Monday, February 26, 2007

The Religious Society of Friends Has Been Very Very Good To Me

The original title planned for this post was "What I owe to the Religious Society of Friends". I've decided to change it, because "What I owe..." could imply that it would be possible, even obligatory, for me to "give back" to Friends what Friends have given to me. It might be desirable, but it can't be done.
I attended my first unprogrammed Friends Meeting sometime in the early Spring of 1968 shortly before my 21st birthday. I was an unemployed and depressed college dropout, a off-and-on activist for civil rights and and against the war in VietNam. I was a former atheist and not-yet-theist trying to make sense within some logical framework of a transcendental experience I had had on the steps of the Pentagon during a sit-in demonstration in October 1967.

What did Friends do for me? They accepted me. They took me seriously. Sometimes they gently corrected me - - or asked me questions that helped me see things more clearly. They showed me by example the power that lies in waiting on God and following the leadings that God provides. Among Friends I found community in various forms - from an intentional community of Young Friends in Clinton New York in the early 70s, to the loose-knit, sometimes contentious, but very loving urban Meeting I belong to now. Among Friends I found some (including a few who'd be shocked to think so) who helped me understand what faith in Christ is all about.

I was with some Friends and others at an antiwar meeting at Albany Friends Meetinghouse on April 4, 1968 (my 21st birthday no less) when we heard the news about Martin Luther King's assassination. It was good to be with others who cared and who - unlike me - did not seem tempted to despair.

After I became a draft resister, many Friends supported me through my trial and slap-on-the wrist sentencing, even holding a meeting for worship in the federal courthouse. Friends both individually and collectively have helped me materially both in the early years when I was poor and in recent years when I became "involved beyond my ability to manage". Friends have helped me celebrate the great joys of my life, such as my marriage to Janet in 1977 and the birth of our son in 1981. Friends have been with me and held me in times of grief and anxiety. I've seen Friends do some foolish and self-defeating things, and I've seen Friends be touched by grace and brought back to God and one another.

For me, the ultimate source of all these blessings is the God Friends worship (or that some Friends don't worship, but that's another discussion). Yet it is through Friends and among Friends that I found this God. And it has usually been through the love and fellowship of Friends that God has poured out blessings on me. So I'm always always grateful to Friends.

'Nough said.

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Blogger Paul L said...

What a beautiful testimony, Rich. Your story and journey is very similar to my own, and it is heartening to see it expressed so sweetly.

9:54 PM, February 27, 2007  
Blogger Johan Maurer said...

My testimony differs only in incidental details. I gained nothing less than a family, or as my wife sometimes says, a tribe. An adequate summary of blessings over my 33 years with Friends is impossible.

10:29 AM, February 28, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for this, Friend. I resonate with much of what you have written. Although my own journey differs somewhat (I was brought up in my current meeting), I can absolutely resonate with what you share here so tenderly.

Peace be with you.


11:54 AM, March 01, 2007  

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