Because my Meeting worships in the staff lounge of a large urban cemetery, we occasionally have intrusions from non-Quakers who break the silence with well-meant yet disruptive questions. Recently, three interruptions in a row had me first chuckling and then quaking with the need to speak the following message:
Somehow the interruptions today feel right, a reminder that the healing silence we practice is not something to hide in secret but something we wonder how to carry out into the world.
This message speaks to a dilemma faced by many Friends. We come away from the world’s noise and busyness to a gathering where we need not voice out loud our intimate conversations with that benevolent Wholeness—whatever we name it—which gives us hope, resilience, meaning and joy. Then we stumble, going back out, because we do not know how to speak or write publicly about that heartfelt Truth which transcends language.
There is immense difference between the knowing silence of waiting worship and the awkward silence of unready witness. Friends often understand with great clarity how their private faith and practice guide or even drive their public actions. Even so, at the rise of Meeting we struggle to reduce into words what is boundless and complex in our hearts.
The impulse toward universalism was probably present at the start, even when all 17th century Quaker still “spoke Christian.” Those first Friends were awakened to the reality that Truth is not a belief system but, rather, an inescapable and potentially blessed interrelationship with every other creature and thing in the sacred Wholeness. Hence, they were wary of drawing borders or imposing definitions. The test of a convinced Friend is not doctrine (“What do you believe?”) but witness through action (“How do you live?”).
As we re-inaugurate The Quaker Universalist Fellowship website and blog, we invite you to join us in an endless experiment. How can we rise from our waiting worship and tell each other what we know? What religious and secular languages, what poetries or musics or images or practices can we discover to evoke in our fellows the clearness and joy we experience in the silence?
Over the coming months, this blog will open different paths for experiment, different themes and topics for our readers to explore with each other. To some extent this exploration can be guided by the history and literature of Quaker Universalist discourse—especially as it is represented in the archives and publications available through the QUF website. However, the deeper, truer process will be an organic one, as folk from all realms of Quakerism and beyond join in the conversation.
Please respond to these posts with your comments. Please submit your own potential blog posts to the blog manager. We invite you to interrupt us.