All are Welcome
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!
6/15/2018 08:03:21 pm
Hello, all! I just want to share that I actually wrote this piece in March 2016 as a submission to the "Almost Quaker" issue of Friends Journal. They didn't choose to print it at that time, yet I recently felt led to share this with the community. Any loving feedback or comments are welcome - thanks so much for reading! Phoenix Grace
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