One of the realities of our meetings these days is that sometimes two people, whom we have come to know as a couple, are unable to sustain their relationship and decide to separate. However much we may regret it, separations are becoming commonplace in society at large. Quakers are not immune to this affliction and when it happens the event often challenges the meeting in all sorts of unexpected ways. The reasons for the break-up may perplex us and we may feel hurt and unsettled, particularly if the estrangement deprives us of the company of a familiar friend. 'If it could happen to them where will it end?' There may even be a sense of guilt as if somehow the meeting allowed this to happen. 'If only our oversight had been better.' 'After all, Friends should endeavour to uphold the sanctity of the marriage relationship.'
Through all of this we must remember that we are often only bystanders who may not be aware of all the circumstances that led to the breakdown. It is important to affirm our love for all those who are directly affected, especially if there are children known to the meeting. The task of supporting an abandoned partner may call for special sensitivity and a willingness to be available during the dark moments. But the need to show our care for the other partner should not be overlooked either. Above all the meeting must try to affirm that of God which is in all of us, whatever our feelings about who is to blame. This is a time for great prayerfulness, unobtrusive caring and gentle support. We must trust that, with grace, we may all find paths to grow, leading us out of the painful experience.
John Miles, 1994