Monday, September 26, 2005

What's Quakerism?

What a question! I find that over the years, as I've been asked so many times by so many people, my explanation has evolved and expanded. However, though, it's become a somewhat of a "textbook" explanation; it's so difficult to capture the spirit of Quakerism and form it into words.

In the last year or so, in an attempt to be thorough, I've tried to talk about basic testimonies or ideas or concepts that are present throughout Quakerism, such as direct "communication" or experiences of God (or the Spirit or whatever you call it), while explaining the diversity of Friends - liberal, unprogrammed through evangelical. This is quite a task; I've found myself calling it my "Quaker spiel". Sometimes it's difficult to know where to start.

I bring this up now because I just had a 30 minute conversation with an exchange student from Austria where I tried to describe Quakerism. I found this to be more of a challenge than usual; usually, people asking have at least heard of Quakerism or learned a little bit about it in their high school history courses, but this student from Austria had never heard of Quakers or Quakerism.

I tried to explain that it was founded in Christianity, I tried to explain a little bit about the testimonies, but first had to explain what the word "testimony" meant, which was a task in itself! (I believe I said they were like concepts or things to be followed - sort of; I feel that my description of them was inadequate, but the best I could do to continue.) I described a typical unprogrammed Meeting for Worship and a little bit about leadings. I was asked about Quaker weddings and membership, I was asked about whether there were rules (such as abstinence). I tried to touch on the diversity of Quakerism - that some attended Quaker churches or Friends churches.

I was asked about where the word "Quaker" came from - and spoke about George Fox and about early Friends being persecuted for being faithful Quakers, I spoke about trembling or shaking when feeling led and about how a Friend was called a "Quaker" in court once and somehow that became incorporated into the name or rather, an alternative name. I spoke about why Quaker Oats took the Quaker name, even though they have absolutely nothing to do with Quakerism.

It was very difficult to describe Quakerism in such a manner; somehow I felt that I couldn't just give my usual spiel because that spiel was given with the assumption that someone had at least heard of Quakerism and had at least a basic idea of what Quakerism is. Also, I was challenged to define words along the way that I wouldn't normally have to define (such as testimony).

I don't feel like I manage to necessarly capture the depth and spirit of Quakerism, but I'm not sure how to go about doing that without being confusing or assuming.

How do other Friends describe Quakerism? How might you respond to the question "What is Quakerism?"

I find that giving a complete answer is quite the challenge.

Love and Light

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Walking with God

I planned to go to meeting this morning. I missed it last week - it had been the first time in at least a year that I had chosen to sleep in over going to meeting. I've been feeling the effects of needing meeting all week.

Instead, I woke up at 9:50 - it was unlikely that I would be able to get there on time by 10 (which would require me to get up, get dressed, say hello to people in the common room, and walk for 15-20 minutes). According to one of my roommates (I have two), my alarm did, indeed, go off at 8:30, but I just didn't seem to notice in my slumbers. This would be because I went to bed at 4:30 the previous night - I wasn't surprised that I didn't wake up to my alarm.

My point here is that I did not make it to meeting this morning. Instead, I decided to walk around the lake, Lake Waban, which lies on the edge of campus right behind my dorm. I needed time for some quite, worshipful contemplation and an attempt at grounding. As I walked I let my thoughts drift a little to process recent events while taking in the beauty of the path and the lake.

When I got about half way around the lake and my thoughts drifted to a particular distressing situation I'm in regarding family, I immediately got a distinct feeling of the Spirit or God walking with me and within me. I continued thinking about that, and listening to that feeling of walking with God as I continued around the lake. I felt comforted, I was by myself, but not alone.

As I went around the lake I walked slowly, pausing occasionally to enjoy the scene. I thought of sitting with God, eating dinner with God, doing my homework with God, and doing essentially everything "with God". This God that I speak of felt (and feels) more like a comforting entity, there always, through everything. Not comparable to human emotions or thoughts, but "aware" of them and tender, supporting, like something firm, steady, and trustworthy on which to lean when I feel weak or unsure.

My thoughts continued to wander in and out of focus as I continued walking, and I haven't been overly contemplative of my experience, but it was significant to me, and I shall keep it with me as I continue from here. Even as I've felt miserable during a lot of my afternoon, I have also felt comforted. Even as I've been harsh with myself, I've found a few gentle reminders to be tender with myself. Emotionally, I've had a rough day.

As I sit here, typing this [with God] in utter exhaustion, I feel ok. Do, please, excuse run-on sentences, redundancies, and minor grammar errors; I'm a bit (thoroughly) tired (exhuasted) and will be heading to bed soon.

Love and Light,

Monday, September 12, 2005

Note: Need for Groundedness

I'm alive and I still love it here.

I'm feeling so incredibly uncentered and ungrounded. I feel cluttered, but I can't figure out why - I have so much space in my schedule right now. I just went out to sit by the lake in a spot near my dorm that seems rather private; I thought maybe I could just sit and gather my thoughts and really relax for a little while. Once I sat down I was acutely aware of a couple giant clouds of mosquitoes hovering in the air around and above me. I knew this would happen, and when I left to go to that spot I had decided to ignore them and deal with it. Mosquitoes weren't going to stop me from taking my break. But then I also heard voices nearby - someone must have been a little ways away either in a boat or further down the coast of the lake. I didn't particularly want people to know I was there - I thought this was a private space. Anywho, the point here is that I couldn't relax. When I lay back I felt tense-ness; a tense-ness from far more than just mosquitoes and the possibility of people near by. I think it goes back to feeling cluttered.

I know the Spirit is with me, I just need to figure out how to get back in touch. I feel the effects of my need for groundedness.

Time will help. I just needed to get this out there.

Love and Light,

Monday, September 05, 2005

Notes for a bit

Orientation has been so busy that I haven't really had the focus or energy to post much, so until things settle down, I'll be posting notes here and there, like this one.

The last four days have been successively more beautiful; I simply can't believe it. Walking around the Wellesley campus in utter awe for the nature and architecture surrounding me is incredibly uplifting - throw in the most gorgeous cool, breezy, sunny weather, and I could lie in the grass all day!

Classes don't begin until tomorrow, but already my spirit feels nourished by the environment. Right now I'm inside in the library, but this room holds at least three large paintings of accomplished women on every wall; I'm not even doing work right now, but I feel empowered by these images.

When I first began feeling serious about applying here, I didn't quite understand why. I knew I felt a snag here; Wellesley caught my attention more than any other place I was looking, but I just couldn't put my finger on why. So far, though, I can't imagine being anywhere else right now. I know there will be difficult times, the weather will be bad, too, but for now, I'm treasuring how I feel. If I can just hold on to this wonder and feeling of nourishment, my experience here will continue to be beyond words.

Even without a lot of focus or grounding, I feel the Spirit running deeply within me.

Love and Light,

Friday, September 02, 2005

A Note from the Other Side

I made it, and so far I LOVE it here.

The first three days were a little shakey in some respects; I felt very much like an intimidated-little-first-year being herded around like a sheep. It's a bit unnerving for me to feel so completely uprooted from who and what I knew myself to be. Suddenly I wasn't acting quite like myself - or the self that I'm so used to, at least - challenging questions came to mind. Is this the real me? If so, am I okay with that? What does it mean?

I've calmed down since then, though. Yesterday we had a "get to know your community" event within our residence halls, and a lot of it involved sharing parts of our own stories. It helped me remember who I am and where I've come from. (Oh yeah, we're individuals, not a homogenous group of first-years..)

[I'm sitting in the common room of my residence hall and just paused in writing this for at least and hour because someone walked in (who I didn't know) and started talking to me, and we had a lengthy conversation because we're both super-excited about organic chemistry (people like me who are super excited about orgo are often hard to find), and she also took it as a first-year (as I will be doing :) ). Then had a conversation with my first-year mentor and another first-year about Quakerism and Quakerism compared to the United Church of Christ (UCC)...]

There's another young Friend in my dorm a floor above me, and she went to World Gathering. I was so startled when I discovered this. We were walking in a group to some orientation event and she turned to someone as part of some conversation and said "well, I'm a Quaker.." and I immediately in my startled moment turned and said "NO WAY! I'm Quaker!" She's from CA, part of Pacific Yearly Meeting. This coming Sunday, this young Friend, my first-year mentor (who's UCC), and I are going to check out Wellesley Friends Meeting, which is 0.8 of a mile from my dorm room. It's so good to not be a single token Quaker around.

The campus here at Wellesley is absolutely fantastically beautiful, and my dorm is right near the lake. It's even more wonderful than I originally envisioned, and the fact that I find nature so grounding is only making it that much more amazing.

It's been busy so I haven't been online very much, but I suspect this will all change around once things settle down. Classes begin on Tuesday.

I could continue talking about all of this here, but I'm running out of energy and adjectives/adverbs. I just thought I'd give an update about how things are going.

Love and Light,

Powered by Blogger