Saturday, March 01, 2014

Seeds and Spiritual Renewal: Post 4

When Woody and I planted the prairie we used special seeds.  Because we wanted to plant a prairie and not a lawn or pasture, we started with warm season grass seeds and wildflowers seeds.  “Well, doh?!”  you say.  “Of course you did.” 

While our choice of specialized seeds for the prairie seems obvious, why are we so easy to use generic seed (or no seed plan at all) when it to renewing our spiritual fields?  If we want our fields to flourish, I propose the following seed mix (based on Diana Butler Bass’s recommendations in Christianity after Religion and intentional conversations Beth Collea and I have led on “Friends in a Time of Spiritual Awakening.")

Reconnection with our prime texts
            Friends need to connect deeply with the Bible.  This is true for both liberal and more conservative Friends.  The Bible was the foundational text for the early Friends.  In addition to their personal experience with God, they were well versed in scripture, studied it carefully, and quoted it often.  If we would understand the faith and practice of our movement, we need to reconnect with serious study of the Bible.  Some liberal Friends will need to lay down their resistances that spring from a number of understandable sources (misuse of scripture by others, woundedness, intellectual disagreement, etc) and look at what it says and examine how it informed Friends through the years.  Many programmed Friends will need to lay down their assumption that they “KNOW” what it says and read it again with careful eyes.  It is not enough for them to quote verses memorized as children or stories told so often that we have stopped really reading them.
            Friends need to connect with Quaker texts.  For many years Friends families often had, in addition to the Bible, core Quaker texts in their home libraries.  Fox’s and Woolman’s journals, Barclay’s Apology, Penn’s maxims, Faith and Practice, and so on.  Friends today know occasional favorite Friendly quotations, but have rarely studied these (and other) hallmarks of Quaker faith to find the essence, the life of the Spirit that empowered these Friends.  Of course, there are other Quaker texts that we could study.  We need to use these good seeds that we have – for they abound.

Sharing our spiritual stories
            We need to provide opportunities to share our spiritual stories with each other in community.  What possibilities are there in our meetings for us to share our spiritual journeys and beliefs with each other?  We may be worshiping next to someone we’ve known for years but not have any idea what brought them to Friends or any of the significant, formative spiritual experiences in their lives.  We need to create seeds of such opportunities – based on what will work for our community.  A seed of weekday evening sharing groups?  A five week adult religious education class on First day?

An Inward spiritual practice
            One seed is to enhance our spiritual life through a daily practice.  We might do a gratitude practice.  Or a daily prayer practice.  Or a meditation practice.  Intentional.  Regular.  Deep.  The strength of a regular practice is that it becomes a part of us while helping us deepen.  When regularly practiced, it becomes so valuable to our souls that we miss it and long for it when we aren’t able to do it that day.
            Think of the power of a meeting community doing this together – finding a practice for everyone to do for a month.  And then a different one the next month.  There would be personal and communal deepening from which The Seed could spring.

An Outward spiritual practice
            Another seed is putting our faith into practice in the larger word.  As William Penn said, “True godliness does not turn us out of the world, but helps us better live in it.” (Brent Revised Version).  What outward practices could we do that would connect our inner lives with our outer world?  Both as individuals and as a meeting?  What fits our spiritual life and our passion?  Work in a homeless shelter.  Work for peace?  Till up some of our lawn for a community garden? 

In the same way that a good seed mix makes all the difference in the establish of the kind of prairie Woody and I wanted to see spring forth, so will the above seed mix (with maybe a few local “wildflower seeds” that fit your community thrown in) help the establishment or reestablishment of a thriving Friendly faith community.


Dale Graves said...


poodledok said...

Thanks for posting this series. I am attending a consultation on Quaker renewal later this week and these posts have been very useful as I prepare. Having helped with some prairie burns, I've been reflecting on the metaphor of fire breaks in your larger metaphor. Perhaps firebreaks keep us from outrunning our Guide? Or maybe they block the spread of fire (renewal)? Or they remain fallow? Or?

Brent Bill said...

Hi Chuck --

Thanks for your comments. I appreciate their thoughtfulness.

I think firebreaks do help keep us from outrunning our Guide -- individually and corporately. They're an important buffer -- an in-between space?