Last fall I was blessed to co-lead the Inquirers' Weekend at Pendle Hill with Emma Lapsansky.
We had a deeply engaged group of eight people on varying places in relation to Quakerism. One had attended four meetings for worship; one is an Episcopalian minister with ancestors who were Quaker, and so she wanted to better learn Quaker vocabulary and practice; one had been a member 30 years ago and eventually resigned, and now is considering joining a meeting again; and many of the others are regular attenders at meeting for worship and are considering next steps.
I had never facilitated a full weekend workshop before, though many afternoon or evening ones, plus many a Sunday morning class with children. And I've clerked 12 weekend-long Friends Journal board meetings in total over the last four years; those are somewhat similar, logistically anyway.
Anyway, it went very well. Emma was a fantastic co-leader, with her probing questions and knowledgeable answers in turn--the very model of a well-loved professor. I brought some different activities to mix it up a bit and make sure we took stretch breaks. We watched a couple of QuakerSpeak videos that spoke to the group's condition.
Afterwards, I reflected that this had been something of a "mountaintop" experience for me, but it wasn't a tiptop peak experience, either. I've had them before. I hope to have them again. The fact that I drove home every night to be with our sons while my wife was also away meant I didn't engage 24 hours a day, and that may have had an impact.
But the mountain didn't feel as high as when I was newer to Quakerism.
In considering that, I realized, that's partly because I am further up "the mountain" of spiritual experience in my daily life. I fall far short of Paul's injunction in Thessalonians to "pray without ceasing," yet I often remember to. And I've been practicing as a Quaker for 25 years now. It makes a difference.
It occurred to me that when Jesus spoke of having sufficient faith to move mountains, maybe it wasn't as literal as the words recorded in the Bible, at least as translated into English:
Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.”
- Matthew 17:20, New International Version
Perhaps this passage gives us a clue that we can move the mountaintop to us. We can have a daily spiritual practice that brings us closer to God, closer to the feeling we get on retreat at the top of a mountain, a peak experience literally and spiritually. I can't believe in prayer literally moving mountains, at least not with what I understand of how the universe works. I can totally see how we can move the spiritual mountain to us - and ourselves up it - so that we are there all the time.
During the weekend, Emma had reminded us the early Quakers believed humans can attain a place, as she said, "above Adam, and beyond falling." I felt we touched a little bit of that place in our weekend together.
Written November 2015, posted May 2016.