[This letter was abridged from a longer original, which you can find at: https://westernfriend.org/letters-marchapril-2022]
There is “That of God” in all people. I would venture to say that everything we experience in this world carries the blessings of the Divine, even though it may be muffled by the patterns of the material world.
When I center for worship, I often find barriers to my connection to the Light. My physical body wriggles and tries to get a comfortable position on the meeting bench. My logical mind often wants to work out a puzzling situation. My emotions often flood through and express the tension, sadness or anger that I have been refusing to deal with. In these days of pandemic, the computer has added another possible barrier – technology. Notice that I have said possible barrier.
We are all One. This is the lesson the pandemic is trying to teach us. We humans tend to see the world in a reductionist way – we believe that because our bodies look separate, we are indeed separate in every way. However, the dividing lines are only created in our minds and hearts. A computer screen might imply that the faces I see there are not connected to me, but that implication is just one more barrier for me to release.
I live in northwest Montana – my worship group is very small and often struggles; our parent meeting is 120 miles away. During the pandemic, I have chosen to join up with the Helena/Great Falls meetings for Sunday Zoom worship. I feel deeply connected to the personalities that join with me for worship there. I have been a Friend for more than forty years, and I have had as deep a sense of Spirit with this Zoom meeting as ever I have experienced through meetings in person. Period.
Something transformative and powerful can happen when we worship – no matter if it is online or in person. The barriers we sense with technology are really barriers we have created for ourselves as we perceive the illusion of separation. We can choose to accept that illusion, or we can treat it as something to release. Like the other challenges to centering, we can focus more deeply on the oneness that lies beneath the illusion.
Perhaps those who condemn online worship are fortunate enough to live in areas with large numbers of active Quakers. I am not in that situation, so I would like to see Quakers take a more measured view of online worship. Perhaps we are being challenged by it to let go of one more of the illusions that we carry in the world.
– Maria Arrington, Montana Gathering of Friends (NPYM)
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