Worship at the Diversity and Inclusion Gathering

Not everyone attended the final worship. I saw people coming in at the back, at the end, for the notices. I had my phone out and was typing on it- not normally acceptable in worship, but it felt right to me- to retain some of the ministry, from hearts and minds opened by a weekend of encounter.

A Young Friend quoted Greta Thunberg: “It’s time to panic”. Do we understand the urgency, of increasing racism and nationalism, of disability benefit cuts, of the need to do something bold and radical?

A Friend grew up in colonial Kenya, and shared their phrase: We the people shall govern. Those with power are the people. We Quakers should be at the forefront of inclusion work. He will make one act tomorrow that he may be a change maker.

“The Stone the builders rejected has become the capstone.” This is not some bland and affirming insight that people may be thoughtfully included, but the cornerstone is the crucial link. We need not a condescending welcome, but to seek out the rejected for their energy and life force.

A woman said she was afraid in a quiet railway carriage when a large group of noisy young men came in with cases of beer. But when she started getting to know them, they were friendly, helpful, they had rubbish bags for their cans. She was scared because drinking is threatening, but these guys weren’t. (I would have been scared too, wanting to shrink away and not be noticed.)

A Friend sang,
There are a thousand ways to kneel and kiss the ground
Let the beauty you love be the thing that you do,
Let the beauty you love shine through

(I had thought I could google the lyrics, or even find a video. I found the first line is from Rumi, but could not find the whole as a chorus. The ministry in worship touches me, and then the touch fades, despite the ways I try to cling to it.)

One said, we are where we are, with possibly irreconcilable positions. She will be clear about her feelings, listen to her friends, and fall on the grace of God.

That trust exercise, of falling back to be caught by another, which I learned as a child- one said, can I fall back into God’s arms, and do so again and again?

This was the Ministry that most spoke to me: Last year I came thinking of inclusion as a to do list, but it is a way of being, being open to meet others and see all that they are. First we must see and accept ourselves, which is hard work. Then we may transform one another with love and acceptance. Our actions will grow intuitively from that.

I expand on that idea: I need to see Testimony as a challenge from which I fall short, a challenge inspiring me to grow. I fear that some Quakers think that because we have a testimony to equality, the welcome we give to diverse people is always good enough.

As I grow with God my testimony grows. Through the weekend we talked of the stereotypes we think we know about groups, the shorthands we have to judge each other, which come from power structures, enforce hierarchies and create distance. Being within society we apply them unconsciously. Quakers seeing ourselves as wise and mature may make this worse. Even, we fear those whom we have been taught to fear. So we need to be conscious of the encounter, and see each person anew.

4 thoughts on “Worship at the Diversity and Inclusion Gathering

  1. I find this disturbing for a number of reasons but I would like to say one thing. I was sat by the door at the back. The people who came in at the end were the non-Quaker disabled keynote speaker – i.e. our guest – and another wheelchair user who had been keeping her company. Maybe it would be nice to adjust the opening wording to sound less judgemental about who attended?

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    • Thank you for commenting. I am sorry you find this disturbing. You could explain that if you wish here.

      I was facing the door at the back. The people I noticed coming in at the end were self-named “gender concerned” Friends. I don’t think I am judgmental, but neutral. There could be any number of reasons for not attending- not being used to Quaker worship, needing time with one or two others who agree- which are not necessarily objectionable.

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