Sunday, March 16, 2008

The Mysteries of Transformation

Talking about Christ in Liberal Meetings
A Friends Center weekend retreat facilitated by Brian Drayton
March 14-16, 2008

I knew I belonged at this weekend the moment Brian Drayton began to speak… because he began with a poem by Emily Dickinson:

The Soul should always stand ajar.
That if the Heaven inquire,
He will not be obliged to wait,
Or shy of troubling her.

Depart, before the host has slid
The bolt upon the door,
To seek for the accomplished Guest—
Her visitor no more.

Twenty of us gathered from 11 different states and many different yearly meetings to explore the role of Christ in our lives and in the life of our meetings. It was an extraordinary group of people, deeply committed to our Faith and to exploring what our Faith means to us and to others. Often abundantly joyous, sometimes sad or uncertain how to go forward, always hopeful… we meditated on the needs of the Soul, told our own stories, discussed our own understandings of Christ, related our understanding of Christ to the way we can choose to act within our meetings and the world beyond, and shared our thoughts on our Way Forward--how we might bring our insights home with us.

When I say it was an extraordinary group of people, I am not exaggerating… listening to each person speak, I was awed by the great work that God was undertaking in each of our lives, and at the faithfulness of these Friends in listening to and obeying their individual calls. I filled up 23 pages with notes, and I suspect that I will be meditating on and writing about this weekend for a long time. For now, just a tiny sample of what we discussed will have to be sufficient.

As we discussed ways of choosing to act, Brian made sure we kept in mind Naylor’s instructions for fighting the Lamb’s War: Waiting (listening for the Spirit), Obeying (acting promptly when the call becomes clear), and Suffering (daring to make a fool of oneself in the name of Love).

One way of expressing our call to the world felt particularly striking to me. Brian and some other participants expressed it beautifully... if any of you recognize your words in here, I thank you very much for sharing such good words:

Part of our calling is to feel where the divine Seed is oppressed--in ourselves, in others, in the world-- and to be sensitive to opportunities to liberate the Seed. Creating life with more abundance, more joy, more freedom, more Love. Living out the promises, learning the Dance of the Spirit. Being willing to accept the possibility of failure out of sheer love.

This perspective on our calling to the world as followers of Christ feels good to me, because it feels generous, and open, and positive. It feels like an invitation. I have always felt that talking about Christ should feel more like an invitation to a party than like a summons to a court. It felt good to be able to share that sense of joy with others this weekend.

There is so much more to say! But this will have to do for now. More prosaic tasks like the dishes and diaper-changing are calling me. More later. I very much hope and pray that other participants in this weekend will feel led here to share something of what felt important to them.

I'll ditto Brian's parting prayer: May the Lord keep us all watchful, courageous, diligent, cheerful, foolish, and sweet.

God bless us, everyone!

**A postscript: I finally finished a more formal report about the "Talking About Christ" weekend. If you are interested, you can find it on The Conservative Friend's Viewpoints page.**


Mike said...

Shawna, I very much enjoy all that you have written. Particularly that speaking about Christ should feel like an invitation to a party, rather than a summons to court. Laughter, good spirits, and camaraderie was a very important part of our weekend. Realizing that so many others felt the need to meet people where they are spiritually was extremely nourishing. Starting from that common place was very helpful in moving me internally toward being able to nourish the seed within myself, others, my Meeting community, and perhaps even beyond.


Shawna said...

Mike, thank you very much.

Yes, I think that was a very useful part of the weekend...

Sharing, and encouraging, and supporting each other in our various callings...

And helping each other to have an abundant, understanding spirit towards other folks... I hadn't really thought about that much before, but you're right. As a group, our concern tended to be how to be open and loving, rather than being concerned with how to divide or manipulate people. It was so good.

I am reminded of something I read in Brian McClaren's "Generous Orthodoxy": Acceptance does not equal approval. We can disagree with people on issues... even fundamental issues, but we can still love them and accept them where they are.

Thanks again for commenting, Mike! It was so nice to meet you at the weekend.

Liz Opp said...

I'm so glad you've written about this experience, Shawna.

The "instructions" for the Lamb's War reminds me of how another Friend has summarized the message that John Woolman brings us, about waiting to feel Love, being alert to an Opportunity, and acting when the Way is open.

Also, as Mike reflected, the feeling of being invited to a party... that reminded me of something I wrote a few years ago, inspired by the passage in Scripture, about coming to the Banquet.

And the piece you share about liberating the Seed that is oppressed... I wish to carry that bit of counsel as well, though I believe it must be tempered somehow:

I know that in some cases, some well-meaning people will interpret the Divine Seed as being oppressed and therefore needing them to "rescue" it, thereby feeding their own egos... We must be careful not to outrun our Guide, yes...?

Liz Opp, The Good Raised Up

Shawna said...

Hi, Liz!

Thank you so much for your thoughts... and a good link....

I suppose, as far as liberating the Seed goes, if you are alert for opportunities to allow Love to flow more freely in the world, then you are doing ok. I know what you mean about people trying to "save" the Seed without a true leading.... I've seen people who took on perfectly good and worthwhile social causes, but for the wrong reasons....

Around my yearly meeting, outrunning our Guide is not typically a problem! We are laggers, more than runners. We are so concerned not to outrun our Guide, that we tend to stand still, and He has to keep coming back and encouraging us to move another foot more!

Your sister in Christ,