Student government at Earlam school of religion follows the form of a Quaker Monthly Meeting. Unfortunately, it is not immediately obvious what business a group of students have, unless of course we attend or sit on a committee, even more unfortunately we are all new to this and trying to figure it out as we go along — in short, it is just like monthly meeting sessions.
So far, we have a committee overseeing our meetings for worship (one programmed, one unprogrammed.) We have another committee to address pastoral concerns, another to plan community life issues, yet another to oversee our budget. (I’m on the finance committee) We of course have committees that I’ve not mentioned such as nominating committee, but in short we are a functioning monthly meeting addressing ministry, oversight, budgeting, and reporting to a higher meeting.
This month, very few committees reported. The worship committee is looking for people to give ‘the message’ in the programmed meeting, which considering the broad range of theological views represented is rather challenging. The pastoral care committee discussed a common pastoral need (new students find the rigors of graduate school challenging, and need special care) and are looking into the question how we can better address this need. There was a suggestion that SMB request a broader range of books in our classes, including popular books, we failed to come to unity because it seemed arrogant for students to tell the professors what to teach.
In the end, we created one minute. We have a student representative to the faculty meeting, and we sent a request (for the sanity of the off campus students specifically, but all in general) that the professors answer their email and give regular, systematic feedback to their students. This minute was difficult to write, because most of the professors work hard and excel… How do we write the minute so that the hard-working conscientious professors don’t feel pressured to try even harder (while those who just are not there do not even listen)… after much discussion on wording we agreed to a request, hopefully both our request and our committment to pastoral care will help ease the stress of seminary life.
It’s easy to think that business meetings are where you spend hours to make minutes, but it is a method of uniting as a body over actions. It is hard work to give voice to the community, but this work prevents conflict and frees people to do the work the community assigns them. Best of all, we learn to create community out of our diversity — I find this exercise worthwhile.