As a poet and novelist, I’ve long struggled with those who search Scripture for “God’s laws” – that is, something far more cut-and-dried than the drama and humanity I see in the stories. I’ve come to look for movies and operas, rather than “thou shalt not” directives or even speed limits.
When I heard that John Calvin, founder of much of the Protestant movement, trained as a lawyer, suddenly that whole line of legalistic thought came into focus. Followed by the traditional story that the day he left the University of Paris, young Ignatius of Layola showed up, on his way to founding the counter-Reformation Jesuits (who, in the Spanish conquest of Latin America, became the world’s biggest slave owners). I wouldn’t be the first to wonder about the direction of Christianity had the early church continued in the direction set by the former slave Patrick in Ireland, rather than his contemporary, the Roman orator/lawyer Augustine in Africa.
Designed to store energy through a dormant period that can extend across years, and then reproduce its species, a seed will respond to specific conditions to release both a root and a stem and leaves, as well as flowering and replicating seed of its own. Amazingly, these kernels already know which direction to move in, no matter how the seed was implanted – one, the root, toward the heart of the Earth; the other, stem and leaf, toward the sun. The resulting plant will breathe, transforming carbon dioxide in the air to oxygen again while building organic matter within itself. Through the emerging chlorophyll, the green wonder of our planet, photosynthesis regenerates sunlight into food, which will, in some sequence, sustain every animal as well.
The concept is mind-boggling and miraculous, yet taken for granted. Without it, though, life on Earth would not exist.
In one tradition, an individual who speaks within the silence worship speaks on behalf of the meeting, and any “I” messages are viewed with suspicion. In another tradition, worshipers listen for the “I” as a measure of authenticity, that what is being spoken arises from experience.
Getting here has been by a zigzag path. When I was beginning to write poetry, I remember hearing John Logan read from his collection given that name, and it has been accurate.
Christ is available to all persons, bypassing the constraints of political, military, industrial, financial, educational, governmental, or even religious institutions or authorities. As such, it challenges the very foundations of society, yet holds the potential for instilling justice, regenerating, and bringing healing throughout all.
While Friends often look to writings from the earliest days of the Quaker movement, much good, often profound, new material is being published in our own time. The Pendle Hill pamphlet series is a fine source of inspiration and practical direction from contemporary voices. Here’s the rack in the Dover Friends social room.
I’m in the camp that would like to break away shortly after the rise of worship, trying to sustain the deepened awareness. I certainly sympathize with those who admit a sense of guilt, hearing all the things they don’t have time to undertake, as well as those who think it all goes on just too long.
On the other hand, I also see the announcements as a kind of vocal ministry and as a celebration of our lives and community.
Let us listen to Jesus in John 14:11-12, 20:
Believe me that I am in the Father, and the Father in me: or else believe me for the very works’ sake. Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do … I am in my Father, and ye in me, and I in you.
How amazing, and even frightening, that to the extent that we allow Christ to be in us, we may together do greater works than Jesus did!
The tension has grown in recent years, as governments and Native American tribes have engaged in lotteries and casinos. Even causes we support commonly turn to raffles as fundraisers.
We witness to the fact that a lottery is an inefficient way to raise money for education or other socially valued causes. If you want something, you should be willing to pay for it directly, rather than expect someone else to foot the bill. As for gaming, the odds are vastly against winning, and I find myself working far too hard to enjoy throwing hundreds of dollars down the drain. Even a weekly Megabucks ticket adds up. As one of my coworkers insisted, “Lotteries are a tax on stupidity.” He might add, “a tax on despair,” as well, especially for lower- and middle-class Americans whose purchasing power keeps shrinking. If anything, the glamour of gaming masks this reality. Maybe, just maybe, the hope goes, I’ll escape my condition.
Friends have warned against the inclination to expect something for nothing or at someone else’s expense.
Yes, it’s tempting. As in “temptation.” Need I say more?
Representatives from neighboring Quaker congregations get together four times a year to check in on each other and events in their home meetings. The practice, called Quarterly Meeting, has its own clerks, treasurer, and other officers, as needed.
In the past, it was a big event. The smaller meetings, in fact, would not have their own worship that Sunday — everyone would be off to wherever the Quarter was gathering. I suspect much of it was a family reunion, one filled with a holiday spirit.
Nowadays is a different matter, especially as we struggle with finding a better fit between our Monthly Meetings (the local groups that worship each week but conduct business once a month) and our much larger Yearly Meetings — in our case, New England Yearly Meeting of Friends.
These photos are from a session of Dover Quarterly Meeting that took place in the newly renovated West Epping meetinghouse.