Being ourselves, together

At Meeting today the first ministry was about roots of trees intertwining, and that being a metaphor for the way we connect with each other in a Quaker community.

This prompted a further response in me to Leith's WGYF report, which I read again yesterday as it'd just been published in the NZ Friends Newsletter. In it she spoke of being so challenged by beliefs so very different to her own, and yet being able to try love, and being accepted by those whose beliefs were at times contradictory to hers.

She wrote that Grace from (Australian YM) had summed up her experience by saying:

"I came here with my heart and mind prepared to meet all of you, and most importantly, to be myself and also to encourage all of you to be yourselves . . . through my time here, there have been some times when I’ve been sitting in this room and I’ve been so uncomfortable. And for these times I give thanks, because it’s in these times that many of you feel most at home. The most important thing that I’ve learned and embraced is that we’re all so different from each other. And yet this is the only place in my life where I feel I truly fit. So, if I can be me and fit here, and you can all be you and fit here, then that’s just totally amazing!"

I heard a few years ago of a theory of human needs, which said that we have a number of needs which are in tension with each other. We have, the theory states a need for significance, and a need for connectedness. We need to be individuals, to be ourselves, to be distinct from others, and to be noticed and appreciated for what we uniquely provide. We also need to be connected to others, to be love, and accepted as a part of a greater whole. If we become too significant (like a celebrity) we risk not being able to genuinely connect with anyone, and if we become too connected we risk losing our identity.

Many faith communities it seems to me ask a high price for the connectedness that comes from belonging to them. They ask people to subscribe to a particular doctrine, or set of beliefs, to behave a particular way. Other communities, like New Age ones for example allow people to be however they please, but appear to have little true spirituality which connects people together. In Quakers we seem somehow to have gotten the best of both worlds. In this community I feel like I can be fully and uniquely me. I can have my beliefs, my faith, my spirit develop at the pace I need it to, and to express itself in the way that is right for me. And at the same time, I can be connected to a wider community that will accept me just exactly as I am. Here I can be connected, and interdependent, and loved without having to change how I am, or the way I act.

During Meeting this all came together for me. The first speaker was the mother of people I went through children's Meeting, JYF and YF with. My roots are here, and now finally I'm beginning to understand why I've come back. At that moment I realised I was ready to apply for Membership. I have been asking when this would come, and waiting until it did. Tonight I'm going to write a letter of application to our Clerk.

This sort of expresses how I feel: 

To stand in this forest we do not have to be pine trees,
To grow here we do not have to stand in rows,
Or rustle just so because all the other trees do,
We do not have to be a particular colour, or height,
And we do not have to grow tall and straight,
We can be whatever shape we need,
And choose our own way to grow into the light,
We can be covered with birds singing,
Or stand quietly in the silence of the night,
And yet we are all essential parts of this forest,
Loving and sheltering each other,
And together we can celebrate,
And stand shaking in the wind of the spirit.


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