Primitive Christianity Revived, Again
Good evening Friends, from a gorgeous late-summer evening on Western Australia's south coast. I'm not sure how to or whether this is the right way to post to QQ - I'm a newish member of QQ and a three-year old (and feel like that, often!) attender of a tiny/sometimes small rural Quaker meeting here.
So this is just going to be a quickie to start. I'm home after a few weeks' road trip that took me to the east coast of Australia and time at Silver Wattle, a Quaker residential/retreat/educational centre that has emerged from the strong leading(s) of several Australian Quakers. Time there was wonderful - those of you who live in/near/around strong Quaker community will likely know this in your hearts, but for those of us that don't it's a kind of mixed blessing. Strength and guidance and love and laughter and Quakerly rhythm and routine and daily MFW and intellectual stimulation etc etc...wonderful. And then....how, how to keep the faith? (That phrase popped out, but it fits.)
What I mean, of course, is how to find the strength to keep the faith on one's own. Find the time, I suppose. It's something to do with solidarity and community (lack of) that makes it so easy to...oh, just cruise back into reading, to chatting with (much-loved) non-Q friends, to the glass or two of wine, to TV, to living a more secular life. Regular Skype 'Quaker buddies' are a possibility that other isolated Friends use and I'd be interested to hear how/if that works for others. I'm presently sittign with the notion of talking with the relatively newly-arrived Anglican priest here - a woman, ordained in her 50s - about sharing 'serious' (by which I mean interrogative, analytical) Bible study - not something I've done yet but feel that I want to, could, should to broaden horizons....
Sorry, I said it would be a quickie. I'll stop now! Any comments welcome, very welcome.
Love to you, Virginia, from an American Friend. I was once isolated myself.
It is critical to develop regular practice of some sort. If you have the chance to visit frequently with this Quaker center, please do so. I have found that, even though I attend meeting twice a week and am highly involved in community worship/study, visiting other meetings or workshops makes a tremendous difference in my life. It's like recharging the batteries. I must do this every 2-3 months.
Next, I find it indispensable to have a copy of Faith & Practice at hand. Or several, from various yearly meetings. Queries are so helpful in daily centering. I stay closer to the Source of Love when I read these, or something else, every day. Reading blogs like those recommended on QuakerQuaker is also important to me.
Finally, if you don't keep a journal, I suggest it can be very helpful. I don't keep one myself, and I know I should.
I am so glad you are here, sharing your story with others. I believe one of QuakerQuaker's important ministries is the gathering of isolated Friends into the body of Christ. You will find other isolated Friends here. One is named Ken, who lives in Portugal, and he writes a blog called Ken's Hot Dogs. (dot blogspot dot com.) Check him out.
Yours in the Light, Paula
I find that Skype, various forms of messaging and phone calls help. I also have some volunteer work that keeps me connected to my Yearly Meeting from a distance. I pray you will find the guidance you seek, and that you may grow deeper in the faith.
Thank you Friends.
There is something strange and wonderful to me about Quakers in cyberspace (now there's a good title for something...). It's to do with a sense of global Q community that I know about in my head but haven't yet understood how I might know it in my heart - and this website is a good jump-off point for that, for me.
Three of the four of us at MFW on Sunday ended up having long conversation about things to do with isolation - around the business of the relative merits of going OUT to other places to counterbalance isolation, or bringing IN support to do the same.
Our current fantasy is a Q 'roadshow' of sorts - a 21st century version of travelling ministry, if you like. A minivan (running on recycled/renewable fuel, of course), with pull-down sides for display, and awning to sit under, that visits isolated Friends in remote Australia. It would be on the road most of the year - driven by whoever is called to be travelling at that time - and would drop into tiny MFWs, and into community peace/enviro etc events to be a Q presence, and to set up camp in solidarity with, say, Aboriginal people disputing mining/land leases....
Fantasy at this stage anyway - but not too fantastical to make real one day. A good idea to hold in the light, we think.
Thank you JP. Your Friend in China might find the daily online meeting for worship useful - I've been 'going to meeting' there this week and think it will be good to incorporate it into my daily practice when I can. I find it (not surprisingly) quite different from physical MFW and I haven't yet worked out how exactly to make it work for me but my initial response was a mix of gratitude and relief for the sense of solidarity and community I feel knowing that here, right now, this very moment these people (three or four, each time I've visited, from USA, UK and Australia so far I think) are with me, and I'm with them, in spirit - in spite of distance, time zones, whatever. It's harder for me to centre in, sure, but when I need to I read something Q and relevant and think on that and at least stay focused in and on the spiritual rather than the secular.
I simply searched for 'online meeting for worship' and found the link. The daily MFW is scheduled at GMT 1000 or thereabouts - late afternoon for me, so it's like an early epilogue of sorts which is a calming way to head into the evening.
I'm off for coffee and conversation with Sue, the Anglican priest, on Wednesday. No idea where this will lead but this first step feels right.
(And yes, I enjoy the 'keep clear' message on the photo too!)
Hello Virginia, I have just got back from the AWPS Gathering near Manila. The isolated unprogrammed Friends of our region who were there did some serious talk about an online meeting for worship. There are 'IUF's in Philippines, Indonesia, Cambodia, China, Australia - and no doubt elsewhere. We felt we need a facilitator who wd keep the email list, keep in touch with all via emails between meetings, in an oversight kind of way. A regional online meeting might fit the time zone better? This discussion you have started is a welcome way of exploring possibilities.
Thanks, Virginia, for naming the malady. I definitely have a serious case of IUF ;-) I am the guy in China that JP wrote of. Being Shanghai'ed in a city of 14 million people frantically pursuing the acquisition of material wealth and not a Friend to be found, well, it's quite different from participating in a MFW.
You mention other Friends from China were at the AWPS Gathering in the Philippines. Could you introduce me? My email is email@example.com.
I have lived most of my life since 1987 in China. I have attended the MFW in Hong Kong and remember a one-off small MFW in a hotel room in Beijing in 1990.
Yes, I can pursue my spiritual practices in isolation. What I find missing is the Quaker discipline of discernment. I have formed a Christian Meditation Circle at the ecumenical church I attend in Shanghai. There have been some seemingly profound experiences. Led by an Anglican priest who is familiar with many schools of meditation, we did quite a bit of visualization work, sometimes so vivid as to feel like prophetic visions. While I feel blessed to have such experiences, it seems most prudent to hold these visions in the light for awhile to see if they really are from spirit or just fanciful fantasies. I regard Clearness as a Quaker specialty.
Websites, email, Skype, phone calls, books ... all wonderful. But, do you think a Webinar Clearness Committee would really work? Has anybody really participated in Gathered Skype Meeting? I am certainly willing to abandon the hats and bonnets, but find myself skeptical about digitalizing spirit.
Would love to hear the experiences of IUFs who replicated the Quaker experience in the digital age.
Nature is where it's easiest for me to find God, especially remote outback. And I have to call myself on that sometimes, not make being away from 'nature' an excuse to ignore the still small voice inside that waits there irrespective of where I am.
I travel a lot with work, sometimes isolated, or in small rual communities, sometimes full-on big-city urban. I highly recommend birding, for those who miss nature in their surrounds; there are almost always birds wherever I find myself and the the searching, finding, looking can take me literally and metaphorically to another place, and often leads to rich and unexpected encounters with local people.
One of the ways I try to keep close to spirit is by 'paying attention', a la Mary Oliver, to the sacred in everything. (Birding helps with that, too.) This poem of MO's gives me good focus when I'm feeling scattered:
It doesn't have to be
the blue iris, it could be
weeds in a vacant lot, or a few
small stones; just
pay attention, then patch
a few words together and don't try
to make then elaborate, this isn't
a contest but the doorway
into thanks, and a silence in which
another voice may speak.
That’s a beautiful poem. I will look harder for Nature.
Shanghai is a very intensely urban area. I did much better finding pieces of Nature in Beijing and other Chinese cities I have lived in. I am imagining what it would be like to roam my apartment complex with binoculars looking for birds among the nearly one hundred 26 story high-rise apartments that define my neighborhood. Maybe I would be surprised. Or, maybe I would be arrested as a Peeping Tom ;-)
The cherry blossoms are blooming on the young trees that line the walkway that leads me to the taxi stand. I will celebrate their moment of glory.
This megalopolis is a former swamp drained by a network of canals which are lined with willow trees. I will listen carefully to the whispering breeze in the willows for further guidance.
I too live a long , long way from other quakers. I am also looking at different ways to keep quakerism alive in my day to day life - one of the reasons for joining here. I read, sometimes join the online meeting for worship and meditate daily. All of these help, but to sit in silence and feel the love of God with other quakers would be such a treat!
If you have any suggestions please feel free to share them. I am so pleased to have found this place!
Living in secular, materialistic Shanghai my need for spirituality is oddly heightened. No Friends Meetings here, but, like you, I do meditate daily, engage Buddhists and Christians in interfaith dialog, and read a lot.
You mention that you "sometimes join the online meeting for worship." I am not aware of Liberal Friends having such a meeting. I have been looking. Can you tell me more?