Categories
Meeting Community This Month's Blog Post

Seekers and Seeking

Quaker Meetings often attract seekers, those who yearn for the mystery and comfort of a spiritual life but who haven’t yet found their spiritual home. There is something about the open silence of unprogammed Silent Worship – the heart of Quakerism – that seekers find welcoming, even liberating. There is no sermon, no lectionary, no spiritual music, so each person can experience the silence in whatever way helps her or him feel and understand the mystery of God.

Many of the Reno Friends are seekers, and a good number of us come from other spiritual traditions – Baptist, Congregational, Catholic, Jewish. One attender is a devoted seeker who has spent years studying Buddhism. Many of us grew up in other Protestant churches. We also have an attender married to a Muslim and who has raised her children as Muslims, an experience that has deeply influenced her understanding and appreciation of God. There are a few Universalists, and even some atheists (or at least agnostics) in the group. Those of us with other religious backgrounds and wisdom often share these experiences in worship or discussion classes, to the enrichment of all.

It was this tolerance of seekers that first attracted me to Quaker Meeting. I loved how the Quakers had Queries, or questions, instead of dogma or declarations. I loved how often the messages shared in the Silence were wrapped around the mysteries of life and faith. I have always felt free at Meeting to share my own doubts and spiritual insecurities. When others in the Meeting respond, it is with compassion, interest and stories from their own meandering spiritual searches.

To feed our spiritual journeys, we meet monthly for spiritual discussions on various topics, and we have recently started a book club to talk about books with spiritual and Quakerly stories. And, as always, messages shared out of the Silence continue to feed and inspire us.

One of the most profound stories I ever heard was told out of the Silence at a Quaker Meeting in Washington, D.C. A man in his fifties rose and haltingly told the tale of his father’s tortured spiritual quest. How his father started out as Jewish, converted to Catholicism, later boomeranged to atheism, and then retreated into a mix of Buddhism and New Age Spirituality. Near the end of his life, he had joined his son – the speaker – for Quaker Meeting. At the end of this tale, the son took a deep breath and said: “My father died this past week. I hope now he has his answer.”      

Many have found their spiritual answers, but for those who have not, the patient “waiting on God” of Silent Worship can provide some of the solace we seek.

Wendy Swallow, Blog Editor, Reno Friends Meeting

The opinions expressed above are not necessarily those of Reno Friends Meeting.

Categories
Quaker Practice

Contentment

Be content with what you have; rejoice in the way things are. When you realize there is nothing lacking, the whole world belongs to you. ~ Lao Tzu

Lately I’ve been reflecting on contentment, curious about why I have been feeling increasingly content. January is usually when we resolve to change for the better, not a time to be content. I think what has changed for me this year is that I’m slowly dropping a lifelong habit of perfectionism; perfectionism and contentment do not make good bedfellows. In my practices of Qigong, Tai Chi, yoga and meditation, I’ve been focusing on being present and in complete acceptance with what is happening in the moment, what I can and cannot do. Perhaps after many years of practice, something is sinking in more deeply. Maybe it is part of aging and accepting of reality. Probably, it’s a combination of practices and life experience. There are blessings in getting older!

Categories
Quaker Testimonies

Why do Quakers have Testimonies?

For the past several months, Reno Friends have been holding a Quakerism 101 class, to learn more about Quaker faith and practice. Some of the first questions to surface were about the Quakers testimonies:  What are the testimonies, who wrote them, and why do they matter?

Categories
Meeting Community

Ghosts at the Thanksgiving Table

Throughout the United States, there will be people missing from Thanksgiving tables this year. The pandemic has taken an astonishing toll, and there is scarcely a family that hasn’t lost someone. Along with those who died of Covid, there have been increased deaths from many other causes during the pandemic years, thanks to loneliness and stress. When we gather in a few weeks to offer thanks for the bounty of life, there will be empty seats in many homes.

Categories
Quaker Practice

Shedding the Cloak of Over-Responsibility

Every morning I awake torn between a desire to save the world and an inclination to savor it. This makes it hard to plan the day. But if we forget to savor the world, what possible reason do we have for saving it? In a way, the savoring must come first.”

~  E. B. White

I can’t recall when my mission to save the world and others began or how I became overly responsible. It’s been such a part of me for so long I didn’t realize what a toll it was taking until I got older. This cloak of over-responsibility is heavy. It slows my steps, saps my life energy and joy. It keeps me so busy; I don’t have time to slow down, rest and savor life.

Categories
Quaker Practice

The Spirituality of Creativity

Last month, Reno Friends gathered for a lively discussion on the spiritual aspects of creativity. Some in our group are artists, some musicians or writers or poets. Others said they tapped their creativity in less obvious ways, such as organizing their home or working on financial spreadsheets. But whether we paint or build or write or puzzle over math problems, all of us shared interesting ways that spirituality in general – and our Quaker faith in particular – enhanced our creative process.

Categories
Quaker Testimonies

Angry Quaker: Why the Equality Testimony Matters

These are, without a doubt, difficult times in America. It is painful to witness the erosion of civil rights, the stark divisions between people and parties, the growing threats to the disadvantaged, not to mention the threats to our democracy. Instead of a War Against Poverty, we now seem to have a war against the poor. What happened to the progress we were making in expanding civil rights and becoming more tolerant? It saddens me, and it angers me.

Categories
Quaker Practice

Detached Compassion

What does Detached Compassion mean? Doesn’t being compassionate involve passionate caring about others? I began exploring this concept while I was in the throes of burnout. After years as a counselor, I wasn’t sure I could go on caring so much for others and neglecting myself. I was suffering from compassion fatigue, which is a common problem in helping professions.

Categories
Quaker Testimonies

Quakers Discuss Ukraine and the Peace Testimony

The war in Ukraine is troubling for all, but for Quakers it presents a particular dilemma:  how do we respond to a war against a sovereign nation in light of our Peace Testimony?

The Peace Testimony of the Religious Society of Friends is one of the important pillars that defines Quakerism. The Quakers, along with the Mennonites and Amish, are “Peace Churches,” religious organizations that believe peace and non-violence are the best (possibly only) way to resolve conflict. Many Quakers, historically, have resisted all forms of war and non-violence, including refusing to participate in military service and, in some cases, refusing to pay the taxes that support the military. In some cases, Quakers have been jailed for these positions; in others, Quakers have won the right to be conscientious objectors to military service and be assigned community service as an alternative.

Categories
Quaker Testimonies

The Quaker Peace Testimony

(from the Pacific Yearly Meeting’s Faith & Practice)

We utterly deny all outward wars, and strife, and fightings with outward weapons, for any end, or under any pretence whatsoever, and this is our testimony to the whole  world.… The spirit of Christ which leads us into all Truth will never move us to fight and war against any man with  outward weapons, neither for the kingdom of Christ, nor for kingdoms of this world.” – George Fox, declaration to Charles II, 1660, Britain Yearly Meeting, Quaker Faith & Practice, 1995.

“A good end cannot sanctify evil means; nor must we ever do evil, that good may come of it.” –  William Penn, 1693; Britain Yearly Meeting, Quaker Faith & Practice, 1995.