Monday, January 21, 2008

Opportunities to Serve

Penelope will be coming to town to lead our Nashville Monthly Meeting regional gathering in March. She is a graduate of "School of the Spirit" and will speak about her experiences in that spiritual community. She emailed me last week to say that she has heard such wonderful things about our spiritual formation group that she would like me to co-lead the gathering with the focus on spiritual formation. I replied that I don't really think I did much other than to throw an idea out that seemed to resonate with a number of other people but that I am happy to work with her, to learn with and from her.

I am so nurtured and supported by the large and my small spiritual formation groups. I feel like we've created a group of people who are coming to share a vocabulary for experiences of Spirit. I feel an intimacy with the 13 others so that when I make a statement or offer a suggestion about matters spiritual, I feel understood. I know I am not alone in my longing for more intimacy with others in our meeting and with God. Even when we are just talking, socializing, I feel a warmth and closeness that was not there before. And I think this intimacy is extending to the larger NFM community. Because 14 of us feel closer and more intimately connected with one another and truly known and supported, I think we have more to give to the larger community. We are deepening our awareness of Spirit for ourselves as individuals, as a group and for our meeting at large.

I'd been worrying about what I would do or say for the regional gathering but I trust that God will lead me to the resources I need to create an interesting and dynamic activity for everyone. I know I can bring this to those in my GIL group and they will support me and hold me in God's light. It's so great knowing I don't have to "front", that I can be vulnerable and imperfect and will be loved and nurtured.

Next week at meeting, our second hour will be about racism, lead by a woman from a New England Friends meeting. She will be talking about her experiences. I have been increasingly aware of the classism which seems almost inherent in Quakerism in general. I'd asked if I could lead a 2nd hour about class issues and am now scheduled for the following week, the first Sunday in February.

I think I want to begin by talking about what privilege is and how we have benefited from things beyond our control: The color of our skin, parental education, parental stability and financial security, etc. (at this point, I'd like to recommend the book "White Like Me: Reflections on Race by a Privileged Son" by Tim Wise). I'd like to talk about how welcoming we are to newcomers to our meeting. I think it would be interesting to hold up a series of pictures of "typical" Americans and ask everybody to, using their usual attitudes, put the people in the pictures in one of three categories: will feel comfortable at NFM, may feel comfortable or, will not fit in. I think I may send this article out via email prior to that Sunday so people will have the opportunity to read and reflect on how we may be perceived by newcomers (the article is not Quaker but it does express the inherent "weirdness" of many crunchy granola progressive types, which our liberal, unprogrammed, highly educated meeting certainly is).

Caroline and I will lead the large Growing in the Light meeting in March. We chose the topics for each month and opted to lead the topic of "Obedience". I'm not yet sure where we're heading but I'm thinking about a worship sharing about a time in which we were guided by spirit to do something and were obedient. I don't think discernment and obedience mean the same thing but I understand them to be connected when it comes to the will of God. "Not my will but thine" and "Trust and Obey" and "proceed as way opens" and "Live up to the Light thee has and more will be given thee". What is obedience? How do we know when we are being obedient? What happens when we do not obey? How are discernment and obedience related? These are all questions we could explore.


Liz Opp said...

These opportunities sound great, Mary Linda. I also appreciate and resonate with your remark about how your spiritual nurture group can impact the larger meeting, because of the intimacy and support you have created and can offer one another.

I think since a number of us from the worship group I attend also have ties with and participate in the monthly meeting, we too are able to be a different sort of... presence... just because no single one of us is there alone.

Also, since you mention doing some work with your meeting about class and Quakers, I wonder if you are familiar with this relatively new blog that has made quite a ripple in the Quaker blogosphere:

Quakers and Social Class.

If you aren't familiar with the blog, there is an exercise--and LOTS of comments!--in this post in particular that might get folks more engaged in looking at "class privilege."

Anyway, keep us posted on your involvement in these new opportunities.

Liz Opp, The Good Raised Up

Friendly Mama said...

Good to hear from you, Liz!
Yes, it was Jeanne's blog that spoke to what I've had vague feelings about but hadn't gotten to the point of really describing. Reading about her some of her observations opened me to begin exploring my own biases and those of NFM.
Mary Linda

Jeanne said...

Mary Linda,

I'm glad you've been asked to talk about class among Friends at your Meeting! And I'm glad people are talking about this now. How exciting. And good for you.

I'd like to recommend a book specifically about what it might be like for a working class person to be socially welcomed into Meeting: Alfred Lubrano's book Limbo: Blue-Collar Roots, White Collar Dreams. It's not about a Quaker or about Meeting, but it speaks to my condition as someone who was raised working class but is trying to fit-in with middle and owning class Friends. There are other books about class privilege too.

I suggest this because I am reluctant to equate or compare classism with racism. These two forms of oppression support each other and are used by those in power to "conquer and divide" so neither group sees their commonalities.

I'd also suggest watching the film Crash with the lens of class; it shows how class and race are bedfellows but very different.

I'd also like to talk to you after you've led that hour. I'm thinking about leading an interest group on social class and Friends at FGC's summer gathering. I'll be in touch with you in mid-February to find out how it went.

Any chance your Meeting records these sessions?

Jeanne at Quakers & Social Class Blog