BBC Radio Hereford & Worcester, ‘Quaker Thought for the Week’, 21 September 2014 – given by Maggie Taylor-Sanders
BEING LED INTO UNITY
Good morning. Permit me a bit of an under-statement … it’s my guess that the winners of the Scottish referendum will be feeling pretty happy at the moment. That’s great for them, but if there are winners there are also losers. And because the vote was quite close there will be a large proportion of the people of Scotland who will be feeling very unhappy indeed for quite some time to come. But you could say that the fact there are losers is just one of the side-effects of democratic voting. That’s the way we do things here, so hard luck to the losers.
However, some decisions are just too important or too difficult to put them to a vote. There are alternatives where the views of all sides are taken respectfully into account and incorporated into a final decision. Quakers have developed just such a way of decision-making in their meetings for church affairs. In recent years they have had to make decisions about what to do with two very contentious matters: support for same sex marriage and taking their corporate money out of anything that supported the use of oil, gas and coal. After much heart-searching, and time to discern the way forward, Quakers have done both of these things.
How do we do it? Well it seems simple really … we just sit in silence and wait patiently for what some would call divine guidance, or our inner wisdom, about the matter in hand. This initially brings forth a range of different, often opposing views, as we struggle with the decision before us. I have seen groups floundering in what seems like unresolvable dead-lock, until suddenly one Friend says something that moves the stuck Meeting on. The Clerk of the Meeting is then able to write the Minute, which expresses the sense of the whole gathering, and we realise that we have found the way that seems right to us all. Many of us will have changed our minds along the way, as we come to recognise the limitations of our initial thoughts, but there is no loss of face in this because what we were seeking was the way that would lead us all into Unity. No votes; no winners; no losers; just Unity.