Saturday, September 17, 2005

Spiritual Discernment

So where am I now with this discernment business - well about half way through Patricia Loring's Pendle Hill pamphlet 305 'Spiritual Discernment - the context and goal of clearness committees' which I've just been reading in the bath! (if in doubt put the kettle on, make a cuppa and have a soak in the bath... works for me, even if I don't have an answer I feel better)

I'm slowly getting a picture together of what I might be saying tomorrow morning at the Meeting House (but if anyone reading this goes to the Meeting for Learning don't be surprised if I end up saying something totally different...) I got picked to be one of the three panel members because of WGYF and the challenges we faced trying to discern on an international level, by email, phone conferences as well as face to face - over coming not only the usual issues of putting personal wishes to one side but understanding where people were coming from with their different cultural expectations, understanding of terminolgy and issues of sharing this in their second or maybe third language. But also I got picked because of my own personal experiences of discernment/leadings, particularly as described in the previous post.

I've got to fill 15 minutes - where do I start? And where do I stop?!!!

Something I shared with my basegroup at WGYF on the last day has been coming back to me, it is, I suppose, the next step from 'Leadings'.

I arrived at WGYF without any great expectations of it being a life changing experience - after all I'd had one of the those at the FWCC Triennial and lets face it how many of those can you have (or cope with...) in 18 months! My 'mission' (which I had chosen to accept!) with regard to WGYF was to make sure it happened, to make sure it was there for others to have the kind of experience that I'd had, it was for others benefit - not mine. I'd gone there not really expecting to get to many sesions but hoping to somehow get a 'feel' for it all by dipping in and out as time and the administrative needs of the event allowed.

Yet as time went on I was able to take part in more and more of the event - I'd not far off burnt out by this point and thankfully there were others (cheers guys!) who were able to step in and keep things going for me. So I found myself in Deborah's talk on Thursday (audio recording ) hearing her say (far better than I did) many of the things I had said in my talk the week before to Northern Young Friends Summer Gathering (for 11-16 yr olds, where I would have otherwise been as staff were it not for WGYF), about decision making, listening to what G/god/de/ss (pick your own spelling!) is saying to you and much, much more... if you get the chance do listen to it! Yes I had had such a strong sense of calling, I had changed my life dramatically because of it - but WGYF was finally happening, so now what?! Sure I 'knew' I had to go back to Aotearoa New Zealand, but not why.
After a few days, this was really starting to bother me - I kept coming back to 'but why?'. Come on, if I'm not going to get an answer when I'm spending half my week in worship then when on earth am I going to know? A sense almost of panic had started to set in - I felt I 'needed' to know before I left. I needed to know why I was embarking on this next big adventure - sure I was going to live near some very dear f/Friends, and a whole heap nearer than I have been to others which I was really looking forward to. Yes I had all kind of ideas flying around about helping develop work with the Junior Young Friends and so on, but none of these were exactly shouting out as being my next calling in life, 'the' reason for going. I was going to bed asking 'but why? Just tell me why...' and waking up with no answers and too late to grab breakfast before our 8.30am meeting yet again.

It was in the Sunday evening session when Oliver and Colin were speaking that I finally got an answer. To be honest I found their talks the hardest to get anything from, heavily biblical and relying to a certain extent on a knowledge, or at least familiarity with discecting scripture that I'm not used to (it's over 20 years since my last Religious Education lesson which is the nearest I've ever come to bible study and I spent most of the last year of them having flute lessons instead!) Yet as I sat there playing with my nightlight trying not to drip wax on myself or scorch my fingers as I held it they both said things which spoke loud and clear to me - and you know what, I can't for the life of me remember what it was! I really do need to listen to them again... ( and What I do remember though was hearing them, and sitting there saying in my head 'yes that is all very well but I still don't know why...' and then as loud and clear as the voice that had set me on the path to WGYF came the knowledge that 'I just had to be there' - that was what was important. I just had to be there, I had to carry on trying to live my life the way I had been doing for the last year or so, believing as Deborah had reminded us that I am a child of god, that if I listen I'll know what to do. Stripping my life back to the barest of essentials (well ok, a trunk, two big bags and my hand luggage - and half of it is books and resources for others honest...) and trying to live as simple a life as I can, living out the testimonies as best I can, leading by example. A calmness came over me. I knew that me just being there was going to help others, particular situations and yes, the work with JYFs etc. It wasn't any one task I was there for but to live prayerfully and be fully present for all of them. I felt like I'd been let off the hook somewhat - my initial reaction was 'is that all?' and then laughed at myself, it was no small challenge Deborah had set for us and 'living up to the light that thou hast' is no easy task! But hopefully this time it won't involve persuading over 200 people to send multiple forms in by unrealistic deadlines - as I said to Loida about getting the Peruvian and Bolivian contingent to WGYF miracles I can do, the impossible takes a little longer.... (they finally arrived on the 5th day of a 9 day event)

So where does this leave me with regard tomorrow?! I'm still not sure. Last weekend at Scotland General Meeting several of us were involved with reporting back on WGYF. In the morning session we had other business including reports back from Britain Yearly Meeting which had been dominated by RECAST - the restructuring of how our YM works and it's constituent parts (no doubt all can be found at One Friend speaking about his personal experience of the event said how he wished that at the door as you came into the main session there was a sign and a 'cloakroom', the sign saying 'please leave all egos and hobby horses here' - it was a wonderful image of all these egos stacked up, especially given some of the names he had referred to earlier in his report! It would need to be a fairly big cloakroom... I felt that much of the success of WGYF had been down to the fact that once there people were prepared to cast off the security of fixed ideas and beliefs and open themselves up to the spirit - 'to the possibility of transformation' as our mission statement read. George Fox said 'Take heed... of the promptings of of Love and Truth in your hearts for those are the leadings of God' - we did, and found in doing so 'what Love can do'.

But were we able to do all this in the planning process? Well yes and no. There were times when it became hard for all of us to distance ourselves enough from the dream we each had in our hearts and minds as to what WGYF was, and how we should get there. But 'the almighty conference planner' as Betsy often referred to the spirit/god/whatever that was guiding us seemed to have it sussed! Time and again if something was meant to happen a way would open, when it wasn't no amount of committee time and energy or emails was going to get us anywhere. This meant occassionally having to let go of something dear to us, of realising that whilst we may have ascribed particular importance to something in the end it didn't really matter. We were all 'pruned' (John 15!) back many times, but that is how we learn. When clearing out some stuff the other day I found a bookmark I'd bought in Te Papa museum in Wellington - 'He who knows his destination and heads directly to it will get there quickly. He who knows his destination but takes the odd wrong turn along the way, will still get there, and be wiser for the experience.' On the back it says 'Life's easy when you look back on it, it's even easier when you look forward to it.'

I'm not entirely sure what I'll say tomorrow but I've decided that the best way forward is to do what I usually do when speaking about WGYF, take a deep breath and wait for the spirit to guide me. It's a nervewracking way to speak (and a nightmare for interpreters! Not an issue I need to contend with thankfully...) but it has worked so far! So if anyone reads this in time and can hold me in the light between 10am and 1pm UK time I'd be very grateful.

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