06 August 2011

Love won't settle for tolerance

Philip Gulley spoke at the Carey Memorial Lecture here at BYM's annual sessions last night, and instead of the usual lively and intelligent lecture followed by an energetic question and answer period, we had a most unusual time: we were moved to a deep period of worship, in which a powerful presence punctuated by beautiful singing could be felt in the room.

For some of us it felt like a sign. We have been contemplating the evolution and transformation of the intervisitation committee, as on one end of the spectrum we feel the pinch of budget cuts and lack of committee members, and on the others a surge of new interest from other yearly meetings wanting to learn our model and new volunteers stepping forward during our sessions.

Philip challenged us, right from the theme of our own sessions:
Can we welcome the Divine? Can we welcome every person? Can we see the Light of God in each person? Are we talking about Love as God calls us to, or are we talking about that wishy washy half-way, not really doing it word: tolerance? Says Gulley: "No where in the gospels does it say to tolerate someone. Love says I will seek the best for you! It does not say I will put up with you!"


We cannot be afraid to hear these words, for even though we fear them, they are the words of unity. If we believe in a loving God, and if we believe in ongoing revelation, we need to be open to the idea that God is transforming our world, even today. We need to be listening! But more than just listening we need to be prepared to act on God's love and to recognize the gifts that God has given to us and to others, and to help our friends to bring those gifts to fruition in the world.

Philip Gulley uses the story from Acts 8 about the disciple Philip baptizing the Ethiopian Eunuch to illustrate how the Holy Spirit may guide us to do things that we might think we "shouldn't" because the Law tells us not to. He urges us to look at the Spirit vs the Law much as the early Christians had to.

He also urges us to look at what God it is that we are worshipping: are we worshipping an anthropomorphic god that we have been carry through time that is based on the image of our forefathers in the Bible or our ancestors in our heritage? Or are we listening to the God who is still speaking, even today?

This is difficult and very frightening stuff to think about. It means we must search our own souls and the very depth of our beings. We must ask for clearness in our meetings, speak amongs ourselves, and say to each other: Are you sure? Are you sure that you are practicing the true Love of God and not just toleration? Are you absolutely sure that the love you practice is not just tolerance that hides underneath it a hatred or worse yet a hidden fear that you have been too frightened to look at because deep down inside you think surely God cannot help me with this?

We have got to learn to sit with each other in deep, deep worship and acknowledge our hurts and our fears and yes, our secrets. I have heard a few things this week that have really stuck with me:

Ask youself: Is this the work that God would have me do?
Ask it when you are tempted to take precious time to argue over pennies, or take to make a phone call that could be spent with your toddler, or argue in monthly meeting when you could be attending to an important issue, or to the budget.

Am I loving or tolerating my brother or sister?

Who is my brother or sister, if there is that of God in everyone?

Does my life reflect the work that God would have me do?

Am I doing all I can to help abolish the hurts and acknowledge the gifts of my brothers and sisters, to bring the love and light of the God of my understanding into this world?

04 December 2010


We have a long tradition in our meeting, of holding each month's query in the Light, discussing it among our family, perhaps at meals, or at family prayer or worship time, and then, as it was raised at Meeting for Worship for Business, Friends who felt moved might rise and give a message that had been powerfully called out by Spirit moving among them in their time of consideration of the query, that it might be entered in the permanent record of the Monthly Meeting. By recording their voices, we understood what our ancestors believed, and how we passed down to each generation the continuing revelation of our beliefs as they evolved.

For members of the Religious Society of Friends, belief is not a static thing, to preserved forever in a block of stone, immovable and unchangeable. We believe that in the same way that God spoke to Moses and to Jesus, he still lives in us and speaks to us.Revelation is ongoing and it is the business of our lives to be listening at every moment, in every decision of our lives.

It is the responsibility of every member and attender of the Monthly Meeting to be at the Meeting for Worship for Business. Business is conducted in the manner of worship to allow all present to listen corporately for the voice of God as it is present. The more of the body of the Meeting who are present, the more likely we are to hear the voice of God as it is meant to be heard by our particular Meeting, in how we are meant to act. As Clerk of our Meeting, I don't take this lightly! We cannot function without YOUR HELP!

Please help us be a whole community by participating in your small portion as a member of that body, thereby contributing to the whole of the discernment of the Meeting. We cannot do it without you.!

09 August 2010

Are You Ready?

At the end of the week at Annual Sessions, what I could honestly admit was that I had not been ready when I arrived.  I'd skipped the retreat for financial reasons, and so I entered the first day of business in the large auditorium of the performing arts center, a new venue for us, less than spiritually grounded.  Almost every other year since I've started attending the full week of Annual Sessions, I've made the retreat a part of my routine and I can now say that is a necessity for me.  It sets the pace and spiritually sets one into the setting God expects for a worshipful attitude. Without it, I felt I was not on course with the rest of the sailors.

The other thing I did differently was to get a single room.  My reasoning was that I wanted the privacy to write and blog more during the course of the week.  This was my intent, however, I should have planned ahead of time in this case to connect with others that I wanted to converse with.  Since I was not coming to sessions with a traveling companion as in years before, I found that in times I had alone, I missed the time taken to process with my companion, and I lacked a person to do so with.  My friends from Hopewell Centre who were in attendance at BYM were very involved with their own committee work, and I ended up with a lot of alone time on my hands and instead of writing, I ended up reading or sleeping.  One could make a case that I needed that time too, but being the extrovert I am, I realized that process time before writing time is a must for me. 

By the end of the week, I connected up with the folks in the Intervisitation Committee Lounge, and that is when I finally felt grounded.  As much as I'm trying to cultivate the introvert side of my personality, it was in the conversations with this group, listening as much as conversing, that I finally began to make sense of all the input from my week.  I needed the hearty back and forth with people to begin making sense of how all the pieces of the week fit together.  And yes, fitting the pieces together is an important thing to me.  Some are content to let the pieces be the pieces. but to me, there must always be a reason to the rhyme, and aha! there came to be so. I also realized that intervisitation ought to be on my list fo first things to do when I move on eventually from being Clerk of my monthly meeting, as there's so much to be gained from the interchange with others from outside our own area.

Are you ready?  Was the question asked by the narrator, writer and founder of the Theatre for Transformation, Dr. Amanda Kemp, as she took us on the slave journey based on the correspondence of black poet Phyllis Wheatley and slave Obour Tanner In Sister, Friend an incredible theatrical performance which young and old alike experienced on Wednesday afternoon.  We of BYM had taken up that call as our own by the end of the week, asking each other, "Are you ready,": as we embarked on each new piece of business, whether it be settling the books, doing business with young Friends, writing a minute to the US president, or having fun at the coffeehouse.

So much to say...about what we learned about our own limitations in confrontating our racism and classism, about the Young Friends and how they continue to teach us; about the growth between liberal and conservative Friends and how we are learning to love and respect each other, about my own experience with being eldered and learning to season my words before I speak, about balancing budgets and moral vs financial imperatives.  I could and will go on and on... but not here and now.   The theme of Baltimore Yearly Meeting's Annual Sessions was the Lessons Learned from History.  On the surface,  it looked like we were talking about racism, but the lessons went so much deeper than that.  Oh my!  I have so much to tell you!

So as I bring that all out, "Obedient to the Light" will be an active blog again, and I will welcome your feedback and conversation too!  A blog is not a blog without dialogue.  It was certainly a pleasure to see so many of you at annual sessions and it will be a pleasure to keep up the conversation here and on your blogs and on facebook as well. (And incidentally, on the blogs which our friend Jim Rose has set up for each and every BYM meeting at the bym website!)

Blessings to you all.