Wednesday, May 26, 2010

More music :)

I wanted to share two songs which haunt me regularly...

The first is Red Molly's 3-part a capella version of Susan Werner's song "May I Suggest."

The second is the Three Altos' version of member Sara Thomsen's song "Holy Angels." Even though angels are not part of my own theaology or personal mythology, I love this song. Another awesome 3-part harmony piece. Click here (or below) to play it.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Music in my head during worship

As I've mentioned before (especially in my talk about William Taber's "Four Doors to Meeting for Worship"), I often have music in my head during Meeting for Worship. Sometimes it's music that comes to me while I'm settling into worship; sometimes it's music that comes to me when I've gone deep.

There's a chant, "Meditation on Breathing," that I learned at the UUMN conference last year, from/by Sarah Dan Jones (on her website, and Singing the Journey #1009):

Breathe in
Breathe out

When I breathe in, I'll breathe in peace

When I breathe out, I'll breathe out love

When I breathe in, I'll breathe in peace
When I breathe out, I'll breathe out love

This song often comes to me when I'm settling into worship, and paying attention to my breathing. It was definitely present with me this First Day as I was struggling with some worry and stress.

Later in worship, Harry Belafonte's "Turn the World Around" was very much with me:

We come from the fire (water, mountain)
Living in the fire (water, mountain)

Go back to the fire (water, mountain)
Turn the world around...

Do you know who I am?
Do I know who you are?

See we one another clearly?
Do we know who we are?...

We come from the Spirit
Truly of the Spirit

Only can the Spirit
Turn the world around

I first learned this in Roses, Too! Coven, where it was a favorite closing song. Most of us there had first heard it a good when Harry Belafonte visited the Muppets (here and here). :) I now own a copy from "An Evening with Harry Belafonte and Friends," and listen to it and sing it often. (I love trying to sing it in consistent 5/4 time, instead of turning it into 6/8.)

This is a song that helps me ground and be renewed, be joyful, hopeful, and thankful.

A good song to come to me in the deep part of worship.

Friday, May 21, 2010

PNW Quaker Women's Theology Conference - consider donating to the scholarship fund!‏

Dear women:

You're receiving this email because you're one of the 50+ women who has registered for the 2010 conference (or because you are a particularly involved and long-time supporter of the conference), and we're writing to ask you to consider donating to the scholarship fund. As you know, our scholarships are made available from donations only, and we have received scholarship requests for the 2010 conference that we cannot meet at present.

There have already been some very generous donations to the scholarship fund, which we appreciate greatly. In fact, we have already received donations of over $400, which is over half the way to meeting our scholarship need of over $600. We are approximately $200 short right now.

Because of this remaining need, we'd like to ask each of you to consider whether you might be able to donate to provide scholarships for others who hope to attend, and to remind you that even a small donation can help, especially if many of us contribute. No amount is too small!

There are two ways you can easily donate:

1. online at our website, using a credit or debit card or a PayPal account
2. by sending a check to the conference treasurer

Please make checks to Hillsboro Friends Church and write 2010 Scholarship Fund in the memo line. Send the check to the address below:

Hillsboro Friends Church
c/o Alice Maurer
1100 N Meridian St. Apt. 29
Newberg, OR 97132

Thank you for considering this request! We are deeply grateful to Friends who can donate to help cover the costs of others.


Ashley Wilcox and Sarah Peterson, co-clerks
on behalf of the PNWQWTC Planning Committee

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Reactions to "The Prep School Negro"

At the end of March, I went to see the movie "The Prep School Negro."

I'd wanted to see it for a while, for a couple of different reasons.

One is that I was a white charity kid at a prestigious girls' prep school.

One is that Andre Robert Lee grew up in Philadelphia, and the Philadelphia area is where I've lived most of my adult life and which I identify as home. His prep school is in "my" part of town, literally within walking distance of where I most recently lived in Philly. I used to work in the part of town where he grew up, and so did Beloved Wife.

Another is that I have found myself doing a lot of professional work around issues of poor African-Americans and education, and around issues of the "culture" of class. The movie trailer talks both about Lee's "golden ticket," and his sister's sense of losing him to another culture -- powerful stuff, with familiar echoes for me personally and professionally.

Yet another is that I'm now a Quaker, the school that Lee went to is a Quaker school, and I have this "thing" about talking about class issues in Quakerism. Class is present all the time in, and is an important part of, my experience as a Friend; I am determined to keep talking about class issues in our Religious Society; and work we do as Friends about class and race in general is not about "other people" -- it's about us, and it's about me specifically, not just my past life, but my here and now life.

So, there were lots of threads that drew me.

But most of all, what drew me was the intersection of class and race. I knew Lee's experience would have been different from mine. But I also wanted to know what might be the same.

I think I wanted to know, what might I see in Lee's experience that would help me make sense of mine?

I don't talk about my high school much. I don't feel any school pride. Until about a year and a half ago, I kept in touch with exactly one person I'd gone to high school with. I got an excellent education there, and it stood me in good stead, and I'm grateful for that. But I had a horrible time in so many ways, and in so many ways I hated it.

Some of that was about class. Some of that was about homophobia, although I didn't know it then. A lot of it was about girl-on-girl bullying.

So I had hoped that watching Lee's movie would help me figure some stuff out -- about my high school experience, about talking with Friends about class and race and education.

What did I find out?

Yes, there's a lot in this movie that resonates with my teen self. I didn't talk right, either, and I sure didn't dress/look right. I had to figure out where to sit for lunch, in a way completely different from and yet eerily similar to the way the kids of color in this movie did. I was both ashamed of and proud of my parents. I didn't know who the other kids were who might be "like me"/"community scholars." There are other things that were completely different for me, other things that were so much the same.

I realize this was already blindingly obvious, but I never realized it until I saw the PSN and talked with folks there, including Andre Robert Lee: I discovered that I'm ashamed. Ashamed that I went to a privileged prep school, and ashamed that I never fit in there. Both at the same time.

But I also discovered this movie is a lot more tender and gentle, and about a ton less bitter, than I feel about my own experience. Lee, and the other folks in PSN, are a lot more open and honest about how mixed their experience is/was. The good and the bad. Me, I try to hide both.

So what I walked away with is something one of the women there said to Lee during discussion: "We didn't talk about this [then], and this is our experience, and we need to."

We need to talk about it.

I need to talk about high school. I need to talk about being a charity kid going to a prep school. (We didn't have open euphemisms for charity kids like "community scholars"; it was a big secret if you were on financial aid, although you could certainly guess about some of us -- my family's car, for example, was a dead giveaway.) I need to talk about my class background, and about my life as a mixed-class person, and what that's like and how it plays out in my life now. I need to talk more openly about my teenage years and my high school experience.

But here's the big thing:

It's certainly occurred to me a number of times over the years to go back to my high school and talk about homophobia and the particular challenges facing LGBTQ teens.

But never once, until I saw PSN and heard folks talk there, did it occur to me to go back to my high school and talk about class.

Not once.

I mentioned this to Andre, in part because I was so shocked at myself.

Meeting and talking with Andre was like meeting a long-lost cousin in some ways. We had a brief, but really good, talk. Our experience is not the same, but there's some important stuff we share. And Andre's one of the only people I've ever talked to who I know gets it about my high school experience.

It's really, really important for white kids who went to prep schools on charity to start talking about our experiences. This is part of who we are. The good, the bad, the mixed. The stuff that was horrible. The joys we never would have had otherwise. All of the ordinary, everyday stuff that was neither here nor there.

Race and class are intertwined in US society, but they're not 100% the same. We can't expect our sisters and brothers of color to be the only ones who do the work of unpacking the class issues around this, and we can't ride their coat-tails, either. We can partner with them, and I'm pretty excited about that. And I'm thrilled that Andre thinks it's a good idea for white folks to use "The Prep School Negro" as a springboard to talk about our own experiences with our own "golden tickets."

Lee asked us a couple of things before we saw the film. One was, What did you think when you first heard the title, "The Prep School Negro"? How about now, after? Two was, the same with the content -- what did you see? Third was, what's one word that describes your reaction?

My word: Big-hearted.

If you're not sure you want to see this movie because you think it might make you too uncomfortable, I urge you to go see it. You might laugh, you might cry, you will very likely appreciate it, and I'm 90% sure your heart will be glad you went.

Click here for "The Prep School Negro" website.
Click here for "The Prep School Negro" on Facebook.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Position open: Quaker QuEST Coordinator, Seattle

QuEST Coordinator: University Friends Meeting, Seattle, seeks experienced administrator, program developer, trainer for established program providing six interns with year-long positions at local social change and service organizations. Half-time, salaried position. Quaker or active among Friends. Application deadline, June 1 for July start. Contact Personnel Committee, UFM c/o UFMeeting @ gmail dot com or call....

Program info here:

Quaker Experiential Service and Training (QuEST) is a program of University Friends Meeting in Seattle, WA (North Pacific Yearly Meeeting).

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Joys of Quakerism

I am engaged, right now, in a discernment process with Friends across several Quaker groups, in different parts of the country, whose individual members are in... six or seven states and two countries. Thus, most of our work is over email. Plus, it's mostly about money, which isn't easy for most religious groups, and Quakers are certainly no exception to awkwardness when dealing with money.

And, you know what? I am really blessed in this work, in these Friends, in being in Quaker process with them.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Speaking of animal sacrifice and discrimination...

Now, you know, if we help create a path to legal citizenship, we're going to be awash with people who sacrifice animals... via The Wild Hunt:

Frosty Wooldridge, the writer of the editorial linked above, is hardly the only person to invoke Santeria in order to scare people out of supporting a path to citizenship for the illegal immigrants already living here.

Gotta love it.

Read more here...

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Ritual: the new animal sacrifice

Excuse me, I just need to rant for a moment. Did you know that "ritual" is the new "animal sacrifice"? Yes, really!

It used to be that the Big Assumption I got from Friends about Paganism was animal sacrifice.

When I was first doing intervisitation as a Priestess & Witch among Friends, people would sometimes ask me about animal sacrifice. I was a little surprised, somehow -- I think I expected Quakers, as a minority religion subject to stereotypes, to be a little more clueful about other minority religions subject to stereotypes -- but I was a bit naive. So, since I was used to answering questions about Paganism in other contexts as part of my work in education and outreach, and since I got that question all the time back then, I answered questions from Friends about animal sacrifice.

Later, when I came to identify as and came to be identified as a Friend, other Friends would sometimes ask me, "How do you reconcile being a Pagan with being a Quaker? I mean, isn't animal sacrifice incompatible with the Peace Testimony?"


I'm sure you can imagine how that question, how that assumption, made me feel. It was infuriating and painful. Why on earth would Friends assume that a Friend, someone intimately involved with Quakerism, living her life as a Friend, would somehow be involved with a spiritual practice that involved such an apparently obvious contradiction to, oh, living one's life as a Friend?

Well, that hasn't stopped.

I think most Friends I meet these days know now that Pagans and Witches generally do not sacrifice animals (although in some traditions, under certain circumstances, sacrificing certain animals is a legitimate practice). Pagans overall, and Witches especially, have put a lot of time and energy over the last 40 years into countering that stereotype, and into helping convince people that pets and assorted wildlife are safe from us.

(I am leaving out an entire other rant about the fact that animal sacrifice is widespread in the US today, and that all of us participate in it pretty much every time we eat meat. Only it's called agribusiness. And yes, I do eat meat.)

We still joke about it in my family, though, especially when I'm prepping Quaker workshops, but with much less of an edge than ten years ago. "Is that the part where you teach them about sacrificing squirrels?," Beloved Wife asks, pointing to my outline. "Nah, I thought I'd start them off easy. So this is the part where we'll just make stew from a squirrel I sacrificed earlier. They sacrifice their own squirrels later in the week/year/etc."

In my interactions with Friends, the concern about those poor squirrels has faded, but it has been replaced by other Big Assumptions about Paganism.

The main one I'm dealing with these days (and have been for the last few years!) is this automatic, knee-jerk pairing of Paganism with ritual. As you can guess, I find this extremely frustrating. It drives me nuts that people automatically assume that if somebody is Pagan, they must do ritual.

And you know how unprogrammed Quakers feel about ritual. Ritual is fine for other people, but it's bad if you're a Quaker. (Defining words like of "rite" and "ritual" and other related words, and looking at our strong feelings about them, is another post.)

No one has been able to show me any definitive source that demonstrates the 100% correlation between being Pagan and using ritual as a spiritual practice. No one has been able to show me any definitive source that demonstrates the 100% correlation between being Christian and using wine as a spiritual practice, either.

(Or the 100% correlation between being Quaker and driving a Prius. Or the 100% correlation between being a Witch and wearing a black, pointy hat. I'm kind of bummed about those last two, because I think I'd look really cool driving a Prius while wearing a black, pointy hat, don't you?)

Why does this bother me so much?

Well, why does it bother me so much when people assume that Pagans, by definition, practice animal sacrifice? Sure, part of it is that in general, most of us find animal sacrifice repulsive, and why would I like it if people automatically assumed I do something most people find repulsive?

But that's not the only reason I get so frustrated: it's that I hate it when people make these kinds of absolute assumptions about me and "people like me," whether those assumptions are apparently harmless or not. And I find it thoroughly frustrating when people have an absolute conviction that what they think is true, regardless of actual facts that contradict what they think -- or the real, lived experience of the people involved that contradict what they think.

I've experienced this in particular as a woman, as a feminist, as a lesbian, as someone with a working-class background, and as a Witch: in ways I am a minority. It's a way of claiming the power of defining reality, and it's a privilege that folks who are part of the dominant culture have over folks who are minorities. It's a tool of oppression.

And one of the most important reasons it bothers me so much when Quakers make that assumption -- that being Pagan means, by definition, using ritual as a spiritual practice -- is because what usually comes next goes like this: since ritual, like animal sacrifice, is incompatible with Quakerism, then Paganism must be incompatible with Quakerism; and therefore, Pagans cannot be Quakers. (Ta-da!)

All those Quakers whose theaology or experience of the Divine is Pagan, who are going along living their lives and going to Meeting for Worship and clerking committee Meetings and setting up for coffee hour, whom you can't tell are Pagan -- poof! Not real Quakers. Sorry, see ya. Oh, I guess you'll have to find someone else to clerk that Meeting for Worship with Attention to Business...

In our religious society, we are fond of quoting our main founder as having said, "Let your lives speak." It's very disappointing to me to be faced, over and over, with Friends who refuse to listen to others' lives, but prefer instead the convictions in their own heads.

From my experience and training in mental health and as clergy, I know that when dealing with what seems to be the issue doesn't resolve something, it's time to look deeper, for something else that's going on that's the real issue. And there are a handful issues tangled up this knot, in addition to dominant/minority culture issues. Some of them I've already mentioned in this post:
  • the question of what we all mean when we use the word "ritual"(a question for another post)
  • believing what you think rather than what others' lived experience demonstrates as true
  • justifying discrimination
And some of the issues, I haven't mentioned explicitly, although they're part of this, too:
  • the difference between a set of spiritual or religious beliefs, and a set of spiritual or religious practices
  • fear of the rich diversity that exists in the Religious Society of Friends
  • the fallacy that naming our differences is what actually creates them -- that the differences which minorities in particular experience don't actually exist until named (usually by minorities). (Again, this is a dominant culturally privileged point of view.)
I have been thinking about all six of these for quite a while, and I hope to write more about them.

But in the meantime, I am thoroughly tired of knee-jerk assumptions, and would really appreciate it if non-Pagan Friends actually listened to Pagan Friends, used logic, and educated themselves.

End of rant.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Struggling with ministry: money and -- courage?

I am struggling a bit with ministry right now. The main thing, the obvious thing, is that there are a handful of events I want to travel to this summer, and I have to figure out how to find enough financial assistance and raise enough other financial support to do so. I also have to figure out if I have enough "spoons" (internal resources in the face of chronic illness) to be able to do so.

The thing that's really biting me in the butt right now about all this -- besides asking for money, which as we all know is just so much fun, and so easy -- is, in the words of Beloved Wife, putting myself out there.

I hate that.

But it's an integral part of ministry in community.

No, no, I want to say, my ministry is between me and the Goddess. It's about regular discernment, being faithful to my leadings, figuring out what I'm led to do and doing it; and if I've done it "right," other people will respond.

Except it's not. That way. Or, not only that way.

I've been wrestling for a while with how so much of my ministry is about what happens next: what happens after I've listened, been in discernment, and made a plan. Then comes talking to people. Then comes advertising an event, submitting a workshop proposal, herding cats in the workshop running the workshop, finding space for an event, etc, etc. All of these things invariably involve talking to other people about it. And not just talking to other people, but, as Beloved Wife said, putting myself out there.

Taking risks.

You know how you feel after giving ministry in Meeting for Worship -- tender? That's how I feel about my ministry work. That's how I feel about a particular effort in the ministry when it first comes to me, and that's how I feel about it even when it looks like the ball is rolling along well. Even when my Oversight Committee helps me refine something and tells me, "Run with it!," even after I get the workshop or interest group approval, I feel tender, and this weird combination of certain and uncertain. Hurrah, I did it! We're ready to go, goes hand-in-hand with, What if no one else responds? What if no one comes?

When I first moved to Seattle and became more active in my ministry, I asked myself that often about events I was hosting: What if no one comes? And although it was painful, I realized it didn't matter: what mattered was that I was there, fully present and open-hearted, holding space, so that people could come.

How do I translate that into the travel I feel led to do in the ministry this summer? How do I translate that into putting myself out there, and asking for money?

If I had enough money, it wouldn't matter whether or not other people think it's part of my ministry for me to go to, say, the Pacific Northwest Quaker Women's Theology Conference, or whether other people think it's important for me to go. I could just pay my registration and book a plane ticket. But because I plain can't go on my own financial resources, I have to ask for help. And this means putting myself out there, means taking the risk that other people won't think it's as important as I do.

This is part of the price ministry demands of those of us who don't have enough money to support it financially ourselves.

We must take that risk more often of asking if other people believe in the value of what we're doing.

And that's hard.

What travel do I want to do in the ministry this summer? (It's scary to write this part!)

I also really want to go Cherry Hill Seminary's Summer Intensive, but I know I don't have enough spoons right now for the classroom work beforehand and afterward.

I feel pretty sure that I will get the financial aid I need to go to FGC Gathering and to NPYM. I've been to those before; how to put together enough financial aid is nicely laid-out and well-established, both in general and for me.

Couple Enrichment Leader Training, and the PNWQWTC -- which, of course, happen first -- I'm feeling some angst over how to make happen financially.

Argh! Did I mention this is hard?