I ( each one of us) is responsible for the present state of the Religious Society of Friends
just as each one of us, individually is responsible for the present state of the world. A dear and treasured fFriend has been writing about his decision to eventually leave the SOF, because of the lack of shepherding in our community. He writes:
I know of the many problems that clergy can create for a community: the risk is that a small group of powerful individuals can regulate and dictate what others must do. However, now I understand how the lack of anyone taking on any sort of ongoing leadership role causes its own problems (such as people constantly challenging any sort of authority, feeling agrieved by decisions they are unhappy with - "Quaker process was not followed!", and having a sense of entitlement that their every whim, slight, or opinion should be somehow addressed by the community). Endless seeking, individualism, and "tribalism" , and reinventing the wheel, anyone?
Well, dear fellow, get up, pull on thy boots, brush off thy jacket, set thy hat straight upon thy head, and be a Shepard in thy community. It is NOT the sole role of Ministry and Counsel to Sheppard our society. In fact, as in many human institutions, Ministry and Counsel ... well, simply put, is not up to the task, just as the many governments of the earth today are not up to the task of world peace and saving the environment. Well, what do we do... go to another planet? Or do we set out on the task of living right, speaking truth to power, even when that power is each other, and more over, acting with firm resolve and love.
My father once responded to some fellow who quoted Churchill at him, ("If you are not a Socialist by twenty you have no soul, if you are a Socialist after thirty you have no head"). My father replied, "if you are a Socialist at twenty and not a Socialist by Thirty, I doubt you ever were a real Socialist at all." Exactly. One may speak of convincement, that we are convinced that there is that of God in each of us... and parrot that we are present to that of God in each of us, but if we need clergy to actively live in that presence, in the form of Ministry and Counsel or any other authority external to ourselves, we have missed the complete meaning of being present.
Now, I am not saying there is no function or role for Ministry and Counsel. It is a vitally needed committee. But, it is in NO WAY responsible to the state of the soul of each one of us. The role of Ministry and Counsel is to create an orderly meeting, and be there when needed to help sort things out. The fFriend should note, that in case of conflict or personal need, it is there only as a dependable recourse, that any one of us is an equal recourse, and that Friends are encouraged to seek out that Friend who ministers to thy condition. There are several Friends who I know I can count upon for sage wisdom and a firm hand to my elbow when I am in need.
Now, I should say, in this blog, I have been very open about the tender parts of my soul. Perhaps to the point that many who read this and do not know me well, think that this is the sum total of who I am, the pain of the past year, perhaps the worst of my life. Yet, in this, I remain convinced that there is no one person who can come and heal my soul, or any idol or image. There is only that of God, that I share with humanity that is up to that task. I can run from meeting to meeting, religion to religion, seeking a stronger hand on the tiller of my soul, and I will find corruption, envy, idolatry and all the other human flaws of my soul in every other place I go, and in all the spiritual masters I seek out to set me right. Only in the Religious Society of Friends, do I find a place that tells me, forget seeking another to set thy soul upon the road... all may help, but buck up, stand up, get up and be present to God.
Today fFriends speak of mantras, speak of spiritual masters, speak of a hundred and one paths to that God within, quote to each other that little time bomb that George Fox built into the peace of our religious community, “‘There is one - even Christ Jesus - that can speak to thy condition"... All, all, all of that is fine and dandy if we also understand, deep in the fiber of our soul that the core of our society, just as the core of living incorporated into the world, is the understanding that to atone for sin, we must be actively present to that of God in each other. Present to that of God in each other. That presence is not handed to thee by any other one, that presence is thine own responsibility and thee can be a Pope or a Papua New Guinea Head Hunter, and if thee is not present to the God in the other as strongly as the God in thy self... it is all emptiness.
Each little idol we place, like a grain of sand close to our soul, will eventually blot out the sun of the light of God in us. If that grain of sand is Jesus, and our need for Yeshua to be our God is so strong that we cannot see the light in the soul of the Friend on the bench next to us, then we have made a idol of Jesus. If that grain of sand is our petty needs for one doctrine, non-theism, to the point that we cannot see the light in the soul of the Christian Friend on the bench next to us, than that non-theism is an idol. We can wear the sole out of a thousand pairs of shoes seeking... but until thee can actively seek that light of God in a lady bug or a Lutheran, thee is not walking with righteousness before God in any religious family, and I am rather sure no person in a robe with incense, feathers and a drum, a golden crown and or miter will lead thee to that light.
Dear fFriend, stay awhile and seek within before thee goes and seeks without.