Sunday, August 3, 2008

Eldering is NOT Scolding

I'm struggling with the term "Eldering" as it is used in the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers). In other religions, it can mean the older, more experienced people in the spiritual group sharing their wisdom. I think some of that certainly goes on here in the Quaker world. Truly, some people's words carry more weight than other in our Meeting. Hence the somewhat humorous (to me at least) "weighty Quaker". But I'm not sure exactly what it means.

I feel there are things it is NOT. It is not scolding individuals or the Meeting as a gathered body. It is not attempting to speak FOR the Quaker Meeting. It is NOT confronting individuals who are attempting to connect with God in their own way.

But there are certain rules of conduct in Quaker Meetings. And of course, these rules can and do vary from person to person. For example, I have trouble and feel uneasy with someone singing out of the silence. That may sound strange to some, but that's me. I'll own that unease as mine. I try to be open. Am I going to scold the person and tell them I don't like this, or am I going to try to be open to God's message in the song. If the some members of the group begin to sing along, do I rise and berate the group about this? If I did, I would not call that eldering. I would call that scolding. Clearly their are modes of conduct that need to be spoke to such as conversation in Meeting for Worship. Who does that and how it is done are tough questions for me.

My sense, at this place in my life, subject to change and learning is that eldering has nothing to do with the chronological age of the eldering person. It may have more to do with the SPIRITUAl age of the person. For instance, I was in a workshop a few years ago and the leader had along a young man to elder the gathering. To keep things spiritually grounded, as she put it. I was skeptical at the time. He's so young, I thought. How can he possibly elder? Plus, he has his eyes closed for pete's sake! Several days into the workshop, I had lots of feelings come up. Some were angry feelings. I didn't speak them. After the days gathering had ended, he crossed the circle and told me he sensed I had a lot of stuff inside, struggling to get out. And I felt safe enough to finally let them come gushing out. He had his physical eyes closed, but his spiritual eyes open.

So, my understaning is that eldering seems to work best, in the Quaker sense, when the elder is connected to God. Grounded in the Spirt of God. I'm not saying that's the way it is or the way it should be. I'm saying that's my understanding and that the eldering comes to the listener as a message from God. Perhaps.

I do know one thing for sure. Eldering is NOT scolding.

1 comment:

Suzy said...

I find it interesting that you wrote this before meeting on Sunday, given the nature of the spoken messages. Thought-provoking post.