Tuesday, September 7, 2010

A Friends School as a Community

This was written a number of years ago. I might use slightly different language today, but it still reflects my general views so I am posting it basically unedited.

A Friends School as a Whole Community

If we love God, we will be satisfied with nothing less than a fellowship which hears and obeys the call of Christ to righteousness within the community. The life of this fellowship will be grounded in the corporate experience of obedience and suffering for the sake of obedience. This does not happen when we are with those who tell us only what we want to hear of our own accomplishments and glory, nor does it happen in a community whose intent is to glorify or build up specific individuals. An obedient fellowship is clearly evident only in a primary community, one in which the first claim on our corporate loyalty is the community that has become the social force that has the greatest influence in our lives. As faculty in a Friends school this means viewing our position not as a job to finance what we really want to do nor one to trade-in for a “better” position, but rather as an experience in forming and belonging to a whole community. As students it is not putting up with the situation until graduation, but it is considering the school as our community now. This is not to say that faculty and others may not be led to other opportunities or that students should not prepare for further study or “life after school,” but that these occurrences are outcomes of the experience rather than immediate goals. It also does not mean that all of the members must agree with everything that the school stands for or in reality does. However, it does mean exerting our present efforts toward achieving a primary community in which each one is a whole person. This is not making the school what we want or what a select group of persons want, but rather what God wants and we need.

Now for some tough questions. How do we know what is needed? How do we know how to meet these needs? How do we know God’s will for our school? Friends have insisted that it is in corporate meeting that we can find the truth, in coming together, all of us, seeking unity not uniformity, as a community sharing our concerns, our successes and our problems. The source of Power for early Friends was discovered and experienced in Meeting one another and God at a depth beyond words. Discovered in meeting across all disciplines, ages and positions within the community.

The prophetic tradition placed the direct experience of God as the most critical point in the relationship of persons with God and with each other. From this experience comes personal righteousness and active involvement in meeting and sharing with others. The major barrier to a right relationship with God and one another has been proclaimed as our resistance and down right rebellion against the worship of God in Spirit and in Truth. We have, just as institutional churches past and present, substituted intermediaries, symbols, rituals and forms for a direct relationship within our community. We expect certain individuals or groups to perform special acts while others are mere spectators. We have set aside time for the form of meeting without incorporating Meeting into the classroom or business of running the school. Friends found that it was in Meeting with everyone as active participants in a direct immediate relationship that Power came for personal and corporate righteousness through the sense of unity and power essential to a whole community.

If we are to develop a living primary community, we must meet each other under the leadership of the Spirit of Christ. We must meet each other not as students, staff, alumni, administrators, or teachers of one discipline or another. In other words, we must meet as individuals rather than on the basis of position, title or experience. Each one of us is capable of listening to the teaching of Christ and of contributing in a Meeting for Worship, Meeting for Business, and Meeting for Learning. It is in this context that we can become whole persons in a whole community. Some of the results that might be expected from such a school community, with thanks and apologies to Howard Brinton, are: 1) A sense of belonging to a community that implies cooperation rather than competition; 2) A sense of inclusive wholeness rather than exclusive separation or compartmentalization; 3) A renewed sense of dedication and commitment on the part of students, staff and administration; 4) A sense of caring with nonviolent discipline and methods emphasizing persons more than facts or things; 5) An inward sense of rightness in individuals with values meaning more than material value; 6) A sense of equality among academic areas with interdisciplinary inclusion rather than exclusiveness or possessiveness; 7) A sense of simplicity in life styles and corporate direction with emphasis on the needs of individuals rather than corporate or individual prestige; 8) A sense of honesty in achieving creativity rather than conformity in academic standards and interpersonal relationships; and 9) A sense of broadening and strengthening the skills students need for life rather than refining and narrowing limited areas of interest.

In such a community, the goals will not be differentiated from the means by which these goals are attained. The process of education will be the product of the school and students will become part of the process of the community. Meeting will be for Worship, Business, and Learning in a whole community which is made up of whole persons.

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