Clerk's corner

(I wrote this for SF Meeting's newsletter and decided to publish it here, too.)

There is a waterfall at the new development where Robin & I live now. The water flows from 7 am to 11 pm. The lights under the water go on around dusk and turn off at 11, too. It’s a terrible waste of energy, and of water because of evaporative loss, yet it’s beautiful. My children are captivated by its loveliness. They now sit at the breakfast table in the two seats that enable them to see the water start flowing at 7 am.

The timed artificial waterfall contrasts with the flow of the Living Water, always present, always flowing, somewhere in the very ground of our being. Do we take time to notice it when we are not in meeting? For that matter, do we find it in meeting?

Be a Quaker without Ceasing: How would it feel to live every moment aware of that flow, living every moment as a Quaker? To have that integrity, to achieve that level of integration, that centeredness within at all times? Interesting questions!

Of course, I’m thinking of Paul’s exhortation in 2 Thessalonians 5:17: “Pray without ceasing.” For me, getting anywhere near that place starts with mindfulness, being present, as in Zen meditation. From being present comes awareness of Presence itself.

(By the way, there are many other good lines in that chapter of Thessalonians: “5 Ye are all the children of light, and the children of the day… 13b. Be at peace among yourselves…. 15 See that none render evil for evil unto anyone; but ever follow that which is good, both among yourselves, and to all.” One of the names early Quakers gave themselves was “Children of Light.”)

Speaking of “Extreme Quakerism”: What did you think of the extended meeting for worship on 9/30? Ministry and Oversight seeks your feedback about this experiment, which we did on the fifth Sundays in July and September. Email Jeff Mead, M&O clerk, jeffbikedog --at-- gmail.com.

Faith and Practice group: The last few months, Ministry & Oversight held Sunday morning sessions about Pacific Yearly Meeting’s Faith and Practice, including the advices and queries and the sections on meeting for worship and meeting for business. Friends had a rich time of discussion and reflection at the two I attended. We will continue organizing these sessions from time to time, focusing on topics identified by participants. One future topic will be clearness committees, the method Friends use for membership, marriages, and discernment around life changes. By the way, you can find the full text of Faith and Practice online at www.pacificyearlymeeting.org.

Meeting for Business: The October meeting for business will have a longer period of discernment around queries from our environment subcommittee.

Quakers in the News: Cal Broomhead was quoted and photographed for an article in the S.F. Business Times, on green home renovations and building. Robin Mohr has an article in the October issue of Friends Journal. And I was quoted in the Peninsula edition of the Examiner, as part of a series looking at the struggle that low-income families face in S.F. and San Mateo Counties.


Words for bloggers to ponder

This was written as a comment on a post I wrote about bloggers who were at the Friends General Conference gathering. What are your thoughts, Friends? And I couldn't notify Anonymous or contact him or her about lifting this up in a post, since he or she was just that -- Anonymous.

Anonymous has left a new comment on your post "Quaker bloggers at FGC Gathering":
I happened upon a photo of "Quaker bloggers" at FGC and also read some Q-bloggers, blogs about things that went on at various small groups. Though there was discretion (no mention of names), there were disturbing things put on the web that should never be put up for all the world to see. One especially troubling blog was about a person who had tried to walk out of a small, worshipful event at FGC, but got persuaded to stay. I won't repeat the details.

I will steer clear of any discussion or worship-sharing group that has a "Quaker Blogger" present. I'd feel more comfortable being hounded by Paparozzi (See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paparazzi.) At least they don't take notes at events that bring out people's heartfelt yearnings toward the Divine, or their private inward wrestlings, and then feel at liberty to make whatever was said or done a Quaker event an occasion for public speculation and musings on a Worldwide Web forum.

This is no way to let our lives speak to the world, especially without the express consent of the individuals who come to worship-sharing at a gathering like FGC for personal, spiritual discernment. It is such a tender thing between one person and God. It is a privelege for Friends gathered in small worship-sharing groups to abide with one another in that tender place, which must be safe from voyeurs looking for material to sustain their blogs. It is a privelege to witness whatever Friends find in common worship together. What is said and done should be honored as privileged information. Please, you have with your blogging, made worship-sharing a risky event. Friends should not have to worry about what they said or did at a Quaker gathering ending up on the Internet, whether you name names or not. How can any Friend/Blogger feel entitled to take such license? Or be at ease doing such a profane thing with a worshipful occasion?

- - -
Personally, I hunger to read about other people's "heartfelt yearnings toward the Divine, or their private inward wrestlings." I also agree that confidentiality is a part of worship-sharing. I am less clear about an interest group or the like that might have 50 people in a room. Anonymous conceded that most posts she or he had read did handle such matters with discretion, which is important me. And for me, the boundaries between what I share in a small group and what I share here on my blog seem very porous. Personally, I'd be interested to read what someone else wrote in response to something I said at such a gathering. I want to be open to the Spirit -- and one of the key places I find the Spirit is in the "gathered body" of the church/meeting, and through the comments of the community of Quaker bloggers. Yet I realize others, like Anonymous, have completely different responses.

Thoughts, Friends?



This year, I've been reading the books of the Bible that I've never read in whole before. That included the minor prophets earlier this year.

Just this month I've read Proverbs in its entirety for the first time. Here is the passage that stood out for me (from the Oxford study edition of the Revised English Bible):
Two things I ask of you --
do not withhold them in my lifetime;
put fraud and lying far from me; give me neither poverty nor wealth,
but provide me with the food I need,
for if I have too much I shall deny you and say, "Who is the Lord?"
and if I am reduced to poverty I shall steal
and besmirch the name of my God.

-- Proverbs 30:7-9

Could this be an echo?

Give us this day our daily bread.
-- Matthew, Chapter 6:11


Secrets to a light and happy life?

School starts tomorrow. Today Robin and I went to opening meeting for worship. Tonight I went to orientation for new kindergarten parents. Lots of driving back and forth. I typed up some quotes that have spoken to me recently and offer them here, in place of an original post: from the Incredible String Band, Brian Drayton, Hannah Whitall Smith, and Jarrod McKenna.

Incredible String Band snippets (songs from Wee Tam and the Big Huge)
“One light, the light that is one though the lamps be many.”
--"Douglas Traherne Harding"

“You get brighter every day and every time I see you
Scattered brightness in your way and you taught me how to love you.
I know you belong to everybody
But you can’t deny that I’m you.”
--"You Get Brighter"

Brian Drayton's Getting Rooted: Living in the Cross: A Path to Joy and Liberation is Pendle Hill Pamphlet 391. Is it really so new that I couldn't find it either on Pendle Hill's website nor on QuakerBooks? Fortunately, our meeting's library had it!

First, this humorous paragraph:
In common parlance, “finding my roots” connotes a quest to become better acquainted with my family or ethnic history or background. It can range from deep learning about culture, language, and history to an uniformed sentimentality, which takes such forms as green beer on St Patrick’s Day or perhaps a sudden urge to hold a wedding in a meeting house because one’s great-grandmother was a Quaker…. [page 4]

Second, this serious passage:
Friends have always preached that the core of this experience (“knowing Jesus”) is not a notional doctrine about Jesus’s substitionary death on the cross outside Jerusalem wiping away the pain of sin for me and you, but rather that Christ, present in spirit, continues the ministry that we see Jesus enacting in the Gospels, inviting us to liberation, to unity with him and God right now, if we will cooperate. In fact, Friends have taught that if we are to benefit from the Christ event, we must experience it in our own lives, day by day, as way opens. As James Nayler said, “If I cannot witness Christ nearer than Jerusalem, I shall have no benefit by him.”

The first Friends had a powerful sense of the present of the Christ life at work in everyone – though to some degree, this life was oppressed, a suffering Seed in those who were not faithful. This life of God could be reached and encouraged, and even the smallest positive response on our part would mean more power being made available to us—power as well as light.

Going back to 1875, this is from Hannah Whitall Smith, The Christian’s Secret of a Happy Life (as printed in a 1952 edition in our meeting's library):
Chapter 13: Bondage or Liberty
It is a fact beyond question that there are two kinds of Christian experience, one of which is an experience of bondage, and the other an experience of liberty.

In the first case the soul is controlled by a stern sense of duty, and obeys the law of God, either from fear of punishment or from expectations of wages. In the other case, the controlling power is an inward life-principle that works out, by the force of its own motions or instincts, the will of the Divine Life-Giver, without fear of punishment or hope of reward. In the first the Christian is a servant, and works for hire; in the second he is a son, and works for love.

And finally, returning to 2007, here is an excerpt from Australian Jarrod McKenna's guest blog on the Backyard Missionary:
I’m aware that to many my life might seem a little, well.. strange.
An evangelist who is given a peace award? An activist serious about intercessory prayer? ... …strange.

So I’m hoping to invite you to the strange places and with the strange people where I’ve started to wade in the waters of the new creation, the places where I’ve met Christ and it’s messed me up.

Be it in a ghetto in America, a slum in Cambodia, the wonder of the outback, the witness and writings of the early church, with those without a home on the streets of London, Paris or Perth..., the laughter of local kids learning their skin is not a curse..., prayers of an indigenous elder for the drug dealers in our neighbourhood and the other more ordinary ways that God’s love gets at us. Messes with us. And empowers us to live a little more like Jesus, a little more like the world will be when God’s love finally floods all of creation.

Read the original post and see the photos over here, and go read Jarrod's regular blog on the Pace e Bene website.