Sunday, November 26, 2006


It wasn't November bla.

Sometimes it takes a while for the Light to seep through. I teach the children about how we often fail to listen, and it turns out that I was speaking to myself. And all the advice I've been giving to people lately about how they need to start something, that was really advice to myself. I'm the one who needs to start something. And it's not in addition to meeting; it's in place of it.

We've been riding out a bit of a storm, my spouse and I. We took a 25% drop in income last year when his job ended and we started his corporation. It's been lean and stressful. I've had to take on more contracts to help cover the difference, which meant a major double shift for me, and long hours for him. But it seems that the big break comes this week in the form of a five-year deal to start a Canadian subsidiary of a US company right here in our basement. He's negotiated to work only 80% because he wants time to play and can afford it on what they will pay him. This means I can reduce my work to 60%.

It's kind of like Noah's ark. When the storm is on, you hunker down inside the ark and shut all the doors, ride it out. Then when the calm returns, you open that window and let out the bird. Where is the shore? That's the next part of the journey.

As soon as the news of the contract came, my window opened. Things became clear in a rush of fresh air, now that the possibility of doing something about it was real. The restlessness I've felt in my current quaker meeting has been more than seasonal affective disorder or anything like that. I just find silence insufficient. Not bad or anything, just insufficient. I find constant yada-yada of churches insufficient too. There's nothing much in between-- either all yin and no yang, or all yang and no yin.

Nothing personal against the people in our meeting, who are all lovely and I do feel a responsibility to help out, but there is this nudging. It's got something to do with the disconnect that I feel with both churches and silent meetings (there's something vaguely sanctimonious about both, isn't there?), and the disconnect that I sense between people and religion.

My efforts over the past year to introduce change to my meeting have been subconscious responses to this nudging. I have been (and am) sure the meeting would grow in numbers if we adopted a more experimental style. But the truth is, the people who currently come to our meeting come to it precisely because it is the way it is. Anyone who didn't like it has already left and gone elsewhere. Or nowhere. To change, we would have to start doing things that these people dislike. So then they would leave.

That is the problem with organizational change. The organization has to go through a death before it gets a new life. We have to be honest: nobody really wants to do that.

Start something.

Instead of sitting in meeting today, I went downstairs and poked around in our bookshelves. I signed out two books: The Way Out is the Way In (Damaris Parker-Rhodes) and Encounter with Silence (John Punshon). The title of the first one struck a chord with me. I wonder if it's another nudge. The second, well, I've always liked Punshon.

I'm making arrangements to visit our city's only emerging church with an RC friend, just to see what it's all about. Hopefully next Sunday, if she can go.

I've started a meeting blog, but of course, with resistance and so far weak participation from my meeting. I may need to open it up to a wider group of people. This appeals to me.

I've made a list of books to order from Chapters, once we're sure our income is secure.

Start something.

Everything beyond that is vague right now.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Teaching Quakerism to Unitarians

I've volunteered to teach a two-lesson program about Quakerism to the children at the local Unitarian Fellowship. They are doing a year-long unit on religions of the world. Apparently, some other groups have gone in to do stuff with them.

Age range is 5 to 14, anywhere from five to fifteen kids. I'd have them for under an hour, with assistants. It had all sounded easy when I had volunteered for this last spring, but at that time, I was told I'd be presenting to a group of 12-14-year-olds, which would have been much easier. I guess they've changed their program a little...

The program facilitator says the group is "active" and tends to go for the story/drama activity followed by an art/drama application.

I had one idea to do a listening activity (borrowed from the FGC Education site), where the kids lie on the floor with their heads together in a star formation and then focus on something and sense how the Light pulls at them. But how long would we be able to do that?

If anyone has done this sort of presentation before, I'd appreciate suggestions, tips, ideas, websites to go to, etc.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Poppies for Peace

Thanks to suggestions from several kind Friends, we've put together a shoebox of stuff for a soldier. I realized fromthe list of items the Cub leaderhad given us that she had assumed that the receiving soldier would be male. So we made a box of treats and nice things for a female officer and then put in a hand puppet, 4 pairs of children's socks, and several coloured markers (I wasn't sure if crayons would melt) for Afghani children.

Now we have to write a little postcard to her. We've got four more days to come up with something to say. My son just wants to write stop shooting people. I have suggested to him that this is probably inappropriate.

However, in November, there's no getting away from the soldier theme and the war theme. Remembrance Day is on the 11th, and every year, I find myself asking: What does a Quaker do with Remembrance Day? Every year, I wrestle with the whole notion of wearing a poppy.

IN FLANDERS FIELDS the poppies blow
Between the crosses row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

What does wearing a poppy mean? The official meaning is lest we forget. I think at one time that translated to lest we forget that soldiers died so that we could be free. Now sometimes I wonder if it has come to mean lest we forget that war is hell.

Should we be concerned about what a symbol officially means? Another website said wearing the poppy was a "tribute" to fallen Canadian soldiers. I don't know what "tribute" means.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Should a Quaker wear a poppy is the type of question that Margaret Fell might have called a poor silly gospel. Sort of like being concerned whether someone wears a hat or doesn't wear a hat, or whether they have buttons or no buttons. Religion is inward. Symbols are outward. Right? So it should be straightforward: wearing this symbol does not mean anything outward. It just means something to the wearer.

Yet I wonder how it is interpreted.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

The prime minister has tried to boost support for the Afghanistan war by asking people to wear red on Fridays in support of the troops. I guess he managed to get a few military families to do this. But most of them are weary and just want their loved ones home, so I suspect that compliance has already fallen off. I know of no one who wears red on Fridays.

In contrast, even this year, compliance with wearing a poppy is near 100%. To not wear a poppy is to be boorish, selfish, ignorant. It's always been that way, as long as I can remember. Is this a type of knee-jerk traditionalism? Or do people see a difference between one set of symbols and another?

I bought a poppy as a cash register today and wore it. And I joined the sea of people wearing poppies, I'm sure each with their own meaning.

I'm wearing it for my shoebox soldier in Afghanistan, who probably has children back here in Canada, or if not, then parents or a boyfriend. I'm wearing it because of her companions that have already been killed and those who will be killed over the next few months.

And because in war, there are no good guys and bad guys. There's just guys.

And war is hell.