Intervisitation, scheduled and unscheduled

This evening was a memorial meeting for worship for Tom Fox, held at Berkeley Friends Church (BFC). About 100 people came, many of them Friends from Monthly Meetings all over northern California. They had a few scheduled speakers and then a period of open worship. There was a Quaker woman who had been on Tom Fox's first clearness committee in Virginia who now lives in California. There was a man from Iraq. There was a man from Jewish Voice for Peace. There was the Imam from a local Sufi group. There was a (Mennonite?) man from Christian Peacemaker Teams, who spends six weeks each summer in Hebron. There were news cameras. They were all there to bear witness to the life and work and death of Tom Fox and all the people who have died and all who still suffer in Iraq.

The four of us went, and Silas probably wins the prize for youngest person there, but ours weren't the only kids. There were, as might be expected at a Quaker gathering, a lot of grey heads. But also some of the younger adult Friends I know from around the Bay Area. And some young folks I didn't know, so that's good too.

Will this be one of the moments, will people ask twenty years from now, "Where were you when you found out Tom Fox was kidnapped? When Tom Fox was killed? Were you there at the funeral? What have you done since then?" I don't know, and it probably doesn't matter. It felt good to be among Friends this evening. I'm glad we were there, to bear witness, to be counted among those who care, those who will remember.

But there is another story for us today. This morning after meeting for worship in San Francisco, we were still trying to sort out whether we could really all go to the memorial meeting. We were chatting with the friend of a new attender/old friend of mine. Chris asked the friend, who lives in Berkeley, if he knew of a park near the Berkeley BART station (which is right next to BFC). The man told us of a park that is just a few blocks away, within walking distance. Great. We loaded up the wagon, headed across the bridge, found the park with only a minor scenic detour.

As we are walking across the field towards the playground, Chris says, "Hey! I see someone I know. There's Max. And Allen. And Joe. And Rafe!" Wow. These are Friends of ours from Quarterly and Yearly Meeting who live in Berkeley, Max and Allen being in the same age group as Henry and Silas. What a coincidence. It turns out this is the playground closest to their house, but they haven't been there in ages because the weather has been so yucky.

So the boys are playing: swinging, chasing bubbles, climbing on the structure. The grownups are chatting, about PYM children's program, about our history with Friends, what brings us to Berkeley on such a fine day, how long it's been since we've had such a fine day. And I ask them where's a good place to get dinner around here, with kids, before the memorial service. And we discuss various ethnic options, relative distances, whether Indian and fancy are mutually exclusive when it comes to restaurants. I asked if they would like to join us for dinner, even though we're going at 4:00, which is not usually anybody's dinner time, but Rafe has other plans and Joe has to check with Heather, who's not home right now. But then Max and Allen are ready to go home, and I think Allen invited us all to his house. We stutter for a while, not wanting to impose, not sure whether Joe knew that Allen was inviting us to their house, but finally we all go back to their house so the boys can play for a while longer.

By the time we got to the house, it has been decided, I'm still not sure how, that Rafe would cook dinner at Joe's house for all of us, including Rafe's houseguests. So we got to stay even longer. It was even more funny when Heather got home, and her first thought upon seeing us on her couch was that she had forgotten a committee meeting with Chris or I and we had come to pick her up. And dinner was Delicious. Jamaican roti and a curried potato and carrot stew and green salad. On the spur of the moment, delightful hospitality. A chance to visit Friends at home, who we have known for maybe six years, but never seen each other outside of Quaker gatherings.

This made it feel like Way Opened for us to go to the memorial - our boys had a really good time and were ready to sit quietly in meeting for an hour. Well, Silas fell asleep in my lap after about ten minutes, but it worked out fine. Many blessings all round.

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Blogger Liz Opp said...

Thanks for sharing how this memorial MfW went, Robin. I had spent part of worship in the morning wondering what it would have taken for either of the large meetings in town--or any of the smaller meetings or worship groups, for that matter--to have organized a public memorial meeting.

And here's a confession: I myself am guilty of having been too inwardly focused...

Anyway, your post reminded me of a section of Brian Drayton's book, in which he writes about the use of the word "opportunity" among Friends:

The word "opportunity" implies a great deal about the dynamics of our spiritual life. These occasions are gifts, interruptions in the routine, that provide another, less institutional way to meet the living God... If someone is led to offer an unscheduled occasion for worship in public or in the home, this is to be accepted gratefully, because you never can tell what God has in store. (p. 137)

Hee hee.

Liz, The Good Raised Up

3/20/2006 12:06 PM  
Blogger Imperfect Serenity said...

Thanks for the post, Robin. (And thanks for commenting on my blog.) I do think that all these experiences for children are building blocks of their faith, as you said.

3/28/2006 5:11 PM  

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