For many months, at a rate of about one Sunday per month, we as a Meeting have been learning how to employ the model of Compassionate Communication to more skillfully navigate interpersonal relationships, especially situations that might be challenging. We are learning to first check in with ourselves and relate to ourselves from a place of compassion and non-judgment. We are learning to express ourselves honestly and vulnerably. We are learning to hold space for the other while offering the gift of empathy. Using this approach, we can seek a solution that meets the needs of all involved. This past month, Spirit gave us rich opportunities to attempt to apply what we have been learning.
On the fifth, fourteen Friends gathered either online or in person for Amanda's presentation on Thomas Kelly's classic text A Testament of Devotion. We started the section entitled, "Holy Obedience." During the announcements afterward, a Friend raised the possibility of posting the weekly "End the Genocide - Save the Children" event on the Meeting's website and social media. We found unity behind the idea of learning more about this organization and about the Israel-Hamas war in general. The co-clerk made time for this topic to be more deeply explored the following Sunday and shared links to articles from a spectrum of sources in the days leading up to the first-hour discussion.
When the 12th of November rolled around, a constructive First Hour discussion unfolded. The topic was handled sensitively and compassionately, with a balance of speaking and deep listening. After worship, potluck was held, where compassionate listening and reflection continued.
Third Sunday was, as usual, Meeting for Worship with Attention to Business. Amanda provided updates on all the contractors, plumbers, roofers, and window repair people who had indicated their work would begin in November! With the floor of the library covered in boxes of donations for which there was no room on the shelves, an ad hoc committee was formed to take up the task of weeding, cleaning, and reorganizing a pared-down collection of Quaker-related books. General interest books will find new homes. The Winter Quarterly planning committee was pleased to announce that many have responded with enthusiasm to the early RSVP request.
On the 26th, three Friends put on two short skits to dramatize a few of the things even well-meaning people sometimes say to members of the LGBTQIA+ community that can be hurtful. David played the part of the Compassionate Communication coach who was available in the wings whenever the character played by Kelly needed help remembering things such as: the the importance of checking in with oneself so as to first attune to our own emotions before speaking; to get curious about what the other person's experience is and how to ask about that; to ask the other person to affirm what we think we heard them say rather than barreling through on assumptions. With the help of the coach, Kelly's character was able to do repair work with trans character Levi in skit number one (the scene is a women's bathroom at a quarterly meeting) and again with non-binary character River in skit number two, which took place at the sign-in table at a hypothetical quarterly retreat. A few of the micro-aggressions covered in the skits were: making another person's sexual orientation or gender identity the subject of conversation, questioning someone on their choice of bathroom, and assuming that "passing" as a cisgender person is the goal of a transgender person. At the end of skit two, all name tags got pronouns added to them! But perhaps one of the most fruitful things to come out of this first-hour activity was the moment during rehearsals when the three Friends involved got a chance to use Compassionate Communication tools to identify and address a moment of distress for one player. This Compassionate Communication business is good stuff!
During second hour, while most were worshipping, Young Friends were continuing learning to use a sewing machine. The project of that day was scrunchies.