SAYMA Faith and Practice Document on Community

Every community experiences difficulties and it is important to avoid the temptation to "sweep them under the rug." Open recognition of and respect for differences, forthright sharing, and sincere corporate reflection strengthen meetings and provide ways to resolve conflicts in a direct and loving manner. Conflicts affecting entire meetings may be addressed through threshing sessions or worship sharing. SAYMA's Ministry and Nurture Committee is available for help with conflicts among Friends. For conflicts between individual Friends, a clearness committee may be helpful. It is Quaker practice to prefer mediation or negotiation, avoiding litigation, to resolve disputes. Harmony emerges not merely from coming to understanding and resolution but also from the mutual search for the truth conducted in a spirit of tender listening and care. The unity we seek is not sameness of belief, but the oneness of people drawn together in love and concern for each other, grounded in the Spirit.

We want our meetings to be affirming and nurturing, but if we expect that we will always feel safe and comfortable there, we risk becoming unwilling to welcome Friends different from ourselves. The practice of inclusivity challenges each of us in different ways to reach past our limiting assumptions and fears to find the Light in others. When we do so, we find aspects of the Light we did not expect: the diversity of our community may be greater than we can easily accept. It is painful to admit that we often fail to live up to our aspirations. Our meetings are often homogeneous -socially, politically, racially, spiritually, and in other respects. The process ofinc1usion, though it requires adjustments from each of us, gives us all a deeper experience of the Spirit.

Quaker community extends beyond the monthly and yearly meetings. Yearly meeting sessions and committee work, inter-meeting visitations, regional gatherings, visiting other monthly and yearly meetings, and participation in Wider Quaker Organizations are all opportunities for Friends to find nurture, spiritual growth and fellowship. The interconnectedness of all life continues to call Friends to be full participants in the universal community. Our understanding of God's love does not stop at the meetinghouse door. Everywhere we go, Friends strive to build the blessed community, which some Friends call "the Peaceable Kingdom." Our testimonies of peace, equality, integrity, simplicity and community mean little unless they are practiced in relation to all.