Centering Down

photo-nov-06-10-58-37-amCentering Down is an adult spiritual sharing group that takes place in the meetinghouse library every Sunday at 10 AM, before worship. All are welcome to join at any time.

Each week’s topic is included in the bulletin. It typically includes a few passages from the minister’s message, as well as some queries—questions to stimulate self-examination and thought. We might spend several minutes in silent reflection before anyone speaks. Individuals are encouraged to speak from their own experiences and to listen deeply to one another, allowing a little time for reflection between speakers. In this way, we can come to know one another better and share our unique portion of Light with one another.

The following are recent centering down passages:

Be still, and know that I am God…
-Psalm 46:10
The most important contribution that Quakers have made to the world of theology is the belief that every person has within him or her and Inner Light of God, and that the medium of silence is the best way to connect with this Light. “Silence is a natural demand born of a need for God, felt by young and old, in all the world’s religions,” begins a statement adopted by the Friends General Conference. “In silence we may worship together, sharing our search for life, sharing our quest for peace, sharing God’s gift of love.” Recognizing that silence is just the medium used to connect with the Inner Light, it can sometimes be a dead form or an occasion for sleep. It may be, however, “an intensified pause, a vitalized hush, a creative quiet, an actual moment of mutual and reciprocal correspondence with the Living God.” (Rufus Jones)

Brent Bill says that one of the goals of Quaker silence is “spiritual examination.” He writes, “At its most basic it can be as simple as using the silence as a time of asking questions about ourselves. Do I see my time talents and energy and money as gifts of God? Do I buy more stuff because I need it, or to impress my neighbors or myself?”

Silence…A time for slumber or a time to connect with the Inner Light of God and spiritually examine our lives. In our day of loud traffic, fast talking politicians and evangelists, silence is a rare commodity in North America. It is, I am convinced, the place where spiritual growth begins. To still the competing voices within us, and the clamor without us, is to provide that time and space necessary for the “still small voice” of the Living God to be heard.

Do you find regular intervals in your daily life to sit in silence and seek to connect with the Inner Light of God?
Though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed every day.
2 Corinthians 4:16
If we live long enough, we will pass through various life transitions or passages. Such passages include the death of a loved one…the wedding of a child…divorce…change of job, position or geographical location. Such transition can even occur when one feels a gentle tug on one’s soul that acknowledges that the life you are now living is not spiritually fulfilling. All of these transitions make us vulnerable for spiritual transformation.

Some of the issues surrounding the passages and transitions of life include: Love and Intimacy…What are they to me? How do I experience them? Spirituality and Religion…Is my religious tradition meeting my spiritual needs? Work and Career…How has my work and career defined who I am? How has my work become intrusive to my spiritual and emotional life? Relationship and Aloneness…How do I balance my need for both? Thinking and Feeling…How do I make the journey from my head to my heart, or how do I balance my feelings with my thinking? Freedom and Responsibility…How do I remain free and independent, and yet responsible for my actions in family and work? Spouses and Children…Who am I when I no longer have a spouse or when children leave home? Restlessness and Contentment…How do I handle my feelings of spiritual and emotional restlessness? Where do I experience contentment? Authenticity and Vulnerability…How do I become more authentic and vulnerable in my times of transition and spiritual growth? Loss and Death…How do I face and respond to the demise of loved ones? How do I face my own mortality?

Have you experienced other issues during your times of transition?
And when they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken; and they were filled with the Holy Spirit…
Acts 4:31
Excitement and wonder. These words are descriptive of what we all crave in our life experiences. Spiritually speaking, excitement and wonder are basic elements of any person’s faith that can be described as “vital.” They are, I believe, the impetus for the life that Jesus refers to as “abundant.”

In Acts 4, the author outlines the elements of a vital faith and fellowship. He begins by writing about the dynamic of EXPERIENCE with the living God, which also happens to be the cornerstone of the Quaker faith. In writing about the early Quakers, William Penn noted, “They were changed persons themselves before they went out to change others.” It is an encounter with God that moves one to say, “Once I was blind, but now I see!” Such an experience was so powerful for the early apostles that they “spoke the word of God with boldness,” putting their physical lives in constant danger.

A second dynamic of a vital faith, as outlined in Acts 4, is the nurturing of such experiences of God in a BELOVED COMMUNITY. In Acts 4:32 we read, “Now the whole group of those who believed were of one heart and soul.” To be of one heart and soul with one another means that we can share one another’s burdens and process one another’s pain, as well as share our stories together.

Acts 4 speaks of a third dynamic to a faith that is filled with excitement and wonder, and that is WITNESS AND MINISTRY. What we prize, we will share with others. If persons are in need, we will respond.

What other elements are a part of a vital faith?
The Quaker Testimony on Equality
Our Testimony on Equality is the earliest Quaker Testimony, even preceding our Testimony on Peace. Before Quakers began to speak out against war and violence, Quaker soldiers were dismissed from the King’s Army because they refused to treat their officers as superiors.

Quakers believe that all persons, regardless of race or gender, has within them an Inner Light…An Inward Christ…A Spark of the Divine. Because of this belief, Quakers believe in the equality of all persons. This emphasis on the equality of all was demonstrated by how the early Quakers accepted women into the ministry, their work for racial justice and civil rights, and their ministry among prisoners and care for the mentally challenged. In recent years, our Testimony on Equality has led many Friends, Cincinnati Friends among them, to become an Open and Affirming Community and a Solidarity Congregation. We continue to work for the equal rights of those in the LGBTQ community and the undocumented immigrants in our society who have been and are being treated unjustly.

As 21st Century Quakers, how do we continue to live out our Testimony on Equality in our daily lives?