30 August 2006

An Abundance of Light

I have been marveling at the energy in Santa Cruz Monthly Meeting this summer. The teens have declared their desire to be taken seriously as Quakers. They've organized their own monthly business meetings and are actively trying to build a program that brings them in deeper fellowship with the larger Meeting. The children's program is also growing, and our Quaker kids park days are taking off. Needed work on our fellowship hall is happening at long last. Other areas of the Meeting are thriving, and new leaders are emerging in the Meeting community.

After the last teen business meeting, I was chatting with some of the other adults about this energy. One of them reminded me that our Friends in Unity with Nature committee was moribund and that we'd had to lay down our Peace and Social Order committee due to lack of participation. She started talking about cycles and about her faith that we would pick that work up again when we were ready to do so.

That sort of faith buoys me up and humbles me. God does not ask that we do more than we can, and he does not ask that we do everything we should all at the same time. God asks us to do this piece of work faithfully, to trust to this little bit of light that we've been given. If we have the foolish faith of the lilies of the field, we shall receive all that we need and more.

When I go to worship on Sunday morning, I don't have an agenda. I often come with questions and concerns, but I don't come with preconceived notions about how those questions will be answered. I sit in worship with an open heart and open mind and receive what I am given. I leave with a full heart and a peaceful mind and a clearer idea of the work that I'm meant to do in the world.

When I read criticism of Quakers (particularly liberal Friends), I think of my own Meeting. We have our faults and tensions, but I can feel the heart of the Meeting each week in worship. It strives towards the Light. It is patient and kind. And we are grateful for the abundance we receive, not the least of which is our fellowship with one another.

In our Meeting, as in other Meetings, there is a tension between Christian and earth-based universalists. At the same time, there is a deep unity and striving between these same people. Our differences are part of our strength and part of our wholeness.

At a recent Worship and Ministry meeting, we were grappling with the issue of guiding newcomers into corporate worship. Early in the process, we had thoughts of ways we might elder newcomers, resources we might provide for them, better ways to structure our post-worship wind-up to encourage depth of worship, and many other external acts.

The idea emerged that what we really need to do is to try to help these people experience a gathered or covered Meeting for themselves. Once a person has drunk from that Well, she will be better able to understand what it is that we're talking about. One seasoned Friend observed that someone had once said that the true division among Quakers is not Christian versus Universalist or programmed versus unprogrammed but rather those who have experienced a gathered Meeting for Worship and those who have not.

As we continued, it became apparent that one of the things that we needed to do to tend the depth and quality of worship in our Meeting was to tend the depth and quality of worship in ourselves. We needed to go deeper, to help hold the space for corporate worship so that newcomers could join us there.