A couple of months ago, my husband and I traveled to Lewes, Delaware, to visit two f/Friends of mine who live in a Quaker retirement-to-nursing home community there (let’s call them A and J). We’ve visited them during our anniversary vacations for the last couple of years, and every year I think the same thoughts before going: What will we talk about? What do we really have in common? This year, in fact, I was considering not visiting them as usual, but my husband, who is often good about not letting me slack off spiritually, insisted that we should.
When I first began attending Third Haven Friends Meeting, I felt both at home and out of place. Mostly, I felt at home, but I also felt out of place because I was unable to drive myself to and from and knew that my husband would not often be willing to drive me, as he found Meeting for Worship “boring”. So, while I felt I’d finally found my spiritual home, I also worried that the distance would be an impediment to my actually becoming involved with the community. Then, after attending my second Meeting for Worship, I was introduced to two Friends who lived nearby. A & J were a good 60 years older than me, had never met me before, but immediately offered to drive me to and from Meeting whenever I wanted.
I was, frankly, completely shocked at their willingness. It took me months to get up the courage to call them and ask for a ride.
But once I did, they faithfully drove me to and from Meeting for Worship for over a year. During that year, we became quite close. When they decided to move to Lewes, Delaware, to their final home, I knew that I would not only miss the rides, but their friendship.
Since they’ve left, my husband has taken up the responsibility of driving me to and from Meeting for Worship, but there are often weekends I don’t make it because he is too tired and needs the extra sleep.
Anyways, what is particularly interesting about A & J is that their marriage is similar to my own in one important way.
Without going into too much detail, there was a conflict at Third Haven many years ago over same-sex marriage. Most members wanted the Meeting to perform same-sex marriages, but a few did not. A lot of feelings were hurt, people felt they weren’t listened to, and the conflict ended in a compromise that many members could not feel settled with. This conflict happened a few years before I joined Third Haven.
Shortly after I joined, I felt a Disquiet about what had happened and felt led to encourage the Meeting to begin talking about same-sex marriage again. As many of you can imagine, this leading was not always welcomed by all members of my Meeting. In any event, the seeds I planted eventually blossomed, and a committee to discuss Same-Sex Marriage was developed last June (see this entry ).
In December, Third Haven finally found unity to perform Same-Sex Spiritual Union Ceremonies, but the word “marriage” was not used in the approved minute. I, and several others, were led to stand aside.
The similarity between A & J’s marriage and my own is a religious one. A was in favor of same-sex marriage when it was first discussed at Third Haven while J was not. In my own marriage, I am strongly in favor of same-sex marriage (at Third Haven and anywhere else!) while my husband is not. A and I are very open to the idea of Quakers having multiple faiths (she is supportive of my Buddhist faith and understands how it can complement my Quaker faith) while J is a bit more Christocentric. My husband is also a Christian.
Over our last meal before my husband and I left A & J’s home, we discussed what had happened at Third Haven over the last year. I mentioned how I’d sometimes felt like my ministry was not listened to as much as Friends who are older, even if we were saying the same thing. In particular, I was slightly hurt that it took an older Friend speaking in Meeting for Worship to get the Meeting to start discussing Same-Sex Marriage when I’d often offered similar ministry many times before. I do enjoy that Third Haven is a very well-grounded Meeting with older Friends very grounded in Spirit, but I do sometimes feel that the voices of younger Friends who may also be grounded in Spirit sometimes go unheeded.
It came to my mind that a Meeting functions best when there’s a strong segment of older Friends and a strong segment of younger Friends as well. Meetings are like a body of water: we need the depth of older Friends to keep us grounded in Spirit and the current of younger Friends to prevent stagnancy.
In spite of the complaint I voiced above, I do feel lucky to have Third Haven as my Monthly Meeting. We have a wide variety of beliefs, from conservative Christians to Buddhists to agnostics to Universalists. We have a wide variety of ages, too; I’ve noticed an influx of people in their mid20s to mid30s in recent years. Most of all, though, I love how gathered our Meetings for Worship are. I love our old Meetinghouse, even when it’s hot and I yearn for the convenience of air conditioning (built in the 1600s, it has no electricity). I love our “new” Meetinghouse, built in the 1800s, with its tall white walls and large windows. I love the grounds, the trees, the squirrels and birds that serenade us during Meeting for Worship. Most of all, though, I love the Spirit that flows through us as we sit in Meeting for Worship.