First of all, thanks so much to those of you who responded with your Quaker/other denominational mashup with the emerging conversation. Thereís still more of you out there with good stuff: címon – fess up. ðŸ˜‰
When I first started this site, seemingly a long time ago but in reality less than six months, I started a series on the meaning of the pictures posted in my masthead. Itís a tricky thing, putting them there: many bloggers love to change their mastheads frequently, but Iím so attached to these photos that I canít bring myself to lay them down yet. At any rate, things picked up in life, and I forgot to explain in importance of the later pictures. As part of my ìWhy Iím Quakergingî thoughts, I figured itíd be good to give my background as a Friend [the picture is a pretty famous, at least in the Quaker realm, called “Presence in the Midst” – it details the idea that Christ is in the midst of all of us, not just pastors or priests or white anglo-saxton protestant males].
My folks were raised down South – in the church, but more as a social club event: potlucks and rallies and lots of guilt heaped on if you didnít attend Sunday in your Sunday best. My parents never really connected with their church, didnít see a lot of relevance in their lives. They were stationed in Germany shortly after they were married, but not before living for a brief while at the Air Force base in Mountain Home, ID: see my dad wanted to get as far away from the South as possible – he asked for a station in Alaska, but Idahoís as close as he got. They fell in love with the landscape – the wide open areas and the close accessibility of quality backpacking. When their time in Germany was complete, my dad enrolled at the University of Idaho and got his chemical engineering degree. Soon they wafted west and ended up in Tacoma – land of eternal rain and gloom (at least, according to my mom). I was born, was not an easy child, and Dad traveled *a lot*. Mom prayed to God out of that desperate place: ìIf you get me out of here and into the sunshine, Iíll start going to church.î About three months later, we were in Boise, ID.
Iím not exactly sure how we ended up at Boise Friends – I think someone invited Mom to a Bible study who invited Mom to church? At any rate, she was the main instigator, dressing me up and dragging Dad. But somehow they found their home: Mom immediately got involved in childrenís church, and Dad found his first spiritual mentor in Harold Antrim. I loved attending Boise Friends as a kid: we had a seemingly large group of kids to run around with, and anyone seemed to parent any child tearing about. Potlucks and going out for Sunday lunches abounded; I wasnít so fond of the plethora of programs I ìgotî to be in (when your piano teacher is the Music Pastor, itís a tricky road you walk down). But I was *known*: I knew almost everyone there, and they knew me, and there was love.
Attending church, and a Quaker church, in Boise is an interesting thing. The town is primarily made up of Mormons (I heard a statistic stating that there are more Mormon children in Boise that Salt Lake). Because I wasnít part of the ëclubí, I felt a lot like an outsider, especially in school cliques. My Mormon friends would talk about church some, but because much of their religion is secretive, church was more of a ìhush hushî thing. I think I picked some of that up for myself: Quakerism isnít necessarily a predominant religion – most folks thought we were Amish, and I didnít feel like explaining that we werenít. But it was in Boise that I first heard about the splits in the Quaker church as we were stopped by a gay rights parade downtown and I saw a ìFriends support Gay Rightsî sign – that was a fun talk with Mom. ðŸ™‚
At the tender age of twelve my parents made an executive decision to a) start a new church which had no youth group and 2) pull me from public junior high where I had risen in the ranks and had a chance of hanging out with the ìcoolî kids to put me in a brand new private school with a bunch of ìprivate school dorks.î Note: I was twelve and a girl – what was coming up? THIRTEEN. There was much pain and suffering and wailing in the land that year. But as I watched them endure the punishment I doled out, I started to gain a sense that there was something important in this for them – something they found valuable enough to endure an adolescent rage. I still attended some youth group events at Boise Friends – Bible quizzing (brand new that year!), camps, retreats, etc. Youth group was a place to run around with friends I didnít see, stay up late, eat bad food, and complain when the youth pastor tried to work any God or Bible stuff in there.
In high school my dad got a new job not so much in the chemical engineering field: he became the superintendent of our yearly meeting (head of our denominational district). This time, I was ready and eager to move, but the rest of my family – not so much. I already knew a few folks from my times at youth
events (Youth Yearly Meeting, an annual ìbusiness meetingî for youth while the adults had their real annual business meeting) and was immediately adopted into the fold. We left Boise on Wednesday, arrived in Newberg Friday, went to church on Sunday, and I was hanging out at Hannah Macyís house that afternoon. Iíve joked that my parents havenít seen me since.
Coming to Newberg Friendís youth group was like coming home for the first time. The youth were *fun*: they were funny and entertaining and welcoming and thoughtful. And they actually liked hearing about God-stuff: it wasnít an obligatory annoying speech awkwardly thrown in by the youth pastor as a means of stamping the event with a church feel. Now, we had our fair share of activities, and we didnít always make a ìGod momentî out of each one, but I had the chance to hang out with youth and youth leaders who had a real relationship with Christ – it was a safe place to question and experience. Camps and youth events really defined my time in high school and early college: thatís where I encountered God – in open worship times at camp, in praise times at Yearly Meeting, in one-on-one time with my camp counselors – being with folks who were in a really real relationship with Christ.
I didnít know I had anything special at church until I attended another church with a friend in high school. She went to a four square church, and man: I was exhausted by the end of the service. There was no time for silence, or even to pray for ourselves: the pastors did the *whole* thing, AND music played during the prayer time! Church shouldnít be that tiring.
During college I didnít attend church anymore: I became too focused on the events and not enough on why I was participating/organizing the events. I burned out. Being a young adult is an awkward thing when youíre not dating/married/have a kid: the church adults didnít know me because I spent all my time with the youth, and we didnít have a lot in common. I moved back to Boise and worked at a library for two years. I tried to reconnect with Boise Friends, especially since the new pastors were friends of mine, but the church had just gone through a very traumatic time, and it felt like I was going to my parentsí church – not my own. And it felt kind of selfish: for me, church was about personal salvation, sin management, and being part of a service that I ìlikedî – not really equipping me to be part of the ìreal worldî I found myself in. So I stopped going. Being in Boise was my wilderness time: God pulled me out of the hustle and bustle I expected with church, took me out to a very alone place, and said, ìNow I get you to myself.î Good – hard, but good.
I moved back to Newberg after that: I was dating my soon-to-be husband, and I needed some healing-up time (I know God loves me and is the most gentle person, but sometimeís the intensity of His touch requires some community healing). I started attending Newberg Friends again with my folks, this time as a real adult. We sat in the balcony and snuck out as the sermon came to a conclusion. I had a bit of a hard time with the ìslicknessî of the service: the more raw, introverted worship style of Boise Friends seemed more honest and real to me. Itís just different styles for different folks. A sense of disconnect still remained.
A friend was invited to be part of a small group called Companions In Christ: it was a spiritual formational group with a variety of participants – all ages and walks of life. There I found my adult church home: it was a place I could be me and be accepted and not be thought of as ìso and soís kidî or ìso and soís youth leaderî. I could question, I could explore, I could offer help and pray for others. I made connections with adults who valued me for who I was, adults who I greatly respected as I heard their struggles to walk an intentional life of living and loving Christ.
I feel like Iíve come a long way since then: Iíve gotten married, changed jobs, had a baby, quit my job, bought a house. Iíve become a member of a board on our yearly meeting which has opened connections to encountering folks on a whole new level. I try to write and have found an unexpectedly welcome community online. Iíve recognized my God-placed ache of ìthis isnít *it*î with some of my current church experience, seeking out what Godís called me to.
Why am I a Quaker? For many folks itís the peace and social activism testimony. For some, itís because theyíve been born into it. For others, itís because of their love of open worship. For me: itís home. Iíve met amazing people with an open testimony of Godís love and activity in their lives. Through their times with Christ, theyíve become compassionate to His compassions: peace, social justice, community action, the priesthood of all believers, the ministry of all, praying in all circumstances. They respect me and believe I have something to offer both the congregation and the world at large. They urge me to get out of my comfort zones, to follow Christ through all circumstances. We see the light of Christ in each other and in others and share it all round – we want to worship our God together: and thatís why Iím a Quaker.