Worship sharing at the Diversity and Inclusion Gathering

Shamelessly ripped off from other people’s wisdom: Some- surely Mark Russ– will develop their ideas and express them more fully for themselves, but I wanted to get them out into the Quaker community now, just after the gathering. I took copious notes but may have missed or misinterpreted, and I add my own thoughts occasionally.

An opening question: What makes you a Quaker? We are all equal ministers. We welcome everyone, we say, but we are all individuals. We have love for our meetings and communities, but many more people could benefit and contribute in our Quaker way. (Are we more homogenous than we should be?)

A woman talked of truth, and pain. In her self growth, she grows to understand how others see me. She is feeling now, in her heart. We are Vulnerable. A woman came to Quakers after equal marriage. She was celebrated and included and not a source of pain and division. She wants that for her trans Friends.

On trans, someone said the internal truths of being trans, and the external truth of sex and science are both true. I would add, the societal truth of the way people cope with gender variance: not all gender nonconforming people do, but people have transitioned for millennia.

Quakerism is around being kind. This does not make us weak.

In small groups we discussed the long minute of YM 2019. One liked my clever phrasemaking- “there was more unity in the minute than in the meeting-room”. I had thought the minute had been more virtuous- more moving in the direction of God’s purposes- than the ministry warranted, but we thought the clerks had found our potential, where we might be ready to go. I think there’s something in QFP to that effect, on what a good clerk can do, but could not find it in a short search.

After a long hard (and often delightful) weekend we were frazzled. We should not disrespect Friends’ strength of feeling. We keep practising. We are more resilient, better at listening, and we move forward so slowly. Another said she would like an increase of pace.

Words from the Movement for the Ordination of Women in the 1990s come to my mind-

Like a mighty tortoise moves the Church of God
Sisters we are standing where we’ve always stood

We have to stop using the word “Quakerly” to mean “good”. We can become deceived by our positive self-image. Our gains in understanding are not a natural development but a struggle. Quakers profited from slavery. Quakers disagree. (Edwina told last year of a Quaker arms dealer). Where we have irreconcilable differences, how may we be in community together?

(I find there are moves towards unity after a decades long dispute, Christocentric v Universalist, Theist v non-theist. The book “God words and us” showed positive movement. There is respect. I don’t believe in irreconcilable differences- just ingrained, painful, perplexing ones.)

A trans child transitioned from anxiety and despair to life and freedom, and this is what Quakerism is about- the “new life” of A&Q 1. We all have different needs and gifts. We channel the holy spirit.

We are grateful for everyone’s presence and sharing. We are willing to engage with difficult conversations. One liked the image of music: you can hear ten notes at once, in a chord. Vision can distance us but sound resonates through our bodies. Our focus on listening is useful, as sound is immersive. There was an image of binoculars, with each eyepiece focused on a different distance. In relationship we can support each other, step outside of our identities and try something else. Those focused on unity, and those focused on diversity, should talk together.

(I love my phrase “Who is like me?” Everyone, all of humanity; no-one, we are all unique.)

We should move from conversation to action.

Someone said her biggest moves forward had occurred through challenge at Woodbrooke.

A Friend is not as liberal as he thought he was.

An attender feels led by God here.

A woman will have conversations in meeting about the tensions.

We have talked of bodies, but our worship ignores them. Our silent worship privileges people who can sit still and talk articulately. (We call ourselves “Quakers” but quake rarely.) She valued the meeting for worship in dance and movement at YM. Some people can’t cope with silence, or have flashbacks.

A woman said she came in fear, but we have heard each other. We are all broken, and our jagged parts rub against each other. We need community together even when that is the case. She holds everyone here in the light, and will lift everyone up even if we disagree.

Communities can be painful, people can be cruel. Our only way forward is together.

There is intellectual understanding of gender (performed expressed or experienced, as restriction and freedom) and there is kindness and empathy finding another’s way of being.

Friends may have to reseach a meeting, to find if they will be welcome there. (Around 2006 it seemed to me that of two particular nearby meetings, Christocentric Friends tended to go to one, Non-theist Friends to the other. Possibly two “sides” need the intensity of welcome that a meeting’s acceptance of that “side” will bring, until we may hesitantly find unity. With trans, I had hoped that would not be necessary. It seemed to me that the strongest anti-trans campaigners were the most oppressed by female gender stereotypes, that we had that in common, not fitting the stereotypes, and could find more in common from that base. However they insist that all women are equally oppressed by the stereotypes.)

Then we held the silence, and moved into worship.

All comments welcome.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.