Earlier this evening, before I heard the news about Roger Schutz, I spent some time with the vigil for Cindy Sheehan at St Paul's Chapel across the street from the hotel where I'm staying. Maybe I should have felt more prepared to hear yet again about violent death.
"Bless the Lord, my soul, Who leads me into life."
Strengthen us, dear Jesus, for your Lamb's war against cruelty and death worship, even as we lose our own fear of death. Comfort us as you comforted the sisters of Lazarus. Touch everyone who was traumatized by witnessing the violent attack. I pray for your grace, your mysterious and unaccountable and unlimited understanding for his attacker.
The World Gathering of Young Friends is underway! Reedwood's own Carrie Hutchinson is serving as a volunteer, and Colin Saxton, superintendent of our Yearly Meeting, has given a plenary talk. I'm grateful that the Gathering's Web site gives the rest of us a way to keep up with events, at least after a fashion. I'm also happy that Alice M hopes to report from the Gathering on her Public Quaker site.
I'm just remembering that Carrie and her husband Karl were among the regular musicians at our Taizé meetings. The ripples from yesterday's tragedy will touch many people.
Here is the Francis Howgill quotation (as it appears in Britain Yearly Meeting's Faith and Practice) that Colin opened with at the World Gathering:
[We] were reckoned, in the north part of England, even as the out casts of Israel, and as men destitute of the great knowledge, which some seemed to enjoy; yet there was more sincerity and true love amongst us and desires after the living powerful presence of God than was among many in that day who ran into heaps and forms but left the cross behind them. God out of his everlasting love did appear unto us, according to the desire of our hearts, who longed after him; when we had turned aside from hireling-shepherds' tents, we found him whom our souls loved; and God, out of his great love and great mercy, sent one unto us, a man of God, one of ten thousand, to instruct us in the way of God more perfectly; which testimony reached unto all our consciences and entered into the inmost part of our hearts, which drove us to a narrow search, and to a diligent inquisition concerning our state, through the Light of Christ Jesus. The Lord of Heaven and earth we found to be near at hand, and, as we waited upon him in pure silence, our minds out of all things, his heavenly presence appeared in our assemblies, when there was no language, tongue nor speech from any creature. The Kingdom of Heaven did gather us and catch us all, as in a net, and his heavenly power at one time drew many hundreds to land. We came to know a place to stand in and what to wait in; and the Lord appeared daily to us, to our astonishment, amazement and great admiration, inso much that we often said one unto another with great joy of heart: `What, is the Kingdom of God come to be with men? And will he take up his tabernacle among the sons of men, as he did of old? Shall we, that were reckoned as the outcasts of Israel, have this honour of glory communicated amongst us, which were but men of small parts and of little abilities, in respect of many others, as amongst men?' And from that day forward, our hearts were knit unto the Lord and one unto another in true and fervent love, in the covenant of Life with God; and that was a strong obligation or bond upon all our spirits, which united us one unto another. We met together in the unity of the Spirit, and of the bond of peace, treading down under our feet all reasoning about religion. And holy resolutions were kindled in our hearts as a fire which the Life kindled in us to serve the Lord while we had a being, and mightily did the Word of God grow amongst us, and the desires of many were after the Name of the Lord. O happy day! O blessed day! the memorial of which can never pass out of my mind. And thus the Lord, in short, did form us to be a people for his praise in our generation.I sometimes read these delicious quotations from early Friends as spiritual Almond Joys, enjoying their antiquarian deliciousness, especially when I bite into one of the almonds. I'm reassured that such experiences were once part of our reality as a people, and I run my eyes over the words to verify again that they were written by a sane and literate person in clear English, pushing down that cynical voice that says "ecstatic hyperbole" in favor of my heart, which beats a bit faster when I picture those sturdy men and women being formed "to be a people for his praise" in their generation.
Back to 2005 and an e-mail I received a few days ago. Yet another seasoned and wise Quaker is expressing discouragement with his Friends meeting and is on his way to worship with another fellowship. Open up, Friends. Our life needs more praise, more self-abandonment, more joy; perhaps less reading of antique texts as yummy morsels, and more reading of them to light up our imagination.
However, I'm not sure that the missing ingredient in Friends' re-formation "to be a people for his praise in our generation" is a late-night harangue from Johan. Prayer might be better: Jesus, I want to be caught in your net with my dear brothers and sisters, and drawn to land just as you did with Francis H and his friends. Am I supposed to be helping to fashion the net, or to pull it in, or to keep others company in the net? How do we sort out our roles, and honor and encourage each other, and hold each other up? How do we shout our praises so loudly that the walls of oppression begin to tremble? (And, thinking of those who haven't found a praise voice within them, how do we keep from setting up new forms?) I quietly lay these questions before you, and trust in your provision as I go off to sleep.