Archive for the ‘scripture’ Category

The language of love

September 20, 2006

Last night I flew from Auckland to Christchurch. I was exhausted after a long day of running workshops and just wanted to sleep. As a part of the ‘make sure your seatbelts are buckled, your seat upright’ announcement, the crew member accidentally said we were going to Wellington. The woman in the seat next to me made a comment, and this got us started talking.

It turned out she was one of the leading lights in the refugee resettlement programme in NZ. New Zealand is the only country in the world where every single refugee gets met at the airport by volunteers and welcomed into the country. The volunteers go through a very comprehensive training programme to help them understand the cultural differences. Each refugee family is assigned a NZ family who commits to staying in touch with them and actively supporting them for the first six months they are here. Some of the stories she told about the reactions from the refugees to the way they felt about how they are treated in NZ were just inspiring and very moving. Having come from countries where conflict and hatred is rife, to a country where people who are so different from them welcome and love them seems a very powerful thing.

She was also a very committed anglican christian, and spoke about how her faith really made all this possible. A lot of the language she used was very different to that which Quakers use. She talked about how God asked her to do things, about speaking directly with God and asking for clarity or guidance, about God ‘giving her a scripture’, and about praying for people.

It became clear that this was possibly just different language for the same things that I experience. Quakers talk about being led, about waiting in the silence, about a particular piece of ministry (spoken or written) speaking to our condition, and about holding people in the light. I still find the anthropomorphisation of God that is common in a lot of ‘christian speak’ difficult to deal with. Talking with this woman made me more aware of how it’s possible we really are talking about the same thing. We might have different words for it, we might even have quite different pictures in our heads about what God is, and how communication with the divine happens, but at the heart of it, the truth is the truth.

To me it’s like how there are so many different words for love, in so many different languages, but love is still love.

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Living faith

March 27, 2006

Yesterday I had the privilege of being at Wellington Meeting. I went to the bible study group first, which given the level of sharing, put me in a much calmer state of mind than I normally have at the start of Meeting.

One of the women ministering at Meeting for Worship spoke about the doll she had as a child, which had been handed down from generation to generation in her family. The doll's clothes had been built to last. She also talked of climbing a mesa in the desert in the USA, getting to the top, and wondering how she would get down. When she turned to descend she found handholds that had been carved out by Native Americans long ago. She asked what we were leaving for future generations.

This got me thinking about while being away from Quakers in my 20s, how the monthly newsletter had been my only link. This along with other writings like QF&P we leave behind us could perhaps be seen as handholds for future generations. Thinking about the bible study group though expanded this for me. The way in the group the conversation flowed between analysis of who may have actually written the words, what Jesus did or didn't say and our own experiences and interpretations of what these meant for us made me acutely aware of the value I place on the living experience of faith, over the written word (yes, I know I'm using the written word as a type right now…)

It feels to me that the handholds I value are those of a living faith. It was the experience of being in that living faith that brought me back to Quakers once my children were old enough. I wanted them to have that experience, to be immersed in a faith community rather than miss out on one, or even worse to just be lectured at about faith. It is this living faith that means so much to me. The words spoken in ministry, or written down in books are just guides. They're not to me essential, or a necessary step to faith. The direct connection with the spirit, that is what is important, that is what enlivens the words, gives them meaning, and enables me to be in this loving community.