DRAFT Notes from Worship-Sharing: “Lifting Up Our Leadings and Our Calls as Individuals; Strengthening Our Ministries”
Philadelphia Quarterly Meeting, June 1, 2014
DRAFT Notes from Worship-Sharing: “Lifting Up Our Leadings and Our Calls as Individuals; Strengthening Our Ministries”
Present: Margaret Wood, Towanda MM; Tom Grabe, Germantown MM; Dorothy Berlind, MM of Friends of Philadelphia (Arch Street); Phil Anthony, Chestnut Hill MM; Viv Hawkins, Central Philadelphia MM; Robert Drake, MM of Friends of Philadelphia (Arch Street); Greg Barnes, Central Philadelphia MM; W. Francis Elling, Central Philadelphia MM, transferring to Unity Meeting under the care of Frankford MM; Anthony Stover, Germantown MM; J. Jondhi Harrell, Germantown MM; Tom L. Torosian, MM of Friends of Philadelphia (Arch Street); Patricia (Pat) Torosian, MM of Friends of Philadelphia (Arch Street); Rita Varley, Central Philadelphia MM; Woody Tasch, Boulder, Colorado; Colin Holliday and Ann Holliday, Sussex West Area Quaker Meeting, United Kingdom; Kathy Angell, Gunpowder MM (Baltimore YM), currently living in Philadelphia; Sara Palmer, Central Philadelphia MM; Andrew Anderson, MM of Friends of Philadelphia (Arch Street); Hollister Knowlton, sojourning at Germantown MM, clerking; Susan Christian, Green Street Monthly Meeting; Edward Rhodes, Germantown MM; Sita Rosado, MM of Friends of Philadelphia (Arch Street); Jimmy Rosado, MM of Friends of Philadelphia (Arch Street); Kathy Miller, Chestnut Hill MM; Heath Meyers, MM of Friends of Philadelphia (Arch Street); Lynne Calamia, MM of Friends of Philadelphia (Arch Street).
Note: In the interest of enabling Friends to collaborate more directly (and to hold each other in the Light) around specific concerns raised during this worship-sharing, we departed with the assent of those present from the usual practice in business session minutes of avoiding specific names.
After Hollister Knowlton opened the meeting, Andrew Anderson set out the program for the gathering, describing the Spirit that raised up our forefathers and foremothers and that still is at work today. He introduced the query, “What is Spirit planting in me as a longing or a leading, a longing or a ministry?” rooted in the old-time query “How is Truth prospering among us?” and the larger concern of coming to know one another in that which is eternal.
Friends were invited to speak as they felt led under the usual guidelines of worship-sharing.
*Tom Torosian noted Martin Buber’s teaching about the I-Thou relationship (both with one another and with Spirit) that can define our attitudes in community: a model preferable to the I-it relationship (characterized by greed and power).
*Tom Grabe noted the importance of maintaining the Quarterly structure—we have suffered from neglecting it. If we devoted effort (as happened in past centuries) to convening our diverse population of Friends through the Quarterly system, it would greatly enhance our contributions today.
*Rita Varley spoke of her explorations of leadings after retirement—asking God for guidance has taken her into a period of intense activism, especially in Transition Philadelphia (https://www.facebook.com/transitionphiladelphia ), which she sees as a “shimmering opportunity” for the Quarter as a whole, exploring a sustainable, woven-in way of living in our city: like a “permaculture garden of humanity.” Many are actively engaged in leadings in our community—no single one of us has to address every issue.
*Susan Christian (Green Street Monthly Meeting) described being drawn into the work of Sustainable 19144, a movement taking place in the area where her monthly meeting is located. Another Friend has spoken of living every moment of life as Meeting for Worship; Susan extended this to the idea of treating our whole city as holy ground.
*Yoko Barnes (Central Philadelphia Monthly Meeting) has been engaged for four or five years in a leading around the work of fair trade; this involvement was sparked by seeing the documentary “The Dark Side of Chocolate.” She participates currently in Fair Trade Philadelphia (http://fairtradephiladelphia.org/). She invited others in the Quarter to join her in spreading this work and extending it beyond, for example, meetings purchasing fair trade products for use in coffee hour.
*J. Jondhi Harrell, Center for Returning Citizens (http://tcrcphilly.org/) and Germantown MM, presented the work of his organization. It includes both assistance for individuals released from incarceration and programs for youth (such as after-school activities), among them young people who have one or both parents in prison. They are looking to expand their work into another building; they currently have offices in Friends Center and serve many clients there.
*Kathy Miller (Chestnut Hill Friends Meeting) said that when the Friends testimony of equality morphs into the idea of everyone being the same, we are shortchanged, ignoring the wealth of diversity among and around us. She has been seeking ways of increasing our awareness and appreciation of, and spirit of welcome towards, that diversity. She spoke of her excitement around the work of Quaker Voluntary Service (http://www.quakervoluntaryservice.org/philadelphia/) and her gladness that it incorporates spiritual nurture and support, something she felt lacking during her past involvement with VISTA and the Life Center. She feels a deepening of spirit moving within the Yearly Meeting—is something coming alive that has been dormant?
*Sara Palmer (Central Philadelphia Monthly Meeting) spoke of her longing to see both her meeting and the Quarter as a whole become more engaged both with work around homeless concerns and with interfaith efforts such as POWER, Philadelphians Organized to Witness, Empower and Rebuild (http://www.powerphiladelphia.org/). The latter is a broad-based interfaith movement founded around 2010 that focuses on key issues for our city—public education, jobs, immigration justice and more. It troubles her that no Friends meetings are formal members of POWER. She also noted that her meeting has created an ad-hoc working group focused on Homeless Concerns, but that the latter is struggling even to find a time to meet face-to-face—she asked Friends to hold that effort in the Light.
*Greg Barnes (Central Philadelphia Monthly Meeting) talked of his post-retirement sense of fulfilment in various endeavors, particularly that of writing books (including A Biography of Lillian and George Willoughby (http://www.worldcat.org/title/biography-of-lillian-and-george-willoughby-twentieth-century-quaker-peace-activists/oclc/153581058) and a history of Arch Street Meetinghouse) and participation in the interpreting work at Arch Street. He is also involved with a history of American Friends Service Committee (whose centennial celebration is coming up in 2017).
*Andrew Anderson (Monthly Meeting of Friends of Philadelphia) named a book that has brought him to a moment of clarity: The Last Hours of Ancient Sunlight (http://www.amazon.com/The-Last-Hours-Ancient-Sunlight-ebook/dp/B000XUDGSK/ref=dp_kinw_strp_1), which discusses how we squander our oil and soil in a way similar to how young businesspeople in the dot-com bubble burned through their capital and were left with nothing. His meeting extended a low-interest loan to Pennypack Farm and Education Center in Montgomery County (http://www.pennypackfarm.org/); the meeting was able to recoup the loan and earn a little interest while truly helping create the kind of world we want to live in. He envisions a “slow money” network in the area that would expedite financing for local enterprises that help regenerate/nurture the soil.
*Francis Elling (Central Philadelphia Monthly Meeting, transferring to Unity Meeting) told how he had come to this area as a relatively successful artist (see walterfranciselling.com). He feels blessed that he can direct some of those funds to The Center for Returning Citizens. He has found nourishment in the Spiritual Formation Program of Philadelphia Yearly Meeting (http://www.pym.org/spiritual-formation/). Currently, he feels a longing to see the political and economic systems separated. While Francis spent some years deeply involved in the Committee for Racial Healing and Wholeness at Central Philadelphia, he came to the sense that many of our meetings seek to reproduce white, middle-class culture. This is prompting his move to Unity, a meeting located in a more strongly working-class neighborhood with a considerable population of color; the meeting has strong ties to the surrounding community.
*Pat Torosian (MM of Friends of Philadelphia) feels that we are living in the times of the Holy Spirit—we all want to do something and are doing something, but we do not necessarily know to what end. Whatever we do amid the uncertainty and fear, we must continually stay close to Holy Spirit, as what we do is going to make a difference.
*Kathy Angell (attender visiting various meetings in the Quarter) shared a song, “I’m free down deep in my soul”—it’s a round and, she said, perhaps sounds incomplete without the other parts—she too feels incomplete. She paraphrased a saying: “if you come to do favors, never mind, but if you come because your liberation is bound up in mine, let’s get to it.” Quaker testimonies feel grounded in Spirit to her, but we need to move past entitlement, privilege, and avoidance of uncomfortable truths. Does our structure contain and inhibit continuing revelation? Is there room for the letter “J” (for Justice) in SPICES, the convenient acronym for our testimonies?
*Viv Hawkins (Evergreen Worship Group and Central Philadelphia MM) shared a message she’d heard from Jocelyn Burnell while in Bhopal, India. Jocelyn noted that our social testimonies arise from our spiritual testimonies—continuing revelation, there is that of God in everyone, all of life is holy. Viv feels at her best times that if each of us were to embrace that to which God is calling us, we would find ourselves in shalom, a place of peace and love, mercy and justice. Viv has been engaged in ministry doing work with faithfulness. She has found that among our unprogrammed Friends, it’s not enough to have faithfulness, or even enough to be surrounded by other “imaginal cells” supporting our transformation. She has pursued the idea of crowdfunding the “bread” to feed those who have embarked on pastoral work—she asks for prayers, as she has not encountered support from the Friends institutions she has approached.
*Hollister Knowlton (Evergreen Worship Group) said that in 2010, after a lifetime of certainty that her core work was to focus on “living simply, that others might simply live,” three things broke her heart and spirit and she felt that part of her had died. Then she was approached to serve as clerk of the Quarter—despite her misgivings and feeling of inadequacy to the task, feeling scared to death, she agreed to six months of trial service. The experience “kidnapped” her, awakening her and stirring love. The book Servant-Leadership by Robert Greenleaf (https://greenleaf.org/what-is-servant-leadership/) speaks to her—she feels very grateful that she is able to be the servant of the Quarter. She challenged all of us to take up the work before us.
*Referring to the Alternatives to Violence Program, O (Central Philadelphia Monthly Meeting) lifted up the idea of alternatives. Though she felt she did not always have alternatives in childhood, what she did have was access to green spaces--trees, grass, flowers, streams, water spiders—not guns and violence. From being a Jehovah’s Witness, she eventually became a massage therapist. While giving massage, it came to her one day that in touching people she was touching God. She noted, however, that though she had a lot of choices as a massage therapist, she did not have the needed discipline and educational accompaniment to be able to keep her business up. She subsequently returned to Friends and now lives in the city at Serenity House (http://www.archstreetumc.org/serenityhouse), where she still has connection with a tree and is doing work promoting alternatives to violence in the community. She has set up a women’s and a men’s group, they are engaged in activities ranging from drumming to setting up a butterfly garden. She invited Friends to a party there (1209 W. Lehigh Avenue, Philadelphia PA 19133, 215-805-3944) from 6 to 10 PM on June 14, the second Saturday of June.
*Phil Anthony (Chestnut Hill Monthly Meeting) said in recent years he has shied away from using “big” spiritual words like leadings, callings and ministries. As he told a Friend, what he’s experienced of late are “nudges,” not to be dignified with fancy names. At one point the Yearly Meeting determined that its work should not be comprised of anything but leadings—the problem was identifying what really was a leading and where those leadings came from. As a staff person for Salem Quarter, Phil assisted with setting up a Gifts Committee for the Quarter to help sensitize Friends to the idea of gifts: more specifically to stir, evoke, encourage, name, oversee, support and celebrate people’s gifts. This is work that our Meetings—monthly, quarterly, maybe even yearly—could take up. Phil cited Elizabeth O’Connor (and St. Paul’s) affirmation that every gift is necessary. Our communities themselves have gifts, and require those same steps to bring them into being (https://www.abebooks.com/9780876802601/Eighth-Day-Creation-Gifts-Creativity-0876802609/plp). How do we determine what’s needed? When we’re doing things right, people and resources arise. We also need to be careful to give gifts a chance to operate, because otherwise they may turn in on themselves and become destructive. He would love to see us become a group that can nurture gifts and bring them into being. He sees his own gift right now as that of stepping back, recognizing that it is time for others to come forward.
*Sita Rosado (Monthly Meeting of Friends of Philadelphia) would love to see more Friends involved in Quarterly Meetings and in the events—Friends just need to step up, and to put events up on a shared calendar. For example, Arch Street Meeting (http://www.archstreetfriends.org/index.html) has 7-7:40 PM Wednesday evening worships to which all are welcome.
*Colin Holliday (Sussex West Area Meeting, Britain Yearly Meeting) expressed gratitude for the opportunity to attend this session as a visitor. Before he left on his travels, he was named to a group charged with looking at the work of Friends there. He feels he has heard much today that will be of help to their efforts.
Hollister noted that there will be a “Revitalizing Our Quarterly Meetings” gathering next Saturday, June 7, at Reading Meeting (see http://westernquarterquakers.org/event/june7/). She urged PQM Friends to attend.
Andrew spoke to the question of follow-up. The minutes will be made available on the Quarterly Meeting website and via email. Friends will explore additional ways of pursuing the concerns raised.
Friends expressed appreciation to Monthly Meeting of Friends of Philadelphia for their hospitality and the planning of this session.
--Submitted by Sara Palmer, alternate recording clerk