September 21, 2008

Mt. Toby Meeting and September reflections

I feel as though I've been in a time warp: How did it get to be the third week of September already?!?

Yet, I know it's been a number of weeks since I've been able to do any of my regular blog reading--in case anyone wonders why I haven't appeared in comments, let alone on The Good Raised Up.

Here's a little bit of what I've been up to, as summer has slipped into fall.

Being away

After my return from Iowa Conservative Yearly Meeting sessions, I rested for a short time before Jeanne and I went camping for three days and nights on the north shore of Lake Superior.

I wasn't raised in a camping family--more like a symphony-and-Broadway-theater one--but the campsite we had booked was, by some camping standards, "cushy," with a nice view of Lake Superior, a walking path down to the lake, toilets nearby, and a fresh water spring, practically next door, with a pump that was always flowing. The weather cooperated for the most part, and we had the requisite hotdogs-over-a-campfire and s'mores.

A couple of weeks later, we threw a big barbecue for friends and neighbors. We had nearly 45 people in our backyard... until it started to rain, and then we had 40 people in our living room!

I had thought I'd get back into my blogging routine after that, but not so. I've been dealing with allergies for the first time in my life, ever since coming back from camping. Plus, we've had some house projects going on, including upgrading our overall heating-and-cooling system.

Mount Toby Meeting

Just as things were quieting down again, we packed up once more and headed to visit family and Quaker friends in Massachusetts for a week. We were able to attend Mt. Toby Meeting in Amherst, and I was able, at long last, to meet Cat Chapin-Bishop and Peter Bishop.

(FYI, Cat gives great hugs, if you're ever able to get together with her and are in need of one!)

As a meeting, Mt. Toby is much larger than I expected it to be, with about 50-60 Friends attending worship in a space filled with benches rather than chairs. I saw some familiar faces among the worshipers, including a family from Northern Yearly Meeting territory.

Though the announcements ran for nearly another 20 minutes after worship broke (am I exaggerating...? I can't be sure), Mt. Toby has taken up a practice of inviting worshipers to stay behind and settle back into the silence for some additional worship and worship sharing. That practice intrigues me, though only a handful of Friends actually stayed that particular time.

Another Friend mentioned to me, during fellowship, that the next week would be the week they would permit no announcements at all, so that the meeting might hold worship a while longer and not become so unsettled by all the news of events, etc. It's a shame I wasn't able to worship with them the next First Day (e.g. today).

Now we've landed again and I don't expect to be traveling until mid- or late-October.

Sustaining my Quakerism

Today was my first time in several weeks when I have been in worship at the monthly meeting near my home, and I spent some time reflecting on my own condition. I became aware that I wasn't feeling as easy in worship as I usually do, and that much of my recent time had "disappeared" into watching and reading news about the historic 2008 presidential elections coming up.

I recognized that I had been feeling out of touch with myself a bit, and during worship, I understood that I had been away from my Quaker community for a bit too long this summer. Or was with it too sporadically. Or something.

As I sank a bit more deeply into that awareness, I was reminded again that the point of worship in the manner of Friends isn't to connect in the stillness with one's community--though that certainly may be a happy outcome of the time together.

The purpose of waiting worship is to strip away all that distracts one from knowing the Light directly, from receiving guidance and direction from the Living Presence.

And so I felt a small sting of conviction, that I had gotten too caught up in my travels and in my distractions-of-choice and had not taken the time to quiet myself and remember God.

Though my community reflects my Quakerism back to me--a mirror I very much need from time to time--my relationship with God is what sustains me; and ultimately, I am accountable to God in whether I am faithful or not.

The blessing of that awareness is the reminder that, though my community does not physically travel with me across the country, God always does.


September 5, 2008

Broadening the conversation

I've been reflecting on one of the seeds that was planted for me as the result of the interest group that took place at the 2008 FGC Gathering.

We had gone around the room, sharing with the group one question we had about the Convergent conversation. A day or two later, as a result of that go-around, the idea took root within me of creating a print publication for meetings and Friends--and possibly for friends of Friends--who have been interested in the topic but who may not spend time on the internet where much of the exchange has been happening.

I began to wonder what it would be like to pull together a number of Quaker blog posts that touch on convergence, and put them in one place in the form of a "reader." That way, the posts that have started, shaped, and advanced the conversation about restoring Quakerism to a vibrant faith discipline, even before the word Convergent started being used, might make their way into Quaker libraries and into Friends' hands.

Plus, such a publication might help dispel one of the main myths about Convergent Friends: that it's only an online conversation. Not true!

When I shared the idea with the Friend who, during the interest group, had raised the question about how to get her meeting involved in the conversation without relying on the internet, her face lit up. She clearly liked the concept.

More than once since the Gathering, I have pulled Martin Kelley's self-published book, the Quaker Ranter Reader, off my shelf and glanced at its pages. The form is straight-forward; the format seems easy enough.

It was an easy leap to consider, Why not a collection of blog posts? Why not an easy, self-publishable format?

I've gone on to share the concept with a few fellow Quaker bloggers, and now I'm wondering what any of you readers out there might think of such a compilation:

Would you be interested in having such a book on your own bookshelf?

Do you think your meeting would appreciate having a copy?

What one or two Quaker blogposts have lingered with you over time? What post is still working on you?
I raise these questions not so much for help in figuring out what to include, or even how to go about it, but rather as a way to invite you into the growing possibility of such a thing.


September 1, 2008

Quakers and politics (RNC)

There has been lots going on in my town, as Paul L reports better than I could.

I agree with Paul that the called Meeting for Worship was deep, rich, and in a word, covered. It mattered little that a number of worshipers spoke twice; that questions (and answers) were interspersed in the worship; that Friends trickled in throughout the hour and even after worship broke.

In our own thick night of darkness, the LORD was felt.

I was moved to speak about remembering who is our Authority, who is it that we follow; and I offered up a bit of a prayer for strength that I might find a way to embrace even the police who seem to be asserting an authority that I cannot follow.

I also was struck when another Friend began singing the very same song that I had running through my own mind:

Ain't gonna let nobody turn me around
Turn me around
Turn me around
Ain't gonna let nobody turn me around
Gonna keep on a'walking, keep on a'talking
Marching down to Freedom's land
For those wishing updates and snippets about police response to protests and demonstrations, go to this Twitter-based website. It's updated frequently and the website helped me understand why the anti-war march was delayed in getting started and why buses stopped running through a certain part of town--both because of police activities in response to a "splinter" group of protesters.

(The big local newspapers have been spotty with their coverage thus far, in my opinion.)

On a related topic, I felt as though there has been a thread of a corporate response from the meeting. There was a sense of being gathered together in worship and out of a desire to companion the "well-respected member of our meeting" whom Paul L references, and to participate in the march that occurred today (Paul's post has links).

It was that sense of corporate action, corporate prayer, and corporate faithfulness that lifted me above my own anxieties and helped me attend the march, despite the 90-degree temperature and my propensity for heat exhaustion.


UPDATE, 5 Ninth Month 2008:
There is now a video clip from a press conference held by what has been known as the RNC Welcoming Committee. It addresses topics such as who is and who isn't anarchist or terrorist; conditions in jail for some protesters; and questionable police raids. NOTE: I don't know how long the link will be active.