Earlier in the week, I learned an important lesson. The effect was an abrupt about-face that revealed my own flaws and also granted me an opportunity to gain greater wisdom. For over a year, I have been actively involved in almost every aspect of the Young Adult Friend group at my Monthly Meeting. Being so closely invested in the process has provided me a sense of satisfaction and greater purpose. At long last, I have found a way to put my leadership skills to good use and, for the most part, my mental health has cooperated. And I’ve also gotten a chance to see the direct result of my hard work, which is one of the most gratifying feelings I have ever experienced in my life. Many toil for years in similar circumstances with nothing physically tangible to show for it. The ultimate credit, of course, is not mine to take but I couldn’t help but feel pride in the creation.
Jun 15 2011
May 03 2011
Recently, I’ve started to examine gender dynamics inside my Meeting. As I began I started from the premise that every religious gathering reflects the particulars of the larger world outside it. I’ve contemplated many of these, but I haven’t examined one specific facet of this in much detail until recently. In participation, active membership, and consistent attendance, women significantly outnumber men. In the Young Adult Friend group which I help organize, the most consistently involved members are female. Men often seem reluctant to take the plunge, nervously circling and re-circling the outskirts, hanging back, anxiously sailing around the perifery. Male participation is often minimal and short-lived. There is no in-between here. The few who do come to stay often become fixtures of the group, but they are always in the minority.
Apr 08 2011
Last night, in memory of a Friend who died suddenly, shockingly earlier in the week, we held a Memorial Service in his memory among those who knew him best. (Quakers do not use the word “funeral”) One Friend in attendance noted that, in addition to the worship, there is a certain group therapy aspect present. I agree. Yet, I think this is quite understandable and necessary. It’s a part of the grieving process. Each of us manages coming to terms with tragedy in different ways, but there is also something very human present that augments the purely religious aspect of the event.
Apr 05 2011
A recent article in The New York Times about Quaker schools has ginned up no small controversy within the Religious Society of Friends. The association between individual Quaker meetings and churches and affiliated schools has long been contentious. And it has been contentious in meetings and churches across the country. This issue is especially commonplace on the East Coast, which is historically where most Quakers settled and lived. The Times article correctly notes that these schools have often become bastions of higher income, not of Quaker teaching. Quaker principles often include self-sufficiency, making do, and keeping matters simple.
Mar 05 2011
I no longer call you slaves, because a master doesn’t confide in his slaves. Now you are my friends, since I have told you everything the Father told me. John 15:15, NLT.
For white liberals of a certain generation, the Civil Rights Movement will always be front and center. A struggle for racial equality made significant progress regarding relations between whites and blacks. Though a success, though by no means was it a landslide victory. Nonetheless, many apply a coat or two of heavy gloss, choosing to remember the successes alone, while overlooking the multitude of eyesores that still tarnish our cultural landscape. Every gathering and, indeed, every person must continually resist and overcome. A famous passage, also in the Gospel of John, proclaims that it is Truth that will set us free, not nostalgia.
Feb 24 2011
I’ve recently been reading the late UK novelist’s Muriel Spark’s book The Comforters. Her first effort at the genre, it describes in detail the life of Caroline Rose, a recent convert to Catholicism. Set in 1950’s Britain, Rose is first supremely skeptical of organized religion. The fellow believers with whom she interacts have an intellectual understanding of the faith, but to her they lack real sincerity. Beyond that, she believes that these people appear to fabricate God’s presence in their lives, rather than displaying the humility only a truly Divine relationship can produce. In particular, Caroline finds one frequent, unfortunate practice most distasteful of all.
Jan 31 2011
I have watched the violence and the revolt in Egypt with a heavy heart. On one hand, I am overjoyed to see a people long held in shackles struggling to attain freedom. I hope this sentiment will someday encircle the world, so that, as it is written, the wolf and the lamb will live together. As a pacifist, however, it causes me much distress to see police out in the street, blazes set alight, and the familiar signs of overheated passion. In observing everything from a distance of thousands of miles, I am forced to confront my own beliefs. It may be that physical force alone can bring needed reform and change. But, as others far wiser than I have noted, war and warlike impulses are easy, but peaceful solutions are difficult.
Dec 27 2010
The impetus for this post was a most unlikely subject. I’ve been recently deconstructing my own uneasy feelings towards disgraced NFL Quarterback Michael Vick. My partner, a native of Philadelphia, is a huge fan of the Eagles professional football team and is thrilled at the its recent success with Vick at the helm. When the dog fighting revelations surfaced, I admit that I wanted to see him banned from the league for life. Instead, Vick served nearly two years in jail, filed for bankruptcy, missed two full seasons, and was blackballed from his original team. His stunning return to form was highly unexpected. And as much I try to be a forgiving person, I simply cannot extend it to a player who is nonetheless a strong candidate to be eventually awarded the National Football League’s Most Valuable Player for a most impressive season.
Dec 20 2010
At Meeting yesterday, the subject of raising children found its way into the messages of many. Prompted perhaps by the presence of happy children singing Christmas carols early into worship, vocal ministry focused on the dual blessing and challenges of parenthood. Many moving, emotionally rich stories were shared. Each of them had a common thread, but each also stood separately by themselves as their own unique offering. Much wisdom and humor was present as well, and I am a fan of both. As some contemplated the fragility of the infant Jesus, it seemed fitting that this would be the unofficial subject of the day. When it works well, the exercise in instantaneous revelation that is most Quaker worship is a rich, multi-layered experience, one that, in this instance, left several in tears.
Sep 23 2010
What follows is something that has been weighing on me heavily this morning. Discussing the act of vocal ministry, a Friend noted that, while in the act of sharing a message, we aren’t just God’s mouthpiece, we are God. This makes me uncomfortable to contemplate. I would never wish to even come close to hinting that my mortal self was anything near to the Divine. While I do seek that which is God in others, I am far more comfortable emphasizing my own mortal self. Due to lots of soul-searching I know where my place is in the cosmos, and I would never grasp for a mantle that is not mine to embrace. Moreover, I would not take it on if I could, because I do not possess the human strength to bear the burden.
Jul 12 2010
I am and have always been a vocal proponent of therapy, medication, and introspection. All three in tandem have proven to be invaluable to my own understanding of self, as well as an effective treatment plan. I am not the only person who has reaped great benefit from them, too. Recent developments, however, have given me a greater understanding of the limitations of each of these methods of attaining mental health. By this I mean that a friend recently pointed out once again my infamous difficulty in setting adequate boundaries for myself and alongside it, unintentionally exhausting people with my need to constantly reach out.
Jul 08 2010
On Tuesday afternoon, while returning from an errand, I stopped briefly at Union Station here in DC to get some lunch. Union Station has long been a busy depot by which rail and bus traffic arrives and departs, and it also serves as a rail and bus stop for area public transportation. With the passage of time, part of the inside of the terminal has been transformed into a shopping mall of sorts, which frequently satiates the boredom of tourists and passengers. Predictably, it also houses a Victoria’s Secret.