March 23, 2005

Some meetings are a rest stop

Recently, a fFriend gently invited me to consider that the monthly meeting, no longer able to meet and nourish my spiritual needs, might be a rest stop along the Quaker journey that I am taking.

Once the remark of that fFriend sunk in, I had to be willing to consider that I had mistakenly thought I could gently hijack the meeting--the bus and the bus driver--and change the route of the bus in order to accommodate where I wanted to go and how I wanted to get there. What I needed to do instead was get off the bus and transfer to the bus that would get me to where I wanted to go. The monthly meeting was the rest stop and place of transfer where I could do that.

This same fFriend ministered to me that some meetings and worship groups have as its ministry its capacity to be a very fine rest stop for many a weary Quaker traveler who passes through, as well as being able to provide a longer respite for the settler who takes up residence there. Similarly, some Friends have the capacity to stay on a single bus throughout their Quaker journey.

I'm just not one of them, it seems.

Friends like me will ride one bus for awhile, learn what I can, and grow outside the lines. After considering where I am called to be and by what route I might get there, I just may have to transfer at the next stop and leave the meeting behind.

It has never been easy for me to say goodbye to a beloved community that has nurtured me and grown me for so long. It does not mean that I will never return; it may mean that I may be gone for quite a while in-between visits.

. . . . . . . . . .

P.S. Meredith shares a bit about her own journey among Friends, in a comment to a post at Beppeblog. I didn't feel I could post the above piece without lifting up Meredith's experience of being faithful to her measure of Light within her faith community:

I, like you, have gone through similar deliberations about whether I should continue to attend or simply fade away into some other manner of spiritual enrichment. I can remember thinking that in my small worship group there was something fundamentally very 'wrong' because we rarely spoke of anything spiritual. My Friends enjoyed talking politics, environmental subjects, and what they noticed in their garden or what they had heard on the radio that morning. But there was little to no discussion of God. In my own silence, I began to feel a strong leading. My own 'private practice' had recently become very spirit filled, and I longed to share this. My leading had to do with just that. Maybe my Meeting was waiting for just this opportunity. I began to share more spiritual content – my own experience, readings from Quaker writers, and Biblical and Faith and Practice queries. Now, our Meeting has become much more focused on the Presence of God, of the Christ within our midst. Since half of our Meeting time is discussion, we have a wonderful opportunity query, reflect, and share. Sometimes we utilize Quaker Dialogue practice, and sometimes a freer form of dialogue. Since this change, I have sense that others have had a renewed purpose for attending Meeting along with me.

I only mention this because of what I learned: my feelings of being on that ‘leaving precipice’ were truly the catalyst for change that was well received by the Meeting. It has lead to a deepening of the spiritual life of our Meeting, and an enriched spiritual relationship for each of us. Another thing that I learned was that I needed to stop wishing that my fellow Friends would be different than they are. It seems we all journey at our own pace, and our timing for growth and revelation is unique. My wishing that my Friends would be ‘more spiritual’ or more focused, or knowledgeable of the Bible simply led to frustration and suffering in the Meeting for me. Letting go of this, and moving simply as I felt led to do, has made all the difference.
Given the journey I've been traveling, I guess I can end with the same thought:

Learning to let go of wishing that Friends would be more, and moving simply as I feel led, has made all the difference.



Robin Mohr said...

So is your worship group under the care of your old Meeting, or is it completely separate?

I realize that I've been afraid that in a smaller worship group, there wouldn't be enough company for my young children. But your experience shows me that Friends have been able to respond more directly and supportively to families with young children in your small group. Hmmm.

I'm still holding out hope that my Meeting is changing in some of the same ways that I am. It seems like God is leading many of us in the same direction of deeper, more faithful lives. But I should remember that I am not the bus driver and I can't just change the route at will.

Liz Opp said...

Hi, Robin. A quick answer to your question is that the worship group is not currently under the care of any monthly or yearly meeting.

In response to your question, and similar questions from others, I've written up some answers to Frequently Asked Questions about the worship group I'm a part of.

Also, I think that while God is "leading many of us in the same direction of deeper, more faithful lives," God is also bringing us together and putting us in touch with one another, so that perhaps we may see and hear more clearly that which God would have us know and share more widely... and so that perhaps we may have additional companions with us as we are transformed by the Light and Power of that which we seek.