Saturday, February 26, 2005

Friendly Eights

That's a term Quakers use for gatherings of small groups of Friends, usually in private homes, for cooperative meals and spiritual nurture. (This post is taken from a letter to my dear friend, Marjorie.)

The Gainesville meeting is said to be the largest unprogrammed meeting in Florida, which isn't saying much numerically. Our group last night might have been 20, crowded comfortably into a small home. The subject was a pamphlet written by Joe Volk, "Director of FCNL (Friends Committee on National Legislation)". It is to a large degree a spiritual autobiography:

Joe was born a Methodist and actively pursued his religious interests. His embarrassing questions led to estrangement from his local religious community (as has happened to so many of us). But he had a commitment. He was drafted into the army in the sixties, but refused to go to Vietnam (on conscientous grounds) and wound up in the brig.

Joe found increasingly that his religious interest focused on personal relationships: in early school his parents asked him to spend time with a boy with a harelip. He didn't want to do this, but he found the boy was much smarter than he was and had some admirable qualities.

He had those sorts of experiences repeatedly and came to see the realtionship they had with the teachings of Jesus. As an adult he concluded that Christianity (by which he really meant Churchianity) was not his cup of day, that his relationship with Jesus was the central interest in his life.

Our group (like most FGC Quakers) was more or less unanimously liberal and Democrat. Many of them seem to consciously avoid religious forms of speech. But I was surprised to see how many (all in fact) were aggressively supportive of Joe's point of view.

MG, these people are all evangelicals; not the kind of 'evangelicals' who fight abortion and gay rights (at the direction of their 'leaders'), but followers of the gospel. Like Joe they are not interested in religious forms, of activity or speech or thought. They are interested in doing what Jesus invited us to do.

Last night I really felt good about being a Quaker.

No comments: