April 11, 2005

Good conversation while I'm away

Friends, while I've been traveling, there is a rich conversation going on at the Quaker Ranter, about one Friend's description of his nontheist Quakerism. These are the sorts of dialogues that may grow all of us, if we can remember to stay grounded in our search for "capital T" Truth.

I wish I could write more, but it will have to wait until me and my computer are reunited. Smile.

Blessings,
Liz

6 comments:

david myers said...

You said

James, I'm so glad you took the time to post your thoughts and that
they found their way here. Your clarity about your place among Friends
is something I have always appreciated about you (James, Elizabeth,
and I all attend the same meeting). As I've written elsewhere, it's
when people are grounded in their faith that real dialogue and sharing
can happen, without the fear of being converted.

Each time I listen to you, James, I cannot help but feel viscerally
that you and I are experiencing the same Thing That Cannot Be Named Or
Captured In Words. Maybe you are being more faithful by not naming It,
and I am simply using a word I am familiar with: God. But your
tenderness and your commitment to the meeting-community is clear to
me, and I know experimentally the power of belonging and of Being
Home.


You said it so very well. I know a few Friends like James and that
fit your description above. And in many cases, they are fantastic
individuals that can't quite come to want to be called or to want to
be fellowshipped in a manner that would be defined as Godly fellowship.
Naming the Name is so tricky to balance with having some tolerance
of differenes in faith understandings. This IS one of the key balances
that Quaker meetings much currently attempt to find. In my MM we
are doing our best. My sense from reading you, Elizabeth, and James,
is that there are similarities in the mixture of faiths present in my MM
and yours. I think my MM does feel pulled toward articulating this,
and has made some amount of progress on it. Call it a movement toward
consensus on (lack of?) faith consensus, perhaps. The question mark is
important, because I am starting to see the seeds of renewal.

David Myers davesmyers@gmail.com
Westbury Monthly Meeting, NY

Elizabeth O'Sullivan said...

This conversation has given me a lot to think about:

How do we labor with eachother over tender issues?

How do we deal with strong emotions when God is telling us to just cool it?

How can we nurture good elders who can help us stay faithful?

Lots to think about. I'm felt the heavy weight of this issue lift from me this evening. Maybe it will come back, but if it does, I feel like (and hope) I'll have a better sense of peace about it.

Love,
Elizabeth

Liz Opp said...

Elizabeth, really great questions you lift up. They resonate with my own concerns about whether we as Friends need to enroll en masse as a community in a workshop on compassionate communication and deep listening and how we even identify good elders to help us navigate the rough waters... I'm glad you're feeling a bit unburdened for the time-being.

David, you write:
Call it a movement toward consensus on (lack of?) faith consensus, perhaps. The question mark is important, because I am starting to see the seeds of renewal.

I too feel as though I am seeing seeds of renewal: a growing interest in a Quakerism that is more about inward spiritual fire and less about intellectual philosophy. I'm also aware that that which speaks to my condition probably runs counter to some other Friend's condition.

I am puzzled by your use of the word "consensus" in your comment. "Consensus" is a secular word, as I understand it, though it is sometimes used among Friends in lieu of spiritual discernment, testing, or unity with and recognition of God's will.

If in fact your meeting is seeking, desiring, or moving toward a [secular] consensus, is that an indication of the nature of your meeting as being more universalist/nontheist in scope? Or is the word "consensus" in your comment your own, and the meeting is truly laboring over discerning the Truth in the situation of a faith community that has much spiritual diversity?

If you could clarify, I'd love to read more: I think my monthly meeting is wrestling with similar concerns, and while there will be some Friends who wish to "keep the peace" by reaching a commonly understood agreement about the spiritual nature of the meeting, there will likely be other Friends who wish to have the meeting engage in a more traditional process of worshipful seeking and listening for God's guidance as to how to move forward. And other Friends may even hope for some intense conflict or struggle, recognizing the gift of intimacy that can result if we all make it to the other side...

One thing I am happy for in my monthly meeting: The meeting is undergoing a Year of Discernment, holding the questions "What are the ministries of the meeting?" and "What are the structures needed to support those ministries?" over the course of a year, with some other events sprinkled in-between. These questions seem to strike a balance for me about elements of a Quaker faith community while also allowing the space for all of us to participate, regardless of our theology. The questions do not polarize us; they make us curious to hear how others might respond.

Blessings,
Liz

david myers said...

Liz, you asked:

I am puzzled by your use of the word "consensus" in your comment. "Consensus" is a secular word, as I understand it, though it is sometimes used among Friends in lieu of spiritual discernment, testing, or unity with and recognition of God's will.
If in fact your meeting is seeking, desiring, or moving toward a [secular] consensus, is that an indication of the nature of your meeting as being more universalist/nontheist in scope? Or is the word "consensus" in your comment your own, and the meeting is truly laboring over discerning the Truth in the situation of a faith community that has much spiritual diversity?


It is the latter form of laboring, a seeking of 'sense of
meeting' rather than [secular] consensus. I am afraid
that I have so melded the various words that *could*
indicate good Godly discernment in my own noggin that I
don't often take care to be particular about it in
communication (apart from avoiding the word "unanimous"),
even though I know better. Obviously there are times
where Westbury MM fails to work in 'sense of meeting'
mode. But we're trying.

You suggest we enroll, en masse, in a workshop on
spiritual communication. We're hoping, in New York YM,
to do exactly that. If you provide your email to me, I will
send you an attachment with the workshop outline. Five
years ago at YM sessions, something was presented
that was proposed as a training series for spiritual
nurturers. It never got off the ground but NYYM has an
AVP committee and they picked up the thread a few
years later and reproposed this under the rubric of
spiritual conflict transformation. This may color the
results, potentially for good, potentially for mediocre. I
dunno yet. I am set to go to this workshop in June
somewhere nearby in the region. The hope is to
involve a lot more people beyond "elders" in understanding
Friends' spiritual gaps between ourselves and how we
approach them.

As for your year of discernment, that was our meeting's
year last year! From mid 2003-mid 2004 we underwent
a real inward search. M/O did extensive phone survey
interviews with every single member, attender, and all the
dues-paying-never-see-ums to understand what is
going right and what is going wrong. They then hosted
a long series of worship sharings of the What Canst Thou
Say variety and let all the dirty laundry hang out. Culminating
in similar queries as your meeting, and eventually
managing to actually discern and thresh our collective
faith just a wee little bit. I think we got somewhere, a little.

In the meantime, in mid 2004 NYYM hired Christopher
Sammond as General Secretary (he may be known to you,
since he used to live in your area), and he's been in
communication with people from our quarter and there
has been some useful querying back n forth, though
it's far from obvious what is next or what the fruits will be.

Things are looking up.

David

Liz Opp said...

David, yes I know Christopher Sammond fairly well: he and I have served on committees together within the same monthly meeting, as well as serving together on FGC's Central Committee.

Given that Christopher shares my interest in and concern for deepening the spiritual life of Quaker meetings and communities, I would think NYYM has a fairly faithful servant as its general secretary.

Thanks for stopping by.

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