Quaker-pocalypse — Whole is the goal
February 2, 2015 § 3 Comments
Whole is the goal—the goal is holy
I’ve been reading an essay by Wendel Berry in which he criticizes our culture’s love of analysis for the way that it does violence to our sense of the whole—just as I have done with my analysis of the causes of our decline, breaking the phenomenon down into its parts, intending to address each cause with a cure, with some kind of program. For analysis often goes hand in hand with program: we analyze a problem, work up a solution, create a program around the solution, and then implement it.
That’s where I was going. I was already laying out programs for one set of cures, programs for what I would call spiritual formation. This has specific meanings in the Christian tradition that don’t really express what I’m interested in here. By spiritual formation I mean
- helping each other discover our own spiritual paths and practices, the faith and the practices that work for us, that make us more whole; and
- helping to equip each other with the tools we need to follow our path, once we’ve found it—opportunities for ideas, learning, and knowledge; techniques and opportunities to practice them; and opportunities to explore, develop, and share our gifts.
And I suspect that I will come back to some of these programs. My analytic-programmatic goal had been to create a kind of master program, or a program buffet, an outline that a meeting could use to strengthen itself in the areas that impede its spiritual vitality and growth. And the ideas I have along those lines have not gone away.
But after reading Berry’s essay, I decided to take his advice and step back a bit and look at our situation more holistically. Whole is the goal. Holy is the goal, for holy is wholeness. So is healing. Heal, whole, and holy all have the same root. We do not seek to be cured of some spiritual disease so much as we seek to become whole.
Then I discovered a meeting that I think is modeling some of the very things I was going to propose.
I have moved into Philadelphia and I’ve been visiting meetings in the city to find a new religious home. Central Philadelphia Meeting has what I want:
- a robust infrastructure for spiritual nurture;
- a collective responsiveness to leadings;
- opportunities for Friends to share with the meeting the ministries they are pursuing outside the meeting;
- a First Day School;
- adult religious education;
- openness to small groups pursuing interests together;
- an active corporate witness;
- a meeting room that is not too big for the worshipping body (just barely) so that Friends do more or less sit together (in my opinion, a major factor in fostering a gathered meeting); and
- an apparent overall culture of spiritual awareness, by which I mean that the way the members talk and the structures they have in place for the life of the spirit, both individual and collective, suggest that they really are trying to live it and that they know how to in the Quaker way; or at least a certain critical mass of Friends do. And that’s really all it takes.
I say “apparent” culture because I’ve only been there twice and while my second impression was quite strong, the first impression wasn’t so much (though it was high summer and there were not very many people there). But I corralled a member to ask some questions after meeting for worship and I liked all the answers. I am sure they have their issues. Every meeting has its issues. But I am eager now to write a letter requesting a transfer of membership.
So in my next post, I want to explore some of these examples in greater depth.