I don't have a sense of how much my regular readers know about some of the struggles I've been engaged in within Quakerism over the last three years, or about how I feel about them.
I certainly wrote about the conflict within Ann Arbor Friends Meeting over renting space to a Pagan Friends Gathering I was helping to organize, but I was fairly circumspect about my own feelings and reactions.
I haven't written much about a conflict in my "home" Meeting, Central Philadelphia Monthly Meeting, over my application for membership. It's still in process (after more than a year), it's so personal, and I am stumped about what to say or how.
I did write about the recent news article on Pagan Friends, and a little about my reaction -- but there's more interesting discussion occurring on other blogs where there's much more comment activity; and in addition, I've kind of thrown my hands up over it all: I'm certainly not in control over what's out there and what people make of it!, and I'm overwhelmed by trying to participate.
But the fact that I haven't talked much about how I feel about different conflicts has meant rarely asking for, and rarely receiving, support in my feelings of isolation.
I say "rarely" rather than "never," because Cat and I have exchanged some supportive blog comments which were quite helpful to me, and because I've had some good discussions on the Jewish Friends and Non-Theist Friends lists in particular. But I haven't talked much about it here.
Cat wrote a post recently, "Thoughts from the Curb," which inspired me to do some work I need to do here.
If Cat moved (did she march? stalk? creep? walk with great dignity?) out to the metaphorical curb, feeling unwelcome in her Quaker house, I fled to the back yard. I'm not sure if I'm up in a tree, or sitting with determined dignity in a lawn chair, but either way, I'm trying to settle into worship, and wishing people would join me. I'd be really happy if they brought the metaphorical family dinner, as they did with Cat. Or perhaps tea and chocolate.
I'm no stranger to controversy. I'm no stranger to spiritual community. But community, and Quaker process, are what help me stay grounded and sane during conflict and controversy, and I've been feeling the lack of immediate community. (Well, and of Quaker process, too, now that I think of it.)
I cannot say how grateful I am for larger Quaker community, especially FGC and FLGBTQC. My work with them, whether in their everyday incarnations or at Gatherings, consistently and surely reminds me that I am a Friend, that Quakerism is my home. Even when there's been conflict there -- at every Gathering, in every time I've gone into the FGC office to do some kind of work or emailed with Friends to do FLGBTQC work, I've been reminded that this is home.
But FGC and FLGBTQC are my more-extended community. Here in my immediate and small spiritual family, I'm feeling the lack of intermediate extended family -- aunts, uncles, cousins, nieces and nephews, sisters- and brothers-in-law. (Hmmm. Especially cousins.)
How do I feel about recent controversies?
One, I know Quakerism is my home. Friends' process, Friends' testimonies: these are how I walk with integrity in the world. I am sure and joyful in my ministry, in its different forms, even when I am uncertain.
Right now in particular, I feel like I am crossing a stream, one stone at a time. So far, each stone has been steady; but I don't know if the next one will wobble, or how many stones there are after that, or if they reach the bank. I just know I need to be faithful one step, one stone, at a time. ("Imani, faith.") And I know that the stream and the woods are really, really beautiful.
Two, I know that I am a Witch: I know the Goddess. Leaf, stone, sun, breeze, trickle of water, the Spirit moving among us when we are gathered together in community: I have met Her, I continue to meet Her.
Three... I feel. How do I feel? Lonely, frustrated, hurt, determined, joyful, faithful, sure, uncertain, reassured.
My faith in Quaker process has not been diminished; it only increases during these conflicts. On the other hand, my frustration with an intellectual and emotional mimicry of Quaker process has grown and remains high. It's so obvious, afterwards (and sometimes during), when one has been part of true Friends' process. It's marvelous, even when it's hard work and hard emotionally and spiritually. It's not so obvious when one has been part of what I've heard referred to as "Meeting for Good Ideas," except for a vague feeling of deep disappointment afterwards (and sometimes during).
I am really tired of "Meeting for Good Ideas." Partially because I yearn for the spiritual communion of true Meeting for Worship and Meeting for Worship with Attention to Business. Partially because, in the current controversies of which I am part, there is no room for me in Meeting for Good Ideas.
In Meeting for Good Ideas, I watch people say, with utter conviction, outrageous untruths (and sometimes downright lies) about me and about what they call "people like me." Things they've learned from third parties, not from the Spirit: from gossip; from the internet; from people who actually don't know anything about me or my work personally, but who are queried as "experts." Sometimes folks just plain make stuff up.
So much of what I hear reminds me of what I went through in the late 80s and early 90s as a lesbian. Even within supposedly supportive communities, people would say the most outrageous things as fact. In some spiritual communities, they still do.
Perhaps I need to write an entire separate entry on myth-busting. But for now, a few examples. Lesbians, bi people, gay men, transgender people, and queer folk are not, by inherent condition of being LBGTQ: primarily interested in molesting children; constitutionally incapable of forming long-term, stable relationships; confused; unable to commit; celibate; promiscuous; mentally unstable; etc.
Pagan Quakers, are not, by inherent condition of being Pagan Friends: ignorant of Quaker history; dangerous; unfamiliar with Quaker worship/ process/ testimonies; trying to dilute Quakerism; trying to destroy Friends' process; committed to ritual; not committed to ritual; into killing squirrels; incapable of Quaker worship; confused; unable to commit; etc.
Back to Meeting for Good Ideas. It seems that it takes true worship for there to be room for me.
When I can truly worship with Friends -- not participate in discussion under the guise of worship, but be part of a group that truly asks, "How are we led?" -- then I am not angry and I am not afraid: I am open. If our worship leads to an outcome, by listening deeply -- as ours is a religious tradition of listening spirituality -- by listening deeply, I know we come to an outcome that will work for me. But our worship might not lead to an outcome, and if it does not, then it does not. We are in Friends process.
So, what do I want, what do I need?
Right now, I'd really love it if some folks came out into the metaphorical back yard with me, where I'm feeling lonely, sad, tender, and a little overwhelmed. There's this lovely old, large magnolia tree we can climb together (assuming I can still climb trees in my advanced middle age!), or we can sit together in a circle on the grass, on lawn chairs or cushions or blankets. I'd love it if we sat together in worship for a while. Maybe after, we can have some deep conversation, or worship-sharing. Maybe we can eat together here outside. And maybe when we're done, we can sing together, drum, play instruments. Maybe a few hardy folks will dance.
Maybe we can help each other be faithful. Maybe we can give each other strength.
Maybe we can build community.