Thursday, March 26, 2009

Adult Religious Education presentation on "Four Doors to Meeting for Worship"

[There is now a printable version of this post available; click here.]

Or, "'Four Doors to Meeting for Worship' from a Quaker Witch's Perspective." At
University Friends Meeting here in Seattle, our March Adult Religious Education Program (ARE) was focused on William Taber's Pendle Hill pamphlet "Four Doors to Meeting for Worship." The first two Sundays were devoted to the pamphlet itself; the next three, to presentations by folks in our Meeting community sharing from their experiences and perspectives -- "an actual Bible-carrying Christian," someone who'd "found meaning in an Earth-based spirituality," and a former Catholic. The committee asked me, specifically, to speak on the First Day closest to Spring Equinox. I've taken my notes for my talk and tried to convert them into a blog post. A note: during my talk, the weather alternated between sun and light rain. - sm

The ARE committee asked me specifically to speak on the First Day closest to Spring Equinox. This is a treat for two reasons. One, they knew when Spring Equinox is, and they knew that it would be important to me. Two, Spring Equinox is when I first started attending Meeting for Worship regularly, twelve years ago in Philadelphia. So this is a double treat.

I first read Bill Taber's "Four Doors to Meeting for Worship" back in about 2002, when the Meeting I was part of was taking a Sabbath year. I re-read it twice last week, and I found myself getting really grumpy. What Taber is talking about is basic ritual structure (and I'll go more into that in a minute). And we like to pretend we don't have ritual.

As unprogrammed Friends, we say we don't have ritual. Sometimes, we're pretty self-righteous about it (I know I have been). But that's not true. It may be less structured than in other traditions, but it's there. When we deny that we have ritual, we are not being completely honest, and that's not in keeping with the testimony of integrity. When we're self-righteous about it, it makes it harder for us to build bridges between different religious groups, including within Quakerism itself. So my challenge to us as Friends is to speak more honestly about this.

Before I go on, let me define "magic." I'm going to borrow from Dion Fortune and from Starhawk, and use the common definitions of magic as a change in consciousness, a change in consciousness in accordance with will, or creating change in accordance with will. Bill Taber talks quite a bit about changing consciousness.

I also wanted to touch on something else. Last week's speaker talked about this, and many Christian traditions talk about this also: the notion that Jesus, as human, makes God, the whole of which humans cannot comprehend, accessible. One of the ways in which I as a Witch have direct access to the Goddess, direct, tangible, experience of the Goddess, is through the Earth, Air, Fire, Water, and Spirit. Through my breath, through the Sun (really, it's there), through the water I drink and the water all around us here in the Puget Sound area, through my food and the earth that grows my food, through the mountains all around us here, through the people around me, through animals and trees. Asking me if I "believe in" the Goddess is like asking me, "Do you believe in rain?" (Especially in Puget Sound in the winter...)

Many Christians talk about nature and the Earth being sacred as creations of God, but don't treat it as an embodiment of the Divine. My challenge to us is to treat nature as Divine in and of itself, and see how that changes our actions.

So what do I mean by "basic ritual structure"?

Taber's "Door Before" is preparation; the "Door Inward" is transition; the "Door Within" is a change of consciousness, or magic; the "Door Beyond" is a transition back to ordinary time and consciousness, and a taking forward of the magic, of the transformation and change, that has occurred during Meeting for Worship, to our daily lives.

So, let me walk through those four doors and talk about them from my perspective.

The Door Before

What helps me feel my connection to the Divine in my everyday life?

  • Worship before meals, alone or with someone. This is a common practice in our family, having a moment of silent worship before we eat, and it's something I find I carry over to when I eat alone, as well.
  • Community - when I connect deeply with someone.
  • Walks in the Arb and on Marsh Island. We live two blocks from the Arboretum, and just south of the Montlake Cut and Marsh Island. Those are wonderful places to go for walks. Trees, water, birds...
  • Dancing. There are several forms of dance I'm involved in, and they're very important to me, as is the music in those dance forms.
  • Music - deliberately listening to specific pieces of music, specific songs, specific mixes (we call them playlists now on iTunes).
  • Crocheting - I have a very active crochet ministry, and most of you have seen me crocheting away during Meeting for Worship with Attention to Business. Particularly when I'm making something for someone in need -- a new baby, a friend in the hospital -- crocheting is a good reminder of my connection with the Divine.
  • Snuggling the cats.
  • Snuggling my beloved.
  • Chopping wood.
  • Worship - moments of worship during the week.
  • Lighting a candle; keeping it lit around the house.
  • Listening to the birds outside my window early in the morning; watching them come to the feeder throughout the day.
  • Taking a moment to close my eyes, breathe, and feel my connection to the Earth and to the elements necessary for sustaining life - the Air, the Fire, the Water, the Earth, the Spirit that is all of them.
Bill Taber talks quite a bit about moments during travel or commuting, and something that occurs to me now is something that happens on the bus. The buses I take the most often cross the Montlake Bridge, and you can see both the Cascade Mountains and the Olympic Mountains on either side of the Bridge when it's clear enough. I often find myself taking a moment to look for them whenever a bus I'm on crosses that Bridge. In fact, there seems to be something of a secret society of people who do this; recently, another person and I caught each other's eyes and shared a smile as we both turned to look at the mountains on both sides of the bus. I've since kept an eye out for other people who do this.

The Door Inward

Taber calls this "entering and centering" into the Meeting for Worship, and he details what he calls "rituals" (in quotes) that individual Friends might use.

What helps me "enter and center" into Meeting for Worship?

  • Closing my eyes and paying attention to my breathing and to how my body feels. Am I breathing comfortably? Is my breath short, constrained? What parts of my body are tense? Am I sitting in a position that I can maintain for much of an hour? (Not that I ever sit in the same position for an hour.) Am I in physical pain? What parts of my body are holding tension?
  • Holding rocks or shells in my hands. (At this point, I took two rocks out of my pockets, held them up, and asked how many people had rocks in their pockets. Two hands came up at first, then, shyly, several more.) Holding objects from nature, usually rocks, sometimes shells, or feathers, or other things, helps me ground and center. (I'll come back to that in a moment.)
  • Looking around at the different people who have come into the Meeting for Worship, and holding them, and the Meeting for Worship, in the Light. This is a common Friends' practice.
  • Grounding and centering. This is a common practice in certain Pagan traditions, and involves establishing, or reminding ourselves of, our energy connection to the Earth, and the elements, as well as our connections with each other. Sometimes a particular meditation is helpful; the one I use the most often is the Tree of Life.
  • Songs and music. I often have songs or snippets of music running through my head during Meeting for Worship. Often they help me ground and center, help me transition, help me prepare for that shift in consciousness that Taber talks about and that is essential to magic.

The Door Within

This is the change of consciousness, the shift, the magic.

It's usually a subtle shift; occasionally, it's a sudden one. I couldn't say when, time-wise in an hour's Meeting for Worship, it usually happens -- twenty past? half past? twenty til? -- and I wouldn't be surprised if it happens at different times during different Meetings for Worship. Sometimes, it doesn't happen.

I often have music or songs floating through my head, some of them insistently, during this part of worship. Sometimes a specific song will come to me quite suddenly once my consciousness has shifted, and it's often a message about, or a part of, the spiritual work that's taking place -- the magic and transformation.

The magical or spiritual work of Meeting for Worship is to be open to direct connection with the Divine, to the awareness of that connection, to the change that brings, and to be in spiritual communion with each other, as well.

Taber distinguishes between "gathered worship" and "covered worship." I'm not sure I completely understand the difference, but I'd like to share some experiences I've had with each.

I've experienced gathered worship in Meetinghouses. I've experienced it often in worship at Friends for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer Concerns. I've experienced it outside.

One place I consistently experienced gathered worship is a once-a-year outdoor Meeting for Worship in my old Meeting. Once every summer, we would have worship and a picnic at our burial ground, in a circle (well, an oval) of oaks. (Which made it uncomfortable to go barefoot.) People would bring lawn chairs, cushions, mats or blankets, and we would worship outside. It was consistently one of my favorite experiences of Meeting for Worship.

We actually really wanted to have our wedding there, but we decided not to -- May in southeastern Pennsylvania is chancy in terms of rain, and we knew there would be people at our wedding who were hard of hearing and Deaf. So instead we had it in the Meeting room. And that turned out to be really important, as did using traditional Quaker wedding promises. Being in that room, where we went for Worship each week, and where so many other couples in the Meeting had had their weddings, turned out to be an important connection to our community and important in supporting our marriage. And when a couple uses traditional Quaker wedding promises, you will often see other couples' lips moving in a reaffirmation of their own promises and in connection with the newly-married couple. Quaker wedding promises connect us to all of those who have gone before, and also to all of those yet-to-become married couples who will come after us.

I had a profound experience of what might be called covered worship -- although for me, as a Witch, things like this come from below, not above; so it felt more like being held than covered -- in a completely silent Meeting for Worship in a field in the Midwest. There were only two of us, there was no vocal ministry whatsoever, and yet there was no doubt for either of us that it was a deep and profound Meeting for Worship, that we were held, together, by that Spirit. We spent the following hour in animated conversation, but it had been a completely silent Meeting for Worship, aside from the sounds of the outdoors.

I find it is sometimes hard to resist the temptation to "do work" in Meeting for Worship. You know, today I will worship on "X," and at the end of Meeting I will be clear about what to do next, I will have discerned how I am led. Well, it just about never works. But it's still hard to resist, especially if I have a lot going on in my spiritual life.

Meeting for Worship is usually a much better experience if I'm simply able to be open and fully present. If I am able to be in "expectant waiting" without preconceptions. That's when the magic happens.

The Door Beyond

Transition to ordinary consciousness; taking forward transformation and change

At the end of Meeting, we have to return to ordinary consciousness, ordinary time and space. Sometimes that transition is jarring. Although I know Taber and other Friends have trouble with them, I find introductions and announcements sometimes help that. At least, if announcements don't go on too long.

Shaking hands, the traditional signal of the end of Meeting for Worship, helps ground us in our bodies and in our connections with each other. In Witchcraft and many other forms of Paganism, we pat down our bodies [I demonstrated this], and we eat and drink at the end of ritual as a way to be fully present in our bodies in ordinary time and space. Here, we have coffee, tea, and snacks in the social hall.

Also, what transformation and change am I talking forward with me? What concrete manifestation of magic -- or, as Taber would say, of the work of the Inward Christ -- do I take forward with me into my week? We may know right away -- I need to do this, I need to talk to this person, I need to make this phone call, I need to take time to do this, I need to make this change in my life. Sometimes we may not know, not until later in the week, not until after many Meetings for Worship. Sometimes what we take forward is simply a greater awareness of our connection with the Divine, or a sense of community.

Going back, something you'll sometimes see people do is touch the ground. [I demonstrated this, then asked the group:] After a really deep Meeting for Worship, how many people feel buzzy, or light-headed, or off in the clouds? (Hands raised.) Touching the ground, or even formally grounding and centering again, through breathing or a Tree of Life, can help release that excess energy back into the Earth, where we can always reach it.

So, that's basically how I would say I walk through Taber's Four Doors.

Questions and discussion

Here are a few of the things that came up during questions and discussion; I know I'm not capturing them all.

One Friend asked about how I came to Quakerism, so I shared a brief version of that story. Another Friend asked about a example of concrete magic; I talked about the magic at the heart of the usual Roses, Too! Tradition Brigid ritual, around powerlessness and power-from-within, with the concrete magic of lighting many, many candles, and talked about how that can then be taken forward into daily life. Friends shared experiences of conversations about ritual and worship within Quakerism; conflicts in a local community garden over the symbolism of a sculpture and about fertility; and more.

We could have talked much longer, but our hour was up.

[I also handed out a resource sheet, an invitation to the Roses, Too! Tradition Spring Equinox/Eostara potluck at our house that afternoon, and some lyrics to songs that are likely to get stuck in my head during Meeting for Worship.]

It was a really positive experience for me.

Ministry among Pagans

Thought from last month's OLOTEAS visit -- the workshop I did there, and the conversations I had with folks there:

For the last few years, I've really been focused on my ministry among Friends who are Pagan. I've felt shy about being too openly Quaker among Pagans, as if somehow I'd be "preaching Quakerism" to folks.

Part of my reluctance is because as Pagans, we've had way too much experience with people from organized religions preaching their versions of truth and reality and religion on us. Part of my reluctance is also because I've felt censure and judgement from some Friends for ministering to Pagans who aren't Friends - as if spiritual need, and what the Goddess asks of me, is limited to needs among Friends. (And thinking about it now, these are also Friends from whom I've heard big reservations about my ministry among Pagan Friends.)

But there are always a small handful of folks each year who find the QuakerPagans list, or find me at this blog or my website, or find Cat and Peter's blog, who are interested or drawn to Friends' testimonies, worship, and practices. Who are Pagans to whom Quakerism speaks - as Pagans. Hmmm.

And I haven't really thought much at all about Pagans who used to be more involved with Friends. I think this is an important need, an important ministry.

So this is something I also need to think about. And just see where the Goddess takes me.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Happy Eostara!

I am singing from "The Lady's Bransle" by Hope Athearn and Artemesia (to the tune of "Nonesuch"):

Oh, she shall bring the buds in the Spring, and laugh among the flowers...

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Defining Quaker Pagan / Pagan Quaker / Pagan Friend / etc

I am thinking about a conversation Cat Chapin-Bishop and I had back in December, and something I've been chewing on since then.

Back when Cat and I first started our respective listservs -- Quagans, and Quaker/Pagans, since merged -- we both had to come up with definitions that worked for us and for our sense of the folks we knew at the time. We each worshipped on it, did magic around it, talked to other people, and did our best.

Here's the definition currently in use on the QuakerPagans listserv:

  • Quakers, or those familiar with Friends, who experience That-Which-Is-Sacred primarily through Nature, the Earth, and Her seasons, the Divine Feminine, the Goddess and the God, or other pre-Christian Deities, or who also identify as Pagan;
  • Pagans who find Friends worship and testimonies -- Peace, Simplicity, Equality, Integrity, and Stewardship/Earthcare -- essential to walking through life, or who also identify as Quakers.

And here's my set of working definitions from my web page on my ministry among Pagan Friends:

  • Someone who is a member of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers), or who identifies as a Friend/Quaker; and who experiences That-Which-Is-Sacred primarily through Nature, the Earth, Her cycles and seasons, the Divine Feminine, the Goddess and the God, or other pre-Christian Deities, or who also identifies as Pagan;
  • Someone who identifies as a Pagan; and who finds Friends' practices, worship, and testimonies (Simplicity, Peace, Integrity, Community, Equality, and Earthcare) essential to their lives, or who is also a member of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) or identifies as a Friend/Quaker.

So, here are my questions for you, my readers:
  • Do these definitions work for you?
  • If not, what definition(s) would work for you?
  • What definition(s) would be the most honest and inclusive of our community?

I am reminded of the work we did in Friends for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer Concerns, FLGBTQC, around changing our name.

We had been Friends for Lesbian and Gay Concerns, FLGC, for a long time. We knew our name no longer reflected our community accurately. We took a lot of time in worship to discern how the Spirit was calling us to name ourselves and our witness to Friends and to the world.

People may laugh at our name. I've heard Friends say, "If I were there, we never would have taken that name." I think that yes, we would have: we were very clearly led.

The Quaker Pagan community is not comparable to the FLGBTQC one: we don't meet officially; we're not an organization; we don't do business together; etc.

Nonetheless, we are crucial, as loosely-organized as we are, to building community -- within the Religious Society of Friends, and also among Pagans who are attracted to Quakerism but don't know where to start, or who grew up in the RSoF or went to Quaker schools, and don't know how to come back, or even to come visit.

So, what is a Quaker Pagan / Pagan Quaker / Pagan Friend / etc.?

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Mid-Winter Gathering 2009 Epistle from Friends for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer Concerns

[note: this should soon appear on the relevant page of the FLGBTQC website.]


Dear Friends General Conference and Friends Everywhere,

We send loving greetings to you with this letter, as well as an invitation.

We are gathered at Camp Adams near Molalla, OR for the 2009 annual Midwinter Gathering of Friends for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer Concerns. During our time together, we have been exploring this year’s theme “Faith Calls for Justice on the Same Terms.” On our first evening together, we heard stories from and about our spiritual pioneers (both in modern and biblical times). We spent time in worship and worship sharing. We tended to the business of our beloved community. We participated in interest groups on a variety of offerings including trans and other queer concerns, Walt Whitman, Love Makes a Family, singing and others. On Saturday evening, we were blessed with a one-person play by a member of our community who has written about trans folk in the Hebrew and Christian scriptures. During all of these times, as well as in fellowship around meals, during walks in the woods surrounding the grounds, and in private conversations we found a blessed time to renew our spirits and support each other.

During our meeting for worship with attention to business a letter from the clerks of the 2009 FGC Gathering was read. While we were glad to learn of the work being done to help ensure the safety of our families who are planning to attend this year’s gathering in Virginia, we were also saddened that once again the Gathering is being held in a place where state laws and constitutions have been re-written to take away our civil rights, including freedom of religion and equality. It is with great sadness of heart that we realize how difficult it is becoming for FGC to find a site for the Gathering where this is not the case. More and more, our families fear that they will not be allowed to make medical decisions about their loved ones or they fear that authorities may not recognize their adoptions, civil unions, and legal marriages. We continue to face the nightmare that loved ones may find themselves alone, while we are prevented from being with them at the times they most need us!

We remembered with gratitude that FGC joined with us in creating opportunities for witnessing to the power of God’s Love in our lives and in our marriages the last time the Gathering was in Blacksburg, and that they stood with us and spoke out for us at that time. We also remember with gratitude the loving minute approved by the FGC Central Committee a few years ago affirming “Our experience has been that spiritual gifts are not distributed with regard to sexual orientation or gender identity. Our experience has been that our gatherings and Central Committee work have been immeasurably enriched over the years by the full participation and Spirit-guided leadership of gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and queer Friends. We will never go back to silencing those voices or suppressing those gifts. Our experience confirms that we are all equal before God, as God made us, and we feel blessed to be engaged in the work of FGC together."

We acknowledge and appreciate the many times FGC and our meetings have stood for us and with us by approving minutes of support and acknowledging and celebrating our unions and families. We still have work to do. We are now led to invite you to explore ways you, our meetings and faith communities can walk with us in witnessing to the World what we know experientially; that God’s love is indivisible and is not withheld from anyone or any couple seeking to live faithfully in holy union. Our silence and the silence of supportive faith communities make it easier for those claiming to speak with the authority of faith to insert their religious doctrine into the laws that govern our lives, as witnessed recently with the passing of Proposition 8 in California.

Today we are called to:
  • Invite FGC and our meetings to join us in bringing Quakers together to help us all understand what is meant by “that which God joins together.” Many meetings struggle with the issues marriage raises. What are the differences between marriage as a civil institution and as a “God anointed” union? How can Friends help in the struggle for full marriage equality for same sex couples?
  • Invite FGC to join with FLGBTQC to consider together how and when to bear witness to our experience as a faith community concerning queer marriage and civil rights in part because many sites (like in Virginia) will give us Opportunities to witness to the power of God’s love in our lives and in our families.
  • Invite FGC to convene a Gathering or small conference whose theme would be “Who so ever God has joined together” which would address issues of marriage, family and relationships of all orientations and gender. We would suggest that Friends from all “sides” of the marriage question be invited to participate.
  • Invite our meetings to provide support committees for LGBTQ members and their families when meetings are discerning whether they can or cannot take their marriages under the meeting’s care or when those Friends are made vulnerable because of faith-based witness around civil and constitutional rights in the wider community.
  • Invite meetings to participate fully in civil discussions and legislative activism to help speak Truth of our experience of God’s Love for all. Our work can minister to others as we share our own ongoing process as models for other faith communities. We see this as an Opportunity for our meetings to speak publicly to our deeply rooted experience that God calls us to lives of Love and that Love takes many forms.
  • We ask FGC, monthly meetings and yearly meetings to raise up the issues of equality and the ways in which our LGBTQ families are most in danger when they travel or seek help, whatever those meetings’ views on LGBTQ marriage.

We want to affirm to you all the power of the witness that our straight allies bring to our own lives and in the wider community. We do not experience this issue as simply a matter of marriage rights, but as a need to affirm and recognize that it is the richness of diversity that has strengthened and nurtured this country and our faith communities through the ages. Friends have long witnessed to a testimony of equality and we ask Friends to join with us in asking our government for equal protection and equal rights for all people.

God has been joining members of our LGBTQ community in loving marriages and relationships for long before these modern times. We are certain that some day civil laws will be enacted that legalize and recognize LGBTQ marriages and other civil rights. We have faith that God will continue to bless our lives. We have hope that civil rights will be in our life times. We know that Love, radical Love, will prevail.

With love and on behalf of Friends for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer Concerns,

Karen Lightner and Neil Fullagar, co-clerks
Friends for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer Concerns (FLGBTQC)
(contact info available here)

Monday, March 2, 2009

Recent work (February con't: OLOTEAS)

Last Saturday, I presented a one-hour session of Singing the Goddess at Our Lady of the Earth and Sky's annual Community Festival.

Late in the week, I'd had a serious attack of introversion. I've been to several OLOTEAS events since moving to Seattle; a local F/friend of mine asked me to sing in the chorus for their August ritual before I even arrived. :) But all of a sudden, I was just certain I'd be spending the day with a bunch of people I barely know and would feel left out, lonely, and weird the whole time. So, I asked for help, and folks held me in the Light, held me in the Goddess, thought of me, and prayed for me. And it did help.

So by Saturday, I felt both well-prepared and back in my groove, if still a little shy.

I arrived and checked in, set up my stuff - crocheted items, books, and cds - and then went to a workshop.

It was a really neat workshop called "The Goddess Mama in YOU!," which has given me some neat stuff to work on personally. It'll be interesting to see how all that settles: my relationship with the Goddess as Mother; how I manifest the Mother; how I see the women who have mothered me - well or poorly - as the Goddess incarnate; how I see myself as the Mother incarnate; how I experience the Earth as Mother; how I experience the larger Goddess as Mother... and I can tell there's a lot that's not in words yet, but busily working away beneath the surface.

I spent the rest of the afternoon hanging out with folks... the dreaded introvert-among-people-I-barely-know-(all-of-whom-must-know-each-other-well) time. Which it was so not. I had a lovely conversation with someone there for the first time, another conversation getting to know someone else a little better, got cheerful suggestions from folks just hanging out about how to get people to respect my taped finger where I've strained a ligament. (This included a winning suggestion from a vet tech, who was musing about the brightly-colored wrap they use on injured animals. We still have some shockingly-bright wrap material from when one of our cats had a tail injury that had to be kept taped... That ought to help get people to stop squeezing!)

I also connected with a few other folks who'd grown up among Friends, which was both really neat and has gotten me thinking. More on that in a future post.

My workshop was the first after dinner. We had a larger group than I expected, mixed grown-ups and kids, women and men, with a wide range of comfort levels and musical abilities... who just jumped in and were willing to try whatever I thought might be fun. It was great! They also tackled some harder stuff, although I really wanted to make sure I provided them with some easy songs and chants they could use in their own rituals. And it was very cool having kids dancing during the workshop.

I also made some lovely connections with other folks in the area around song circles and Bardic circles and intervisitation. Excellent.

So, happy Stasa.

And then I went to a Discordian Ritual of Discord and Jelly Donuts. Hooray! It had been much too long. Besides being lots of fun, and a reminder of one of the core values of Roses! Too Tradition (and one of our occasional matron Goddesses), it was good to feel spiritually back in touch with dear friends back home like Fedor, The Mad One. And did I mention there were jelly donuts? Yes!

(Hmmm. I think there need to be jelly donuts at my Spring Equinox potluck.)

Hail Eris!

So it was a good experience and a good day.

Recent work (January and February)

Now that February is over, and given that I asked for spiritual help for one of my February events - and also given that I've done a terrible job of posting here about how events have gone - I thought I would do just that. :)

2009 started off much calmer than the end of 2008, thankfully. And then my ministry work got busy again quickly.

In January and February, I hosted my usual Full Moon Meetings for Worship (followed by potluck tea). They've been smaller lately, and in some ways both more mellow and more intense. I'm hoping to get some community built up around these so that folks might continue to meet even after I move in August, if that's still a need in the community.

January also saw the start of my second semester at Cherry Hill Seminary. This term I'm taking two more very cool classes - Understanding the Ritual Experience, and the Psychology of Gender. Both are very interesting given my academic, cultural, professional, ministerial, and religious backgrounds in Catholicism, Judaism, Quakerism, feminist Witchcraft, psychology, women's studies, trauma theory, trauma recovery, and pastoral counseling. Yet again, Pagan geek heaven. There's also another Quaker in one of my classes, which is great, because then I'm not the only one speaking from a Quaker perspective or the only one trying to explain relevant Quaker things. And my instructors are wonderful, as are my classmates.

From one event in January, I then went to facilitating four in February: Full Moon Meeting for Worship; Brigid/Candlemas/Imbolc Celebration in the Roses, Too! Tradition; and two Singing the Goddess workshops.

The Brigid celebration was also small. The potluck was just really nice, and in particular gave me the opportunities to experiment with soup-making without following Mark Bittman's instructions to the letter, and to get to know a few people, whom I like but don't know well, a little better. This was neat.

And the magic in ritual was very powerful. (In typical Roses, Too! fashion, there were in fact lots and lots of tealights; it was amazing to see my living room lit up in a physical manifestation of the spiritual work and the magic we were doing together.) It's been quite a while since I've done Roses, Too!-style Brigid, and it felt really good. I've missed structuring my personal spiritual work around the cycle of the seasons in this particular way; it's good for me.

Beloved Wife and I went to Camp Adams in Mollala, OR, for the Mid-Winter Gathering of Friends for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer Concerns.

(I'd had a crazy week before - shorting myself on sleep to get everything done for school, budget reports (I'm currently serving as FLGBTQC's treasurer), and workshop prep. This turned out to be a mistake, because of course I got sick. I knew this when I was an undergrad lo these many years ago. What, I forgot or something?)

Mid-Winter Gathering was good. FLGBTQC is one of the places I feel completely loved and honored for all of me; our worship is deep and rich; and our Meetings for Worship with Attention to Business are amazing. (I'll post our Epistle once it's available; you can see past Epistles here.) Our Talent-less Show was also a great deal of fun. My special thanks go to all who serve our community; to our Planning Committee; to our plenary speakers, for sharing their experience of faith calling for justice on the same terms; and to Friend Peterson Toscano, for his work, deep sharing, and vulnerability in presenting his piece Transfigurations - Trangressing Gender in the Bible.

At Mid-Winter, I taught a 90-minute session of Singing the Goddess. It was a small but fabulous group that cheerfully tackled some more challenging pieces. I wished we could have spent more time together. When I was called on rather last-minute for the Talent-less Show, several of these Friends stood up with me and helped teach, then lead, the room in singing Ursula LeGuin and Benjamin Newman's "The Creation of Ea" (from A Wizard of Earthsea). And the room sang it in round. Awesome!

Last Saturday, I presented a one-hour session of Singing the Goddess at Our Lady of the Earth and Sky's annual Community Festival. More on that in my next post.