Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Some Thoughts on Silence and Silent Worship

Note: This piece appears in the February 2008 Ann Arbor Friends Meeting Newsletter.

I’d like you to try an experiment as you read this:

• First, sit for one minute without making any noise.
• Then, sit for one minute during which you center yourself and listen for that still, small voice within.

Did those two minutes feel a little different? completely different? similar? kind of the same? absolutely the same?

As unprogrammed Friends, we worship in silence: we gather in expectant waiting for That-Which-Is-Sacred to move among us. Silent worship is the root of our ministry to each other and to the world. Our ministry often may be that silent worship, in and of itself: those of us who’ve ever been part of a meeting for worship where there was no vocal ministry, but which was nonetheless deeply gathered, remember and treasure that experience. And even the most vocal of gathered meetings for worship are sustained by deep and ringing silence between messages. Our vocal ministry, and the ministry of the actions of our lives, come of the deep spiritual spring provided by silent worship.

In Ann Arbor Friends Meeting, we often say things like: “Let’s have some silence.” “We need to make sure we leave room for silence between messages.” “Please arrive early so there is time for silence before we begin.”

When we say these things, most of of know we are using the word “silence” as shorthand for “silent worship.”

But does everyone understand that? Is it truly clear that when we say “silence,” what we actually mean is “silent worship”?

This raises some other questions:
• In what ways is using such shorthand consistent with Quaker plain speech?
• Are we speaking in “Quaker code”? Does this obscure what we really mean, or does it clarify what we really mean?
• Research has documented that the language we use to talk about things affects how we think and act about them. Are we teaching Quakerism in an effective way when we use “silence” instead of “silent worship”?

And what’s the difference, anyway?

What was your experience in that experiment at the beginning?

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Friday, January 25, 2008

New! Labels, or Themes

For a while, I've been wanting to start using labels for some of the themes in this blog. The ones that originally made the most sense to me were the testimonies, and resources. I decided to use separate labels for the testimonies, rather than using one label called "testimonies." Earthcare, nature, and science are intertwined for me, but they're somewhat separated out in labels. I'll see over time how useful this whole label notion is, in what ways, and which ones are helpful. Feedback is always good.

For a list of themes/labels, see the column to the right. To see all the posts marked with that label, click on the label. (I've only labelled 2007; at some point, I may or may not label 2006.)


The seasons

I've been noticing a few things lately that I wanted to share:

- It used to be that on days when I left the house at 8 am, it was still dark. Now, on days when I leave the house at 8 am, it's light out.

- During the darkest months, it's one of my jobs to turn the lights on in the parking lot at work. Our last patient usually leaves at 6 pm. This week, I stopped turning the lights on in the parking lot, because it's now light enough out still at 6 pm to see to walk down the step and open your car. (Although it's still dark, usually, when I leave.)

On the other hand, the wind chill here has been below zero consistently of late... I'm aiming for a hot bath tonight, so I can be completely warm for a little while!

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

The 35th Anniversary of Roe v. Wade

On this 35th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, there's a bitter battle still raging over access to abortion in the US -- and indeed, many other parts of the world, in situations where US funding is an issue.

Where have you, personally, gotten your information about this important court decision? History textbooks in school? Personal experience? The stories of women who've confronted unwanted pregnancies? The internet? Planned Parenthood or NARAL? Right to Life? A faith community you grew up in or that you're currently part of? News coverage?

How about from the legal decision itself?

I invite you, regardless of your position on abortion, to read the actual decision of the United States Supreme Court.

How consistent is what the Justices actually wrote with what you've learned in other parts of your life about Roe v. Wade?

(For more information about the United States Constitution, click here.)

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Notes on discomfort

Note in my Book of Shadows, from a Meeting for Worship back in November:
If I have to contort myself spiritually -- put myself through all sorts of mental gymnastics -- then it isn't home.
Which kinds of uncomfortable are mental gymnastics, and which kinds are spiritual challenges and spiritual growth?

Saturday, January 19, 2008

One BIG ark

One of the reasons being a Pagan, being a Witch, works for me is because of science. For me, science is a way to continue to get to know the Goddess better. (I'm taking organic chemistry right now. I might need to be reminded of that statement when the going is really hard!) Science is all about how nature and the universe work. What could be cooler than that?

So, about Noah's Ark:

There does seem to be scientific evidence of a great flood.

Whether or not there was a man named Noah, or an ark, I do not know, and as far as I know, there's not scientific evidence one way or another.

That doesn't much bother me. If Noah and his ark existed, that's very cool; if not, it's still a neat story from which there's a lot to learn (faith, perseverance, resisting peer pressure, faithfulness, more).

So I don't believe or disbelieve that someone named Noah and his family had, say, giraffes and doves and elephants on a big boat during the flood.

However, I do not for one moment believe Noah, if he existed, had dinosaurs on his ark.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

An Interview with Margaret Hope Bacon

Click here for a lovely and interesting interview with Quaker historian and author Margaret Hope Bacon, by FGC staff member Angelina Conti. Margaret's work includes The Quiet Rebels: The Story of Quakers in America; Mothers of Feminism: Quaker Women in America; In the Shadow of William Penn: Central Philadelphia Monthly Meeting; and novel Year of Grace -- among many, many others.

Margaret is one of my favorite authors, particularly of Quaker history and related fiction.


My thanks to Eric Evans for the note about this interview.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

I held my nose and voted

I held my nose and voted.

And I had a surprisingly strong emotional reaction to the whole situation: the choices in front of me, the choices I made.

Did it make a difference? I don't know. But I refused not to vote.

Either way, MI's primary election sucked big time.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Michigan's primary

Okay, I realize there is no Constitutional guarantee to a primary vote. In fact, there were no presidential primary elections as such in the US until the early 20th century. But I grew up expecting to vote in presidential primaries, and have in fact voted in every presidential primary since I turned 18 years of age.

And this year, I'm feeling

You see, this year, MI Republicans and Democrats united to get a law passed to change the date of the MI presidential primary. MI now has an "early" primary -- which violates the rules of both national parties.

I'm not familiar with all of the consequences for the Republicans, but as far as I know, all their candidates are still on the ballot, and they are losing half their delegates to the Republican National Convention.

As for the Democrats:

-- A number of Democratic candidates have withdrawn from the MI primary, including all but one of the major three. (Kucinich tried to withdraw. He is still on the ballot because, get this, he missed the deadline to withdraw.)

-- As things currently stand, none of MI's delegates will be seated at the Democratic National Convention. Ie, MI will have no say in selecting the Democratic presidential candidate.

Well, isn't this all lovely?

What does it actually mean?

The Democratic choices on the MI presidential primary ballot are
Clinton, Dodd, Kucinich, Uncommitted, and Write-In.

-- If you write in a candidate, your vote will not be counted.

-- The MI Democratic Party is urging people to vote "Uncommitted," which would give the MI delegates to the Democratic National Convention the freedom to decide whom they think the Democratic presidential nominee should be.

(The MI Democratic party is insisting they'll "get things resolved" with the national party so that our delegates will be seated. Check out Jack Lessenberry's response to this nonsense. In a number of ways, the man speaks my mind.)

Right now, MI's delegates will not be seated at the convention, and therefore will have no say in choosing the Democratic presidential nominee. So, it looks to me as if it makes no difference which Democratic candidate I vote for in the primary.

However, I do have another option. I could vote for a Republican.

The two states where I've been registered to vote before, Maryland and Pennsylvania, had closed primaries -- you could only vote in the primary of the party with whom you were a registered voter. (This substantially cut down on the number of registered voters who registered as independent: if you wanted to vote in the primary, you registered with one of the parties.)

Michigan has an open primary, meaning you can vote for whomever you please, of whichever party.

This has big implications for this year's presidential primary in MI.

A number of MI voters who are registered Democrats are planning to vote (or have already voted, via absentee ballot) in the Republican primary.

None of the Republican candidates have withdrawn from the MI primary. And right now, the front-runners are Huckabee, Romney, and McCain.

This scares a number of non-Republicans. So, there are MI Democrats (and Greens, and Independents) who are planning to vote for, or have already voted for, John McCain.

Why McCain? As the perceived least reactionary/most reasonable Republican candidate. As a message to both the Democratic and Republican parties. As the only Republican candidate to oppose torture of detainees. To try to keep someone like Huckabee or Romney out of the White House. ("Anybody but ----.") (As a Quaker and a Witch, the torture issue is pretty important to me.)

So, I have a decision to make: to vote in the Democratic primary, or in the Republican primary.


Wednesday, January 9, 2008

What happens to one, happens to all

Last Saturday, I ended up listening to This American Life, and I had a really strong reaction to this week's show. Especially the segment about Serry and her family.

Maybe it's because I had just read Susan Jacoby's book Freethinkers: A History of American Secularism. Or perhaps because I'd just read Jody Picoult's novel Nineteen Minutes, a story about bullying and school shootings.

I think that most of all, it's because I saw how easily what happened to Serry's family -- herself, her husband, and her kids -- could have happened to me. Could still happen to me.

In a country where we have a guaranteed Constitutional right to practice any religion or none at all, and where we each and all have equal protection under the law. Where there's a (wavering) "wall of separation" between church and state, which (theoretically) includes public schools. Where I don't always feel my Constitutional rights are well-honored. Where I can lose my job, my house, my kids, for being a lesbian or being a Witch -- for the gender of my partner and the gender of my Deity. Where the tyranny of the majority often trumps the rights of the individual.

In the situation with Serry and her family, the Department of Justice eventually got involved, at least with the school district. But it was too late: their lives, and their family, had already come apart. Their nine-year-old daughter had lost every one of her friends. The parents separated under the strain. They all moved.

How do we remedy that?

How do we explain it?

How do we keep things like this from happening? How do we protect ourselves and each other?

It's not enough to join or give money to organizations like the ACLU or Americans United for the Separation of Church and State. It's not enough to vote in both national and local elections. It's not enough to stand tall.

But those things are good places to start.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

CPT seeks Anti-Racism Consultants

7 January 2008
CHICAGO/TORONTO: CPT requesting applications for Anti-Racism Consultants

Christian Peacemaker Teams is an international peace teams organization rooted in the historic peace churches that now includes support and participation from throughout the wider Christian community.* We have committed ourselves to a process of undoing racism within the organization. Therefore we request proposals for consultants who will bring an outside
perspective and expertise to support the work of CPT's Undoing-Racism Coordinator,** the Undoing Racism Working Group, and other bodies in CPT organizing for this transformative work. We are open to proposals from individuals and from organizations. The work of the consultant would include:

-Participating in the planning, facilitation and interpretation of an organization-wide anti-racism audit/assessment.

-Participating in the planning and formation of an organization-wide strategic plan for undoing racism in CPT based on the outcomes of the audit/assessment.

-Advising effective, just and safe structures and practices in areas such as leadership, power flow, accountability, reconciliation, policy formation and change, communication, peace team work processes, training, and internal organizing towards anti-racist identity and practice.

If you or your organization/team are interested in serving CPT as a consultant(s) for undoing racism please send the following to by February 6, 2008

-Full contact information,

-An outline of your experience working with organizations' internal undoing racism initiatives, anti-racism audits, and strategic planning,

-A description of the strengths and training/educational background you bring to this work,

-Several paragraphs letting us know how you connect with the core values of CPT (Christian, Peacemaking, Team work)

-Contact information for six references including at least three leaders in organizations for which you have worked in a similar role.

-A brief description of how you work, and how you would propose working with CPT, including timeline of your availability

-A statement of what compensation you need for your consulting services including an estimate of total cost for your part in this process through the audit and initial strategic planning stages.

*For more background on CPT please see

**Sylvia Morrison has recently been appointed to the internal staff position of CPT Undoing Racism Coordinator. See for her job description.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

"Code-switchers are not confused"

I'd like to bring your attention to Cat Chapin-Bishop's excellent post, "Code-Switching," on Quaker Pagan Reflections.

It's always very satisfying for me when someone puts something into words that reflects my experience or inner truth...

Thanks for your work, Cat!