Response to a Q-horn comment

Dear Patricia,
Thank you for your interest in our Meeting.
(Have we met? I don’t remember you.)

In your comment on my “Q-horn” post, you write,

Do I misunderstand your message?

Yes you do. Thank you for the opportunity to try again.

In the July 2008 Friends Journal, Arlene Kelly asks some of the big questions a meeting community faces:

What are our expectations of each other for sharing the work of the meeting, and in regard to how we will deal with differences when they arise?

What does it mean to be a member of the meeting?*

Arlene goes on to say

Opening conversation on some of these questions may be scary since it will bring into the open that we have a range of views on these matters.

I have been part of this meeting community of about 300 since 1988, and we do have an impressive range of views on everything from child-rearing to original sin.
We are fairly comfortable in community, except for the occasional dispute. Since I have been here, none of our differences have polarized the Meeting. There may have been feelings so strong that some community members felt required to “take sides,” but none of them have drawn the bulk of the community membership into feelings of “us” and “ them.” This is very much to the community’s credit, to my mind. Unfortunately, one way we have maintained this equilibrium is by sharing our hearts mostly where we feel fairly safe, among small sub-groups where we know our listeners fairly well. In worship, especially Meeting for Worship with attention to Business, where “everybody” is listening, many of us have been reluctant to share explicitly out of our core values and beliefs.

If our community is to deepen we need to learn –-as a community—to share our feelings on some of the loaded topics. Only after we have appreciated our differences will we be able to recognize where our vision is shared and to live this vision forth into the world.

I have no doubt that the discovery of a shared vision is possible, but how to “break the ice” on some of those challenging discussions? How establish an atmosphere where people can begin to express the tender feelings in their hearts without fearing it will trigger a dispute, will rent the fabric of warm regard we have for one another?
The use of the Q-horn in its first appearance worked as I had hoped. People with strong feelings, based in the fundamentals of Quaker faith as they understand them, prefaced their remarks with a couple of toots as a way of indicating “I feel strongly about this, but I assure Friends that I have some flexibility here; I am open to hearing other points of view.”
It’s a silly thing. In this context the horn does not say “out of my way.” It does NOT say, “God is speaking through ME, directing YOU what to do.” I am sorry if you got that impression. I assure you this is not the case.

Patricia, you write,

… the Friends way is to allow the Spirit’s guidance in all matters, in all meetings.

We are in full agreement on this.
Arlene Kelly’s article helps me to understand that levity in itself will not be enough to create a community where differences on important matters can be held in an atmosphere of trust and mutual regard. But it’s a start. I hope you can accept it as such.

*Conflict in the Life of Our Meeting: Friends Peace Testimony at Work? By Arlene Kelly

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