Spiritually I feel well taken care of at Atlanta Friends Meeting. Atlanta Friends Meeting minuted their spiritual support for our house, and we are reminded of that support daily. I wish that every monthly meeting that I walk into would be as welcoming as Atlanta was for us QVSers. Because they were waiting for our arrival, there was an expectation that Atlanta would take care of us. They want to help us deepen our spiritual life while understanding that we are busy in our daily intentional living. I wonder what it would look like for every newcomer to feel as welcomed as we were. What if we were all waiting to welcome every newcomer and try remember to welcome them for the next three or four weeks?
Last week, I joined Meeting for Worship with Attention to Business where the meeting reflected on “how they foster a spirit of community among those in the Meeting?” After a time of reflection, we then struggled with the nominating committee not being able to fill the meetings slate of committees, during which I was reminded of my great welcoming.Because I was welcomed so well but was also not being asked to do anything, I was reminded of how important it is that we understand that because someone is new to one meeting does not mean they are new to Quakerism. My experience has been that a “new” attender is thought of as needing time before becoming part of the meeting, but sometimes that isolates someone who has experience on committees. For some six months might be the time they need to adjust while for others it might be years before they understand why they should join a committee. We need a space to deepen our faith through the practice of committee work. My deepest faith experiences are ones of small group work shining on the larger community. My small group work, QVS, seems to be light to the greater Atlanta Friends Meeting community. They have new work to support and help transform. Thank you Atlanta Friends Meeting for supporting me as I grow in my faith and vocation.
Before I came to Clarkston I lived on the U.S.- Mexico border working to maintain water and medical assistance in the desert where many people die trying to cross to a new life. I stayed in the desert because it was all I knew how to do. I knew that when I left gallons of water in the desert or patched people’s blisters or wrapped people’s ankles it had small implications. Oh did I know that systemic solutions were needed. I knew that my work did nothing to prevent people’s needs to cross through a deadly desert. My work met people in the face of economic systems larger than either of us and paused with them for a moment. I didn’t know how to fix the system, all I knew how to do was to get up each morning and hike the trails again.
What if everyone stopped waiting until they knew how to fix everything? What if everyone just did, with love and humility, the one piece they knew how to do? We have developed traditions of honoring Martin Luther King, Jr. by participating in a day of service. And how do our lives seek justice the rest of the year? I know that dropping bottles of water in the desert does nothing to address the systemic violence at hand. I also know that when I am in the desert and I need water, if someone gives it to me they have done something important. We are not, as individuals, capable of working from all angles. So we must come together. We must each work from the angle that we are able, in the communities where we are. We must notice how we grow from and with one another. We must get up each morning with humility and love the world all over again. This is the best service I know how to do.
Article written for CDF newsletter
I woke up thismorning and ate three leftover brownies while sitting on the couch thinking. It was that kind of morning.
The construction paper “Welcome Friends” bubble-cut letters are still taped up in our kitchen from the Open House we had for Atlanta Friends Meeting (AFM) last night. Potluck style, of course, dinner drifted into conversation, which carried on until the songbooks came out. There were Friends I’ve come to know quite well, Friends I was meeting for the first time, young Friends, older Friends, and even a Friendly dog. It was designed to be a gift to AFM; a way we could open our lives to those who put so much love into our program. To me though this morning, their spirits still linger here. The songs are being savored and re-sung in the wood floors, the kitchen table is warm with company, and unspoken about barriers in the house have been lifted. At a time when the QVS-ers were beginning to feel worn down and tired, AFM gifted us again by leaving our house feeling open and renewed.
Difficult things are often the most educational things. There is great learning opportunity in feeling worn down and tired (we’re getting back to those brownies this morning), especially if I ask myself lots of questions.
“Take it to the wall” is a phrase from the theater community I worked in last summer. What we meant was that when a youngster was being obnoxious, disrupting the flow of camp, or really challenging us staffers in whatever way (and oh did they have ways), we challenged ourselves to not disengage from them. We challenged ourselves to keep loving them and working with them beyond where we felt at the end of our ropes, and then beyond again. To gather as a staff to debrief, process, and together keep loving the camper all the way through everything, all the way “to the wall.”
My visiting sister commented on a quote in my bedroom, one that I posted recently. The page says “Justice is what love looks like in public” (Cornel West). The words are written in black sharpie, with red barbed-wire-like accents. I remember feeling angry when I posted it on the wall. Frustrated at how I had thus far failed to articulate to my housemates the crux of my faith, that love be followed to the wall.
As a house, here in Atlanta, we have been gathering to see how far we can push love. We are stepping on each others toes, pushing each others boundaries, and when we have time, getting into important conversations. “The wall” of loving the world is in a different place for everyone, we all have our own processes of loving the world. I had to choose today to not go to meeting in order to catch some desperately needed alone time to figure out what’s going on in me. I want us to do more. I know that we are more capable of investing in justice in our daily living and eating. I also know that to me it is a consequence of living my faith. To see us invest as a faith community in factory meat industries and abusive labor situations breaks my heart. I see it as being just as hypocritical as the high & mighty Churches that I struggle so much with. Is one of the gifts I bring to our community, the gift of personal struggle made public? The gift of pushing us?
I was raised as a polite person; I am very good at reading people’s energies and giving them what I think they want. I am an unfortunately practiced people pleaser. It can be useful, but more often detrimental. I’m not accustomed to being the person that makes the whole community fidget uncomfortably, or who brazenly pisses people off. It may involve anguish as well, but only a process that moves forward in love can have a loving product. My question for myself then in this time of learning is this: how can I push my community further in love?
In mid-December, Mission Year sponsored an event where their executive director, Leroy Barber, spoke with Atlanta faith-based volunteers about neighboring and gentrification. He discussed the importance of building reciprocal relationships within the communities we serve, and the impact that gentrification has had on certain Atlanta neighborhoods. We really appreciated being able to come together and talk as a group about these issues, especially considering that all of the QVSers (and most of the volunteers from other programs) are newcomers to Atlanta. Read More…