Category Archives: Quaker

Special Election

For my California friends…Here are the recommendations for the May 19 Special Election from the Friends Committee on Legislation:

Proposition 1A: No. State Budget.
Proposition 1B: Neutral. Education Funding
Proposition 1C: No. Lottery Modernization.
Proposition 1D: No. Protects Children’s Services.
Proposition 1E: No. Mental Health Services.
Proposition 1F: No. Elected Officials’ Salaries.

To learn more about why they made these recommendations, click here.

which has more clarity…

Warning: if you are one of the people who gets their knickers in a knot when I compare Mormonism to Quakerism, just skip this post, ok?

Last night I attended a Finance Committee Meeting for our Quaker congregation. There were many agenda items and among them was a discussion of the wording for a statement about the appropriate usage of funds by various committees within the meeting. For about 10 minutes we debated whether two particular sentences were worded with clarity. The crux of the discussion came down to whether using a semi-colon or starting a new sentence would make a particular section of the statement more clear.

In this room were 4 women and 2 men. At least 4 of those people had advanced degrees. Four of us were “mature” and two of us were young-ish. Everyone had the chance to express an opinion. Each expression was considered equally and the decision was made to use the period rather than a semi-colon. My feeling was that the statement was fine either way and was clear either way. I didn’t contribute much to the discussion.

As we moved on to the other agenda items, a large concern was how to make the Meeting’s financial situation more clear to all those who attend weekly meetings–especially so everyone could know how important each contribution was to the well-being of our group. It was decided to put some of the information in the monthly newsletter and to create a graphical representation of the Meeting’s various financial allocations to have in the area outside the Worship room, where we meet for refreshments each week following Silent Meeting.

IF you are familiar with the LDS church then you will know that there is no transparency about the usage of donated funds. And, to be a member in good standing you are required to donate ten percent of your income to the church. Yes, if you have a particular leadership calling you might know how local funds are allocated. But the church does not release any information about the usage of the funds sent to SLC nor does it disclose the value of any of its vast holdings and investments. And, as I have said before, there is great gender disparity about who gets to make any kind of financial decisions in LDS wards. Local leaders are not allowed to set their own policies about financial allocations–meaning that they can’t decide how much of their funds go to Salt Lake and how much of it remains locally-held. This all comes straight from church HQ.

So sure, it can be a bit tedious to sit in a meeting and debate the merits of specific punctuation–especially when it seems such a very small detail. But I found it quite charming, simply because of the very fact that such an item could be on an agenda and could be up for discussion by all of us, even myself.

Personal Relationships and Equality

rose at the H, originally uploaded by pilgrimgirl.

For October at Quaker Meeting the topic for the queries was “personal relationships.” Some of the questions that were offered as a catalyst for meditation:

For individuals:

Do I make my home a place of friendliness, joy, and peace, where residents and visitors feel God’s presence?

Are my sexual practices consistent with my spiritual beliefs and free of manipulation and exploitation?

What barriers keep me from responding openly and lovingly to each person?

For the Meeting community:

Do we open our thoughts, beliefs, and deep understandings to our children and others who share our lives and our hospitality?

Do we provide our children and young adults with a framework for active, ongoing participation in the Meeting?

With the polarization of the political factions in our country the past few weeks, I’ve found myself cynically responding to those who believe differently than I do. However a few times I was able to step away from my own dogmatism and have a conversation about the issues with another person who believed differently than me. I found that when I did this I could find a space of common ground and that it fostered tolerance and kindness between us, rather than a feeling of hostility. I am grateful for those bridge-building moments. They’ve buoyed me through the morass of negativity that’s coming from the media right now.

I had the interesting experience of clerking a Quaker committee meeting on Sunday, where we learned about and debated the merits of the various California ballot Propositions. By happenstance the attendees of the meeting were all men who were about 20 years older than me. We had a vigorous and enjoyable discussion. I felt that everyone’s opinions were valued even if we completely disagreed on many of the measures. What the attendees of that meeting probably didn’t realize, was that I was totally reeling with the experience–because in a Mormon context I would never have had the opportunity or the responsibility to conduct a meeting of older men. Nor would I have asserted my opinion as one of equal weight as those of men (because all LDS men who are over the age of 12 hold the priesthood and are therefore given the role of mouthpiece for God–I’m simplifying it a bit, but my teenage son could say prayers and administer rituals that no Mormon woman ever could, at any age).

When I consider the last query above about how the Meeting offers opportunities for everyone to participate…and I think about my having led a church meeting in a manner that so clearly emphasized the equality of gender and age, I feel happy that I worship with Friends. Because equality is important to me.

let’s talk about SPICES

Lots of folks are curious about our family’s adoption of the Quaker faith (Religious Society of Friends) after we stopped attending the Mormon church, so I thought I’d write a bit about that tradition and what draws us to it.

First of all, it’s important to note that there is a huge spectrum of Quaker beliefs and practices. There are evangelical Christian Quakers and there are atheist Quakers, and everything in between. The common threads that tie this groups together are the SPICES testimonies:


Quakers tend to worship in Silence. This means that rather than having a church service with music, sermon, rituals, and prayers, Friends sit in a circle in silence together (although there are “programmed” traditions within Quakerism that do have some of these elements). Occasionally an individual will break the silence to share their thoughts with the group. Some of my friends who’ve attended Quaker Meeting with us have found this mode of worship rather disconcerting.

Quakerism has a rich history, and Friends have been key players in many significant social movements, such as abolition and suffrage. Today Quakers are typically noted for their opposition to war.

If you would like to learn more about the Quaker tradition, my best suggestion is for you to find a local Meeting to attend–many have an “Intro to Quakerism” class for those who want to learn more. There are also many online resources about Quakerism and I can recommend some books that you’ll find informative: Friends for 350 Years and Plain Living: a Quaker Path to Simplicity. Those with Mormon background might find Heidi Hart’s account of her journey to Quakerism to be good reading: Grace Notes

I’ve spent time with Quakers in Boston, Logan, Pasadena, Salt Lake City, San Diego, and Orange County. What typically stands out to me is the strength of the older women in the Meetings and the simplicity of the surroundings in which Friends worship. Our family has been warmly welcomed in each Meeting that we’ve attended. Recently, John posted some thought-provoking excerpts of an interview with our children about their transition from Mormon to Friend.

And, FYI, just so you know that Quakers do have a sense of humor.

Photo: Me standing in the historic Friends’ Meetinghouse in Beacon Hill. John and I stayed in a room at the Meetinghouse during our last visit to Boston (our room overlooked the garden courtyard–lucky us!)

at sunset

at sunset, originally uploaded by pilgrimgirl.

This is a photo that I took at sunset yesterday. I’d made a quick trip to the garden to gather herbs for John’s Father’s Day dinner and then just had to snap a few pictures.

I came across this quotation yesterday and it’s been in my mind ever since:

“True simplicity consists not in the use of particular forms, but in foregoing over-indulgence, in maintaining humility of spirit, and in keeping the material surroundings of our lives directly serviceable to necessary ends, even though these surroundings may be properly characterized by grace, symmetry, and beauty.”
~Book of Discipline of the Religious Society of Friends, Adopted by the Philadelphia Yearly Meeting, 1927

In so many ways my garden is a space echoes my desire for “humility in spirit.” When I am there I am in awe of the world and my small place in it, I am overwhelmed by my own inability at mastery, and I am constantly blessed by grace, symmetry, and beauty.

Social and Civic Responsibility

Friends, these are the Queries from my Friends Meeting for this month. I wanted to share them with you, thinking that you might find them thought-provoking…

Advice and Queries, June
Social and Civic Responsibility

In the words of William Penn, “True godliness doesn’t draw men out of the world, but enables them to live better in it and excites their endeavors to mend it.” Elsewhere he commented: “It is a reproach to religion and government to suffer so much poverty and excess.”

Poverty within a wealthy society is unjust, cruel, and often linked to skin color, gender, and language. We must examine our own privilege and role in the economic order that deepens this disparity. Friends should be alert to oppression and injustice, and persistent in working against them.

We value our part in shaping the laws of our country. Our task is to see that laws serve God’s purposes and build a just social order. Our first allegiance should be to God, and if this conflicts with any compulsion of the state, we serve our country best by remaining true to our higher loyalty.

If, by divine leading, our attention is focused on a law that is contrary to God’s law, we must proceed with care. Before acting, Friends should pray for further guidance and speak with the Meeting, family members, and all those who might be affected by the decision. If a decision involves disobedience to the law, we should make the grounds of our action clear to all concerned and be prepared to suffer any penalties without evasion. As a community, we must care for those who suffer for conscience’s sake.

Advice and Queries for all individuals

What am I doing to carry my share of responsibility for the government of our community, nation, and the world?

Am I persistent in my efforts to promote constructive change?

Advice and Queries for the meeting

How do we attend to the suffering of others in our local community, in our state and nation, and in the world community?

Do we try to understand the causes of suffering, and do we address them as a Meeting?

How do we, individually and as a Meeting, support the organizations that work to bring the testimonies of Friends into reality in our society?

Advice and Queries especially for children

Social and civic responsibility means we should not be content to live in an unjust world.

What does it mean to be a good citizen?

What can I do if I see things that are unfair?

Do I know how my Meeting is helping people and do I participate in these activities?

Do I try to understand why people are poor or unhappy, not only here but throughout the world?

which part is mine?

small and purple
Today as I sat in silence, an old song was running through my mind. It’s a ballad by LDS songwriter Michael McLean and each verse portrays a stage of a women’s life and has her perplexed by her role in her various relationships–with friends, spouse, children and spiritual journey. The refrain asks “Which part is mine and which part is yours?”

I thought about this song as I pondered my various relationships. I wondered, for example, about my children’s growing autonomy. At what point do I intervene and help them to solve their problems and when do I let them learn their own lessons? How much do I hover? When it is better to let them strike out on their own? How can I affirm my love without stifling them or breaking their will? And are there moments when I am too aloof, too absorbed in my own projects?

I thought about it in terms of my relationship with John. I considered the significant investment I have in him and how difficult it is for me when, like this last week, he is out of town. And I wonder what the best balance is between absorbing myself in him and pursuing my own goals & desires? I considered those moments when my being self-focused weakens our relationship. Yet I also think that, in many ways, I can only be a good partner when I have a strong self to offer. Which part is mine and which part is his, indeed?

This line of thought also has resonance with my involvement in the larger community of Friends. For the past two years I’ve mostly been a recipient–indulging in the efforts of others’ planning, sharing, and ministry. This has been a necessary time to nourish my wounded soul. Accepting the care of others has allowed me space and time for healing. I wonder, though, if it isn’t my turn to serve? As I sat in Meeting today and acknowledged each person in the circle I realized that I have much to give. I am no longer the girl in corner who is constantly on the verge of tears, who has no voice to speak in Meeting. Perhaps ironically, this brings to mind some words from my patriarchal blessing, an admonishment to “move with confidence because there are many who look to you as an example and who will receive encouragement from you through your example.” I am starting to feel that it is “my part” to become more active in the Meeting community. Perhaps it is time to return some of what I have received.

pilgrimclassic: Casting Faith

This post originally appeared on Nov 19, 2006:

On Thursday during my casting appointment there was a group of four people involved in the process—two prosthetists and two interns—each taking a different role in wrapping my residual limb in a flexible fiberglass shell, then shaping that shell into a form that will both conform to my anatomy and will also best contain the tissue, muscle and bone as I walk. This is an intimate process, as the socket of my prosthetic leg interfaces with the major bones of the pelvic girdle—holding in the ischium and pressing against the ramus.

It is an odd feeling to have two male prosthetists shaping the casting material between my legs and around my hip. Realizing that they are interacting with the most personal spaces of my body. Knowing that it is their job and this is a necessary process for getting a good fitting socket. Me, trying to remain a bit aloof and distanced from the process, yet at the same time having such high hopes that they will get a good fit—that the socket will work well and not cause pain and the suppurating sores that I’ve suffered with for the past few years.

On Thursday evening I experienced a different form of intimacy. I gathered around the kitchen table of a Friend, holding hands with three Quaker women who agreed to serve on my Clearness Committee. We sat in silence, in prayer, until I felt moved to speak, to tell them of the turmoil in my heart in the process of leaving Mormonism. I spoke hesitantly, nervously. Their role was only to ask open-ended questions. Not to judge. Not to guide. After 90 minutes of speaking and silence, they mirrored what I had spoken back to me. They told me what they had heard me say. They discussed how my body language revealed the truths of my heart. Most of all, they shared their concern for the burdens that I am carrying.

Perhaps ironically, the Clearness Committee experience was far more discomfiting and intimate than the casting for my prosthesis. For I don’t readily share the thoughts of my heart. Yes, I do this daily blogging, but I speak primarily of mundanity here. I’ve only very hesitantly shared the steps of my spiritual journey with anyone. I suspect that most just can’t understand. Within the Mormon community I feel censure and distrust. I have few friends who can empathize with the loss of faith. Who can grieve with me through this process?

Outside of Mormonism, I am flummoxed by trying to explain what leaving the church means. That it is a complete change of worldview. Is it, perhaps, like having to relearn to walk?

There is a popular LDS song called “I Walk By Faith” that I sang often during my teen years. I identified with this song as a young Mormon who was developing faith in Christ and as an amputee, because each step involved trusting my prosthesis in hopes that it would support my weight. So now on my spiritual journey away from the LDS Church I am learning what it means to walk by uncertainty, to walk by doubt, to walk into completely unknown territory as my heart leads me onwards. Ironically, this seems the biggest leap of faith thus far.

for peace…

These are the thoughts and questions that we are focused on this month in our Quaker Meeting. Perhaps you might find them fruitful for reflection, too.

November Advice and Queries (from Faith and Reason):

Friends oppose all war as inconsistent with God’s will. As every person is a child of God, we recognize God’s Light also in our adversaries. Violence and injustice deny this reality and violate the teachings of Jesus and other prophets.
Friends challenge their governments and take personal risks in the cause of peace. We urge one another to refuse to participate in war as soldiers, or as arms manufacturers. We seek ways to support those who refrain from paying taxes that support war. We work to end violence within our own borders, our homes, our streets, and our communities. We support international order, justice and understanding.
Become an instrument of peace. At every opportunity, be peacemakers in your homes, workplaces and communities. Steep yourself in the power of the universal Spirit. Examine your actions for the seeds of violence, degradation and destructiveness. Overcome the emotions that lie at the root of violence and nurture instead a spirit of reconciliation and love. Come to know the oneness of all creation and oppose the destruction of the natural world.

Advice and Queries for all individuals:
Do I live in the virtue of that life and power that takes away the occasion of all wars?
How do I nourish peace within myself as I work for peace in the world?
Do I confront violence wherever it occurs, even when my personal relationships are involved?
Where there is distrust, injustice or hatred, how am I an instrument of reconciliation and love?

Advice and Queries for the meeting:
What are we doing to remove the causes of war and destruction of the planet, and to bring about lasting peace?
Do we reach out to all parties in a conflict with courage and love?