How to explain this deep-seated urge I have...?
I am a match-maker. I love to put people together with resources; I love to bring people together with other people I think they'll have good conversations with; I love to make connections, to knit things together with each other in unexpected ways that work in new ways. I adore connecting people with one another. ("A, meet B. B, meet A. Here's what made me think I should introduce you, but I'm sure there are other things I don't know about. Talk amongst yourselves...")
Fostering space for people to get together, building community, this has been an important (to me) part of my ministry since sometime in the late 80s or the early 90s.
When I went back to college in the early 90s and became part of the Pagan community there, I started organizing dinner get-togethers in the dining halls, or small private rooms just outside them, for Sabbats. I felt that it was important that people who are part of a minority religion, without any kind of campus ministry, who were from different traditions, who didn't know each other well enough to be in circle together necessarily, should have the chance to celebrate together in a meaningful way and to be in community with each other in a way that didn't require the intimacy being in circle together does.
After my life was no longer centered on campus, this translated -- predictably perhaps -- into wanting to hold Sabbat potlucks.
This wish came true as part of the work Nif and I did in the early years of Roses, Too! Coven. (Well, the idea to start something that might grow into a Coven came about at a potluck in the first place, now that I think of it.) Once we had our feet under ourselves enough to start hosting things, we started throwing Sabbat potlucks. These eventually became one of the signature features of Roses, Too! Coven, drew all sorts of people, and became quite a community. I admit some pride in the fact that the extended potluck community included plenty of non-Pagans and plenty of folks who claimed no spiritual path at all, people who did ritual with us and people who never once did ritual with us -- but for whom coming together in this way, sharing food and drink, music, and our stories, was somehow important.
(Now that I'm back in the Delaware Valley, I'm looking forward to starting Roses, Too! reunions, and hosting regular Sabbat potlucks here again, too.)
Different kinds of wanting-to-bring-people-together have been on my mind a lot lately:
1) The week we moved was the Full Moon in September. I knew there was no way we'd have our act together enough to host worship. I happened to ask folks on the QuakerPagans YahooGroup if anyone in the Philly area was interested. Really, before I even blinked, someone had Full Moon Meeting for Worship all arranged for a location in Delaware County, and other folks had made plans to join us in worship from far away.
We definitely felt their presence during our worship here. That reminded me a lot of the sense I used to have, of kinship with Witches everywhere celebrating the Full Moon and the Sabbats, and of the sense I have talked with my Meeting about, of being with them even from afar through Meeting for Worship.
Folks on the email list talked a little about their worship that night, and there was something powerful going on there.
This really struck me. I hosted Full Moon Meeting for Worship/Worship-Sharing the entire year I lived in Seattle; why did it never occur to me to invite distant folks to join in from wherever they were? Why didn't it ever occur to me to post Full Moon and Dark Moon queries here on my blog and see where folks' worship took them? Interesting!
2) A friend from several different contexts has another friend who's Pagan and seems to be called to worship with Friends, but is concerned about finding a Meeting where she will feel welcome as a non-Christian. So of course I keep thinking of people in that area to put her in touch with.
3) All sorts of Friends from different geographic areas, some of whom identify as Pagan and some of whom don't, have been talking about the power of the idea of getting together for Full Moon Meeting for Worship. Sure, Pagan Quakers get together at FGC Gathering every year; but more and more of the folks I'm in touch with aren't able, for any number of good reasons, to go to Gathering. This was the need that led to Great Waters Pagan Friends Gathering, but there hasn't been the energy or leadership to continue it.
We need to get together; we need to gather.
4) A Pagan Quaker blogger I sometimes read has been writing lately about feeling isolated and unknown in her Meeting. (I don't know her well enough to know if she'd welcome a link here.)
5) Another Pagan Quaker blogger I often read wrote recently about two things that struck me: being known, about each other as an avenue of communion with the Divine ("You Who Are My Bible"); and about the lovely woods near her new home, with a clearing with a fire ring ("Meeting for Worship for Woods") (yay, woods)...
Reading her description, I wanted to ask, Can we have a bunch of people come over for Full Moon Meeting for Worship at your house? This is actually less about Full Moon per se, and more about the lure of those woods and that clearing, and the lure of bringing Friends together for Quaker worship that is rooted and seated in nature...
It's about community. It's about the isolation that so many Pagan Quakers and Quaker Pagans feel. It's about the magic that happens when we come together, where we can feel deeply many of the ways we're alike and can be different in all the ways we're different from each other. It's about the magic that happens when non-Pagan Friends join us in worship and in spiritual community, and we help each other be faithful. It's about the magic that happens when non-Quaker Pagans join us in worship and in spiritual community, and we help each other be faithful. It's about the magic, the power, of silent worship in expectant waiting.
Expectant waiting on the woods. On the moon and the stars. On the wind and the sun. On each other.
And what about getting together?
More and more, yet again, I'm hearing this need -- just as in other minority communities I've been part of -- to gather.
For years, I was part of a group of Quaker lesbians who got together once a month for Meeting for Worship, followed by a potluck dinner. We met at different women's houses. This was a magical experience for me.
Since 2001, I've been part of Friends for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer Concerns, a community of LGBTQ Friends and allies, and have grown very much as a result.
Friends of African Descent, allies, and loved ones get together for Meeting for Worship and for gatherings, and these gatherings feed Friends' souls in the same way as other minority-focused time and space do.
This year at FGC Gathering, I finally went to Shabbat with Jewish Friends.
Both in spiritual/religious space, and in non-spiritual space, I have seen, and I have experienced for myself, the power that comes when folks who are a minority in the larger group or larger society come together.
In Quaker contexts, all of my experiences with minority groups within Friends have deepened my identity as a Friend, as part of the larger community of Quakers.
I feel again the hunger for connection among Pagan Friends.
How shall we gather? How shall we connect? How shall we come together?
What ways of getting together would help us connect, build community, would feed us and our allies?