February 5, 2010

What is dear to me about Quakerism

What follows below is the major part of a letter I sent to a couple of Friends shortly after we saw one another at a local Quaker event.

I wrote them because they wanted to hear what I shared with a different small group. It is based on some journaling we were asked to do during the event, following which we were asked to "prepare a message" inspired by our writing. --Liz

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What is dear to me about Quakerism

When we gather for worship, the living Silence embraces us and we are joined to one another: we are yoked together with the Spirit.

It is such a precious time.

And when, out of the silence, someone feels moved by the Spirit... when the Living Spirit speaks through one of us while we worship, we are being offered such a gift.

I wait to hear what my fellow worshiper has to offer. Perhaps it is a message of how God has reached that person and has helped her or him be transformed, broken open, brought closer to the Spirit.

And it is in the silence that the community who hears such vocal ministry will come to bear witness to that person's transformation and healing. We will help hold the Friend prayerfully as she, or he, sinks down into the Seed and begins to share the story...

So of course I become expectant in the waiting: How is God speaking to me, to us, through this person? What is God calling me, or us, to do?

When I hear of someone's experience of how God has been speaking to him or her, of being broken open, of wrestling to yield to God's guidance, of being transformed; when I hear how God has spoken so deeply to that person that her or his life is changed, then I myself am somehow also changed, at a deep and wordless level.

It is as if I am being made ready for God to open me, too.

Maybe not immediately, maybe not the next day, but at some point.

When that time comes, I know that I will be called upon to speak out of the living Silence, to share how it is that God has worked on my soul, has broken me open, and has helped me be transformed.

And when that time comes, not only do I know that the gathered body will bear witness to my words during worship, but I also know that I will be held tenderly by God.



Michael said...

Friend Liz,

Thank you for this.

About a dozen Friends from my meeting have begun sharing the Quakerism 101 course, and there, too, the worship has the character you describe.

At present, what lifts me most in meeting for worship is simply the trustful knowledge that we are all sitting together in silence around the same Reality, which we all know and trust.

Blessed Be,

Unknown said...

Thank you Friend, for this dear share. I've become aware lately, as I immerse myself in the journals of early friends, of how the letter writing of these Friends to their families and friends was the way they shared their spiritual growth and changes with the world. We lose so much in quick emails and there are no stacks of letters tied together, which families may then pass on for posterity. Would that our blogs could become such a record.

Liz Opp said...

Michael -

Good to see you here again! And yes, when I've been a part of Quakerism 101, I have found that for a while, the worship both in the group and during regular Meetings for Worship seemed to deepen.

Or maybe it was that I myself was feeling more joyous about conveying our faith so that we might understand more fully how to engage in it as a corporate body...

Linda (haven) -

Like you, a few other Friends interested in following "the online conversation" have questioned how some of the blog material might be preserved in something other than its electronic form.

At least two Quaker blog anthologies have been printed. One is the The Quaker Ranter Reader by long-time blogger Martin Kelley, and the other is Writing Cheerfully on the Web, compiled by yours truly.

And yet, these books don't capture the "voice" of any one of us who wishes to "share the Good News" or instruct those who follow the Quaker path in how to yield and obey. Rather, they are personal essays that point to contemporary conditions of the Religious Society of Friends.

Maybe the closest thing we have to a published contemporary Friend who has written in a manner similar to the letters and epistles from early Friends would be Thomas Kelly in his A Testament of Devotion.

I had a chance to speak with a Friend in graduate school who is working on a paper about blogs and archiving them. I believe she will be making a presentation on the subject at the upcoming QUIP conference in the spring of 2010. I'll be curious to hear her thoughts about this.

Still, that misses the mark, doesn't it?

Thanks for planting a seed...