that which the quakers call diversity

it recently hit me that the closest physical feeling vocal ministry has for me, is the sensation of coming out. which, also, isn’t tangible. it’s a little bit like nerves, it’s a little bit like the sensation of having to vomit, it’s this gut feeling that what you are about to say is so deep and so true that it’s going to change you by saying it. and because of that, you’d really sort of rather not. couldn’t there be some other thing, can’t i just sit here and hear something else– i’ll learn from that too, i can… no. is it really that important, am i sure it’s not mine, my legs will totally just collapse under me… yes. you will be fine. just try and remember not to put your hands in front of your mouth this time.

i feel sort of like that right now. there’s this post i’ve been meaning to do for awhile, but it’s scared me tremendously, and fortunately for that fearfulness, i haven’t had time to write it.

there’s this thing going on with me lately. quakers are calling it my diversity concern. i’m calling it… “my concern that quakers are calling my diversity concern…” then i ramble to people about how my concern is not about having a certain level of diversity in the meeting for its own sake. i say “i don’t care if our meeting reaches the exact ratio of diversity that the city has.” “don’t care” isn’t exactly right. i’d love that. that could be rich and amazing. it also might not be.

then, i tell people about how when vanessa julye came to our meeting a couple of weeks ago, she shared the vision of the fgc’s committee for ministry on racism, and that the second half is what i want. i want the first half, too, but my concern is about “seeking, with God’s guidance, to help Quakers transform themselves institutionally and individually into a beloved community–whole and enriched by its diversity.” yes yes yes yes YES. my whole body says yes every time i read that, my toes wiggle, my shoulders relax a little, my eyes get teary.

then i talk about how i think it can feel yucky to come into our meetinghouse. and how it can feel yucky for the meeting to have new people come in. because we are not quite prepared. my concern is about lessening that yuckiness on both sides. i don’t know if it will ever go away, but i want it to be smaller.

and the scariest best thing has happened. other people want this too. other people have been talking about it for years but haven’t felt ready to or have not had the institutional support to work on it. new people are talking about it. the most amazing thing happened the other day when a new young person to our meeting sent out an email about the two sides of being a welcoming and an affirming community. and it was amazing– seeing this concept that i’ve been coming to know so well, come out of another person’s mouth (or keyboard).

but it’s not just best, it’s scary. because it’s reminding me over and over again that this isn’t mine. i’m having a clearness committee, but i’m not sort of diversity star. i want these changes to happen, but i’m not going to be able to make them happen. i’m going to have to work with other people– people who say my words in different language, people who say my words and mean something completely different, people who i adore and who will never quite hear me, people who drive me absolutely bonkers– and sometimes these will be the same people.

allison and i’ve been sending each other a few emails, and in her most recent one she brought up empowerment and control. i’d like to have control. it gets in the way of me empowering other people.

this may be what the meeting needs, but it’s what i need. i will be humbled and changed and made different. and it kind of makes me want to vomit.


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6 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Why, oh Lord, why is nausea one of the signs of the movement of the Holy Spirit?

    Just another way that pregnancy is an apt metaphor for the Divine Indwelling.

  2. On a different note, I am coming to think that offering hospitality and welcoming and spiritual education (broadly defined) to all the latent and incipient Quakers out there is the proper goal – to bring these people to the foot of Christ, the Inner Teacher, and leave them there. If racism or classism or anything else is getting in the way of that work, then we need to deal with that. But it’s a means, not an end.

  3. hi cubbie. Vocal ministry feels like you’re about to vomit. LOVE IT LOVE IT LOVE IT. g-ddamn, Quakers need more sense of humor.

    This is a comment that popped up on FOC and my response, and why I’ve changed my language from diversity to integration. Diversity is the end result. Integration is the process, and goes along with our testimony for integrity.

    Comment: I know the idea of just having one place where everyone comes together and worships is appealing to a lot of Friends, but I would ask you to consider that this has the result of devaluing the various religious traditions. Part of the value of a religious tradition is its depth, that it is something that one cannot really learn in a short amount of time, and that as one grows in it, and is steeped in it, more of it soaks in. And there is value in having those around you who have been through the same things as you, or are going through them, or will go through them, and that you can support one another in it.
    Can I really help the Buddhist next to me with non-attachment? Can I help him understand the Diamond sutra? Do I expect him to learn enough about Christianity to help me? I don’t think the answer to that is just “deal with it”.”

    My response:

    What good is diving deeper into a religion if it cannot teach one the basic tenent: Love thy neighbor as thy self?

    Gandhi used to take two enemies from differenet sides and force them to live together. They would emerge as pacifists. If that is not God in action, then I don’t know what is. As a largely homogenous demographic, I wonder how we can further peace in the world if we are not learning the lessons of tolerance ourselves. How are we as Quakers supposed to create peace across nations if we can’t even have peace sitting next to someone who calls herself “Friend” but has a slightly different theology?

  4. Cubbie, I have slightly different experience with vocal ministry and it has to do with the “I’d really rather not,” piece. I feel compelled, commanded and I don’t even feel like standing up was me straightening my legs, but instead a call to be obedient so strong that there’s nothing I could do to stop it. I don’t feel like I have a choice, and sometimes I wonder if that’s a class difference. I was taught to be OBEDIENT from infancy to 12th grade.

    Allison, theology is one way in which we differ.

    If on any given First Day, three messages are Buddhist, and one is Jewish, how can I go deeper into Quaker practice and belief?

    This doesn’t mean I don’t love Buddhists or Jews. But I want to plumb the depths of Quakerism and not be distracted by other beliefs and practices.


  5. Hi, cubbie–

    Wow, I feel really out of it for not having looked at your blog and other blogs for so long.

    I also have to be more active in demonstrating how I’m coming under the weight of the concern that more and more Friends are carrying, about diversity in our meetings, the lack of diversity in my own life as a White Friend, and related conversations. I’ve got to move blogs like yours and the Friends of Color blog up in my reading list!

    Anyway, I have some rising thoughts regarding your post here.

    I find that your words carry a sort of wisdom, cubbie. There is something about vocal ministry, a leading, even a spiritual concern that just doesn’t feel like it “belongs” to me or to any of us, individually. I can relate to the pushing away of what others have put on you, “the diversity concern.”

    I often speak of what I’ve been Given–that’s Given with a capital G. Or when something has been “laid on my heart” that I can’t ignore or keep silent about. But I have resisted when others have seemingly decided for me what it was I was “concerned” about.

    I’m not sure that John Woolman would have agreed that he had a concern “for slavery.” I think he was just doing what he could to be faithful to the promptings of the Spirit, moment by moment.

    I also am not sure you need to worry about what language others are using to help them understand what you are talking about: you need to keep your “eyes on the prize” and be faithful to what God is asking you to do.

    Even if it makes you want to vomit.

    Liz Opp, The Good Raised Up

    P.S. I found these words in your post to be particularly powerful:

    it’s reminding me over and over again that this isn’t mine. i’m having a clearness committee, but i’m not sort of diversity star. i want these changes to happen, but i’m not going to be able to make them happen. i’m going to have to work with other people…

    I’ve reread them a few times and they speak deeply to my condition. –Liz

  6. thank you everybody for your thoughtful, caring responses.

    robin, pregnancy & motherhood as an important metaphor for the spiritual journey has been coming up a lot around me. interesting.

    it is a means, and not an end, for sure. and the process of working on all those ism’s opens people to the spirit. & vice versa (the spirit opens people to those ism’s). (or at least they open cubbie.)

    allison, i can see both sides there, and i think it’s a really tricky question. how can we be inclusive to everybody and their worship styles, and keep what we are and what people are coming for in the first place? i don’t know, but it’s a good, big question.

    jeanne, when i first read your comment, i felt sort of bad. because i think for you and me there’s a cultural difference rather than a class difference, and at first i felt like my experience as a person who was raised poor was being negated. i just went over to your blog to see how you identify, and i see the word working class, which is different from how i identify, AND i see your interesting multi-faceted view of class, which i think was what i was thinking of in terms of culture. i don’t fully know your experience, but mine was the 1 income for 3 people and one drug addiction class/culture. and my parents were hippies…. so this whole obedience thing wasn’t part of it for me.

    i think the part where the conversation and asking comes for me isn’t that i don’t want to be obedient exactly. or maybe it is… but frequently, my questions are “cubbie, do you just want to be a star today? is that it? how can you be sure?” and that’s where my pauses come from. but i tend to be fairly sure it’s really a leading if i feel like i might puke… because… i don’t think i’d choose that feeling for myself. thank you for the food for thought.

    liz, i am way out of the blog world myself. i’ve really only been keeping up with 3 or 4 lately, because i have such limited internet access. someday, though.

    i think mostly people’s lack of understanding of my concern just makes me frustrated with language. that when people are asked to be on my clearness committee, they can’t actually be given a word for what it is. and also, since it’s about group transformative change…. i wish i could just say, “i want this,” and the words could convey something transforming more than diversity is.

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