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.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

A Conservative Hicksite's Manifesto

A Romany "Gypsy" friend and I were sitting last night, discussing this and that - a project we are working on together. I asked him "Who are the biggest thieves in the world?" Without a moment's hesitation he said, "The American Gyzhen." The non-Romany Americans. "Exactly right..." I said. I had just come from a meeting of "progressive" Quakers where I watched them ... no, in point of fact, I walk out on them ... because they were in the process of buying and selling my faith.
As many of you know, New York Meetings are in turmoil over Friend's Seminary wishing to become a separate corporation. This school which excludes Quakers who are not smart enough to fit in, this school which ignores the Meeting when making millions of dollars of "improvements" to a building designed to be plain in my generation ... is being given what it asks for, "because if we don't they will take it anyway, so we have to come up with a plan that keeps us in the loop..." I am told. When I try and tell these Friends that "no" is also a Quakerly response, and begin to explain that our faith is one of the few which has a mix of traditional reactive thinking, as well as progressive proactive thinking, but it only works if we apply Quaker process - coming to unity... I am told that "no, this is the only plan." When I ask Friends to repeat back to me, what my point is, I am told, not only can they not do that, they have no intention to try and listen and understand. And so... I acknowledge, New Ageism, Progressivism, has robbed yet another culture, as Capitalist progressives stole Indian land, and then New Ageist robbed their spiritual traditions, the same thing is happening in New York Quaker Meetings.
I proclaim myself a traditionalist and a conservative. Not the phony new-age-I-just-discovered-Jesus-I-am-a-Wilberite silliness of the new jumping on the third reawakening band wagon of neo-Conservative Quakers... but, rather, I am a dyed in the wool, don't sell my faith OR my Meetinghouse Hicksite, and a rather pissed off one at that this morning.
Flame away...
In love and disgust
PS When the Friend's Seminary architect showed their plans for the re-building of parts of our Meetinghouse's room for worship, to accomodate STORAGE! for the schools stuff... the plans were titled "Renovation of Friend Seminary's Meetinghouse". Does that not just say it all? No only does the tail wag the dog, the tail is chewing the hair off the dog as well.


At 4:12 PM, Anonymous Keara said...

Lorcan, a chara, I will just make an observation or two (or three). I trust you will know that my thoughts are in no way intended as a flame, but are offered with much sympathy for your pain and outrage.
(Things I know a little something about.)

First, no one can touch your faith. Yes, I suppose they can sell out your Meeting. But your faith? Nope, that's yours. They can't touch it.

Next, your opening Q&A is really not fair. The question is a set-up, and your friend gave you the expected, desired response. (For all I know, the reply might be accurate but it's still not a fair "observation" as framed.)

Third, stripping away all historical analogy for the moment, you seem to say the following - (1) I object to the Seminary because it is elitist and un-Quaker; (2) I object to the way the Seminary deals with the Meeting because it is inconsiderate, coercive and un-Quaker; and (3) I object to the way the Meeting deals with the Seminary because it is inadvisedly and inexplicably passive and appeasing.

It seems to me very likely that the Seminary is in process of transforming into a corporate dragon that will ultimately devour all within sight. It's easy for me to imagine that in ten years time, it will "need" the entire meetinghouse. Oops, sorry, Meeting, you'll just have to go somewhere else.

In the meantime, you referenced in your email of last week someone in the Meeting whom you obviously respect a good deal. Can you get him, or someone like him, to set forth the reasons for the appeasement? I sympathize with you that people are not listening to you! They should! But that aren't, and the only thing to do in that case is to hunker down and listen very, very closely to them. You might still disagree with them (probably so), but I think you might have a little more peace, and you could leave them, if you end up doing so, with a little more peace and in a little more respect.

I'm sure that Meetings have been wrong, even very wrong, before. But Quakerism has survived for sometime now. Perhaps you will be one of those whom history will rely on to keep the true spirit for passing on to future generations.

At 6:15 PM, Blogger Mark Wutka said...

Dear Lor,
I am sorry to hear of the troubles you are going through at your meeting, and at yet another example of the abandonment of the real meaning of "unity". There certainly seem to be a number of places that are having trouble with schools that want to retain the Quaker name, but nothing else. I hope that way will open for you all to come to unity.

I wonder if there are really any Hicksite meetings left. It seems like many call themselves Hicksite when they mean "not Orthodox", but they don't seem to reflect the same kind of Quakerism that Hicks did.

Do you think that the similarity between "Flame away.." and a certain person's "Bring it on!" reflects a similar attitude behind those phrases?

With love,


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