July 25, 2005

Prophetic ministry:
Calling out the house of cards

About a year ago, I was speaking with a cherished Friend about my difficulties with feeling accepted and welcomed at one particular meeting. The Friend replied, "It's hard to be a prophet in your own land."

It's taken me a long time to understand what that Friend meant, maybe because I wasn't raised in a Christian household. Maybe because, in my experience among Friends, I hadn't heard or integrated the phrase "prophetic ministry."

From Britain Yearly Meeting's Faith & Practice [emphasis mine]:

...This is the ministry of inspiration, the prophetic ministry in the true sense, when the spoken word pierces to the heart of our relationship with God, unveils the living presence of Christ in the midst of the worshipping group and in its separate members, opens to our sight the way we must tread if we would realise that Spirit in and through our ordinary daily activities and find the creative response to the challenges of our time....
Sure: there are times when Friends who have a prophetic ministry are invited to share their ministry--as long as it's not in our own backyard, on the front porch, or in the parlor.

When a Friend or minister touches on a topic that "hits too close to home," challenging Friends to look at the foundation on which our faith is built, some Friends are reluctant or are unable to stay open to the message being given. It may threaten to "pierce to the heart," or to "open to our sight" the ways we have fallen short, have let others down, have been unfaithful.

House of cards

In the Quaker identity workshop recently, Friends participated in an exercise to identify what they each saw as a core element of Quakerism. Each element that was named was written on an index card and placed in the center of the room. The group then began thinking of how to use these to build a symbolic house of cards, representing the foundations and supports of our Quaker faith.

Sometimes prophetic ministry makes us look at the house of cards we have built and calls on us to pull out a faulty card.

Sometimes it's the card that happens to be holding up the rest of the house.

For some, the fear or pain of watching our house of cards tumble is too great to bear, and we instead challenge or get angry with the minister; entrench ourselves further into the belief that there's no problem with our house; or leave the room--emotionally if not physically.

There's a vulnerability in being able to reply honestly to the prophetic minister:
What you say terrifies me. I fear that my house, my beliefs will collapse. How shall I live? How shall I ever have faith enough to rebuild...?
But is prophetic ministry really a spiritual homewrecker?

Prophetic ministry as an opening for God's grace

My partner and I are homeowners and it's taken us time to acknowledge that there's too much sunlight and too much heat and too much moisture being collected in the upstairs of the house. We had to wait for water to be dripping in from the ceiling--during winter--and filling up a light fixture upstairs before we realized something significant was happening along those hairline cracks that we had convinced ourselves "were nothing."

We needed some help to understand what that "nothing" was, and we called in our contractor.

Who in turn called in an expert in humidity, air circulation, and the air-tightness of a house.

By being humble, by finally acknowledging that something was not in good order in our house, and by asking for additional help from someone else--who in turn was humble enough to ask for help from another someone--we could begin to address the high-humidity, lack-of-air-circulation flaw of the second floor. We were going to have to embrace the difficult task of taking steps to correct the situation, beyond the cosmetic fix of sealing up the current cracks and drying out the lights.

Grace can enter our lives when we allow ourselves to be "pierced to the heart," when we allow ourselves to be, not broken, but broken open.

Grace enters our lives when we can trust that when we fall, we shall be caught; when we are weary, we shall be carried; when we are broken open, we shall be companioned along the journey towards a new wholeness.

Prophetic ministry and restoration

Our spiritual homes, of course, are not always as likely to give us such tangible clues when something is amiss. Part of the life, vitality, and significance of worshiping among Friends in a covenant community comes from being known at all sorts of levels: social, vocational, psychological, familial, emotional, and spiritual.

Consequently, part of the challenge and discomfort that comes with participating in a covenant community of Friends is that there will likely be times when a Friend approaches us when we are distressed:

Your spiritual home seems to be having some sort of trouble, Friend.

How often are we approached in such a direct manner, though? How many times must we wait for the cracks in our spiritual home to start leaking water, or for the Light to start to sputter and dim before we ourselves reach out for help, or before others notice and feel a need to say something?

I have only recently been reminded by the writings of Lloyd Lee Wilson that prophetic ministry calls us to restore God to the center of our lives; to have our lives revolve around God and not the other way 'round.

Yes, it is not the most pleasant of tasks to inspect the foundations of our home, of our faith. It is often inconvenient, to say the least, to have inspectors and contractors intrude in our house and in our personal lives, pointing out code violations, faulty construction, items for repair or replacement.

I certainly can wait for the leaks in my house to get worse, for the electricity to short-circuit. Or I can willingly invite inspection, aware that it may do me well to address the concerns that are brought to my attention.

Similarly, Friends can take a deep breath and invite the minister back into our own parlor for awhile, opening ourselves to the possibility of transformation and grace; an opportunity for the restoration of our spiritual home.


. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

P.S. I am posting this on the eve before I am scheduled to head to the annual sessions of Iowa Yearly Meeting Conservative. I expect to catch up with readers' comments after next First Day.

July 21, 2005

A humbling invitation

The day that the 2005 FGC Gathering was getting underway in Blacksburg, Virginia, I received a humbling, warm invitation to share more publicly some of the teaching ministry that I am now carrying, on Quaker identity.

The publications manager of Friends General Conference has encouraged me to submit a book proposal on the subject.
I am humbled by the invitation and by the affirmation.

Publications manager Barbara Hirshkowitz and I had been talking about the workshop on Quaker identity into which I was about to embark for the week. I had been in touch with her a month or two prior to the Gathering, wondering if there was something within The Good Raised Up and similar Quaker blogs that would be worthwhile to pursue in book, pamphlet, or anthology form. Some of my thinking along these lines had been inspired by Martin Kelley and his online writings, a sampling of which are compiled in his self-published Quaker Ranter Reader.

When I got together with Barbara at the start of Gathering, she soon was telling me about FGC's process of reviewing and considering materials for publication.

I had to interrupt her: "You mean, you're affirming the work I've been doing?! ...If it seems like I'm caught off-guard, it's because hearing that affirmation is so very different from what I typically had been hearing."

Barbara calmly said, "Yes, I want to encourage you to submit a proposal to FGC... This is a topic that I think is very important for today's times."

It feels a bit surreal. The Gathering and all its "separate from the larger world" gestalt has happened between now and then, for one thing. For another thing, it's taken me this long to put the reality of that original conversation into the context of other conversations I am having among Friends back home, including here on The Good Raised Up.

I pray that a clearness committee and a care-and-accountability committee on my behalf can be put into place very soon.


P.S. From time to time, Quaker bloggers and their readers touch on the topic of a book-form compilation or anthology of some of our posts. For example, see Beppe's comment on the post What is it with the Quakers and Jesus Christ?, by Brooklyn Quaker.

Food for thought, then:

Is there enough interest for such a collection?

UPDATE: In Ninth Month 2005, I heard from Barbara that the committee that reviews manuscript proposals is encouraging me to narrow the focus and resubmit a revised proposal, saying the topic I lift up, about developing and sustaining our Quaker identity, is important and relevant. Now I feel a pull to go back to listening within, to understand more fully the kernel and seed of what I am holding...

July 18, 2005

New Quaker blogger: Showers of Blessings

Welcome, Paul L., an occasional commenter on The Good Raised Up and other Quaker blogs. His own blog, Showers of Blessings, already has a few poignant and informative posts.

I'm not the only one looking at identity of faith

Martin Kelley at Quaker Ranter pointed me to the direction of a post about what is the "shared religious core" of the Unitarian Universalist church. Scroll about half-way down, to the heading, "Theology is in the air."

Lots to do; I'm keeping this short.


July 17, 2005

Continued reflections on the Gathering:
Exploring Quaker identity, Part II

TUESDAY, July 5: Go!

At the close of opening worship, before we came too far out of the worshipful space we had just been in, and as I had done the previous morning, I asked the group to share what their experience of the worship was like.

I've written about that question and what came out of it in an earlier post, and even that little bit of the workshop experience still sits with me...

The focus of this day, I had hoped, would be twofold: The first would be to engage the group in an activity to illuminate elements of Quakerism that might be considered "core" or primary, and others that might be considered "peripheral" or secondary. The exercise was based on Australian Friend Janey O'Shea's—and I could have sworn I got it off the internet, but now I can't find the link. Sigh. The second focus would be to teach and practice basic compassionate listening skills.

But first things first: Here's what we did early on.

I asked the group to consider for a moment or two what they yearned for, what was missing for them from their Quakerism. Once again, I passed out blank index cards. I would soon after do the same thing around the question, "What is the CORE of Quakerism for you?"

I instructed them to write the item they yearned for on the lined side (and later, what they considered "core"), and then told them to write only one word on the unlined side, and to use marker to write that one word really large. (Actually, maybe I asked them to do this at the end of Monday, I can't recall...)

After everyone was ready, I collected the cards, mixed them up, and then went through them one at a time. Friends placed each card where they thought it belonged in relation to the "center" of Quakerism, which I represented with a card that said CORE and was placed in the middle of our circle.

In retrospect, this is not the question I should have started with, but it was what we had in front of us. [UPDATE: Chuck Fager writes about ways to think about the core of Quakerism in this interesting essay.]

It became clear to me and to others, pretty quickly, that there were quite a lot of elements that appeared to be CORE to Friends:
continuing revelation
the Inner Light
spiritual community
and so on.

A few items had ended up a bit farther off the mark, like Scripture as authority. I didn't keep notes, but this is what I recall, generally.

I then shifted gears and began to talk about the importance of listening compassionately to one another, especially as we come to know one another, our struggles, and that with which we wrestle in our journey among Friends.

In the end, the listening exercise felt flat, and I left the workshop that day puzzled and frustrated. Where had I gone wrong in the experiment, given the amount of inward listening I was doing?

Still, I knew how I would begin the next day, and hoped to get back on track.

WEDNESDAY, July 6: Wait, rewind!

The next day after worship, I said to the group, "Well, I had said from the start that this was an experiment of sorts. Now's a good time to ask how the experiment is going. What do you want more of, what hasn't been working for you?"

It became very clear very early that Friends wanted to return to the "Core of Quakerism" question; that the index-card exercise had touched off a lot of thinking for many of them the previous day; and there was bound to be more within that exercise for them to sink their teeth into.

I hadn't brought the index cards with me, but there was the faithful flipchart and marker that FGC provided. I suggested we start off with making a list:
What goes into a Quaker identity?
Now why didn't I think of starting the workshop with that question?!?

The energy of the group came up in an instant; the list of items spread across three large pages, with more to come if there had been time. Another sheet had been started, focused on items that make up identity in general, but the group continued to turn its attention to the question of Quaker identity.

After having created the extensive list that we had, small groups were formed. I asked Friends to identify from the list what they each felt were the 3-5 primary elements of their own individual Quakerism, and then share within their small group.

Twenty minutes went by; twenty-five.

I interrupted several times, encouraging them to take their break, but I was mostly ignored. The Spirit was clearly moving them, and I knew enough to keep out of the way.

After 30 minutes, I told them that they needed to take a break and come back to the large group in 10 minutes, in order to "share the wealth" of what they had just been sharing within their small groups. Not to mention, I hadn't been in on any of the conversation up to that point, and I wanted to know what all the excitement was about!

In the large group, we talked about how the original index-card exercise could have been expanded by allowing each Friend to use the cards to build their own "foundation" and "house" out of them:
Which card can you pull out and still think of yourself as Quaker?

On what principles and elements of Quakerism do you build the rest of your identity as a Friend?

Which card is it that if you pull it out, the rest of the house of cards will tumble?
It was to be the highlight of the week for me, to see and feel so much excitement and engagement and enthusiasm—so much FIRE in the room!

THURSDAY, July 7 and FRIDAY, July 8: Go again!

In part because of a question about corporate identity raised early in the week, on Thursday after opening worship, I used spectrums to link what we had been exploring around individual identity and relate it to the character and corporate nature of a meeting.

Spectrums are a simple non-verbal exercise that allow a certain amount of self-disclosure and group awareness around a question or scenario without requiring anyone to elaborate on their answer. The exercise often helps reduce the sense of isolation that a participant might feel, because seldom does one individual place herself or himself far from anyone else. And maybe best of all, no individual is singled out; no individual dominates the conversation. If someone begins to dominate, I can literally turn to a different part of the spectrum and ask for comments from that area...

I asked the group to place themselves along an imaginary line that cut across the room diagonally, with one end representing TRUE and the other representing FALSE (or STRONGLY AGREE and STRONGLY DISAGREE). Here are a few possible scenarios I raised:
You feel welcome by your meeting.

You and your meeting are a good fit for one another.

Being obedient and faithful to the Spirit is a core value within your meeting.
If some of these items sound familiar, it's because I've borrowed them from the Thomas Gates' pamphlet of which I'm so fond! And it's always interesting to see how people move about, from one end of the room to the other, as the questions change, especially when the questions are related, in a way, to how satisfied a Friend might feel within her or his meeting.

From there, and based on comments I had heard during Wednesday's check-in, I had the participants get into small groups again. This time, they were to share with each other what had seemed to help enrich their own meetings back home, and how they might bring back to their meetings any of the exercises, activities, and topics that were raised here during the workshop.

One of the last exercises we did came out of an observation that someone had made, about the importance of being part of their Quaker meeting, their Quaker community. I asked each person to take out a piece of paper and a pen or pencil. On the top of the paper, I asked them to draw three circles that would be in different sizes, relative to how large or small they experienced each of these three parts of their Quakerism:
Then I asked them to play with their circles and draw them in relation to one another: Were they concentric circles, nested one within the others? Were they overlapping? Were they disconnected entirely?

After just a couple minutes of doodling, I asked them to turn to their neighbor and share what they drew and any observations they made, like what they want their circles to look like, &c. Bzzz, bzzz, bzzz. It was great.

A significant observation

Perhaps as a result of these activities and exercises, and maybe in response to this last one, Friends spoke and lifted up this important observation [well, this is likely a composite of several remarks, actually]:
In my meeting, we don't use exercises like this, though I can see how for some meetings, these activities are useful to get the dialogue going. We come together for worship, and it is in our worship that we know one another.

For me, there is no separation between myself, God, and the meeting community. They are all integrated; there is no separation.
I smiled inwardly, aware of the creative tension and duality that many Friends and many of our meetings must engage in, though the balance will tilt differently in different meetings, between knowing one another through activities and knowing one another in God.

So: How is it that we feed our spiritual hunger as Friends?

I think we must feed one another... through worship, through sharing, through action, through listening.

And through exploring and understanding, more and more, what it is that makes each of us, all of us, Quaker.


. . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

My reflections about the workshop and the Gathering aren't quite complete, though the greatest bulk of my remarks about the workshop is. Thanks for reading me, again. --Liz

July 16, 2005

Continued reflections on the Gathering:
Exploring Quaker identity, Part I

This Quaker identity thing is hard to sum up.

I should have had my first clue when I was struggling so much with piecing together all the ideas and notes I had accumulated since the Gathering of 2004. Writing this and the concluding post(s?) are likely to be equally as hard.

Still, the workshop on Quaker identity at this year's Gathering in Blacksburg, VA seemed to have touched on a nerve. I'll break it down into what happened on each day (approximately), hoping that will help me share the exercises, insights, questions, and openings that I and others experienced during the week.

SUNDAY, July 3: Getting Ready

On Sunday, after a brief time for worship, I introduced myself to the 20 or so participants, which included one Friend who was born into a Quaker family. The rest of us were either convinced Friends, relatively new to Friends, or somewhere in-between. We were Friends from around the continent, though I don't recall any Friend from the western part of the U.S.; one Friend was from Canada. And we ran the gamut, too, in terms of age, from young adult Friends to at least two living in Quaker retirement centers.

I talked a bit about the very "experimental" nature of the workshop, in this case meaning that it was a topic I had not presented before and therefore we would all be learning together about what was working and what maybe needed some attention. I also explained that one Friend in particular was there to hold me and the group in prayer, and that that Friend's service, too, was part of an ongoing experiment in my own Quakerism.

No one bolted out of the room, so I guess folks were okay with all this.

I passed out blank index cards, read aloud the brief description of the workshop that was included in the advance Program, and asked them what one or two things from the description (or elsewhere) drew them to the workshop.
There is a difference between spiritual formation and spiritual formation of a Quaker identity. Through personal sharing we may alleviate some of our spiritual hunger, explore what builds identity, and experience some of what may contribute to a meaningful Quakerism. Presenter’s Quakerism is God-based; workshop draws on that orientation.
When I read through the cards later, a good number of Friends indicated that the words "yearning" and "deepening" had caught their attention. An equally large number of Friends indicated they were there because of the phrase "God-based." Two Friends were in the workshop, in part, because "Martin Kelley of the Quaker Ranter recommended it." (Talk about pressure!)

I talked about the flow of the week, explaining that while I had some of my own ideas and exercises in hand, I would mostly be taking my cues from the group in terms of how fast or slow to move along; how much time to engage in discussion; and so on. We closed with worship and were on our way.

MONDAY, July 4: Getting set

Monday was handouts day, after opening worship. I like preparing a packet of handouts that can be used almost like a self-study guide. I gave the group time just to leaf through the pages (no use talking while everyone wants to see what they've just been given), and then I said: "Turn to page 2, we're gonna do a little exercise."

I asked the group to consider their journey among Friends; to reflect on their experiences that seemed to shift their understanding of what Quakerism meant for them, and how their attitude toward themselves as Quakers shifted as well. I asked them to make a sort of "identity timeline," writing on one side of the line what the experiences were [going to Gathering; going to my first MfW for Business; serving on my first clearness committee, etc.], and writing on the other side of the line what the learning or "A-ha!" was.

Then I shared a definition and a model about identity development, and they broke into small groups to share how their timeline reflected these other pieces. Or at least I think that's what I asked them to do.
A dynamic process in which there are changes in awareness of oneself in relation to others and an expression of those changes. As we develop our identity, we experience changes in our attitude, beliefs, knowledge, behaviors, values, views toward others, views toward ourselves, etc.

ONE MODEL, based on stages* we go through:
  • Veiled, pre-encounter: ignorant that I have an identity [as a Quaker];

  • Unveiled, encounter: precipitating event or series of events provokes my self-examination [as a Quaker];

  • Conflict of allegiance: inner conflict usually following a sense of betrayal or disillusionment; often the conflict focuses on the question, "Where do I belong?";

  • Integration: new learning or understanding is integrated; greater investment in being a bridge between groups with different views [about Quakerism];

  • Sustainability: maintaining relationships among Friends; continued self-examination of my own Quakerism and of Quakerism in general.
  • *NOTE: This particular identity development model is adapted from the racial cultural identity development model as described in the 1990 version of Counseling the Culturally Different: Theory and Practice. Also, rather than linear as presented here, think of this model as circular, coiling up on itself with each new learning over time.

    Well, let me stop here for a while. I'll prepare another post with how we went from "Getting Ready" and" Getting Set" to "Go!" and then "Wait, Rewind!" and "Go Again!"


    July 14, 2005

    Continued reflections on Gathering:
    Young Friends

    One of the highlights of the week at Gathering for me was the opportunity to participate in an intergenerational interest group on Tuesday night, the night when all interest groups were convened in lieu of a plenary session.

    But it isn't appropriate for me to share what happened at that interest group without giving some context of what led up to my participating in it.

    As mentioned elsewhere, I had been invited by one of the high school co-clerks to attend their Meeting for Worship with a Concern for Business. I was able to attend on Sunday night, at least for a decent chunk of the first business session. Granted, throughout the week I was making a lot of late-night choices based on (1) my responsibilities as a workshop leader; (2) my endurance to traverse campus with a bad ankle; and (3) the availability of golf-carts at night to help with transportation. Nevertheless, I sensed an opening was in the making, so I kept my personal commitment to the high school program and to the young Friends who had expressed enthusiasm and openness for my being there.

    That Sunday night was a long time ago. I was keenly aware of the invitation for me, an adult Friend, to be in another group's space. So, before Meeting for Worship with a Concern for Business began, when everyone but co-clerks were asked to wait outside and hold the silence, I didn't assert my "adult privilege." I went outside too, and I waited.

    . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

    Occasionally on Monday and Tuesday, I'd pass Claire [Spiritual Journeys], or Erik or Inez from the meeting back home. There wasn't really a way to start a conversation: one or the other of us was always off to another meeting, another event, another golf-cart ride.

    But I was changed because of my witness of the high school's Meeting for Worship with a Concern for Business and because of the felt Presence of the Spirit among these young Friends. I saw high schoolers and young adult Friends through new eyes as a result.

    Tuesday evening rolled around, and I had no idea what group I'd go to, if any at all. As I hobbled into the dining center, though, I saw the big piece of flip-chart paper taped onto the doorway:

    7:00 pm, OWENS BALLROOM
    Right away, I understood where I was called to be.

    I ate quickly, never knowing how quickly a golf-cart will appear after dinner, and not quite sure where the entrance to Owens Ballroom was, since I had failed to find it a previous time earlier in the week.

    (Owens is a building in the shape of an H, with doors at all four outer wings, as well as doors in the "crosspiece." But wings were not connected and could really only be accessed through the outside doors, meaning quite a long trek around the building and up and down stairs before finding the wing, the door, and the room that you were looking for.)

    Anyway, I arrived safely and promptly at the ballroom, along with nearly 50 or 60 other young Friends, adult young Friends, and adult Friends. We introduced ourselves, of course, and then soon moved into an exercise called "Four Corners." It's very much like the exercise of creating a spectrum or continuum in the room, where a question is asked and participants are to place themselves in the spectrum according to the degree to which they agree or disagree with a statement. Four Corners, though, allows participants to group themselves according to the answer of a multiple-choice question:

  • I first came to Quakerism in my:
    (A) childhood;
    (B) adolescence;
    (C) young adulthood; or
    (D) older adulthood.
    [Some of the youngest Friends there only had two choices to consider...]

  • My meeting supports me in my spiritual journey:
    (A) strongly agree;
    (B) agree;
    (C) disagree; or
    (D) strongly disagree.

    For Friends who didn't fit in a single category, they were invited to sit or stand in the center of the room. Each group, once gathered in their "answer space"—one of the four corners of the room—was then asked to share the main points as to why Friends stood where they did. And for those who found themselves in the center, they too had a chance to speak.

    The Four Corners exercise was a nice way to warm us up without forcing anyone to talk or share from some artificial or lukewarm worship-sharing topic, and it was nice to have the exercise co-facilitated by an adult young Friend and an older adult Friend.

    Afterwards, and appropriately "warmed up," energetic Friend Zachary Moon instructed the group to get into pairs with someone clearly a different age than ourselves. We were then given a roleplay to enact, around an emotional, real-to-life concern, perhaps similar to what he and Martin Kelley had done in their Gathering workshop,"Strangers to the Covenant" (which no longer has an active link, sadly). After a few minutes, we switched partners and roles, and had the whole conversation all over again. The room was filled with energy and excitement, to the extent that the conveners of the interest group could not bring us into worship to close the session.

    We continued raising questions about how to build on this experience, how to keep the communication lines open between young Friends, adult young Friends, and (older) adult Friends. And suddenly, an ad hoc working group of interested Friends was formed, right then and there.

    Most of the 6 or 8 Friends who expressed interest in serving on the working group were able to meet the next day (Wednesday) for lunch, and a minute was drafted to be shared with the FGC Youth Ministries Discernment Committee, with the High School program, with the Adult Young Friends program, and perhaps ultimately with FGC Central Committee.

    The gist of the minute reflects the Opportunity for bridge-building among these groups, alluding to the challenge of addressing items of concern that impact one group or another (such as the still hot-to-the-touch, not-sure-how-to-respond-compassionately-myself Quaker Sweatlodge issue).

    The main logistical challenge is this:
    FGC's Central Committee meets only in the fall and it and its subcommittees are discouraged from conducting business during the Gathering.

    High School and Adult Young Friends conduct business only during the Gathering.
    What's wrong with this picture?

    The High School program apparently was easy with the minute, as it was presented; the Adult Young Friends apparently were not. And the working group is at this time, via email, seeking to understand if there is an ongoing need that it can fill and whether the Spirit might be calling the group to go further with its initial work.

    . . . . . . . . . . .

    With such tender and enriching experiences behind me as early as Tuesday of the Gathering, it made clear sense and good order for me to attend the high-school sponsored Meeting for Worship on Wednesday afternoon. It would be hard for me to capture the tenderness, mysticism, and depth of the worship I had experienced there...

    But my hope is that I'll remember to invite other adult Friends to consider rearranging their Gathering schedules in order to be among young Friends for worship, and to share in the Spirit that moves through them in a more alive, vibrant way than it seems to at times among older Friends...

    ...older Friends who, like me, need reminders that I don't have all the answers, and that I can be ministered to and receive eldership—and friendship—from those who are younger in years than I.


  • July 13, 2005

    Let Love Choose:
    Marriage equality witness at Gathering

    I'm having trouble with pulling my thoughts together cohesively, so I hope this will serve as an amuse-bouche. In the meantime, as an appetizer, Claire at Spiritual Journeys talks about how the High School program of FGC's Gathering made their way to the public witness for marriage equality.
    While at the Gathering, I called my partner and asked if anything online from the Roanoke (Va.) Times was written about the witness and rally that FGC and Friends for LGBTQ Concerns had pulled together. Here's what she found [with my corrections in brackets]:
    Wednesday, July 06, 2005
    Blacksburg, Virginia

    Quakers hold rally for gay marriage

    BLACKSBURG -- A [bi-]national religious group that considered canceling plans to hold its annual conference at Virginia Tech because of a state law that bans gay marriage and may invalidate wills and powers of attorney between same-sex couples held a "marriage equality" rally on Henderson Lawn on Tuesday.

    About 300 attendees of the Friends General Conference [Gathering], also known as [well, really, are made up of] Quakers, gathered near downtown Blacksburg in support of marriage rights for same-sex couples.

    "We're not here to tell the people of Virginia what to do ... but be a witness for equality," said Petra Doan, a conference attendee.

    Conference organizers planned to hold the weeklong annual gathering of Quakers from around the country [and Canada] at Tech before the Virginia General Assembly passed the Virginia Marriage Affirmation Act last year. That law bans gay marriages, civil unions and any "partnership contract or other arrangement between persons of the same sex purporting to bestow the privileges or obligations of marriage."

    Gay rights advocacy groups say they believe the legislation may void wills and medical and financial powers of attorneys between same-sex couples who live in or travel to the state.

    While Quaker organizers say they have no plans to boycott Virginia when planning future conferences, they did consider relocating the gathering of about 1,500 members to another state this year.

    "We were concerned about [same-sex] couples and their children who might be hurt by the law," said Tania Lang Burger, one of the organizers.

    What if a same-sex couple brought their child and one of them got sick or hurt? Would that couple have access to their loved one at the hospital? Those were just some of the concerns a special Quaker committee discussed, prayed and reflected on when deciding whether or not to move the conference, said Carrie Glasby, a conference attendee and a speaker at the demonstration.

    In the end, they decided to come to Virginia and "witness to the truth" of marriage equality, said conference director [that is, the General Secretary of FGC] Bruce Britchard.

    This is the second [Friends] general conference [Gathering] the Quakers have held at Virginia Tech. The last gathering was held there in 2001.

    No identifiable counter-demonstrators showed up Tuesday and few residents were milling around during the event, which began at 2 p.m.

    Glasby, along with her longtime lesbian partner, Kathleen Karhnak, spoke to the group about their marriage in a Quaker congregation[sic] in Pennsylvania several years ago.

    The couple also showed off their 5-month-old son, Timothy Karhnak-Glasby to the crowd, which cheered.

    While Pennsylvania allows both women parental rights to the child and recognizes their wills and powers of attorney as valid, "there are still so many areas where we have no equality," Karhnak told the gathering. "I hope this message goes out into the world with love."

    In addition, singer/songwriter Deidra McCalla shared this song, called "Love Chooses You."
    Love Chooses You
    Lyrics by Laurie Lewis

    Love comes unbidden, can't be forbidden
    It takes you and shakes you right down to your shoes
    It knows heartache and trial but accepts no denial
    You can't choose who you love, love chooses you

    In the wink of an eye love looses an arrow
    We control it no more than the flight of the sparrow
    The swell of the tide or the light of the moon
    You can't choose who you love, love chooses you

    Tell me now if I'm wrong
    Are you feelin' the same
    Are your feet on the ground
    Are you callin' my name
    Do you lie awake nights
    Please say you do
    'Cause you can't choose who you love
    Love chooses you

    Love cuts like a torch to a heart behind steel
    And though you may hide it, love knows how you feel
    And though you may trespass on the laws of the land
    Your heart has to follow when love takes your hand

    And it seems we're two people within the same circle
    It's drawn tighter and tighter till you're all that I see
    I'm full and I'm empty and you're pouring through me
    Like a warm rain fallin' through the leaves on a tree

    Tell me now if I'm wrong
    Are you feelin' the same
    Are your feet on the ground
    Are you callin' my name
    Do you lie awake nights
    Please say you do
    'Cause you can't choose who you love
    Love chooses you

    No you can't choose who you love
    Love chooses you

    UPDATE: Though quite a bit tongue-in-cheek, here's another post about marriage equality, at Beppe's blog.

    July 12, 2005

    Initial reflections on the Gathering

    NOTE:  This first post is mostly taken from a comment I made on Claire's Spiritual Journeys blog.
    In one sentence, here is my summary of FGC's 2005 Gathering in Blacksburg, Virginia:

         Woo-hoo, and yay for the Spirit so alive among us!

    The busyness of the Gathering sometimes can crowd my awareness to the point of missing Opportunities to pursue, and be attentive to, the movement of the Spirit, but this Gathering was notably different for me: I had to cope with having tendonitis in my ankle.

    The tendonitis slowed me down significantly so that I ended up not going to several plenaries; not going to several Meetings for Worship hosted by Friends for LGBTQ Concerns nor going to events hosted by Friends of Color (the loss of which all saddened me for having missed them); and not going to scheduled or impromptu events that began after 9:00 pm.

    Nevertheless, there were gifts that I received as a result of slowing down, which primarily were conversations and get-togethers I otherwise would not have had:

    • a conversation with a Friend about the complexities (for lack of a better word) that FGC has encountered with the responses to the cancellation of the sweatlodge workshop at the 2004 Gathering;

    • participating in an intergenerational dialogue that included lifting up the need for older Friends, young adult Friends, and young Friends to find ways to engage together in items of business that impact the respective groups; and

    • attending Meeting for Worship that was sponsored by high school Friends. I left that worship space wanting other tender-hearted adult Friends to clear their schedules for next year's worship.

    Quaker identity workshop

    As expected, the workshop I had put together for the week needed most of my attention during Gathering. I needed to be attentive to facilitating large and small group discussion, introducing exercises, and answering questions for more than 2-and-a-half-hours each day for five days.

    A large part of the work was to hold the space, day after day, in the worshipful context of carrying out a Big Experiment. I had little idea how one piece might connect with another, and I was conscious of just being faithful in offering whatever the very next piece in front of me was.

    At one point, first thing on Wednesday morning, the group made it clear to me that they were eager to return to an exercise that we had only touched on the day before. It didn't take much to reconfigure the activities for the day and the remainder of the week, and WOW, did they sink their teeth into the exploration of what goes into making up a Quaker identity!
    UPDATE: Here are links about the workshop experience itself:
    The first long entry
    The second long entry

    Hunger for a God-based or Christ-based Quakerism

    Many Friends in the workshop indicated they chose the workshop because the description included the note that the "presenter's Quakerism is God-based; workshop draws on that orientation."

    While there is relief in being able to talk openly about our belief in God, I must acknowledge the gift of knowing and talking with nontheist Friends: I believe we hone each other's thinking, inviting one another to become more articulate in and expressive of our faith and of what we believe. And it is becoming more and more clear to me as well, that what matters is how we live our lives: Are we loving? Are we kind? Do we work for reconciliation and healing? Do we work for peace? Do we live peaceably?

    Also, borrowing from a tradition in my worship group, there was a growing sense of spiritual power each day as we took time to worship and reflect on the quality of worship we had just experienced. Friends affirmed the sense of connectedness and Presence, and I was pleased by the response of Friends when I explained that if we have trouble articulating these things among one another—Friends who have experienced months if not years of worship—how can we expect to convey and articulate to newcomers and younger people coming up in our meetings our deep faith and sense of the Living Presence among us?

    There is much more to share, but for now let me stop here, catch up a bit on my rest, and return with more news of the Gathering.


    July 1, 2005

    Quaker Identity: Yearning, Forming, Deepening

    Now that the 2005 FGC Gathering is over, the link that used to show the entire description for the workshop on Quaker Identity no longer exists. I am creating this post, therefore—and using an artificial date to reflect the approximate date(s) when the workshop was offered—so readers of The Good Raised Up can still gain an understanding of what the goals, background, and topics of this workshop were initially.

    When I post a more current blog entry about the experience of actually facilitating the workshop (3-8 Seventh Month 2005), I'll include that link here as well.  —Liz

    UPDATE: Here are links about the workshop experience itself:
    The first long entry
    The second long entry

    Short description, 50 words or less:

    There is a difference between spiritual formation and spiritual formation of a Quaker identity. Through personal sharing we may alleviate some of our spiritual hunger, explore what builds identity, and experience some of what may contribute to a meaningful Quakerism. Presenter’s Quakerism is God-based; workshop draws on that orientation.

    Worship 30%; Lecture 20%; Discussion 30%; Experiential 20%

    Detailed description:

    Being engaged with Friends who grow us in our Quakerism also nourishes our Quaker identity. Spiritual formation can occur in the midst of a group that practices a variety of spiritual disciplines (spiritual individualism)--or without any religious community at all--while the formation of a Quaker identity is cultivated and strengthened within a Quaker context and through other Quaker connections. Our ability to define ourselves as Quakers, to sustain our Quakerism during difficulties, and to pass our Quaker faith and tradition onto attenders and onto younger Friends might well rest on our ability to articulate, communicate, experience, and live out elements of our Quakerism, individually and corporately.

    TOPICS I hope we will address:
    1. stages of identity development and spiritual maturity
    2. cycle of (community) relationships and development
    3. peer transmission and multi-generational transmission of faith and practice
    4. dualities and paradoxes among Friends (e.g. the desire to be inclusive and the desire for a shared faith; implicit and explicit Quakerism)
    5. spiritual discernment and faithfulness
    6. eldership as important tradition and practice, both giving and receiving
    7. what nourishes us as Friends

    The direction of the workshop and its pace will emerge out of the needs and interests of the group rather than being strictly dictated by me as a workshop presenter. If you prefer a firm leadership style and clear outline of what is to be covered rather than a fluid workshop experience, this workshop may not be right for you.

    This workshop is driven in part by FGC’s Long Term Plan, and in particular one of its finer points:
    “[to] help Friends engage in a continuing process of renewing and integrating their experiences of the historical, spiritual and theological foundations of Quakerism…”
    This workshop will NOT cover the historical development of Quakerism. We will focus on our own experiences rather than on those of well-known Quakers.

    Some resources:

    Essays on the Quaker Vision of Gospel Order, Lloyd Lee Wilson
    Testament of Devotion, Thomas Kelley
    Resistance and Obedience to God: Memoirs of David Ferris, ed. Martha
    Paxson Grundy
    Our Quaker Identity, Alastair Heron
    Listening Spirituality, Vol. II, Patricia Loring

    The Authority of Our Meetings Is the Power of God, Paul Lacey
    Quaker Treasure, Martha Paxson Grundy
    Leading and Being Led, Paul Lacey
    Gospel Order, Sandra Cronk
    Deepening the Spiritual Life of the Meeting, Edward Hoare
    Members One of Another, Thomas Gates

    To order any of the above items, contact QuakerBooks of FGC.