Growing Together in the Light

A place for Friends and others to explore Quakerism. A place where, in the Light that comes from God, we may all grow and where we may hope to find a unity that underlies our diversity of language.

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Location: Arlington, Massachusetts, United States

Raised a Friend, I am currently a member of Fresh Pond Meeting in Cambridge, Mass. I am also active in Salem Quarterly Meeting and in New England Yearly Meeting.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

A prayer

Last week I as at a residency for the Way of Ministry program of the School of the Spirit. During our worship, I was given a prayer whose words were close to this:

Oh God,

“If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea;
Even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me.”

When men flew to the moon, you were with them. When they beheld the beautiful and delicate home that you have made us, rising over the moonscape, their hearts were filled with joy and awe.

If men and women fly to Mars, you will greet them there.

If the aliens from Alpha Centauri land in their flying saucers, when they disembark, we will behold the faces of your children.

Your hold us and comfort us in our deepest grief. In our joy, you laugh with us.

God, help us to find you and feel you and know you in the most difficult place of all, in the ordinariness and routine of our daily lives.


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Sunday, March 08, 2009

Rectification of Names

The idea of the rectification of names is an important concept in Confucian thought. “If names be not correct, language is not in accordance with the truth of things. If language be not in accordance with the truth of things, affairs cannot be carried on to success.” The idea is that names used in discussion should accurately reflect what is being discussed. Unrectified names are common in political discourse. The idea of using names that accurately reflect the thing being referred to has a lot in common with the Quaker ideals of integrity and plain speaking.

So what Quaker phrases would I like to rectify today? I have two candidates. In the interest of full disclosure, these are both terms that I have used but I have come to disfavor them. The first one is “Christocentric.” This word is often used to identify one of two groups in liberal Yearly Meetings (although I have heard the term used by Orthodox Friends as well.) I have no problem if this is used by someone to self-describe their spiritual condition. To me it indicates someone whose spirituality revolves around Christianity but they haven't fully committed to being a Christian. Certainly there was a time that I fit that description. I liked it then but it no longer fits me and it its use has other side effects. Many times it is used in describing the spectrum of Quaker belief. Often the spectrum of belief is identified as Non-Theist (or Universalist) to Christocentric. This truncates the spectrum of belief in the predominately Liberal yearly meetings. It makes it sounds as Friends are either non-Christian or are people with ambivalent feelings about Christianity. In even the most liberal Yearly Meetings, there are a number of deeply committed Christians. Only referring to Christocentric Friends marginalizes these Friends. It makes questioning Christianity sound like the norm. Over time I was able to overcome my resistance to using the word Christian. I think we need to do that collectively as well.

The second phrase I would like to remove from the Quaker lexicon is “dual-affiliated yearly meetings.” This phrase is used to describe the yearly meetings that are members of both FGC and FUM. These are Baltimore, Canadian, New England, New York and Southeastern Yearly Meetings. I dislike the dual-affiliated phrase because it implies that these yearly meetings are somehow divided by their dual membership. The phrase I prefer is “united yearly meetings.” This term is more accurate because it reflects that the dual-affiliation (except in the case of Southeastern) is the result of a reunification of yearly meetings that had split earlier. The dual affiliation is the result of peace-making among yearly meetings that had joined the different umbrella groups in the time that they had been divided. Southeastern is the exception in that it is a relatively new yearly meeting that made a conscious decision to join both organizations as a testimony to unity among Friends. United yearly meetings reflects that history of peace making. It is also a much less cumbersome phrase.

So are these changes more reflective of truth or am I just moving language away from reflecting the truth of things? Are there Quaker phrases that you would like to see rectified? Make your suggestions in the comments.

Blessings to all,

Will T