don't know about y'all but sometimes I have such trouble undoing formatting things that I've done. I tried putting the above quotation in a "block quote" by using the button at the top of the "create" page but when then I accidentally hit the backspace key and the quotation becomes a regular paragraph and when I hit the block quotes button again the sentence structure is all weird. Sorry.)


Liz Opp said...

Thanks for writing about this new PH pamphlet. Since I don't have a subscription, I count on recommendations and write-ups like yours that appear in the Quaker blogosphere!

And, like Margery Larrabee, I agree that one of the areas of growth that our meetings have is to move toward the discipline of mutual accountability for tending to the spiritual health of the meeting community. Sadly, many meetings have wrongly (dis)placed that responsibility entirely onto the shoulders of the Ministry & Counsel Committee.

The M&C at my own monthly meeting has care for 10-15 short-term clearness committees and pastoral care committees during the course of any given year, which on the one hand is a blessing and a ministry of the committee. But on the other hand, Friends in the meeting no longer regularly turn to one another for support and intimate sharing around the spiritual upheavals in their lives, and so we are out of touch in that way; disconnected...

It will be a tender and slow process to tweak out what responsibilities rightfully belong under the scope of M&C and which belong to the meeting as a whole.

Now off I go to inquire about a copy of Margery's pamphlet!

Liz Opp, The Good Raised Up

Liz Opp said...

P.S. I forgot to include some other resources about the topic of mutual or shared accountability.

There's an essay by Sandra Cronk, "The Process of Mutual Accountability", and she also writes about mutual accountability in her longer Pendle Hill Pamphlet on Gospel Order.

Liz Opp, The Good Raised Up

haven said...

Thank you Mary Linda, for both your introduction to the pamphlet and your own reflections. I've felt similarly in meeting, and I've tried to go with that ebb and flow that you describe, and to see the way that I "fit" in the whole of our meeting community. Sometimes I am there to be the channel, and sometimes, I need to receive.

I sometimes dislike the social time before meeting, because I come to worship having prepared myself for that, and the social time seems like an interruption in the process. As I read this, it dawns on me that I need to see it as part of this accountability and part of the process.

Right now, with an influx of new attenders in our meeting, the way we as a whole community incorporate others into that whole and teach each other the manner of Friends has seemed paramount.

I have been reading Lloyd Lee Wilson's books, learning more about Gospel Order, and considering Lloyd Lee's views on community.

Once again, thanks,
Yours in the light,
Linda Wilk