Friday, December 07, 2012

more than oats

I was reading Rachel's blog post about Quakers being associated with oats and sometimes not much more, even in Nicaragua and it made me think about a conversation I had on my way back from Auckland on Monday.

I was in Kerikeri waiting for the shuttle bus to take those of us from the Auckland bus the rest of the way home and a guy sitting at the picnic table next to me asked if I was waiting for the bus too. We drifted into conversation about the journey and the convenience of the bus (even if it takes 7hrs, well it does for me, he was only going as far as Kaeo which spared him 3/4hr of that!) and got round to why we had been in the big smoke. A meeting yesterday I replied, and catching up with friends either side of it whilst I was down there. A meeting on a Sunday? he queried, yes it was for church, ah right. So I simply asked what he had been doing - he had been installing solar panels on a house on Waiheke Island so I told him about the photo-voltaic array that had been installed on one of our church's buildings back in January and how at the Meeting yesterday we heard it had fed 3.8 megawatts back into the grid over the last 9mths. I added that we had a strong testimony for the earth and that the photo-voltaic array was as more about setting an example, education and lowering our energy footprint than about feeding into the grid.

After a short technical discussion he asked which church was that? Quakers. I didn't know there were any Quakers in New Zealand! Well there aren't many of us, but we're here alright! He shrugged and said he didn't know much about Quakers, just what he'd seen on tv and films and stuff. I said that was most likely Amish rather than us and explained that whilst Quakers way back might have looked much the same we'd moved on a bit since then. Were we christian? Well not entirely - and many Quakers here and in the UK had a far more universalist approach, but in other places yes, they were very much christian. I told him there was a group that met here in Kerikeri, and one couple in the Meeting had built their eco-house 30 years ago. We continued the discussion on eco-housing etc and as we headed off for the bus he was looking thoughtful about our discussion.

Will he ever look into who we are further? Who knows but at least someone else at least knows we exist! I find myself constantly challenged about how much to say about Quakers and when, I don't want to be seen as one of those who rams their faith down other people's throats whether they want to hear or not, but if people don't know that we exist how will they find us? As Rachel says the question is whether 'to be or to be and to be known'; letting our lives speak is such a strong testimony and many of us shy away from vocalising what leads us to live our lives the way we do but if we don't share what drives us how will anyone know? Over the years I've challenged myself to be more open about it when people ask 'where are you going?' on trains, buses etc and other such situations, I try to gauge the depth of my explanations by how interested they seem rather than fall into a pre-prepared spiel.

I must admit when the guy on Monday asked me why I'd been to Auckland my heart sank as I knew that if I was to stick to my own decision on this I had to tell him but I just didn't feel like I had the energy to explain, but then a way opened to fall into it anyway. A reminder perhaps to me not to try to avoid answering the question and stick to my outreach commitment?!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The outreach discussion rings so many bells - I want to be able to talk about Quakerism without ramming it down people's throats, but so often it's when I feel so totally lacking in energy. A few weeks ago I ended up having 2 very in-depth conversations about Quakerism in the space of 3 days with total strangers and although it was hard for me to concentrate and I'm still worried that I somehow misled them, I'm so pleased I did it.
dawn x