We do not come alone to the meeting. For the needs of those within and without the meeting sit down with us . . . in the person of our bodies which connect us with the whole of the natural creation and every exchange of breath reveals our profound dependence on the rest of nature and discloses to us our responsibility for it.
I travel to Moscow each year to participate in the annual meeting of the International Board of Friends House Moscow and visit the programs we support. I also attend Moscow Meeting for Worship. It generally draws a visitor or two plus the usual core of three-to-five regulars, including a Russian Orthodox priest who uses Quaker materials in discussion groups in his church.
Two years ago, I was sitting in a circle of dancers practicing Contact Improvisation. The session started with all of us breathing together, waiting together, and listening for one of us to talk about something that connected the speaker to dance in a deep way. I was suddenly reminded of Quaker meeting for worship.
The room was dimly lit. I was one of fifty dancers standing in a circle, shoulder to shoulder, holding hands. Our leader, Johnathan, stood in the middle of the circle with his guitar. He said he was going to lead us in a practice to experience the aspect of God that existed before time began.
Even though Quakers possess skills in conflict resolution (as well as conflict avoidance), a perplexing conflict seems intractably lodged in our Quaker community: a split between Quakers who are drawn primarily to the spiritual side of our practice – emphasizing silence, contemplation, and stillness over all else – and Quakers are who are committed to social action – including demonstrations, l