Primitive Christianity Revived, Again
A former Pendle Hill teacher pointed out to me that Pendle Hill is not under the care of any Quaker Meeting. There's a daily meeting for worship, but none of the Quaker organizational structure.
She felt this was a defect. I saw it as the only way Pendle Hill could ever have been organized-- that only a group of individuals working outside a Meeting structure, recognizing a need and their own leading to answer it, could have mustered the necessary vision, coherence of intention, and willingness to risk controversy.
If I am correct in this-- It points to a major defect in the customary practice of Quaker business. One I've had great difficulty trying to articulate...
Samuel Bownas, on his return to England (early 1700's) talked with some people about what he considered a deadening of the spirit in some Meetings there ... and one informant attributed this to "the leaven of the Pharisees," which "was always hurtful to the life of religion in all shapes."
Where Jesus referred to some Pharisees as "hypocrites" [~'actors'] I don't think he was necessarily questioning their sincerity, as we would intend by that term. When a practice of religion becomes too much focused on the externals, it's ripe to be hijacked: people's 'egoic minds', fears, habits, personal antagonisms, hurt feelings, etc etc turning that religion into "what we can all agree on" rather than 'What truth would we cop to if we looked at things straight on?'
Our need to cling to the formalities we call "Quaker process" are a sign that the true Quaker process, alignment with the Spirit of truth and love, has proved too hard for now...
Relevance (I can see I wasn't very explicit in my last comment):
A diffusion of authority into a group is one ideal of organization. Which prevents one person's idiosyncrasies from dominating a project.
But when you take the vision of one or more individuals-- and put it under the prudent administration of a committee not fully sharing that vision-- You can end up with a very well-run corpse. A project with all procedures properly followed, but no coherence, no passion for anything but factional infighting.
I've been reflecting on this subject a lot lately. I started a new unprogrammed meeting a couple of years ago. There was one other Friend from the beginning, but she made it clear that her time for involvement would be slim, and it has been. Still, I felt it important that there was at least one other Friend, and it was not just my self-will.
We have grown some. Now we face a number of decisions. I have a pretty clear vision of where we are going and what we need in order to continue to develop as a vehicle for Quaker witness here in eastern NC. None of our new members have a very thorough grounding in Quaker values or process. So it is a lengthy process, having to honor the Light within them and enable their ministries, while teaching and leading at the same time. I don't remember them telling me at ESR back in the 80s how exasperating this all could be! LOL.
There is, within Quakerism, the tradition of the seasoned or weighty Friend. We need to be careful to exercise this tradition in such a way so that it doesn't mean that they always get their way or that they are always right. And yet, there are times when the voice of one seasoned Friend ought to count for more. A lifetime of having been led, a lifetime of servant ministry, a lifetime of experience with what discernment feels like, should be honored, just as the Light within the newest Friend should be honored. Just not always in the same way.
Because humility does not come easily for me, I hesitate to play that card. And yet, there are times when I am not being faithful to God, to the Meeting, or to my fellow Friends by not moving ahead.
I pray a lot, and take it to other seasoned Friends for their guidance, and remind myself that I am not called to be successful, I am called to be faithful.