by Christopher Sammond
These are heartrending, harrowing times. The recent horrific escalation in the cycle of violence between Israelis and Palestinians has hit all of us very hard. Added to the war in Ukraine, the unraveling of our climate, and the rise of fascism in our country, it seems at times too much to bear, literally, too much to carry. Many of the Friends I talk with are feeling deep grief, anger, despair, and a sense of powerlessness in impacting global and national events which seem to be spinning more and more towards chaos, division, and violence. I have felt that way, too.
I believe it’s really important to feel the grief, and to let it soften us. And I have also found that when I keep my mind and my heart’s eye on the overwhelming problems of our day, it’s easy to move to despair, anger, powerlessness, and being dispirited and overwhelmed. I have spent many sleepless hours that way in the past few years. Yet when I have consciously turned my mind and my heart’s eye to seek guidance as to what I am called to do- when I focused on God instead of the heartrending situation at hand, I could find peace. This has happened over and over again, often enough for me to trust it as a practice I should follow.
I believe this is the essence of the Quaker path- not to be overcome by outward events, but to focus instead on inner guidance, and to follow that with an open heart.
I recently had the pleasure of facilitating a workshop at Pendle Hill, the focus of which was seeking to go down to the root which gives life and power to our worship and our witness. Several members of the group were in meetings where they were blessed with a large number of newcomers, most of them young adults. They had difficulty knowing how to share our practice, or even, how to put coherent language on what constitutes the Quaker path. That night, I awoke with the following language coming to me, which seemed an accurate distillation of our practice as I know it:
Seek and receive an experience of the Divine Presence.
Give oneself over to it.
Learn to accurately hear guidance, and practice being led by that Divine Spark within.
Be part of a community which supports us in being faithful to how we are led, and which will hold us accountable.
None of those are easy. And none of them are a “one and done.” We work on all four aspects of this path, over and over, as we deepen in this practice over years of time. In the communities with whom we worship and explore, we can provide mutual support, encouragement, and accompaniment as we all seek to live out this simple, yet really difficult, path..