I last wrote Seeking a People which was about a blog post by Hye Sung Francis, who describes looking for a spiritual home, and concluding it wasn’t in the Quaker meetings he experienced. My response was to try to express things my meeting is working on that demonstrate ways I feel a Quaker meeting should be involved in the world today. I was thinking that if Quaker meetings were bringing a spiritual approach to what we are lead to do, and involved in the communities around us, others will be drawn to join us. But why isn’t that actually happening? Are we not clearly hearing what the Spirit is asking of us? Are there attitudes or assumptions we, perhaps unconsciously, have that hurt and/or push people away?
To quote a bit more from Hye Sung’s article:
“What I’ve found, instead, is that Friends have converged on a shared history and a handful of practices.
But if the Society of Friends is to ever again carry the anointing of early Quakers, if it is to ever embody the vision of Margaret Fell, going “hand in hand in the unity and fellowship of this eternal Spirit,” it must do more than embrace a convoluted historical connection and some shared practices.
If we are converging on history and practice, we are missing the point. If we are depending on institutions to create a new society or usher in the Kingdom, then we are deceived. These will not bring the radically egalitarian and Spirit-filled communities that God fostered among early Friends. These are forms, and Friends must follow the Spirit.
I’ve met others who need a Spirit-led Society. We share this vision, and we share the disappointment of being drowned out in meeting by classism, ageism, and racism.
At the end of the day, though, if tables aren’t being turned, if people aren’t being healed and set free, if the prophets aren’t marching naked, I’ll have to follow Jesus elsewhere.”
As Bear Creek Friend Liz Oppenheimer puts it, “whose responsibility is it when a person of a historically marginalized community leaves Quakerism?”
We, members and attenders of our meetings, are responsible if we are not meeting the needs of spiritual seekers. And we bear the responsibility when anyone leaves because of “classism, ageism, and racism” or for any reason that makes them feel unwelcome, not a valued member of the meeting community.
Too often I make the mistaken assumption that others aren’t drawn to our meetings because they don’t want to sit in silence for an hour, or wouldn’t be interested in serving on committees, etc.
When it appears the questions should be more along the lines of what assumptions and practices do we need to examine from a different point of view?
I was fortunate to have been taught early in life that we most often learn from our mistakes. In photography, I would purposely look for difficult conditions to capture. The ‘mistakes’ made in extreme conditions refined my techniques, and I learned from them. One of the things I love about computer programming is that the “debugger” gives you immediate feedback when you’ve made error(s) in the code you just wrote.
We need to challenge ourselves to take risks, to be vulnerable, to be ready to make mistakes.
Hye Sung Francis says, “if tables aren’t being turned, if people aren’t being healed and set free, if the prophets aren’t marching naked, I’ll have to follow Jesus elsewhere.”
Why aren’t we turning over the tables? Healing people, setting them and ourselves free?
I continue to think that we too often “filter” what the Inner Light is trying to tell us. Too often we try to fit that into our current, comfortable lives. Instead of accepting a message that says “you have to stop burning fossil fuels” we twist that around to think “I need to buy a hybrid car, or I need to drive less”.
The answers to the questions above will come to us from the Spirit if we have the audacity to actually do what we are being told, unfiltered.
We want Friends to behave like a group of saints by embodying perfect ways perfectly — welcoming everybody who should be included, for one thing.
If Friends were that kind of organization, we wouldn’t be in it; we aren’t that good. Therefore, neither would anybody else (although some of the people we know really are remarkably good!)
If we went ahead and included us all anyway, we’d have the imperfect mix we already are.
Any other church we find or found will have the same difficulty.
We shouldn’t try to split people into saints&sinners; it confuses our heads and corrupts our hearts; and God’s still not done yet.
We are all Seekers. God said “Love one another’ As Quakers we have discovered the inner light and there is that of God in everyone. But most of us are in denial that racism is an issue with Friends…The “truth to power” has been lived in spirit with us…and I am in awe of early Friends living and witnessing to our ethical beliefs. We should be willing to admit that Friends have problems WITH PEOPLE OF COLOR. Our innocence was tainted by hundreds of years of not being honest…not able to be proud of our anti-slavery activism because deep in our hearts..this lack of progress is hurting us and failing to truly Love One Another.If we are Quakers we will HOLD EACH OTHER IN THE LIGHT.