Saturday, January 16, 2010

Getting to know ourself

   Yes, I wrote ourself: the grammatical error is deliberate.  Tomorrow two facilitators will visit Schuylkill Friends and at rise of meeting will explain the purpose of the survey  members and attenders will complete as part of the "Knowing Ourself as a Meeting" process, developed by the Center for Deepening and Strengthening Our Meetings, a ministry of PYM. The use of the singular --ourself-- emphasizes that our meeting is a community with a collective personality. The results of the survey will help us become better acquainted with ourself so that, as a family, we can become stronger and more faithful to the Word.

  I won't hide the fact that I've been a bit discouraged of late. Usually there is a swell of attendance at our meeting in the fall after individuals and families return from vacation, travel, etc.  This year there was not. Our once lively children's and young people's program has dwindled to just a couple of toddlers and a few very committed teens -- making a First Day class challenging to conduct to say the least! Our meeting has fallen into the pattern of a handful of persons who all serve on multiple committees but are unable realistically to do sustained work on each one. One day the thought even occurred to me that the total number of active adults at our meeting would pretty much count as a "small group" at typical main line church.

   It's easy to become discouraged. But then I think about Jesus' teachings and parables. Faithfulness is never about big numbers. As a matter of fact, he seemed to expect that it would all start with just a few who, hearts on fire, would sow the Word among the many. But after two thousand years............? Well, maybe yes, maybe each generation starts over, hearing and sowing the Word in its own way.


   Seriously, how can one expect multitudes to flock to a small meetinghouse, unadorned inside or out, where there's no choir, no sermon, no elements to be blessed and distributed, where no priest intones a blessing, and where --as the saying goes-- the service begins only when meeting for worship ends? There are many reasons why Quakers deserve to be qualified as "peculiar," but I'd like to think that it is because we strive to understand and embrace that of God in everyone rather than succumbing to fear of the Other; because we carefully nurture divine inner peace so that a bit of it might spill over into world around us, and because when we join together it's not to partake of a ritual for the salvation of our souls in the hereafter, but to listen expectantly so the small, still voice in our hearts will instruct us how better to love other souls in the here-and-now.
 
   Sometimes, though, I do feel that we're just a tiny grain of that salt of the earth that Jesus spoke about, just a barely perceptible spark of the light of the world, just a molecule of the leaven that the woman kneaded into her dough.

   Please hold our meeting in the Light.

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