Archive for the ‘worship’ Category

12 Days of Christmas

December 23, 2007

At Meeting yesterday we had carols and some readings. This was led by the resident Friends, one of whom explained one of the reasons she’d heard as to why Quakers don’t generally sing during worship. Apparently because they weren’t prepared to say things they didn’t believe, and a lot of the conventional church hymns had phrases that fell into that category for many early Friends.

I must admit there were a few phrases from the carols we sang that I hummed along with rather than sang out loud, in particular references to the virgin birth, and Jesus as ‘Lord’. There was one fantastic carol that I was very happy to sing right through though, a modern interpretation of the 12 Days of Christmas, called “12 Days of Christmas in New Brighton”.

“On the 12th day of Christmas we all shared together peace and goodwill for all to share, 11 excited children, 10 dancing pirates, 9 carol singers, 8 local artists, 7 sausages a sizzling, 6 sand castles, 5 expressions of love, 4 moments of joy, 3 vigils for peace, 2 messages of hope, and a great love for all to share. “

Jesus for the Non-Religious

December 2, 2007

Today I listened to this podcast from National Radio’s Spiritual Outlook programme*. I listen to all the episodes of Spiritual Outlook as they come out, but it’s only rarely that one inspires me to blog about it.

This one was an interview with Bishop John Spong. He is a liberal theologian and has written many books, including recently Jesus for the Non-Religious. His views resonated very closely with mine.

Historically agreed facts he cites:

  1. Jesus lived between 4 BC and 30 AD
  2. The gospels were written between 70 and 100 AD
  3. The gospels were written in Greek, a language that neither Jesus nor his apostles spoke
  4. The gospels were written by people who had never met Jesus, and were going on two or three generations of stories passed down by word of mouth

Bishop Spong argues that the literalist interpretation of Jesus as a supernatural figure in the Bible, capable of performing miracles, leaves people today with only two alternatives (at least from the point of view of the Christian tradition) . To be hysterical irrational fundamentalists, or to give the whole thing up as a lost cause and be secular. He thinks it’d be nice if there was something in between that was possible. An interpretation of Jesus that sees him as a man who was so open, so fully human that he was able to be so utterly filled with the energy of the Universe, the ground of being, the divine spirit, what Quakers call the inner light.

This is the Jesus I want to believe in. I want to believe that it is possible for any human to be as filled with the spirit as Jesus. To me it is so much more impressive that he did this as a man, rather than as a supernatural being with special powers.

Bishop Spong also talks about prayer, critical of prayers that are ‘adult letters to a Santa Claus God’. Rather, he sees prayer as a way to become more human, more open to the spirit.

Again, this is very close to the way I see prayer and worship, a way inward, to walk on the journey toward being more fully human. To me the historical Jesus is a guide on this path, someone who walked it with integrity, insight and love.

* if the podcast is gone by the time you read this it’s because National Radio only keep their podcasts up there for 3 months or so. If you’d like a copy of it just email me.

Walking in the light

October 13, 2007

The theme of JYF camp this year was ‘Walking in the light’. We did a lot of activities focused around understanding our Quaker values in the modern world of technology, fashion and media. We didn’t do very much that was explicitly focused on matters of the spirit. I did make a big effort to make sure we had Meeting for Worship every day though (we did miss one).

I was never quite sure whether the JYFs got something out of Meeting, or were bored or annoyed by it. Because JYF (and YF) Meetings for Worship have much less spoken Ministry it can be harder sometimes to sense the feeling of the Meeting. Near the end of the camp we had Meeting for Worship outside. We sat on chairs on the grass, in the sun, with the warm wind blowing and the birds singing.

Later that day I found a poem on a couch, written anonymously, and left for people to read. It was as follows:

I walk in late.
The worship has started without me.
I get looks from people.
I can feel the thoughts.

My mind begins to wander among my
memories, picking up conversations, thoughts
jokes, relationships, people who I didn’t
know existed or had forgotten.

I remeet with my past.
I feel as if I’m walking along
a road, with neon lights (similar
to last night’s throwies…)
and I’m trying to pick the best one.

Ironic, because when you think of
someone during M4W, it’s called
‘holding someone in the light’!

If you choose to keep your
eyes open, you see the people
The couples, the bored ones,
The ones that stay silent
and sit perfectly still.

If you close your eyes,
you see you.
You take a trip
inside yourself and however
cheesy that sounds it’s
true.

We are all so different
But I see now why
We are the same.

Reading this brought tears to my eyes. It validated all the effort I had put into creating a time for worship during the camp, it made it all seem worthwhile.

I later learned that it was Pearl who had written this. She read it in the concert on the last night. I publish it here with her permission, and thank her deeply for making me feel that the spiritual aspects of the camp were appreciated. It meant a lot to me.