Friday, February 21, 2014

Quaker Alphabet Blog 2014 - D for Duty

Duty sometimes has a bad press among Quakers today. It is seen as something cold and unfeeling and we are told that we should act instead out of love, should do what we want to do. If the Quaker community is to thrive then certain tasks have to be undertaken, but if doing our duty as elders, overseers, doorkeepers, providers of food and drink, even when those duties are difficult, is disparaged rather than encouraged, then Nominations Committees will continue having difficulty finding names.

For me duty is another word for commitment. My relationship with my widowed mother was often difficult but as her only child I felt a duty to try to look after her. In her last years I cooked a roast lunch for her every Sunday, often staying away from meeting to prepare a meal that I would seldom have cooked from choice. I played endless games of very competitive Scrabble with her and engaged in repetitive and often superficial conversation. I worried about her constantly. I did this because I loved her, but I continued doing it out of duty. Some days were better than others and in the end I felt that my love was returned and a real connection between us was made, but I would never have reached that position without the promptings of duty.

Although it does not use the word, the 10th section of Advices and Queries is also about duty. It  advises us to 'Come regularly to meeting for worship even when you are angry, depressed, tired or spiritually cold.' Yearly Meeting in London in 1765 had the same message for Friends. 'Shall a cloudy sky, a little wet, a little cold, a little ease to the flesh, a view to a little earthly gain, or any common incident, furnish an excuse for declining this duty, and thereby depriving ourselves of the blessed advantage, often vouchsafed to the faithful, of enjoying heavenly communion together in spirit with the Lord of life and glory?' [Quaker Faith and Practice 2.43] It is true that not every meeting for worship we attend will leave us spiritually refreshed but duty and commitment will give us the opportunity to be there when it does.

Writing this blog is a commitment which sometimes feels like a very onerous duty but I am glad that I have duty to keep me going as well as enjoyment for myself and, I hope, for my readers.

1 comment:

Doreen said...

I have too often heard quoted the words of Advice 28 - Attend to what love requires of you, which may not be great busyness - in support of not doing things. But dear Friends, it MAY be great busyness, at least some of the time.
I have somewhat lost faith in the discernment of Nominations committees, having been 'brought up' as it were under the guidance that you should accept a job unless you knew of something the committee did not that precluded you taking it on. Like many others, I now feel Nominations is too often desperate rather than discerning. I was recently approached about a new role in my local meeting by a Friend who seemed not to be aware of my current roles. So, now I more often have to rely on my own discernment and try to take on jobs I can do with an open heart (at least at the outset!)