Friday, November 27, 2009

An Open Letter

I got home from the second School of the Spirit residency a few days ago and I have been feeling a little guilty that I haven't written about the first residency yet. There are so many things I want to say, but there is too much to say. So I will try to tell it slant.

During the first residency, I had an opportunity to meet with a Weighty Friend. We sat in worship for a few minutes, then he smiled and said to me, "How does thee feel about thy call into ministry?"

I grimaced and said, “Not very good!” We talked about how it is scary, but feels right.

Then he said, "In 15 years the Religious Society of Friends will be on thy shoulders."

I looked at him in horror and blurted out, "But my shoulders are so small!"

He laughed and amended his statement to say that my portion of the society would be on my shoulders.

I have been thinking about that conversation recently.  I do not believe that the future of Quakerism depends on me.  I am sure that even if I left tomorrow, Friends would go on just fine.  But I am a part of the conversation and I am a lot younger than many of the people I see in Quaker meetings, so I started to wonder what I would say to the Religious Society of Friends if I could address it as a whole.  What came to me was this:
I do not want to inherit your institutions.
Part of me cannot believe I actually typed those words, but I know they are true. And it is scary to feel that way because I have dear friends who are deeply involved in Quaker acronyms, but I know I don't want that.

Then I started to think about what I do want. This is the letter I would write to the RSOF about what I want:
Dear Religious Society of Friends, 
This is what has life for me (in no particular order):
  • renewal

  • friendships and conversations, especially across the branches of Quakerism

  • meeting for worship, and not just for an hour on Sunday morning

  • travel in the ministry

  • trying new things and combining practices

  • talking about God and how we see God at work in our lives

  • talking about what is meaningful in Quakerism and why we are here

  • trying to be a covenant community

  • taking risks

  • outreach

  • waiting individually and corporately for the Spirit to lead us

  • rediscovering and nurturing our prophetic voice 
It's not going to be easy, but following God never is.  And, as the teachers at the School of the Spirit reminded us during the second residency, there is no time to start but now.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Angelic Troublemakers

I keep a few quotes on my desk at work.  My current favorite is from Bayard Rustin, on a card from the folks at Freedom Friends Church.
We need, in every community, a group of angelic troublemakers. Our power is in our ability to make things unworkable.
When things get uncomfortable, often my first impulse is to try to make things better.  This quote reminds me that soothing things over is not always the right way to go.  I do not want to be a troublemaker just to make things harder, but following God pretty much ensures that things will not be easy.

I hope I can remember that when things seem entirely unworkable, God can do the most amazing work.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Hurry Up and Wait

I have never been very good at dealing with change and there seems to be a lot of it right now.  The season changed while I wasn't paying attention and now we have another hour.  In the last week I have spent time with my family, mourning the loss of my grandfather.  My job is coming to an end (it seems like for real this time) and I am thinking about hibernating for a while.

One of the things I love about traveling in the ministry is the strong sense I get from moment to moment of where I am supposed to be.  I don't know why I feel pulled toward a particular place or person, and I don't always know why I am there, but it is very satisfying even if I never know the reason.

I miss that feeling when I go back to what I still think of as my real life.  I wonder how to find it, and the answer I get is to slow down.

So I pray.  I pray on my knees and I pray on the bus.  I find myself wandering into the sanctuary of the church near work to pray in that sacred space.  I sometimes pray while listening to The New Pornographers and wonder vaguely whether that is wrong.  I keep coming up against my edges and trying to remember gentleness.  And I feel deep down that I need to keep praying until God says to do something else.