I have been living and working in a Quaker community for nearly a year now. It has been a very centering experience as I have had many opportunities for meditation and reflection. I appreciate the practice of unprogrammed worship and the mutuality and equanimity it promotes in the community. I have been regularly surprised at the overlap and quality of the emerging messages among voices during meetings for worship. I am also regularly inspired with pertinent ideas in during the course of meetings and in listening to the testimony of Friends.
Prior to arriving at the Sierra Friends Center, I had very little knowledge about Quaker Friends. I was living in a small college town in Kansas where I resided in a 7 member cooperative called Koinonia. Koinonia was a part of, and located in the basement of, a Quaker affiliated organization called the Ecumenical Christian Ministries. As part of our community covenant, we met weekly for dinner and also fulfilled 10 hours of community service per month.
As part of my community service in Lawrence, I worked for a local youth program called Van Go Mobile Arts. At Van Go, I would help with technology questions and other various jobs including fundraising and constituent outreach. I also worked for various other organizations and individuals to help meet various needs. I feel that my volunteer service in Lawrence was a way opening that led me to Sierra Friends Center.
While living at Koinonia, and other cooperative houses where I had lived prior, I had been reducing the number of items that I owned considerably. I had slowly been giving away my belongings for around a year and had managed to limit my possessions mainly to my book collection, guitar, and clothing.
When I arrived in Nevada City, CA to begin my internship at the Sierra Friends Center, I had managed to consolidate my worldly belongings down to what would fit in two backpacks and a guitar case. As part of my studies here at the Woolman Semester, I am further consolidating my interests and pursuits so that I can begin to focus on areas where I have the most experience and where my actions can have positive impact.
Meeting for Worship
I have been attending meeting for worship for almost a year. We have twice weekly meetings at Sierra Friends Center. On Wednesdays the students, staff, faculty, and interns gather for meeting for worship followed by 20-30 minutes of verbal reflection regarding a weekly query. On Sundays the Sierra Friends Meeting draws members from around the community in Grass Valley and Nevada City. I have been attending both meetings regularly and appreciate the opportunities to let my mind settle and to hear the messages conveyed by community members.
I have been focusing my time as well as efforts on following a movement towards equality and freedoms of culture. The ideals exemplified by members of this movement include equal and ubiquitous access, the right to share and help one another, the right to understand and participate, and the right to make a subsistence.
Ubiquity and equality of access means that anybody, in any location, socioeconomic strata, mindset, political affiliation, religious belief, &c, has the right to access education, knowledge, information, culture, &c.
We also have the right to share the knowledge, ideas, and culture that we have found useful or inspiring. Helping one another is a fundamental human trait and should not be deterred or discriminated against.
Complimenting our abilities to access and share knowledge is the concept of comprehension. Comprehension is predicated on the ability to explore, question, dissect, re-contextualize, and apply our ideas and culture.
While the aforementioned liberties generally imply free access to our collective culture, we must be able to earn wages for a modest and comfortable living through our creative endeavors.
Following the Light
Through the practices and philosophies outlined above, I feel a strong leading to Quakerism and a kinship with many of the Friends whom I have met. It seems uncanny to me at times how our shared vision emerges amongst discussion, reflection, and mutual respect. I feel that I have been working for several years to end up at the exact place in this community where I am fortunate to be. It also follows that I am laying the ground for future destinations, friendships, hardships, and growth. I am glad to be among Quaker Friends!