I've just returned from Woolman Hill, and from Jay Marshall and Jennie Isbell's workshop on Vitality and Ministry in the Monthly Meeting. Jay is the author of Where the Wind Blows: Vitality Among Friends; Jennie has written Leading Quakers: Discipleship Leadership, A Friends Model. Their presentation to us was sponsored by Earlham School of Religion. I take it they have done similar presentations all over the country, and one of the many satisfactions of attending it was both the grace with which they were able to slip into our New England variation on Quaker culture, and their willingness to offer contrasting experiences and perspectives from differing Quaker cultures across the country.
Another satisfaction was the chance to eat, work, chat, learn, and worship with men and women I mostly knew only slightly from New England Yearly Meeting, but whose faithfulness and depth are plainly part of the reason that body is such a strong and vital part of my spiritual journey.
It was a hell of a rich weekend, but it was crammed to bursting. So much to think about--so much to write about! And not only do I have not enough time, not enough energy, not enough brain cells that are still firing--I have not even got enough emotional stamina remaining, to begin to process all this.
I need to grade papers. I need a nap. I need a week of reflection and settling in. And I'm not sure I'm going to manage any of these things...
What I want to write about:
FEELING OVERWHELMED BECAUSE I'M GROWING:
- How it feels to be the pip-squeak in a room full of weighty, seasoned Friends.
- How it feels to know that I'm outgrowing my pip-squeakery; recognizing the warning signs of another stage of spiritual growth coming on.
- How, despite its lack of outward degrees and hierarchy, the 1st degree, 2nd degree, 3rd degree stages familiar to me from Wicca do fit some of the inward transformations of my Quaker journey; what it is like to find myself reduced to childhood, then struggling with adolescent identity issues, not just in my life as a Friend or my life as a Pagan, but in my marriages, my careers, and as a way of a life lived in (sometimes nervous or neurotic) transformation.
- The importance of eldering and of naming and raising up gifts in spiritual communities of all sorts. (Gee--given the last couple of notes, can you guess why that's on my mind?)
ABOUT THAT TROUBLESOME BOOK...
- My increasing certainty that the way I am hesitantly beginning to be able to read the Bible, as poetry and myth, is not only acceptable among Quakers in North America, but may actually be normative.
- The irony of realizing that I actually have a "favorite translation" of the Bible, and the increasing frequency with which Biblical language and metaphor rises within me comfortably in worship...AND
- ...The irony that I have a favorite psalm, and that a favorite piece of Wiccan liturgy seems to me pretty plainly to echo it. (ie: What's a nice Pagan girl like me doing in a religion like this, anyway?)
- Why I feel it is so important to participate in the world of Friends beyond one's own monthly meeting (or even yearly meeting).
- The slightly terrifying discovery that Googling "Quaker" and the words "Exodus", "Genesis", or "Book of Job" will bring up posts at this site within the top five suggested results. (What's that say about the need for other Quaker bloggers to spend time reflecting on this book? More unnerving, what does it say about my and Peter's responsibility to careful reflection and discernment as we write about our own reflections?)
DISCERNING, ENGAGING, AND LEADING
- The hunger I have for deeper and more intimate involvement with all of my spiritual communities.
- The possibility of bringing some of the Quaker insights about leadership from this weekend (and in general) into my Pagan communities in the next few years.
- The ways Herne (or perhaps the "angry god" of the O.T.?) can be a god of limits and limit setting for me, and perhaps guide me into a somewhat more benignly-ruthless leadership style: I am so paralyzed by the fear of letting someone down!
- My growing realization that I need to be more willing to fail; that lack of time/energy or lack of any sense of leading should be the only reasons I say no to a suggestion prayerfully discerned by a nominating committee.
- My uncertainty that I can take on anything more, anything at all, working at my current level of time and energy at my job.
- My continual physical exhaustion, and occasional spiritual depletion, from my job.
- The warm, deep, satisfying sense of being well used at my job--of doing a difficult thing creatively, empathically, and well on a regular basis.
- My yearning to live where I hear birds rather than traffic, and my long-deferred spiritual need to feed my biophilia by seeing the natural world without an intervening windshield.
- The inconceivability of moving without continuing to work at my current level of time and energy at my job.
- How good it felt to be fully present in a body of mature, seasoned Friends... and to know that I did in fact belong, and had something to bring to the table.
- How good it is to be seen and understood and appreciated by those we admire (revere?) in our communities.
Oh, yeah. And a summary of the actual activites and content of the weekend that started all these thoughts would probably be good, too.
Off the top of my head, I can think of at least two fFriends beyond my own meeting who would have been excited to have been present for the workshop, and whose meetings would be richer for their having been there. It would be good to offer at least a taste, for those who may wish to contact Earlham to see about arranging a similar workshop in their own locality.
Apparently, Earlham is being much more proactive about creating this kind of opportunity--traveling in the ministry of outreach to local meetings and gatherings of Friends to offer expertise. If this weekend was a good sample, we should all be jumping all over this.
For now, I'm going to rest my mind, though... and buy the groceries.
How I wish I had a week to write!