In my unprogrammed meeting we have one program and I'm on the program committee that plans it. It's called "Connections," and it falls between the two worship hours. Last Sunday, Pentecost for those who believe in liturgy, we planned for Connections a worship sharing on the topic of departed elders. By "departed" we meant anyone who no longer came to meeting, whether they had died or moved away or couldn't come because of illness or other reasons. By "elder" we meant anyone we had loved and admired.

The worship sharing was very serene. Friends spoke of a number of elders whose lives and ministry had given us joy and hope and guidance. One particular elder, who isn't dead but rather in the late stages of Alzheimer's Disease, came up again and again. It was as if she was present there with us and we were thanking her for the many gifts she brought to the meeting for much of her life. Several Friends spoke about her ability to welcome everyone and make newcomers feel known and cared for. I spoke about the memorial meeting we had held recently for her husband. She had offered ministry there and had seemed to be having a vision of reunion with her parents and other loved ones after death. She said she saw her mother among us. She felt overwhelmed with joy. A Friend said that this elder had often had such experiences even before she developed Alzheimer's. She seemed to live in two worlds at once.

Welcoming, deeply living the belief that "all are welcome," was the gift these elders all seemed to have in common and the one we remembered with the most gratitude.

After the worship sharing, a Friend said he'd like the program committee to offer a discussion about Friends and disabilities because he doesn't feel we welcome people with disabilities very well.

A Friend I didn't know told me that he had grown up in our meeting but hadn't been there in twenty years. He remembered all of the people who had been mentioned, though. And he said he wished Memorial Day was celebrated in the way we held our worship sharing, not by large crowds watching parades and speeches, but by small groups of people gathering to remember and honor each unique human being they loved.

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Comment by jeremy hardin mott on 11th mo. 5, 2010 at 3:15pm
Rosemary, I'm afraid the truth is that I knew none of the Friends
you wrote about. My aunt and uncle, and my cousins, were not
Friends, so we would not have attended Friends meeting no matter
how often it was held in 1961. I don't know if Jay Worral and
his wife were members there then, or elsewhere. I "know" Jay
Worrall simply because I read his marvelous book.
Despite my last name, I do not come from Friends families.
I do come from pacifist parents. My mother was a Methodist
pacifist during World War II, and my father was a non-religious
pacifist during the war, who had the good fortune to be recogniazed
as a conscientious objector regardless. The first thing they did as
the war came to an end was to join Quakers, and the next thing
my father did was to get active in defending CO's under the postwar
Selective Service System. The New Jersey Motts had almost all
been disowned for various offenses, like marrying out, long before
the Civil War. My mother's family included German pacifists
who had emigrated to Iowa long before World War I, and a
Friend who had been disowned, also for marrying out! All this
was not a distant memory in those days, and folks in the new
united meetings wanted none of it. The general feeling was
that the self-righteousness of different bodies of Friends in the
U.S.A. had almost destroyed us. I believe that this was true.
Yours in the Spirit,
Jeremy Mott

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