Over 25 years ago, while in Graduate School at Tufts University, I saw a sign that said "All Are Welcome." The sign also said something about a Religion of "Friends", which simultaneously sounded both strange and quite lovely. Clearly intrigued, but extremely busy, I mentally filed the info for later use.
Three years ago, after a long & winding spiritual path, I was finally overcome by curiosity and I went to my first Quaker Meeting. Greeted warmly by Merry & Don, I felt immediately comfortable, perhaps even at home, and proceeded inside.
Having been raised Christian, attending Methodist & Catholic churches with my grandmothers, Sunday school and Christian summer camp, something felt familiar. Yet, at the same time, Quaker Meeting for Worship was so completely different than anything I had ever experienced in those Christian gatherings.
In fact, I'd have to say, my experience of Quaker Meeting for Worship intriguingly felt more like my Wiccan (Pagan) Spirituality community experiences, minus the ritualized enactments. That's due to the direct communion with Spirit that has always occurred for me since day one of both my Wiccan and Quaker community worship, something which really never happened for me in the other Christian gatherings I attended.
I am a bisexual/queer, currently female, Goddess-worshipping, Jesus-loving, Bodhisattva-pathing Spiritual Being and a proudly progressive, politically- informed Spiritual Activist.
Sometimes, I call myself Priestess; always, I call myself Healer. In the past, I served several different women's communities across the country by crafting and facilitating rituals, rites of passage, and personal & communal healing. Today, I serve my community as a Reiki Master Healer & Teacher, by empowering women and men to be whole, embodied, passionate and fully alive spiritual, emotional, mental and physical beings.
I also regularly attend my local Quaker Meeting for Worship, faithfully serve on our Outreach, Peace & Justice Committee, contribute a small monthly tithe to my local meeting, and participate in other Quaker community events as I am so moved.
However, I am not a Member of our Meeting, nor do I currently have any intention of becoming a Member. Despite my very active participation, I do not actually identify as a Quaker. I am Almost Quaker.
I know I am part of the spiritual-but-not-religious movement. I know that I have been called to this movement and community for a reason. I know, that if I were to honor only one of the many traditions that inform my spiritual experience by calling it "my religion", I would do dishonor to all of them.
Through my 20's and 30's, my spiritual journey led me to deeply explore my experience as a woman. I clearly remember my first women's ritual, a circle of women gathered around a fire out in the woods, speaking our truths while honoring the power of the moon above our heads.
I devoured whatever books I could find on Goddess Spirituality and gathered women together wherever I lived-- to celebrate the changing cycles of the moon as well as our lives, and to honor the natural, seasonal cycles of the Earth. I studied Goddess Spirituality extensively, which culminated in completing a 4-year formal group training in the Dianic (women-only) Wiccan tradition.
However, when it came to ordination, something I had completely planned on seeking the whole time, I did not make a formal request to be ordained. Though shocking at the time, in retrospect, it became obvious I was not called to follow or practice only one spiritual tradition, or religion, or body of belief. Though this is probably not the case for everyone, if I had been formally ordained as a Dianic Wiccan Priestess, it would have limited my interest in and ability to connect with other religious and spiritual traditions. I know this in every cell of my being.
In addition to my early Christian and later Wiccan experiences, I've also been deeply influenced by various Buddhist beliefs and practices for at least 20 years. Though I have no formal training and minimal participation in Buddhist community rituals, I have read and been led by several Buddhist authors and leaders. I particularly relate to and appreciate the Buddhist belief in life, death and re-birth (reincarnation), various Buddhist-sourced mindfulness practices, and the Bodhissatva Healer-path.
To complete the circle, about 5 years ago, I was guided by Spirit into a deep, profound, personal connection and relationship with Jesus, the man and Master Healer-- as well as with Magdalene, as his Sacred Lover and Partner. To say I was surprised by this turn in my journey would be a gross understatement. In fact, if I were to tell my women friends from long ago of this development, they would probably say, "who are you and what did you do with Phoenix?"
Even given this profound and transformative connection with Jesus, I do not call myself Christian, and never really have. I also do not call myself Buddhist. And, I no longer really call myself Wiccan or Pagan, even though those are the only religious identifications I ever truly adopted.
I believe the only way we will truly move forward together Spiritually, as one human family, is not by unifying under one religion-- but rather, by unifying in Love. So, when people ask me what my religion is, first I say I do not identify myself with one; and then I say, if I had to choose one, my religion would be "Love."
Serving on our Outreach Committee, while not being a Member of our Meeting, has me keenly aware that there must be SO many Almost Quakers like me (with their own unique spiritual journeys) to whom we could reach out and provide a comfortable, powerful spiritual home-- whether that's a one-time visit, occasional participation, or regular attendance. At the same time, there must be SO many others like me that Quaker communities could be deeply blessed and nourished by meeting, getting to know and welcoming to Meeting.
We (those who are already members or attenders of Quaker Meetings) are not the only ones with something to offer. Perhaps the question to ask is not just "what can we offer others?", but also "what unique beauty and brilliance might each person we meet contribute as a gift to our community?"
Given my personal experience, I very clearly see the emergence of this Almost Quaker Community as both a huge opportunity for outreach and the sign of a new kind of Quaker identity. As such, I invite the larger Quaker community to indeed champion the emergence-- and the physical, emotional, spiritual & vocal presence-- of Almost Quakers. Greet us all warmly, each and every one, welcome us in, and be open to what we have to offer you, too. You never know... you may be moved by new possibilities for Quaker identity and expression for yourself!
As the sign by the drive to our Meetinghouse says, "All Are Welcome." When we live true to that principle, by opening our hearts and our arms to others of whatever religion or spiritual beliefs, we make possible living as one human family in Love.
Whether Quaker, Almost Quaker or not-at-all Quaker, no matter. It's what's in the Heart that truly matters. May what fills our Hearts be Love, may we Love one and all, and may All Be Welcome in our Hearts... and Meetings.
Blessed Be and Amen!
Every day we are faced with literally hundreds of things to make up our minds about. Some are simple: "should I buy the store brand or upgrade to a name brand item?" Some are more challenging: "Am I going to accept the status quo or break the law to honor my deeply held beliefs?"
How do we make up our minds?
For a long time, I used the words choices and decisions interchangeably until I began to see that they differ in some very important ways. A decision is generally based on a calculus of pros and cons. If the calculus seems beneficial we take the action. If not, we pass. A choice is based on something deeper, grounded in values, ethics, and beliefs.
You don't march across a bridge in Selma and get beaten half to death by the Alabama State Police because of a decision. The pros definitely do not add up. No, that's a stand you take based on something you believe in.
Recently, I was led to read Tolstoy's short story The Three Questions.
A king ponders these questions:
Without being a spoiler (read the story link above) I'll just say that the king discovers the answers to these questions within his own experience rather than outside himself.
As our cultural fabric seems to unravel before our eyes, it is more important than ever to consider our actions based on our values and not on what seems like a best guess of pros and cons, what is expedient or the societal norms of the day.
Following societal norms is what led many good Germans to follow the program of the National Socialist Party. It also led we Americans down a path of racism we still have not recovered from after 300+ years.
Tolstoy offers a simple prescription for making choices -- DO GOOD. It may not always be the easy path. In fact, doing good will likely take more effort and consideration, but do it anyway because DOING GOOD has a multiplicative effect. It brings about a world that actually works.
Some of the queries I'm considering today are:
This is the obituary of our Friend Larry. Larry was a faithful attender at Meeting for Worship and Meeting events. We miss him.
Lorenzo Marinelli, a 30-year resident of Columbia County, New York and North Bergen, New Jersey, died suddenly of a cerebral hemorrhage on May 20, 2018, at St. Peter’s Hospital in Albany, New York. He had celebrated his 79th birthday in February.
Larry was the proud son of an Italian immigrant, Nino Marinelli, who made the treacherous voyage from Abruzzi, Italy to America by himself at the age of 13. He loved visiting his father’s village and his surviving relatives in Rome.
On New Year’s Eve of 1990, he met his beloved wife Deborah, mother of his stepchildren Rachel Aydt of New York City and Christian Aydt of Little Falls, New Jersey. The couple married at their home on Lake Kinderhook, New York, in 1994. He is also survived by his sons Lawrence Marinelli (Marina) of Queens, N.Y., Ward Marinelli (Barbara) and Dean Marinelli (Ria) of East Stroudsburg, Pa., ex-wife Judy of East Stroudsburg, Pa., and grandchildren Jessica, Nicholas, Daniel, Christina and James.
Larry was a film editor who also worked in television production; he enjoyed the creative side of production more than the business side. The name of his first and most enduring company was East End Productions, which survived at least one move to the West Side; still, he kept its name. He was an active member of the Motion Picture Editor's Guild for over 50 years, and was proposed to the Guild board by his friend and mentor Stanley Ackerman, longterm president of the Director's Guild in New York City. He got his greatest pleasure from his career in independent film and television.
He and his brother Rudolfo Marinelli founded one of the first film translation companies, Language In Motion, for foreign directors who wished to gain access to American markets. They perfected the technique of using professional actors to dub films into English, and worked to dub Italian masterpieces by Fellini and Bertolucci; he was also a member of the New York team that produced Scenes from a Marriage by the Swedish director Ingmar Bergman for English-speaking audiences. To make a living and perfect his craft, he worked on both artistic, independent, and low budget and cult feature films, including Vigilante, Very Close Quarters, Heart, Maniac, A Time to Remember, East Side Story, New York Cop, Ankle Bracelet, and Bad Company. He loved all genres, and often helped to close funding gaps for filmmakers struggling to complete projects and get distribution deals. His support extended to Italian science fiction; Larry loved to remember chasing monsters through the streets of Rome and two-hour pasta and wine lunches with the Italian crew of Cosmos: War of the Planets. He also created trailers for many directors, and got a kick out of his industry nickname, "King of the Trailers.” In later years, he was an associate producer of Inside the Law and Health Choices, which were widely shown by PBS stations, and worked on the PBS Intrepid documentary with his close friend, producer Phillip Marshall.
In a side adventure, Larry made a dear friend for life, Randy Jurgenson of the NYPD, when he opened his studio on Fifty-Fourth Street and Tenth Avenue for Jurgenson, who was desperately trying to identify and arrest killers responsible for nearly 500 deaths in three NYC precincts in 1972. Those were violent years in the City. Lorenzo's crucial support of the NYPD was immortalized in Jurgenson’s book "Circle of Six.” Jurgenson wrote: “Larry’s office was a large facility with three smaller offices situated off its main reception area. Larry had one office, another office housed flatbed, plus upright editing bays, a film-developing kiosk, and a third office was vacant. Larry was well aware of my real estate problem in the NYPD, so he magnanimously offered me this space, no strings attached. That office became the unofficial Cardillo/Jurgenson war room.”
Larry had another side: he was a passionate defender of the environment. When St. Lawrence Cement was threatening to build the biggest cement plant in the world in Hudson, New York, Larry spent nearly a hundred volunteer hours filming their planning meetings, and the environmental legal team that was hired to protect the county’s interests was able to use his tapes in preparing their ultimately victorious case.
He loved going to the movies, and attended independent film festivals from New York to Reykjavik. In upstate New York, he enthusiastically supported the Chatham Film Festival at his favorite historic theater, the Crandell. He loved the water and had a few rowboats going at any one time on Lake Kinderhook, hopefully at least one without a leak. He always wanted a party boat, and in the last year of his life, he finally bought one and he and Deborah used it for sunset picnicking; he was excited for the parties he planned to throw this summer. He loved meeting his friends at the drop of a hat for pizza and wine celebrations. He was a faithful companion to dogs, most recently his shih tzu Tucker. He traveled the world with Deborah, and visited Costa Rica, Serbia, Croatia, Italy, Scotland, Peru, Ecuador, Denmark, Finland, Sweden, and many other countries. He found the one New York pizza place in Pushkar, India, a Hindu holy city he’d been told was completely teetotal, and somehow talked his way into a cold beer in a teacup, to better enjoy his pizza while remaining sensitive to local mores. One of Larry's last and most profound adventures was to see Mount Annapurna at sunrise in Pokhara, Nepal. He and Deborah were together, holding hands, as the sun cast first light on one of the highest mountains in the world.
In lieu of flowers, friends who care to make a contribution in Larry’s memory may wish to consider his beloved Old Chatham Friends’ Meetinghouse, the Chatham Film Club, or the Kinderhook Dog Park. Interment was beside his parents and brother at St. Raymond’s Cemetery in the Bronx, New York. A local memorial will be held at the Old Chatham Friends’ Meetinghouse later this month.
"Christ saith this, and the apostles say this, but what canst thou say?"
Age and time took its toll on the maple outside Pitt Hall. It finally had to come down during the spring work weekend at Powell House. Rot had taken out its insides.
That tree held more than leaves. It was home for the Pitt Hall and Anna Curtis Center signs. In looking for a post to put those signs up in the basement of Pitt Hall, I could only find one sturdy 6x6 post, but it was too short. A mere 5 feet. With three of it buried in the ground that would only allow 2' above ground.
A few other bits n pieces of posts were hanging around from other projects so there was only one thing to do -- scarf them together to form a brand new post. As it turns out, diggging a hole would prove impossible because of the root system of old tree, but a stump can make a convenient brace for a new post!
Before joining the two 6x6" posts pieces that had rot and bug damage would need to be cut out and replaced or wood hardener added.
One aspect of this project that I just love is the transformative nature of it. You take something that was destined for the bonfire and giving it new life.
As I work on this post I often find myself thinking that this block of wood is a metaphor for life. As people, we seem to be like 3 act plays. Each scene builds on the last until the end where the finale takes place; the final transformation.
Some of the best parts of us happened in act one and is has been ready and ripe to become something new for a long time. I've noticed that it is often a major event (like a tree coming down or a life passage) that provides the impetus to scarf things together and bring about a transformation.
And by transformation, I'm not merely talking about an external change. This is not a makeover but a whole new way of being that incorporates all of what was with all that is new to bring about something "never been seen before." Transformation actually alters who we are in a fundamental and beautiful way. Healing.
Fox's words resonate here. We can express what God is inwardly working on in us! And be fearless in the knowledge that, like the wood of the post, we can be shaped and repurposed into something that brings the fulfillment of God's work and the manifestation of the blessed community.
So my queries today are:
There is a story from WWI where a German soldier marries a wealthy Australian woman after the war. They try to start a new life, build a family, and leave the war behind but are harassed and threatened by the locals who fought in the war to the point of fearing for their lives. The Light Between The Oceans is a film about their story.
Without revealing the story, Frank, the German soldier, is asked by his wife if he feels resentment towards their harassers and he replies by saying: "You only have to forgive once. To resent, you have to do it all day, every day, all the time. You have to keep remembering the bad things. It's too much work."
Life is hard enough to live through once when bad things happen, but to burden ourselves with resentment is a layer of suffering that we can do without.
The other consideration is just how much bandwidth do we have? If we use our mental and spiritual energy to feed our resentments -- what is left for love, gratitude, and joy?
Now, that brings us to forgiveness. What does it mean to forgive? Mary Queen of Scots said about Queen Elizabeth "I will forgive, but I won't forget." This is not forgiveness, but forgiveness lite. The kind of forgiveness that keeps a little piece of resentment for later just in case the opportunity arises to resurrect the past.
I like to call this the "Library of Congress Approach To Forgiveness." That is, if an upset comes up between two people who've had an upset in the past one (or both) of them reserves the right to bring the whole library of the past "offenses" into the present.
That is a recipe for not only destroying your own mind, but also the relationships around you.
To forgive is to let go of the past. Release it. And by letting it go you acknowledge that it no longer has a hold on you. You not only let the past go, but you free yourself from the pernicious influence the past has on your life.
Queries I am considering today are:
Memorial Minute for M. Elisabeth Grace
4/28/1934 – 2/7/2018
Memorial Meeting under the care of Old Chatham Meeting 4/14/18
It is a challenge to choose words in giving tribute to one whose legacy includes many examples of an incomparable writing skill. We in Old Chatham Meeting can only offer gratitude for the many years in which Elisabeth Grace was present among us, sharing her wit and her words in a manner that entertained, educated, challenged us as she quietly modeled an exemplary life.
A Friend since 1958, Elisabeth contributed to the life of Old Chatham Meeting in many ways after settling in Columbia County in 1975. Serving on a number of committees over the years as well as acting as clerk of the Meeting, she contributed to the spiritual life of the meeting through vocal ministry and participation in worship sharing. As a member of Ministry and Counsel, Elisabeth utilized her professional listening skills in supporting others on their spiritual journeys. We learned about the disruption and displacement of war when she spoke of her growing-up years in England during the 1940’s. On work days here at the meetinghouse, Elisabeth tried to convince us that the only real difference between a flower and a weed is location! In her service on the Bob Bacon Memorial Fund, Elisabeth brought her concern for families and especially for LGBTQ folk who were experiencing discrimination and turmoil. And, as president of the board of Friends Burial Ground at Rayville, she was first to arrive for work days, lending her energy and insight to our many restoration and improvement efforts.
It is hard to recall Elisabeth’s life in Columbia County without also remembering that of Kate Dunham, her life partner of 33 years until Kate’s death in 2006. For many years, they co-authored “The Birders’ Corner,” a weekly column in the Chatham Courier. They worked together in the Columbia County Land Conservancy and in the Alan Devoe Bird Club, where they built and maintained trails, led bird walks, and contributed to the newsletter.
Many Old Chatham Friends and neighbors were present for Elisabeth’s 65th birthday celebration at Powell House, and will always remember her delighted amazement when a Scottish bagpiper began playing outside the ballroom windows – a surprise arranged by Kate and a telling example of their devotion to each other. Their compassion for and commitment to protecting and feeding wildlife is legendary, as exemplified by the many bird feeders around their home and also in “Ode to Badger,” a tender tribute to a woodchuck who dined each day in the garden.
In recent years, Elisabeth generously shared her time and her trained therapy dog, Cole, in visits to schools, hospitals, and nursing homes. A member of writing groups, she sometimes read her work on public radio, and she was committed to helping other elders to continue living independently.
Elisabeth’s last gift to Old Chatham Meeting was the opportunity to be present with her in her final weeks as she journeyed through the agony of pancreatic cancer. Those among us who offered a ministry of presence to Elisabeth are blessed by that experience, and will join with others for the interment of ashes at Rayville one spring day when the bluebirds have returned to their box and the flowering shadblow tree which Elisabeth planted is in full bloom over the bench inscribed ‘Kate Dunham and Elisabeth Grace.’
Composed by Lyle Jenks, Approved by OCMM at our May Meeting for Business
My partner Phoenix, a Reiki Master, attended to a person dying in Albany Memorial Hospital recently to ease her transition. The next morning she awoke to a really bad headache.
I cradled her head in my hands and as I brought healing to the situation I asked her if she had shielded herself as the portal of death opened. She said no. The call was so sudden and the time frame was so narrow she just began the work there was to do.
That experience got me to thinking about portals as I sat meditating on a message in meeting. There are so many portals we pass through in life between the portal of birth into life and the portal of death as we make our final exit. I'd considered how many times I'd stood on the threshold of change wondering whether I'd pass through that gate into a new experience or just stay put.
I began to consider how many times I'd knocked on doors wanting to get through and found those doors locked or just inoperable. Times I found myself waiting in a holding pattern for something to shift like the tumblers in a lock. Sometimes that door would swing open as soon as I approached the threshold and sometimes it would take years to pass through that opening.
We Quakers are fond of saying: "proceed as the way opens" but we must also be prepared for "holdings" and "closings." That in-between waiting period when it seems like nothing is happening can be massively frustrating, but what if that time is preparation? What if that time is getting ready for the next opening?
As Phoenix's headache subsided after energy healing to restore balance, I realized that all of us are on the precipice of some threshold so it is important to be gentle. I had a window into Phoenix's experience, but I won't have that luxury with most people.
The queries I am contemplating today are:
1. What portal am I on the threshold of passing through now?
2. Do I want to pass through that portal? If not, what is stopping me?
3. What doors open freely for me? Which ones are stuck?
4. What preparation am I engaged in RIGHT NOW waiting for that next portal?
Today an attender shared his frustration with the Lords Prayer.
Our Father, which art in heaven,
Hallowed be thy Name.
Thy Kingdom come.
Thy will be done,
On earth, as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses,
As we forgive them that trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation,
But deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom,
The power, and the glory,
For ever and ever.
Why, he said, would the word bread appear in a prayer? Such a mundane thing to ask for! Unless the bread is specially leavened.
The word for bread, in this passage, is epiousios (ἐπιούσιος) and it is an hapax legomenon (a word that only occurs only once within a context) found only in the Lord's Prayer.
The Greek word was translated to mean bread, but its original meaning could also be interpreted as "spiritual nourishment,", "the revelation of Jesus," or in Catholic teachings the "supersubstantial bread or eucharist."
When read with this context in mind, we can recite the Lord's Prayer and ask for our daily bread in a whole new light. As Quakers we sit in quiet waiting for word of God. Our epiousios.
It's the first Sunday in April. As I sit in quiet contemplation a swirl of flurries whisks its way past the large bay window in the meeting house. My mind says "this shouldn't be." And what is, is.
On Saturday it was cold too. A dusting of snow blanketing the dreary brown brightening it up a bit, but my motivation was low to go out. As I at my breakfast I spotted a post from a friend quoting Thich Nhat Hahn "twenty-four brand new hours are before me, I vow to live fully in each moment."
Ok! I resolved to make this day count, but where to begin?
I decided a nice slow walk of the property would be a good start. I noticed branches down, broken tree limbs, and leaves everywhere. I could work on any one of these but I see where vines have twisted themselves around two oaks that I planted a few years ago.
One oak as been killed by the vine. I'm sad about that.
The other one has managed to survive even though the vine has found it way around the slender truck of the tree and into the branches.
As I ponder this situation and wonder why I allowed these vines to grow.
If I am to be completely honest, I'd have to admit that I've let myself become more cynical and hopeless in the last year. I've let some things go. I've allowed the political situation to seep into my psyche. It seems like as a nation we are moving backward not forward.
I grab by machete. Sharpen the blade and begin hacking. It feels good to remove the parasite from around the oaks. After an hour I've cleared the whole spot except for the one surviving oak. It now has room to breathe.
One thing that does give me hope is that in the world of vines and trees there are many more trees!
The inquiry I am in today is twofold:
Today in Meeting a member spoke of the Grimké sisters, two Quaker women who were blessed with a mission to end slavery and women's subjugation. Articulate and clear, they were traveling missionaries who shared their conviction for abolition and women's suffrage.
In their lifetimes, Sarah Moore Grimké (1792–1873) and Angelina Emily Grimké (1805–1879), they witnessed the Emancipation Proclamation and the Civil War, but it was not until 1920 that women were granted the right to vote.
As Quakers we often feel frustrated because we seek a world of equality and fairness, but are faced daily with the glacial pace of change in Congress and the hearts and minds of our fellow Americans who blithely accept the status quo or work against equality.
The message in today's meeting was that all movements take time and we must take the long view and know that our participation in change, while seemingly small, will turn the tide in the long term. Specifically what was said was "grassroots movements bring change." and while we "support the legislative agenda of FCNL (Friends Committee on National Legislation) we should also be out in the street."
We can't wait for Congress or the President to make changes. Government is the last entity to fully grasp the will of the people. Margaret Mead said it best: "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has."
Today young people are demanding change. They are just a few years away from voting. If we value equality, community, peace, and integrity, we ought to be doing everything we can to support them in the halls of Congress ... and out in the streets!
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