Sunday, March 28, 2010

"The narrow place"

I've been having a rough time for about the last six months. There's been lots of personal, familial, spiritual, and physical stuff going on, with lots of grief and loss.

About a week and a half ago, I was finally able to move into a space of being present with some of my grief and mourning. Not all of it, and not all at once -- too overwhelming! -- but a space where I could begin to be present with bits and pieces of it at a time.

Today, worship was good. But I had a hard time settling in. I was slightly chilly but reasonably comfortable physically, and I had a very comfortable seat. But quieting my mind, the spiritual settling in, centering... those were not coming easily. Paying attention to my breathing sometimes helps; it helped some today, but didn't bring me to that centered sense. It's been quite a while since I did a formal grounding-and-centering meditation in Meeting; I thought that might help, so I tried; but I got nowhere. As often happens, I had music running through my mind; and music often helps center my worship... nope. And there was nothing bringing me much mental or spritual comfort, either, nothing helping to put me back in that mind-set where there's rough stuff going on but it's okay and Meeting gives me space separate from my worry so I can come back to it refreshed... not today.

Finally, I reached a place where I decided I would just be there in my distraction. There's an exercise in meditation, and sometimes worship, where if you get distracted, you notice your distraction, then put it aside. Nope. Since I couldn't do that, I just decided my distraction would be front and center.

And this actually brought me some peace.

One of the things I've been fretting about is my ministry. What came to me in Meeting today was, "My ministry right now is to be in the hard place -- the narrow place: be faithful to that."


Why did the words "the narrow place" come to me?

When I first sat down in worship today, the song in my head was "Lo Yisa Goy":

Lo yisa goy el goy cherev
Lo ilmadu od milchama

Both versions I know were running through my head in the medley we sang one year in SpiralSong: the version I learned from Libana, and the perhaps better-known version by Jaffa and Minkhoff (which appears in the Friends' hymnal, Worship in Song, #300).

And everyone 'neath their vine and fig tree
Shall live in peace and unafraid
And into plowshares beat their swords
Nations shall learn war no more

The words in the Hebrew and English versions are from the the books of Micah and Isaiah in the Hebrew scriptures. I have often sung this song at Passover. This year, Passover starts tomorrow (Monday) at sunset, and I am in the midst of preparing for a Seder tomorrow night in blessed community.

At Passover, we are instructed to tell the story of the Exodus as if it had happened to us. Some of the language that describes our experience of slavery in Mitrayim is "the narrow place." In Passover Seders based on the haggadah by Elliott batTzedek which I usually use, we talk about our experiences of Mitrayim: our experience, as women and as lesbians, of the "narrow places" and of the different kinds of slavery forced on us by sexism, heterosexism, ableism, classism, racism, and other related oppressions (because they are all related).

Exodus is a story of deliverance into freedom from slavery and from oppression, and about how hard it can be to throw off the mind-set of oppression -- our mental chains -- as well.

The Hebrews' G-d led them to the narrow place and back out of it. While they (we) were there, perhaps that was their (our) witness to the world.

It has been hard for me to embrace "the narrow places" in my life. I know I have leftover messages from childhood lurking in my head that still insist silence is much safer when I'm going through a hard time. Even more so when it's a hard time that involves conflict with other people, or the loss of relationships other people don't fully understand. Shhhhh, those old messages say.

There have been other times in worship when I've had messages similar to the one that came to me in Meeting today. If it was true today, then it's important -- for me, for my ministry, for my sense of community, and for my relationship with the Goddess, and for reasons I don't know and may never know -- for me to be open and honest about being not just in a hard place, but being in a narrow place, now.

Maybe this time I can embrace being in a narrow place -- be fully present with it, and not try to hide from other people that this is where I am.

I don't expect it will be very comfortable.

Queries for the Full Moon

In 2008, I began developing queries for worship-sharing at the Full Moon. You are welcome to use these or discern your own.

Queries for Full Moon worship-sharing:

  • What am I thankful for in the month since the last Full Moon? Or, since we met last? What do I wish to bring to fruition by the next Full Moon?
  • The phases of the moon -- waxing, full, waning, and dark -- can be seen as the phases of a woman's life, and as the three faces of the Goddess: Maiden, Mother, and Crone, and the space between between death and life. How have I experienced the Goddess as Mother? How have I experienced another Deity, or another face of the Divine, as Mother?

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The Third National Quaker Conference on Torture & Accountability

From F/friends at the Quaker Initiative to End Torture.

Dear Friend,
Will you please post the enclosed flyer, and share the information below with Friends, through your Meeting newsletter or online community email list? Thank thee!
The QUIT Conference Planning Committee

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Mark Your Calendars Now:
The Third National Quaker Conference on Torture & Accountability:
September 24-26, 2010
Quaker Center, Ben Lomond CA:

Two internationally known anti-torture activists will headline the third Quaker Conference on Torture. Human rights attorney and investigator Scott Horton will be the keynote speaker. Father Roy Bourgeois, founder of SOA Watch, will also bring his unique perspective on the work.

Scott Horton has been one of the most tenacious investigators and reporters on issues of torture and accountability. Earlier this year, he broke the stunning story about three Guantanamo prisoners, whose deaths there were previously reported as suicides. Horton's investigations showed they more likely died during torture by US secret units. They were killed at a previously unknown “black site” outside the Guantanamo complex. Scott continues his reporting at a hard-hitting blog, “No Comment” here:

Roy Bourgeois, a decorated Vietnam veteran and former missionary to Bolivia, founded SOA Watch in 1990, and has been active in the effort to abolish the “School of Assassins” ever since. He has also been active in the struggle for women's ordination in the Catholic church.

Friend John Calvi, coordinator of QUIT, The Quaker Initiative to End Torture, has been working on the concern for torture and accountability for several years.

Accountability today is the way to prevent torture in the future. The road to accountability will be long and difficult. This 2010 Quaker conference (which is open to other interested persons as well) will be one strong step down that long path. Watch for more details soon about the program. Fees will be kept as modest as possible, and registration will be limited. More information at the QUIT website:


Patience & Determination: Tools for Ending Torture & Seeking Accountability. 54 pages. $3.00 plus $2 shipping.
This new study booklet from Quaker House and QUIT is for those working to end torture and hold torturers accountable, or seeking encouragement in the effort.

It was produced because, despite an initial flurry of reform, the new administration in Washington has left in place many of the interrogation policies and programs of its predecessors. It has also turned aside efforts to hold accountable those who planned and carried out illegal torture policies and programs.

In short, opposition to a real examination and uprooting of the "Torture Industrial Complex" in the United States is strong and deeply entrenched. There is still much work to do.

This emerging reality has deeply dismayed those who hoped that 2009 would bring a clear break with the history of US torture, and accountability for those responsible as a way of preventing its return. But it has also underlined the need for pressing forward with accountability work.

Such work is difficult and stressful, and requires, in the words of pioneering Swiss torture investigator Dick Marty, "patience and determination"; hence the title.

While torture is a worldwide problem, this booklet is addressed mainly to readers in the United States, where torture became a particularly salient issue in the years since 2002. Patience & Determination includes nine concise selections. All are suitable for private reflection or reading aloud in small group discussion. The booklet is a Quaker initiative, but should be "user-friendly" for other groups.

Keeping up with the developments on torture and accountability in 2009 and now 2010 has been like a roller-coaster ride: full of rapid ups and downs and unexpected twists and turns, with more to come.

Order copies from: Quaker House, 223 Hillside Avenue, Fayetteville NC 28301.
Quantity pricing: 5 copies or more to one address, $2.50 each, plus $1 per copy shipping.

Friday, March 12, 2010

The death of Christian Peacemaker Team’s founding director Gene Stoltzfus

FORT FRANCES, ONTARIO: Gene Stoltzfus 1940-2010 – PRESENTE! | Christian Peacemaker Teams

Wednesday, 10 March, Christian Peacemaker Team’s founding director Gene Stoltzfus died of a heart attack in Fort Frances, Ontario while bicycling near his home on the first spring-like day of the year. He is survived by his wife Dorothy Friesen and many peacemakers who stand on the broad shoulders of his 70 years of creative action.

Gene was at the heart of those who planted and nurtured the vision for teams of peacemakers partnering with local communities in conflict zones to build justice and lasting peace which has grown into CPT. Gene played a key roles in CPT's founding gathering of Christian activists, theologians and other Church leaders at Techny Towers outside Chicago, IL in 1986....

Read article...

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Conversation on qualified/not-qualified clergy

I have a blog where I post links I find funny, interesting, or thought-provoking. Today, I posted a link over there to Hystery's blog post on unqualified hireling clergy. And there's been a great comment conversation.

Click here if you want to check it out.

p.s. The comment conversation over at Plainly Pagan is pretty good, too!