Plain in the city

A plain Quaker folk singer with a Juris Doctorate in his back pocket, salt in his blood, and a set of currach oars in the closet, Ulleann Pipes under his arm, guitar on his back, Anglo Irish baggage, wandering through New York City ... in constant amaze. Statement of Faithfulness. As a member of the Quaker Bloggers Ad Hoc Committee I affirm that I will be faithful to the Book of Discipline of my Meeting 15th Street Monthly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

May I be faithful to the uncertainty of our Quaker faith

A reply to a request to consider going to two upcoming Powell House retreats has led me to this post ... which is that reply. I thought there might be some value in sharing it with Friends. I hope Friends think so as well.
I always appreciate listening to Arthur Larabe. I have rather a well developed idea about clerking, but hearing others and a tune up is always a good thing. As is sometimes obvious, I am led to older forms of the traditions and culture of our faith and find in that not only did our forebearers show a good deal of wisdom, there is a great practicality in these customs of faith as well. We had to balance the unfettered freedom of the individual spirit with the corporate need to seek together in worship as well as work. This was reinforced by a number of small things. For example, removing one's hat during the message of another Friend during worship reminds one to give weight to the process of listening and hearing. I suppose the key is to be confident of seeking, and ever open to uncertainty of one's own rightness. One older form, which I think might be helpful to consider bringing back, is not to say "yes" or "no" to affirm a minute. An older tradition was to say, "I hope so" or "I hope not." In this form each of us is reminded that we do not know we are right, even as a gathered Meeting, but rather, we hope we approach truth together. It is one more reminder that there is no human leadership in a Quaker community, only eldership as we seek the leadership of truth. Eldership does not equal leadership, only a guidance to each other that together, listening and speaking with care, we might open ourselves to our best hope, a truth.
As to difficult people. Well, personally, I hope I am speaking with some truth led wisdom, when I say that I find the growing cult of individualism some have commented on within modern Meetings, is often tied to individuals being certain about their ability to control property. Corporately we might remember the old Quaker sense of uncertainty. Even "experts" in a field, in a Quaker community might consider the power of uncertainty and placing the power of authority in a truth with we must approach with the greatest humility -- with hope that we, together are correct, rather than individually from the hubris of our credentials. We live in a world today which places great weight on credentials - I am most dubious of my own "authority" when asked to consider something from the weight of those parchment recognitions of my learning -- the dear spirit of Mary Dyer reminds me that authority is seldom my truth.
The matter of Friends who are to some degree imbalanced from illness is another subject that we all must approach with humility and love and a good dose of hope in our ability to do the right thing in the face of that challenge.
So ... this, I hope, speaks to my interest in these subjects, and my hope that I might someday grow to help to be one of the voices of eldership which brings our Meeting to a greater sense of hope and peace.
Thine, very dearly in our funny old faith


At 10:42 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is a wonderful post.

I am intrigued by the insight that the voices of individualism in modern Meetings seem to be connected to individuals who are certain of their ability to control property, a sort of externalization of hubris, perhaps, which we all may share to some degree.

Uncertainty, the principle of not knowing everything about anything, a kind of pole which holds the spinning world upright while we humans attempt to cement in place a framework of truth to keep our minds together.

I love your words on this subject.
Thank you for reminding me.

Peace from a Friend,

At 3:49 PM, Blogger Paula McConnell said...


I wish you had attended the Clerking Weekend at PoHO. I was there and would have loved to connect again.

It was a joy to meet several Friends from 15th Street.

Miss you and hope to talk with you soon -


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