Eden Grace explains how the sacred discernment of seemingly trivial decisions can transform the world.
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- This video features Eden Grace, Friends United Meeting’s Global Ministries Director.
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- Have you ever heard someone characterize the Quaker decision-making process as “consensus”? Do you correct them?
- Eden Grace says, “We start from a really strong affirmation and presupposition that God has a will. God has a will for us as individuals. God has a will for us as a spiritual community in the Meeting, and God has a will for this world.” What do you think Eden means by this? Do you share this belief? What does it mean for your life?
- Eden uses the example of community discernment over the color of a carpet as an example of a decision that seems trivial but becomes transformational. Have you had an experience of coming together with a group of people to decide something trivial and emerging transformed?
The way Quakers do business is a really significant part of our spirituality, our practice, our identity as Friends, and that isn’t always something that’s easy to understand upfront because I think for most Christians and most people in the world, a business meeting is sort of a tedious thing that has to be gotten through. In my understanding of Quaker spirituality and Quaker theology, a business meeting is an opportunity for sacramental encounter with God.
Sometimes people talk about how Friends make decisions by consensus. That’s a secular term that has some kind of meaning that people understand: ok, you’ve all agreed on something. But that isn’t the nature of our spiritual experience and our theological understanding of what we’re doing. We’re not looking for a place where we all agree, “alright, good enough, let’s just do that because nobody is objecting.” We are looking for obedience to the will of God.
And so we start from a really strong affirmation and presupposition that God has a will. God has a will for us as individuals. God has a will for us as a spiritual community in the Meeting, and God has a will for this world. And God wants to communicate God’s will. We don’t have to puzzle it out, it’s not that hard. You don’t have to have a PhD. to figure out the mind of God, because God by God’s nature is making that mind known to the community. All we have to do is get out of our own way.
And believe enough to be able to stick with it though all of the ways in which that process exposes our sins and weaknesses and failings to ourselves and to each other, the ways in which we can get ugly with each other. That’s a holy process. My experience has been that Friends actually really do stay in it; stick with it.
You can say, “well, God doesn’t care what color the carpet is in the fellowship hall. Why does that really matter? Why do we have to seek God’s will for color of the carpet? Let’s just choose the carpet.”
And maybe there’s a whole lot of of other issues that get raised up around the carpet that we pick for the fellowship hall. Maybe different colors have different psychological meanings in peoples’ lives and you can get into color theory, or maybe there’s off-gassing from this brand, or maybe this company uses child labor in Pakistan. A carpet decision can raise all kinds of other stuff. And maybe God does care about the carpet, because certainly God cares about the child laborers in Pakistan and God cares about the toxic waste of the carpet manufacturing processes. And God cares about us as a community walking through that process together, the spiritual fruits that can come from seeking deep unity on the choice of a carpet. It’s not about the carpet, it’s about the transformation of the world through the choice of a carpet.
So yes, we say that each and every decision facing the Meeting is a holy and sacred and sacramental opportunity. There is no secular work.