Thursday, April 12, 2012

A question about "Pagan" Quaker process

There's been some interesting discussion recently on the QuakerPagans email discussion list -- along the lines of, since early Friends came to/developed Quaker worship through Christian scripture (and through specific passages in Christian scripture), do Pagan Friends approach Meeting for Worship, and Meeting for Worship with Attention to Business, in an essentially different way?  If so, how?  (And how would one explain any difference, or lack of difference, to Christian Friends?)

What I'm sharing here is expanded from an email I wrote to that list, so it's a little bit taken out of context, and sort of me thinking out loud; but I wanted to share it anyway.

Like many modern-day Friends, I came to Friends through experience, rather than through reading Hebrew or Christian scriptures (although I was well-read in both, long before I came to Quakerism).  My participation in Meeting for Worship, and Meeting for Worship with Attention to Business, is rooted most in my direct experience of That-Which-Is-Sacred, and less in written words -- in experience, not in theory, and not in anyone else's recording of their experience (although I very much appreciate attempts to put experience into words). 

I started coming to Meeting for Worship because I had a leading to come.  It's true that I initially thought that at worst, I'd get an hour of communal meditation out of it, but notice, even at the beginning, I knew that would be "at worst." 

It's not Hebrew or Christian scriptures ("the Bible") that speaks to Christian Friends in worship -- it's the Divine Presence. 

Why would I, as a Pagan Friend, not expect That-Which-Is-Sacred to speak to me/us directly in Meeting for Worship, whether "regular" worship or worship for business -- ? 

I don't pretend to have all the theaological answers about which Gods/Divine Spirits are moving through us and speaking to us in worship.  In general, it doesn't much bother me if we're experiencing different Gods, unless people start getting monotheist exclusivist about it (or, try to tell me they're all the same God).  I can accept that there is some unifying spark, some unifying something which I don't fully understand; and that also works for me as a non-theist as well as a Pagan.

To me, the bottom line is that Quakerism is bigger than Christianity.  Quaker practice is bigger than Jesus and Yhwh.  It's not limited to the God/s of Christianity.  Quaker practice can be informed by Jesus, Yhwh, Brigid, Herne, Cernunnos, Morgan, Athena, Demeter, Hecate, Cerridwen, Maiden, Mother, Crone, Air, Fire, Water, Earth, Spirit, many others, no god at all.

That's how powerful it is. 

And that's how Friends of differing theaologies can worship, and do Quaker business, together, in love and trust, asking how we're led. 

At least, that's been my experience. 

Of Quaker worship, and Quaker process, at its best, most powerful, most amazing, most magical, and most transformative.


RantWoman said...

Your point about experiential identification of the sacred really speaks to me. I think the experiential basis of Quaker worship, either Meeting for Worship or Meeting for Business is exactly what enables people in Quaker meetings to conduct business together in spite of really wide variation in the spiritual constructs used to describe what is happening.

But, would you think me a total philistine if I asked whether you can identify any specific elements of a meeting or meeting process that help you more easily draw into that sacred movement?

I have some thoughts from my experience but maybe I will try to post them on my own blog.

Morgan said...

I just realized I hadn't gotten back to you about this. I often think about the question of what makes a difference for me between being able to "fall into" the silence in one Meeting for Worship more easily than in another. I keep thinking I will write about this, but it's not quite in words yet.

In Meeting for Worship with Attention to Business, it really, really helps me when there is time, spaciousness, and not just quiet but openly-acknowledged worship. When the clerks' table asks to be held in the Light, or asks the Meeting to hold them in worship, while they confer, or work on a minute, or worship themselves prior to bringing the next agenda item. Those sorts of things.

But what helps me trust in the worship in a Meeting for Worship? That's something I've been actively thinking about and wrestling with for a couple of years. What makes that difference?

Sending you, and UFM, my love.