Psalm 151, a spoken word poem. By Zachary Page.

extend your ear, Mother of the circle, of all creation

behold your peculiar people, now talking madly around your blessed revelation

how immaculate our process, how simple how, pure

if only, yes then, wait minute that, are you sure?

that this is what you intended when you sent your Spirit out?

some days I’m just not so sure what it’s all about

see how we go along, picking and choosing with such care

but consider the cross, the prison cell, is this not our history to share?

Peace-check, Simplicity-yes, well relatively, Integrity-sounds good to me

but when does all this just shroud us in the blanket of liberal complacency

all of this sounds good on paper, so lets minute that:umpteen dash one

what else could we do, well out of time today, let’s be silent now we’re done

and yes quiet is good sometime, but so is preaching from the trees

forgive me if all this minuting seems a little like a tease

what do we have left if we lose our tongue to preach?

look out-it’s First Day School, these beautiful young faces and us with little to teach

maybe we could begin by speaking of the living water that springs from a rock

but if we did that, we might have to relinquish a worship style governed         by a clock

our young people may well demand some changes to our style and pace

perhaps more dangerously, they often call us to be faithful, face to face

is this why we separate ourselves, telling them that they’re not ready? better to keep them out if we hope to keep this little boat steady

and I keep thinking about that boat and this here storming

all these wars and injustices swarming

and there He comes, walking out across the water, the raging storm all around

but we look away, hoping for something that makes sense by way of dry

ground

surrounded now we try desperately to cover our head

but He calls out: get up and get out of this boat, leave your fear and              dread

He called then, as he calls now:step away from the boat

then again, perhaps He’d understand our position better if we minuted

that we can’t float

it’s just to much to take in, that she will provide,

so we just keep to the clock, and keep on sitting side by side

but I kept on reading, this time skipping a few chapters back

and here’s another story of God’s people complaining of what they lack

a captured people scared to be faithful, the story reads the same

then and now, Pharaoh’s slaves-frightened divided and tame

but the message is clear-She will give us the manna we need

plenty to go around, if we choose this feed

but how would we know, that yes, now we had enough

when all our consideration revolves around our stuff

locked into that liberal narrative that says you can straddle both sides of       the line

loving your brothers and sisters on one side, and on the other keeping        all that is mine

you could look at all this and say it is our luxury or privilege to choose

or you could see that it is those with everything that have everything to lose

this is the eye of the needle standing before us

and from every corner, the rebellious house sings its chorus

ino our language, our mind-think, our TV

“not now, not this, not me”

but the blood is on our hands-this is our stain

you cannot be neutral on a moving train

but oh, when we hop off-the possibilities we might see

perhaps then we would hear the Truth in Her child’s decree

Listen

no longer are you servants, passive and incomplete

now called Friends, from this moment, from this seat

stand up, quake as you rise

the Power lies inside of you, Love is the prize

bearing, believing, hoping, enduring-all

this is the still, small voice of Her child’s call

so stand out, speak up, stepp off the curb

away from the way of life that has built ‘burb after ‘burb

let us begin as that change without the burden of guilt or doubt

she is calling to us again, Pharaoh’s slaves-exodus out!

out into the desert, out into her care

faith is a choice and I for one am dog-tired of despair

so I pray

here I am Lord, there are some of us yet, willing to risk it all, to suffer,             and take a chance

willing to hear, willing to be transformed, willing to do the time, willing

to advance

in the name of the Covenant, in the name of the Beloved Community, in your blessed name,

these feet were made for walking, get up and walk, cured by Truth,                behold the lame,

how freed from Cain’s mark, released from our task of domination and toil,

the desert may bloom, a new harvest bursting forth from rich soil.

I raise this prayer up to God and up through each of you

it is up to us now, in our hands to know what to do

Jesus dared to call us his Friends in John’s gospel 15:15

will we take this opportunity and be baptized in the prophetic stream?

the servant pleads “not now, not this, not me”

but we’re Friends, now and forever-let’s get free!

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Giving Friends another chance.

Recently I’ve been reconsidering my decision to no longer consider myself a part of the Religious Society of Friends.

I made this decision 3 months ago after having a pretty uninspiring experience at my local Friends meeting (FGC). I should have known better than to use a bad experience at one form of Quaker meeting to right off all the many types of Friends that exists, but I’ve been pretty vulnerable to that type of thinking lately. I’ve been without a local community of faith for about 3 years now. This has been especially hard for me because I came from an experience of being a part of a community of faith where I was deeply involved in the local church and received a lot of joy and fulfillment from that experience. So not having that as an aspect of my current spiritual life has been increasingly difficult for me as time has gone on.

I had the chance to go to a wonderful church in my neighborhood recently. And I’ve been seriously considering joining them because the experience of their hospitality was wonderful. But as I studied about the community they are a part of I realized, (once again) that community isn’t enough. What you believe, and how you believe one should act in the world matters just as much, if not more.

So it looks like I’m going to be putting the Quaker label back on as it were.

But I still haven’t solved my community problem.

You Can’t Spell Spiritual Without Spirit.

I was beginning the book “Living The Quaker Way”, by Philip Gulley, when I came upon a scenario that I found a bit troubling.

Gulley tells the story of once observing a conservative Quaker ask someone else about how they viewed Quakerism. “Is Quakerism a way of life or a religion? I say it is a religion, but these Friends say it is a way of life.” The person responded that it was “both” : “It is a way of life rooted in our experience of God.”

This seemed to be a reasonable explanation, Gulley wrote, until he began a dialogue with two self-proclaimed atheist Friends. The encounter caused him to reject the above formulation as an appropriate expression of what it means to be a Quaker because “(Non-Theists) could not affirm the existence of a Divine Presence they had never personally experienced. They struck me as moral people working diligently to better the world. But their sense of integrity would not permit them to claim a relationship to a divine presence they had not encountered”. He went on to say that it is “not his place to say one understanding of Quakerism is superior to another”.

This line of thinking troubles me because it quite literally guts Quakerism, and makes it what I call a “lowest common Denominator” faith. If a belief in, and professed practice of, (for who can say what is or isn’t an actual practice of) Simplicity, Peace, Integrity, Community, and Equality is all that it means to be Quaker, then who ISN’T a Quaker? The adherents of Islam, Buddhism, Sikhism, Judaism, Roman Catholicism, Wicca, Secular Humanism, and the Southern Baptist convention all claim to believe and practice these principles. Does this mean they are all also members of the Religious Society of Friends?

If being Quaker has only to do with claiming to follow the above principles, then Quakers can literally believe in anything as long as they claim that what they believe is according to the 5 principles. A person who believes that people should fight wars has only to say that it is the true path to peace. A person who lives luxuriously has but to claim they believe in simplicity. Because, again, who can judge?

And I don’t understand how a person who is practicing the principle of integrity would continue to belong to a theistic tradition if they no longer believe in God.How can claim to be part of a movement whose very foundation is based on the idea of “Christ” speaking to His people Himself, when the “Christ” being referred to is…….what? A figment of the imagination? How can you belong to a spiritual tradition if you don’t believe in a Spirit?

I am not saying that non-theists are bad people, because many aren’t. And many theists are. Some of the greatest people I know don’t believe in God. I AM saying that being a member of the Religious Society of Friends is more than being an ethical person of a humanitarian bent. And if it isn’t much more than that right now, it SHOULD be. We may disagree about what constitutes the Light of Christ, who God is, and what she wants, but what makes us Quakers is our belief that there IS a Light. And that this Light has made itself manifest through Jesus of Nazareth (and others). And that this Light wishes to live in US and work through us to bring about a World filled with this Light, that will transform the lives of all who have the privilege to bask in its invigorating rays.

You will look in vain for a declaration of 5 Quaker Principles in the writings of the early Friends.Those five principles can only be observed in the testimony of their words and lives as an outgrowth of their desire to follow the Living Christ who dwelled within them. What those 5 principles are, and what it means to follow them, can only be known in conjunction with some form of belief in God and some special recognition of Jesus. Without this, the Religious Society of Friends is merely a cross between an historical association and a human rights NGO. It would have nothing beyond historical trivia about 17th, 18th, and 19th century England and America to offer anyone, that they could not find somewhere else without the history lesson.

 

“Does anything …

“Does anything unite this diverse group beyond our common love and humanity? Does anything make us distinctively Quaker?

I say yes.

Each of us has different emphases and special insights, but wherever Friends are affirming each other’s authentic experience of God, rather than demanding credal statements, we are being God’s faithful Quakers.

Wherever we are seeking God’s will rather than human wisdom, especially when conflict might arise, we are being faithful Quakers.

Wherever we are affirming the total equality of men and women, we are being God’s faithful Quakers.

Wherever there is no division between our words and our actions, we are being faithful.

Whenever we affirm that no one – priest, pastor, clerk, elder – stands between us and the glorious and mystical experience of God in our lives, we are faithful Friends.

Whether we sing or whether we wait in silence, as long as we are listening with the whole of our being and seeking the baptism and communion of living water, we will be one in the Spirit.”

 

 

Val Ferguson