Saturday, July 20, 2019

Empty Forms? Living Waters

I am at annual session of NPYM because the Friend in Resident this year is Jay O'Hara.  This is a journey to annual session that I have not made in 7 years because of my frustration over form heavy structures in our Yearly Meeting, and an appalling experience I had with the clerk 7 years ago telling me outside of session what decisions "would be" made by the business meeting.  (Despite my protests that if we our approaching business meeting as faithful listening for the guidance of the Holy One that no one could know in advance what would be decided.)

Jay was billed as speaking about Climate Change, and although he has, he has even more called us to be a Gathered People listening to Divine Authority.  He has challenged us to examine where we have empty forms that are keeping us stuck and driving away young Friends and where to go more deeply towards our traditions of receiving spiritual guidance, and centering our actions and life together in that Power.  For me it is a very welcome eldering of our whole body.

In my last few blogs I have written about ways in which our committee structure and nominating process can become empty forms, or limiting structures.  I often hear Friends lament why are we an older, graying religion?  Why are numbers dwindling and "where are the young people?"  I often also hear older Friends attribute to the youth that there disappearance as soon as they are old enough to not go to Meeting is because they have better things to do, are more interested in hanging out with peers, or have been swallowed by wide world values.   While certainly that is true in some cases, or may even be expressed as "better things to do"...I want to say as someone who has spent time listening to Young Adult Friends in their 20's and 30's, there is a certain blindness here operating about why they leave.

The male privilege and class privilege and racial privilege is readily apparent to anyone who has those lens and enters our Meetings.  If they speak up about these things they can be treated like a "child" of the Meeting and dismissed, or because they are a distinct minority they can find it daunting to try to raise this alone.   And if they do raise for example a complaint about mansplaining (if you do not know what this is please look it up) and are responded to with defensiveness, no support by whoever is clerking and a continuation of the behavior, they can wind up feeling so frustrated and trapped as to just decide that the benefits don't out weigh the pain.

How then do we go towards Living Waters?  There is a bit of a what comes first the chicken or the egg problem.   When people experience authentic Spirit voiced ministry and the experience of a covered Meeting, they are hungry for more.  They themselves are opened up spirituality and you thus get more Spirit moved vocal ministry.  There is a synergy that moves things deeper.   But when we experience inauthentic ministry, that which is driven from head and from ego, it is dampening to the worship and to the soul.  There is a disorientation from sorting the wheat from the chaff.  There is a discouragement - like a pollution in water.

This takes me to eldering.  Eldering in its orginal and intended form was to hold each other accountable to the faithfully minding of the Light.   People were eldered if they spoke from head and ego and not from an inward prompting.  They were also eldered/mentored in how to listen to the inward promptings.   People were eldered if they behaved in ways that blocked the corporate experience of true worship.  They were given experiences of true worship so they knew what to aim for.  And they were eldered if their behaviors in the world were oppressive to the Light in others.  They were provided patterns and examples of how not to do this.  As I have written about in other previous posts, eldering has gotten a bad name among Friends.   We need to return to this as a living practice, not a badly applied censoring of something we personally dislike.

I understand that the discernment of what is a living form and what is an empty form is a confusing thing for many people - perhaps in the eyes of the beholder.  All of us have experienced somewhere empty forms that are maddening to have to comply with and feel simply like "because I said so" dictates of a power over parent.  If forms in their original creation were ever useful, ever life giving it was because they were created to try to name and protect a way of doing things that had discovered to be life giving.  But when we teach people "how to" do something, without teaching them why to do it that way (and maybe do not even know ourselves) then we teach an empty form, something which has simply become a ritual.   Some of our forms made sense before copy machines, phones, facetime technologies, internet, etc.   But they now are forms frozen in time, trying to serve a purpose which maybe better served by new forms. 

So just as I have written about our committee structures, we have to go back to questions about what are we trying to achieve and apply those to our structures to see if they do serve.   If Fox was saying to the religions of his times "These rituals are empty forms" then we need to examine carefully whether 350 years of practice has rendered us some empty forms.  If some of our forms serve valued purposes we need to start being able to articulate and practice those forms in ways that make that clear to all beholders.

Sunday, June 30, 2019

Not enough People for the Committee Roster?

Last month I wrote about nominating committee process and commented that often things went badly if the Meeting was just feeling the pressure to fill committee openings.  I said at the end I would discuss this month what to do if there are not enough people.  At least one Friend has let me know she is waiting with baited breath to hear about that!

This also is not a one shoe fits all problem or solution.   While almost all Meeting have shrunk in the last 50 years we still have Meetings that range from small worship groups or small Meetings to medium size ones and large Meetings (which I'm defining as over 60)  So to begin with these different size Meeting have had different types of committee structures all along.   And one obvious solution is for a Meeting to "downsize" its committee structure to that which is common for the next smallest size committee structure.   One example would be that medium to small Meetings often do not have a separate Ministry and Worship Committee from Pastoral Care (Combined in and M&O committee).  I personally feel that even Medium size Meetings should keep those functions separate.  I think when combined it is easy for the duties of spiritual nurturance of the Meeting to get overlooked due to pressing Pastoral Care needs.

So for groups under 8 what makes sense to me is to have a formal treasurer, but to rotate month to month who clerks the business meeting (with lots of help from others if new to it) and to have all business be done in the Business Meeting.  For groups up 10 12 it may make sense to have a serving  clerk.  What is missing so far, which would be the first committee I would create, is Pastoral Care. I say that because in discussions of someone with failing health too stubborn to accept help from the Meeting or the provision of money to a Friend in hard times - these are discussions that should take place with confidentiality and not in the whole body.

Greater than 12, I think the Meeting should have two committees: what I will jokingly call here the "right brain committee" and "the left brain committee".  Some readers know the left brain does problem solving and practical matters - this committee I would have attend to property if there is any and finances and communications.  The right brain deals with emotions and spirituality and I would have that committee deal with M&W as well as Pastoral Care.   As soon as there are enough people to make another committee I would split the right brain committee for reasons I already stated. The next split after that would be of property and finance.

In such stripped down structures I would see all Social Concerns and issues like how we do outreach and the creation of a clearness committee etc being brought as issues to discuss in business meeting or in adult Ed hours or threshing sessions sometimes held after Meeting for Worship, or for work parties to be called for the care of the Meeting house.  Friends in Meetings without a committee structure should expect to spend longer in business committee because they are not investing their time in committee work but decisions still have to be made.

I would be amiss if I did not mention the new person.  Often nominating committees think it only appropriate to ask members and long time attenders to serve on committees.  I think sadly we can often think of someone as "new" who has come for several years if they do not come every week, and yet to them this IS there spiritual committee.  Service on committees is actually the best way to learn how the Meeting works and to get to know better other members of Meeting, so I truly hope that nominating committee can approach even "new people" and with no pressure simply ask if they have any interest in committee structure.  Perhaps for long terms Friends who have just moved here it is best not to ask them on their first day what Committee they might want to serve on!  LOL!

We are all familiar how as a Meeting expands that property committee can have an upkeep committee and Pastoral Care can have a committee managing care committees and clearness committees, and communications can be its own committee or several separate ones and Adult Ed and Children's committee spin off of M&W.   However, it is much harder to see when you have had all these committees which to lay down because we still see their purpose and value.  Perhaps one starting point is to let go of the traditional notion that this committee is always X number of people and ask instead "how many people are minimum to do this?"  Are there any places where technology can assist us?  Rather than clerk of the committee run around and see who can do snacks or close Meeting, could we use an online calendar function (which also helps people find folks to trade with when they have a conflict for their regular time)?

I am not a proponent of the practice first modeled by Baltimore Meeting of a "Sabbath year" where all the committees but the critical committees (which is a Meeting that size where as many committees as most small Meetings ever have) are laid down for a year while people "rest" and rethink the committee structure.   In Baltimore yearly Meeting they had many threshing sessions and Quarterly special called business Meetings to work out their restructuring.   In smaller Meetings what this has meant in practice is really a sort of collapse of functioning where people felt relieved to not serve for a year and when the year was up nothing was figured out and nominating committee had no easier time to fill committees which is why I do not favor that method.

What I do think makes sense is that a special called threshing session be called and that people for the purpose of the exercise decide that none of the committees exist and then describe functions that need to happen.  Examples: "we need someone to keep our building from falling down, we need someone to pay our bills, we need someone to run our business meetings, we need a way to conduct weddings and Memorial services, etc."   Then after that is done a committee take away the notes and combine the needs in a logical way (maybe with new names) and presents that to business meeting for discussion and tweeking.

Here are some creative ideas for consideration: We do not need a whole committee for the newsletter and one for the website, and one for FB etc.  There can be one person in charge of each thing and a communications committee made up of those individuals who come together to bounce stuff off of each other and support each other.  Rather than having assistant this and assistant that on various committees - can we call to the larger group for someone to step up on the day the recording clerk has to be absent from bBusiness Meeting?

First Day school or children's program is very problematic in many Meetings because there can be a very few children across wide age gaps or no children one Sunday and 6 the next.  Again creativity is needed.  If young children are mainly being supervised rather than instructed, rather than a whole committee trying to provide this, volunteers (with appropriate background checks) can volunteer to enjoy their company on the days they are there.  If children only show up once or twice a month, children's committees job maybe to come up with some "lesson plans" that just hang out till their next opportunity for implementation.  It could again be possible to recruit members of the Meeting in a rotating fashion - if they are assured of being handed a plan.

Perhaps one of the most concerning areas is the lack of an active Peace and Social Justice Committee.  In our heyday this what we were known for in the wider world.  Now I find that such committees often struggle to find a shared focus or enough interest on the part of the Meeting, and yet it is rare that a Meeting does not have members that are doing amazing works for peace and social justice in the world outside of Meeting.   Thus I think a good starting point is to have a second hour focused on social justice where in a worship sharing fashion each friend is asked to share what concerns are tender to their heart and how they attempt to take action on those.   Simply starting by seeing what we are already collectively doing is quite important.

It might emerge that some Friends share similar concerns and may find ways to come together on them.   But more the case it maybe the more interesting question to ask: how can the Meeting support us emotionally or spiritually to continue with a calling?  (IN reality John Woolman's Meeting or Susan B Anthony's Meeting were not acting as a body with them - at best they provided emotional and spiritual support - and sadly we know in many activist Friends lives they were actually given a hard time by or expelled from their Meeting.)  Another useful function of P&SC maybe to hold regular sessions after Meeting for worship sharing or discussion of the pressing concerns of the day.   Since Friends often feel to be "marching to a different drummer" in the outside world, it is a valuable thing to have a place to process and perhaps gain vision with people of a similar values set.  Many Meetings have been known to respond to a national crisis by one Friend proposing a collective action the Meeting can take in response and a quick unity arising.  How can we create an environmental that allows for that?

One of the most commonly struggled to fill positions is all the countless "representative to X and Y" Quaker organizations.   In my opinion, not popular with some others, if we do not have people already engaged with those organizations or easily willing to learn about the org by serving as rep than maybe that connection is going to need to be laid down.

I guess the overall theme of my sharing is step out of "the way we have always done it" thinking, be willing to embrace change that may simplify people's lives, be creative in thinking of new ways and new structures - the form should serve life....and not the other way around.

Friday, May 31, 2019

Nominating Committee

It is important for Friends to not lose sight of the fact that nominating is a spiritual process – not an assert Tab A in Slot B process.  Now a days as attendance at Meetings dwindle but the number of positions on committees stays the same, it is easy for the nominating committee to feel somewhat desperate (leading to many inside jokes about not leaving the room or nominating committee will nominate you.)  So Friends may need to think about other ways to address the shortage of available people to staff committees.

As originally envisioned by Friends, nominating was a discernment process, discerning the gifts that members brought and matching those with the needs of the Meeting.  This meant starting with a clear job description for each of these positions and asking Friends to thoughtfully consider where they might be led to serve each year.  Now a days, a sort of secular posture has crept in of both members just sort of waiting to be “assigned”.  But also modern nominating committees have taken it as a goodness if people volunteer for positions and seem to fail to stop and discern if the enthusiasm of the person matches the skills needed in that committee.   As a result, we can get people who volunteer for a position because they view it as powerful or interesting but have wrong gifts for that committee.
Many Meetings have rules about needing to be a member to be clerk, assistant clerk, treasurer, or on Pastoral Care or M&C if they are combined.  Some extend this to M&W.   

This was out of realization to that to Clerk a whole Meetings business Meeting you need robust exposure to Quaker Business practice and how it differs from secular consensus processes or world business meetings run by voting or Robert’s Rules of order.   It has also been felt that to be trusted with all the money of the Meeting you needed to have a committed relationship to the Meeting.  Since Pastoral Care or M&C often deals with confidential, personal matters of individuals in the Meeting, it was also felt that seasoned and well trusted friends needed to serve here.  Because M&W (or M&C in Meetings which combine them) is responsible for the spiritual well being of the meeting – for nurturing the members spiritual growth, tending the health of the worship hour, and eldering Friends when needed it was again felt that this needed to come from Friends who has spiritual depth and experience with Quaker practice.

One of the kinds of mistakes I have seen is where people who do not have gifts of ministry are put on ministry and worship, because they are “available” to serve or because they ask.  If they themselves are not grounded in Spirit how will they help the whole Meeting to ground?  Or how will they think in a spiritual way about the Meeting?   Another mistake I have observed is putting for example men on Care and Council who were not called to it for “gender balance”.   I have known men with wonderful gifts of nurturance and emotional support.  I have also known men who live in their intellect 24 times 7.  If one of the former were put on C&C for gender balance, it will achieve that but only that.   Members seeking support from the committee will not wind up feeling supported.  This would be as silly as making someone treasurer who does not know how to balance a check book or read a financial statement.

These same issues are more starkly clear when nominating people for a clearness committee.  If we put people on there for balance of gender, or length of time in Meeting, or because they are married (for a committee seeking clearness on marriage) the person may or may not know how to help discern clearness.   Since clearness committees are suppose to be spiritual discernment and seeking processes, it is most helpful to put members who believe Spirit is available to help us find answers and are willing to listen for those answers.   Not just a magic number of people on the committee.
Many nominating committees today create a form they ask members/attenders to fill out and turn in.  That is certainly time saving – and could be an ok starting point.  I would be careful in the language on the form.  It should ask things like have you spent time in reflection and discernment about which committee you could best serve the Meeting on?  (Rather than: “On what committee do you want to serve?)  It should also ask:  What are your gifts?  How are you feeling called to serve the meeting right now?  I personally have been surprised sometimes that I’m called to things that I would not have expected to be “my choice”.  

An ideal might be for the committee to divide up the Meeting directory and try to talk with each person about possible openings and where they might match.    But then the nominating committee needs to have frank conversations with each other about whether what is put forward by members really fits.  How many nominating committees have regretted later the service of someone they inwardly knew was not right for the committee but “we just needed one more person”.   Frankly in situations like that the committee might be better off short one person!

Another thing which I see becoming more of a practice in some Meetings these days which I think is not proper process is the practice of not nominating the clerks of committees but leaving that to the committee to decide.  The main problem I see with this is that sexism, racism and classism, all lead towards white men assuming power and those from less privileged groups having a hard time speaking up for leadership, or being taken seriously if they do.   By nominating committee being in a neutral position outside of the committee they are in a much better position to decide who will provide good leadership to a committee and don’t have to worry about serving with someone they just offended by saying they did not think they would be a good clerk.  

And Heaven forbid they have put together a committee that has no one fit to actually lead it!  It seems to me that failing to figure out the answer to that question in advance is an abdication of the responsibility for creating healthy functional committees.   If someone says yes to serving on a committee knowing they have time for only that, not leading it and gets “drafted” this is a recipe for either resentment or for the committee barely functioning from neglect.  The nominating committee needs to determine ahead to time if they have tapped that kind of energy and availability ahead of time.

Next month I will address the issue of what if you don’t have enough people?  Or if no one wants to serve in a particular position/committee.

Sunday, April 28, 2019

Dressed in Oil

The title is not about salad dressing.  It is about our clothing and climate change.   Polyester is a popular fabric which has been around for decades, so we don't give it much thought.  But Polyester is a petroleum product.  There is a reason why it is particularly bad for burn victims if they are wearing polyester - it melts into the skin like a plastic bag would rather than burning like cotton or wool would.
But if we are trying to fight climate change and we are helping, unwittingly, to create more uses for petroleum then we are also unwittingly contributing to climate change.  Unfortunately, getting off of Polyester is harder than you might think.  Because of the tendency of Americans to be overweight more and more garments are made with spandex in them (another form of polyester).   Bluejeans which were originally 100% cotton are now a heavy mix of spandex.   In fact most clothing is now a mix of fabrics - it is hard to get items that are a 100% anything (Well Polyester does tend to still be 100%).
In a spirit of full disclosure it is also worth noting that non-organic cotton has horrible chemicals added to it in processing, as well as pesticides while growing.  Cotton is also a water intensive crop.  Even bamboo or hemp clothing can have environmentally destructive chemicals added to them in the processing.
So this winds up like the many other dilemmas before us right now with climate change - choosing the lesser of evils   For example EV's use less petroleum but have other conflict minerals in them.   Any food you buy can be produced with toxic chemicals or not, but labeling can be deceptive, and we wind up in a bit of a research project to try to be consumers for social and environmental justice until such time as our society is organized with these concerns in mind.
Yet societies change in response to the demands of the consumers.   Several decades ago we demanded the end of  aerosols and DDT and those things went away.   When we understand the issues around Polyester we have to make responsible consumer choices and try to effect change despite the fact that it will not be easy.
Early Friends wore black and white and grey.   They did this because the dyeing process was carcinogenic and grossly shortened the lives of the people who did dyeing.  It was a social justice issue.  They also did not wear lace which they said was a vanity and thus taking us away from God.
What if we again said we would dress for social justice?  If we said we would not wear clothes that contribute to the dying of the planet?

Sunday, March 31, 2019

On Death and Dying

A member of my Meeting has ALS and is slowly losing the use of each arm.   At his request our Meeting has held a session on Wisdom Weaving about how we live well into our dying.  Today we met with just two queries.  During our worship sharing time my head swirled with more queries and so I share them with you for your own reflection.

1) What have I learned from other people's death?

2) What do I believe happens when we die?

3) What is a life well lived?

4) Does death serve a useful purpose? ie what would it be like if we did not die?

5) Is there something useful about not knowing what happens when we die?

6)  What role do you believe God plays in death?

7)  Why do you believe people die under such different conditions?

8)  If the idea of reincarnation turned out to be true, what would the purpose of the soul living multiple times be?

9)  What kind of legacy do we live in the way we live?

10)  How do we graciously release others from this life even as we wish they remained?

Friday, February 15, 2019

A Democracy in a State of Emergency

Time for us to wake up and see what day it is.

What happened on Feb 27th, 1933?  Hitler declared a state of emergency.  He had been elected the year before.  There was a fire in the legislature – this was blamed on the communist party and so he declared a state of emergency, then under his super powers of the state of emergency the communist party was disbanded and by a month later his party voted in the 1933 “Enabling Act” which allowed him and his cabinet to make laws without the legislature (or Reichstag in German.)   The German Constitution was never suspended but the Reichstag did not meet for the rest of Hitler’s reign of terror.  Nor was there another regularly scheduled election. The first laws and regulations against Jews began in 1933.  By Oct 1933 the Nazi’s passed a law censoring the press.  Also in 1933 the League of German Worker Youth (which previously existed) was designated a paramilitary organization.  By Nov 1938 Kristallnacht happened and Pogroms began.  Parents were separated from children at the camps mostly to never be reunited.  By 1939 the Nazi’s invaded Poland and world war II began.

The media is so missing the story when all the reports talk about Trump declaring a state of emergency so that he can build a racist wall.  We are confusing the symptoms for the disease. Yeah, he will be happy if he gets to build a wall.   But that is really not what this is about.  Muller is closing in on him, indicting more of his cronies, getting more evidence against him by flipping them.   The wall drama, even the govt shut down is a big distraction and now he is grabbing power right at a moment that could stop the progression of law against him.   He is two years in rather than 1 (in a country with a larger history of protest) but his laws and procedures against his target group: Hispanic and Muslim people started with months of taking office. 

He has already separated parents in the target group from their children and kept them in inhumane camps. Like Hitler, the targeting while racist, is really a means to an end.  It is a way of whipping up fear in the general population, convincing them they need a strong man to protect them.   Creating enough fear that they will give up rights and give up ultimately Democracy.  The month long shut down was a further salvo in the weakening of our governmental structures (already weakened by Secretaries whose goals are to dismantle the government work of the depts they head.)  It was a way of off balancing us, so we are disoriented when the next assault comes, as it now does.  He has attacked the press since the beginning, trying to undermine their legitimacy by calling it fake news and now cancelling press access. During the last year the Selective service (draft board) has been quietly been conducting a study just released in Jan recommending that we institute a “national services” which all young people would compulsorily serve in for several years. 

The Republican Party has a decision to make right now about whether they will be recorded in future history books as the next Nazi Party or whether they will remember the oath to protect the Constitution they each took when they took office.   Please stop contacting Congress to tell them to stop the bogus State of Emergency because we do not need a wall, and start contacting them to stop the state of emergency because only they can stop the loss of a democratic system.  The courts have already been stacked by Trump and thus cannot protect us – yes this is illegal by any definition of the State of Emergency laws – but that is not enough to guarantees courts will act appropriately.  Congress was designed to be a check against abuse of power by a President.  Yet Congress also is timid and does things only by the demand of the people.  We have marveled for years at how the German people “allowed it to happen”.  This is how, by not wanting to believe it was happening, and closing their eyes as each step happened.  Stay awake.

1.     1.   Write and Call all of the Republican Senators reminding them they swore to protect the        
2.      2.  Start the proper framing of this issue with every one you know – name what is really happening.
3.       3. Go to one of the many local protests happening on Monday (or organize one…see Move On site)
4.       4. Be prepared if that does not work for a national strike – stopping everything is the only way to stop      a dictator.
5.      5.  Resist all unjust and unconstitutional laws and policies.
6.      6.  Share this post.

Wednesday, January 30, 2019


Typically in polarized issues we think of it as sort of either or.  It is a or b, black or white, good or bad.   We do not as often think of the polls as falling on a spectrum, and we definitely don’t think of a spectrum as curving the point where the far ends might meet up (An example of this being if you put American politics on a circle the far left anarchist and the far right libertarians begin to meet up.)

It is painfully apparent that the US is extremely polarized right now on almost every issue and politics have become so divisive again (I say again because it is actually not the first time – remember families divided by the civil war? or not speaking to each other in the 70’s over hot button issues?) that once again there are families that cannot sit down to a civil Thanksgiving and where people I know are disowning family members.   I hear much despair both about how these gulfs will be bridged in families but also about how our country will be governable again.

Ironically, at the same time my Meeting has also become very polarized – but over a very different issue.   A registered Sex Offender has come to our Meeting and there was been far-ranging response to his presence in Meeting as well as far ranging interpretations of his behavior while in Meeting.  The Meeting initially came up with a policy regarding sex offenders and then after an incident where it became very clear that vagueness in the policy resulted in widely varying interpretation of whether the policy was violated or not, the Meeting has set out to rewrite the policy.  Sadly, the Meeting has also become very polarized in the process.

One Friend has helpfully asked us to think of this polarization as not whether x did Y or whether Z has unfairly accused x of something, but rather as that all of us in Meeting fall at different places on a spectrum that at one end values welcoming people, anyone, especially those who maybe underdogs in our society into the Meeting, and the other end of the spectrum those valuing safety for all the members of our Meeting and holding up the Meeting Community as of supreme importance.   This same member has then invited us in a series of conversations to notice the things we actually believe in common – which winds up being that:
* we would all like to feel safe
*that we believe in the redemptability of our fellow human
*we all want to be welcoming to other humans
*the world holds no guarantees anywhere about safety
*we believe in taking sensible precautions to reduce risk when we can, etc.  
By finding these initial values we agree upon we are slowly inching our way forward.

Like most Friends in the Meeting I was so dismayed that we were having this conflict and also that it was having the destructive power that it was having in the Meeting. I wondered how this could possibly come out right?   But also being new to the Meeting it was very clear to me that the conflict like some sort of bull dozer was pushing up to the light of day all the dark places, all the dysfunctioning and broken places in the Meeting.   And it becomes increasingly clear that there is no way through this conflict without fixing all the broken places….which if we fail will leave us shattered and if we succeed will make us stronger and vastly better as a community.

Recently George Lakey came to town giving a workshop on his new book: How We Win.  One of the very encouraging things George shared was how in his research for his previous book Viking Economics he discovered that the Scandinavian countries, now amazing models for the world in so many arenas, were a “mess” before they transformed into democratic socialist countries.  He discovered that they were at their most polarized point right before that change in governments.  Out of the polarization the common people kicked the 1% out of rulership.  He then looked at our own US history and realized that out of the polarization and class divide of the Great Depression came all of the reforms of the New Deal and out of the polarization of the 60’s and 70’s came the civil rights movement, the Clean Water and Clean air act, etc.   In listening to a friend of his who did beautiful metal work he heard his friend talking about having to heat up the metal to make it pliable and George realized that this is what polarization does – it heats things up till they become changeable. George asks us to see the polarization of our time as an amazing set of possibilities about to unfold.

I have believed about the Meeting conflict that if we succeed that we may find some answers that our society has yet to find about how we allow people who have committed crimes against society to be welcomed back into society and integrated back in.   But this week I had the even more radical thought that the nations polarity on immigration goes on the same poll between those who want to be welcoming to all and those that want our country tot be a “safe place” that provides for those already here.  I realized that if the Meeting succeeds maybe we will find some answers on how the heat of conflict and the longing to be community allows for the transformation of our broken US society.   Maybe it will equip some of us with some ways to approach the yawning US political divide which I think begins with finding where we hold common values even when our rhetoric and preferred policies are worlds apart. 

It is also very helpful to remember that God exists at all points of our poll.  The Creator is not just hanging out on one side of that poll.  So if God is in all part of the poll, the Divine is able to hold the tension of those conflicting points of views and to keep seeing as loveable all members of the conflict.