Wednesday, November 10, 2010

double-edged ploughsare

It is always an honor to be asked to speak to a group. The idea that someone thinks I might have something interesting or valuable to say tends to stroke the ego. The flip side of that honor is coming up with something to say. People may think that asking a priest or minister to speak narrows the field: religion, or perhaps spirituality! The field is broad, however, and narrowing it to something specific in order to share something coherent can be a challenge. If I had a particular area of expertise on which to focus that would be one thing. But the request, "will you come speak to our group?" tends to leave me feeling some unease.

When I was asked to speak to the Baptist student group at Cumberland University, therefore, I felt a twinge of pleasure mixed with angst. When I posed the question, "what would you like me to talk about?" I was a little surprised to hear, "tell us about your Quaker background." That did help narrow the field a bit, but still left lots of room to wander.

I wear the label "Quakopalian" with pride. I've been an Episcopalian for more than twenty years, and though I feel confident speaking about Quakerism, I thought it wouldn't hurt to dust off the cobwebs of knowledge before facing college students. Some of the things upon which I stumbled really lifted my heart. For instance, while reviewing some notes on pacifism I found these words written by young Friends: how many teens and young adults consider the implications of taxes and the military industrial complex, or standing in silent vigil as a means of "speaking out" against bullying? Talk about thoughtful, sensitive, deliberate decision-making! It took me back to my own days of going to conferences and weekends with other Friends (young and otherwise), writing letters to the editor, and participating in Good Friday vigils on the Boston Common. The Quaker emphasis on integrity (truth, in the above tiles), equality, simplicity and peace doesn't sound like the creeds or confessions of other Churches, but they are rooted deeply in scripture and reflect the life to which Jesus calls us. I learned more about the Christian life growing up in Quaker community than I have witnessed anywhere else in the Church in subsequent years.

The trip down memory lane was poignant for me, and yielded considerable fodder for reflection. Again I am reminded of the richness of my spiritual inheritance, but more than that I am thankful for the values that shaped me and gave me solid grounding for an authentic life. Whatever flaws are part of my nature, the nurturing gets enormous credit for who I am.

Thank you, Friends.


The Bug said...

The Quakers have always fascinated me - but I've always been afraid that I'm too militant for them :)

Jayne said...

I am sure that they thoroughly enjoyed your talk. How neat that having that topic helped you to reflect on your life in such a deep way.

Jules said...

My grandmother was raised Quaker and although she later became Methodist, she had an inner peace and tranquility she attributed to her upbringing as a Friend.

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