I participated in a class on Quakerism a few months ago. We studied a book called "Silence and Witness". Many Quaker writers were referenced and quoted and the Bible was often cited. Many passages seemed very judgemental and made me uncomfortable. I've been studying the "Gnostic" Gospels. One night I had the epiphany that I could read them without any of the baggage I have from my Baptist upbringing about the Bible. I could read the Gnostic authors with an open mind and heart. I have difficulty reading the Bible with an open mind. So much of what I read is understood through a very fundamentalist filter and then rejected by my heart. When I try to read the Bible I have this battle going on between my rational mind and my 'inner guide'. I know that the Bible has been deliberately and inadvertently mistranslated, added to and deleted from in so many ways by so many people for so many reasons that I have a hard time reading it. There is a Quaker song, "The George Fox Song" with a line,
"Will you swear on the Bible?
"I will not," said he.
"For the Truth is more holy
Than the book to me.""
I'm grateful that I found a religion that encourages me to follow my intuition when it comes to understanding Truth.
I'm still a very young Quaker. I'm past the first flush of relief at the 'freedom' and acceptance and the seeming openness of this liberal religious community and beginning to understand that there is an history and structure to what Quakers believe. I've been studying some Pendle Hill pamphlets. Our Meeting doesn't recognize 'elders' but one of the women who would be an elder, if we had elders, has invited me to co-lead the next Quakerism class and we'll be using 8 Pendle Hill pamphlets as the basis for our discussions.
I'm very honored to have been asked and thankful, too. For the last decade I've been a leader in my various communities, creating classes and workshops for children and adults. I'm an autodidact. When I want to know something, I throw myself into the study of it and usually wind up teaching others about it. But lately, I've been desiring a teacher or mentor. I'd just begun to formally articulate the idea of wanting a 'guru' in my mind when Penelope asked me to co-lead the class. She's a wise, strong, deeply spiritual woman (who also has a family of all boys-hers are now grown). I thank God for the opportunity to work beside her, especially as she and her husband will be moving away in a few months.
I think she is trying to encourage and nurture the potential of less 'seasoned' members of our Meeting. We've lost several of our elders in the last few years. We've also had an influx of new, young families, which is wonderful. There is a new energy which I love (new F/friends!) but, I'm guessing that, without proper attention, there will be a little less depth of worship unless we have a new wave of people with the potential and adequate seriousness to become elders. Which is not to imply that I will ever be seasoned enough a Quaker to be an elder but I think I do have some gifts that could use the guidance of an elder to help me deepen them. I'd like to use my gifts without having my ego fed by it. I get all puffed up when I teach a class. Not in the 'I know more and I'm happy to share it' way but from people thanking me all over for taking the time to do the class. Instead of feeling like a servant I get to feeling like I really have done them a favor when it's really them who have done me a favor by believing in me. But I lose track of that and get all big-headed. I look forward to working with a woman who is a dynamic force and humble at the same time.