Quakerism for One

I mentioned in a comment a few days ago how much I liked the last two issues of Friends Journal. One of the best articles, in my opinion, is “Quakerism for One” by Mariah Miller, a young adult Friend from Indiana. Friend Mariah, according to her author’s note, is traveling a great deal while working on her Master’s degree in Global Studies.

She writes about making the transition from being a beloved child of a Meeting to being an isolated Friend. In China. For two years. When the only letter she got the first year was from her Meeting. Saying, “Dear Friend, we have not received your contribution this year.” Can you imagine? (Sigh.)

In her second year, she developed new ways of nourishing her spirit. She subscribed to Friends Journal and got FWCC mailings. She examined the religious education she had received – learning to make distinctions between what she thinks the older Friends meant, what she actually learned, and what she thinks now. I’d love to reprint the whole article here, but this is an example:

What they meant to teach: We are all ministers to each other.
What she actually learned: Ministers aren’t important.
Her (new) idea: It is important to cultivate and appreciate everyone’s ability to minister, expecially those around us with a gift for ministry.

She expands on this and other ideas wonderfully.

She offers four advices for isolated Friends:
  1. Develop a daily spiritual practice, even if very brief
  2. Develop a spiritual friendship, even if the friend is far away
  3. Formalize contact with a Meeting, be specific in what kind of support you want and how you can give back
  4. Participate in local spiritual activities, even if they are not Quaker

I think most of us would agree that these are good advices for all Friends.

And she ends with a few queries:
  • How do I deal with the feeling of alienation from U.S. Quaker culture that comes from a deeper understanding of another culture? How can I share this understanding with Friends in a way that might diversify our culture and enrich our religious experience

  • How can I deepen my connection to God? How can I prepare myself for future periods of isolation? How can I support others who are currently isolated?

  • Do we educate our children to know God in as many ways as possible? Do we teach them ways to worship without community? Do we make them aware of the rich variety of belief and practice within the Quaker faith?

These are profoundly important questions. For me. Personally. I will continue to consider them for a while. For example, I wonder:
  • How has my understanding of other cultures affected my understanding of religion?
  • How can I support others who are or just feel isolated?
  • How much of what I’m trying to teach my children is actually helping them to know God and Quaker practice?

I actually think the Quaker blogosphere holds some of the answers. If anyone knows a way to forward this post to Mariah Miller with my thanks for her article, please do so.


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Blogger Liz Opp said...

Hi, Robin.

Here's a possible way to forward your post--and your thanks--to Mariah: You might print a hard-copy of it (or any other thoughts you'd want to add), put it in an envelope with Mariah's name on it, and mail it to her, in the care of Friends Journal. Or maybe first be in touch with FJ to see if that option would work. I know it's how other folks have been in touch with the author of a particular column in mainstream print media.

Just a quick thought.

Liz, The Good Raised Up

4/23/2006 3:02 PM  
Blogger Paul L said...

Yes, that's exactly the way to send correspondence to the author: send it to Friends Journal in an envelope with a request to forward it to her (but put a stamp on the envelope to Mariah, too).

4/23/2006 5:10 PM  
Blogger Larry Clayton said...

If I were in correspondence with that person, I would suggest to her 1) that community is of the essence and 2) that there are other communities in the world that might have a creative ministry to her and for her.

When she returns to her home, she will have a lot more to offer them among her gifts.

BTW I enjoyed the quote from the young engineer in your meeting and shared it with my daughter-in-law, who's an architect.

4/25/2006 1:12 PM  

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