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Stand Dance Kneel

I haven't blogged for some time. As I have said before, I feel I can only write when moved to do so - I find it difficult to write on demand which is why I probably never pursued early ambitions of becoming a journalist.

However, in recent weeks I have had the pleasure of some of my writing being recognised as worthy of being published. I have had first a poem and then a short reflection published in The Friend, the magazine of the Quakers in Britain. I also received news that my poem, 'Twilight Towns', has been selected to feature in a book on local poetry.

I have continued to attend Meeting for Worship, finding it ever more fruitful with a growing call to take my participation a step further by applying for membership of the Religious Society of Friends. It is a big decision and I have yet to act on it because I understand it carries responsibilities equivalent of being a minister, warden and so on. 

The ministry of Friends has continued to root and guide me. I have also contributed ministry on one occasion since posting last, quoting the resonant words of Unitarian minister Cliff Reed:

"The Son of God passed by today on his way to the pub, but no one noticed. They were all on their way to church - for once. In one church they ate the Son of God - or thought they did. In another church they shouted his name a lot but seemed more interested in turning themselves on. In another church they doubted whether there was a Son of God, or whether there was a God either, for that matter. But the Son of God just let them get on with it, as he always has. And down the pub he talked with a broken friend and brought him back to life."

The most recent ministry I heard focused on the arrogance some Christians fall into by suggesting the hungry need primarily to 'accept Jesus in their lives', and that this enlightenment work was the core purpose of the church's endeavours with a food bank project - rather than the practical and unconditional act of charity itself. The Friend noted this had left him initially disheartened, although he later came to understand that perhaps what they meant was sharing their experience of feeling spiritually fed alongside being physically fed.

In the silence I also read the following quote from Elizabeth Fry in Quaker Faith & Practice;

"My life has been one of great vicissitude: mine has been a hidden path, hidden from every human eye. I have had deep humiliations and sorrows to pass through. I can truly say I have ‘wandered in the wilderness in a solitary way, and found no city to dwell in’; and yet how wonderfully I have been sustained. I have passed through many and great dangers, many ways – I have been tried with the applause of the world, and none know how great a trial that has been, and the deep humiliations of it; and yet I fully believe it is not nearly so dangerous as being made much of in religious society. There is a snare even in religious unity, if we are not on the watch. I have sometimes felt that it was not so dangerous to be made much of in the world, as by those whom we think highly of in our own Society: the more I have been made much of by the world, the more I have been inwardly humbled. I could often adopt the words of Sir Francis Bacon – ‘When I have ascended before men, I have descended in humiliation before God." 

From there it occurred to me that the Quaker way of Christian worship is one that helps you to stand - to watch, listen & discern (particularly during times of uncertainty and adversity), and from there teaches you to dance - to express yourself through faithful words & actions, and from there urges you to kneel in humility before God - especially so if you find yourself lauded for your dancing.

The words 'stand - dance - kneel' have remained in my mind, forming the basis of my most recent poem:

Open the door, shake a hand,
Sit with us for an hour,
Join our joyful little circle… 

We’ll help you to stand,
We’ll teach you to dance,
We’ll urge you to kneel…

For once you've done one,
Then you’ll do another,
And at the sound of applause,
You’ll need to do the other…

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