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Exclusivity

One of my fears in starting this blog was that I will eventually find myself under attack by either certain Pagans or certain Quakers who find it objectionable that I self-identify as a member of both groups. I think I'm more afraid of this coming from the Quaker side of the aisle, actually--probably because, having been a Pagan in some sense for most of my life, and in a formal sense for twenty years, I feel pretty comfortable in that identity. I've been around long enough, and accepted by enough men and women I deeply respect long enough, that I have no worries about being denied the keys to that particular castle.

With Quakers, I'm a little more sensitive.

Early on in my convincement process (to use the Quakerese) I posted some of my thoughts on it on an earlier website I owned, and joined a Quaker web ring. All was well for a while, until one day my link to the ring simply failed to function. When I contacted the owner of the ring for tech support, I learned that, by decision of the members of the ring, I had been expelled from the group. At least one group, in fact, threatened to cecede from the ring were I not expelled. I could not, it was explained to me, be both Quaker and Pagan at the same time. So it was not proper for me to be a member of that ring, nor of a Quaker meeting.

I found the process very painful. It made me skittish about applying for membership in my meeting for quite some time--not really a bad thing, I guess, as it made me take a more careful look at my motivations, and urged me to work as deeply as I could with my clearness committee, when I did apply. I hope I've moved on, and I hope I'm not unjust or distorted in how I remember the events. But it feels very sweet to me to read words like those of James Riemermann, a non-theist Friend, who writes:

"Some might also take this as a rejection of Christians or Christianity in my vision of liberal Quakerism. It is not. It is a rejection of the notion that Christians (or theists, for that matter) are exclusively entitled to define us as a religious society, or that we should be centrally concerned with how to distinguish ourselves from everyone who is not a Quaker.

"What defines Quakerism for me is, the people I sit with in worship. When someone new comes in and sits with us, they redefine Quakerism, immediately and without effort. A Quaker is one who shows up and takes part. To me this is breathtaking, that we can have the courage to be that open."

That everyone in meeting is part of meeting, is part of the definition of it, each time they worship in that unique Quaker way... that is my experience, too. And it's why, without being Christian, I can honestly celebrate the Christianity of other members of my meeting. When a member of my meeting finds a spiritual deepening in the Bible, and shares that in spoken ministry, I am graced by it even if I am not especially enamored of the spark that kindled that Light. I don't need to be Christian to have my own spiritual life deepened by the deepening Christianity of the Christ-centered Quakers around me. I can feel it in my roots, in my belly, in my heart. As in the story of John Woolman among the indians, "I love to listen to where the words come from."

Comments

Great start to the blog! I look forward to reading more of it. A very good friend of mine is both Quaker and Pagan, I'll pass a link along to her.
Inanna said…
I found you via Broomstick Chronicles and look forward to reading more about your journey. Welcome to the Pagan blogosphere!
earthfreak said…
Hi Cat! A friend just pointed me to your site, and I'm excited that you're here!

I identify as a pagan quaker, though I think it might not be very accurate to do so. Or, perhaps it's like many christian quakers - I identify with a paganism that doesn't look much like "organized paganism" - I have no desire to be part of a coven, or engage in any of the rituals I've been exposed to, but I do find that my spirituality is of the earth, so, am I or not? who knows?

I see you've already found my blog! :) I think I've rambled about exclusivity a few times myself.

Somewhere along in this ongoing discussion someone ammended Jame's suggestion that whomever sits in quaker meeting is a quaker to whomever comes in good faith (as James and I both belong to a meeting where a self-proclaimed quaker woman with no home meeting "adopted" us to rant at about the evils of homosexuality and how we were all going to hell. It took us a good long while, but not forever, to draw a line with her and say "this is not what we are here to do")

welcome!

Pam
Liz Opp said…
Hi, Cat--

Thanks for stopping by The Good Raised Up and letting me know that what you read there speaks to your condition.

I sense in this post that there may remain some "residuals" from your painful experience with being ousted from the Quaker web ring. What disturbs me about that action is that it seems as if there was no laboring with one another, no listening for one another's truth or for even The Truth, and that saddens me.

I also understand and appreciate your caution and fear--concern that some Quakers (and/or Quaker bloggers) might say something unkind to a Pagan Quaker such as yourself. It is such a difficult conversation to enter into, to make ourselves vulnerable by sharing who we are, underneath the skin and bones we walk with.

So... I'd like to include this post and the QuakerPagan.org website on the QuakerQuaker list, but I thought I should run that by you first, given your stated concerns. I'll check back here for a reply, or you can email me at lizopp AT gmail DOT com.

Either way, sometimes I think that growth can happen only when we wrestle with one another--in a respectful, authentic manner, that is.

Blessings,
Liz, The Good Raised Up
Lorcan said…
Oh my... I can identify with thee, got a bit of flack myself, growing up Hicksite, I came to see the objectification of Yeshua as Jesus Christ - a terrible wrong, wrong as objectification of women, well wrong for me, but also wrong in the violence which had to flow from that, as the deamonisation of Jews was a logical end product of that kind of thinking... and in making a God of Yeshua, and declairing Jews to be in error, well, the IS harm in that! Folks didn't get it... or did and felt I was not respecting them... but, well, we try and we bend towards each other... and labor in the vinyards of peace.
Thine
lor
Lorcan said…
PS... adding thee to my links...
:)
lor
Wow--how very cool! 6 replies in such a short time. (I love the blogosphere!)

I was attempting to respond to each of you individually when I realized that I was creating a monster comment that probably nobody would read, so I'll just issue a common, "Hi!" and a collective "Thanks!"

Liz Opp, thanks for your comments on my residual sensitivity on the Quaker Web Ring thing. I found it disturbing myself, but I need to freely own both that there was at least some correspondence after the decision was made that attempted to work through my feelings with me, and also that I may not yet be able to be entirely fair to the folks involved. So I'll own the sensitivity on my part, but I don't want to point any fingers...

That said, I'd love to have the post or this blog on linked from other sites. Since discovering Quaker Quaker, I have found so many wonderful resources through that source that I'd be really happy to contribute to the conversation in however small a way!

(I just checked with Peter, and he feels the same. Big grin on his face when he said so, in fact.)

Everyone--thanks again for stopping by. Great to have such nice comments. (And, Lorcan, thank you so much for the link from Plain in the City--much appreciated!)
Simon said…
Hi Cat.

It's great to find your blog, and i really look forward to reading your stuff! I loved the way you described how you feel your spiritual life is deepened by the Christianity of other Friends - that's exactly how I feel! I think it's often over-looked that Quakerism offers a completely unique gift - being able to be witnesses to each others truths in an open, inclusive and non-threatening way. As for me, well I don't know where I'm at spiritually - but find that I'm collecting 'little fragments of light' from lots of different people and places ... including your blog!

All the best, Simon
Zach A said…
Hi Cat,
Welcome again to the Quaker blogosphere, and I hope you and Peter will keep going, though I don't want to encourage you to blog more than you feel led to. I'll be linking to you next time I make changes to my blog template...

I think your concern about hostile responses from Friends is a valid one, but I am optimistic that we will come to understand one another.

Blessings,
Zach.

PS - I wrote a (excessively long) post last winter that suggested at the end that Friends might well observe solstice rather than Christmas or nothing, and got 1 no, 1 maybe, and 1 yes in the comments...
Anonymous said…
Hi Cat,

It was wonderful to read your blog. A Friend and I have just run a course at Woodbrooke Quaker College entitled 'Quakers and the Goddess and the Green Man' - exploring the rich mixture of our joint interests in Quaker worship and community and Pagan practice. There was a growing sense within our workshop of Pagan Friends wanting to name their beliefs in their Meetings and when they are applying for membership. My perception is that there is a much bigger community out there wrestling with the same issues and I feel that it can ultimately only enrich our Society.

In friendship

Kevin
Hi Cat. Forgive me for this late response but as a new Quaker Pagan blogger I'm just now catching up with everyone. Yours was certainly the kick in the pants I needed to get mine started.

Merry met and merry meet again.

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