Quakerism: a view from the back benches - continued
Copyright 1966 The Back Benches
Caring and Sharing
The smaller, closer Meeting automatically presents the question of how best to share the burdens of troubled members. Aside from the normal troubles and sorrows which beset each of us from time to time, Quakerism seems to attract a number of people with real emotional disturbances and mental illnesses. How can a Meeting support these members without being sapped and fractured by the sometimes almost overwhelming burden?
The first commitment must be in our attitude toward the Meeting. To do anything at all, we must first be willing to assign to the Meeting a vital role as a primary in-group to which each member can relate for love and security, second only, perhaps, to the family.
As a primary in-group the Meeting becomes a major focus of life for its members for the length of time that it exists; and it must devise ways to respond creatively and constructively to the needs of individuals. To survive under the weight of these needs, we believe the Meeting must supply a warm, supportive atmosphere, responsive to troubled members but determined to share collective joys as well as miseries. While being sensitive and tender, the atmosphere must be in some degree buoyant, joyous, making use of the great store of gentle humor to be found among Friends.
While caring for its emotionally disturbed members, the Meeting which allows these members constantly to use is time together, whether it be worship, business or social, for personal therapy is headed for trouble, is not likely to help the member in trouble, and is liable to a feeling of being put-upon. The Meeting should know its limitations in this regard and stand ready to guide members to professional help when indicated, either from within or without the Meeting membership.
A Meeting which provides an emotional tie will be the natural place for bringing matters for advice which are now called “personal” - job changes, school choices, marital difficulties. The ultimate step in the relationship between a member and his Meeting comes when the member moves away; consequently, such a move will be a matter of weighty consideration by the member, consulting with the Meeting.
Another facet of the “caring” responsibility of Meetings is the frequent need to free individual members who have a clear leading to act on a concern. The Meeting should be ready and willing to meet the practical needs of a Friend and his family who is under the weight of a Quaker concern, but whose practical necessities may make it impossible for him to give time and full attention to carrying out such a concern.
( to be continued)