I've written "love letters" to Santa Monica and Central Coast Friends, but I haven't written one yet to Orange Grove Friends. I feel led to do so this week, in part because four loving Orange Grove Friends ministered to me when I was feeling depressed and discouraged on Sunday. I realized how blessed I am to be among Friends who love and care about me. Thank you, Evalyn, Edie, Kate and Vahe!
What I love best about Orange Grove Friends are the people, many of whom I've known for decades, and some of whom I am just getting to know. I especially love Jean Lester, who is the glue holding our meeting together. A Friend for most of her life, she is totally committed to Orange Grove Meeting and when conflicts arise, she does her best to resolve them in loving way. She is a compassionate listener par excellence, and also very honest about her feelings.
I also feel blessed to know Friends like Kate Carpenter, who is deeply committed to animal kinship and loves people as much as she loves critters. Her home is a haven of hospitality, with wonderful vegan food.
I love the newcomers who are attracted to our Meeting because of our peace and justice testimony, and who deeply appreciate our silent worship, our lack of dogma, and our openness to Spirit.
The Peace and Social Concerns Committee is one of the best Quaker committees I have ever served on, in part because of the sensitive and thoughtful clerkship of Nina Rivinus. What I love about this committee is that we care about and support each other. When conflicts arise, we listen and try to work them out in a way that truly honors "that of God" in each person. We are also incredibly active, visiting detainees in Adelanto Detention Center as well as elected officials and their aides. Arthur Kegerreis started an AFSC Social Change Ministry with the Unitarians, focusing mainly on immigration issues. Edie Salisbury organizes our visits to Adelanto. Jill and Michelle bring us up to date on what's happening with housing and the homeless in our city. A group of us started an FCNL Advocacy Team that visits the offices of elected officials every month or two. We do a lot as individuals, and at the same time encourage and support each other as a group. We've brought minutes of concern to our monthly business meeting--minutes on a Housing Commission, Rent Control, Climate Change, and averting war with North Korea. Our Committee has the courage to take stands and to follow up with action.
I love our thriving Bible study that attracts six to ten people each month, including some non-Quakers who are curious about non-hierarchical approach. We use the Friendly Bible Study methodology. No one is leader. We ask questions, express our doubts as well as our insights. We take turns being facilitators and sharing Bible passages that are meaningful to us. To me, this feels like a Spirit-led Bible study!
It also means a lot to me that Orange Grove Friends love and appreciate my wife Jill, an Evangelical Christian who passionately loves Jesus and justice. She in turn appreciates the diversity in our meeting, which includes Friends who are Jewish, Buddhist, gay, and non-theist. What she also loves is the fact that we practice egalitarianism: everyone is able to speak as Spirit leads during meeting for worship.
I am deeply impressed with our property committee that responds with care and diligence to concerns that are raised. I am especially happy that we have SOLAR PANELS!!!!
It's a joy to see children in our meeting, especially babies appearing magically. And our monthly potlucks before business meeting are always yummy.
I appreciate our adult study sessions, which range from spiritual journeys to social justice to music. I especially enjoy the music that Joe and Kathy bring to our adult study every month or two.
We've had some wonderful workshops this year: John Calvi leading a workshop on healing, a marriage enrichment weekend, a workshop on immigration, and one coming up on averting war with North Korea.
It is also worth mentioning that we have an outstanding website---friendly, professional, and full of useful and interesting info, created by Alex Hopkins, a beloved member of our Meeting. See http://www.ogmm.org/
No meeting is perfect. What bothers me the most about meeting is our judgementalism--a flaw to which I am also prone. Our state-of-the-meeting report said: "A perception of unbalanced spiritual and political ministry spoke many Friends' minds who participated in a session seeking input for this report." I am not sure what "unbalanced" means in this context, but it doesn't sound good. The dictionary definition of "unbalanced" is "mentally disordered." This is a pretty harsh comment about Friends giving vocal ministry! Sometimes people say things that don't speak to my condition, but I know from an adult study that Sharon Gates facilitated that everyone who speaks feels they are being led by Spirit. At that adult study, around 18 Friends spoke about giving vocal ministry and all said they felt compelled by Spirit or some higher or deeper power to share their insights.
I hope and pray that Orange Grove Friends take to heart these wise, compassionate words from our Faith and Practice:
"Those who are led to speak have different backgrounds, verbal skills and interpretive power. Friends try to listen more than they speak, keep an open heart, seek the Spirit behind the words and hold the speaker in love. Listeners may find it helpful to pray that the messenger is faithful to the call,and that God's word will emerge through the medium of human speech. A message that does not speak to one person's need may speak to another..." (p. 30).
It might be helpful for our Meeting to invite someone to help us learn about compassionate listening, a skill that helped me to listen with the "ear of the heart." (A skill I am still trying to master!)
The words that I love best in our state of the meeting report were the following:
"We know that love is at the heart of our Meeting work, expressed through our lives of peace, justice and service."
These words "speak my mind" and describes Orange Grove Friends at our best. It's the reason I am grateful to be part of this Meeting.