I had an opening early this morning, the sort of opening which I experience as remembering something I already knew.
Intellect brings human beings to the doorway of awareness and leaves them there.I suppose my brain was riffing on another saying I don’t remember clearly, something about bringing people to the feet of Jesus and leaving them there.
What this opening showed me was this:
Human beings tend to miss out on most of their own experience, because they try to put it into words.Our Meeting is working on a “How We Worship” handout to ease visitors into the weirdness of Quaker worship. To give visitors a context, I proposed adding a brief historical note. I opened with this:
Quakerism began in England in the 17th century as a radical form of Christianity which placed the direct experience of Jesus, the Christ, above formal doctrines or biblical authority.After contrasting the 19th century revivalist movement, which led some Quakers toward a more traditionally Protestant, bible-based Christianity, with the effort of others to retain the radical Christianity of their ancestors, I wrote this sentence:
Still others have become more “universalist,” perhaps seeing Jesus either as the Christ or as a human guide and teacher, yet also sharing worship and community with people of other religious and non-religious moral paths.I had intended religious to refer to folks whose faiths are theist or non-theist and non-religious, to folks whose faiths are secular—that is, morally centered yet humanist rather than spiritual.
Yet one Friend stumbled over the term non-religious, and other Friends seemed not to grasp the reason for her distress.
For her, non-religious meant “without any (communally held) beliefs.” If some of us do not believe in a spirit, she wrote, how can we worship and discern mutual leadings together?
“I have never suggested….” she wrote, “that we create a set of beliefs to adhere to, but there has to be some basic belief that there is a spirit we are waiting in silence for…. How can we worship as a GROUP if some do not worship? How we worship is the details, and the details [are] what I thought we discerned through the Spirit/God speaking through us. What we worship is our core.”
I’m wondering how other Friends, other Meetings, deal with this dilemma.
How do theist, non-theist and humanist Quakers worship and discern together? What do we experience, individually and collectively, that we can recognize as gatheredness or as communal leadings?