Monday, November 22, 2010 you still have electricity?

When I (Mark) told friends and family that I would be a "Quaker" youth pastor, many folks began asking questions like,  "So, does that mean you are going to live without electricity?" or, "isn't that like"

I completely understand the confusion. Quakers, Mennonites, and Amish seem to be lumped into the same grouping. So, now that Beth and I have been here for a while, I figured it would be helpful to shed some light (haha) on what it means to be Quaker, especially as a youth pastor at West Hills Friends. Please know that I am fairly new to the Quaker or Friends (without going into a history lesson, the terms Quaker and Friends are used similar) tradition, I have a lot to learn myself.

Firstly, I should say, that I feel at home in the Friends tradition. Why? Probably because I identify myself within some of the core beliefs of Friends. Of course, each of these "beliefs," and my place within them, deserve pages of elaboration. Brevity will prevail here.

Friends believe that "there is that of God in everyone." This presence of God in each person is often described as  Light (thus my chuckle after using the phrase "shed some light" above). This has many implications for the ways in which Friends approach worship, leadership, prayer, and communication. Ultimately, these implications establish a "different" type of gathering for worship. When you acknowledge that "there is that of God in everyone," the common assumptions that pastors, ministers, priests, etc. have a special access to God are challenged. Therefore, most Quakers spend time sitting in silence during their time for worship. The silence creates a space for everyone to listen to God, and if they feel inclined, to speak about what they are hearing. For Quakers this time is sacred, mainly because it is acknowledging that God is moving in everyone gathered together in that space. The words of anyone and everyone in that space are sacred.

How awesome is that? This belief (which some of you may recognize as namaste, which with several meetings, may be translated as "that which is of God in me greets that which is of God in you") opens doors instead of closing them. It is a belief of welcoming, of peace, of respect, and honor.

So, as a Quaker at West Hills Friends, I am proud that it is a place of welcome. It is a place that allows everyone to be heard and respected. Beth and I are comfortable and happy here for these reasons, and more.

As the youth pastor at West Hills Friends I acknowledge that I am not a "super Christian." I am entrusted as a part of the community to listen to God especially as it pertains to the youth who gather there. I have been released from some of the typical responsibilities of secular life to focus more time and energy towards discerning the needs of the young people at West Hills. For this I feel both thankful, and deeply responsible to the community...they have made it financially possible for me to do this.

I realize that some of the language in this post may be confusing...I hope that it is making some sense. Part of the reason this blog exists is to communicate with folks who I cannot see/talk with on a regular basis. I wish we could be having this conversation in person.

I will continue sharing why being a Quaker is unique, and uniquely awesome. As I said above, there are many implications for holding the belief that "there is that of God in everyone." I focused on a few, I hope to elaborate further in future posts.

in other news...Beth and I will be returning to Pennsylvania for Christmas! We will be in town from December 23-January 1st! Yay!

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