At the end of June, I met with Friends and spoke (mostly) out of the silence on the topic On Being A Quaker. Normally for a presentation or workshop, I use a combination of outline and mindmap, but the closer I got to actually opening my mouth for this event, the more strongly I understood that I was supposed to lay aside my handwritten notes and speak out of the silence.
The outward preparation
Originally, I was thinking of what it means to be "a new kind of Quaker" as compared to "an old kind of Quaker." But I kept coming back to the theme of belonging to one another, belonging to Quakerism, and belonging to God.
As I was rereading Thomas Gates' pamphlet Members One of Another, I found myself drawn into considering how his themes of transformation and obedience intersect with the theme of belonging, and so I took some time to clarify what was beginning to take shape in me by creating a chart, which I've included below.
The inward preparation
A few things caught me by surprise.
One was that a few weeks prior to the 2-hour presentation, I became clear that I needed to have a companion in ministry--what used to be called an elder. I hadn't requested that sort of spiritual companionship for a short thing like this but I'm glad I did for this occasion. One person's name rose up for the Friend who was providing all the arrangements--and it was a person I had met literally just three or four week's prior. It all felt rightly ordered.
I also put out a number of prayer requests--again, not something I had done for other presentations. One Friend offered to bring the prayer request to a group of Friends she knew who intentionally prayed for traveling ministers.
And just a few minutes before I was to begin speaking at the event, I sat with my companion in ministry on the back stoop of the meetinghouse, overlooking the Meeting's very old cemetery. I felt myself being called out by the presence of those Friends long buried, and I sensed their affirmation of the need for me to "go deep" and stay deep during my remarks.
The last thing that caught me off-guard was the number of times that I myself was moved to tears as I was speaking! I recall the Power that was expressed, for example, when I spoke about the need for us to make ourselves vulnerable with one another, to be deeply authentic, as a way for us to belong to one another and to understand how it is that the Spirit is moving among us... that we cannot keep the stories of how the Spirit is prospering in our lives out of a secular need confidentiality, for if I, as a new or maturing Friend, never or seldom hear these stories from my Quaker brothers and sisters, from my Quaker parents and grandparents, how am I to know what such movement of the Spirit looks like or feels like or is like? How is a newer Friend supposed to learn these things...?
A synopsis of what I shared
As what sometimes happens when I speak out of the silence during a Meeting for Worship, I don't recall exactly what I said, though I did touch on a number of things I had previously written down for myself, about how we might go about inviting one another to consider how we as Friends belong to one another, to Quakerism, and to God, regardless of how long we have been among Friends--that is, regardless of whether we are a "new kind of Quaker" or an "old kind of Quaker."
And after organizing my notes and my thoughts into a systematic whole--a chart!--I realized that if I had had the opportunity, I may have changed the title of the presentation:
- Love and Belonging: Consideration of how we as Friends belong to one another, to Quakerism, and to God, regardless of how long we have been among Friends.
Anyway, below is the main part of the chart I created and referred to during my message. It's not complete by any means, so feel free to shape it and rework it and fill it in or expand it as you feel led.
In particular, I paid attention to the "cautions" and the challenges or "inconveniences" of each of these layers of spiritual development and belonging. I also emphasized the word "belonging" by breaking that word apart:
BE ... LONGING,
- Be longing for one another;
- Be longing for Quakerism; and
- BE longing for God.
NOTE: In the chart, I use the notation TG, in brackets, to refer to language used by Tom Gates in his pamphlet.
(UPDATE: If you have trouble viewing the chart below, or to view a more extensive version of this chart, click here.)
|TOPIC||Belong to one another||Belong to Quakerism||Belong to God|
|WELCOME & ACCEPTANCE [TG]||Provide and request care and nurture; be curious about the movement of the Spirit, of Love, in one another's lives|
|SHARED VALUES [TG]||Act together and reflect together on the Root and fruit of the Testimonies, on indiv and corporate levels; commit to engage in Quaker practices and disciplines||Maintain Love at the center of our life and faith; wait upon the Light in times of difficulty|
|TRANSFORMATION [TG]||Share our ministries, leadings, and struggles with one another; be vulnerable with each other and bear witness to the transformation of one another||Be willing to seek new Light in difficult times and from difficult people; be willing to labor with others||Be willing to wrestle with God; be willing to grow into our measure of Light|
|OBEDIENCE [TG]||"Exhort one another daily" to be faithful to how we are called||Test our leadings with one another; provide mutual accountability and mutual encouragement||Engage in faithfulness and a humble obedience; be willing to yield|
|CAUTION||Feeling accepted does not provide an automatic "in" for membership; feeling accepted does not mean individualism and secularism should replace tending to the Root and minding the Light||Can the Meeting allow itself to grow because of a Friend's ministry/new Light? "what is important is not how far one has traveled, but rather one's commitment to travel this particular path we call Quakerism" [TG, p. 36]||Can the Meeting allow its members to grow beyond the confines of the Meeting; can we avoid pressuring one another to conform to the Meeting's "culture"?|
|CHALLENGE||Inconvenience ourselves to make time for others||Inconvenience ourselves to uphold Quaker practices and to grow as a Meeting||Inconvenience ourselves to receive God's love, to be broken open, to be obedient to God's call|
The queries I shared
What new ministries or new messages are emerging, or are struggling to emerge in the meeting? Who is carrying them? Are the Friends who resist the new Light being held in Love? How ready is the meeting to outgrow its old skin? Can the meeting allow its members to grow beyond the abilities and even the identity or culture of the meeting? What would help?
What ministries have long-time Friends brought into the current life of the meeting? What of their Light and spiritual gifts still needs attention and nurture? Can the meeting live into the tension between supporting the emerging ministries and laying down the ones that may be outliving their usefulness, and can that be done with compassion and care for all involved? Can the meeting embrace both fresh and “institutionalized” perspectives, allowing each to inform the other? Does the meeting grieve together what was, in fair balance with rejoicing what is being birthed?
What would it mean if we saw Quakers as one family? How do we wish to treat our younger and older brothers and sisters? Do we feel like we belong to one another, that we belong to God? What would help?
If your meeting and you heard that Quakerism offers you and the meeting more than what you and the meeting are currently experiencing, would you be interested? Would your meeting be interested? When has God called you to be More than Who You Are, and to what extent were you able to live into that call? Are you willing to let go of “your version” of Quakerism to discover how else the Spirit is moving through Friends?
As always, thanks for reading me.