August 19, 2010

Root bound?

In the room where the worship group meets, there is a single large pot with five plants that look like miniature palm trees. Sometimes they look thirsting for water, their slender leaves folded down, close to the candle-stick sized trunk.

This past First Day, I couldn't help but wonder if those five trees were root-bound, given that the pot was only about eighteen inches tall, was about a foot in diameter, and has been there, unchanged, since we started worshiping in this location, I think.

That got me thinking:

Our meetings can get root bound, can't they? ...Like when we fall into spiritual ruts of faith and practice, never seeking new opportunities to listen for God's call, or letting those new opportunities slide by, or failing to take a stand publicly for an important social-justice issue because it's too much work to organize and step out into public.

Or when our committees are root-bound, they tend to focus on whatever is on their plate in front of them and seldom take time out to consider rising concerns that might lead the committee and its members onto a new and interesting path, maybe incorporating a longer view or a way to involve more worshipers over time.

Our worship can get root bound, when we stop anticipating the Living Presence to dwell among us and we fall into our own private reveries, or when we stop sharing our experience of God in our lives and substitute such tender sharing with a litany of complaints about our worldly concerns.

Similarly, having too little soil in the pot can leave the roots overly exposed to air pockets and without enough nutrients. There is a necessary Something in the ground that surrounds the roots and fills the pot, and we must be careful to learn when the pot's soil is too dry; when it is too wet; and when the plants themselves need to be transplanted to some new pot for greater freedom for the roots to grow and for the soil's nutrients to be refreshed.

Maybe my choice a few years ago to begin worshiping with the worship group was a way to transplant myself into a pot that seemed to have more fertile soil, more nutrient-rich dirt. More than once, though, someone in worship has cautioned us to be wary of becoming "spiritually sleepy," and we have stayed open and alert for an opportunity to participate in a service project, to stretch ourselves beyond our familiar pattern of worship.

This fall, we'll be finishing a formal commitment to help a refugee Somali family resettle in the Twin Citiesl. Also we'll return to our experiment with providing some Quaker adult education for the worship group. We may also consider having a retreat since recently the worship group has added a few people who are new to Quakerism.

And always, always I'll be on the lookout for an opportunity to travel among Friends or to bring a visiting Friend to us: Such opportunities are good reminders for me that no one has to stay rooted in one place; that we often grow from being exposed to new environments and even to some cross-pollination.

We can remain grounded in our tradition, faith, and practice but that doesn't mean that we must restrict our roots from branching out...


UPDATE: While reading additional Quaker writings on the internet shortly after I posted this piece, I came across this Minute of Exercise from the 2010 annual sessions of New England Yearly Meeting.


Martin Kelley said...

I notice it most by the lost opportunities. There are things that Friends probably should be doing that fall outside our root-bound expectations. But plod on we go, while the Spirit's voice goes unnoticed.

Anonymous said...

"no one has to stay rooted in one place; that we often grow from being exposed to new environments and even to some cross-pollination.

We can remain grounded in our tradition, faith, and practice but that doesn't mean that we must restrict our roots from branching out..."


Tom Smith said...

Thanks for the post.

When I consider my current "state, I think of the "trite but true" saying of what we need: Roots and Wings. Root bound and wing clipped might be metaphors for a stagnant condition of these two necessities for a healthy person and group.

Liz Opp said...

Thanks for chiming in, everyone.

I find myself reflecting on the lives early Friends who did what seems like an AWFUL LOT of traveling! Surely they were rooted in the Spirit in order from them to be unhinged from their local worship communities for any period of time...

On the other hand, meeting new f/Friends along the way, perhaps their spirits were lifted so they could continue their journey.


Tania said...

Friend speaks my mind... and reminds me of a conversation I had with another Friend that I've been meaning to write about on my blog and haven't gotten around to.

ben said...

and here I thought our way was about the best one to prevent "root bound" problem. Ever been to a Catholic service, I think that might be what you are talking about.
I think all these words and "notions", are getting to you. Take it easy and quietly sit. It'll be great.
Ben Schultz

Jeanne said...


So are you saying you like the status quo? That everything is hunky dory at all Quaker meetings? That there is NO room for healthy growth?

You don't even deserve this much of a response given the other five comments. All I need to say is this:

Friend Liz speaks my mind.


Liz Opp said...

Tania -

So GOOD to hear from you! If you do end up writing something connected to this thread, I hope you'll return and leave a link.

Ben -

I am realizing I don't do snarky well. But if these posts offer new Light to someone, and if I feel no "stop" in my discernment as I prepare and finalize a post, that's good enough for me, most of the time.

If I'm writing on a tender topic, or on a controversial or edgy theme, I do call on the Friends who have agreed to provide me with eldership for this blog.

Jeanne -

Thanks for the comment, though I didn't think Ben was saying that everything was "hunky dory at all Quaker meetings"... just that there are far more rigid (i.e. "bound") forms of religious worship than our unprogrammed Quaker form. And that I should lighten up, maybe.