Thursday, February 19, 2009

Explicit Meeting for Worship?

Some thoughts from a recent First Day Meeting for Worship. - sm

Is it "all right" to have explicitly Pagan Meeting for Worship?

Let's turn it around. Is it "all right" to have explicitly Christian Meeting for Worship?

It's not just our Christian roots as Friends that make it acceptable to us to sit in expectant waiting on Jesus or Christ. It's that Christianity is the dominant culture in our country in terms of religion -- the dominant group.

But That-Which-Is-Sacred is bigger than just Jesus. It's bigger, even, than the Trinity of Father, Son, and Holy Ghost/Holy Spirit.

To some Christians, that's heresy: "Godless Pagans!"

And yet, to many Pagans, a refusal to recognize the Goddess -- the Divine Feminine, the Earth Who nurtures us and on Whom we are dependent for life -- is heresy: "Goddessless Christians!"

(And, in the words of Sojourner Truth, "Where did your Christ come from?")

If the Divine is bigger than Jesus or the Goddess (or the God), should we sit in expectant waiting on those -- or any -- particular facets of the Divine?

The faces of the Divine we know, with which we have experience, are the ones that are the most accessible to us. They are the facets through which we come to know the whole, or more of the whole, because as humans, we can never fully comprehend or know the Whole of the Divine.


Oliver Danni said...

We have Meeting for Worship with Attention to Business, don't we? Why not Meeting for Worship with Attention to the Goddess? Or Meeting for Worship with Attention to Jesus, for that matter.

staśa said...

Meeting for Worship for Healing, or Meeting for Worship for Healing and Laughter...

Good question. Where's the line? (Is there a line?)

Honestly, I like the idea of Meeting for Worship with Attention to the Goddess, and Meeting for Worship with Attention to Jesus... I'd like to go to both, and see how they feel different to me, and how they feel the same.

And yet I think that notion would give some Friends the heebie-jeebies.

But naming our differences isn't what creates them... and I think it's only in being clear about our differences, and coming together anyway -- like we said in the interest group last summer at Gathering, helping each other be faithful to the leadings of the Light, however we experience it -- that we can truly be Friends together.


melted-snowball said...

Oh, I don't think I'd find MfWwAttG or MfWwAtJ appealing. The whole thing that I find appealing about Quakerism is that I really don't care what kind of Spirit the person next to me is trying to be open to, as long as they're being open. What if the Goddess visited during MfWwAtJ or Jesus visited during MfWwAttG? It'd be rude not to invite them in, no?

staśa said...

One of the things I love about Meeting for Worship is being able to be open in expectant waiting without us all having to be in expectant waiting on the exact same "brand-name" (to paraphrase from Cat Chapin-Bishop).

Well, I think that if Jesus showed up during Meeting for Worship with Attention to the Goddess, he'd be welcomed as Her Son. If the Goddess showed up during Meeting for Worship with Attention to Jesus - ?

But in some sense, wouldn't either of those scenarios be great? Wouldn't having that experience do interesting things to our assumptions?

Meeting for Worship with Attention to X is still, in essence, Meeting for Worship: it still involves being open to, in expectant waiting for, That Which we don't completely comprehend. Unexpected things happen in Meeting for Worship with Attention to Business all the time, for example.

I do wonder, though... if the Goddess showed up in Meeting for Worship with Attention to Jesus, would people recognize Her? I think it's far more likely that folks would recognize Jesus if he showed up in Meeting for Worship with Attention to the Goddess - both because the Goddess gives birth to a Sacrificed God in so many traditions, and because of Quakerism's Christian roots, and because of Christianity's dominant place culturally.

Then again, depending on which Jesus showed up...

Jill said...

I might be too tired to be too complex right now, but reading these comments has me thinking...

Being a Christian, I do tend to have my attention on Christ during worship and prayer, but I discovered some time ago, when a female manifestation of God walked into my spiritual picture, She does tend to get just as much of my attention. Actually, on many days, I can relate to that side of the divine more readily...that's probably why the Christopagan label resonates with me! I relate to Christ, and I relate to the goddess part of the divine as well...does this make me a heretical Christian *and* a heretical pagan? :) But I can rectify one outlook with the other rather easily...I wish I could explain how I do that! It goes beyond words.

staśa said...

Jill, I couldn't say if that makes you a heretical Christian, but if it does, I know other heretical Christians whose lovely company you will be in and enjoy.

I can, however, say it doesn't make you a heretical Pagan. One, b/c I know a number of Pagans whose experience of the gods, to use Pagan language, includes Jesus. This does not mean all other Pagans are comfortable with that, but that's just part of life in the Pagan community -- we're not all always comfortable with how others experience the Divine. Two, b/c "Paganism" is an umbrella term, and therefore can't be dogmatic. Three, b/c as far as I know, you're not a member of a specific Pagan tradition in which that would be heretical.

On the other hand, one of the Merriam-Webster definitions of "heretic" is "a dissenter from established religious dogma." So if you like the label, you could be considered entitled to keep it! :)

Jill said...

I think I like keeping that label, a heretic! Certainly that's true when it comes to my Catholic upbringing, and even when it comes to a lot of my view of Christianity in general...yes, I'm rather heretical. :) I got told by the fundamentalists in college that I wasn't a Christian, since I believe people can approach the divine in different ways than Christ. After quickly throwing that closed mindedness to the wind...I believed and still believe that no religion has the lock on truth. I find truth in Christianity, it means a lot to me, but it's downright silly to think everyone is going to follow that particular faith. It just puzzles me, the people who insist on converting everyone - I want to say "how do you know *we* have the whole answer?" :/

So I think I am indeed a heretical Christian, Stasa...and if you know other such people, can you introduce me? :)

Jill said...

Stasa, I was thinking while driving around today - I passed that Meetinghouse on the way back from my gym - is it fair to say that the way a Quaker meeting is set up is actually a form of magic in its own way?

That's likely not a traditional viewpoint, considering my own religious upbringing, but I've had enough contact with Wicca or similar approaches to think that magic can be applied just about anywhere, in any faith. If you have a bunch of people sitting together seeking to communally draw down a connection with the divine, with the intention to both make that connection and make good things happen as a result, couldn't I call that magic?

I doubt most Quakers would go that direction, but it just occurred to me. This particular meeting has a Christian focus, I think - their new members pamphlet mentions Jesus, and one member did a reading from Paul, but it's not like it was harped on excessively, either. Me, I'm fine with that focus, Christianity is my baseline, and I like when people practice it for real, without overpreaching! But this Meeting doesn't require a person to subscribe to a specific "brand" of faith, of course. I know Quakers aren't like that (that's part of the many reasons I love them). :)

But am I way off in thinking that a Quaker meeting can actually be a magical event? Certainly it affected me - I was flying all of yesterday, and I carried that attitude into today. If my reaction is now "More, please! When can I go back?", I know I've found something good!

staśa said...

Jill, most of the "heretical" Christians I know are Friends; some are Pagans; some are involved with Christian Peacemaker Teams; some are programmed Friends. (Peterson is one). But I'll keep it in mind and see whom I can introduce you to.

I wrote pretty extensively about Quaker Meeting and magic in my "Four Doors" post, so you can see a fair amount of my analysis there. Oh, and in the post with my Ritual Theory paper.

But my basic answer to your question is this:

First off, what is magic? I tend to use the working definition, borrowed mostly from Starhawk and Dion Fortune and widely used in modern Paganism, of magic as a change in consciousness in accordance with will; creating change in accordance with will; and/or a change in consciousness.

Secondly, what is your own experience of Meeting for Worship? (BTW, feel free to email me if you'd like to talk more about that privately.)

Magic is not, by the definitions above, restricted to any one religion or set of religions, or even to religion or spirituality.

Most Quaker Meetings you go to in the unprogrammed tradition will acknowledge their Christian roots. Quakerism was born from Christianity; there's no doubt about that. I happen to think it's larger than, and more powerful than, Christianity alone, but that's another blog post. The extent to which a particular Monthly Meeting is Christocentric varies; there are some where it is expected that members will be Christian, for example.

If your reaction is, More please!, then I would agree you have found something that speaks to you, and that is a Good Thing. :) Blessed be!

Jill said...

Stasa, thank you. You've got mail! :)

RantWoman said...

I love the idea of the Goddess showing up during Meeting for Worship with Attention to Jesus.

I am leaving a comment just to acknowledge passing through here but I would add fond thoughts of explicit Meeting for Worship such as Meeting for Mirth and Meeting for Worship with attention to Chocolate, a custom at our Annual session.

Morgan said...

I miss our Yearly Meeting Annual Sessions. And Meeting for Ice Cream when we're at the one campus.

One F/friend of mine regularly hosts -- and facilitates workshops for -- Meeting for Worship for Healing and Laughter. :)

Lovely to "see" you here!