Sunday, February 3, 2008

My Prayer for Today

Dear God,
Dear Father, Mother, Creator,
oh, Holy One.
Let me be a channel for your love today.
Keep me and hold me and guide me to do your work. Use me. Let my mouth be your mouth. Let my hands be your hands. Show me how to let go of my attachments to my self so that I may use what you have given me in your service. Most of all, let me see You in all* whom I encounter today and help me to open myself so that your light and love shine through.
Mary Linda
(*including my father-in-law)

6 comments:

humofyourvoice said...

Mary,

Hello there! :) I hope I've tracked down the right person -- Did you lead a discussion about class and a need to be inclusive to visitors at the Nashville Friends Meeting yesterday? Your profile makes sense, and you did say you were a blogger. :)
My boyfriend and I attended Meeting on Sunday, and stuck around for 2nd Hour to see how things operated "'round these parts." Interesting stuff!

In light of the fact that there is no church heirarchy, I wonder if you would mind answering some questions that I had, or engaging in a dialogue with me? I would normally approach clergy with questions at a new church, but obviously this is a unique situation. ;)
I also had some thoughts about the welcoming issue (having just visited the Meeting? church? group? for the first time), which I think I expressed a bit too candidly to one of the members... But I wonder if you might be interested in hearing my thoughts and talking over my concerns? I'm not really sure who to turn to, obviously, in the absence of a pastor or leader... :/

Help! :)

Robin M. said...

Praying this prayer with you.

Friendly Mama said...

Robin,
Thank you for your Light.
ML

Friendly Mama said...

Mary A,
I'm so glad you found me!
As we talked in 2nd hour, yesterday, I wondered what you two were thinking. This topic is a new one for our community to address and I feel I sorta ambushed everyone with it. I also think I could have done a better making clear what my purpose was in opening the discussion. I feel I organized my thoughts as they came out of my mouth.

I'm happy to answer questions you may have. You can post them here or write me directely at friendlymama@aol.com
Keep in mind that I can only speak from my own experience, so I may have a very different "take" on things than a "weightier" Friend may have (or a "lighter" one, for that matter).

I doubt you put whoever you were speaking with off by being candid. We Friends tend to have have strong opinions while eschewing hard answers that effect anyone else. I much prefer people to tell me what they are really thinking rather than what they think is appropriate or what I want to hear.

I look forward to corresponding with you!
Mary Linda

humofyourvoice said...

Mary L, ;)

Glad I found you, too!

Just decided to keep my thoughts public in case anyone else in the blogosphere would be interested. :)

My thoughts... while I don't have a whole lot to say on the diversity issue, I did have some thoughts about being welcoming to visitors in general. It's comforting to know that I am among a group of people who value honesty over tact (something surprisingly rare), as I was very concerned that I'd managed to make a bad impression!

The thought that I expressed to her in regards to welcoming visitors, and will express to you were roughly as follows:
When we arrived, Tim (I believe that was his name -- bearded fellow, he was very kind) told us that this organization was a little unique because they didn't "glom" onto people. Where other churches make a quick effort to assimilate members of the congregation, Quakers (and this point was also raised during Second Hour) tend to leave people to their own devices, to their own thoughts, and their own guidance.

This was wonderful for my boyfriend. He is an introvert, and prefers this kind of hands-off approach.

I, on the other hand, tend to be very social and am very interested in being 'part' of a group. Protestant churches are a little "glommy" for some people. I know that on my first or second Sunday with any congregation, someone in the pew turns around and says: "You should be up in the choir!" (You may have noticed me blanching when the discussion about songs being seen as inappropriate witness came up... Music is my life.)

So, I say all this to point out not that I am an awesome vocalist, but that I am accustomed to feeling that such an outgoing approach means that I am welcome, that people are interested in getting to know me, and want me to be involved.

When you are looking at a liberal Quaker congregation, I think that there is a need for a certain amount of outreach. Because of the very nature of the people and the proceedings, a visitor could be left with a lot of questions: What do these people I am worshipping with believe? Because they are so intellectual, might they look down on me or my beliefs? What kind of fellowship do they have? What kind of teaching goes on?

For someone like my boyfriend, leaving him to his own devices about the group can be freeing. For someone like me, it can be very isolating. I was extremely grateful for the people who reached out to me, and I will absolutely be attending again, but as a first-time visitor, I do feel a little bit like I am on the outside looking in. (My boyfriend wishes to point out that he, on the other hand, felt very at home. Which is /amazingly/ rare. Amazingly.)

So I suppose that it's difficult to strike the balance that will keep people from feeling either overwhelmed or deserted. While an outgoing approach would be comforting for me, it would be anathema to my boyfriend. Definitely a question worth examining!

That was a lot to read, I'm sure, so. Suffice to say that this was a different experience for me, but I thought the service was fantastic. I enjoyed the worship tremendously, but the fellowship aspect is, at the moment, puzzling to me... Not to be snide, but what DO you do?
Any light that you can shed would be much appreciated.

- Alex (Mary A! I feel like I have a special nickname! Yay!)

Friendly Mama said...

Mary A-Alex,
I'm not entirely sure what you're asking about fellowship. Do you mean, what do we do for fellowship? I'll answer that question and if you had something else in mind, let me know.

Each week we have a different activity scheduled for after the rise of worship. On the first week we do potluck (except in February when we do it the Sunday before Valentine's Day, for whatever reason). On the second and fourth Sundays we do Adult Ed, which is also known as Second Hour (First Hour being Meeting for Worship). On the third Sunday, we do Meeting for Worship for the Conduct of Business (which I wrote about a couple of weeks ago: http://friendlymama.blogspot.com/2008/01/spirit-in-business-meeting.html).
We don't do much outside of this. On Wednesday evening, there is a very small group of people that hold silent Meeting for Worship. There are various committees. Once or twice a year someone will organize a "Quakerism" class. In March we'll have a Regional Gathering in which we invite all the Meetings in the area to gather with us and we'll do activities or classes. In October we do a weekend retreat.

We're a small community. Mostly, if a person wants something, she can organize it herself and, in my experience, will be supported and encouraged. If one is not inclined to organize, she can bring it to a committee and if they feel called, they can work on it.

Is there something that you are specifically looking for?

Having been inside a couple of different communities for a long time, what I see with newcomers is that, for the most part, what people get out of them is what they put in. You're an extrovert who doesn't wait to be approached. I think you'll make friends quickly enough. Bill will slowly get to know people and will find that there are others comfortable with taking it slowly and quietly.

Mary Linda
ps-I'm going to be out of town until Sunday so I'll answer any new emails or comments next week. I look forward to seeing you and Bill again some Sunday soon!