Sunday, February 19, 2006

A Quakers's Vision of God

(on my website there is a file on this subject.)

At our Quaker meeting for worship this morning there were messages re how people perceived God. In the Bible we may read about numerous and diverse visions of God, but we are also told that no vision can possible encompass the reality to which the word points.

One of those messages seem worthy of mention here:

The vision of God given to us by Jesus is that God is a Loving Heavenly Father. That seemed to be his awareness of God to which he turned at each eventuality. Some 50 years ago that vision impacted the messenger's consciousness in an emphatic way. In the gospels Jesus frequently told us (over and over again) to 'only believe'. When he said that, I think he was talking about that vision-- not about the Nicene Creed or any other statements of dogma. If we can believe that, life assumes an entirely different level of meaning, the only real meaning life has to offer IMO.


crystal said...

Loving Heavenly Father

- I like that image the best :-)

Larry said...

Thanks, Crystal; that's the one that brought me alive.

Twyla said...

I don't know if this is just a stage, but I seem to relate most deeply to God as loving and nurturing Heavenly Mother right now. Many times a day I hear myself murmuring within to Mother. While in the past, really throughout all of my spiritual life, I have been drawn to Father. Relating to my Heavenly Parent as Mother has been really different, very enriching. I don't know if this is my identification as a woman or as a mother...or if it is just the joy of a more complete gender-full divine. interaction.

Larry said...

That's wonderful, Twyla; I'm so glad you shared that. God of course is beyond gender, having created it. But we are allowed (and encouraged) to choose the metaphor that we find most compelling. 50 years ago I needed a father, and got one. At this stage of your life you need a mother, and got one. Praise the Lord.

I love your Mother and suspect that you love my Father. Or Buddha, or whatever name God goes by anywhere.

Meredith said...

dear Larry and Friends,

This probably isn't the right comment for this post, but I thought about it immediately when I saw the topic.

I have shared with you that I belong to a small home-based worship group. Well, recently, one of our older attenders, age 83 or so, sent word via her daughter that she won't be coming any more because she doesn't like all the "God-talk." This led to a discussion where several others said they didn't like "God-talk" either, and then to the fact that some Quakers are atheists.

I was filled with a lot of emotion at this - guilt because I am ususally the one with "God-talk," sadness because of my perception that my loved ones are missing the possible true richness of Meeting, and frustration that here, where this communion could occur, authentic spiritual sharing doesn't feel welcome.

I have been on a mission of sorts to deepen the level of spiritual sharing in our Meeting, so we will know one another more intimately, and be nurtured in the Spirit by one another.

Do you have any suggestions, dear Friends?

Larry said...

Meredith, I'm full of ideas on that subject, though I don't know whether any of them are useful.

1. Dialogue! presumably this would have to be through the woman's daughter. Ask her if she objects to Fox's godtalk.

2. Talk about this in the Meeting for Business. Ask the meeting if they would like to consider a special meeting for non-Christocentric Quakers.

Some action needs to be taken by the meeting. Find out who else may object to Godtalk.

Some of the people at the 15th St. Meeting in NYC have been afflicted with this problem. Check with them (I'll give names if you need them).

My experience has been (probably) unique, but I'm compelled to share it.

I am an evangelical Quaker universalist. We came to Quakers with years of evangelical experience (of the enlightened sort). At Langley Hill (No VA) I immediately started couching my messages in theological terms, quoting the Bible, etc.

I was aware that there were agnostics and atheists in the group, but if they were offended they didn't express it to me. I became something of a 'weighty Quaker' in that meeting.

However the first Baltimore Yearly Meeting we attending with a worship service of 300 a young woman said something about her Lord. Immediately an old gentleman in the balcony rose and said "I wish you hadn't used that language; I know it's just a semantic difference, but ...."

After the meeting I found the girl and told her I was very glad to hear the Lord's name raised in meeting. We hugged (although heretofore strangers).

After five years we moved to the mountains. The Brevard NC mountain had quite a number of nonChristocentric Quakers and a few of my sort. The same thing happened. We reached a polite modus vivenda; both parties managed to remain on good terms.

I think this is likely to be a problem wherever there are unprogrammed Quaker meetings. I think it should be faced directly.

In the 19th century Quakers almost exclusivized themselves out of existence in the USA. Then they moved to the opposite extreme; there no longer seem to be any requirements for membership.

That has pluses and minuses. Personally I'm glad to see non-Christocentrics; it gives me a chance to (attempt to) evangelize them. Stick with Fox and you can't go far wrong.

Well Meredith, you provoked a favorite rant of mine; thanks!

Meredith said...


Thanks for this. There is so much more we could dialogue about here. It is true that some words have more than a little energy attached to them, and we can find ourselves bristling at them, such as the older gentleman that responded negatively to the word Lord. I found myself bristling at the word evangelize. So our language has an impact on others, it is true. I understand more now how the word God would trigger someone, too.

I wish to find a way to move beneath the language triggers to that sweet soft spot where we can all be nourished and informed, to that still small voice running through each of us. I want to encourage the listening here, and to encourage the opening of hearts to allow this voice and this presence to permeate our Meeting and our lives. Naturally it is here already, and my intention is to bring focus to it, so we may marvel in it and find the sweet joy that knowing this presence can offer.

Larry said...


Liz Opp said...

Who knows what a simple post might bring forward...?

Meredith writes in her comments: I want to encourage the listening here, and to encourage the opening of hearts to allow this voice and this presence to permeate our Meeting and our lives.

The worship group I participate in recently had a Meeting for Worship for Healing among ourselves, to help us hold and bear the pain that has risen up between one of the monthly meetings (with its theological diversity) and ourselves (with its shared theology, where the Divine Prinicple--however it is named--is at the center).

We had preparatory readings about healing; we met in pairs to consider queries and share more openly some of our discomfort around the concept of "theologically diverse Quakers."

In some way, I would say many of us were changed by how we held the concern and listened for Guidance.

I am now following up, in a way, with an informal sort of listening project, hoping that if Friends feel like I am listening FIRST, they might come to know that we EACH wish to be heard, seen, and validated in our spiritual authenticity.

It is clear, Meredith, that you are pained by the choice that this dear Friend made, to leave the worship group. If Way is open, perhaps you might contact this Friend directly and offer to hear more of what pains her, if you can simply receive without judgement whatever it is she might say.

I realize that some time has passed since I have come across this post and your comment within it, but I felt it important to add to the conversation.

Liz, The Good Raised Up