Guest post: Convergent symbolism

The following is a guest post by Shawna. She gave me permission to post the following, which was originally an email to the Convergent Friends email list (see more about that at Quaker 2.0).

Mount Pleasant meetinghouse predates and transcends any of the post-schism terms: conservative, wilburite, orthodox, gurneyite, liberal, hicksite....

It was built in 1814 to house the newly formed Ohio Yearly Meeting (a happy spinoff from Baltimore YM because of a growing Ohio population of Quakers). The first schism came to Mt. Pleasant in 1828, when Elias Hicks came to yearly meeting. The orthodox posted guards at the doors to keep all non-members out of the meeting, including the Hicksites (and Hicks himself) who had been disowned by Philadelphia (and maybe New York by this time?).

Anyway, pushing and shoving and pandemonium ensued. The presiding orthodox clerk was pushed out a door; a Hicksite clerk picked up the pieces of the clerk's table and presided for the rest of the day. For years afterwards, both groups held their yearly meetings at Mt. Pleasant, one week after another.

The second schism came in 1854. Less high drama.... but at one point there were two yearly meeting clerks sitting side by side at the clerk's table, ignoring each other, each writing minutes. When one adjourned meeting, and half the meeting left, while the other half stayed behind for the other clerk, the orthodox/wilburite schism became official.

So, from 1854 onwards, for probably 20 years or so, three yearly meetings were held at Mt. Pleasant in August, one after another. And every First Day, the local Gurneyites met for worship at 8:00, the Hicksites (I think) met at 10:00, and the Wilburites (I think) met at 11:00. No one wanted to give up their rights to the building...

Anyway, it's kind of a symbol of schism and division around here. And I have been thinking that it would be cool to do something convergent with it, sometime. I have been told that the historical society that runs it has given permission for special meetings in the past.... so I have reason to hope!

I don't know how practical it would be for a meeting. It may be too far from folks to be convenient. We can throw it in the mix and call it a brainstorm!

Dios te bendiga
Stillwater Monthly Meeting
Ohio Yearly Meeting (conservative)


In the news: JROTC voted out of SF schools; vigil outside Pelosi's office turns 5

San Francisco School Board votes to dump JROTC program
San Francisco Chronicle, 11/15/06. Quoting our meeting's own Sandra Schwartz, who is on staff at the AFSC regional office: "We don't want the military ruining our civilian institutions."

Happy 5th Birthday to the Peace Vigil
For five years, the vigil has continued outside the SF Federal office building. Speaker of the House Designate Nancy Pelosi has her district office there... Thanks especially to our Friends Markley and Stephen who have carried this calling for five years and a month now. Thank you for your faithful witness.

In state and regional news...
Voters Pass Prop. 1C, the housing and emergency shelter trust fund act.

Western Regional Advocacy Project (WRAP) publishes homelessness study
"Without Housing: Decades of Federal Housing Cutbacks, Massive Homelessness, and Policy Failures"
WRAP is a coalition of West Coast homeless advocacy groups, including our own Street Spirit published by the AFSC regional office, and other groups from the Bay Area, Seattle, and Portland.

And in national news...
FCNL Approves Legislative Priorities for 110th Congress
FCNL will call on the Congress to set a timetable for withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq, restore and assure full civil liberties and human rights to all persons in the United States, reduce military spending, promote global security through active diplomacy, and take steps to protect the environment and reduce energy consumption. “You are force multipliers for peace,” explained one congressional staff member who addressed the group. Read FCNL’s Legislative Priorities for the 110th Congress.


So you want to be a Quaker!

[First draft text of a brochure that an unprogramed meeting could publish about joining! Inspired by a new attender at our meeting.]

You have attended Friends meeting for a time and now you would like to know about becoming a member. Great! It sounds like you are ready.

So now you might ask yourself if you are prepared.

Here are some suggestions for further reflection and action on the path toward joining our meeting:
  • Read the section about membership in Faith and Practice of Pacific Yearly Meeting. Better yet, try to browse through the whole book. It has advices and queries for individual and corporate reflection, as well as practical information about things like membership, marriage, memorials, what Quakers believe. It's sort of a User's Manual for Quakers.

  • Begin attending monthly meeting for business. The Quaker process of seeking unity with God's will in our decision making is one of the core practices of Friends. It is worth experiencing it just as you experience our weekly meeting for worship.

  • Read some more about Quaker history, or better yet, ask one of the longtime members of our meeting to tell you more.

  • Spend some time in personal reflection and prayer. Is this the right community and faith tradition for you?

  • You might want to read through the monthly magazines Friends Journal and Friends Bulletin for topics that are current among Friends. Both are available in our library. Similarly, a number of Quaker websites and blogs contain interesting information and discussions.

  • Above all, remember that we are human! You will encounter discomfort, mistakes, and pain here just as you would in any human community. With any luck, we will all remember to act out of love and support when we hit the rough patches. And sometimes we won't, and that will hurt. Yet with grace, we will have the strength and courage to admit our failings to one another and step into forgiveness together. It takes work to forge community, especially in this consumer culture where everything seems to be disposable, including relationship. Community takes time. It's an investment.

  • When you're prepared, you can write a letter asking to become a member. It can be one sentence, or it can be two or three pages about your spiritual journey. Be aware that it will be read out loud in the meeting for business. Then the ministry and oversight committee will appoint a clearness committee to meet with you, learn more about what brought you to us, give us a chance to share some of our own experience, and provide clearness about your membership application itself.
That's about it. We're here if you have any questions. Just let us know. Thanks for asking!
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Does your meeting have anything like this? I've seen some of the pamphlets from Northwest Yearly Meeting; it's no surprise that evangelical Friends are better at this than unprogrammed Frieds. I'd sure like our meeting to have something besides a response such as, "Well, stick around a few years and you'll know"! I don't know that's the kind of thing people at my current meeting say, but that's the general sense I have had at meetings I've attended. What's your experience?


Hardhats on! We're building community!

Saturday night, I finally got to catch up on some blog reading (Robin M. was elsewhere), including the post over at Nancy's Apology on the November blahs. She wrote:

American author Annie Dillard says if we had any real faith, we'd wear hardhats to church/meeting—after all, we are calling on or getting in touch with the very forces of the universe. The universe might come crashing down on our heads.

The next day, Sunday morning, it was my turn to teach Firstday School. So I brought our two hardhats, one child-sized and one grownup-sized, and scooped up the one from the meeting's nursery, and put together a loose lesson....

We started with some check-in time. The four children, from 8 to 14 years old, of course wanted to know why the hardhats were on the table. I explained about the Dillard quote, and you never know when something might come crashing down.

I suggested that some Bible stories were like that—the Tower of Babel for example. One participant retold us that story. Henry said, "Or like the walls of Jericho." He was struggling to remember just exactly had happened to make the walls fall down. Fortunately, we had our Dorling Kindersley illustrated Bible on hand—two copies—and I turned to the illustration of the priests with their shofars circling the walls.

The 14-year-old in the group said he had played a shofar, and that he has played the trumpet for five years. It was great to learn something more about the rest of his life outside of meeting.

He also suggested that these events could have been written this way because, "It felt mentally or spiritually like something came crashing down on them."

Then we took turns reading the story of Solomon building the temple, 1 Kings 6, from the illustrated Bible. The book has sidebar illustrations of cedars of Lebanon, the story of God's glory filling the temple at the dedication, and something about ivory carvings of cherubim.

Two adult guests joined us—one of them was from Twin Cities Meeting, and is the childcare provider at Laughing Waters worship group. I made one of them read, too.

After that I pulled out a long piece of butcher paper and asked the children to illustrate what they think a temple should look like today. The two girls collaborated on an illustration of how the front of the temple would look, with red flowers reminiscent of the pomegranetes that really were on the Jerusalem temple.

Henry enjoyed drawing cherubim—I told him he couldn't draw dragons—and then he colored in and added to a symbol I made, of a peace sign inside a heart with a tree growing out of the top.

I left it to the group to decide if they wanted to report back to the full meeting at the end. They were totally indecisive. I asked if we should wait until we got there and felt how the spirit moved us. They agreed. When we walked in the room with our large paper, though, they couldn't resist telling about it. Henry was eager to talk about how the tree showed life sprouting up when there was love and peace; go, Henry! And three of them agreed to wear the hardhats. Someone asked, "Why are you wearing hardhats?" And one of them said, "Because, well, you just never know!"

All in all, it worked amazingly well given how little I had prepared. I am grateful to have been so blessed. Thank you, Nancy, for your post, which helped me so directly.

PS I highly recommend the children's Bible mentioned above. Author is Selina Hastings.