"A Friends' meeting, however silent, is at the very lowest a witness that worship is something other and deeper than words, and that it is to the unseen and eternal things that we desire to give the first place in our lives. And when the meeting, whether silent or not, is awake, and looking upwards, there is much more in it than this. In the united stillness....there is a power known only by experience, and mysterious even when the most familiar." ~Caroline E. Stephen, 1908
Thursday, August 4, 2011
“It is not in differing from one another
that disunity arises-
it is in not listening to God
and each other.”
`Kenneth Sutton 1989
Recently I’ve had a lot of questions about being a Quaker Attender. People want to know what being a Quaker means and they want to know why it is worth it to me to split our time as a family between church and Quaker meeting. I think if you asked one hundred Friends, you may get one hundred answers about the meaning of being Quaker. It has been a good challenge for me to ponder the question personally.
To me, a Quaker is one who is always seeking God and God’s voice, however one best does that. It is recognizing, and opening my heart to God in me and acknowledging God within others no matter how different they are from me. It is about listening and receiving ministry from God while loving others and at times sharing of myself too. For me, it is about accepting, not rejecting. It is about making one’s circle bigger, not narrower and allowing yourself to listen for truth in that bigger circle. It is about loving, caring and finding peace within yourself so that you might share big portions of that healing presence with others, no matter what “religious language” they speak.
So, why do I attend? Because unprogrammed Quaker worship touches my heart in a way no other form of worship does. Because I yearn for contemplative time and it is not available at church and I go because it is anything but silent. The time is filled with prayer, waiting eagerly on God and renewing my spirit. The practice of listening is sacred to me and I want time to share what I strive to do individually throughout the week together with others. I also want to my children to learn to still and experience that not every moment in life needs to be filled with fast action and entertainment. Then I want to sit back and grant them the freedom and experience the joy in watching them grow wherever they choose to plant themselves.
I go because I love attempting to live out the testimonies daily and though I am at times very slow to speak, I believe that God gives greatly in the unselfing- the shedding our masks and allowing ourselves to be known. He reminds us to attend to ourselves so that we may better honor others and in turn offer them what we have to give. It is in this willing spirit, I remember I am connected to what is much larger than myself and that we are all more alike than not. I am also reminded God loves us all and is pleased when we are in unity.
Likewise, I am pleased when I find unity and love amongst the congregation at church. I think that began for me more when I had peace within myself, knowing I am never out of the presence of God in any context. I enjoy seeing action lived out of strong convictions there. I love to hear the ministry and I enjoy seeing the praise. Any enthusiastic invitations I once perceived as pressure, I have come to see as pure love. I also admit that I like hearing my husband sing and seeing him very happy. There is some thing very special to worship alongside of the one you love dearly.
All people matter so very much to God. My prayer is that God would continue to grow us all as a people together in the larger community of the body of Christ. In that manner, we would be united in Love with less denominational boundary lines drawn in the larger church including Friends. May I be patient, listen more and talk less and may my heart be in my ears.