Sunday, November 13, 2005

Authentic Faithfulness

A couple months ago I asked Friends how they describe Quakerism to non-Friends who ask about it ("What's Quakerism?"). I described how my description of Quakerism began to feel like a "textbook" explanation - here are the apparent main current branches, here's some history, here's a typical meeting for worship and what it's founded on.. ect. I'm finding that the way I describe Quakerism is a bit of an indication to myself about where I am in my spirituality.

Today as I was waiting for the bus back to Wellesley from Cambridge after Meeting for Worship, I was chatting with a friend on her way back from a Catholic service - she asked me about Quakerism. After describing an unprogrammed Meeting for Worship and a little bit about the branches, I was asked basically, "What is the essence of Quakerism?" Instead of going into an extended explanation about how everyone practices differently depending on the branch, or how it depends on who you are, I gave the brief disclaimer that, well, though everyone would describe it differently, in my experience the essence of Quakerism is about being attentive and faithful to where one is lead or called in life.

As I contemplated this on the bus, I realized very clearly that I am in a place where my life is about this essence of Quakerism that I described; my life right now is about being attentive and faithful to where I am called. My life is about being attentive and faithful not just for an hour on Sunday mornings, not just at gatherings, meetings for business, or committee meetings, but as much of every minute of every day that I can possibly be. I did not reach this point because it seems unreasonable to be grounded just for an hour once a week, but because I feel it at my core, because I am reaching a place were I'm open to the slightest nudgings about small actions here or there in my life; should I go upstairs and speak with a friend about something important right now or should I wait? Do I need to step outside and listen right now or am I ok? Do I need to make a phone call to a Friend today? Do I want to apply to be an RA? A chemistry tutor? Do I need to post on this blog about this concern or that experience? These are all things that it seems most people - and I used to - decide by using reason or some other surface indication. I find I am now more sensitive to small nudgings one way or another, or sometimes even stronger feelings, about these seemingly "unspiritual" decisions. As I've mentioned before, though, I don't believe in the divide between secular and spiritual.

My life is about being attentive and faithful to where I am called. My life is happening all the time.

I left Meeting for Worship this morning feeling distraught. I felt a deep sense of concern about the attentiveness of other Friends to this inward leading, to the still, small voice we all talk about so much. Are people Friends because they are called to be, or because they like the idea of it and it seems to make sense? Who am I to judge? This is a question I've had to ask myself, as well. Even so, I couldn't help but feeling upset and unclear about this question for many in the Religious Society of Friends.

Do we strive for authenticity in our faithfulness as individual Friends and as a community? Do we do things as individuals and as whole communities of Friends because we are led to from a deeper, inward place, or are we doing things because they are the "Quakerly" thing to do? How do we hold each other accountable without coming from a place of judgement, but from a place of sincere concern and discernment - a place of faithfulness?

Love and Light,


Blogger Liz Opp said...

Claire, once again you raise a question I have been living with, and continue to live with, for the past 3 years or so:

How do we hold each other accountable without coming from a place of judgement, but from a place of sincere concern and discernment - a place of faithfulness?

I still feel sad and hurt, that my experience has been that when I have spoken out of a sense of faithfulness and concern and a desire for accountability, as gently and as plainly as I could, some Friends (but not all) have perceived my speaking as judgment and a desire to "fix" the meeting.

Those Friends who seem to have a "spiritual intimacy" with me seem to listen with a different ear or at least ask me more questions so they better understand my concern.

My wish is that more of us, myself included, could remember more often that each of us is doing the best we can to come from a loving place.

And God still calls me to be faithful: It matters not what other people think. What matters is to be faithful to your God.

That was the message I received one day in worship, about 2 years ago.

Thank thee for thy attentiveness, thy questions, and thy faithfulness.

Liz, The Good Raised Up

14/11/05 7:30 PM  
Blogger david said...

I'm afraid I'm suspicious about essentialist language. Most truly important social practices don't have a core -- they've just been around so long that the diversity of its many tendrils is more characteristic than any proposed centre -- and that -- whether Catholics want to face it or not -- is true of the Roman Catholic faith as well.

So there is not essence of Quakerism - rather there are multiple interwoven threads.

14/11/05 9:14 PM  
Blogger Claire said...

Kwakersaur - You say So there is not essence of Quakerism - rather there are multiple interwoven threads.

Not in defense of what I have said, nor in any sort of judgement or challenge, may I ask how you describe Quakerism?

Love and Light,

14/11/05 10:31 PM  
Blogger Danny said...

Hi Claire :-)

Many of your posts in the past month or so have struck me deeply. Thank you for sharing your experiences: you've given me wonderful reminders in times when I needed them.



14/11/05 10:59 PM  
Blogger david said...

A religion is first of all a set of practices. The beliefs are there to support the practices.

The Quaker practices which are most distinctive are those around our common life. Shared waiting worship. The strong volunteer leadership. Decision making strategies. The texture of our relationships with one another. Use of "thee" as a term of affection. Bringing vegetarian casseroles to potlucks even when no vegetarians are present. Birkenstocks.

15/11/05 1:06 PM  
Blogger Amanda said...

Ahh, Claire, thanks for this good post. I just spewed a giant post on the same subject. I find your conclusions and queries opening.

15/11/05 8:49 PM  

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