Barry Crossno, Friends General Conference
Being in nature is an incredibly important piece. I find being able to walk in the mountains really connects me to Spirit and opens me up. Another big piece for me is being in prayer and worship with other people who are in a very intentional space. I enjoy going to meeting for worship on First Day, and I’ve had some really beautiful openings there. But I have often found that gathering together with just one, two, or three other people, and having a very quiet time of prayer and worship together as a small group, is sometimes a more powerful experience for me. I belong to a spiritual peer group, and I also have an anchor committee. My anchor committee is very important to me in terms of my spiritual accountability practice. I find it’s important to do readings. They vary a great deal as to what they are, and why they are important at any given juncture—but I find that’s important to reconnect me at times. A surprising new piece has actually been watching movies and videos with spiritual content. That’s something I’ve been doing much more, and that’s been interesting.
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Diane Randall, Friends Committee on National Legislation:
Definitely time in worship. There was a time when I started going to Meeting in Hartford where it was really hard to leave that Meeting. Some of it was because family was there, and I had obligations teaching or doing something else, so it just felt like I couldn’t go visit another Meeting. Now I get to visit a lot of Meetings, and I get to participate in worship with a lot of Meetings and churches, and it’s really a rich experience-one of the delights for me in this job has been that I have found community in almost everywhere I travel. I’d say what feeds my soul is definitely having some time in nature. I find that spiritual reading, and other kinds of literature, poetry, feed me in lots of ways. The times I’ve been in small spiritual support groups – that includes both worship-sharing and silent worship – has been enriching for me, and continue to be. And time with family is a kind of renewal time for me as well. Time with friends is important. So, all those things.
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Jen Karsten, Pendle Hill:
Crisis feeds my spiritual life. It spurs me to seek, with a fervent dedication, and pushes me to remain grounded and rooted so that I can’t fall into despair or have my impact minimized by despair. Nature feeds my spiritual life too. I’ve had some of my most transcendent spiritual experiences at dawn on the beaches of India. It’s one of the most satisfying and inspiring things to see something unusual in the natural world. There’s something called a “glory,” (I think?) when you see a rainbow as a border around objects. I remember kayaking one day with friends, and getting out for a stretch– they hiked up onto a sandy ridge, holding their arms up for a photo, and there was a rainbow around them like a hazy colorful border, with long shadows. I’d never seen anything like that and this was in the age before the internet, so we didn’t have an easy way to quickly identify what that was. We talked to some naturalists, and it was fascinating to learn about. In those moments, you understand how prior cultures would have of course found their spiritualities through these amazing natural phenomena, right?
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Shan Cretin, American Friends Service Committee:
This is something I learned as a child in a Catholic school: that prayer is not something different from being alive. Everything you do can be a prayer; it’s a matter of how you do it. I do find that what I try to do is have that attitude about what I’m doing. It may be mundane, but if I can think of it as a prayer, if I can think of it as something to connect more deeply with other people, that’s a good thing.
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Gretchen Castle, Friends World Committee for Consultation:
Worship for me is the heart of it. It is sort of ironic, because in my current work at Friends World Committee for Consultation I have the opportunity to worship with all kinds of Friends, and I find myself increasingly drawn more to programmed worship then unprogrammed worship. In Britain, where I live, the culture is becoming increasingly secular, so all the mainline churches in the UK are losing membership. I think Quakers are doing fairly well because there’s just so much activity with their social action, they are very active group in that way. I have sometimes prayed outloud in a meeting for worship and then had people come to me afterwards and tell me “I haven’t heard a prayer in two years in this meeting house.” For me I think, “Goodness, how could that be?” Because for me, prayer is everything.
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Gabe Ehri, Friends Journal:
I think going to meeting is really important, having a dedicated time with other people to listen to the stirring of the Spirit-that’s something that gives me a lot. Just trying to be a loving person in the world, in my family, with the people I encounter, whenever I am able to consciously keep in my head that I’m looking for that of God in the other person. I also get a lot out of talking; in my job, I get an opportunity to talk with lots of Friends Journal readers and supporters and get to know them. I learn about people’s journeys, and we have the opportunity to share with one another. I find that to be a really rich experience. There’s a lot of people who are great patterns and examples of how to live a good life, in many senses of that word.
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Christina Repoley, Quaker Voluntary Service:
It’s actually something I feel like I really struggle with a lot, particularly being a “professional Quaker” and working for Quakers. Going to meeting is really important to my spiritual life, but it feels different than when I wasn’t a professional Quaker. Finding time to read, which I don’t as often as I used to because I have a baby. But whether it’s a few minutes a day of reading Quaker writing of some kind, or a pamphlet, or the Bible, finding that quiet time for reflection is important. I have a Support and Care Committee from Atlanta Friends Meeting, which I don’t meet with as often as probably would be good for me. But when we do meet, or when I just check in with individuals on my committee, it’s an important time to recenter. I’m so busy doing things all the time that it’s important to stop doing and just be and listen and be supported.
For more of Christina’s story, click here
Drew Smith, Friends Council on Education:
I think work feeds my spiritual life. I feel lucky that I’ve found a place where, on a regular basis, there’s something about my work that connects with my spiritual life. I feel like that’s an incredible gift that most people I know don’t actually share; I’m lucky and fortunate. I’m not a concrete thinker, but for some reason when I talk about my spiritual life, deeds and things I do and things I can work on are always the things that deepen me more than being contemplative. I don’t know why I’m that way. I’ve never been able to figure that out. I actually not only started going to Quaker meeting as a kid, but I also started working in the summer at a Shaker community up in Maine. I was working at their museum, but there were Shakers there. I think between the Shakers and the Quakers, the emphasis on “the way that you lived is who you are as a spiritual being”–I internalized that. I feel like the work that you do actually almost has to be spiritual; otherwise it doesn’t feel like the right work. It’s helping someone at a new school, maybe a new teacher or someone who’s not a Quaker who’s trying to figure it out, and somehow connecting that person with the heart of the school that they’re working at. That feels spiritual to me. The work, when I was a teacher, of helping connect kids with things that are deeply important to them, and then helping them try to figure out where that is in the world. Of all the things that I do, that’s the thing that helps me feel most deeply spiritual, and like I’m living what I profess to be living.
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Doug Bennett, Earlham College (Emeritus):
Lots of reading, lots of prayer-waiting worship is important to me, too. But I also regularly am reading something. I do think that reading people and what they have to say is worthwhile.
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Colin Saxton, Friends United Meeting:
I’m enough of an introvert that I need alone time. So I have some daily practice that I do. I get up early, and I have time of quiet, and I spend time reading. I read the Bible daily. It’s good for me; it’s a good spiritual discipline. One of my regular spiritual practices is taken it from the Ignatian prayer practice, learning to see yourself as God sees you. With some of the issues that I grew up with, that’s been a really healing practice. It’s actually a really good practice for people in leadership positions, because sometimes people want to tell you who you are and what they think of you, and it’s nice to have a sense of, “What does God think of you?” That has been a sustaining practice for me. Exercise is really important, getting out and being outside. There’s a little bit too much sitting and meetings in my life. So having some activity is really good. Friendships are really important, too.
For more of Colin’s story, click here