Today our Meeting held a Threshing Session to labor over the question of stewardship. It seems that we have proliferated committees of particular concern to the extent that our Stewardship Committee was seeking to understand the boundaries of their 'authority' and their purpose.
The Simplicity Testamony speaks to this amazing facility we humans have to complexify ourselves and our lives without even thinking about it. Because we don't think about it. Is this inherently narrow vision, or is it an inherent tendency to avoid thinking? In any event, it seems to be programmed into us, requiring counter measures like Quakerism.
So to the queries. The Committee asked us to consider 3 questions:(1) of what are we stewards? (2) for whom are we stewards? (3) for what purpose are we stewards?
At the announcement that we were to have this Threshing Session, I was a bit mystified...like, what's to consider? We have to take care of stuff, so what's the problem? At first the questions seemed to be, well, simplistic, and I had little hope that the session would be interesting. Maybe we would use our time better if we talked about the complicated structure we have built within the Meeting and how to Simplify, Simplify.
How wrong I can be.
The first query (of what) resulted in a range of answers from the material (House & Grounds) to the sublime (the spiritual environment in which we live). We are definitely stewards of our property and of our children (careful distinction between these was made, along with the question of how to avoid thinking of ourselves as 'owning' our children).
We are stewards of our relationships, our impact on the environment, our portion of world resources, which includes human as well as physical substance. We are stewards of the capacity to perceive the Inner Light (within ourselves), and of the actions we take in response to promptings received. Do they wither away or are they nurtured into life?
The second query (for whom) started with the Iroquois idea of considering the needs and desires of the seventh generation to come. We are stewards for ourselves, so that we are able to respond (recreating the sense of the term 'responsibility').
We are stewards for everything everywhere, in a sense, because of the integrated web that is life. We may not even know the influence of our actions, so in this sense we do not even know for whom we act.
We are stewards for Quakerism, as stewardship is a witness against expediency, against extreme capitalism, against violence that hurts the planet or its people.
It is difficult to imagine stewardship in the positive sense of the Testimonies: saying one is a Steward of Peace, Simplicity, Equality, etc. is a bit like proclaiming one's divinity. Maybe it's a version of truth, but going there involves perils to the soul which may overbalance even the humblest ego.
But we can be Stewards of our own witness in support of and for the benefit of Quakers and humanity. We in that way can be stewards of our contribution to the spiritual climate of the earth.
The third query (for what purpose) started quietly and slowly with the observation that 'less is more' and that we must be on guard, pay attention. We then traveled through the ideas that the purpose is to help each other with discernment, to learn to accept our limitations, to transform ourselves and the Meeting, avoiding stagnation. We then arrived at the realization that the entire purpose is to glorify God.
It is Love made visible.
Stewardship is how we give ourselves dignity. We are all little people with egos, annoyances, and problems with self-esteem. Quakerism offers many huge ideas, and how we take our place in that lofty sphere, along with the many giants before us, is to practise stewardship of our Quaker ideals.
Whew. Thank you, thank you Quaker Friends. A simple afternoon of simple statements made in humility before each other has moved me, readjusted my attitude, renewed my spirit.
In spite of my many years of Quaker activity, I am again surprised and delighted by the Spirit at work through our little group of Peculiar People.
You are my people and I am yours.