The Ministry and Counsel Committee of Iowa Yearly Meeting (Conservative) is asking our monthly meetings to consider possible revisions to our advices and queries.
During the online Facebook discussion about this, Marshall Massey wrote:
Just speaking for myself, I do not think we should propose any queries for others, that have not first proven their effectiveness in our own lives, changing our own selves. That is what I was referring to, in my comment earlier, about queries designed by seasoned yearly meetings. The seasoning I was referring to is our own past experience of having been opened up and changed ourself by a query that hit us where it counted.
Liz Oppenheimer also discusses this in her recent blog post The Push and pull of a query on justice work.
I often return to my first meeting with the Kheprw Institute (KI) community in Indianapolis, a small community whose purpose is to mentor and empower black youth. I should have realized this first encounter was going to basically be an interview, to see if they thought I would be someone they could work with and trust.
The best query of the evening was Imhotep asking me to “tell us about yourself”. After talking about the basics, such as my work at Riley Hospital, Imhotep said, “tell us more”. After sharing more about living in Indianapolis, he asked again, “tell us more”, always in a friendly manner. The group of teenaged kids were very quiet and attentive.
So I mentioned that I was a Quaker, and Miss Fair immediately went into an enthusiastic explanation for the kids about Quakers and the underground railroad. When she stopped, all eyes turned back to me. I remember asking the spirit what I should say now. So I first said Quakers tried to not take credit for things they had not done themselves, and while I greatly appreciated that my ancestors did that, I didn’t do it. What I was next led to say was that Quakers believe there is that of God in everyone, but I heard a clear message from within that I needed to do more that just say those words. So I turned to each young person near me and said, “that means you, and you and you”. And every time, the young person looked into my eyes, and smiled, and I could almost hear them thinking, “of course”.
There was one other part of this that I continue to dwell on. Just before I started to say “Quakers believe there is that of God in everyone”, I remember asking myself, “we always say that, but is it really honest of me to say that to this diverse group?” And the internal answer was an immediate “yes”.
So two queries come to mind from this experience. One is, why did I hesitate to talk about Quakerism outside Quaker gatherings, especially seeing how important it was to do so in this situation?
But the troubling query for me is why did I even have to ask myself the question of whether I believed there was that of God in everyone, in a diverse group of people? Doesn’t that imply I wasn’t sure? What does that mean about racism in my life?