Fiona Gardener, Victoria Regional Meeting
When the facilitators for Meeting for Learning were asked to put forward a theme for this edition of the Australian Friend, we were surprised how quickly we felt led to suggest “Spiritual Nurture in, of and by our Quaker Community”, reflecting the focus for this year’s Meeting for Learning Retreat Week. We invited and encouraged articles and images from Friends whose experience we hoped would speak to others. Reading the articles we received in response has been uplifting and moving – a reminder of the power of quiet processes and small circles and of the value of Quaker practices that originated in the 17th century that are still relevant for 21st century Friends.
These articles also illuminate the richness of how our Quaker community allows for and encourages spiritual nurture. If we approach them in this spirit, spiritual nurture may be found in the formal processes and structures of Quakers, including our committees, our gatherings and places of learning, in the wisdom of our elders who notice when we need support, encouragement or challenge and in our interactions with each other in sharing deeply in that which is eternal.
The articles also prompt us to notice when Quaker community nurtures us to interact creatively and courageously to express our spiritual selves outside it: in our relationships with the natural world, and in individually or collectively seeking change in our local communities, nationally or internationally. Sometimes too, we may be led to seek spiritual nurture outside our Quaker community and this in turn can be replenishing for us and the community.
Finally, these articles prompt us to be proactive about spiritual nurture, to ask ourselves: how do I contribute to creating a spiritually nurturing Quaker community? How am I being nurtured spiritually and how do I offer spiritual nurture to others? Rather than assuming there is one right way, Friends have identified ways of nurturing and being nurtured that are right for them. The hope is that we value this diversity of offerings and possibilities which contribute to the richness of our Quaker community and enable us to live with integrity.