Pastoral Care Guidelines for Langley Hill Friends Meeting and Associated Minute

Approved at Meeting for Business May 8, 2022


LHFM rededicates itself to being a safe and loving meeting for all. We recognize that at times, each of us can stray from the Light, and say or do things that can be hurtful. When this happens, as a community and as individuals, we need to respond with caring and tenderness after appropriate seasoning and not avoid conflict. We agree to follow the pastoral care procedures brought forward by the Care and Clearness Committee, so we are open, clear and accountable to each other and the meeting as a whole. Building trust moves us towards the Beloved Community. Care and Clearness will review the procedures as necessary and bring any changes to Meeting for Business.

Guidelines for Pastoral Care

Goal – We strive to make Langley Hill a welcoming, nurturing, supportive and caring spiritual community for all.

Background - As Quakers, we hold the testimony of Peace to be essential for our spiritual community. This testimony applies not only to our behavior both inside and outside the community, but also to our speech toward one another. It is our aim to provide a respectful place for Friends to learn and grow together. As is the case with any human endeavor, conflicts will arise in the course of our life and work together. These conflicts often reflect important and deeply held beliefs and values, and as such, they are important. When conflicts arise, we believe that ideally, they should be held tenderly and should be brought into the Light of Spirit for further understanding and resolution. The respectful and kind enlightenment of conflict is important to our unity and to our spiritual growth. As Friends, we are often surprised by conflict and often unable to know how to proceed toward a beneficial outcome.

Langley Hill has experienced incidents which have made some Friends feel unsafe and have diminished their spiritual experiences. These incidents can be remarks and/or actions during any gathering or meeting of Friends, such as Business meeting, meeting for worship, Second Hours, committee meetings, and educational programs or other Langley Hill sponsored events. Often these incidents occur without immediate actions being taken by individuals or the meeting to address the situation. It is also challenging to know at the time when these remarks or actions cross a line” of acceptability because they are experienced differently by different people. We also do not want to limit Friends’ opportunities to speak their minds. We do not want to limit Friends voices and people should feel comfortable to share with the community in a civil and respectful manner.

In January 2022, the Committee solicited feedback from the community on its experiences, good or bad. What we heard from many friends has informed our discernment on this proposal. This is an important aspect of a meeting’s peace and safety plan. It is not the only action we should consider when addressing conflicts that arise.

Need – Clear guidelines to respond to situations where Friends are feeling unsafe, interrupted, or intimidated in meeting activities. In our responses, we need to balance the immediate hurt felt by some or many with the need for seasoning to listen to Spirit and follow “God’s time”. Creating an environment where anyone can speak up when these situations arise.

Who – members of the CCC have the pastoral care of the community as their responsibility. It is challenging for these members to know when guidance, ministry, or intervention is needed and how to do it when incidents happen. At the same time, the community as a whole also has a responsibility to set the tone of our discourse and play a significant role when hurtful events happen. Thus, anyone in the meeting can speak up and ask for intervention if they feel uncomfortable, disturbed, or unsafe by the actions or words of another. It may be as simple as saying, “Friend, I feel uncomfortable with your words, please reword your comments.”

Alternative Procedures[1]

(1) A “Friendly Presence” will be chosen and identified for each group event (Second Hour especially with outside presenters, training, workshop, etc.) by the organizers or responsible committee of the event. Generally, the Friendly Presence should be separate from the convener of the event although there may be cases where the convener can act in the role if comfortable.) That appointed person will be announced and will employ tender care in assuring that interruptions, verbal confrontations, unkind remarks, and micro-aggressions do not happen or are quickly responded to when they do (e.g., “Friend, I feel uncomforable with your remarks that are unduly critical/ aggressive/disrespectful. Please refrain, soften, show greater respect, take care, etc.”).

(2) Someone else steps in to gently but firmly identify a specific action or remark that could be viewed as not coming from the Spirit, as not respectful of others, as self-centered, or as threatening.

(3) No action is taken at the time of an incident, but afterwards, a Friend contacts the announced Friendly Presence who was witness to the incident or a Care & Clearness member to voice a concern about the incident that was hurtful. Given the challenges to react or sense in the moment that intervention is necessary, we should expect that some actions will necessarily happen afterwards given the need to season and consider the import of an event.

At least two people will follow up with the person to listen to their concerns, what is behind their actions/words and feelings, and understand the place from which the action comes. It might lead to a small support group or clearness committee or be handled informally, even off to the side, if appropriate. Often there may not be awareness that the actions/remarks are being viewed as hurtful or creating safety concerns.

Examples of hurtful actions – (1) when someone speaks ill of someone else or makes a sweeping statement about the meeting rather than sharing their own experience or how they felt, (2) when someone interrupts someone else who is speaking without waiting their turn, (3) telling someone else how they should act or feel rather than saying how the speaker themself would act or feel, (4) characterizing or impugning someone else’s behavior rather than stating their own experience.

One may feel angry about actions or decisions, but it is not acceptable to vent anger with others during the meeting. Finding love for each other is most challenging when we disagree, but this is also the most important time to be in loving community, so that we grow individually and as a community from these challenges and conflicts. A better expression would be to say calmly: “I feel angry/upset/disappointed/concerned with this behavior/statement, etc.”

Accountability – While maintaining certain confidences, affected individuals and, as necessary, the meeting will be apprised of subsequent actions, plans or apologies that occur after an incident. This may not occur quickly since time and seasoning are often needed when addressing heated issues and seeking God’s wisdom. In the past, corrective actions have been taken, but the wider community has not always been informed. It is helpful for us all to know that a hurtful incident is being addressed and being held in the Light.

[1] The Committee is looking at resources to gain skills for its members and the community.