Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Visiting Friends

As everyone around me began to sing at North Seattle Friends Church, I suddenly realized how fragile I felt. I listened to the songs that I knew from my childhood, on the verge of tears. It was strange to hear such familiar music in a Quaker context and I felt pretty disoriented.

The day before, I had my first experience clerking and it did not go well. A variety of factors contributed to a difficult and frustrating committee meeting, and as the numbness after the meeting wore off, I felt extremely vulnerable.

After singing, North Seattle Friends shared God stories, expressing the ways that God is working in their lives. When I am feeling fragile, I am like a sponge for others' sorrow, and the stories about tragedies, both that had occurred or were averted, were hard for me to hear. At the same time, the stories reminded me of how we ask God for help at the beginning of worship at Freedom Friends Church, and that made me feel better.

I couldn't believe it had taken me this long to visit North Seattle Friends Church. When I moved to Seattle, Peggy sent emails of introduction along with me to University Friends Meeting and North Seattle Friends Church, suggesting that I visit both meetings and decide which was a better fit for me. Between studying for the bar exam and sparse Sunday bus schedules, I never quite got around to visiting North Seattle Friends Church.

So there I was, a year and a half late, struggling to hold back tears.

In her message, the pastor asked Friends to share how they experience leadings and what God's nudges feel like to them. This message was especially poignant for me because I was sitting next to Sarah P, who was visiting the meeting with me, and who probably would not be a friend of mine if I had not followed clear leadings.

I met Sarah at the Quaker Women's Theology Conference and we are now friends because God told me that we were both supposed to be on the epistle committee. I was sure that she was going to think I was crazy when I walked up to her, practically a stranger, and said, "I feel led to be on the epistle committee, and I feel led to tell you that you should be too." Instead, she thought for a minute and then nodded. And I am pretty sure that our work together on that committee made us feel that we could accept the responsibility of co-clerking the next conference.

After worship ended, I surrendered to tears. I cried because I was tired and disappointed, because the meeting had been hard, and because I had space to let go. A woman that I did not know sat with me and held my hand. Without asking what was wrong, she prayed for me, that God would help me get through whatever was going on in my life. It felt good.

I am still trying to work through my conflicting feelings about the committee meeting, but I also feel so grateful for all of the support I have had in the past few days. In addition to the Friend who prayed for me, I have received phone calls and emails from friends, family, mentors, and elders, letting me know that they are here to help. I also learned that my sojourning membership with University Friends Meeting was accepted, and I am especially grateful to be under the care of the meeting.

I know that there will be difficult times ahead, but I also know that God is with me. I pray that I can continue to pay attention and follow when I feel God leading.


  1. Ashley, this almost brought me to tears. I felt so bad for you. I hope that this week is really picking up! It was great seeing you on Wednesday lets do it again!
    love you

  2. Hi Emily,

    Thanks for the note. I am feeling better and seeing you and Simon was a high point in my week. I hope to see you both again very soon! Love you too.



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