Sunday, 27 December 2009

Months to Live - Hard Choice for a Comfortable Death - Sedation - Series -

Very good article on some of the hard issues in end-of-life care.

Months to Live - Hard Choice for a Comfortable Death - Sedation - Series -

While there are universally accepted protocols for treating conditions like flu and diabetes, this is not as true for the management of people’s last weeks, days and hours. Indeed, a review of a decade of medical literature on terminal sedation and interviews with palliative care doctors suggest that there is less than unanimity on which drugs are appropriate to use or even on the precise definition of terminal sedation.

Wednesday, 23 December 2009

Blessed Winter Solstice!

I hope everyone had a good Winter Solstice, filled with the blessings of the Dark Time of the Year.

Last year brought a very snowy Solstice to Seattle: Winter Solstice itself was the second of three snowstorms in a week. Record snowfall brought the city to a grinding halt for days. Winter Solstice was on a Saturday last year; it started snowing again that afternoon, and finally stopped snowing that Sunday night. (When we flew out to visit relatives on Thursday, the buses still weren't running in our neighborhood, and we hiked, using backpacks for luggage, half a mile to the freeway to catch a bus downtown to transfer to the bus to the airport.)

On Winter Solstice last year, a small group of folks still made it to our apartment for a Roses, Too! potluck and a Winter Solstice Celebration based on A Winter Solstice Singing Ritual. This was the second or third time I'd done it with a small group, using the cd for the music. We had five adults -- just enough for readers and the narrator -- and a four-year-old, and had a warm, cozy time in the candlelight with the woodstove. Everyone made it home safely, eventually, though the two miles uphill to the U District was a haul for some.

It was a beautiful Solstice.

(c) 2008

So, now here we are in central NJ, and there's record snow here already now, too! (I think it's just following me around the country right now...)

Friday evening, dear F/friends who are part of the extended Roses, Too! community graciously hosted the Roses, Too! Tradition Winter Solstice/Yule potluck at their home in Philadelphia. They've hosted a number of potlucks in the past, and it was a treat, for me, for us to have a potluck there again.

We had delightful company and conversation, and we shared all sorts of yummy, festive, and comforting food and drink -- hot mulled cider, homemade fettuccine alfredo, cider donuts, chocolate (of course), apple cobbler with local Philly Vanilly ice cream, cranberry-jalapeno salsa (which I bought from a local farm store, but which is not as good as my friend Jennifer F's from CA), a cheese-pepper-onion torte with a sweet potato crust, all sorts of good things.

And then we shared a hilarious, intergenerational game of Apples to Apples. At one point, I was laughing so hard my stomach hurt and I couldn't quite catch my breath.

We knew a big winter storm was brewing, and sure enough, record snow came to much of the East Coast with a blizzard over this weekend.

Our community-wide Winter Solstice Celebration / performance of A Winter Solstice Singing Ritual (with SpiralSong, PAI/DVPN, and Pebble Hill Interfaith Church) was snowed out Saturday night, as was Sunday night's dress rehearsal for the second WSC.

Last night, however, lots of people made it to our Winter Solstice Celebration (with SpiralSong, PAI/DVPN, and the Inner Path), and it was just delightful.

I loved singing with SpiralSong again; our readers, narrator, and stage manager were wonderful; the "audience" (in quotes, because it's actually very participatory) were wonderfully present with us, and enthusiastic during the high-energy parts; our musicians were excellent (and I had lots of fun drumming with our drummer); and the management and collection of lit candles went more smoothly than I think I've ever seen it.

Our hosts, the Inner Path, are members of the Delaware County Peace Center, so our Celebration was at the Springfield Friends Meetinghouse. This is a great space for this Celebration -- conducive to the ritual, warm and intimate without feeling cramped, and quite nice acoustically (something that is definitely not true of all old East Coast Meetinghouses!).

Plus, there was this moment at the beginning, when the singers first saw the "audience" after we'd processed in, and were facing them, singing with them... I saw so many familiar faces, and so many I didn't know. Among the familiar ones were friends who were there for the first time; folks who were there for the first time in a long time; folks who have been to these Winter Solstice Celebrations every year since the first one in 1997; folks who drove long ways; women I've sung with in the past and haven't seen in too long; folks from different parts of my life who had no reason yet to know each other... It was a magical moment in the web of connection and community.

How has your Winter Solstice been? What gifts of the Spirit has it brought?

(c) 2006

Saturday, 19 December 2009

Why two black D.C. pastors support gay marriage -

This is an amazing article by two African-American pastors in Washington, DC, who support same-gender marriage. h/t Qira.

Why two black D.C. pastors support gay marriage -

We are sometimes asked what accounts for the homophobia within the African American community. This question seems to assume that the community is disproportionately homophobic compared with other racial and ethnic groups. We are not aware of any credible study that has conclusively proved this assumption. However, our first-hand experience has convinced us that homophobia within the black church and the wider community is real. And the factors that have nurtured these beliefs over the years are complex.

...A final piece that shapes black attitudes toward same-sex marriage is the preoccupation with racism in the black community. This obsession, although justifiable, has led to a failure to appreciate how racism is inextricably connected to all other forms of oppression. Those who fail to see this connection may resent the comparison of gay rights with civil rights. But as Martin Luther King Jr. once said, "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere."

...We will continue to stand at the altar in our community, telling all the couples who come before us: "Let it be known that you are joined together not only by your love for each other, and by our collective love for each of you, but by the love of God."

Thursday, 19 November 2009

IRAQ: Former CPT hostage Harmeet Singh Sooden returns to Iraq | Christian Peacemaker Teams

Wow. Blessed be.

Much love to my Friends, friends, and CPT colleagues who have been affected by the kidnapping of the team and the death of one of their members.

IRAQ: Former CPT hostage Harmeet Singh Sooden returns to Iraq | Christian Peacemaker Teams:

19 November 2009
IRAQ: Former CPT hostage Harmeet Singh Sooden returns to Iraq

Harmeet Singh Sooden has joined the Christian Peacemaker Team (CPT) delegation traveling through Iraqi Kurdistan 7-23 November 2009. This delegation marks the first time he has returned to Iraq since he was freed from captivity four years ago.

While participating in a 2005 CPT delegation he, along with fellow delegate Norman Kember and CPTers Jim Loney and Tom Fox were kidnapped in Baghdad by the Swords of Righteousness Brigade. Tom Fox was murdered on 9 March 2006. British forces freed Sooden, Kember and Loney two weeks later on 23 March 2006.

Thursday, 12 November 2009

Veterans Day, Armistice Day

Thinking about my own attitudes towards and beliefs about war, the Peace Testimony, and how people have reacted to the support I've expressed today for Armed Forces service members... I thought I might re-post this piece about how I found an expression of the Peace Testimony through service to military families.

The Peace Testimony and Armed Forces Emergency Services

It’s 3:45 am when my pager wakes me. I speak to a man who is quite upset: his sister has just died – at the end of a long illness, but unexpectedly soon – and his sister’s son is on active duty in the military, stationed overseas. The caller needs to get a message to... (more)

Thursday, 5 November 2009

Not writing much for a bit

Hello, dear readers!

A family member is having routine but major surgery next week, and I am their primary support person. So right now, I'm spending lots of time getting ready, and I have no idea how much time (or brain) I'll have to write over the next eight weeks.

I would really appreciate folks holding both of us in your thoughts or hearts, in the Light, in the comforting Darkness, in the Goddess, in your prayers, lighting candles... whatever you do when you hold someone in your spiritual care.

Thank you!

Thursday, 29 October 2009

An advantage to praying in a language you don't understand?

I posted this to my Facebook Wall, where it produced a really interesting comment thread. So, I thought I'd post it here, and see what folks think.

"The other advantage of praying in Hebrew without understanding it is that it spares you the temptation to argue with the prayer book." Harold Kushner, in To Life!: A Celebration of Jewish Thinking and Being, pp. 201-202.

(I said, "Yeah, right!!")

Wednesday, 28 October 2009

PRAYERS FOR PEACEMAKERS, Weds. Oct. 28, 2009 | Christian Peacemaker Teams

I get CPT's Prayers for Peacemakers every Wednesday. Because of some conversations I'm having, I felt like sharing this one.

PRAYERS FOR PEACEMAKERS, Weds. Oct. 28, 2009 | Christian Peacemaker Teams:

Pray for the Palestinian children who walk to school from Tuba to At-Tuwani in the South Hebron Hills. Earlier this week they were threatened by Israeli settlers when the Israeli government-mandated military escort failed to appear to accompany them.

How do we talk about, get support around, death?

Samhain is fast approaching, so of course I am thinking about death. About those dear ones who've died and whom I miss fiercely, and those whom I've been able to let go a little more. About those whom I don't miss at all. About those I love whose death was a release; those who died in old age after a long life; those who died young; those who died suddenly; those to whom I was able to say goodbye; those who died without any final contact.

About a dear F/friend who is actively dying.

Anastasia Ashman, a sister Mawrter, posted this recently, which I recommend to you. She asks questions like, How do we find support around grief? How do we talk about grief and death? Do we mourn silently and privately, or in community? What determines this?, as well as shares some of her own experience.

Thursday, 22 October 2009

Nearly-equal rights. Still second-class citizenship.

This is the story (so far) of our civil union in New Jersey, and why I am not, in fact, excited about it.

My wife and I recently moved to New Jersey for her work. After we arrived, I started researching NJ's domestic partnership and civil union laws.

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

Respecting LGBTQ families

Wow. Thank you, Joanna Grover. (H/t Vonn.)

If you don't believe this shit doesn't happen, or that it's just not that bad when it does, read this amazing and heart-touching article.

Imagine having only five minutes to say goodbye to your dying husband or wife of nearly two decades. Imagine being a 10-year-old girl and being physically blocked from saying a last, ``I love you,'' to your mother, who is just down the hall at the hospital. This may sound unconscionable, but it happened, just as described, to the Langbehn-Pond family at Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami.

Reflections on Marriage

This is an excellent article. My thanks to Nif for pointing it out. - sm

Reflections on Marriage:

Today, many same-sex couples in the United States live in a fraught, contingent space of loving attachment, unprotected by state recognition. My fierce commitment to marriage equality derives, in part, from my personal biography as an interracial child, descended from American slaves, and raised in Virginia, beginning less than a decade after the Loving decision. Even though I am heterosexual, marriage equality is personal. I learn from the history of racial and interracial marriage exclusion that the denial of marriage rights to same-sex couples is wrong.


We must do more than simply integrate new groups into an old system. Let's use this moment to re-imagine marriage and marriage-free options for building families, rearing children, crafting communities, and distributing public goods.

Tuesday, 13 October 2009

Not the National Coming Out Day conversation I expected

If you're on Facebook, you may have noticed a number of folks over the last few weeks with standardized status updates that read:

[Name] is (a lesbian/gay/bisexual/transgender). There are X days until National Coming Out Day and I pledge to have heartfelt conversations for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality. Donate your status and join me by clicking here:

I didn't donate my status -- for one, I rarely do apps, since I like my privacy -- but I did post one or two status updates to this effect.

I'm always surprised when people who know me at all well are surprised to find out I'm a lesbian. It's less startling, but still frustrating, when people are surprised I'm bi, because there's still an assumption of monosexuality in this culture: either you're homosexual or you're heterosexual. Folks who are startled to learn I'm bi either know I've had successful romantic relationships with men and assume those are invalid now (because I must be monosexual), or assume that because I have been involved only with women since they've known me and am not that interested in men, I must be monosexual.

But those are still the conversations I more or less expect to have. The kind where I refer to my partner or spouse in conversation at an event, the other person asks what my husband does, and I say, "My wife is a mathematician," and they blink. The kind where someone I've known for a long time says in shock, "You had a husband!?," and I say, "Yes, my first partner was male, and yes, I was out before we got together. He took me to my first Pride event."

But these conversations have progressed and changed over time. For example, more and more over the last few years, the conversations I've been having around the fact that I'm a lesbian center around civil rights, and especially marriage equality.

And while there's one little thread on my Facebook Wall about National Coming Out Day and how people identify and what labels mean (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer), there's another, completely different, conversation I've ended up having about the reality of my life as a lesbian in today's society.

And it really does feel like a coming-out conversation: Here is my reality. Here is the truth of my experience.

And as with many other such conversations over the years, I'm finding someone I'm talking with disbelieves the uncomfortable truth.

This person isn't a bigot. They seem to be a well-meaning straight person, but someone who just doesn't want to believe the discrimination I live with every day is as bad as I say -- that their legally-sanctioned heterosexual privilege is, in fact, just that.

(All names changed but mine; all quotes paraphrased except where indicated.)

The conversation has gone something like this:

  • Friend A posts to their Facebook status that they're grateful to the marriage equality movement for helping them understand how many rights and privileges go with legal marriage [which this person has].

Conversation ensues in the comment thread, and then it gets interesting:

  • Person B: I thought it was just the death tax that can't be addressed in a contract; what other rights can't they have?; of course anyone should marry whomever they want!; isn't Toys R Us great, they give domestic partners full health insurance.
  • Person C: Oh, no, there's the whole hospital visitation thing; do you want to wrangle with a resistant family member in order to say goodbye to a dying partner?
  • Person B: Wrong! If you have a living will and a signed and notorized agreement, the family can't keep you away!
  • Person C: Uh-huh. So, my husband's in the hospital, and I have to dig out my legal paperwork before I go to the hospital?; in my case, take the bus home from work, find the paperwork, and drive back into town, when on top of it I'm probably not safe to drive?; assuming we've gone to the expense and trouble of getting such paperwork?; oh, and by the way, because we're an opposite-gender couple, they're not going to ask us for a copy of our marriage license, and we're in less need of powers of attorney and living wills, because we're legally married.
  • Person B: Gosh, it's really awful when family members are jerks, and I'm really sorry for anyone who has to deal with that; but you do kind of know what you're getting into; spending $100 on a contract is nothing at all for the peace of mind it gives you, and of course if I had to do that, I'd know exactly where my paperwork is; so what else are the issues?, I know there aren't a lot of people who have to worry about taxes on huge estates.
  • Me (direct quote):

Jana update

I just learned my F/friend Jana is going home tomorrow. She's still got a cast on one leg, and will still have lots of medical and rehab and therapy appointments, but she's going home.

When I think about how uncertain I was about Jana's survival the first weekend after the accident, and then think about her going up and down her house's stairs on her behind, I want to weep with relief and joy.

And gratitude for love and community.

Monday, 5 October 2009

Queries for Full Moon Worship-Sharing

First, I encourage folks to familiarize themselves with FGC's information on worship-sharing, available here (

These are some queries I've developed for the Full Moon. You, or your meeting for worship, may devise your own, or already have some of your own.

Queries for Full Moon worship
  • What am I thankful for in my life in the month since the last Full Moon (or in my life since we met last)? What do I wish to bring to fruition in the next month, by the next Full Moon?
  • The phases of the moon -- waxing, full, waning, and dark/new -- can be seen as the phases of a woman's life: Maiden, Mother, Crone, and the space between death and birth. How have I experienced the Goddess as Mother? (Or, how have I experienced another face of the Divine as Mother?)

Thursday, 1 October 2009

Full Moon Meetings for Worship/Worship-Sharing

For the last year, I've been hosting Full Moon Meeting for Worship/Worship-Sharing each month. Usually I've done this at my home; last month, I knew I would not be that organized, less than a week after moving cross-country, but Emrys and Nimue in the Philly are organized a Meeting at a local Meetinghouse.

Something that was different, that time, was that since there was on-line discussion about our get-together, we knew there were people joining us from afar -- either at the same actual time we were meeting, or at the same hour in their local time, or just at another time that same day or evening.

This gave me a marvelous sense of connection, similar to the one many Witches have to everyone else who celebrates the Full Moon or the Sabbats, similar to the one many traveling Friends have to their home Meetings...

So this month, I am proposing both virtual and in-person Full Moon Meetings for Worship/Worship-Sharing.

We are meeting Monday night, 10/5/09:

  • 6:45-7:00, gather; local groups decide on worship or worship-sharing
  • 7:00-8:00, worship/worship-sharing
  • 8:00-8:45, potluck tea (I was thinking this would be local groups, but I can imagine having tea in virtual community!)
  • 8:45-9:00, clean up together (local groups)

For full details, please click here.

Local, in-person groups

You can host a get-together by inviting Friends and friends. If you let me know, either through comment or an email, then there's an increased sense of community. Also, with your permission, if I know of someone looking for a local gathering in your area, I can put you in touch with each other.

I am willing to host in central NJ, or someone else can host here or in the Philly area.

Please click here for important details for in-person groups.

What do I mean by "virtual"?

I was originally thinking of individuals and groups who would be meeting at either the same time, or the same hour local time, or some time the same day or evening. But in on-line conversation, I'm realizing there could also be on-line Meeting for Worship, perhaps through, or using Skype's IM function (which I've used for large classes, small conversations, and small-group worship before).

I look forward to more discussion about this, seeing what other questions and ideas people come up with, and seeing what happens Monday night.

Blessed be!

Wednesday, 30 September 2009

Jana update

I am so excited to hear my F/friend Jana has moved from the hospital to intensive inpatient rehab. What's more, she called the friend who sends updates and told her this herself! And she's been eating meals!

Monday, 28 September 2009

Coming out in junior high

This is a really amazing article: "Coming Out in Middle School."

It's a good, and much-needed, reminder that while things are not where they need to be yet -- we do not have equal rights yet -- things are much, much better than they were ten, twenty, thirty, forty, fifty, sixty years ago.

Thank you to all of us who have come before. Thank you to all of us living with such courage now.

Blessed be.

What’s Wrong With the National Parks? - Room for Debate Blog -

This is a really good article for those of us concerned about preservation, right usage, recreation, and the environment.

What’s Wrong With the National Parks? - Room for Debate Blog -

The national parks have been well loved since their beginnings in the 1870s; sometimes nearly loved to death. Since their creation, there has been tension between two goals: wilderness preservation and making these sublime landscapes open to more people.

What’s the best way to protect the national parks, and what’s the best use of resources for that purpose?

The Age of Eco-Angst - Happy Days Blog -

The Age of Eco-Angst - Happy Days Blog -

Eco-angst, it turns out, is but one version of a widely studied psychological phenomenon, one well-known in the world of retailing. Take a bargain bin cabernet, tell people it’s an expensive, estate-bottled varietal, and they’ll tell you they like it. They’ll even linger longer over their dinner, enjoying not just the wine but the rest of their food more. Now describe the same wine as a low-end variety from North Dakota, and they’ll tell you it’s not so good — and finish their meal faster, enjoying it less.

...What’s more, brain imaging now reveals that tasting what we think is a high-end wine produces heightened activity in a key strip of neurons in the orbitofrontal cortex, which lights up during moments of keen interest — a pattern some neuroeconomists see as the brain signature for brand preference. The “low-end” wine, on the other hand elicits not a budge in orbitofrontal chatter, a pattern indicating disinterest or disgust. (Study data can b found here.)

...Eco-angst dawns with the discovery that some children’s sunblock contains a chemical that becomes a carcinogen when exposed to the sun, or that the company that makes a popular organic yogurt operates in ways that result in significantly more greenhouse gases than their competitors. The moral here, or course, is not to stop using sunblock nor to give up yogurt, but to choose the brands without these downsides.

...Rather than taking the ascetic route of “No Impact Man,” we can together become high impact shoppers, tipping market share to products with gentler ecological imprints. But to do so we need to face the often unattractive truths behind the making of our favorite stuff, and so risk a stiff dose of disgust.

Sunday, 27 September 2009

The School Issue - College - When Your Dorm Goes Green and Local -

h/t Suebear.

The School Issue - College - When Your Dorm Goes Green and Local -

Thoreau said education often made straight-cut ditches out of meandering brooks. But not at the EcoDorm, which houses 36 undergraduates and is the spiritual heart of Warren Wilson College, a liberal-arts school of fewer than 1,000 students in Swannanoa, N.C.

A call to moral accounting --

Great article with an unusual perspective. h/t Lisa G!

A call to moral accounting --

But though the rituals are ancient, they're never far removed from modern life. Between our prayers, American Jews are sure also to discuss the current events that touch our community most deeply: the prospects for Israeli-Palestinian peace, President Barack Obama's recent meetings with the leaders of Israel and the Palestinian Authority, and the United Nations' recent Goldstone Report, in which both Israel and the Hamas government are accused of war crimes. To my great sorrow, however, many in the Jewish community have already rejected the latter out of hand.

Friday, 25 September 2009

Footprint Network Blog

h/t Marshall.

Footprint Network Blog:
“It’s a simple case of income versus expenditures,” said Global Footprint Network President Mathis Wackernagel. “For years, our demand on nature has exceeded, by an increasingly greater margin, the budget of what nature can produce. The urgent threats we are seeing now – most notably climate change, but also biodiversity loss, shrinking forests, declining fisheries, soil erosion and freshwater stress – are all clear signs: Nature is running out of credit to extend.”

Barbara McGraw on Religion in America - A Pagan's Blog

h/t to Aline/Macha!

Barbara McGraw on Religion in America - A Pagan's Blog:

In a lively talk McGraw explained that neither the religious right nor the secular left really understands the Founders' thinking on church and state. Secularists argue religion should be purely private, the right that we are a Christian country. This is why both sides throw quotations around so freely, quotations that seem to contradict one another. They ignore the context of the quotations they sling about. As she put it, both sides 'are half right and half wrong.'

Thursday, 24 September 2009

2009 NPYM Annual Sessions: Thursday (con't)

Here are more of my notes from NPYM's Annual Sessions in July. Items in italics are generally my thoughts, rather than notes per se.


In the warmth of your presence, I am safe at home
I will stand, I will stand...

[I had written out the words to Pat Humphries and Sandy Opatow's "I Will Stand," which was written for a graduating class (my Ffriend Rebecca's) at the Woolman Semester.]

Interest Group: The Radical Inclusiveness of NPYM

  • Quakerism is larger than Christianity; to limit Quakerism to Christianity is to limit the power of Quakerism.
  • Quakerism is more powerful than Christianity alone.
  • if theology is not the ultimate "test," and if the peace testimony is not the ultimate "test," then what is?
  • -- is it our commitment to Quaker process?
  • to use the blind men with the elephant as a metaphor
  • -- is Quakerism about the whole elephant, or about one part?
  • -- (is Christianity, and does Christianity see itself as, the whole elephant, or part?)

John's workshop

  • if John's a tube, and for him the energy comes from above, whereas for me it comes from below... does that make me a straw?? :)
  • "what's going to put me in my reverence?" "what's going to help me in my tenderness and care?"
  • "settle your body first, and then place your hands" --> when did i start doing that in the opposite order?
  • keeps coming back to the heart
  • Meeting for Worship for Healing
  • -- gathering ppl's reverence and tenderness
  • -- like doing energy work in a large group
  • "you know, healing was one of the first things Quakers got thrown in jail for" (Fox's Book of Miracles) (like Richard [Lee] said)
  • haven't had someone around me "who understands the gift to help with discernment" and support, as john says
  • this is beginning work, not what he does with a client or a victim of torture

Wednesday, 23 September 2009

Article in the Inquirer about spiritual direction

This is a lovely article about spiritual direction from the Philadelphia Inquirer. (Thank you to Laurie K for pointing it out.)

Spiritual direction has been part of my ministry for a long time, but it wasn't until about a year and a half ago that I was willing to call it that. I didn't like the phrase, for one; having grown up in hierarchical religions, the notion of having someone "direct" my spiritual life was a distinct turn-off.

Winter before last, during a period of intense discernment, my friend Michelle told me, in so many words, that spiritual direction is exactly what I do. I nearly tossed off a flippant email in reply, but thought first and looked some things up. My searches brought me to Spiritual Directors International's page on "What is spiritual direction?" I felt like I'd been dropped in a bell that was ringing. Ohhhh. What Michelle said made so much sense.

I still haven't found a term I like better, or, most importantly, that conveys the essence of this practice to other people more accurately. Spiritual navigation? Spiritual mentoring? (A term used in some Pagan circles.) Spiritual companionship? The best terminology for me will come.

I'm glad to see this article, which talks about some of what's behind spiritual direction, but more importantly, the experience of people who seek out, and find it helpful, to talk to someone about their spiritual lives.

Certified spirit guides | Philadelphia Inquirer | 09/23/2009:

Certified spirit guides
Quietly, compassionately, spirit directors take the soul by the hand, helping a seeker tap deeper dimensions.

By Anndee Hochman

For The Inquirer

Fifteen years ago, Susan Cole was a pastor with a troubling dilemma: She felt unable to pray. It was a stressful time in her parish at Arch Street United Methodist Church in Center City, and Cole felt her anxiety climbing. She tried closing her eyes and focusing on a meaningful passage of Scripture. She tried waking before dawn to pray. All that did was make her tired.

'I was a mess,' she recalls. 'I would feel myself working really hard, I'd get more anxious and not feel any connection to God.'

Monday, 21 September 2009

Gathering together, building community

How to explain this deep-seated urge I have...?

I am a match-maker. I love to put people together with resources; I love to bring people together with other people I think they'll have good conversations with; I love to make connections, to knit things together with each other in unexpected ways that work in new ways. I adore connecting people with one another. ("A, meet B. B, meet A. Here's what made me think I should introduce you, but I'm sure there are other things I don't know about. Talk amongst yourselves...")

Fostering space for people to get together, building community, this has been an important (to me) part of my ministry since sometime in the late 80s or the early 90s.

When I went back to college in the early 90s and became part of the Pagan community there, I started organizing dinner get-togethers in the dining halls, or small private rooms just outside them, for Sabbats. I felt that it was important that people who are part of a minority religion, without any kind of campus ministry, who were from different traditions, who didn't know each other well enough to be in circle together necessarily, should have the chance to celebrate together in a meaningful way and to be in community with each other in a way that didn't require the intimacy being in circle together does.

After my life was no longer centered on campus, this translated -- predictably perhaps -- into wanting to hold Sabbat potlucks.

This wish came true as part of the work Nif and I did in the early years of Roses, Too! Coven. (Well, the idea to start something that might grow into a Coven came about at a potluck in the first place, now that I think of it.) Once we had our feet under ourselves enough to start hosting things, we started throwing Sabbat potlucks. These eventually became one of the signature features of Roses, Too! Coven, drew all sorts of people, and became quite a community. I admit some pride in the fact that the extended potluck community included plenty of non-Pagans and plenty of folks who claimed no spiritual path at all, people who did ritual with us and people who never once did ritual with us -- but for whom coming together in this way, sharing food and drink, music, and our stories, was somehow important.

(Now that I'm back in the Delaware Valley, I'm looking forward to starting Roses, Too! reunions, and hosting regular Sabbat potlucks here again, too.)

Different kinds of wanting-to-bring-people-together have been on my mind a lot lately:

1) The week we moved was the Full Moon in September. I knew there was no way we'd have our act together enough to host worship. I happened to ask folks on the QuakerPagans YahooGroup if anyone in the Philly area was interested. Really, before I even blinked, someone had Full Moon Meeting for Worship all arranged for a location in Delaware County, and other folks had made plans to join us in worship from far away.

We definitely felt their presence during our worship here. That reminded me a lot of the sense I used to have, of kinship with Witches everywhere celebrating the Full Moon and the Sabbats, and of the sense I have talked with my Meeting about, of being with them even from afar through Meeting for Worship.

Folks on the email list talked a little about their worship that night, and there was something powerful going on there.

This really struck me. I hosted Full Moon Meeting for Worship/Worship-Sharing the entire year I lived in Seattle; why did it never occur to me to invite distant folks to join in from wherever they were? Why didn't it ever occur to me to post Full Moon and Dark Moon queries here on my blog and see where folks' worship took them? Interesting!

2) A friend from several different contexts has another friend who's Pagan and seems to be called to worship with Friends, but is concerned about finding a Meeting where she will feel welcome as a non-Christian. So of course I keep thinking of people in that area to put her in touch with.

3) All sorts of Friends from different geographic areas, some of whom identify as Pagan and some of whom don't, have been talking about the power of the idea of getting together for Full Moon Meeting for Worship. Sure, Pagan Quakers get together at FGC Gathering every year; but more and more of the folks I'm in touch with aren't able, for any number of good reasons, to go to Gathering. This was the need that led to Great Waters Pagan Friends Gathering, but there hasn't been the energy or leadership to continue it.

We need to get together; we need to gather.

4) A Pagan Quaker blogger I sometimes read has been writing lately about feeling isolated and unknown in her Meeting. (I don't know her well enough to know if she'd welcome a link here.)

5) Another Pagan Quaker blogger I often read wrote recently about two things that struck me: being known, about each other as an avenue of communion with the Divine ("You Who Are My Bible"); and about the lovely woods near her new home, with a clearing with a fire ring ("Meeting for Worship for Woods") (yay, woods)...

Reading her description, I wanted to ask, Can we have a bunch of people come over for Full Moon Meeting for Worship at your house? This is actually less about Full Moon per se, and more about the lure of those woods and that clearing, and the lure of bringing Friends together for Quaker worship that is rooted and seated in nature...

It's about community. It's about the isolation that so many Pagan Quakers and Quaker Pagans feel. It's about the magic that happens when we come together, where we can feel deeply many of the ways we're alike and can be different in all the ways we're different from each other. It's about the magic that happens when non-Pagan Friends join us in worship and in spiritual community, and we help each other be faithful. It's about the magic that happens when non-Quaker Pagans join us in worship and in spiritual community, and we help each other be faithful. It's about the magic, the power, of silent worship in expectant waiting.

Expectant waiting on the woods. On the moon and the stars. On the wind and the sun. On each other.

And what about getting together?

More and more, yet again, I'm hearing this need -- just as in other minority communities I've been part of -- to gather.

For years, I was part of a group of Quaker lesbians who got together once a month for Meeting for Worship, followed by a potluck dinner. We met at different women's houses. This was a magical experience for me.

Since 2001, I've been part of Friends for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer Concerns, a community of LGBTQ Friends and allies, and have grown very much as a result.

Friends of African Descent, allies, and loved ones get together for Meeting for Worship and for gatherings, and these gatherings feed Friends' souls in the same way as other minority-focused time and space do.

This year at FGC Gathering, I finally went to Shabbat with Jewish Friends.

Both in spiritual/religious space, and in non-spiritual space, I have seen, and I have experienced for myself, the power that comes when folks who are a minority in the larger group or larger society come together.

In Quaker contexts, all of my experiences with minority groups within Friends have deepened my identity as a Friend, as part of the larger community of Quakers.

I feel again the hunger for connection among Pagan Friends.

How shall we gather? How shall we connect? How shall we come together?

What ways of getting together would help us connect, build community, would feed us and our allies?

Love and respect

This is a message that came to me in worship yesterday. It didn't quite meet the must-speak-or-will-get-a-migraine test, so I didn't stand, but it has still stayed with me...

Last fall, Lois McMaster Bujold came to Seattle, promoting her new book. I went to see her at the University Bookstore with my F/friend Marni, and we had a lovely evening.

After reading the new book, I of course had to go back and re-read the other three in the series. Among many other things, it's a series about this opposite-gender couple who meets and falls in love, both far from home.

In the first book, Dag, who has plenty of respect but not much love in his family, does not understand why Fawn, this woman he wants to marry and whose family clearly loves her very much, does not find all the love her family gives her to be sufficient. Until he visits them with her. And then he sees how they love her but do not respect her, and so try to make her smaller -- in a way, similarly to how his own mother and siblings try to make him smaller for respecting his work, but not loving the person he is.

And so Dag comes to understand that just as respect without love is not enough, so love without respect is not enough.

Friday, 18 September 2009

My F/friend Jana, update 3

Jana continues to improve!

Highlights include: she is able to eat some on her own; her cognitive skills are improving; she has been able to hold somewhat longer conversations and use words and phrases from other languages in context.

So, she still has a long road, but she's well on her way, and I'm grateful.

Blessed be.

Friday, 11 September 2009

British government apology to Alan Turing

I read today of the British government's apology to Alan Turing.

I visited the Turing memorial in Manchester, England, last year, as well as the Turing Building at the University of Manchester; pictures, and a little of Turing's story, here. Note the apple in the sculpture's hand...

Tuesday, 8 September 2009

My F/friend Jana, update 2

Jana is breathing on her own, blessed be!

Two other F/friends have blogged out Jana's accident and their experience around it: Ashley W at A Passionate and Determined Quest for Adequacy, and RantWoman at RantWoman and the RSoF.

I know Jana still has a long, hard road ahead of her, but I am so grateful and so joyful right now.

Monday, 7 September 2009

My F/friend Jana, update

I just learned that Jana is awake and responsive, though still in the ICU. Blessed be!

My F/friend Jana

I just found out that my friend Jana, from my home Meeting in Seattle, is in the ICU after being hit by a car Thursday night.

Jana and her husband Warren are both dear friends of mine and of Beloved Wife. Also, our friend Katherine, who was my elder for my ministry at FGC Summer Gathering and my traveling companion going to and from North Pacific Yearly Meeting Annual Sessions, is coordinating care from the Meeting. I talked to her this evening, and got a fair amount of information. Warren, Jana, and their young adult children are getting good support -- practical, emotional, and spiritual. Everything practical that can be done, is happening.

I also talked to Warren, and what he said he and they need are prayers, in whatever form works.

So I invite you to hold Jana, Warren, Katherine, and University Friends Meeting in your spiritual care with us: by holding them in the Light, by praying for them, by sending good thoughts their way, by thinking of them with love or tenderness, by lighting candles for them... whatever it is that you, personally, do when you hold someone in your spiritual care.

I know I could be a lot more articulate, but I'm still kind of numb. I know that because of past experience, it's even more upsetting for me when someone I know gets hit by a car. I know Jana's in good medical hands. I know she and her family are in good spiritual hands. And I know it will be a while until we know what's going to happen.

Wednesday, 19 August 2009

2009 NPYM Annual Sessions: John Calvi

Notes from John Calvi's plenary talk

Our theme for Annual Sessions was, "Experiencing Light in Hard Times: How Do We Stay Faithful in Times of Trouble?"

italics = my thoughts as I was taking notes

  • "maybe faith is an aspect of our response to trouble" (when experiencing injustice, danger)
  • "[trust Allah] but tie your camel" --> practical work, practical support
  • how maintain cxn to Divine?
  • "when trouble comes, can we still be working in the love?"
  • "can we be creative when trouble comes?"
  • my responses to crisis/trouble:
  • when trouble comes from w/out my community, can stand w/community support
  • from w/in my community: that isolation replicates the isolation of early trauma
  • --> trauma separates and isolates us from community
  • MFW as soaking in the silence and stillness ("like a bathtub"), "asking to be washed in Light," "ground opening beneath us"
  • "Quakerism, as one of the mystic religions, is a somatic experience, is something we feel in our bodies"
  • "is is a burden to dislike someone"
  • sometimes we enjoy it, and "that's pathology"
  • "sometimes we can hug someone and say, 'when i am angry at you, i miss you' "
  • "now there are some people who have been very wounded by christianity... b/c there are some aspects of christianity which are very mean"
  • "we cannot blame christianity on jesus"
  • encourages folks who have been wounded by christianity to become familiar with the teachings of jesus
  • and folks who experience jesus need to share that in ways that "don't bump up against those wounds"
  • "now these look like opposites, but these are Friends dancing together"
  • difference between knowing and believing
  • is "your respect for other people spiralling upward or spiralling downward?"
  • if you know how things are constructed and someone shares other experience, increased disrespect for them
  • if you believe: open to continuing revelation; can listen w/respect
  • i know my experience, but not others' --> different kind of knowing
  • what is your response to pain? how is that different from that of people around you?
  • "i find that if i cry about 2 hours a week, i can keep even"
  • "what are the circumstances under which you allow yourself to cry?"
  • how has that changed, is changing, changes with different kinds of pain?
  • it's okay to cry for the pain of others which you experience (remember this)
  • "what brings you back" to your deepest wisdom, experiencing guidance, etc?
  • --> ask for that
  • trouble and pain have a function, "and that function is learning"
  • understanding it moves it to wisdom
  • --> lessens the intensity
  • --> break the pieces down so there can be some learning
  • no learning, it remains pain, trouble, conflict
  • as Friends, we have a duty to come to that pinnacle where we are in awe of creation
  • where we can look at the most wonderful and horrible
  • "we can't always see where our love goes and what it accomplishes"
  • --> "no love is ever wasted"
  • "feeling that anger is very important"
  • "anger needs to be given its place and respected"
  • "i have to balance the anger so it doesn't obstruct my love or the Light that's been given me"

Saturday, 15 August 2009

Pagan Values � Chrysalis

Check out Pax's page of posts for International Pagan Values Blogging Month. - sm

Pagan Values � Chrysalis: "I posted it here, and kind of just let it go for a little while… but then folks started taking interest! People started linking and posting and it grew into a big ol’ blog carnival with 100 posts, and counting as I find more. I am linking this page to as many of those posts as I can find in the hopes of providing an online snap shot of, and resource for the study of, contemporary Pagan values."

Quakers & Non-Theism

Quakers & Non-Theism:

from the July/August 2009 issue of Western Friend

by Brian Vura-Weis

From the beginning of Quakerism there was a tension between the Word given by the Bible and the Word as experienced by the individual. This dynamic has played out over the years between the Mystical, Universal and Christocentric Friends. It has led to difficulties within meetings and caused yearly meetings and families to split based on their conceptions of Truth. In virtually all of these divisions there was almost never disagreement about the existence of God. The first page of Pacific Yearly Meeting’s current Faith and Practice speaks to this:...

2009 FGC Gathering Notes



the phrase "not just god in a skirt" keeps coming to me --> part of why The Goddess and not just Goddess?
--> "Goddess" w/o "the" doesn't make enough difference in my head and in my thinking

women's community; women coming together
women's community that includes feminist men
--> the E of that community feels explicitly like the Goddess to me

Meeting for Worship

from songs my workshop participants who arrived early yesterday were singing while waiting:

i sat under an old oak tree
and asked the Goddess to carry me
She wrapped me up in ancient green
ancient green

all my fears
all my fears
all my fears
river gonna wash away

...which i learned from becky birtha during the first-ever singing the Goddess workshop i did, at qlc '98.

the river is flowing
flowing and growing
the river (she is) flowing
down to the sea

Mother, carry me
your child i will always be
Mother, carry me
down to the sea*

...which i know is in julie's book, b/c i learned it when a bunch of us got together and sang... a bunch of songs from sfe for julie...

* (c) Diana Hildebrand-Hull, "The River Is Flowing."


Meeting for Worship

step by step, the longest march
can be won, can be won
many stones to form an arch
singly none, singly none
and by union what we will
shall be accomplished still
drops of water turn a mill
singly none, singly none

"God is not moderate"

you shall indeed go out with joy
and be led forth in peace
you shall indeed go out with joy
and be led forth in peace
before you, mountains and hills
shall break into cries of joy
and all the trees of the wild shall clap
clap their hands*

*(c) music, Nancy Schimmel; words, Isaiah 55:12


Meeting for Worship

thought train: teach magic. time spent this week talking about the Goddess and magic.

the question about magic really is, what spiritual practices in your life are transformative? (rather than, what spiritual practices in your life are magical?)

[when talking about magic:] what spiritual practices in your life are transformative? when in your life have you experienced transformation and change?



social and sacred ritual as an E-saving device
--> don't have to decide together each time how to shake hands, etc.

[thoughts/notes from what folks are sharing, for our work tomorrow:]
new beginnings
direct experience
teaching magic

[Bonnie Tinker died Thursday afternoon, and my emotional, mental, and spiritual state was such that I did not take any more notes Thursday or Friday. I am grateful that I was with Friends, in a community with no laity, while we ministered to and supported each other. I also had amazing and wonderful support from the members of my workshop, the other Healing Center co-Coordinators, and the Compassionate Listening team.]

Friday, 14 August 2009

2009 FGC Gathering: Ben Pink Dandelion

Notes from Ben Pink Dandelion's 2009 FGC Gathering plenary talk: "Quaking with Confidence"

italics = my thoughts as i was taking notes

  • "an accompanied life"
  • "how did i lose so much confidence with god alongside me?"
  • confidence --> con + fid --> with faith
  • loss of confidence from keeping god out of the whole of my life, esp. the shadow part
  • role of george fox quote, "there is one, even..." in quaker hx and schisms
  • "can't summon god up," but can be open
  • "nothing outwardly"
  • "nothing upon the earth"
  • inner vs. inward
  • "replace the old self"
  • "how much have we changed or allowed ourselves to be changed by the Spirit?"
  • replacing the old self --> denying the inherent divinity of the original self
  • "all things must change or die, and in so dying, change"
  • early differences between who was a F and who was a member
  • --> membership 1730s re: which Mtg owed whom poor relief
  • --> part of "why we're still so confused about the meaning of membership"
  • testimonies fairly new
  • against outward war
  • in favor of simplicity
  • for early Fs, 2nd coming taking place inwardly
  • break bread til christ comes again; therefore no further need of outward communion
  • --> same with most church observances
  • --> dismissed xmas, easter, xtian calendar, etc. incl set times
  • look up "discipline" in the oed
  • "we have a behavioral creed"
  • "what is our good news" as we are post-xtian?
  • uncertain in our belief; distrustful of those who claim The Answer
  • "an absolute perhaps" of belief
  • "certain of partial uncertainty"
  • "this absolute perhaps is perhaps part of our good news"
  • 86% of Britain YM came in as adults
  • 50% of that 86% no prior spiritual/religious affiliation
  • faith associated with the unseen
  • i've seen the sun come up
  • i have faith the sun will come up tomorrow though i haven't seen tomorrow's sun/the sun tomorrow
  • "Qism is the vehicle of our spiritual life, not the object of our worship"
  • "incarnational spirituality"
  • not just mental engagement with early Qism, early Q roots, writings, etc, but incarnational
  • benjamin lloyd - "confident (?) in ongoing revelation" (faith? belief?)
  • evangelical liberal Qism?? :)
  • i am tired of apologizing within Qism for my Pism, my theism, my non-theism...

Writing from travels

Wow, yes, late June and all of July were really busy.

I traveled for most of that time: apartment-hunting, then FGC Gathering; home briefly, and hosted Full Moon Meeting for Worship and presented at ARE; then to North Pacific Yearly Meeting Annual Sessions; home briefly; then to the Unitarian Universalist Musicians Network Conference; then home and hosted Full Moon Meeting for Worship. Whew!

I have lots of notes from those experiences, and lots of thoughts, and, of course, a bunch of follow-up I need to do. So, I'm going to try to get some notes posted here.

I'm also preparing for a big move, and dealing with a couple of family near-crises, so I'm likely to be interrupted at any moment, and definitely appreciate being held in the Light.

Tuesday, 11 August 2009

Re-doing my website - input?

I have to re-do my web site. I had been using GooglePages, which has been discontinued in favor of GoogleSites. Everything was supposed to migrate over, but hasn't; besides, Sites is structured very differently from Pages -- which is good in the long run, because it'll let me do more what I want, but challenging in the short term.

All of this really does mean re-doing my web site.

So I'm wondering what folks would like to see. What works for you about my current website, what doesn't? What would you like to see stay the way it is on the new site, what would you like to see change, and how?

(Knowing that some of what you dislike may be chalked up to the limitations of GooglePages, and that GoogleSites will have its own limitations I may not be able to work around.)


Saturday, 8 August 2009

Facebook account disabled

Anyone who's looking for me over there: my Facebook account has been disabled, with no warning. Grand.

I had just joined Twitter, though, @StasaMA.

Thursday, 6 August 2009

An Angry, Angry Woman � Self-Love: It's Just Another Lifestyle Change

An excellent post from MezzoSherri, speaking truth to patriarchal power.

An Angry, Angry Woman � Self-Love: It's Just Another Lifestyle Change: "I am haunted and infuriated by the premeditation indicated from Sodini’s choice to attack a women’s-only class at his own gym. Is it possible that part of the rage working through him was based in this assumptive loop that why would these women be gym members except to make themselves attractive for men, and with that as their purpose, then how dare they be unavailable to him?!?"

Outward signs of inward grace (and truth, and transformation)

This weekend at Meeting for Worship with Attention to Business, my Monthly Meeting approved my membership, and later approved a revised letter of introduction and support for my ministry.


I am still settling in to how this feels. Do I feel different? If so, how?


This has been, and continues to be, a powerful journey.

The experience of my entire membership process in this Meeting has been such a gift.

I feel known, loved, and respected in this Meeting, and yet the membership process has still been hard: challenging for me personally, and hard work for me, for my clearness committee, and for my Meeting.

But my Meeting has been right here with me, has met me with openness and grace, with openness to grace, with a commitment to Quaker process and to asking how we're led. With a commitment to talking about the elephants in the living room, about spiritual and thea/ological diversity, about the fact that I'm moving across the country soon. With a commitment to understanding, as much as another human being can, well enough to explain it to someone else: What do these words mean to you when you use them? What is your lived experience? How does the Spirit move in your life? With a commitment to asking, and seeking to answer, What other gifts that we don't know about yet do you bring to the Meeting? How can and does the Meeting support your spiritual life and spiritual growth? How might this work?

People keep telling me how much my openness, honesty, and forthrightness have helped this process, and that my membership request has been a gift for the Meeting. I have tried to help those who tell me that understand -- all my openness in the world would have meant nothing if the Meeting hadn't been able to meet me with its own openness. This is a gift, and a grace. It has sustained me and blessed me.

From the very beginning with my clearness committee, I felt their deep commitment to Quaker process and to coming to know me. I felt held. Over the course of our meetings, I was able to move to a place beyond fear of judgement -- not just here, but among other Friends. What a difference this has made in so many areas of my life!

When I read my clearness committee's report to the Oversight Committee, it was amazing. They got it. They understood.

And, they could explain it to other people.

That was powerful.

As the process continued to unfold, I moved from feeling held by my clearness committee, to feeling held by the Oversight Committee and the Clerk of the Meeting, to feeling held by my Meeting.

It was from this place that I went into my ministry at FGC Gathering. And the amazing and wonderful support from my Meeting -- the members of my ministry oversight committee, my elder for my ministry at Gathering, but also the way I felt held by my Meeting as a whole -- enabled me, first, to move beyond my previous limits as a workshop leader, and second, to meet a whole new slew of challenges I never could have anticipated. To be faithful and to stretch and grow beyond where I'd been before.

I was held.

I am reminded of something Ben Pink Dandelion said in his plenary talk at FGC Gathering: "How much have we changed, or allowed ourselves to be changed, by the Holy Spirit?"

To be engaged in a spiritual life means being open to transformation -- means being open to being changed by the Holy Spirit. To be engaged fully in a living Quakerism means being open to transformation and change.

To magic.

This year, I have been changed and transformed. It has not been an easy process, but it has been a joyful one -- each unfolding has brought greater expansion of my heart and spirit, deeper rootedness, more tenderness. Less contraction. More joy.

In my membership process, I have been transformed. In ways that have helped me be more faithfully myself.

In our Meeting, the proposed member stays in the room during the reading of their letter and the Oversight Committee's report. The second Meeting for Business, the proposed member then leaves the room during worship around their proposed membership.

It took a long time.

I understand that part of why is because a fair number of Friends stood and gave vocal ministry -- about their transformation and change, about faithfulness, about ways in which my proposed membership challenged them and why they now felt we had to approve it, about how issues around my membership are similar to other issues the Meeting has dealt with before with other memberships, about how issues around my membership are different than others the Meeting has dealt with... and, I think most of all, about the ways in which I've been as fully present as I could with the Meeting during my time here.

In the worship later in the day, around the revised letter of introduction and support for my ministry, there was some wordsmithing which made it a more powerful, more true letter.

One of the things that has kept coming back to me, in the days since Sunday, is the suggestion of one particular Friend. This is someone from whom I've never felt any disrespect or ill-feeling, and yet who has been completely open with me that my ministry and my language have made them uncomfortable.

At Yearly Meeting, which was between the first and second readings of my proposed membership, they sought me out to talk. And we had the kind of chewy conversation that feels like true community. It was wonderful.

In Business Meeting this weekend, when we were discussing the revisions to my letter, this Friend's suggestion -- that the word "faithfulness" be added to the description of me -- struck me right in the heart.



So, I'm a member of the Religious Society of Friends now. Do I feel different? If so, how?

I have been thinking about when Beloved Wife and I got married. We didn't feel much different at first, in part because it was true, our wedding was an outward sign of inward grace, of inward truth: our marriage.

But something did change pretty dramatically almost immediately: our relationship with our community. I still don't know quite how to put it all into words, but part of it is that now our relationship belonged to everyone who cares about us. We still bore primary responsibility, but our community -- our families, our spiritual communities, our friends, everyone who cares about us -- their own kind of responsibility was now explicit. Especially in the signing of our certificate.

Oversight's report recommending my membership spoke about my membership as an outward sign of an inward truth. If that's the case, how does the formal recognition change things?

I don't know entirely yet.

But I'm also reminded of something my F/friend Vonn said at FGC Gathering, during a long conversation about life and ministry. Vonn talked about how, when you get a minute of religious service from your Monthly and Yearly Meetings, it's amazing; your ministry no longer belongs just to you.

"Um, in a good way or a bad way?" I asked. (The thought made me nervous.)

"Oh, it's totally amazing," she breathed.

I feel owned. In a good way. Claimed. I belong to them. The ownership of this relationship definitely goes both ways.

In terms of ministry, they will help me, as they have all along, listen so that I may be faithful to the leadings of the Goddess.

This Meeting is home.

But I think I should ask that question again -- So, do I feel different? How? -- after my welcome dinner. :)

Sunday, 2 August 2009

Britain Yearly Meeting and marriage equality - go, BYM!

Blessed be! - sm

News release and background on Committed Relationships paper for YMG09

News Release
31 July 2009
Quakers consider committed relationships

Quakers in Britain today concluded a long and profound process of discernment about the way forward for Quaker marriage and approach to same sex partnerships.

The minute recording their decision is as follows:

Minute 25 Britain Yearly Meeting 31 July 2009

Further to minute 17, (attached) a session was held on Tuesday afternoon at which speakers shared personal experiences of the celebration and recognition of their committed relationships. These Friends had felt upheld by their meetings in these relationships but regretted that whereas there was a clear, visible path to celebration and recognition for opposite sex couples, the options available for couples of the same sex were not clear and could vary widely between meetings. Friends who feel theirs to be an ordinary and private rather than an exotic and public relationship have had to be visible pioneers to get their relationship acknowledged and recorded.

This open sharing of personal experience has moved us and added to our clear sense that, 22 years after the prospect was first raised at Meeting for Sufferings we are being led to treat same sex committed relationships in the same way as opposite sex marriages, reaffirming our central insight that marriage is the Lord’s work and we are but witnesses. The question of legal recognition by the state is secondary.

We therefore ask Meeting for Sufferings to take steps to put this leading into practice and to arrange for a draft revision of the relevant sections of Quaker faith and practice, so that same sex marriages can be prepared, celebrated, witnessed, recorded and reported to the state, as opposite sex marriages are. We also ask Meeting for Sufferings to engage with our governments to seek a change in the relevant laws so that same sex marriages notified in this way can be recognised as legally valid, without further process, in the same way as opposite sex marriages celebrated in our meetings. We will not at this time require our registering officers to act contrary to the law, but understand that the law does not preclude them from playing a central role in the celebration and recording of same sex marriages.

We have heard dissenting voices during the threshing process which has led to us this decision, and we have been reminded of the need for tenderness to those who are not with us who will find this change difficult. We also need to remember, including in our revision of Quaker faith and practice, those Friends who live singly, whether or not by choice.

We will need to explain our decision to other Christian bodies, other faith communities, and, indeed to other Yearly Meetings, and pray for a continuing loving dialogue, even with those who might disagree strongly with what we affirm as our discernment of God’s will for us at this time.

Following the decision, Martin Ward, clerk of Quakers Yearly Meeting said: “This minute is the result of a long period of consultation and what we call “threshing” in our local meetings, culminating in two gathered sessions of our Yearly Meeting. At these sessions, according to practice, we heard ministry arising out of silent worship which led us to discern the will of God for the Religious Society and record it in this minute.”


Media Information
Anne van Staveren
0207 663 1048
07958 009703

For interviews and photographs during Yearly Meeting Gathering contact Anne van Staveren on 07958 009703. Media attendance is limited. The business sessions of Yearly Meeting Gathering are not open to the media. A background paper on Quakers and committed partnerships is available from

Notes to the Editor:

• Quakers are known formally as The Religious Society of Friends.

• Quakers were given the right to conduct marriages in England and Wales in 1753, but case law before that recognised the validity of Quaker marriages.

• Quakers began to call for a sexual morality based on the worth of relationships in 1963 with the publication of 'Towards a Quaker view of Sex'. Since then, Quakers have developed through tolerance to widespread acceptance of same sex partnerships, particularly since the formation of the now Quaker Lesbian and Gay Fellowship in 1973. Meeting for Sufferings minuted appreciation of gay and lesbian Quakers' contribution in 1988.

• There was no formal stage of 'recognising' same sex partnerships nationally as Quaker procedures allowed it to happen: there was nothing against it. The first meetings for commitment were in 1996. Since then, around twenty local meetings have celebrated same sex relationships through an official meeting for commitment.

• Following the Civil Partnership Act of December 2005, same sex couples in England, Wales and Scotland, who share Quaker beliefs may opt for a blessing or commitment ceremony after entering a civil partnership.

• The Civil Partnership Act allows same sex partnerships to be registered as civil partnerships in law, but such registrations cannot take place in the context of religious worship. Civil partnership is not recognised as marriage, although registered civil partners share almost the same legal rights and responsibilities as heterosexual couples.

• The total number of civil partnerships formed in the UK since the Civil Partnership Act came in December 2005 is 26,787. (Office for National Statistics)

• Minute 17 reads:

25 July – 1 August 2009

Minute 17: Committed relationships: introduction

The report ‘Exploring our attitudes to committed partnerships’ (pages 61-64 of Documents in advance) has been introduced to us through a personal account of one Friend’s experience of the varied committed relationships in his family and his Quaker community.

We receive minute S/08/11/3 of Meeting for Sufferings held 1 November 2008 on the recognition of partnerships under the auspices of Britain Yearly Meeting. In the light of our testimony to equality we are asked by Meeting for Sufferings to consider how we should celebrate and recognise committed relationships within our Quaker community and what revisions of Quaker faith & practice would follow from this to include same sex partnerships.

We have opportunity at an open session on Tuesday afternoon to hear speakers who will share their personal experiences of commitment, to be followed by response groups, and, on Wednesday evening, special interest groups. We will return to this matter on Thursday afternoon, and to the two requests which Meeting for Sufferings has put to us to:

i) Endorse the conclusions of the Quaker Life minute that it would not be right at this time either to lobby government for further changes in the law on committed partnerships nor to surrender our legal authority to conduct heterosexual marriages;

ii) Explore the issue and give broad guidance on how changes suggested in the Quaker life minute might be expressed in chapter 16 of Quaker faith & practice.

Monday, 27 July 2009

Pacific Northwest Quaker Women's Theology Conference.... and some other thoughts on Quaker community


I have heard bits of pieces about this group, this gathering, on and off for years. Since I didn't have much interaction with programmed Friends before, and since I didn't live out here, I thought it was neat, but I didn't feel much connection with it.

Assorted things have changed, and now I feel a live, electric connection.

One is my own ministry, particularly around Explicit Friends. (Click here for the background, and here for additional blog posts on this theme.)

Courageously Explicit
Three Friends walk into Meeting for Worship: a Christian, a Pagan, a Jew, and a Non-Theist. Each gives ministry from their own experience; they all experience gathered Worship. Come create the rest of the story: coming together, supporting each other, building community, helping each other be faithful, speaking explicitly.

I am certainly called to ministry among Pagan Quakers (and also Quaker Pagans). But I'm also called to ministry among Friends of different thea/ologies, to help us be in community together, to help us be faithful Friends together, to help us speak in the languages of our own experiences and listen to each other in our different languages -- coming together in our shared experience of and commitment to Quakerism.

Over the last two years, I'm coming to see that this includes Friends from different branches of Quakerism, not just within the unprogrammed tradition.

Another thing that changed was my feeling like I just couldn't understand programmed Friends, thanks to the 2007 Mid-Winter Gathering of Friends for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer Concerns (FLGBTQC).

In 2007, our Mid-Winter Gathering was held in Greensboro, NC. There are seven different kinds of active Quakerism in that area. Wow. (I can remember, and talk at least a little about, five of them.) During our weekend together, I learned quite a bit about other kinds of Friends, and also about their points of view. There were programmed Friends with us that weekend, for whom I came to feel respect, affection, and kinship.

I even attended programmed Meeting for Worship.

Now, you've very likely heard or read me say that I'm allergic to programmed Quaker worship. To me, as soon as you introduce programming, you almost always introduce dogma and/or conflicting theaologies, and this prevents me from being in spiritual communion/spiritual community with the other folks present.

One of the things I love about unprogrammed worship in expectant waiting is that we so often come into spiritual communion with each other across that combination of differing and shared experiences of the Divine. That's part of the deep magic of Quakerism for me -- that place beyond words, beyond theaologies, in shared experience and communion.

So, I hate anything that spoils that. But I was willing to experiment, and I also felt like it was a way to show respect for Agnes and Willie Frye.

So I went to programmed worship.

It's still not my cup of tea... But it didn't feel like it wasn't Quaker.

That had been my fear: that it wouldn't "feel" Quaker to me, that it would feel like any other Christian, Protestant service, where there would be no space for me as a Friend who experiences the Divine through the Goddess, who is neither Christian nor Protestant.

So that opened up a small space inside of me: I had this experience of programmed worship, and while it's still not my cup of tea or my preferred form of worship, it still felt Quaker. It still felt like family.

Another thing that's changed is living in the Pacific Northwest, and in North Pacific Yearly Meeting, this last year. You know what? There are a lot more programmed Friends out here than in the Delaware Valley or southeastern Michigan. So, it's much harder to imagine them as incomprehensible.

Another thing is the Association of Bad Friends, a notion of Brent Bill's. (Click here for information about the ABF; click here for the Facebook group. Heh heh heh.) There are programmed Friends in the ABF, too. And you know what?, many of them are Bad Friends in the same ways that I am a Bad Friend. We laugh quite a lot at ourselves in our Association, and the ABF has gotten me into more dialogue with programmed Friends than almost, but not quite, anything else.

Back to living in the Pacific Northwest. In addition to there just being more programmed Friends around, the fact that there are more programmed Friends around leads to more experiences with individual people. There's a Friend from Freedom Friends Church in Salem, OR, sojourning in my Meeting in Seattle. I can sit next to her in worship in deep delight. What's more, I have found that Ashley's not incomprehensible to me, spiritually or personally. We don't know each other very well yet, but I can definitely say that we have become friends as well as Friends. I know I look forward to her company and grow spiritually through our friendship. I've met several other Friends from programmed churches, like Sarah. They're not incomprehensible to me, either, and I really look forward to getting to know them better.

North Pacific Yearly Meeting (NPYM)is an unaffiliated Yearly Meeting. It's an amazingly diverse Yearly Meeting, and there's a deep commitment to that diversity -- including theaological diversity. Wow. There are many reasons, current and historical, for our being unaffiliated, but part of it is out of respect for and commitment to that diversity.

(A year ago, that would have seemed pretty odd to me; I couldn't have imagined a YM with a preponderance of unprogrammed Meetings not wanting to affiliate with Friends General Conference (FGC). But I get it now. (We may yet affiliate with FGC; things are in discernment.))

When I went to NPYM Annual Sessions this year, I also got to see firsthand the deep respect between folks in our Yearly Meeting and Friends who were sojourning or visiting from Northwest Yearly Meeting -- a programmed Yearly Meeting which overlaps with us geographically. They are not strangers; they are beloved family.

Ashley and Sarah are co-clerks of next year's Pacific Northwest Women's Theology Conference. I know almost all the women on the planning committee; several of them are from my own Meeting.

And almost everyone I know who's involved has asked me if there's any way I can come back out to WA next year for it. I aim to find a way.

These folks are not strangers. These women are my beloved sisters.

I don't understand it completely yet, but I have a leading here.

And I invite other women from the unprogrammed Quaker tradition along for the ride.

Thursday, 23 July 2009

An Overview of Modern Paganism in the US, University Friends Meeting Adult Religious Education, July 12, 2009

I was asked to give a presentation at the Adult Religious Education hour at University Friends Meeting on Paganism in general. This is in no way a comprehensive discussion of modern Paganism in the US. I have written this from my notes for that talk and from my recollection of it. An hour's time for presentation and discussion was, of course, too little for what I wanted to cover; and I had already cut quite a lot from my plan. The presentation went well, and the discussion was warm and rich.

I am deeply grateful to the International Pagan Pride Project for their existence, their work, and the resources they've made available over the years. I have been very privileged to be involved with the Mid-Atlantic Pagan Pride Project.

- sm

An Overview of Modern Paganism in the US
University Friends Meeting Adult Religious Education, July 12, 2009

We began with worship. I introduced myself and my talk. There were between 15 and 20 people attending.

Exercise: Tree of Life; Connecting with the Air, Fire, Water, Earth, and Goddess

I led the group through a Tree of Life meditation to ground and center, followed by an exercise to connect even more consciously with the elements and the Goddess. After the Tree of Life, I asked Friends to pay attention to their breath and their breathing; then to the air around us and the wind; to notice how it's all the same. I asked Friends to move a body part, any body part, and think about the energy, the firing of our neurons, required for that; about the food required for our energy; about the Sun needed to grow our food. We repeated this with water and earth.

Then I asked Friends, when they were ready, to open their eyes and look into the eyes of another person, and recognize and honor that of God, the Goddess-within, the Air, Fire, Water, Earth, and Spirit in that other person. (There were lots of smiles during this part, which I loved.)

What is a Pagan?

I passed out handout packets. We started with the Pagan Pride Project's "What is a Pagan?" and "Definition"; I walked folks through the main points, and added details from my own experience.

  • The Pagan Pride Project has a set of definitions they have worked out to help begin to answer this question.
  • Many people consider anyone who is not part of an Abrahamic religion to be Pagan, and any religion which is not Abrahamic to be Pagan.
  • While I know and have worked with people who fit almost all of PPP’s categories, I am most familiar with and can talk most intelligently about their last two: religion and spirituality that focus on the Divine Feminine and on the Earth. (My personal area is feminist Witchcraft & eco-feminsm.)
  • (There is information about some of the other categories on the PPP’s website, as I have noted on your handout.)

Paganism main points

The handouts I used here are Ceclyna and Dagonet Dewr's "Neo-Paganism -- the Divine in All Creation" and the Pagan Educational Network's "Paganism." Again, I highlighted some main points, adding details from my own experience.

  • “The Divine is in all creation and everything has Divinity within”
  • The interconnectedness of all life, of all beings
  • This is why many Pagans are environmentalists
  • An est’d 500,000 to 2.5 million Pagans in the US; why it's hard to get accurate numbers.
  • Many Pagan traditions emphasize personal and direct experience of the Divine, often as the Goddess and the God; some focus primarily on the Goddess
  • Many traditions focus on natural occurrences such as the cycle of the seasons (ie, The Wheel of the Year), moon phases, and births, deaths, and other stages of life (coming of age, first menstruation, menopause/croning)
  • Personal responsibility comes with direct experience of the Divine → Can’t hide behind what a charismatic leader tells you to do or not to do, to believe or not to believe
  • Like Quakerism, no dogma
  • There are Pagans from all walks of life; Paganism cuts across race and class
  • “Disorganized religion” → coherent, but not structured
  • How many Pagans talk about discovering Paganism in similar ways to how lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer people talk about coming out -- "Oh, my gosh, there's a word for what I am," "There are other people like me," "There's a word for my experience," etc.


I wanted to talk about Witchcraft, as a specific example of one kind of Paganism, and as a kind folks in the Meeting were likely to have heard about (or have had experience with). I chose Reclaiming Tradition because there are active Reclaiming groups in the Seattle area, as well as active groups of Radical Faeries. I also chose Roses, Too! Tradition, since I knew folks in the Meeting may have been reading about it, and because I could talk about it intimately and intelligently. :)

Reclaiming Witchcraft - main points

From the Reclaiming Principles of Unity:

"The values of the Reclaiming tradition stem from our understanding that the Earth is alive and all of life is sacred and interconnected. We see the Goddess as immanent in the Earth's cycles of birth, growth, death, decay and regeneration. Our practice arises from a deep, spiritual commitment to the Earth, to healing and to the linking of magic with political action.

"Each of us embodies the divine. Our ultimate spiritual authority is within, and we need no other person to interpret the sacred to us. We foster the questioning attitude, and honor intellectual, spiritual and creative freedom.

"...We know that everyone can do the life-changing, world-renewing work of magic, the art of changing consciousness at will. We strive to teach and practice in ways that foster personal and collective empowerment, to model shared power and to open leadership roles to all. We make decisions by consensus, and balance individual autonomy with social responsibility."

Roses, Too! Tradition - main points

From Roses, Too! "Who We Are - About Roses, Too!":

"Roses, Too! Tradition is a tradition of eclectic feminist Witchcraft. We hold Sabbat potlucks and semi-open ritual, usually on the Saturday (or Sunday) closest to the holiday. Our spiritual backgrounds are diverse: Quaker, Pagan, Jewish, Episcopalian, Congregationalist, Catholic, Atheist, and more. As Witches, some of the values we share are:
  • Respect and love for the Earth, for all living things, as the embodiment of That-Which-Is-Sacred – as the Goddess.
  • The courage and honesty to do hard spiritual and emotional work.
  • The compassion to support and bear witness to each other's work.
  • A commitment to justice and to non-violent political activism.
  • An understanding of magic as a way to create personal, political, and cultural change.
  • The recognition of the importance of play, silliness, and fun in what we do."

"Imagine a Woman" and "The Declaration of the Four Sacred Things"

I handed out Patricia Reilly's "Imagine a Woman" as an example of something that might be used in Goddess circles.

I also handed out Starhawk's "Declaration of the Four Sacred Things" as an example of something from Earth-centered tradition, that reaches across thea/ologies.

Why Pagan Pride?

I handed out the Pagan Pride Project's "Why Pagan Pride?," and talked about the discrimination I face every day as a Witch. This is a Meeting community that understands LGBTQ oppression and discrimination, so relating it to my experience as a lesbian, and the way PPP relates it to queer oppression and discrimination, made sense to them.

I also talked a little about being not just a religious minority, but a non-Abrahamic religious minority. For example, as someone who's part Jewish, sometimes members of the dominant religion in the US tell me they can relate to me because their God the Father is the same as the God of their Old Testament. But as a Witch, as someone who works with the Goddess, I'm just a heretic to them (whereas, as a Jew, I just haven't progressed to Christianity yet).

Working with children, teenagers, or young adults

I asked how many people teach or work with children, teenagers, or young adults, in their professional work, their work in the Meeting, or elsewhere. Many hands went up. I called their attention to the handout "You Have a Pagan Student in Your School - A Guide for Educators," which was part of their packet.

Q&A and discussion

I started this with the question for the group: "If, to you, the Divine is immanent, is present in the world, is something you can experience directly, what are some things you would believe? What are some ways you would act?"

Discussion was warm and rich, with many Friends bringing their own experience to each others' questions.


Books I mentioned during discussion

Based on our conversation, there were four books I mentioned:

If you decide to purchase any of these books, please do so from the publisher or from an independent bookseller. To find one near you, click here.



Here are the handouts I used: