Thursday, January 10, 2013
Elias Questions Quakerism
Of course, over time, Elias has soaked in many of the positive values of Quakerism. I wondered if he would ever observe, or comment on, the inherent differences between Christianity and Quakerism. Quakerism places emphasis on an "inner light" but there is no Triune God. In Quakerism, there is no liturgy. There are no clergy. It is egalitarianism at its best and its worst. In practical terms, Elias attends "Meeting for Worship" every Monday. The young kids are paired with older kids and they observe a time of silence for twenty minutes each Monday morning. Now in true Quaker meetings, if the Spirit calls you to speak, you do so. Adam and I always wondered how our active boy would handle the silence and sitting still and he actually does quite well. But a few weeks ago, he said to me, "You know, Quakers don't worship God, they just think about God." This comment was so astute. For indeed, Quakerism bridles against the idea of being told to do anything--especially with regard to worship. There is no standing up or sitting down or kneeling or reading of the Psalms by a community; each person takes his or her cue from her inner light. There is a lot of freedom for individuality in Quakerism, but at the heart of Christian worship is the community gathered together to praise God together. (Imperfectly, of course. But together.)
For Elias, it appears it is already in his DNA that being in relationship with God begins with worship. And, of course, don't get me wrong. He thinks about God plenty and has rich theological mind, but as a true Anglican worship comes first. Lex orandi, Lex credendi. "What we worship is what we believe." I was amazed that the little boy who climbed the pews three years ago and yelled out at the top of his lungs during the fraction anthem as our priest broke the bread "Father Andy broke the moon." has so inculcated the life of worship through his very busy body and very busy bones. I now know more than ever that worship does shape us, even seven year old boys.
And along that same perspective, just before Christmas Elias complained, "The Quakers say that every day is special. But if every day is special, like Christmas, then that means no day is special." And, indeed, George Fox espoused, like the Puritans, that there was that spark in every day and in everything. And, we Christians abide by the same theology in the Creation story in which God created and named each day and claimed it as good. But, liturgical Christians also mark some days as more sacred, more special than others--namely the Feast of the Resurrection: Easter Day. And that Feast Day about which Elias was concerned was Christmas. He and all of his little friends were really excited about that impending day.
And, so, in the last few months I have had the privilege to see how a young Christian sees a Quaker School--a warm, nurturing, and loving place. I have also seen how our own slow, subtle life of worship and Christian community has already shaped our son. Indeed, our parish is a place of the lively work of the Spirit and it is something to see it grown in him--not only within the confines of those stone walls but in the brick walls of the school as well.