Joyous Bubbles

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Quakerism Class

Here I am a fresh-faced Young Adult Friend, going to Earlham as a religion major with a minor in Quaker studies. I was all ready to get at it, so when I heard that the 200 level Intro to Quakerism class would be open to not just second years, but also first years, I jumped at it.

The class started, as one would expect, with excerpts from the journal of George Fox. For the first couple of weeks we talked about George Fox, it was in these first weeks that I realized that the Intro to Quakerism would involve some unforeseen challenges.

A couple of classes into Quakerism, our teacher (a very kick-ass Quaker lady), was reviewing some of the stuff we studied earlier in the week. I don't remember exactly how the question was phrased, but it was something like, "So, why was it that George Fox thought that priests weren't necessary?"

Oh! Oh! I know! I know!

'no,' I told myself firmly, 'let one of the other, non-Quaker kids answer.'

No one said anything.

Come on guys.

The teacher rephrased the question.


I was sitting on my hand. I was biting my tongue. I realized they weren't Quaker, but we had just talked about this two days ago.

Just as I was about to explode and answer the question (even though I had promised myself I wouldn't answer all of the questions, but respectfully let other people talk), when the teacher answered the question herself. She went back over how George Fox believed that there was that of Christ in everyone, so everyone could communicated with God themselves.


I realized that day that Quakerism class would not be without its difficulties.

Another difficult moment was when I was talking to a non-Quaker student. I said that when Fox spoke of Truth, with the capital "T" he was speaking of a way of deep, spiritual knowing. It was something that you felt right down at your core was inexplicable right and good. The other student said I was wrong. I was filled with righteous indignation. "I don't THINK so!" I huffed in my mind, "I KNOW I'm right, because God Damnit! I feel it too!"

Now I am entering into my fifth or sixth week of classes, and Quakerism is one of my favorite classes. I have greatly enjoyed our teacher's selection of books (a great mix of journals and general books about Quakerism), and I have really enjoyed working step-by-step through Quaker history and practice. I have been challenged by the texts, and by the teacher and by the papers, and I have felt like I am learning new things. . . . Although there is still a lot of times when I need to bite my tongue and let other people answer. There are still times when a non-Quaker student totally misinterprets a crucial part of my faith, and I want to jump to my feet and say, "YOU'RE SO F---ING WRONG!!"

But over all, Quakerism class is a good time.


Many apologies Friends, for my long silence. I had my own apartment over the summer, and that meant that I spent much of my time trying to figure out problems like how to have enough money to buy food and also pay for rent.

So, now I am at college. I am attending Earlham College in Richmond IN, which is as far as I can tell the Quaker capital of the USA.

College, I have found provides some unique challenges to one's spiritual life. The first being finding a whole new community. There are plenty of options around Earlham. There are two meetings on campus (programmed and unprogrammed), and three in the surrounding community. There is a worship group that meet on Mondays and mid-week worship on campus on Wednesday, Earlham Young Friends meets Wednesday evening for worship and fellowship, and another group meets every night. It is a little bit like going shopping for poptarts for the first time on your own, when you have only ever eat strawberry poptarts. There are just so many options.

I started out with the obvious choice, the unprogrammed meeting on campus. I found it a very restful community. The silence was deep and welcoming, but I was not overly impressed by the vocal ministry, and I didn't feel overly welcomed by the community. It certainly wasn't that the Friends were unfriendly, it was just that they get so many students visiting, it doesn't even make a ripple in the community. It almost seems like they feel that there is just too many visitors every week for them to welcome. It is understandable, but I was looking for a place of worship where I couldn't come and go without talking to a single person.

Next I attended the programmed worship on campus. I found this lively, but again with a very transient community of worshipers, there didn't seem to be much continuity. Although there (much the like unprogrammed worship) are many wonderful people, and I heard some beautiful vocal ministry, it left me cold.

Onwards and upwards. I next attened West Richmond Friends. I chose West Richmond for two main reasons, the first was that it was only three blocks away from campus and I could walk there. The second was that the pastor of West Richmond visited my Quakerism class (see next post about Quakerism), and I was very impressed by his friendly open-ness. He seemed very settled spiritually and well grounded in Quaker practice and I was curious to see his faith community.

I had some concerns about West Richmond as well. It was semi-programmed and was part of the FUM tradition. I wasn't entirely sure if it fell under the category of a conservative Quaker Meeting or not, and I wasn't sure how they would feel about a liberal New Yorker with short pink hair. Would there be a place for me (with my Liberal-Christian-Unprogrammed Quaker-Universalist beliefs) in their community? I wasn't sure.

It was therefore with some trepidation that I set out with my Bible firmly in hand, wearing my best slacks and button-up shirt.
When I arrived, I was greeted by two of the friendliest ushers I have ever met and shown into the church. The service was simple, with about half an hour at the end of silence. In many ways it was not very different from a main-stream Christian church, but where it mattered it was all Quaker. The pastor spoke of God's love and how, we as Quakers, should respond to violence. Certainly it was a Christ-centered service (and I would guess that many of the members of the congregation are more on the conservative side then the Quakers from my home meeting), but, being Christian, I don't have a problem with Christ-talk, and I was overwhelmed by the warmness of their welcome. I felt like my presence was appreciated.

So, I decided to go back.