Thursday, August 4, 2011

A Quaker Attender?

“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.


Ganeida said...

Jan Lyn, A big YES to everything ~ & yet it has to be experienced I think. One really can't explain what happens in the silence & how active, even noisy, it can be. Blessings my friend. Hope all is well with you & yours & you are having a wonderful summer. ♥

Renee said...

What a beautiful description of your worship and silent times, and a definition of why it is important to you. Thank you for sharing this with your readers. What a gift for you to treasure. There is something special about communing with God.
Hope this finds you doing is your daughter?

naturalmom said...

Jan Lyn, I've been away from your blog for a while because I changed computers and no longer had you on my RSS feed. Thank you Quaker Quaker for pointing me back here! (I've got you up on the RSS feed again!) I'm glad to see you have been blogging a little more regularly lately -- I so enjoy reading your posts. This was a wonderful one to come back to.


Jan Lyn said...

Agreed, Ganeida, and that experience is different each time. I always find it fruitful even if there is no spoken ministry-yes even active then.

Thanks Renee, my daughter still has her days, but they are fewer and farther between. She is active once again and we hope this is it. Sending love and keeping you and yours in prayer. It is rough stuff.....

Great to "see" you Stephanie. I've had issues with blogger not letting me leave messages in several friends blogs-not sure what's up with that. Anyways, you caught me just in time as when the summer winds down I'll go missing here again for a time while I finish up school, Lord willing. Lots of love to you.

Bill Samuel said...

There's an irony about your statement "it is about accepting, not rejecting." I understand what you're saying, but it is hard not to find it ironic in the context of unprogrammed Quakerism.

One of my frustrations with "unprogrammed" Quakerism is that it tends to be so rejectionist. This shows even in the name they choose for their style of worship - which in itself could be called a rejection of the traditional Quaker understanding of it as waiting worship, a positive term.

But it goes far beyond that. So often, when you ask unprogrammed Quakers what they believe or what Quakers are about, the response focuses on what they are not. They are often very articulate about what they aren't - what they reject - but have difficulty in expressing what they are for. There seems to be a strong reactionary bent in this part of Quakerism.

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Jan Lyn said...

Hi Bill. It has been a while. :) Thanks for weighing in here as it's always good to hear more perspective and after 4 decades of Quaker experience, I certainly value yours.

You know, I do prefer the traditional term "waiting worship" with you. I elude to that in part of my definition of what this worship is to me: "I wait eagerly on God." Because the term unprogrammed worship is to the forefront now, it seems worthwhile to address though as there can be confusion. It kind of seems like telling someone that has never heard of a silent retreat that there is more that goes on there than silence and it is beneficial.

I do deeply hear your point on being rejectionary. I'm simply speaking from my experience of being purposefully ecumenical and what works for our family. Maybe you can count me amongst those who define themselves by what they believe and hold true, rather that what I am not for if you will, Bill. Again, thanks and peace. ~JL

Anonymous said...

Thank you for sharing your beautiful heart. Love. Julie

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