Primitive Christianity Revived, Again
I came to Quakers as a secular seeker, I suppose - though that’s a label-in-retrospect. It was a complete surprise to me to find God waiting for me at MfW. And a wonderful realisation that instead of filling a gap in my life - as some family and friends assumed - what Quakerism has given me is a way to better articulate everything that has always filled me. I just didn’t have the right words or the right silence for it before.
But my relationship with God fluctuates (not, I believe, that God’s relationship with me does). Always has, always will. During this late, hot, Australian summer it calls to mind a necessary and inevitable movement between sunlight and shade. Sometimes I absorb the light unquestioningly; sometimes I need something cooler, less clear, the subtlety of semi-darkness to let questions take shape and answers to emerge.
The one constant in this process of mutability is God – and I figure that, bottom line, it’s my own responsibility to manage my relationship with God; MfW can’t do that for me and eldering can’t do that for me, though both can help. I know from the shady times that God doesn’t go anywhere, just waits to welcome me back.
For me at the moment that means pulling away from the small unprogrammed MfW that I’ve attended for a few years. The quirks in Quakerly practice that can develop in small meetings with a core of long-time attenders - and I’ve attended several while travelling, in several countries - can be either comforting or confronting, and I find myself lately better able to sit in expectant waiting in larger, more impersonal meetings. (Perhaps I mean more ‘formal’ in terms of Quakerly practice, rather than ‘impersonal’.) And geographically that’s rarely possible at the moment.
All sounds very self-centred, I know, and that too can trouble me. But the thing that matters first and foremost is my relationship with God and if MfW is not nourishing my whole life - in fact I’m allowing it to hinder that primary relationship – then I need to step aside from MfW for a while and concentrate on God. Going to MfW because I feel I ought to, to support the meeting for the meeting’s sake rather than to sit in expectant waiting, is a fine community-based thing to do but it takes the crucial ‘worship’ bit out of Meeting for Worship for me.
I fully expect and hope this to change too, over time, and that I will become better equipped to support the wider Quaker community. For now I’m trying not to get hung too up on the changes and to trust that if I stay true to God, then way will open.
And I can’t tell you how much solace and stimulation and insight the personal stories and discussions on this website and its links have offered and are offering me – thank you, all.
Hello, Virginia! It is important to zero in on whatever (and wherever) nourishes your faith. BUT also remember the Biblical admonition to "forsake not the assembling of yourselves together." Hebrews 10:25
The ideal situation would be one in which these two support and reinforce each other. I admit that there have been times in my own life where a "time out" seemed necessary.