The expectant waiting of unprogrammed Quakers was one of the things that drew me into the fellowship of Friends eight years ago, and I’m still learning about how local meetings practice it.
George Fox University professor Cherice Bock recently wrote a fascinating blog on the ways that Quakers worship and discern together. Bock is part of Oregon’s Northwest Yearly Meeting, which has been facing some heavy decisions about its membership and hosting no small amount of rancor.
It is so difficult, now, to even imagine trusting others, and in some ways I would like to just give up trusting people altogether. It would be much easier to just become cynical, and to attempt to use political means to manipulate my way in the future.
Much more difficult, however, is remaining vulnerable and open, trusting and hoping, and remaining open to the radical and intense freedom and joy of coming together as a group of Friends to discern together, fully and wholly, unreservedly, bringing our whole selves.
I say it is more difficult, but to me, it is also the only Way worth living… I will live out love. There is no other Way I would wish to go.” —Cherice Bock
The political environment is toxic right now. So is much of Christian culture, and people who work in either space have every good reason to throw up hands and take up a skeptical view of what’s possible among people.
So being part of a community that practices a contrary approach can provide a sanctuary. I still want to be part of groups, religious and non-religious, that treat vulnerability as a collective discipline, not a sign of weakness; that hold humility and learning as ideals to stretch toward and as processes that reform and re-form us as we live them.
What I love about Bock’s post is that it’s clearly influenced by the real life muck of community. She’s not choosing vulnerability in the absence of reasons to close her heart. She’s choosing it despite those reasons, despite those realities.
Sometimes that’s all I need to see: I don’t need guarantees about whether it all works. I just need to see field notes from other people, people I may never meet, people in entirely different contexts from my own: people still deciding to respond to hostility with wholeness and not give up.
Check out Bock’s article on her blog.