At a recent party where nearly all the guests were Friends--and friends or acquaintances of one another--the conversation of course had to ultimately turn to Quakerism.
Among us were twentysomethings, thirtysomethings, and one fortysomething; lifelong Friends, convinced Friends, and relatively new to Friends; Friends who had drifted away from the monthly meeting and Friends who are still very much engaged.
What most struck me were the questions that were raised. Some questions were made outright; others were implied or inferred.
Here's a partial list of what I compiled when I returned home that night:
How do we learn to support each other in our Quakerism when there is no training manual?When I was done writing my questions, I thought about the lost traditions or weakened disciplines that could have addressed these concerns, had they been practiced, modeled, integrated, and talked about over the course of the life of the meeting:
How do we hold one another accountable, and just what does that mean exactly?
When Friends seem to value being able to "disappear" or be anonymous in a large meeting, how do we help a meeting (or individual Friends) become okay with "being Known" so we can better care for one another and better tend to the life of the s/Spirit within one another?
How do we teach (or learn) the concept of listening for Truth in what others say?
How do we teach (or learn) the concept that resistance may be an indication of needing to hold a thing tenderly and prayerfully, allowing for the possibility that we ourselves, and our version of "the truth," can be transformed?
How do we teach (or learn) the value and belief that inward transformation is possible; that "giving up" to That Which Is Within Us And Beyond Us is a Quaker discipline which needs to be modeled, practiced, and openly talked about if it is to be retained?
(What do we do if our meetings don't value transformation and yielding to our Inward Teacher?!)
Among unprogrammed Friends, does affirming equality mean not "seeing" difference, including not acknowledging or calling out the gifts or measure of Light that individual Friends may have?
Among unprogrammed Friends, does having no clergy really mean having no ministers?
I feel as though these questions are already starting to haunt me. And I feel as though there is a deep, deep hunger that is driving these questions, too. One of the younger, newer Friends said, "I get a lot out of meeting, but I also want more."
Care and nurture of emerging gifts.
One final question: Now what?