Meanings: “Under the Care” and “Yieldedness”

May 13, 2011

Micah Bales, a young adult Quaker and ESR graduate who is currently working for ESR on outreach activities maintains a blog called The Lamb’s War that is devoted to his spiritual reflections.

This week, he reflects on the meaning of “under the care,” a familiar Quaker phrase.  He says, “To be under a group’s care often means to take part in a process of accountability with the group.”  But he says a great deal more, too, that is well worth reading.  I am particularly struck by his saying that to be “under the care” of a group or a community requires that one be in a state of “yieldedness” toward that group or community. He says,

This is a concept that I suspect Rockingham Meeting has imbibed from the ambient Mennonite culture of Shenandoah Valley, and it means that the individual should value the insight of the wider fellowship and be willing to change his or her life in order to meet the expectations of the community. In this life of yieldedness, each individual is profoundly under the care of the community as a whole.

I had never heard the word “yieldedness” before.  I think it’s a very useful word, especially useful to understand as the essential other side of being “under the care.”  If you are going to be “under the care” of a community or committee, you have to be prepared nearly always to follow their directions.

Nearly always?  Yes, not always, always.  Micah Bales says,

Yieldedness is not about giving preference to the human opinions of our community over the motions of the Holy Spirit. If the wisdom of the community is contrary to what Christ seems to be revealing to me, I have a responsibility to bring this concern to the community. In a sense, the Meeting is also under the care of the individual. Each of us must lay our own sense of Christ’s leading before the Meeting, even if it is unpopular. It may be that God is calling on us to adapt the testimony of the Meeting to meet a new situation.

“The Meeting is also under the care of each individual.”  I think that puts it very well.

This is Quaker talk, but for me it has resonance well beyond Quaker organizations.  One needs to seek and accept the care of others, but in seeking and accepting that care, one has to commit to taking what those others say very seriously.

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About Doug Bennett

Doug Bennett is Emeritus President and Professor of Politics at Earlham College. He has a wife, Ellen, and two sons, Tommy (born 1984) and Robbie (born 2003).
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