Joyous Bubbles

Monday, March 27, 2006

Serving as an Elder

I just got back from a workshop on serving as an elder.

Eldering, I have found, although a very old Quaker tradition, has taken on a new meaning lately. An elder is someone who acts as a spiritual guide/ teacher for a minister. An elder also works to help with discernment, practices deep spiritual listening, and is exceptionally good at holding an individual or a meeting (or group) in the light. Although Elders certainly work within the meeting (they are the older Friend who never misses a business meeting, or the Friend who comes in early to worship to prepare the room), they also do a lot of traveling with a minister or acting to support a minister in their work. Traditionally a minister would never travel on their own (or do their ministry) without an elder coming along. An elder sits (and by sits I mean they open themselves to the light and practice discernment and hold the minister and/or the group in the light) with a minister before, during and after they do their work.

A couple of things were very obvious to me during the course of this workshop. The first was that we were dealing with very heavy stuff indeed, and another thing was that we were a VERY weighty bunch of Friends. I felt very small, very inexperienced and very young in comparison to the other Friends who graced the workshop.

I must say that although there was a number of things that I found very meaningful, and I experience wonderful, deep worship, I did spend a large part of the conference feeling uncomfortable. I found that I really liked being eldered but I found myself getting frustrated or feeling like I was, "doing it wrong," when I tried to elder others. I found that I was very good at the holding another (or the meeting) in the light, or the deep, open listening, but I was becoming exhausted when I tried to do some of the other things. I am sitting with these feelings about my weekend, and I have spoken ( or will shortly speak) to those folks who serve as my elders, and I will see what comes of it.

Something positive that I also got from the workshop was the sense that eldering is growing within the Religious Society of Friends, and with this growth comes spiritual renewal. As the number of elders grows so does the number of ministers, and with the elders and the ministers come spiritual renewal. The eldering workshop seemed to me to be another sign that Quakerism is heading towards a huge, and exciting rebirth.

Students for Peace and the wonders of the Puppestistas

This fall I started organizing a student peace activism group, and last weekend we went to our first demonstration as a group. My home community has a fairly good size progressive community, and on March 19th we had at least 200 folks gather for an anti-war rally. We walked a couple as blocks as a group and then we gathered in front of our federal building for the rally. There was a number of speakers (including me! I spoke I young people's involvement in the anti-war movement).

I was incredibly proud of our budding peace group, we managed to get 20 people to participate, and we had a vary cool looking banner and sings. Pretty awesome.

I think, however, that one of the coolest part of the demonstration was the Puppetistas. The Puppestistas are a group of creative individuals who gather once a year at the School of Americas Watch, but also gather at other big demonstrations. They make huge, colorful, puppets and they do street theater. Political street theater, is one of the most vibrant and indeed important parts of the peace movement.

I participated in a workshop that the three Puppetistas provided for our community the night before the demonstration. It embodied at least three of the things that I find core in social justice movements. First of all, it provided a prime example of the power of humor or and joy in social justice. Humor is an incredibly powerful force and so is joy. I think if an activist isn't based in joy they are bound to get discouraged, burnt out, and rapidly become pessimistic and cynical. Likewise a heavy dose of humor can keep the activists sharp, but can also be used as a powerful tool in gaining change.

I think the Puppestistas also are an excellent example of using everyone's gifts. If you utilize what people are gifted at, instead of simply assigning them a task, the work they do will be phenomenal. If you are an artist then you should paint or draw (or make big puppets which includes both. . .along with a fearless agility with a stapler) to bring about peace. If you are a dancer you should dance to stop the war in Iraq, if you are a speaker you should speak, if you are a stilt walker you should walk on stilts (another thing the Puppestistas do). If you are an actor. . .then by all means you should use that to change the world. If everyone could use their gifts then the movement (the peace movement, but also any social justice movement) would be stronger. The Puppestistas give those who have those sorts of artistic gifts a way to use them.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

"Take this heart and make it break." ~U2

Last night I was at a workshop called, "moving faith into action" (and I was, as usual, the only young person, and one of the only Quakers *sigh*). I have some thoughts that I collected from this, the first part of the workshop, (it is a six week long thing), but they are rather scattered and random, so I apologize.

Something that was emphasized again and again, is that God requires us to love everyone. Really. Think about this. It is so easy for us to love the people we are closest to, those people who we are in relationship with, those people in our community, but God asks more. He asks that we see that we are in relationship with everyone and that they are all part of our community. We can not possibly achieve this, but we are lovingly required by our faith to take baby-steps towards this. May God grant me strength.

One of our wonderful guest speakers said something else that struck me (well, lots of the things he said struck me, but I thought this was really cool). He said that the three main themes in the New Testament were:
1) Life is abundance of joy
2)we MUST practice good stewardship of ourselves and everyone else
3)(I think this one is the most important) we all live in covenant community with everyone
This reminds me of something that we discussed at the theology academy I attended, we phrased it as, "I am responsible for you. . .no matter who you are!"

Just a couple more random thoughts: When we are talking about poverty or social injustice, we should not try to make people guilty or make people uncomfortable, but instead we should try to make people ANGRY.

As Christians, we need to ask not what we can do about all of the many problems in our world, but instead we need to ask why our world is the way it is.