The topic was "Cross Generation Sharing: Three Friends from different generations share their experiences of how the Quakerism has influenced and helped them in the challenges of their life." I, of course, was representing the younger generation of Friends.
Which was my first problem. I do not feel representative of Young Adult Friends, except as an example of how different we all are. To begin with, the Young Adult Friends group in Seattle includes people ages 18-35, which is a huge range. We have some members who are just starting college and others who are married and having kids.
I also do not feel especially representative of University Friends Meeting because of my membership at Freedom Friends Church. It is sometimes hard for me to believe that both of these meetings are part of the Religious Society of Friends, they are so different.
I tried to express all of this in the panel. I started with the story of how I became a Quaker, then described worship at Freedom Friends, and how much culture shock I felt when I came to University Friends.
I also said that I had realized, in preparing for the panel, that I hadn't planned to say anything about God. I found this very troubling because God is such a huge part of my life, and because I sometimes feel like I can't talk about God at University Friends. I ended by saying that I wished people at University Friends would talk about God more.
I would say that statement got more of a reaction than anything else I said.
To be clear, it's not that I want everyone to believe the same things that I do. I just want to be able to talk about what we believe. I think it can be easy for unprogrammed Friends to let the silence seep into everything we do together and avoid any real conversations about what is happening in our spiritual lives.
If we don't talk about what we believe, it is easy to assume that everyone is having the same experience, or thinks the same things. I also think that some Friends are so worried about offending others that they just stay away from controversial language and topics altogether.
In reading through the Bible, I have finally made it to Psalms. I am having fun reading these chapters that I heard and read so many times as a child, and it is especially entertaining to read several of them at a time. I love how one will end with
Show your strength, God, so no one can miss it. We are singing out the good news!(Psalm 21:13), and the next will begin with
God, God . . . my God! Why did you dump me miles from nowhere? Doubled up with pain, I call to God all the day long. No answer. Nothing. I keep at it all night, tossing and turning.(Psalm 22:1-2).
These Psalms really are like my prayers. One day I am on top of the world and strongly feel God's presence, and the next, I feel like I am wandering blind. I feel that way about being a Quaker too―some days I feel such a sense of community and like I am where I am supposed to be, at other times, I just feel frustrated and alienated.
I don't know whether the adult religious education class would want me to talk again, but I have to give them credit―even when it was clear that I was making them uncomfortable, everyone was really trying to be supportive of me. I appreciate Friends' willingness to have me as part of their community even if I sometimes seem a little too evangelical to quite fit in.