Sue Wilson, Queensland Regional Meeting
It has been said that “Friends’ spiritual nurture is often done leaning against the fridge.” (Kathryn Damiano)
I value those unpredictable moments of connection; but six years ago I shared an idea in the Queensland Regional Meeting newsletter (Q-Letter). I was seeking more deliberate “spiritual conversations” with fellow Brisbane f/Friends. My idea was that two of us at a time would meet for an hour or so to “have a chat” that focused deliberately on the spiritual aspects of our lives.
How our conversations unfolded
Over the next few months, five different f/Friends offered to meet me for a tete-a-tete, in a café or at the Brisbane Meeting House. It seemed important to set up each meeting as a once-off, rather than expecting an ongoing commitment in busy lives.
One woman and I “met” by letter, which seems a good solution for those who are isolated or less mobile.
I’m not sure whether other f/Friends approached each other too – I’d like to think so.
I met twice with a very new Attender; several times with a man I thought I already knew well but got to know much better; and just once with someone who decided to let the idea go as life became busier. It’s important not to feel rejected if someone asks to meet you just the once.
One woman and I found we had so much in common that we’ve continued to meet once a month ever since. For a couple of years we explored a book together, The Quest – Exploring a Sense of Soul, by J Dawes, J Dolley and I Isaksen.
What worked best
For each “spiritual conversation,” the two people meeting need to take turns to speak and to listen. In one case, the other person and I both had the impression that we were talking too much! Maybe we each over-estimated our talking because we were receiving such intent, encouraging listening. It’s helpful to be open about the process of the conversation, what we’re enjoying most and what different approach we’d like to try.
Each conversation usually began with general sharing about our lives, what we’d been reading and thinking, how we’d been finding Meeting for Worship lately. Slowly we’d take more risks, drawing each other out with questions like, “Where has God been in that muddle you’ve just described?” Or simply, “How have you been in a spiritual sense?”
As one Friend said, sharing our “inner deliberations” is a wonderful antidote to the “transient and trivial” things that can come out of our mouths at other times.
I was really grateful to the Friend who asked me, “Is there anything else you want to say before we run out of time?” It’s amazing what precious bits of experience, doubt, difficulty, yearning or delight came bubbling up with that extra feeling of permission granted. It’s almost as if we could see the door about to close and realised “It’s now or never”! There was often something still on my mind that perhaps I wasn’t brave enough to broach earlier.
Clever questions didn’t seem to be needed when we were given an open invitation to talk. Friends know that eloquent prayers are not needed during our waiting and listening in Meeting for Worship. Equally, special skills are not needed in order for spiritual friendship to flourish, so long as we don’t give unwanted advice or even heavy sympathy. Rather, we can listen as we would to spoken ministry in Meeting, in “a tender and creative spirit.”
I think that Friends are well placed to provide spiritual nurture in a way that is quite rare in this world – if we make time to offer and ask for it.