Thursday, August 24, 2006
Breaking The Ice
I dread the "ice breakers" at parties and retreats. They are geared to create instant intimacy with people who I haven't learned to trust. Usually an enthusiastic "facilitator" (youth workers are often used for this) commands that we answer some lame question...something "light." Everyone knows it is just a tease to draw us into dropping our boundaries for the "deeper" probes that are to come. I have learned to sob loudly at the opening question no matter what it is - even if its the most surface Question, "What is your pet's name?" Then after a few seconds I run from the room and hide to watch the concerned retreatants try to find me. As cruel as it seems on the surface, I think everyone at the retreat is glad I do it. It offers them a more interesting experience.
I'm faced with a similar situation here. This is my first blog of any kind even though I've had this blog site for over a year. How does one start out? Should I just start talking as though we're old friends? Do you need some context, history, or some anecdotes about my dog, Sparky? (Sparky loathes me, as you can see)
Maybe I'll just say that in 1976 at age 30 I found new life in the teaching of Friends. Not that being a Quaker was a new concept. I had been raised in an Evangelical Friends Church, endured the "pastor's class" along with nine other eighth grade boys, and even memorized a few Bible verses to counter those who insisted I should be baptized or partake in communion. Even so, I was basically clueless about the spirituality of Friends. Then, some sixteen years later, in the process of editing a Presbyterian Minister's D.min. thesis on community, I read the journals of George Fox and John Woolman and was convinced.
I've been longing these 30 some years to be part of a renewal among Friends. There were a few years that I believed I might actually be a part of starting such a renewal, or at least being in the vicinity of one. Cynicism eventually dulled my idealism and now I would be happy just to hear about it (unless it happened among those Friends I deem unworthy of the name, of course).
I have encountered new hope in the last year or so...enough so that I at least set up a blog site to talk about it. Many of the blogs I follow through Quaker-Quaker help hope trump my cynicism, especially the convergent/emergent conversations. I can feel the energy rising within. If the dam ever bursts and I let this passionate longing loose on the unsuspecting Quaker world, I might just start writing and never quit. Headlines: "Man found dead of starvation at computer. Swollen forearms testify to days spent blogging with no rest, food, or drink. Dog Sparky seems inexplicably delighted."
I'm sure new wine skins are in order. I'm prepared to grieve the loss of some of mine, but probably not all. I wouldn't want all Friends to be like me, but I would like all Friends to tolerate the way my evolving understanding of Quakerism plays itself out in practice. I already know that George Fox would label me a hireling and accuse me of pleading for unrighteousness.
Like running from the room at a retreat, this post avoids real risks, especially since no one really knows I even have a blog. I can't see anything in it that gives enough information on which to base a suggestion that I'm not a "real" Quaker, though. So, I'll post it as a first effort. But be warned, I have an opinion and I'm not afraid to use it.