Quaker “Elders” Seminar: Day One, Friday.

I arrived last night at the settlement in Whanganui at about 7:20pm.  I had guessed it would take half an hour or so to get through the gates, collect baggage, do all the airport space things.  Within five minutes of the 20 seater plane landing my bags were on the trolly wheeled in from the runway, and I was waiting for my lift.  Whanganui, it seems, is a small town, with a very cute airport.

I spent the next day curled up in a comfy chair reading Anthony Adolf’s “Peace, a world history”, a whirlwind global history focussing on the gaps between wars: or more properly, in his terms, the gaps are the wars between peace.  I’m interested in the argument, but as he introduces each religion, and their commitment to peace, he then details the wars the people of that sect have undertaken.  I have a feeling that is the fault of historiography, and that the news from the past is the bad news.  His point is that war is the “dog bites man” story, and much better reported.  I think for someone with a knowledge of history its interesting as you can contexualise as you read: chapters could be good for class reading material.  I’m enjoying it, none-the less.

After a lovely lunch with the architect who built the settlement’s main buildings (and some of them are quite domestically spectacular) people started to drift in for the main event.

One f the questions I’m asking people is about quaker ministry.  We all minister in our meetings.  We sit in silence, and then if we feel drawn to, we speak to the meeting.  Often our words mean more to someone else than they do to us.  The silence is special, so speaking is an important thing to do.

Here are some of the responses I’ve had when asking one of he Auckland Friends I am making friends with:

Don’t expect to give ministry, and don’t expect not to.  This is kind of the spirit of Buddhist no-action…  Anything can happen in a meeting and if someone can minister through tap-dance: well, it might just happen.  This sounds a little flippant, but the point is you really don’t know what is going to happen, and by being in a state of open acceptance you can receive what is being said.

Forget who is speaking: its not them you are listening to.  Because you know the person ministering, you might load what they are saying with extra baggage, you could think you know what they are going to say, rather listening to what they are saying: and if it is given in the spirit of true ministry – is it them talking in the first place, or the spirit of the meeting?

Is there any ego in your ministry?  I suppose this is about not ministering to show how smart you are, or to show off about what you have done.

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