Monday, March 26, 2007

Quaker Heritage Day is still working on me

The amazing thing for me, since hearing Brian Drayton speak at Quaker Heritage Day, has been to watch how little seeds that he planted have integrated with lessons that God was bringing into my life in other ways at the same time. The surprising piece to me is the depth and ongoing working of my reflection on those lessons, and my willingness to take action on them. Those who know me well might recognize that I can easily get caught up in something in the moment that it's happening, and just as easily move on to the next thing. But these lessons are really working on me, week after week.

Here and there throughout the day, Brian mentioned having lived in a group house south of Boston with several other Quakers in his younger years. They would talk about leadings, and were a strong support and encouragement to each other's ministry. The people in the house felt called to be of service to the Society of Friends in a broader way, sharing what they knew of the meetings in the area, and discerning together who might best minister to the needs of those meetings. So he and his wife Darcy ended up actively participating in a small struggling meeting north of Boston.

So you might think my lesson from that would be something about that group support of ministry, or the openness to service. Actually, the piece that struck me was a small aside: that a friend once pointed out to him that the distance they traveled in their one-hour drive to meeting each Sunday would, in days long past, have been a two-day carriage ride. I think the point he was making was that we often set up our lives to do things because they are possible, when they might not be the simplest choices.

For me, this tied in with my 9-year-old daughter's growing concern about global warming: it is clear to her how utterly wrong it is to contribute to it by using fossil fuels. Neither she nor I drive, but we usually accept rides to meeting with my 75-year-old mother, who lives downstairs. We've been having lots of thoughtful conversations about this. My mother says that she would drive anyway, as it's too far for her to walk the distances between our house and public transportation and meeting. We've questioned whether she might carpool with other Friends if my daughter and I weren't in the car. Some Sundays we're running too late for other options to get us to meeting on time, as we've fallen into the timing of going by car.

But the day after Quaker Heritage Day, my daughter and I walked to meeting. We left the house at 8:45, and got there at 9:30. (When we take public transportation, with about 10 minutes of walking on either end, we leave the house at 9:10 and get there at 9:45, so it only took 10 minutes longer on foot.) Several Friends were already gathering, particularly the Loaves and Fishes committee busy in the kitchen, and as other Friends arrived we watched the fabric of the meeting community being woven together with hugs and personal check-ins, setup for First Day School and worship, some Friends going into the meeting room early to settle into silence. After those little tender moments, it was a bit jarring to experience the rush to get in the door by 10:00, at which point our Worship & Ministry committee has someone at the door holding latecomers back until 10:15. (Many of those who did come in at 10:15 had been at meeting early, and had remained present to what they were doing beyond the 10:00 cutoff.)

One of the big pieces that is still working on me is the idea of taking Sunday as a Sabbath--not something I remember Brian talking about, but what strongly arose from my experience the day after. I wish we could stop looking at meeting for worship as a scheduled event from 10:00 to 11:00, something to be on time for, and to hope to escape the announcements within 20 minutes afterwards. Rather, I want to hold a sense of gratitude for that opportunity to gather together, and to un-structure my day so that I am available to Spirit and to the opportunities that arise. I want to leave early for meeting as we did on that day, to breathe deeply and be open to my surroundings on the way there, to arrive with heart and mind prepared, to be present to dear friends and to newcomers before and after worship, to hold time lightly so that I leave room to let God in.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Quaker Heritage Day 2007

I don’t know about the rest of you, but I can use any reminder I get to be faithful. Brian Drayton offered many, during Quaker Heritage Day at Berkeley Friends Church on Saturday, March 3. Not least was the example of pausing now and then, and choosing to stop talking if he had any sense that he might be outrunning his guide. A gentle presence, so I’m glad I took notes.

There are other blog reports on this event from Wess, Robin, and Chris. Plus Max's photos, including the dinner at my house. Probably more to follow…

Some of the major strands that ran through Brian’s talks:

• There have been varieties of gifts, and varieties of styles of vocal ministry, in every generation of Friends.

• Our meetings need a culture that affirms and supports the development of gifts.

• Our own personal transformation, through walking with God, should be made visible to others in order to encourage them to be faithful.

• An active prayer life is essential to prepare us for ministry.

A few historical zingers that stood out for me:

• Historical accounts of early Friends’ ministry included a description of people falling in fits on the floor during vocal ministry, with a sense of conviction of the power of sin.

• One British officer said he felt more terror at James Nayler’s preaching than in battle.

• Many women traveled in the ministry because their husbands were able to support them, but not able to leave their own work.

• Joshua Evans, a follower of John Woolman, had a witness of vegetarianism in the 1770s.

• Some Yearly Meetings (or representative committees?) hold business meetings without agendas, waiting for what arises. [If anyone has more detail on this, please fill me in.]

The moment that had me shaking in my seat--if not writhing on the floor for all to see--was Brian’s reading from Isaac Pennington’s “Some Directions to the Panting Soul” (bolding below mine; available in full here):

Now to the soul that hath felt breathings towards the Lord formerly, and in whom there are yet any true breathings left after his living presence, and after the feeling of his eternal virtue in the heart, I have this to say: Where art thou? Art thou in thy soul's rest? Dost thou feel the virtue and power of the gospel? Dost thou feel the ease which comes from the living arm, to the heart which is joined to it in the light of the gospel? Is thy laboring for life in a good degree at an end? And dost thou feel the life and power flowing in upon thee from the free fountain? Is the load really taken off from thy back? Dost thou find the captive redeemed and set free from the power of sin, and the captivity broken, and he which led thee captive from the life and from the eternal power, now led captive by the life, and by the redeeming power, which is eternal? Hast thou found this, or hast thou missed of it? Let thine heart answer. Ah! do not imagine and talk away the rest and salvation of thy soul. The gospel state is a state of substance, a state of enjoying the life, a state of feeling the presence and power of the Lord in his pure, holy Spirit, a state of binding-up, a state of healing, a state of knowing the Lord, and walking with him in the light of his own Spirit. It begins in a sweet, powerful touch of life, and there is a growth in the life (in the power, in the divine virtue, in the rest, peace, and satisfaction of the soul in God) to be administered and waited for daily. Now art thou here, in the living power, in the divine life, joined to the spring of life, drawing water of life out of the well of life with joy? Or art thou dry, dead, barren, sapless, or at best but unsatisfiedly mourning after what thou wantest?