Open Quakers

Dedicated to Openness and Inclusivity in Quaker Meetings

Conflict is Cancer

By Keith Triplett

Early in 2019 I was diagnosed with advanced cancer, so fast–tracked for treatment. After five months I had to have eight weeks (37 treatments) of radiotherapy.

For the first four weeks I hated being in that room and placed on a table being slid into that big powerful machine (linear accelerator) that would encircle my body. I didn't feel anything but I knew it was doing something.

On the 5th week I started having severe pain and was admitted to the main hospital. The pain became so severe I was prescribed 2–hourly morphine but continued with the radiotherapy every day.

Time passed very slowly, the sleepless nights became frightening. I found myself asking for help, perhaps I was asking God for help, the God I was told about as a child.

The print of the picture 'The Presence in the Midst' by J Doyle Penrose came to mind very strongly and has stayed with me.

I came to feel the 'spirit' was with me and would stay with me until all this was over. The big machine became my friend and I knew it was the machine in conflict with the tumour inside me that was giving me so much pain.

As time went on I began to remember about 20 years ago when The Presence in the Midst would be experienced during Meeting for Worship for Business. But now things are very different.

By the time my treatment was finished I had decided not to go to any Local or Area Business Meetings.

I realised that long term conflict in our Area and Local Meetings was blocking the 'spirit' experience.

These meetings were no longer Meetings for worship and discernment.

We now have many new Friends who perhaps have not yet discovered the ways of Friends, and how conflict is dealt with in a prayerful way. Unhealthy groups start to form and Friends begin to take sides.

It seems that it only takes a small group or a dominant, bullying type of personality to take away the spiritual life of our Meeting. Too often our Meetings are used as a platform for some to ride hobby horses around.

My spiritual life will hopefully always be with Friends and I will always identify as a Christian Friend. Hopefully I will be more vocal and speak out against unresolved conflict in our Meeting.

Unresolved conflict is a cancer and however painful it is, it must be eradicated from Meetings.

Friends get hurt, some stop going to Business Meetings, and I know Friends who have terminated their Membership as they have found the conflict in Meeting so unacceptable. We must all take responsibility to safeguard all our Meetings, not leave it to appointed officers or just hope Elders will take care of things.

Keith Triplett (Lancashire Central and North Area Meeting.)